Sunday, February 27, 2011

Libya end game

Seemingly, to me, the Libyan revolution came out of nowhere. I really expected other places such as Yemen to dominate the headlines about people power.

It looks as though I wasn't alone in that thinking, the 'international community' very obviously didn't think the mad colonel was in any danger because they had no contingency plans in place.

Only after the country imploded and they realised their citizens in Libya were in grave danger did they start to work out evacuation plans.

Those plans have gone wrong very often too, for example with the British PM having to apologise for the stuff-up, and reportedly carpeting his ministers.

At this late stage the Aussies are being told to head to the airport where arrangements have been made with allies to evacuate them. I can't even begin to imagine the chaos and confusion there is and will continue to be.

Out of the blue Libya started to dominate the news. The speed of the changes and the success of the revolutionaries is astonishing.

What hasn't surprised me is the crazed raving of the colonel. Dressed just like Michael Jackson on tour he's been ranting almost incoherently - but behind the pantomime has been the very real threat of the massacre of demonstrators.

At long long last the 'international community' has started to speak out against the regime and it looks as though sanctions, even perhaps some sort of military action, are imminent.

Having supplied the weapons he's been using against the demonstrators it now seems that the west won't replace the spent arms. Assets squirreled away by the ruling family are being frozen. Diplomats and members of his government are defecting.

The regime is increasingly isolated and has all-but gone.

I'm afraid there's going to be terrible bloodshed though before they're finally driven out.

The colonel's son Saif al-Islam has been on tv telling the world they have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. They are identical, to live and die in Libya.

Like a cornered wounded animal they will fight to the death and take as many of their opponents with them as they can.

I sincerely hope the 'international community' summons up the political will to step in and prevent that happening.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amazing photo

Well I think it's amazing.

The earthquake in Christchurch dislodged a car-sized boulder near Lyttleton. You can follow its path as it rolled across the lawn and then smashed straight through the house.

Photo: AAP

And here it is, the other side of the house it destroyed.

Photo: AAP

Her fate?

Yesterday I posted a link to a mobile phone conversation between a woman trapped under her desk in a collapsed office building in Christchurch and a tv station.

She said she had not had contact with rescuers.

What happened?

Late yesterday rescuers pulled her out alive with broken ribs and cuts. She is recovering in hospital.

Ms Vos said she had plenty of time trapped under four-storeys of rubble to reassess her priorities in life - if she made it out alive.

''Like not worrying about stupid things like: 'Oh my god, where's my bag?','' she said. ''What does that matter? They are things you can replace later. You can't replace people.''

The randomness of death, injury, escape in disasters always intrigues me.

There are amazing stories of missing death by seconds or centimetres and while some people are being rescued the death toll now stands at a confirmed ninety eight. Very sadly babies are amongst the dead, which I always think is somehow the saddest thing. One of just five months old and another nine months old are amongst the confirmed dead.

Over two hundred people are still missing and the rescue services say hope of finding any more survivors is almost zero.  They've had no sounds or signs of life in over twenty-four hours.

The report is here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Listen to this

TV Channel 9 here in Oz has broadcast an amazing interview over her mobile phone with an Aussie woman trapped in her Christchurch office building after today's earthquake.

I've said many times before during major disasters that they're actually not one event but a jigsaw of individual, very personal stories.

This is another example of that.

She sounds calm but she must be terrified.

Listen here: "I'm trapped under a desk, I can't get out, it's dark, I'm bleeding, and I just don't what's going on out there".

Ánd by the way, it's a side of mobile phones, often so annoying and cause for complaint, that we don't think about.  Try to imagine the comfort of it to someone like this, trapped in the dark, not knowing what's out there, what's going on, what her situation really is. She at least has contact with a friendly voice, feels that she's not alone.

Another example of a very personal story that was part of a much larger jigsaw - and another showing the value and comfort of a mobile phone in these disastrous situations - that still raises the hair on the back of my neck whenever I listen to it was during the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. It was a real time audio of one person trapped right in the middle of it, facing a terrifying death.

Rhiannon, only twenty years old, called radio station 3AW as the fires raced towards the house where she and a group had taken shelter.

