Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Wave Project

Once again, the common regional neglect for the laws of fair play and good practice appear to be at normal levels - this time at Muscat's premier freehold extravaganza, The Wave.

Today, I was speaking to a very nice couple who have recently sold their previous home having been told that their new villa would be ready by December, but have now had their moving in time deferred yet again until sometime in February. 
A pain in the ass for sure, but the delay pales in comparison to what they discovered earlier this week.

The garage on the villa that they bought has shrank - and so has every other garage on their road. 
They now cannot fit their cars inside.

The excuse from the agent, acting on behalf of The Wave, was that when you buy a property off-plan, all of the measurements on the plan are outside measurements and not inside measurements - and that it was the fault of the buyer in this case.
The agent could not, however, explain why there is now an extra villa being constructed at the end of their street!
(Shave a bit off each one, space for a whole new villa left over, multiply that by ten streets and that's a tidy bit of extra revenue methinks.)

How many more buyers could be getting a raw deal out of this? 
Better go and have a look at those plans again, folks.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas To All

One of the major advantages of living here, is the total lack of stress around the Yuletide celebrations. 
I am sitting here with fresh juice and a laptop, with none of the historical jumping out of bed to brave the Christmas Eve rush for food and present shopping, content in the fact that I could even go to Carrefour at 8am on Christmas morning if I forgot anyone. 

The Alternative Christmas: a trip into the mountains or a trip to the beach with a picnic lunch, or the traditional turkey and ham with friends and family. The totally unpressured choice is up to you.

Merry Christmas to one and all from Mr & Mrs Jet Driver!
You have our best wishes for a wonderful, stress-free day. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Back Online

Wow! That was scary. 
Not inconvenient, not annoying - scary!

Has anyone else copped on over the past few days how utterly dependent we are on the internet for day to day information and the overall running of our lives?

Finances, communication, shopping, data gathering - all taken away at a moment's notice. 
Can you imagine the chaos that a well planned attack on these cables would cause?
A complete global shutdown! 

The powers that be need to seriously begin to address the consequences of a potential attack of that nature. 

We would be seriously fucked.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

GCC Conference Postponed Again

Can anyone shed any light on the above?
I have received a text message stating that it has been postponed with a possible rescheduled date around the very end of December or maybe even January. 

Who couldn't make it this time then?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Oil Prices Still Dropping

Helter Skelter! 
Anyone else watching today's downward spiral.
Buy it while you can. I get the feeling this is only going to go up over the next year. 
It can't get much lower, so if you have a few g's to invest - do it now!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

McDonald's Around The World

It's great how the comments of others can inspire one to write an unexpected blog.

Amjad posted in his blog the following:

"I don't like McDonald's in the US. It tastes completely different than the Middle East." 

He is correct! I have travelled the world over and can agree that no two countries can produce the same Big Mac.

But hey ho - it doesn't stop there. There are ups and downs in relation to the above. A sort of ying-yang trade off. 

New York: 
"Hello sir. Welcome to McDonald's. Can I take your order?" - Mediocre food. Presentation just average.

Muscat: 
"Yes. What do you want?" - Pretty good burgers but presentation is crap.

Extremes of service and food quality, spiraling around the world, the zen and tao of fast food! 
All clambering for supremacy and then finally the silence......perfection, calm and harmonious balance - but where?

Tokyo: 
"Hello and welcome and thank you so much for coming to visit us here at McDonald's, please have a look at this menu card in front of you, where you will find a full selection of items for your choosing!" - Burgers and fries taste fantastic! Layout on tray must have been measured with a calipers. "Is that Big Mac real?" - and then they BOW TO ME! I love it!

Get on a plane, go to Japan and see how it should be done!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Situations Vacant



Having read Undercover Dragon's latest on the pink pound. Why has someone not developed a portal for the local community here? Because there is one - deny it or not - it is there and it is LOCAL, not just expat.
Surely only by gradual exposure will one have the arrival of "mainstream"?
An IT-savvy editor with a VPN, some moderators and a handful of the city's social networking gurus. 

It could have advice columns, classified ads and that all important social calendar.

Would probably get blocked by the powers that be. But, where there's a will....

Any takers?

Friday, 12 December 2008

The New Al Bustan Palace Hotel

I was treated to a very relaxed evening at the Al Bustan last night and I have to say that the renovation work that they have done is absolutely wonderful. Pure opulence and style. 

We had dinner in China Mood, which was fantastic and the pre-dinner tipples were had at the very tastefully designed Al Maha Piano Lounge - for me, the nicest chill-out bar design I have seen for a while and by far, the best in Muscat.

