Archive for the ‘Personal Bloggers’ Category

The Trouble With Stuff

Posted on the September 23rd, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

English: Printed circuit board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)During the recent hurricane Irma, a number of Tesla owners stuck in the traffic fleeing the path of the storm were delivered a software update by Tesla which upgraded their cars and extended the battery life and therefore range of their cars. Once the storm had blown over, another update removed the additional capacity and reduced their cars back down to the performance level they had paid for.In fact, their cars were always capable of the extended range but they had chosen not to buy the full 75kw battery option. Few could have been aware that in fact their cars had the full battery installed, but that it had been effectively downgraded in software. Their cars were always capable of the extended range.It all caused quite a bit of controversy, as you might imagine. But it’s just an extension of a whole range of issues which are linked to the concept that you buy hardware but license software and that when you buy into any ecosystem, your rights are effectively limited. You might own that iPhone, bub, but you don’t own the software or any of the content it stores and gives you access to. This is also true of your Kindle and your Apple TV or other box with your Netflix subscription.We don’t buy CD racks anymore and many of us don’t have upgrade plans for those bookshelves. Content is digital, always-on and an Alexa command away. The ownership of content has changed forever. Of course, you never owned that book or music, you merely owned a physical medium containing the text or recording. The rights to the content subsisted with the author and publisher. But you could leave a book to your kid – you can’t leave your Amazon account.Worse, your iPhone, Kindle, Echo or Tesla is enabled by software which you only enjoy a grant of limited right to access. Amazon et al can simply turn your super-duper gizmo into a brick of e-waste at the blink of an eye.Tesla extending that model to cars is sort of interesting. Next step is your house. An integrated home automation suite provided by the developer sounds really cool until you find out that if you break the terms of your licence (install the wrong type of shrub in your garden, say, if you’ve bought a Shiny) your kitchen will stop working.Volvo has started down that road in a sort of legacy manufacturer trying to be hip with the kids kind of way with the announcement of a sort of extended leasing package called Care by Volvo.  You can bet other manufacturers are going to start exploring the delights of software/hardware industry models for disempowering consumers and disintermediating insurance companies and others who currently profit from the lack of a car ‘ecosystem’. In this, Tesla is Apple.Forget the threat of AIs and the like to our technological futures – here comes the spectre of the elife (and I don’t mean Etisalat’s crappy FTTH package) – your existence will be dominated by your parents’ choice of life ecosystem for you and your world will be under license to The Man.You mark my words…

A Rare Descent Into Bookiness

Posted on the August 31st, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

English: Vintage portable Transistor radio &qu...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)I’m going to be back on the radio on Saturday, from about 10.30am Dubai time on the revamped Talking Of Books show (103.8FM Dubai Eye radio or dubaieye1038.com streaming). It’s a rare return to booky things for me.I’ve not been entirely lazy. I’ve just finished a hard edit of Beirut – An Explosive Thriller after spotting a couple of SNAFUs in the MS. I made a number of improvements, some based on reader feedback but many based on being a much more experienced editor now.It’s funny what a difference it makes knowing what you know now. There were a couple of joins showing where I’d knocked down walls and rebuilt them, which is a little embarrassing having shifted over 10,000 copies of the damn thing. Oh well.Beirut is currently free on Amazon, which is driving a steady trickle of sales of the other books, particularly Shemlan – A Deadly Tragedy but  also A Decent Bomber. I have a new project on the go, but I’m taking my sweet time and my wordcount is more like 1,000 words a month than 1,000 a day. I’m not really that fussed, tell the truth: life’s quite busy enough right now.But the chance to return to my favourite medium and talk about my favourite things was too great ever to refuse and so I’ll be joining new host Annabelle Corton (she of Emirates LitFest fame) to talk about the three books in all the millions of books in the world I’d take to a desert island and to review Omar El Akkad’s dystopian novel American War.So there we go – now you know how to avoid me on Saturday morning!

