Monday, January 31, 2011

Sued for saying he didn't like his meal.

In case you've missed it I have to draw your attention to a post by Alexander on Fake Plastic Souks.

Briefly, a Kuwaiti blogger posted a restaurant review, in which he gave a couple of positive comments but said he was unimpressed with the food and wouldn't go back.

Fair enough, you'd think.

I'll quote a few lines from Alex's post:

And then there's the comment from a geezer called Mike Servo, who claimed to be the general manager of the Benihana management of Kuwait and who threatened to sue Mark.

"...our rights and name is being used in a wrong way and broadcasting the video without a proper consent from us is really annoying specially Benihana is just opened up its doors to the public. We are seeking and consulting our legal dept. on how we can form a type of law suit against your website to be brought up to the Kuwait authorities."

He goes on to trill: "We want you to give us your information, your name, your number and your address so our lawyer will take it from there and be sure that you in Kuwait were the jury is 100 % clean and fair."

Mark posted up on Twitter yesterday that he had received the lawsuit. Benihana Kuwait actually went ahead and sued a blogger for writing a bad review of their restaurant.

It's something that infuriates me. Justifiable criticism from a customer and a company rushes to the legal system.

Benihana HQ needs to look at this seriously and quickly because the action by their Kuwaiti franchisee is bringing their brand into disrepute.

In my opinion the unprofessional, unbusinesslike action needs to get as much exposure on the 'net as we can give it, which is why I've repeated the story here. I hope you other bloggers and social media users will expose these people too.

PS an hour later.

Just before shutting down and heading off to the airport I thought I'd see what cyberspace had on this. Bloggers, Twitter, Facebook - have a look folks. Benihana Kuwait have created a PR disaster for themselves. All their own work.

I wonder if they're beginning to understand how business works in the real world. You know, the place where customers have a say too. Where bullying and threatening creates a backlash.

If you are beginning to understand it, it's too late guys, you've damaged the brand already. You've poured ridicule on your own brand.

Off to Oz

I'm heading back to Oz this afternoon for five weeks, due back in Dubai on March 9.

I'll keep in touch with what's going on by reading my usual list of blogs, and I'll try to post on here at least once in a while.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weird wild weather

I'd just about finished yesterday's post when Mrs Seabee called to say she'd finished in the office and was outside our building waiting to go to lunch.

I walked out into sunshine...but by the time I got to the car I was being buffeted by gale force winds and smothered in sand.

It came out of nowhere, instantly.

We drove through Dubai Marina and in front of us it looked like this:

But to the right it was like this:

It seemed to be in a narrow band that we were driving through because Al Sufouh Road was much the same - compare the blue sky to the left with what we were driving into:

After lunch it had disappeared as quickly as it had arrived but it left evidence that it had passed through:

 We went out to Global Village later in the afternoon and it had blasted through there too. All the stallholders were sweeping sand away, clearing rubbish and dusting their stock. Not a lot of damage and, in the way of these mini-cyclones, it had been selective in what it destroyed:

Note the hand in the right of the photo - Dubai residents will be very familiar with it. The immediate reaction to any problem is:

Friday, January 28, 2011

On blogging

A lazy weekend, Mrs Seabee's gone into the office and I have a couple of hours before we meet for lunch so I thought I'd just post a couple of thoughts that came up on the Dubai Eye Radio blogging programme I was delighted to be involved with on Tuesday, and in conversations since.

It's the business equivalent of talking shop so if you're not a blogger you'll probably want to leave now, but thanks for stopping by anyway. Bloggers, addicts as we are, might stay with me...

One of the things that was touched on during the programme was anonymity when Hussein/Who-sane was asked about it.

I don't think of it as 'anonymous' though. I, and many others, are doing nothing more than using the age-old tradition of a pen name, a nom de plume. Was Eric Blair 'anonymous', or is David Cornwell?*

I've been known in business for years as Seabee, my wife calls me Seabee (among other things that aren't suitable as a pen name) so I use it, my nickname. I've been interviewed on tv and appeared in several documentary films in which I'm not masked or disguised, so I don't think I'm anonymous.

Why not use the name on my birth certificate? I suppose the main reasons are that that I'm just more comfortable using Seabee (I can't explain that), I prefer people to have their own picture of me in their mind (like a radio play where you imagine what the characters look like) and to avoid being harassed at home.

