Monday, May 02, 2005

Accounting lapses with green old men

Fliss, a wet-behind-the-ears web sub from UK, has become a self-appointed in-house piss up organizer in the office.

I dunno why she included me in the list of a broadcast email invite for the Friday night party at one of the hangouts frequented by Brits, near Wafi City.

And why ask my opinion about VoIP service in the UAE or how PC-to-phone call sites in the country are being blocked by the local telecom monopoly? Does it really matter? Only competition can make things better, in my book.

* * *

Our accounting department must have been confused. I was expecting my housing allowance this end of April to land in my ATM as well as the pay raise that goes with being kicked upstairs.

I have greedy, bloodsucking landlords in Dubai to feed. High-lifers who have an insatiable appetite for moolahs. Some real estate companies are now charging double the amount of the previous charge for the same unit – even without making any improvements.

Forget about the two-year 20 per-cent cap on rent hikes.

Free market rules. In Dubai, it's the abrassive, merciless kind of "free" market.

Take it or leave it -- that's what they tell the tenants. That's what they told me.

This drives a lot of working men into the forced bachelorhood. A couple of guys I know have decided to send their wife and kids back home to make both ends meet.

No family, however, means no life for most.

Anyway, I had to spend a third of my pay just to get a decent hole in a wall in Dubai now, coz I need to pay in advance for three months for an accommodation that is now more expensive than my car’s monthly amortisation.

Either our accounting people screwed it up or I’m getting a raw deal.

I need to have a word with them tomorrow.

* * *

Sitting in a day-long conference on “green” buildings was a mixed bag. Most talks, such as district cooling, are excitingly boring.

I yawned away all the time the Tabreed guy was delivering a roundabout presentation on indoor air quality, chillers and stuff.

The topic would have been more interesting except that the figures in his slides were far too small. He was presenting a technical paper for a peer-reviewed industry publication.

But it's not his fault because he was asked to compress a 1-1/2 hour presentation into a 20 minute lecture express.

That was after he wasted a good five minutes trying to get his laptop working on stage.

All he could have done was to bring a CD or flash card and plug it in to the presentation laptop.

Saw at least three colleagues in that seminar, which brought several green building experts from different parts of the world, including officials from US GBC.

The current issues: Space-age coating material that reflect infrared energy from the sun back to the atmosphere, intelligent glazed insulation materials, energy-efficient lights and appliances, day-lighting, solar photovoltaic cell cladding, wind turbines, water re-use, presence sensors, intelligent building controls.

One guy gave an interesting talk about “breathing buildings” with walls that have filters and tubes wired around it to control temperature.

This works inversely both in humid/arid polar regions.

The walls act as a sort of giant vacuum cleaner that sucks air from its surroundings, cleans it before expelling cleaner air back to the area

All part of the green movement chuchu I'm trying to decode to make lay people understand it better.

* * *

Exchanged have-a-safe-drive greetings with our office van driver at past 10pm as I walked out of the gate No. 6 to my car parked nearby.

Went home hungry and quickly grabbed corn on the cob, rice and chicken and meltz from KFC. Junk food to feel an empty tummy.

Should have gone on the dinner cruise with the greens aboard Intercon’s dhow.

Sayang. The buffet.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Genuine copies on May Day

May 1

“This is not fake! This is a genuine copy.”
That is the dialogue of Mohammad K., an Iranian salesman at one of the Karama flee market shops, a favourite tourist haunt for their imitation items that look as good as the genuine articles.
Here, an Omega “Broad Arrow” Speedmaster goes for Dh150 (initially priced at Dh280.
The genuine timepiece, say the Omega Moonwatch edition, would set me off Dh11,500 to Dh12,000, depending on the shop. That, however, is no not match to the diamond-studded Dior watch, for the humbling price of Dh38,000 in their Bur Juman shop.
“Why should I pay such an obscene amount of money for something that is just supposed to tell the time?” asked John, a Briton on a week-long holiday in Dubai with his wife and daughter.
John bought two phony Gucci watches for ladies and a Dior timepiece for just Dh500 altogether.
“This are good souvenir items, perfect giveaways,” John enthused.
The prices of imitation from south-east Asia are a few notches more than the ones made in China. “We took pains to have find these items and bring them over here,” explained Mohammad, while bringing out silver-coloured boxes stashed in a storeroom upstairs from the shop.
“My brother brought genuine items to the best craftsmen in Malaysia and Thailand who imitated them to the last detail. He stayed for two weeks in Kuala Lumpur to get the designs out,” said Mohammad, one of the Karama shopkeepers. “That’s why these items are not really cheap.”
Even residents in Dubai who shop there are convinced of their value for money, and the fun of haggling for the price.
Fake Burberry, Dior, Gucci, Prada bags made in Far East sweatshops but closely resemble the original ones cost anywhere between Dh80 to Dh220, depending on the design or model. Their genuine siblings cost 10 times Dh800 -- or in the case of Dior bags, up to 100 times more.

Prada 120 to Dh160
Chanel, with

Bags mostly made in China, Korea, India, Taiwan.
Dior for Dh90

* * *

I nearly forgot it’s May Day today. Labour Day has been confined in the outermost recesses of my nebulous mind.