Happy news, but then...

The day in this region started off on a happy note, with the simultaneous arrival in Sydney Harbour of the luxury ocean liners
Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth.

It must have been some sight and I'd have liked to have seen it - too early for me to be there though, not being a morning person.

Photo: AP Sydney Morning Herald

The harbour was full of leisure boats to welcome the liners and the foreshores were full of people wanting to see and welcome the two monster ships.

A typical happy and pleasant morning in Sydney.

But then later in the morning we started getting news of a big earthquake in New Zealand, which hit Christchurch city centre at lunchtime. The worst possible time, the city centre full of workers, shoppers and sightseers.

It's still chaotic and news is being updated, and getting worse, by the minute. There are many dead, sixty-five so far confirmed, and inevitably there will be more casualties found as rescue teams search the rubble. Numerous people are reported trapped.


Buildings have collapsed, especially the historic old ones. The beautiful Christchurch Cathedral has been badly damaged, the spire has crashed into the street and there's rubble all around the building. 

Two crowded buses have been crushed by falling buildings as have cars with people in them.

Photo: Getty Images

The city doesn't have enough ambulances to cope and residents from the outer suburbs are driving into the centre to help rescue people and take them to triage centres in their private vehicles. 

An eyewitness on radio as I'm typing is talking about being able to smell smoke from fires and having seen broken water mains flooding roads. He says the roads are corrugated and overall infrastructure damage is huge.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Going, going...

I said on a blog somewhere that the Bahrain demonstrators were demanding change in government, they were not against the monarchy. (I think it must have been in a comment I left on another blog).

I also said in yesterday's post, about the violence against the protestors: practical terms it's simply counter productive. The more you brutalise people the more they will rebel against you. By doing it you create more pressure for change. It's a mistake all authoritan regimes make and they never learn from past examples....Even (the promised enquiry) may not be enough to stem the predictable reaction by the people to the violence.

It certainly did produce the predictable reaction. More demonstrations, increased fury at the authorities and an expansion of the demands to include calls for the king to go.

Once again a government has made a disastrous decision. And it continues because there was more shooting on demonstrators by the army on Friday.  Fifty injured, seven critically, according to reports.

It's an upward spiral, there's inevitably going to be much more violence and stronger demands in reaction to it.

"Our demands were peaceful and simple at first. We wanted the prime minister to step down,' Mohamed Ali, a 40-year-old civil servant, said as he choked back tears. "Now the demands are harsher and have reached the pinnacle of the pyramid. We want the whole government to fall."

In the short term a government may be able to control its people with raw power, but that isn't sustainable.

There's only one way this is going to end and that's with change. Only the government can control whether that change happens peacefully by negotiation or violently.

It will happen, one way or another. It's gone too far for it not to.

The quote is from here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bahrain a domino?

While the scaremongers have in the past often warned of the domino theory it hasn't actually happened. But it does look as though it's happening this time.

And where it's happening has taken world leaders by surprise. Especially in the west, where successive governments have propped up, financially and otherwise, the regimes which have now gone or are under threat.

First we had Tunisia, then Egypt and there's increasing unrest in Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain...

In the west they're usually lumped together and believed to be the same. But while they have in common the fact that they don't have democratic political systems, they're actually quite different from each other. Absolute monarchies, life presidents, secular, Islamic republic...

They also have very different economies, very different wealth, very different societies.

Currently they do have in common the fact that large numbers of the people want change. And they want change because they want a better deal, a better life.

In the poorer countries the unrest is mostly about standards of living and jobs. In the wealthier such as Bahrain it's mostly about politics. Much as in Northern Ireland it's politics dominated by religion - Catholics vs Protestants, Shia vs Sunni. Although interestingly there are reports of Sunnis joining the Shias in the demonstrations demanding changes.

I'm hearing a lot of surprise that modern westernised Bahrain, with at least half the population being expatriate, is included in the current wave of unrest. But in fact there's long been unrest there, it's been a fact of life for many years.