The latter comes up because in the pre-blogging days when I got things off my chest by forever sending letters to newspapers, I got phone calls from people who'd looked me up in the telephone directory. Not all were abusive, in fact they were the minority. But even with people calling to say they agreed with me I didn't want to be disturbed at home by them any more than I want sales people calling to offer deals they insist I'd be stupid to refuse.

Then there was the reason we blog anyway. How we started and why.

There are probably as many different answers as there are bloggers, we're all individual personalities. Some started to keep in touch with family and friends. Some are simply daily diaries, replacing the old paper diary. Some are specialist blogs, promoting a favourite football team, talking fashion, some are travelogues. We have awful  blogs to promote extremist and racist agendas. Political blogs, self-promoting blogs. The list is endless.

For me blogging is an extension of what I've always done, but expanded through the internet. I'm interested on what goes on around me and in the wider world, whether it's a major event or trivia, and I usually have an opinion about it.

I talk about those things with family and friends, and conversations, debates, arguments, ranting, complaining, praising are the result.

That's what I do through this blog too. To me when I post I'm starting a conversation, which you join when you read the blog. Some of you actively join in by leaving a comment, and I thank you for that. The conversation may well go on for a while through the comments section - that happens in particular when I get people foaming at the mouth, purple-faced, when I touch on a sensitive subject. (Passing thought: I haven't done that for ages, I must try to think of a provocative subject to post about).

Then there's the future of blogging, where we think it might it's going.

My thought is that in a very short space of time we've gone from being a new, breakthrough medium to being old hat. We're edging towards being mainstream (traditional even?) media. Hussein and I both recounted instances where our blog posts were picked up by the traditional print media and became big stories, joining us with the mainstream.

Other example of this merging are links to this blog from mainstream media, for example such as *horror* Fox in the US (my post on a Brit facing jail for giving the finger to another motorist) and the New York Times (my response to Johann Hari's infamous 'Dark Side of Dubai' story).

Many people have moved to Twitter - dare I say the less committed, less serious, bloggers? (I really don't understand Twitter and I must do a post on it one day). I suspect that there may well be fewer traditional (that word again) bloggers in the future but that it will be the more serious of us. Again I suppose that nudges blogging even closer to the mainstream.

Another thing that came up was earning money from blogging. I seem to be in the minority (of one?) in saying that I won't have any advertising, any paid-for content, on my blog. I want absolute freedom to say, with no pressure from anyone, exactly what I want to say. Agree with what I say or don't, but what you read are my observations, thoughts and opinions. There's no commercial influence anywhere in them.

But that's me. I respect the others' views that they'd like to earn some money from blogging, as both fellow-Aussie Sarah  and  Micheline said they would.

Fellow guest in the studio Bebhinn has a website dedicated to fashion, at Hellwa Fashion, but to me that's a different thing from blogging. It's a fully commercialised site, much like an online magazine (and very good it is too) designed to make money from a subject dear to the heart of the publisher.

I was asked by co-host of the show Alexander McNabb whether I ever worry about censorship. It's something that's come up in more than once in comments left on this blog over the years. Usually they're from 'anonymous' and are heated claims that we all write as we're told to and are terrified of being thrown in jail if we don't.

As I didn't expect the question I hadn't given it any previous thought, and it's not something I've ever given any concious thought to so I stuttered somewhat in my reply, trying to think it through as I answered.  And I think that's the point - I haven't given it any thought.

I've always believed that the laws of libel apply to anyone saying anything on the internet and I bear that in mind. I try to be reasonably polite even when I'm critical. But beyond that I say what I want to say. I certainly don't sit here thinking that I must be careful what I say in case big men in dark glasses pound on my door at 2am.

And here's Mrs Seabee ready for lunch so I'm off.

Have a great weekend.

* To save you googling, that's George Orwell and John Le Carre.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting back to normal

One of the largest development projects in town is the Al Sufouh tram system. When it began, several kilometres of the once-completed Al Sufouh Road from Knowledge Village into Dubai Marina were dug up and diversions were put in place.

Then the global financial crisis hit.

When it did, the general reaction in Dubai was the same as it was in much of the rest of the world. Hit the PANIC! button.

Construction in particular stopped overnight. Companies fired people who they'd need in the near future to maintain the business. Construction sites were abandoned and became derelict. Creditors whistled for their money.

Over the year or so since the panic set in, the city, especially New Dubai, has looked increasingly very much the worse for wear.  Sand and rubbish gathered and weeds started growing on the abandoned sites, the fences and barriers deteriorated.

It looked unattractive when work was happening but since it stopped it's really been ugly.