* * *

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Preggy Pinay

Normina, a pregnant Filipina mum jailed for adultery, told me by phone she will get 90 lashes after giving birth to her baby girl.

The baby was conceived out of wedlock, said Normina, 30, a Filipina Muslim from Carmen, Cotabato.

Badri Karki, the Nepalese father, is set to fly back to the UAE in June, with the hope of marrying Normina.

But she fears he might suffer the same fate for violating Sharjah’s strict Islamic rules, i.e. sex/baby before marriage.

I am not sure if Normina was already sentenced by a local court judge.
“I’m luckier because some of the Filipinas inside the jail were given 120 lashes,” she said.

There are at least 10 children growing up in jail while their mums are serving their sentence or waiting for someone to donate plane tickets back home,” she said.

Normina asked me for a couple of favours. One is to get in touch with Heny, her Indonesian friend (mob 6871066) and take her luggage Heny's flat to the Sharjah Central Jail. Apparently, Normina has a stashed away some infant stuff. She also asked me to get in touch with “Projel”, a Nepalese guy working in KFC to tell him to phone Badri in Kathmandu immediately and convince him not to go back to Dubai soon, for fear he might also go to jail.

According to Normina, Badri used to call her regularly from Kathmandu (he was fired from KFC) until the coup happened in which Nepalese King Binendra’s men cut off communication lines from the Buddhist Himalayan country to the outside world and vice-versa.

Normina implored me to bring to the Sharjah Central jail her belongings from her friend’s house in Sharjah. The suitcase apparent contains infant stuff she bought in anticipation of the baby.

Though the lines are back again, Normina is now out of reach in jail. She forgot to bring a charger for her mobile phone.

We’re supposed to visit them on Wednesday with Boy Palencia, the Filipino diplomat in charge of assistance to nationals at the Philippine Consulate in Dubai.

The only thing Normina wishes is for her baby girl come out into the world normal and that she’ll be allowed to keep it.

“I’ll take anything for my baby. My friends used to tell me to get rid of her during the early stage of my pregnancy. But one mistake can’t me made right by another mistake,” said Normina, who has made two trips to a gynaecologist before surrendering to the Sharjah authorities.

“I’ll take any number of lashes as long as I get to keep my baby, who is my only hope. I don’t want to grow old alone,” said Normina.

She worked for three years as a housemaid in Kuwait before moving to Sharjah.
Normina was terrified by the urban legend that unwed mothers are sent back to their home countries, leaving their babies behind.

Palencia assured her this is not true and promised to prepare travel documents for the baby once Normina completes her jail term.

If Badri can’t fly here, and Normina goes back to Cotabato after serving her jail term, I wonder how and when they’re going to meet again.

But if it’s really love, they’ll somehow find a way to meet again.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What a girl wants

(A friend sent this to me ... Dunno how true)

When a GIRL is quiet,
Millions of things are running in her mind.

When a GIRL is not arguing,
She is thinking deeply.

When a GIRL looks at you with eyes full of questions,
She is wondering how long you will be around.

When a GIRL answers "I'm fine" after a few seconds,
She is not at all fine.

When a GIRL stares at you,
She is wondering why you are lying.

When a GIRL lays on your chest,
She is wishing for you to be hers forever.

When a GIRL calls you everyday,
She is seeking for your attention.

When a GIRL texts you everyday,
She wants you to reply at least once.

When a GIRL says "I love you",
She means it.

When a GIRL says that she can't live without you,
She has made up her mind that you are her future.

When a GIRL says "I miss you",
No one in this world can miss you more than her.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Words of wisdom

Regular naps prevent old age ... especially if you take them while driving.

Having one child makes you a parent; having two you are a referee.

Marriage is a relationship in which one person is always right and the other is husband!

I believe we should all pay our tax with a smile. I tried - but they wanted cash.

Don't feel bad. A lot of people have no talent.
 
Don't marry the person you want to live with; marry the one you cannot live without, but whatever you do, you'll regret it later.

You can't buy love ... but you pay heavily for it.

True friends stab you in the front.

Forgiveness is giving up my right to hate you for hurting me.

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.

Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.

Marriage is give and take. You'd better give it to her or she'll take it anyway.

My wife and I always compromise. I admit I'm wrong and she agrees with me.

Those who can't laugh at themselves leave the job to others.

Ladies first. Pretty ladies sooner.

Early to bed, early to rise, your girl goes out with other guys.

Real friends are the ones who survive transitions between address books.

Saving is the best thing. Especially when your parents have done it for you.

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something.

They call our language the mother tongue because the father seldom gets to speak.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Freedom and Forgiveness

Freedom and forgiveness

“Bwakanang-ina.”
Ganyan ang lenguahe ng usapan nila in the years before Leo and Cristy got married.
I used to overhear Leo on the phone using such expletives in their dialogue.

I also learned that Cristy used similar language.

I thought that was no way to communicate to a loved one.
When I was growing up, my parents had endless discussions and debates about many things, money especially. But I never heard them cuss each other.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about what to say to you, and had prepared endless drafts for weeks.