I remember on my second visit back in the late seventies seeing huge piles of sandals and flip-flops in the streets. In answer to my question I was told that there had been large demonstrations the night before and the demonstrators can run faster from the security forces if they kick off their sandals. From the amount of footwear I could see it must have been a good-size demo.

Coming back to my hotel after dinner I saw Public Defence units on most street corners and intersections and plenty of street patrol vehicles.

But while protests in Bahrain are far from a new phenomenon they do seem to have intensified since the success of unrest elsewhere in the region. In that sense I guess they are part of the domino theory.

The response of the authorities has intensified too with, sadly, people being killed. Reports are saying seven so far, including tragically a two year old girl. Well over two hundred are said to be injured.

Apart from any moral rejection of that, in practical terms it's simply counter productive. The more you brutalise people the more they will rebel against you. By doing it you create more pressure for change. It's a mistake all authoritan regimes make and they never learn from past examples.

Protestors say that riot police stormed their encampment while they were sleeping, firing tear gas and birdshot and beating them with clubs.

The government has said there will be an investigation into the deaths. I'm sure I'm not the only person sceptical about how effective and transparent the investigation will be.

Nothing short of bringing to justice those responsible on the ground and those who gave the order will suffice.

Even that may not be enough to stem the predictable reaction by the people to the violence.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Benihana Kuwait's blogger attack

Here's the review that resulted in a blogger being sued for damages:

My Benihana Experience

A few days back I posted about Benihana opening up at the Avenues and yesterday night I decided to pass by with Nat and try it out. The service wasn’t too bad for a restaurant that’s just been open for a few days and the staff were really friendly. The restaurant itself is made up of islands and bars with a grill in the middle of each one. You sit around the grill and the chef will come to your table and prepare the food right in front of you which makes things entertaining. It’s actually why I prefer sitting at the bar in Japanese restaurants in general, since you can talk to the chef and watch them put your dish together. The problem with my experience last night though was with the food, it was disappointing to say the least.

We ordered beef negimayaki for starters followed by an Orange Blossom maki and a Hibachi Chicken. The negimaki arrived looking good and was probably the best thing we had there even though I prefer Maki’s negimaki which has a richer teriyaki sauce. The Orange Blossom was very ordinary, wouldn’t order it again. Now the Hibachi chicken which is basically grilled chicken, that was the worst. The chicken was very chewy (I could swear it was undercooked if not raw) and tasted terrible. Even after I had the chef add some more teriyaki sauce in hopes of improving the taste it didn’t work. I tried to dip it into the sauces that came with the chicken but it was hard to figure out if they were actually making things worse or not. Nat only ate one piece of chicken and left the rest while I needed my protein since I’m on a strict diet and forced myself to eat my whole plate (I can do that) but the after taste was really bad. Even the rice and the veggies that came with it tasted bad AND were under cooked. Once we left I considered picking up a frozen yogurt from Pinkberry even though I hate frozen yogurts but I just needed something to get rid of the aftertaste. A few moments later we ended up at Chocolate Bar ordering the gooey chocolate cake (bye bye diet).

I shot the two videos above of the chef preparing our meal. Benihana are known for the live shows they perform when preparing your dish so I was expecting to see [This] but ended up with the above . Would I go back to Benihana? No I wouldn’t. Their sashimi and maki’s are pretty cheap (KD1.5 for 5 pieces of Salmon sashimi for example) but there are two other Japanese restaurants at the Avenues, Wasabi and Maki, and I would prefer either one of those to Benihana.

(You can read the original post here. )

There won't be many internet users who aren't aware that Kuwait-based blogger Mark is being sued by Benihana Kuwait for writing that review of his experience in their restaurant.

In spite of universal negative reaction, franchisee Benihana Kuwait is continuing with its legal attack. The franchiser Benihana of Tokyo has taken the decision to hide and pretend it isn't happening, isn't damaging their brand.

Benihana Inc, a separate company, has spoken out, issuing a press release distancing themselves from the debacle, saying they welcomed customer feedback and advising people to 'share your comments and opinions directly with Benihana of Tokyo, Inc'.

I originally posted about it here, under the heading 'Sued for saying he didn't like his meal'.

