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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Lady Ga-Gah!

Lady GaGa minus the crazy make-up, wigs and outfits:

still feel like being her “little monsters”?
Madonna sans make-up, not a pretty sight
Amy Winehouse,, no comment..

Ministry of Communication blocks Nymgo

In a rather underhanded move, the Ministry of Communication (MoC) has followed suit of UAE and blocked VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) service provider Nymgo, similar to Skype, in a bid to maintain the monopoly over international calls.

The same issue was raised in the UAE, and a representative of Skype visited the Emirates to condemn the action of blocking the service as unbefitting of a country that is claiming to be an international hub.

The simple rule of Economics dictates that an economy that functions under monopoly rarely sees any betterment in terms of services (remember back in the day when to make an international call you had to visit the Centrals? Those huge buildings scattered around Kuwait, via buying plastic cards, which I used to collect as a child coz the had cool pictures on them) however, a free market economy guarantees that the consumer is given the best in terms of service, price etc.

It is a real shame, Nymgo was far superior to Skype in that it never failed to connect a call, Skype had a nasty habit of not playing the dial-tone at times, so whilst the person on the other end picks up, you cannot hear them. But, Skype did offer sending txt msgs as if they came from your phone, hence the recipient merely clicks reply, and a msg is sent to your phone, whereas Nymgo msgs appear as being from Nymgo.com

Where there is a will, there is a way. There is always a way to bypass “Blocked by Qualitynet” or “Blocked by Fasttelco”, anonymizers serve to  bounce your IP address making it appear as though you are signing in from another country. (I use anonymizers to access TPB [The Pirate Bay] for torrents)

This is terrible, but alas, c’est la vie.

Communication in Kuwait has moved toward mobile phones, you no longer need a landline, I seldom ever use mine, and even when the phone rings, I never answer, as I know that if someone wants to call me, they’ll reach me on my mobile (most of the time its a wrong number, the same wrong number I have been getting for the past 20 years!)

Dial-up is nonexistant, you can have DSL and WiFi off a USB device. Revenue @ MoC must have been steadily decreasing, hence this low-blow.

The majority of the expat community, the transients of Kuwait, rely on VoIP to contact loved ones back home. It is easy, cheap, reliable, and most importantly, CHEAP!

Mall Rats & Parking People

The strangest thing happened to me on my way to the Avenues…

If I hadn’t had a friend along for the ride, I would never have believed it.

I usually opt to park on the other side when heading for the Avenues, I am not a big fan of bumper-to-bumper traffic, and cruising for a parking spot, as you shall now see, is always cumbersome.

So, here I am, choosing to go ahead and park inside the parking lot near Avenues, I go up the first floor, nothing, go to the second, nothing, third… Ah third..

I am no expert, but I believe it is a universally accepted gesture that when a person is standing next to their car and not walking away from it, with the rear lights turned on and the engine humming, that said person is getting ready to embark on their homeward journey, right?

Well, these were a bunch of women trying to get their shopping bags into the trunk, along with a baby stroller, so as one of the women is fidgiting with the stroller, another one, waves at me to move along, signalling that they are not moving out.

I was not born yesterday, as I said, they were moving out! So I took the ramp to the upper level, turned off my lights, and went down the other side. Sure enough, a while later, maybe 10 mins or so, the women climb into the car (I counted 3 in total) and drive off!

Answering the question, how many women does it take to put a stroller in a car,, 3!

Don’t get me wrong, I am no bigot or sexist, on the contrary, I am an ardent follower of philogyny (admiration for women), but this was just plain weird!

Tragedy and Tutelage in Kuwait

This is rather long but, it portrays an important message.
Sometimes, you hear things from people that are beyond your wildest comprehension, some stories that seem too ghastly to be true, too evil to be conspired by mortal men of flesh and blood and bone.
I heard such a story. At first, I was quick to dismiss it as exaggerated, as I thought, no way in hell can this actually happen. I even googled a few terms I thought to be of relevance, and after finding no hits, I concluded that the story must have been made up.
That was until today, when through random searches of a query I no longer remember, I came across the very exact situation that I had written up to illusion and refused to believe.
Some might be familiar with the story of Dana Khamis, A retelling of the story can be found here:
 
Her mom passed away from a STROKE (not heart attack) due to the stress of her daughter being treated this way.
Dana was on Jawazat round about when this traffic officer in a pick up truck with tinted windows cut her off and made her slam on her brakes. He got out and WAS wearing the police uniform, however he was off duty (and NOT in a police car). He took her license and told her to follow him to the RUMATHIYA police station EVEN though they were right infront of the SALMIYA police station. On the way he was speeding and not even indicating. When she arrived to the police station she waited in her car while he went inside. Soon he came back with a man in a dishdasha and told her to go inside. She said no as she was the only girl alone and there were men inside, and she wanted her parents to arrive first.(Dana was speaking in English as her Arabic is poor). The disgusting officer started screaming at her at the top of his lungs saying that he’d KILL HER, put her face under his shoe and squash it, and punch her face that her glasses will go in her eyes and start bleeding to death! The story gets even worse, however its best told by DANA herself.


