Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: September 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Resist Being Ordinary

This is sad in a certain way.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gimpy in Abu Dhabi

A couple of weeks ago my left ankle swelled up and became extremely painful, I could hardly walk. I was shuffling around like Quasimodo so I decided I needed to see a doctor. This was no easy decision for me as I am extremely adverse to strangers poking, prodding, demanding bodily fluids and sticking painful needles into my person. I usually would prefer a severe beating than a visit to a medical clinic.

Fortunately, my employer maintains a clinic on premises so I shuffled in hoping for a quick resolution to my problem. A quick exam and a prescription of strong pain pills was my goal. That was not to be.

The initial screening consisted of a blood pressure test. I failed miserably at this and attention quickly turned to my hypertension and the painful ankle I originally came in for took a back seat. This scared me as I could see the concerned looks on the faces of the medical technicians and the doctor.

A bit of background. I have what is called "White Coat Syndrome" where anxiety is experienced in a clinical atmosphere. My pulse rate and blood pressure go way up just by entering a hospital or clinic. It is like a fear of heights, a phobia. It reaches a pinnacle when they wrap the pneumatic cuff around my upper arm for the BP test and they pump it up. Since I was in my 20's I have always showed elevated pulse and blood pressure rates in this situation.

So with this in mind, the doctor forbade me to work for the next four days (Yay!) and sent me to an emergency room downtown where I was to get some blood tests and x-rays done. Since it was a holiday, no specialists were available to interpret the results.

My foot still hurts.

The next day I had to go to an orthopedic specialist all the way downtown. I have a manual transmission car and grimaced in pain every time I had to use the clutch pedal. The doc diagnosed my condition as gout, a buildup of sharp crystals in a joint caused by consuming too much red meat, beer and seafood. All my favorite things. He prescribed some pills but told me to only take them after the pain and swelling subsided (WTF!) and to quit consuming my favorite things.

My foot still hurts.

The next day I had to see a cardiologist about my blood pressure. Another painful drive downtown. I had an EKG done and when wired up thought I could end up on the operation table in 24 hours with my chest cracked open for open heart surgery if they found anything amiss. I was sent off wearing a machine that checked my blood pressure every 30 minutes for 24 hours. that was fun, especially when trying to sleep.

My foot still hurts.

The next day I had to take yet another painful drive back to the cardiologist for the results. Turns out that my BP is slightly elevated but can be controlled and lowered by exercise. I must also give up caffeine, alcohol, salt, meat, soft drinks and other favorite things. I quit listening after the first few. I refuse to live like a monk. Quality vs quantity is how I live.

My foot still hurts.

After days of running around I found out I was actually quite healthy. None of the tests revealed a serious problem. Every medical professional I dealt with seemed competent and cordial. I never had to wait for hours (like in the US) to see the doctor and I was treated quite well. As far as costs, I was only charged a copay of 50 Dirhams  ($14 USD) and the prescriptions were totally free. They even let me keep my x-rays!

But my damn foot still hurts! It's getting better though.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Abu Dhabi Tempo Magazine

Whether you live near or far, keep up on the local, inside Abu Dhabi haps with this twice-monthly publication. It is the first magazine in the region to use the new Mobile Tag technology. Use your smart-phone to scan the multicolor mosaic looking square and you will automatically be transported to the associated website for more relevant information. The Facebook fan page is here. Download the latest .pdf issue here . Look for the 'Download Tempo" place and click on "Latest Issue".

Because I despise self-promotion in any form, I am not going to tell you that I write two columns a month for this fine publication (I challenge you to guess which one) and will be covering the Abu Dhabi Film Festival next month. My lips are sealed!

I personally know the editorial staff and they are hell-bent on making Abu Dhabi Tempo Magazine the highest quality source of information in town for visitors and residents alike. They will be celebrating their first anniversary next month. They have every reason to, the growth has been amazing and is destined to continue unabated. I am proud to be a part of Abu Dhabi Tempo's success.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering September 11, 2001

I woke up around 8:30 AM that fateful day. I was living in the state of Utah, USA at the time. It was a day off for me and I went to make a cup of coffee and feed the cats. After completing these important tasks, I sat down in front of my computer to check my emails. I turned on the radio and heard something different than the usual local talk show host. It seemed to be a live news feed and as I listened closely, the reporter was talking about a a small aircraft that had accidentally collided into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.  I quickly turned on the TV and saw that was indeed smoke was issuing from the tower. It didn't look that bad then as it had apparently just happened and it did seem just an unfortunate mishap.