But the panic subsided, then companies 'restructured and negotiated with creditors'. (That is, they re-arranged their gigantic loans and told creditors that if they wanted to get anything at all they had to take less than was due).

So work on various developments has been re-started, people are being re-hired, the sites are being cleaned up.

Probably because I pass it every day the tram project was in my eyes one of the worst, most untidy looking.

But it looks as though the negotiations with creditors have been successful because for the past few days the project is a hive of activity.

It's a big project, it'll be years before it's finished but it's a relief to see that work's under way once again.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So where's Studio City?

Whiled away a couple of fun, interesting hours with fellow bloggers on a Dubai Eye Radio programme this morning.

Suzanne Radford and Alexander McNabb on Dubai Today's 'Techno Tuesday' decided they'd devote most of the programme to blogging and bloggers.

But that's not what this post is about. Far better, if you're interested, to go to the podcast, which Alex said should be up soon on their website. Instead of me telling you about it you can listen to the programme.

No, the post is another in my 'bloody useless signage' series.

Over the years of blogging I've complained many times about the road signage being confusing, inaccurate and dangerous. In this case it simply doesn't exist.

I've driven out to Global Village the past two weekends (I must post about that too), going from Al Sufouh along Umm Suqueim Road to Arabian Ranches.

I had no idea that Studio City, where Dubai Eye is located, is there, right across the road from Arabian Ranches.

Today I saw the reason. Following Suzanne's instructions on how to get there I found it was exactly the way I'd driven to Global Village. But I didn't see one single sign to Studio City.  Nor when I got there did I see a sign identifying the place.

Millions spent on developing a new 'city', plenty of companies operating from it and not a sign anywhere.

You can get a temporary one run up for a few dirhams if the permanent one isn't ready.

Although why it wouldn't be I can't visualise. The time it took to build the impressive-ish entrance gate was plenty of time to get a sign made.

Come on guys, it isn't rocket science it's just road signage. How can you get it so wrong so consistently?

Back to the programme for a minute to guide you to the bloggers who participated in it.  Reflecting the blogosphere, they're all very different. But as they were hand-picked by Alex they're all well worth a read.

Mich Cafe
Hellwa Fashion
A Nabulsi Story
And Alex' own blog is  Fake Plastic Souks

You can listen to the podcast here, at DubaiEye103.8

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dontcha just love banks

No, I'll be fair and not blame an inanimate object.

'A bank' doesn't get things wrong.

It's people. People stuff up.

People are the problem, and some of them are employed by banks.

I'll  link two events, a couple of months and thousands of kilometres apart. A visit to our Aussie bank back in December and a visit to our snail-mail PO Box in Dubai this morning.

Back in Oz in December, Mrs Seabee went into our bank to ask for a new cheque book, which we'd pick up from them.

Apparently 'the system' says that you can't, they have to snail-mail it to you.

Resignedly, Mrs Seabee replied: "OK. Send the new chequebook to our Australian address".

The bank clerk somehow heard: "Send a new Deposit Book to our Dubai PO Box".


Sunday, January 23, 2011

This has to be a first

When I was back in Oz a few weeks ago my little digital camera threw a wobbly, then died on me.

When I got back to Dubai I took it back to where I bought it, Compu-me, because...wait for it... it was still under warranty.

You know as well as I do that products have a self-destruct device timed to activate one week after the warranty expires. The one in my camera must have malfunctioned.

Not only was I within the warranty period, after a couple of weeks they told me it couldn't be repaired and they would replace it with a new one.

I picked it up today.

I'm stunned.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A day in the life...

I thought I had a major problem with my personal mobility solution yesterday.

When I put it into gear there was a loud and expensive-sounding grinding and rattling.

Gearbox? I hoped not, that'd cost a bit and have me mobility challenged going forward.

Or more accurately, I wouldn't be going forward.

Anyway, I took it straight to the workshop and it turned out to be nothing more serious than damaged engine and transmission mountings.

Done in the day and now running smoothly and quietly again.

I had to fill up with petrol on the way back and overall the day highlighted how inexpensive many things in Dubai are.

Petrol is Dh1.92 a litre (about US52 cents), I took a Metro ride from Dubai Marina all the way to Deira City Centre for Dh6.50 (about US1.75) and a taxi from there to the workshop cost me the minimum charge of Dh10 (about US2.70). The same distance a couple of months ago back home in Oz cost me the equivalent of about Dh35.