I also said in an update post that it was a balanced review and along with many other bloggers today, I'm reproducing it.

The reason this is being re-posted today by many people on various internet platforms is to continue to draw attention to the attack on freedom of speech.

There's nothing in the review to warrant such an attack.

Read the blogs, the tweets, the Facebook comments - the damage to Benihana is being done by the actions of the Kuwait franchisee and by Benihana of Tokyo themselves by their silence.  Just google benihana kuwait or on Twitter look for  #BenihanaKUW to see what's being said.

Benihana can begin to repair the damage they've created for themselves by announcing that they are dropping the legal action.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A historic day

What an amazing couple of weeks in Egypt.

The seemingly unmoveable Mubarak regime has gone. A regime not only brutal in the way it usually treated dissent and which had all-but destroyed any organised opposition but which was, let's not forget, also supported and propped up by the West.

In spite of all that a largely peaceful mass uprising by the people has removed them.


While it is a people's revolution the critical part the military played in the revolution should be acknowledged. Surprisingly to me they stood by and let the revolution take its course.

It was a big dipper of a revolution and it was touch and go there for a while.

It looks to me as though the original thinking of the regime was that it would fizzle out afer a few days, so they did nothing.

Then they tried to show that chaos would be the result by loosing off some thuggish 'supporters' to create violence.

By and large, and to their credit, the crowd didn't resort to retaliation with violence and the chaos the regime wanted didn't really happen.

The numbers waxed and waned, but calls for 'million people' demonstrations boosted the numbers again.

It was touch and go on Thursday when Mubarak was expected to resign by just about everyone but didn't.

If there was going to be a violent reaction, the disappointment at that point was going to ignite it.

Again to their credit, the people were restrained but determined.

There are lessons in it too for American foreign policy makers and their western allies, not that they've ever learned from their mistakes in the past though.

Once again they've been supporting a brutal, undemocratic dictator hated by his people.

And think about Iraq & Afghanistan - you can't impose a political system on people, the people themselves have to do it.

As the Egyptians have so wonderfully shown.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

E-mail bigotry

Why is the world in a mess?

Here's a thought for a big part of it - far too many people are intolerant and bigoted. Adamant that only they are right, believing everyone else must agree one hundred percent with them and do as they do.

Different from me? Not acceptable.

Another example has just arrived in my e-mail box, and I get similar messages regularly. They come from 'Christians' whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment.

Let me declare my position. I have very little time for any religion.

I don't have a problem with religions per se, but with the fact that they're a rallying point for an awful lot of nastiness.

People whose beliefs and actions are actually far from that of the religion itself gather under its banner and effectively hijack it to push their own perverted version of it.

The e-mails I get originate in the US, as this latest does.

It says, and the highlighting is not mine, it's on the e-mail:   

These pictures are worth more than a thousand words!! Please take note that police and fireman are onsite! It is sanctioned.

NYC on Madison Ave
A Christian Nation cannot put up a Christmas scene of the baby Jesus in a public place, but the Muslims can stop normal traffic every Friday afternoonby worshiping in the streets. Something is happening in America that is reminiscent of what is happening in Europe .. This is Political Correctness gone crazy. Scary! Isn't it?

This is an accurate picture of every Friday afternoon in several locations throughout NYC where there are mosques with a large number of Muslims that cannot  fit into the mosque - They fill the surrounding streets, facing east for a couple of hours between about 2 & 4 p.m. - Besides this one at 42nd St & Madison Ave, there is another, even larger group, at 94th St & 3rd Ave, etc., etc. - Also, I presume, you are aware of the dispute over building another "high rise"  Mosque a few blocks from "ground zero" - With regard to that one, the "Imam" refuses to disclose where the $110 million dollars to build it is coming from and there is a lawsuit filed to force disclosure of that information.

This is in New York City on Madison Avenue, not in France or the Middle East or Yemen or Kenya.


"For evil to flourish, all that is needed is for good people to do nothing." - Edmund Burke

I hardly know where to start.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

The senders of the e-mail obviously disagree with that amendment, or at least the part that refers to religion. I wonder whether they think the other parts, freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, are wrong too. My guess is that it's just the religious freedom bit they don't like. Or at least, if it applies to any religion other than their own particular branch of Christianity.