Leave And That…

Posted on the August 26th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Airbus A330-200 lands at London Heathrow Airport.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)So I haven’t posted in over a month. Sue me.We’ve been on leave.I hate flying, much as I love EK. A380s rock, the films were awful. Kindles rock more than A380s. Except in turbulence which we saw almost not at all. Heathrow sucks lemons.Drove to Wales to see me mum for a couple of days, she’s fine, thanks. Bit shaky. She’s over 90 now. Fierce independent lady. The office calls, can I come back early? No. I shipped our bikes from there over to Northern Ireland. Halfords think I’m a totes jackass. They’re all hardcore bike freaks, we have two bikes we love to ride when we’re home. I got a puncture a while back and took the bike into them. They’re all, like, can’t you fix your own punctures? And I’m ‘No.’ And then they’re, like, it’s a quick release wheel so you don’t have to bring the whole bike in. And I’m, ‘Sue me.’They boxed the bikes for me. They still think I’m a nutter, but now I’m another store’s problem. They’re happy about that.Back to London for a couple of days in a Premier Inn because the sister-in-law’s house (AKA Twickenham Central) is full of neeces. We like Premier Inns, actually. We got a great night’s sleep every night, which is their promise, after all.Photon checks into a hotel. Receptionist says, ‘No bags?’ Photon replies, ‘Nah, I’m travelling light.’Lovely week, Hampton Court, Thames Cruise, shit service at Pizza Express at the O2 (just drop the express, love, and you’re fine) and mad wannabe BBC 2 Children’s Presenters at Hamleys Regent Street. We reckoned these kids are freebasing to stay that hyper all day. They’re so over the top even the neeces think they’re a bit, well, mad. The office calls and asks if I can come back early. Still no.And then we’re on the open road to Salisbury for three idyllic nights at the Beckford Arms, a truly magnificent pub. These people offer you Bloody Mary for breakfast. They’re very likeable. We spend the days wandering castles and long walks. There’s a Catholic cemetery nearby, packed with little snippets of social history linked to the area’s immigrants. The barman at the Beckford convinces me to take black pepper in my Hendricks. Oh me, oh my, people. Black pepper and strawberries in Hendricks. This is the future.Heathrow, crappy BA and then Belfast. Meet up with the neeces again and do much neecing around. Business stuff, solicitors, banks and accountants. Oh, joy. We did a 5k Fun Run in Rathfriland. The bloody town’s on an enormous hill. The outward jog is downhill. It’s only when we turn the corner that the bleeding obvious finally hits our dull monkey brains. Ouch.Two men walk into a bar. Ouch Ouch.Drives up into the Mournes, Camogie practice, Mary Margaret’s pub and wandering along the seafront at Warrenpoint. The Green Pea Café and their insane BLT (Brioche eggy bread, smoked bacon and sundried tomatoes with rocket. Oh dear me) and then the Hotel at Hilltown – the Downshire Arms to you, mate – for Sarah’s birthday. Scallops, steak and dancing. The office calls. I get the message. We rearrange flights and hop to Heathrow, do a night in Twickenham Central and take the all-day flight the next day. I love EK, but that flight doesn’t suit us. Back in the office for Wednesday, wiped out but functioning.The weekend’s almost over and it’s all a vague memory now. A frenetic, lovely charge around the place doing things and seeing things and meeting people and laughing fit to bust, drinking stuff and eating stuff and driving around and just basically living it up.And now we’re back. You know, that sort of what are we doing here feeling mixed with the sense that we’re back home and that. Settling back down into things, taking a weekend drive around the place and getting back into the rhythm. I have my wallet back in my back pocket and have stopped obsessing about the car being nicked. I’m back on 24×7 broadband mobile access and not paying Vodaphone two bleeding quid a day for data.Life’s good…

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Alba Car Care: Dubai’s Ultimate Car Detail Shop

Posted on the February 19th, 2016 under Personal Bloggers by

alba-car-careI wanted to get my car detailed for quite some time and, after randomly watching a small billboard of Alba Royal Car Care at Al Quoz Industrial Area 3, I decided to turn the wheels to that direction and try them out. From what I saw while entering the premises, they have a fairly large facility and a sizeable staff wearing a sharp-looking uniform. Proclaiming themselves as the “number 1 car detailing service in Dubai”, they had a nice and quick desk service.

I was given a small form to fill regarding the basic details and also asking for any special instructions I’d like to specify before they begin.  I found their car detailing process to be pretty meticulous and lengthy with the manager constantly briefing me about the specifics such as the use of pH-balanced soap and special microfiber towel while washing the exterior. The next step included careful detailing of dashboard, door panels, console, seat panels, headrests, rubber mats and cargo area. The windows, also, were given a “water-repellent” treatment and I was quite impressed with the shine. While the three guys were detailing the interior, I was shown the exclusive German waxes, cleansers, polishes and conditioners they would use for car polishing after a hand dry finish.  The stuff appeared to be quite expensive and of premium quality.

To sum it up, I was very happy with what I got for only 450 AED and particularly liked the wheel wax treatment which, like everything, lasted quite longer than I had expected. My car interior smelled fresh, pleasant and rejuvenated for various weeks. If you’re looking for a high-quality car detail package in Dubai at a highly economical price, visit Alba Royal Car Care. These guys also provide other services such as window tinting, car wrapping and dent & scratch removal.  Check ’em out and let us know what you think!

Al Nakba

Posted on the May 15th, 2015 under Personal Bloggers by

Nakba 1948 oldman and baby tentNakba 1948 oldman and baby tent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)She talked to the table, her voice low. ‘My father was born on a farm in Palestine in 1946, outside a village called Qaffin. It’s the farm we have today. My grandparents left during the troubles in 1948, what we call the Nakba, the disaster. You know this, right? The Nakba?’ I nodded. ‘When the Zionists threw my people from their land and declared Israel a state. They had a saying, you know, “A land without a people for a people without a land.” But it was a lie.’