Sadly not mine, but an example of the best looking
personal mobility solution ever designed.
Photo from

Monday, January 17, 2011

A dubious award

A highly dubious 'award' sent to me by fellow Dubai blogger Alexander McNabb.

In fact it's really one of those chain letter things that we get regularly, designed to wheedle out some personal details.

Usually I ignore them, but as it's from such a noted local identity and celebrity blogger, here goes...

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy with this? If you aren't anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously so that you could be anonymous now?
Anonymous yes, but I think of it as simply using a traditional writers' device of a nom de plume. Of course I'm happy with it, otherwise I'd change it.

2. Describe an incident that describes your stubborn side.
Me stubborn? Never.

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?
Depends on time of day. First thing in the morning I see a very blurred, out of focus image of someone. Later in the day I simply see me.

4. What is your favourite summer cold drink?
Since I discovered it when we came back to Dubai I have a new one, fresh lemon with mint.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?
Depends where I am. Back home in Oz I walk a lot and spend a lot of time in the garden. In Dubai I tend to spend time on the computer, writing or on forums.

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life?
Get better at anything I do.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person or always ditching?
All of the above except overachieving. I hated school with a vengeance and my reports always complained 'he could do better if he put any effort in'. I left at the first possible moment.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what do you see.
My father's funeral, driving past his workplace and seeing all his colleagues lined up at the roadside for a final farewell.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events?
My blog is about what I see and hear, what happens around me, or sometimes in the wider world. Things that interest, amuse, annoy, frustrate me. I tend to give my opinion on much of it, so in that sense I guess I do show some of my true self.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?
Phone. I like talking to people, finding out what they're up to, getting different views, debating, discussing.

And the rule of these chain letter things is that I now have to annoy three other people by sending it on to them.

So it's going to three familiar bloggers, ex-Dubai now Madrid-based Keefieboy, to ex-Dubai now Barcelona-based nzm and to Dubai-based Grumpy Goat.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Modernising the fleet

The car wash people seem to have been issued with smart new streamlined trolleys.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Save my brother first"

I've said many times before when I've posted about major events that they're really a jigsaw of many small, individual, personal stories.

A tragic example is one such individual story that's part of the jigsaw of the Queensland floods event. The story of a true hero, only thirteen years old, and passers-by who risked their own lives trying to save strangers.

Warren McErlean watched the water on a street gauge in Toowoomba rise twenty centimetres in ten seconds as the inland 'tsunami' hit the town.

He saw a car with a family in it, thirteen year old Jordon Rice, his ten year old brother Blake and mother Donna, with water up to the number plate.

Warren tried to get to the car but by the time he'd walked twenty metres towards it the water was over its bonnet.

He roped himself to a pole and again tried to reach the car but was washed away. Another passer-by, known only as Chris, pulled him out, tied himself to the pole and managed to get to the car.

He grabbed Jordan, but the boy insisted that he save his younger brother first. Blake was carried to safety.

Chris went back to the car where he grabbed Jordan's hand but the rope snapped, the car flipped over and Jordan and Donna were swept away.

Jordan Rice. Hero.
Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

Warren was interviewed on Radio 2UE, and you can listen to his account of what happened here.

The spin on food hygiene

It's all good news on the food outlet hygiene front if you look at the way the story today is presented.

Gulf News headlines the story: "Hygiene standards improve in food establishments".

The first para tells us that "food establishments in Dubai saw a qualitative improvement in their standards of hygiene last year".

Later it tells us that "the amount of fines fell by 50%" and that "the year 2010 saw saw a significant reduction in the number of violations".

All true according to the report issued by Dubai Municipality.

But if you look at the figures there's another way the story could have been slanted, equally accurate.

There were in 2010 a total of 7,778 violations. While that's better than the 14,188 the previous year it's still a long way from acceptable in my opinion.

Nearly 8,000 hygiene violations by food outlets many of us does that put at risk?

In fact it's about 20% of the inspections carried out, and that is surely far too high.

We're going in the right direction but there's still a huge amount to be done, not least of which is education in hygiene for those involved in handling our food.

The Gulf News story is here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Land of extremes

This time of year I'm usually posting about bushfires causing death and destruction in Australia.

We do indeed have fires, in the west. Not far from Perth a deliberately lit fire has destroyed a dozen homes:

Photo: Alf Sorbello

There's a large area burnt out but fortunately no casualties reported.

The animals won't be as lucky, although people do their best to rescue them:

Photo: Alf Sorbello

But this 'fire season' the big news is the flood disaster hitting Queensland.