Having mulled it over for most of this morning, I have decided not to post any photos that I took of the inside as it would only spoil the treat for visitors as between the new decor and the immaculately turned-out staff, the pictures would just not do the place any justice at all. 

Congratulations to everyone involved in the project. Excellent work. 

Go and have a look for yourselves, although the guards on the gate are still being very selective about who they are letting in - and rightly so. 
Reservations have to be made for bar and restaurant, and we were only allowed access after a very lengthy series of radio communications to confirm that our host was in fact a guest there. 

Monday, 8 December 2008

Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

We have a situation that is beginning to escalate and I would like your views and suggestions on it. 

There is a very large retail group operating here in Oman with stores based all around the country. It advertises itself worldwide as an employer with a particular focus on the Philippines recruitment market. 

Young Filipinos with very little world experience and a desperate need for better wages and a better life, are shipped over here en masse to work for this company. They are given mediocre accommodation and the overtime payments that were promised are sporadically paid, although not without a fight for some people. 

The hours are ridiculously long and some of the kids I have met, have over 25 "pending days off" that they know they will neither see nor get paid for. 
But they soldier on silently, as to grumble would mean dismissal and a return to the hell of life in Manila on 6,000 pesos a month. They are over a barrel as such. 
They also can't leave because their passports are confiscated when they arrive to stop them from leaving, and even if they had one, they have to have a letter from their employer to get permission to leave the country. (Surely this is illegal! Human Rights anyone? The right to free passage and travel?)

But the thing that bothers me most, is when an individual decides to further exploit these people for his own benefits. In this case, naive and terrified young Filipina girls.

This Indian man is what is known in his organisation as a Concept Manager - and I am hoping that someone reading this will be able to put two and two together and work out who he is. 
He is in charge of multiple stores, and here is how he operates. 

(BTW, this man is married and his wife and child live in Muscat with him and visit the stores regularly, however, the girls are too terrified to bring this up.)

First, he locates a new Filipina staff member. He has a preference for the younger ones, and introduces himself as the Concept Manager, usually elevating his status to a higher level than it actually is. 
He then starts to talk about how he can get them promoted very quickly to managers and is generally nice and pleasant about it. 

The thoughts of an increase of 30 rials a month in salary is very attractive to these girls, so they listen and then when he asks for their mobile number so that he can get back to them about it, they give it to him. 

Then the text messages begin: "You looked cute today in your uniform." "You have a nice smile.", "I like you a lot and can help you. Let's be friends.", "Hey! Can we go out sometime?" 

He also calls them at all hours of the night requesting dates and meetings, and when refused, the veiled threats begin. 
He has the power to send people far away from their friends - to Sohar or Salalah. All of a sudden the girls sales performance is an issue, or their attitude. And they live in fear of a transfer. One girl arrived at our door in floods of tears two nights ago and I am now at the point where I want to act on this.

He tried it on with mine a few months back and was told in no uncertain terms what would happen to him should he ever come within a donkey's roar of her again. 
We still have the text messages and have instructed the other girls to keep theirs as well. 
The only trouble is that complaining to his superiors will fall on deaf ears as the Indian mafia once again do an arse-covering operation. 

Any suggestions on what other options I can take here? I have my thoughts on a few!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Recommended

It's not often that Jet Driver's Seal of Approval comes out, however, I went to see Frank Caliendo the last time I was in the US, and in my opinion, he ranks as possibly the best comic impersonator in the world today. 
His George Bush and Robin Williams impressions are simply perfect.

Check him out!




Thursday, 4 December 2008

For Your Information

In the interests of people who seem to have had a fit of apoplexy over some of my previous posts, allow me to reiterate the purpose of this blog.

It is designed primarily as a vessel for me to vent my spleen about what I observe on a daily basis here and further afield. 

It is for those who are mature enough to know that what I say is with "tongue-in-cheek" and requires a reader who is intelligent enough to work that out. 
They may also have to be able to laugh at themselves should they be related to the subject under debate. 

If you are easily irked by my personal observations or what I have to say, then you have options. There is always the "Back" button on your browser. 

As Undercover Dragon states:
"It is the absolute intent and undeflectable aim of this blog to at all times be in total compliance with the laws of the Sultanate of Oman. Any perception that this is not the case is due to an incorrect and inaccurate interpretation of the contents of this blog. It is intended for Adults with a sense of humour and intelligence - if you do not meet this criteria, go and read something else."

That just about sums things up around here as well. 