(I wonder where they stand on the Second Amendment too...)

Scary! Isn't it?  What's scary?  People saying their prayers scares you?

"A Christian nation cannot put up a Christmas scene of the baby Jesus..."  Who are they blaming? I've never heard people from other religions demanding such things.

There are examples of this kind of stupidity but it comes from 'Christian' councils, officials, individuals, usually on the ridiculous basis of  'we don't want to offend anyone' - forgetting that they are offending Christians.

...this is not in France, Middle East or Yemen or Kenya  (you've spotted the Obama reference there of course, and the old France-bashing dig).  It is indeed in New York City. But NYC is in the USA, which guarantees freedom of religion. So the problem is...?

"For evil to flourish etc".  Evil? What evil is being shown?

The photo shows pious people, too many to fit into their place of worship, peacefully and legally observing their religious devotions.

No prizes for working out the agenda of the senders of these e-mails.

More information

Thanks to jadaoun for pointing out in his comment the Snopes page on this subject.

In fact the whole thing is based on a lie. It's a complete misrepresentation.

The photographs are of an annual event, like the St Patrick's Day Parade and others.

You can read the Snopes information here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Me & Twitter

In a post the other day about blogging I said I couldn't get my head around Twitter and I should do a post on it so that, maybe, you can tell me where I'm going wrong.

Today Sarah has an excellent post about Twitter at Dubai-ified, which prompted me to write my post on it.

I understand the concept of instant, brief messages. I understand, as Sarah says, that Twitter is connectivity to the rest of the world. But there's much I can't get my head around.

Blogging I understand, it makes sense, it doesn't need you on it 24/7, it's clear and concise, easy to read.

Twitter is the opposite.

The first bit I struggle with is knowing what to follow. How the hell do you decide when there's so much of interest going on. And new, unpredicted things of interest regularly popping up out of nowhere, such as the Benihana Kuwait blogger-bashing story. I'd end up following so many subjects that my computer would go into meltdown.

And that leads me on to the other thing I don't understand - the time you need.

Twitter by its very nature provides instant and constant updates on all sorts of stuff.  But if you're not monitoring it all the time you miss huge wads of the stuff and when you get back to it it's like missing the middle section of a movie.

And if you have your own Twitter page, how do you find the time to keep posting (or is that tweeting?). With this blog I can post something every day, sometimes longer like this and sometimes just a photo. I can check back for comments, I can reply to them...but I don't need to be on it all the time.

Then there's the content.

For example, I followed the link from a visitor tracked by my Statcounter:

alimustafaok: Queensland baby born in cyclone Yasi shelter {exclusive video of baby...must watch} -
KrystleJondahl1: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi TishaMcmain5429: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi rosethistleart: RT @CBSnews: End of Cyclone Yasi Brings Australia More Woes
YuetteFinley968: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi
CBS News: End of Cyclone Yasi Brings Australia More Woes
AdamColeman25: End of Cyclone Yasi Brings Australia More Woes (CBS News): Share With Friends: World news - Top Stories News, KiyokoWires3264: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi
MonicaRingstaff: The energy from Cyclone Yasi could power the world for a year
 LaurenLandolt74: The energy from Cyclone Yasi could power the world for a year
teetee65: RT @CBSnews: End of Cyclone Yasi Brings Australia More Woes
AllineYerhot194: The energy from Cyclone Yasi could power the world for a year
ThomasGoracke92: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi
WanitaRied3601: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi
Levi_Fourie: @JackieEatsBabys search up cyclone yasi!! :D and be amazed we got lucky :L other owns didn't :(
MiriamMazzoni59: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi
RT @CBSnews: End of Cyclone Yasi Brings Australia More Woes
ElenoreBueche60: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi
KiaraCiarletta3: The energy from Cyclone Yasi could power the world for a year
Louth: Tail end of Cyclone Yasi in Werribee. Pictures: Video: [Not mine!] - More rain to come too.
Louth: Tail end of Cyclone Yasi in Werribee. Pictures: Video: [Not mine!] - More rain to come too.
AliseCumpston27: All our thoughts with Queensland as they brace themselves for Cyclone Yasi