The news an hour ago was that thirteen people are dead and another forty three are missing...and the worst of the flood is yet to come.

Towns have been destroyed by flash flooding, with 'tsunamis' of six to eight metres coming out of nowhere and catching people by surprise.

One third of Ipswich, a suburb of Brisbane, is under water. Brisbane itself, our third largest city, is on high alert with many suburbs already flooded and mass evacuations from the city centre. The river runs through the centre of the city and is due to peak at 4am Brisbane time. Fortunately the predicted 5.4 metre peak has been revised to 5.2 metres. It's still a hell of a lot of water - measure it!

5.4 metres down to 5.2 doesn't sound a big difference but it means thousands of properties won't be flooded. The current reports are that 20,000 properties will be.

The area under water is larger than France & Germany combined and the flood waters are headed south into New South Wales so the north east of my home state is threatened.

People are being rescued from cars which have been washed away and from the roof of their homes...

Photo: Sky News. Town of Lockyer

Photo: Courier Mail. The town of Toowoomba

This shot from a television camera in a chopper shows a family on their sinking 4X4. The mother and son were rescued but sadly the father, a well-known local personality James Perry, is missing.

Photo: The Australian

The animals are affected too and people are doing their best to help them:

Men jumped in and battled to rescue this trapped horse, which was disoriented and couldn't find its way to the nearby high ground:

Photo: Network 10

The wild animals are in trouble of course, finding any high ground or something, anything, to cling on to, like this goanna:


And animals help each other in times of danger too.

This is one of the most amazing photos to come out of it so far. Armin Gerlach was visiting friends in the flood-hit town of Dalby when he spotted a brown snake (the world's second most venomous) giving a green frog a ride through the flood waters:

Photo: Armin Gerlach

Monday, January 10, 2011

The fog dun some of it

Fog can make for interesting photos, like this morning in Dubai Marina...

...but when it's combined with idiot drivers the picture is quite different:

Photo: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi once again had the worst of it. In this 18 vehicle crash two people were killed and eleven were injured, two seriously.

At least the fog wasn't blamed this time. This carnage was attributed to an idiot driver, who apparently "exited the highway without paying attention to traffic in the adjacent lane".

Nothing new there then.

The fog dunnit elsewhere in AD though. They weren't crashes, they were 'accidents'.

According to Gulf News ...multi-vehicle accidents...were due to poor visibility and heavy fog at dawn.

I'm concerned about some of the advice reportedly given to motorists by the Director of AD Police Traffic & Control Dept. 'Take simple precautions such as switching on hazard lights' was part of his advice according to Gulf News.

Gulf News has the story here.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Saturday wander

How was my second visit to the dentist?

I don't want to talk about it.

Rapidly changing the subject...we had a wander around Downtown Burj Khalifa, or whatever it's called, yesterday.

I'm not a fan of most of New Dubai but this area is an exception. Burj Khalifa itself in my opinion is a stunning building and it looked its best in the bright sunshine.

It's not just the height of the building that always hits me, but also its mass. It is a huge building. The bottom of it is like nine normal skyscrapers side-by-side.

There weren't all that many people about but the board for the viewing level tickets showed its popularity.

I particularly like Old Town and Old Town Island. Not the usual modern could-be-anywhere buildings that are all over the city but architecture that reflects something of the area it's in.

What a pity that more of New Dubai doesn't do the same.

Monday, January 03, 2011

So far so good

About forty minutes or so in the dentist's chair yesterday.

No pain, well except for when he jabbed the needle straight into the nerve.

"Goodness me" I muttered under my breath "that was uncomfortable".

Or something along those lines.

After sitting for half an hour with a mouth full of the dentist's and his assistant's four hands, what felt like a cubic metre of cotton wool and lots of metal equipment, I'm surprisingly intact.

No swollen face, no bruises, no apparent damage and no pain, no toothache.

I have to go back for round two on Wednesday so I hope I come out of that equally well.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Grumpy? Me?

Welcome back to Dubai, Seabee.

Got back at about 6am Friday.

Tired from the nearly twenty four hours journey and the seven hour time difference...and I was awake most of last night with toothache.

Sitting in a dentist's chair was not in my plans for the first couple of days back. The diagnosis was a hole in a tooth, an infection and the answer is root canal treatment.

Oh great.

The first session was at lunchtime, I have to go back on Wednesday for more, then a third visit apparently.

And no, I don't feel lke writing much of a post just now.