What transpired in the next few hours was a rapid-fire sequence of horrible events that left me stunned, sad and very angry. The second plane hit the other tower, the Pentagon was hit with a third aircraft, a fourth airliner crashed in a farm field in Pennsylvania, the first tower collapses, the second tower collapses, and all commercial aircraft over or en-route to the U.S. were ordered out of the air and to land at the nearest airport. All of this within a few hours.

Second Impact

The Pentagon

First Responders in Shock

The Mastermind

The Perpetrators

The Flight Crews of the Hijacked Planes

Photo Montage of the 3000 Victims
I still can't believe the incredible luck of the hijackers. I had Microsoft Flight Simulator on my computer and mimicked the well publicized flight route of the aircraft. It was very difficult to fly to the southern tip of Manhattan turn 360 degrees, line-up and hit a relatively thin target at 500 MPH and I was sitting in the calm and quiet of my study. They pulled this off twice!

In the Pentagon attack, the impact hole was almost at ground level. This means the hijacker had mere feet to work with or the plane would have hit the ground before reaching his target. A surprisingly accurate bit of flying. It is reported that none of the hijackers had experience flying large, complex aircraft.

The fourth hijacked aircraft ran out of luck. The passengers caught word of what was happening in New York City and Washington D.C. and realized they were facing the same fate. With nothing to lose, they mounted a counter attack against the hijackers. A group of passengers broke into the cockpit with a galley cart in an effort to gain control and the resulting scuffle sent the aircraft out of control, crashing on a field in rural Pennsylvania. 

Since this incident, passengers take a much more aggressive attitude against odd behaviors of fellow travelers. If you act weird, you WILL get your ass whipped! Also, cockpit doors are reinforced, some pilots carry pistols on the flightdeck and armed Federal Air Marshals anonymously ride in the passenger cabin on random flights.

Osama Bin Laden is given credit as the mastermind behind 9/11. It certainly bore his trademark modus operandi of "simultaneous multiple targets".

This is ironic as many of his fellow Mujahideen were supplied weapons by the CIA to help them to victory in Afghanistan over the Soviet invaders. Word is that OBL's hate for the US festered when US troops were quartered in Saudi Arabia during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He considered our troops mere presence as "desecrating" holy ground. In my opinion, he should be more angry at the Saudi government for allowing permission for the troops to be there. Furthermore, without the might of the US military on hand at the time, Saddam Hussein may not have stopped at the Kuwait/Saudi Arabian border. No good deed goes unpunished!

I am well aware the US government has done things to piss some folks off but there are other avenues of dialog. It should be realized by now that attacks to the homeland will be met with the strongest possible force. Someone will get their hair messed up. If you want to fight, be a man, put on a uniform, grab a gun and lets settle our differences on the battlefield and leave innocent civilians out of it. Terrorism is a cowardly, chicken-shit way of settling disputes. If you are not up to that, deal with it!

The US is often criticized for being an ally of Israel (and I can't personally see what good that does us),  but we seem to be Johnny-on-the-Spot when our Muslim friends are in trouble too. Think Kosovo and Kuwait. Once a Kuwaiti man bought me a beer in the Abu Dhabi airport in appreciation when he found out I was an American citizen.That made me feel good!

I sincerely hope this kind of hateful. pre-meditated death of civilians and destruction never happens in anyone's country. At the end of that fateful day I knew the US will never be the same. We have lost rights and freedoms . It gave my government excuses to pry into citizens' private lives and gather intelligence as never before, all in the name of security. It instantly erased decades of Christian and Muslim understanding, cooperation and goodwill. That is why we are seeing the recent frictions.  Because of this, the terrorists scored a solid victory by changing the way of life in the US. As for me, I would rather have it the way it used to be and take my chances!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should, Part 2

Tommorrow, September 11th, a Christian preacher in rural central Florida is threatening to burn a large number of Qur'ans in remembrance of the World Trade Center attacks specifically and in protest of the Islamic religion in general. The latest is that he is praying for guidance and has not decided to actually do the deed.

Pastor Terry Jones (New York Daily News photo)
Evangelistic fervor runs deep in the rural south. I know, I was raised in a small Florida town.The protestant ultra religious sects are powers that influence the social and governmental fabric of these areas. There are some jurisdictions where I can't purchase so much as a beer because of their religious influence on the laws. The inhabitants of these sparsely populated areas tend to be politically conservative and globally naive. I am not disparaging these folks as I feel somewhat of a kinship with them, I am a redneck too and understand the God and Country attitude although I am not in lockstep with them due to my travels and exposure to other cultures.. I find the predominately Muslim Abu Dhabi much more liberal than some of these places in certain respects.