It goes on ad nauseum like that. Page after page with messages being repeated by dozens of people. Most of it is just quotes from the mainstream media and people re-tweeting what others have already tweeted, so it's page after page endlessly repeating exactly the same thing. In reality there are only five or six things being said, which you read over and over again.
I've just had a look at Alexander McNabb's Twitter page and that highlights another problem I have. Dozens of conversations are going on at the same time. It's like being in one of those business meetings where the chairman loses control and everyone starts talking amongst themselves. So much is going on at the same time you have no idea what's going on.
Here's part of Alex' page:

  Now. THAT is awesome. #Jan25
.@bilalhouri I do not somehow feel a deep sense of loss.. @tfehh @jarofjuice @mark248am @MaliZomg
.@bilalhouri Now the only voice on Facebook is the boycott page... LOL indeed... @mark248am @MaliZomg @naseemfaqihi
.@bilalhouri Yes, I rather think they did! Yet more great 'how to' lessons in social media! :) @mark248am @MaliZomg #BenihanaKUW
.RT @allawati: People are now forming to make the word "Leave" for the helicopters to see
.RT @Andrew_Bone: Last call for Jeddah. Would all passengers board immediately. Come on, Mr Mubarak #Jan25
.Fast Company on BenihanaGate. Hey, Benihana Tokyo? WAKE UP! #BenihanaKUW (Via @okassim)
.@okassim Yes, it was a despicable swipe against an alienated sibling. And quite fun...
."Reporters Without Borders is horrified... an all-out witch-hunt against news media... in Egypt"
.@okassim Yeah, but search 'Benihana' and you catch the growing global outcry. And it's actually scary. #benihanakuw
.@Beirutspring @krmaher Well, some ISPs are capable of anythingng... ;)
.@Beirutspring @krmaher Saudi IPs - IP addresses. See the post on the host's site:
.Hmm. The Slashdot effect? #BenihanaKUW
.@bilalhouri @noornet @Beirutspring @MaliZomg Post is mirrored here:
.@Beirutspring According to the hosting provider, traffic spike plus attacks from Saudi-based IPs!
.@money1963 Benihana Kuwait! You might find this informative:
.@noornet @Beirutspring Guys, the blog is offline temporarily as the host is having traffic issues. #jan25
.RT @GKnieschot: Vodaphone #Egypt statement on Government abusing phone networl: #Jan25

And I have a problem with the way it's presented.
There's all the link stuff, more than half the message, to wade through:
pippalovespink: RT @smh_news: RT @smhenvironment: 41 degrees: Sydney's sixth day of sizzling: #weather #environment #sydneyheat
Ninety-four characters of links to wade through to read forty-one characters of message. 

And making it even harder to read what's there, the platform can't accept apostrophies so you get:

marielviray: @meteoritecrater also, Sydney's in a heat wave and Melbourne's flooding. Australia's weather is so bipolar.

User friendly it ain't.

Assuming that with practice I could work out how to cut through the dozens of  simultaneous conversations and how to read through all the 'ses I still have two problems.

How to follow all the many, many subjects I'd want to follow and how to find the time to do it.
How to find a way through the endlessly repeated clutter and just read a message once.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Cyclones, floods & fires

Mother Nature is dominating the news here in Oz, showing that we're a real land of extremes.

As I said yesterday, in Sydney we've had a record hot spell.

Overnight was as uncomfortable as predicted, it was still 30C at midnight and humidity up in the ninety percent area.

Then a southerly buster came through with a thunderstorm at 3pm today and at 5pm we were at 20C.

Up in far North Queensland they're counting the $billions of damage after Cyclone Yasi.

Photo:Dave Hunt AAP

 In Victoria they're battleing huge floods across a lot of the state, with extensive stock losses and damage.

Photo: Nadine Walker ninensm

And right now over in Western Australia out-of-control bushfires are raging through suburbs of Perth.