JD

Babies, Cars & Kinetic Physics

I have been thinking of writing this for a while, and the fact that it has been raining made me decide to expedite the process. 

I know that all of my expat readers have seen one of these before, but I wanted to draw them to the attention of local drivers. 

This is a child's car seat. It is not a toy. It is a safety device, that is designed to prevent your kid from becoming a flying death machine when you or someone else, does one of your usual and utterly astonishing road maneuvers. 

Now, I know that cultural awareness and tolerance is spoken about widely in the papers and on a lot of the blogs here - and while I fully respect the religious beliefs of my hosts, there has to come a time when you need to be practical. 

Picture the scene. This morning - coming out of Seeb and onto the highway, I am driving behind a late model Mercedes, and in the back, I see the beautiful smiling faces of three local children. Two girls and one boy - all between three and five years old. 

Dad hits the brakes as another muppet slices across two lanes of traffic, and the kids disappear, only to resurface again albeit in a different order - grinning and waving.
I just don't know how parents can allow this situation to occur. 

Time for a crash course in Physics:

The force of gravity upon you means that right now, you are experiencing what we call 1G - or one times the force of gravity. 
When you accelerate or decelerate, you experience different levels of G. 
For example, when I make a tight turn at work at high speed, I can experience about 6G sometimes more. 

As well as being uncomfortable, it also has an effect on my body's perceived mass. 
If my head weighs 10kg - this means that in a 6G turn, it now feels like it weighs 60kg. 
During a rapid deceleration, I can experience "negative G' which will try to pull me out of the seat. 
If I wasn't very securely strapped in, I would quite literally be minced after I disappeared through the instrument panel.

The same thing goes for your children. 
In a 120 kph crash, the deceleration factor can make the average child without proper restraints, pass through the car interior with the force of an elephant.
And if it happens, there is no prayer in the world that will save them.

A flying child with that much kinetic energy, has several options: 
They can, if you are lucky, go through the windscreen, killing only themselves.
Or, if your vehicle gets hit at an angle, the child can bounce around the inside of the cab, killing everyone. 

Put three kids in the car - and you triple your chances of instant death for all. 
Think that it can't happen to you? Think again.
I get the feeling that it happens here a lot. 

What stuns me is that, as far as I know, there is only one retailer that sells these seats in this country - Baby Shop in the Centrepoint chain.
This is absolutely outrageous!

THE USE OF CHILD CAR SEATS SHOULD BE LAW IN OMAN - Take that to the Ministries. 
Get it sorted. Now!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Bring Your Pet Day

Sorry about the bad quality - but I was trying to both dodge the vehicle, and take a photo at the same time. 

Is it a donkey? Or a horse?


This is one of things I love about Oman - so random!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Food For Thought

A recent post by Muscato, brought back the following memory for me:

"Hi, sir"

"Hello, young man. How are you?"

"Fine, sir. Very fine." 

"Great! Urrmmmm....Can I have the fried chicken strips with some baked beans and "chunky" fries?"

"And for drink?"

"A Diet Coke please." 

"Ok, so chicken strips with beans and chunky fries....and a Diet Coke?"

"Yep. That's it. And can you put the beans onto the same plate and not on a saucer like you did the last time?"

"Of course, sir. No problem."

"Thanks"

....................................

"Errrr, no. A DIET Coke, mate."

"Sorry - Diet Coke, yes?"

"Yes. Thank you."

....................................

"What's this?"

"Mashed potato, sir." 

"Well what's it doing there? I ordered Chunky Fries."

"Ahhh, yes. French Fries. Ok. Sorry."

"No. Stop. Wait and listen. Chunky Fries - not French Fries. Ok?"

"Yes. Ok. Sorry, sir."

.........................

"Your Chicken Strips with French Fries, sir."

"Jesus! I ord......oh, fine. Great. Thanks. Beans?"

"Coming, sir." 

"Didn't I ask you to put.....oh, nevermind! Is there any chance you could bring me the Diet Coke before one of us gets hurt?"

"Yes, sir. Diet Coke, yes?"

................................

Nowadays, I have to be absolutely desperate for food - and I am talking on the verge of delirium - before I will step foot in that place anymore. 

I'm sure you can work out where it is. 

Monday, 1 December 2008

Winter Is Upon Us

Yesterday evening. 
A long, slow walk along the sea-front. A cool breeze. The boats passing by as their owners head for home. 
A takeaway latté and a quiet seat on the beach to watch the sun go down. 


Oman between now and April is truly wonderful. I love this time of year!