Ours was a roller coaster relationship.

But tell me whose isn’t?

Despite their endless fights, Leo and Cristy willed to be together in a vow that has something to do with forever.

I do remember I have called you shit and all. I don’t remember what provoked me into using that . But I do apologise. And I never really meant it.

I’m never the type who would confront someone or fight on the level of cussing. I’m not the confrontational type. Before talking to someone in a debate, I’d like to carefully think my lines and choose my words.

That’s part of who I am, wired into my DNA. We live with the choices we make for the freedom to choose is the essence of man’s existence.

I need a lot of reflection before arriving at a decision ... I agonise over the thought of hurting or killing someone, and what value it would add to my life. This might make me look indecisive.

Life has taught me that freedom means choosing not to do just about anything but to do the right thing.

Freedom finds completion in the exercise of discretion (first posted on Oct. 15, 2004)

Discretion requires keen judgment. Good judgement calls for sacrifice, restraint and postponing gratification.

It means opting not to go for instant pay-offs by considering long-term gains.

It feels good to obtain immediate reprisal for something wrong done to you by another. Reprisals tend to hurt those who exact them, too. This is what America under George Bush has realised with its post-9/11 actions.

Pain, when countered in kind, only leads to an exponential multiplication of the same.

Does freedom mean not getting back in kind? Are those who have lived through cruel times more prone to exact more violent reprisals?

When we’re moping over the unfair state of things caused by a person or people who did us wrong, where does freedom lie?

Our freedom to extend a finger ends where somebody else’s nose begins.

We can ask the next person to move over to make room for our extended limb. But he also has the freedom to say ‘No’.

So how can you say you’re free when it has limits? Or is the idea of freedom just an illusion, a contradiction?

These are questions for which I have no ready answers.

But of all the creatures in the universe, only us human beings can know the consequences of our actions.

When told different versions of the same story, our hearts can know the bigger story — the truth.

While freedom does not allow us to do anything we like without disturbing the balance of nature, it gives us absolute license to express our truth.

And one plain truth, as Dr Martin Luther Jr. once said, is this: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”

Getting back in kind is good. Instant revenge feels good. But to say your truth, in the exercise of self-restraint, is even better.

If the Blacks whose forefathers were forced into slavery would try to settle ancient scores, where would all the Whites be today?

The truth is such that when you try to inflict pain on another, you invariably hurt yourself back. And this is true whether you’re talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or a love affair.

And this is where Dr. Luther’s thinking could solve a lot of problems. First, it allows us to get out of the chicken-and-egg equation, endlessly trying to figure out who started to inflict pain on the other.

There is no substitute for dialogue among equals, not between a master and slave, to offer a solution.

More importantly, the truth about forgiveness based on justice is that it starts the process of healing. It puts an end to ancient hatreds.

As we’ve already seen, no man can claim he is absolutely free to do anything. Nature — and common sense — do impose some limits.

In my Dubai state of mind, freedom means having a heart big enough to forgive those who have wronged us.

Hope you have a great Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

When freedom stings

When we’re asked to choose, we discard what we consider inferior.

In the process of choosing — colours, friends, subjects, meals, a lifetime partner — it's normal we all play favourites.

But the problem is that those we consider as inferior could be the best. The tragedy is we may never know. We decide based on our limited understanding.

We become victims of our own ignorance. What’s sad is that the choices we had in the past may no longer be there when we finally learned our lessons.

Nothing has never been more painful than having to find a lifetime partner.

There’s literally an infinite number of choices, if you consider that half of the world's 6 billion human inhabitants, are females. This means that, outside your immediate family and relatives, every female of marrying age (from about age 14 to 40), is a candidate.

This is where freedom stings. It’s impossible to choose from millions of potential partners without getting overwhelmed.

So you narrow down your choices to a few, perhaps three to five.

But out of that number, there’s just one person who brings out the best and the worst in you.

(Now edit that article on how biodiversity offers the key to food security, culled from a speech of the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which is supposed to go on tomorrow’s Page 3, along with a “City Talk” story on Ramadan.)

I’m blank.

Anyway, silence of the mind is good. Dirty thoughts pollute the brain to the point of self-destruction.

This is one phenomenon I’ve been reflecting on.

Silence is the absence of sound, but that it does not mean the absence of a person or object capable of making a sound.

One of the things I’ve realised is that silence is a powerful, effective way of communicating.

Being silent, which is how God communicates with us most of the time, does not mean the communicator does not exist.

Silence is the evidence of what awaits us. Silence watches our every move.

And silence is where my problem begins with freedom.

I believe there’s only one person that’s meant for another. And I thought I already found that person in this girl.

But I don’t want to work out problems with tempers going haywire.

I’d rather do it with silence, because it is more effective in making people realise deeper realities that lie within.

I may have been an oaf to someone, and a hero to another.

But this is a time to choose.

In the past, some were “chosen” at specific times or the periods they are in -- at work, school, by parents or friends.

I haven’t seriously thought about choosing until now.

This is the downside of freedom -- it offers the extremes of a possible overload of choices or an absolute lack of it.