Dana and her family are respectful people that obey the laws of KUWAIT as well as the religion. They are good people, and they DO NOT deserve this. Her friends and family will not rest until JUSTICE IS SERVED.
The newspaper articles:
And you know what the kicker is? Her father is Kuwaiti. So to all the naysayers that whine how all Kuwaitis are above the law, think again. Does flipping someone the bird demand a repercussion so severe as this? To be dragged to a police station, verbally abused, ridiculed, made to ride in the back of a police car like some common criminal, and ultimately, lead to the death of the VICTIMs mother as a result of a stroke following the cruel way in which she and her daughter were being treated? And what is worse, there are some lunatics out there who defend the cops actions! (read the comments here, I believe even Dana herself was commenting at one point)
I can find no follow-up article, from April till today, that would explain what the verdict was of such a horrific act. A mother was torn away from her family as a direct result of the stigma brought upon them by the antics of one over-zealous police officer. A verdict should have been made public, an example made to all those who seek to abuse their authority, an international inquiry much like the two Egyptian officers who were also reported in the news after escalating police brutality to a whole other level when they beat Khalid Said to death.

Now, the point of what I am writing is not to dwell on the past, but to instruct for the future.
The main reason I started blogging was after an incident that happened to me. The jist of the story was as I was driving I came across a sick individual, the so-called “stunt-drivers” in Kuwait. He cut me off, I cut him off, he cut me off, I cut him off extremely, enough so that he followed me to a petrol station, parked next to my car, and proceeded to taunt me. I had been in this similar situation twice before (outside of Kuwait, I talked my way out of one, and got into a tussle in the second, this one in Kuwait was my third such incident) so I was able to absorb the guys ego, and moderate it properly. The man had a knuckle on his hand, and proceeded to inform me how had he wanted to crash into me, he would have, saying he feared nothing.
The point is, driving is the dangerous. You are never aware of the mentality of the person who decides to cut you off, and have no way of judging their character or reaction. Road rage can take many, many forms. Be it a man who dogs you for a few blocks(happened to me), a man that steps out of his car to fight you (happened to me), a man who tries to get you to crash into another car (happened to me), a woman that accuses you of verbal assault when she was the one assaulting (happened to a friend), or a bored Kuwaiti who gets into a fight over a parking spot (happened to me).
What scares me the most is what “could have” happened. Dana Khamis’s story being at the extreme end of the spectrum. IT DID HAPPEN. Some people are crazy, they will hurt you.
A personal story, as that is the point of blogging. Picture if you will a father who comes home to find his 16 year old son missing. He has not heard from him for a few hours, so he proceeds to call his mobile. It rings. Someone answers. A police officer, informing the unbeknown father that his son had been in a tragic, fatal accident.
I bore witness to such a tragedy. I went to the funeral, I walked in the procession, I saw the body being lowered into the grave, I witnessed burial, the grieving family, all of it.

(To those who have the good fortune of not knowing, burials in Kuwait are not as those on TV abroad. The  plot has two levels, similar to stairs, the lower level is where the body is placed, and then slabs of stone are placed vertically to cover the body, leaving the remaining depth exposed, the cracks in the slabs are filled with watered sand, and the plot is filled afterward)

The real tragedy is this: the boy was not even driving, he was with his similar aged friends, one of whom happened to own a car at 17 because his father gifted it to him. He was speeding, he crashed, they died.

(Incidently, the Arab Times recently printed the latest statistics on driving fatalities in Kuwait, here)

My driving mishaps are long and many. Luckily, nehmedallah, no serious harm has befallen me or my car. sometimes I control my anger, sometimes I give the person a taste of their own medicine. Unfortunately, sometimes, they are evil, and repeat the same to me again. It can escalate, it can get worse, it can kill people. I know this, but sometimes I can do naught but react.
I do not know which is sadder, the fact that people can be such arrogant, self-aggrandising, selfish, inconsiderate monstrosities, or the fact that sometimes we can be just that as well, both victim and instigator?
Trust me, the next time someone cuts you off, try the method I use when I am in the right frame of mind, do a kind deed to someone else, let some pass, overtake you, cross in from a side-road. The thanks they give instantly works to calm the fire inside at the person that just cut you off.
My heart goes out to Dana Khamis, and the tragedy she witnessed. There is a lesson to be learnt here, I am sorry it comes at such a high price but it must be learnt, beware the reaction of others, it can never be what you expect. Life is so fragile, it takes 9 months to create and a life-time to understand, but can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. Those words never rang truer meaning back when they were first said by Ghandi than they do now.