The current situation is that 20 homes have been destroyed, mass evacuations are under way and firefighters are deperately trying to defend houses.

Monday Update

The Perth fires are still out of control, with 59 homes destroyed and 28 damaged.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Whingeing weather

I see Dubai's weather is rain, low temperatures, a shamal and sand storms.

Sydney has whingeing weather too. We're in day six of a heat wave and the whingeing hasn't stopped.

'Can't sleep' is the most common complaint, as we're having record high minimum overnight temperatures and new records for the number of consecutive hot nights.

It'll be the same tonight. The weather report just said it reached 43C today and most of the night will be around 30C.

Temps are measured in the shade of course, so with the sun blazing from our clear, blue, cloudless sky it's very hot. And as February is our most humid month it's quite uncomfortable too.

Several severe fire warnings have been issued and a large area of the state, including Greater Sydney, has a total fire ban in place. The Rural Fire Service has dealt with over a hundred bush and grass fires this week. They're spread around, with currently new fires being fought in the Blue Mountains to the west and here on the Central Coast to the north.

A cool change is forecast for tomorrow and by Monday the Met Bureau says "the daytime temperatures will be close to the overnight temperatures Sydneysiders have been suffering this past week".

I have a lot of running around to do next week so I'm quite pleased to hear that.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Cyclone Yasi

There are hundreds of photos in the media showing damage caused up in Far North Queensland by cyclone Yasi, but one in particular seems to me to sum up the power of the wind and rain.

Forty million dollars-worth of yachts and cruisers at Port Hinchinbrook piled up like a kid's toys.

Photo AFP

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A-OK after Cyclone Yasi

Well, it was a category five cyclone, the same as Katrina which devastated New Orleans, but current reports are no deaths or serious injuries.

Cyclone Yasi veered south just before making landfall and instead of slamming directly into Cairns hit much smaller towns.

People who've been to Far North Queensland, usually to visit the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest or the small islands, will know the small coastal towns of Mission Beach, Tulley, Innisfail, Cardwell, Ingham...all were hit badly.

Tulley, a small town with a population of about 3,500, is one of the worst hit with one in three houses destroyed or damaged. The town centre looks like this:

Photo:  John Wilson HeraldSun

There's a lot of damage and as flooding followed the winds it's not over yet.

Trees are down everywhere and one of the big industries up there, banana plantations, has lost 90% of the crop. Bananas are a $400 million industry and there's also been an estimated $500 million of sugar cane destroyed, so the damage bill is high.

Photo: Jamie Hanson HeraldSun

But so far there are no human casualties, although the emergency services still haven't been able to reach some smaller towns or isolated properties.

Even if they do find casualties it'll be a small toll compared to the size of the cyclone. Category Five is as bad as it gets.

The reason is that the Queensland government and emergency services did an excellent job of informing people what to expect, issuing evacuation orders, setting up evacuation centres, telling people what to do. Radio was used extensively - the ABC local radio network is used in emergencies like bushfires or cyclones as an information service.

Last evening I heard them telling anyone who hadn't yet evacuated that it was too late, they must not venture out but go to the safest room in their house etc etc.

Good stuff.  I usually criticize governments and bureaucrats but this time they got it right.

Thousands did as they were told and went to evacuation centres such as shopping malls. When they see the damage outside they'll be glad they did.

I've also been impressed with the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. She seems to have been everywhere, she's all over the media giving people hard, up-to-the-minute information, something that normally is the last thing we get.  

There are plenty of interviews with people of course. I particularly liked the wry humour of the policeman asked before the cyclone hit by the Sydney Morning Herald how his family would be staying safe. "My wife must have got hold of a good long-range forecast - she cleared off with the kids two years ago" he said.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Benihana Kuwait update

You surely must know that the big story in cyberspace is Benihana Kuwait, that's the Japanese-style restaurant franchise, suing a Kuwaiti blogger because, in what is a balanced review, he said he didn't like the food and wouldn't go back.

In my post on Monday I said the story needs to get as much exposure on the 'net as we can give it, and I urged other bloggers and social media users to expose these people.