However, I consider the Pastor Terry Jones of his self-made Dove World Outreach Center a raw attention whore. This whole thing smells bad. He wants his "Andy Warhol's" 15 minutes of fame and he is getting it. This story is on all the major American networks and I am embarrassed about that. Pastor Jones' congregation  is but 50 members strong! That's right, a marginal preacher has found a way to get international attention even though his flock would not even fill up a regular tour bus. 

One reason for this is the ongoing controversy over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in N.Y.C. Today, Pastor Jones claimed he flew to New York to meet with the Imam Rauf to negotiate. The supposed deal was that if the Imam would abandon plans for the mosque, the rev would not burn the Qur'ans. The Imam quickly denied the deal so we will have to see what happens tomorrow.

As I posted earlier about my concurrence of the Imam's right to construct a mosque near Ground Zero, I also support the rights of Pastor Jones to express his opinions. That is the American way. Freedom of Speech and all that. But I question the motivation of both parties. Looks like we have a stand-off here.

In the few hours left, I predict no Qur'ans will  not be burnt. 

A final thought, I remember the Bell Curve when I studied statistics in university. Beware of the tails!!! Radical shit has no place in the modern  world.

And radicals of any religion suck!!!!!

Let's just sit in our living rooms and leave each other alone, fair enough? Let us enjoy our religions without having to feel the need to fuck with each other. We are all tired of that!

Casual  Friday ( From YouTube)
To my Muslim friends and coworkers who might be offended by this, please be aware that most Americans disagree with this display of defiance, Rest assured that the vast majority of Americans disagree with this asshole.

We have the freedom of speech ( first amendment)! but we must throttle our radicals......there are both Christian and Islam radicals who cause trouble. We must endeavor to eradicate the hate between us.

I love you Guys!!!!

I have Muslim friends and co- problem!!!

Let's just all get  along no matter our God?

I'll bet you $20 he won't do it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Television in Abu Dhabi Sucks!

Saudi Version of the Oprah Winfrey Show
Summer refuses to leave here in the Gulf and there is not much to talk about as the potentially fatal climate precludes actually doing anything interesting and fun outside. Malls and bars, that's about it until the weather moderates, so I decided to bitch about what I have been doing too much of lately, watching TV.

I grew up and spent the majority of my adult life in the U.S. which has been the epicenter of television programming since Philo T. Farnsworth, an American scientist, first transmitted a scratchy image of Felix the Cat in 1927 to his "image dissector". The rest is history.

First Televised Image, Felix the Cat

It naturally follows that the U.S. would take the lead in producing and programming television shows, for better or for worse. I became accustomed to having access to many quality channels. Just before I moved to Abu Dhabi, I had a big screen Sony TV connected to a Dish Network 500 satellite system, This allowed me access to over 400 channels, many in High Definition. Multiple HBO, ESPN, Cinemax, Showtime, and  many others were available to me at the push of a remote button. I was in Hog Heaven. I even had Tivo!

In Abu Dhabi, I first stayed at a hotel that had limited access to English speaking channels. It seem exotic at  first but I quickly lost interest. Then I moved to a flat that had a satellite feed. I went to the local version of Walmart and purchased a Chinese satellite receiver that was insanely cheap and hooked it up  I got a few English channels but it was not enough. Much to my delight, a byproduct of this was that I stumbled upon some unscrambled Italian "sex chat" channels that got very gynecological at times. It was all free.

In my new apartment there is sadly no such potential for the satellite feed. The local communications monopoly has provided a glass fiber connection and that is it. So I had to subscribe to their service.  I decided to take a premium package at around $75 per month. It included sports channels, movie channels and English speaking channels. Well, the sports channels only have cricket and soccer and the movie channels only show 20 year old movies. There is no viewing guide so one ever knows what they are watching or what comes on next on what channel. Sometimes the same exact shows are repeated several times a day. The only saving grace is that adverts are thankfully rare.

So maybe I am spoiled with American television and my expectations are too high, but I am bummed. In Abu Dhabi, I have a state-of-the-art  glass fiber system delivering stale crap programming to my state-of-the-art digital flat screen television.  One thing I miss about the U.S. is the quality of programming. Here we get the scraps and have to pay a premium for it. I have to give credit though, the picture is absolutely crystal clear. At least that is done right. I get to see shitty programs in a flawless resolution!