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.

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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.

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