Confession of a Kuwaiti Pilot- I Fly Drunk

Tis the season of travel, where the transient employees of Kuwait embark on journeys to their homeland, or the general population goes for some much needed R&R to escape the deadly heat, and noxious sand & dust that plagues these lands.

It is not, however, an encouraging sign when reading an article such as this in the Arab Times:

Police arrested a Kuwaiti pilot for driving under the influence of alcohol, reports Al-Anba daily.

The pilot was caught driving recklessly on a road between Salmiya and Rumaithiya and policemen were shocked when he said he flies planes after drinking alcohol.

Kuwaiti Pilot, hence employed by … I’ll leave that for your imaginations.
 
This would explain the so called “turbulence” and rough landings, intoxication at high altitudes must do strange things to the mind!

Size MATTERS!

Atleast in competitve sports.

Here is a picture of the world cup, winners et all:

Pay close attention to the size of the cup itself, to be shared amongst 11 or more team members.

Now, have a look at Sumo Wrestlings World Champion Hakuho (of Mongolian origin) and his trophy(ies):

(Large enough to fit his baby child)
(Big enough for him to sit in)

Out & About The City of Eternal Sand & Sun

Cool Cat takin’ in the scenery @ the beach
Golden Oldies Car from god-knows-when, still runnin’ the Gulf Road
“.. a delicious brew fit for a monkey.”
?
Big Ass H2, sticker on the back reads:
“You Touch, You Die”
Defacing Public Property: on the 2nd Ring Road, check out the sign, see the pink letters?
Clearer pic to come soon, that parked car on the bridge is the Prime Suspect!

Ready.. Aim.. Fire! Mayadeen Shooting Range

Childs Play III, the last decent movie in the Chucky series, had a rhyme that comes to the forefront of my memory at this moment:

“This is a rifle,
This is a gun,
This is for shooting,
And this is for fun!”

Yesterday, a friend took me to Mayadeen, Kuwaits First and Only shooting range. Its right down the road from the Sahara Hotel, off the Sixth Ring Road, near the Equestrian club.

Nondescript from the outside, you hand in your Civil ID at the front desk, and head on downstairs to their “restaurant”.

I call it a restaurant because you are given a sheet with guns and prices, be it hand-guns, rifles etc. They have a really wide range (e.g. I took 20 shots with a 9mm for 6KD, and some scope rifle, 9 shots for 8KD).

You have to be atleast 15 for the live ammunition, they also cater to the young by having an air-gun range, and laser tag!

Upon paying (they have K-NET), you are given a receipt, which you take to your shooting range. First thing you do is hand in your receipt to the guys inside, and they will call you when it is your turn. When it is your turn, remember to pick up your ear-muffs! The echo inside is enough to give you a ringing in the ear for quite some time!

Each lane has an instructor, who will teach you how to load your gun, cock it, aim, squeeze, boom. My instructor for the hand-guns was called Erik, a real class act. Humorous, and even let me keep a few shells afterward.

(not to toot my own horn, but for a first time shot, I was able to “snipe” the circle in the 9, thats skill you cant learn, its inherent!)

Pointers: always hold your breath when shooting, it serves to stabilise your shot.

Next, the rifle-range. Much less hassle, with good reason.

After watching Shooter, I was always under the impression that snipers had it easy, they are detached from the action, scope, shoot, kill. Oh how wrong I was. First off, first person shooters do not do the art justice. The cross-hairs are always moving, unless you have nerves of steel. The recoil on this puppy is EVIL! Dude wanted me to rest my chin on the rifle-butt. The guy on the lane next to mine must have had an elephant rifle, as I literally felt the air gush from each of his shots. You are free to aim at any of the targets at the end of the lane, but it is preferred to stick to your own (I was number 7). Sadly, no head-shots. But one sore shoulder.

In closing, add this to the list of activities to be done in Kuwait. A few of the distinguished shooters (Mayadeen have shooting contests).

This is one bad-ass chick! (Pun intended, shes an amazing shot!)
(Dude on the right shot bullets in a SINGLE LINE to tear the sheet in half)

Next up, Archery @ Discovery Mall!

Ecstasy & Tetris relieve Trauma!