You could hardly have done better!

It's all over cyberspace and now all sorts of media is picking up the story and joining in the universal condemnation of the crass stupidity.

There've been a couple of recent developments.

Michael Kata, COO and Executive Vice President of Benihana of Tokyo, who license the Kuwaiti franchise, told that the franchise agreement didn't allow them to order franchisees to sue or withdraw lawsuits, but that they were empowered to terminate the agreement should the franchisee bring the brand into disrepute.

As I said on Monday, that's exactly what they should have done. It'll be interesting to see what the franchiser does.

The other development is a press release from the other half of the company, Benihana Inc. in Miami.

Obviously concerned at the effect of the stupidity on investors in their company, they're distancing themselves as far as they can from it.

Absolutely nothing to do with us, they say. There are two totally separate companies and we have no control or authority over what the other company does.

They take a dig at the franchisee, saying their half of the company seriously consider all feedback an opportunity for improving operations and We encourage you to share your opinions and comments directly with Benihana of Tokyo, Inc. The company's contact information is available on

They're well aware what a storm the stupidity has created and that there's universal condemnation, and they clearly want us to let the franchiser know our feelings directly. The full press release is here.

By the way, if you haven't started at the beginning of this story, the original post with the restaurant review is here.

Like me, I don't think you'll see anything in the review that relates to the claims made in the lawsuit. The words Mark uses have no connection with the claims made in the writ.

boingboing have a translation, which includes: "And so, we order the payment of KD5001 as a compensation for the damages caused to the restaurant management and for encouraging large number of customers not to try the restaurant by insulting, doubting the quality and food served by Benihana and using expressions that disgust people from trying the food. The person has caused huge material damages to the restaurant, ethic damage to the restaurant's reputation as an international brand that has chains all over the world as well as hurt the restaurant's potential to expand in Kuwait by influencing all kinds of nationalities not to try a restaurant that offers a specific type of food that is subject to taste preference.

If anyone should be sued for causing 'ethic damage to the restaurant's reputation' it's their own management.

Wild weather again

A tiring journey, almost exactly 24 hours door-to-door when I arrived home at 11pm yesterday.

There's also a seven hour time difference to adjust to, so I'm all over the place at the moment. Can't sleep, can't do much else, so I thought I'd check in here for a few minutes.

I've just received an e-mail from a Dubai friend warning of storms on the way for the next couple of days. The weather's the main news here too.

Sydney is in the middle of a very warm spell, over 40C the last couple of days and today high thirties, and as February is our most humid month it's quite uncomfortable. We also had one of the highest-ever overnight low temps last night apparently, at 26.4C.

There are bushfires in a couple of Sydney suburbs, under control fortunately, and more than seventy though New South Wales.

The big news though is the massive Cyclone Yasi due to hit Far North Queensland in a few hours at 10pm. It's a catagory five cyclone, 500 kilometres wide and it's headed straight for the area where the two cities of Townsville and Cairns and several smaller population centres are located.

It's forecast that winds will be as high as 300kph and will last 24 hours. That's much worse than Cyclone Tracy which destroyed the Northern Territory capital of Darwin in 1974.

Murphy's Law comes into play yet again, because Cyclone Yasi's landfall will coincide with a high tide and a two metre storm surge is expected in Cairns city centre.  This on top of Queensland's floods that made world-wide news a couple of weeks ago, which still haven't fully receded.

Thousand of people have moved inland. They say 30,000 have gone and the Queensland Premier is urging more people to flee in the next few hours' 'window of opportunity' as she calls it.

She said: "I don't think Australia has ever seen a storm of this size, this intensity in an area as popular as this stretch of our coast...this is 24 hours of some of the most frightening weather that most people will ever have experienced." 

Many people are in evacuation centres in Cairns. In Townsville the winds are already severe and if people haven't left they're being told to secure their homes and stay put. To go out now is too dangerous, the emergency services say.

And a totally unconnected news story that's just hit the airwaves after a news conference a few minutes ago is that our most successful Olympian, swimmer Ian Thorpe, has announced that he's returning to swimming and plans to train in...Abu Dhabi.