Science, it never fails to amaze.
Recent studies have shown that a possible cure for Trauma lies in two things: Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine; I’m sure if junkies were asked to spell its real name they’d quit voluntarily)  and… Tetris!
In that case, Ex can be a cure for every disease, from AIDS, to Cancer, Leprosy and Multiple Sclerosis; you would forget your sickness and spend more time contemplating how great your fingers are. My own “science” has concluded that Tetris is a laxative as well..
Diseases of the mind are difficult to comprehend. At times it would seem as though the victim is putting on a charade, a desperate cry for attention of sorts, instead of wasting time talking (Time = Money remember) doctors would rather follow the policy of “drug you and leave you”, a sad fact of the desensitisation of this fast-pace generation, the loss of human contact.
Some do not believe in the use of drugs to treat mental diseases, be it psychosis, depression or even trauma. The drug serves as a method to alter the persons perseption (i.e valium), the same principles followed by drug addicts and cocaine, hash, weed etc. Is it “legal” because a doctor prescribed it, or because a multi-billion dollar drug company endorses it? The news is riddled with people who abuse their illness to score prescription medication, either for themselves or others.
Trauma, depression, anxiety, are all different faces of the same coin: we have lost the ability to connect on a human level, and instead of dealing with the problem itself, we deal with the symptoms, and in one way, “Drug me up Scotty!”.
Middle-schoolers, classmates of the students that were brutally gunned down in school-violence are being treated for trauma and depression, sent to psychiatrists who prescribe them with medication.
Teenagers are indulging in a new craze of drug parties; taking various, random samples from “Mommy’s drug cabinet” to their friends house, putting it all in a huge serving bowl, and mixing it all up, leading to several deaths as some medicines are not meant to be mixed (read the leaftlet) or to be consumed with external beverages (i.e alcohol; Heath Ledgers tragic demise, sleeping meds: Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, the list is endless).
I myself have dealt with trauma; is it not trauma when at the age of 15 you watch your teacher collapse before your very eyes, being the last person to talk to her, a teacher you greatly admired, and hear that she passed away later that day? Is that not trauma?
I didn’t become depressed, suicidal, or live in denial, I didn’t turn emo and start parading around with a sullen, woe-is-me attitude. I talked to people, my parents, my friend’s mom whom I owe a lot to as it was her sharing of her story that made me realise that life goes on.
The mentality of “quick fix” and “popping pills” to feel better needs to stop. As people, as a society, we need to work more towards hashing out our problems rather than supressing them.
To end on a high-note: talk to your colleagues, see what is making them blue, the life you save could very well be your own (note to postal workers!).

Earning the extra buck: How to Invest in Kuwait Stock Exchange II

Part II: The Ropes

A key to investing in the stock market is not to be fooled by percentages. I have invested in a company whose share price increased by 125%. But I only invested a small amount, hence the grand percentage is negated by the small amount. Always look at the whole picture and never judge solely based on single statistics.

Also, know that past results are no indication of future performance. First Dubai shares were trading at 1.250KD per share as of two years ago, hoping to cash in when the market was at its lowest point, I bought shares at 108fils. It has since sunk to 29fils.

There are 9 sectors in the Kuwait stock exchange: Banking, Investment, Insurance, Real Estate, Industrial, Services, Food, Non-Kuwaiti. Market dynamics dictate that performance is not unilateral, when one sector drops, another rises. So, another pearl of wisdom is to have a diversified portfolio, invest in each of the 9 sectors.

There are two markets, Primary & Secondary. Primary markets are the IPOs (Initial Public Offering) and that is when a company first decides to go public, they sell shares at par value, roughly 100fils + commission. IPOs are reserved for Kuwaitis only most of the time. You are buying directly from the company.

The secondary market is like the second hand market, you purchase the shares from other investors.

So, you either get the stocks first hand, or second hand.

There are two types of purchases in KSE: Roundlot and Oddlot.

Take the above table. These are the rules for the roundlot market.

Suppose a company’s shares are trading at 54fils, in order to invest in that company, you have to buy a minimum of 40,000 shares (KD2,160). The maximum gain for the day is 5fils, so at the end of the day, the highest amount it can reach is 59fils, lowest 49fils. Trading stops when either extreme is reached (meaning your losses, and gains, are regulated). For all prices between 51-100fils per share, a minimum of 40,000 shares is required to trade on the roundlot market.

Now, this part is difficult to grasp at first, suppose the share price dropped to 49fils. You have 40,000 shares and wish to sell them. Now however, you have fallen to a lower bracket, your stock is no longer in the 51-100fils bracket, but 0.5-50fils. You cannot sell the 40,000 shares on the roundlot market, as the unit is now 80,000, all trades must be in blocks of 80,000. What to do?

This is where the oddlot market comes into play, oddlot means block of shares that is not fixed. You can sell the whole 40,000, or parts of it, on the oddlot market, as it has no restrictions in terms of quantity.

The oddlot market is the perfect place to start as a junior investor. You decide what amount you wish to invest, and go for it. The only problem is, you can never get what you want in terms of quantity, you take what is offered, but you can set your own price.

I have yet to participate in the roundlot market, as it is too rich for my blood. Oddlots are like getting in on the ground floor.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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