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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Heritage Site

A foreign concept in this country, where the bottom line is the sole basis of measurement.

I was surprised whilst taking a stroll in Mubarak Al-Kabeer to find this tarp covering a building that previously housed a well-to-do samoosa & fried snacks shack.

The tarp reads Historic Building to be Presevered, Registered KHBR-1103-6


Just when it appeared that all that motivates Kuwaitis is the bottom line, having seen old buildings and shopping centers from as far back as the 1960s levelled to make way for much larger buildings, with much smaller rooms.

Reminiscent of the end scene from Gangs of New York, where it fast-forwards from the past to the present, and shows the gradual, and unstoppable, evolution of construction, as the buildings get higher, and higher, and higher.

Out & About the City of Eternal Heat & Sand

10 points for Originality, even to the point of their own Logo
The name is well worth the trip up the stairs
Does it help that they are situated right above a Al-Ameed Coffee?
Yes, that is why people get 4-wheelers, when at loss for a spot, just park on the sidewalk!
Avenues on the Weekend
Another Angle…
The future of Parking in Kuwait, The Solution to our Parking Woes
Leave it to the Japanese to be Space-Efficient; Kaizen!
(Honda Service Center – Shuwaikh)

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes II

It is a sad day for humanity when we find out that those charged with upholding the law and protecting the people are the ones responsible for their enslavement.

From the ArabTimes:

KUWAIT CITY, July 12: A Sergeant Major whose identity has not been disclosed pending investigation has been taken into custody for involvement in immoral activities, reports Al-Dar daily.

According to the daily the Director-General for Criminal Investigation Sheikh Ali Al-Yousef and Brigadier Mazen Al-Jarrah received information that the senior official was managing prostitution dens and making huge sums of money.

The case was handed over to the Director of Investigations Colonel Abdulrahman Al-Suhail and Lieutenant Colonel Waleed Al-Fadhil of the Hawalli Police Station and a task force was formed to nab the suspect.

Without going into details the daily said the officials sent a secret agent and caught the man red-handed.

During investigation he admitted to buying kidnapped women from some Asians and forcing them into prostitution. He also disclosed he bought each woman for KD 500.

The investigations are underway to shed more light on his activities.

Crumple that cash thar Mister!

It appears funny-money is once again in circulation in Kuwait, according to Kuwait Times.

I once went to an ATM machine to get cash, and upon trying to redeposit some of the bills I received (torn and celotaped together) was amazed that the machine (NBK btw) refused the notes it just coughed up to me!

Now, once you receive a counterfeit note unfortunately you bear the loss, so to avoid this, upon receiving any note that “feels weird” or “looks strange”, simply crumple it up.

The paper used to make bank notes is called cotton paper, and it has an amazing ability to reshape itself once crumpled. Hence, if said note does not take shape once more, know it is counterfeit, and either haul the person you received it from to jail (if you are a bad-ass), or simply demand another note in payment.

You have been warned!

On the subject of money they really should scrap the 5fils coin, it is obsolete!

Conspiracy Sports- The Economics of Football

In the wake of a spectacular finale to the much anticipated event of the decade, another world cup has finally come to an end. An era for the underdogs, Spain managed to successfully scale the ladder and not only participate in its first world cup final, but also go on to win it, upsetting the 3rd-time-no-charm Dutch team and in the process, lifting the spirits of the Spanish Nation.

To the victor shall go the spoils of war; and a war it was that day.

However, I am not here to delve into the physical attributes of the game, I spy with my all seeing eye, a trend of sorts in sports.

As many, or most, or few know, Spain is one of the countries dubbed the PIGS nations. That is no insult, wait, it is an insult, however it is merely an acronym for the countries that are on the brink of economic collapse; Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain.
The BBC article on Spain’s celebrations had an interesting passage, here is an excerpt:

It is the first sign that perhaps the huge feel-good factor provided by this win can help Spain’s struggling economy.

The team’s victory has certainly lifted the nation, at least briefly. With mass unemployment and recession, Spaniards have not had much to smile about recently.

Another article reads:

In Spain unemployment continues to edge up. It is close to 20% and is more than 40% for those aged between 16 and 24. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Spain’s economy will shrink this year by 0.4%. It is struggling to emerge from recession. Spain has a budget deficit of 10%.

In the private sector there is still huge debt, some of which may have to be written off. The Spanish good years were built on a housing boom. It was, for a time, the biggest creator of jobs in the EU. The burst bubble has left behind an injured coastline, 800,000 unsold homes, and companies burdened with debt.

A question to ponder, how is it that, a team as rich, diverse, talented and drive as Germany’s young squad, claiming victories of 4-0, 4-1, 4-0 on Australia, England and Argentina respectively, could lose 1-0 to Spain? Some may argue the pitch decides, there are a myriad many more factors etc. Germany were the fan-favourites to go on to the finals this year, no one ever suspected Spain.

Is there an invisible hand that drives and manipulates the games? Could this be the conspiracy of the century? I have other facts, albeit they all loosely tie together, I shall weave this intricate portrait and let you draw your own conclusions.

To answer the first question, FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

This year, FIFA’s stranglehold on countries and politics was made eminent on two separate occasions, they’re rebuffing of France’s inquiry into the dismal performance of its world cup squad, as well as their reversal of President Goodluck Johnsons decision to disband Nigeria’s squad for two years pending an inquiry.

Sports = Revenue, not just for the players; there are international referees, endorsements etc. it is a multi-trillion dollar industry, and FIFA has sole bragging rights, a monopoly on international sports. Blatter, or one of his predecessors, stated that they provide people with the “commodity” of football, not the sport.

In global terms, FIFA is a source of income and wealth for all participating nations, much like the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), however, in ranking the strictness of policies, FIFA holds all the cards, followed by the IMF which basically purchases controlling interest by giving loans to “rich” countries and setting certain covenants on how the debt is to be repaid, last but not least, the World Bank, the poorer nations source of funds. That is basic economics.

On every continent, in every country, FIFA has a foothold, referred to as CONCACAF in North America, CONMEBOL in South America, UEFA in Europe, CAF in Africa, AFC in the Asia and OFC in Australasia.

One case is not enough to be a conspiracy. Correct. So let us examine two other cases.

First, Euro-cup 2004, Greece upset Portugal and won; its first international victory in its history in lieu of Athens 2004 (The Olympics). The Greek economy was not struggling at the time; they already had Athens 2004 in the bag. What of the expenses required in setting up Athens? Could they possibly have been financed through the Euro-cup victory? Is it not a possibility, that in light of winnings awarded to teams, countries, economies, also share a piece of the proverbial pie?

Greek Celebrations in Athens

FYI The world cup payoffs this year:

1st place: €30million

2nd place: €24million (or 25, disputed reports heard on TV)

3rd place: €20million (or 15, disputed reports heard on TV)

4th place: €18million

3rd round knockout: €14million

2nd round knockout: €9million

1st round knockouts: €8million

One could argue that the euphoria of hosting the Olympic Games fuelled the excitement that made Greece’s miraculous victory a reality. Again, I say, what if?

In terms of marketing, being a country that hosts the Olympics, along with also winning the Euro-cup a few months previous, further adds to the country’s worth.

Second, African Cup 2006, Egypt claims another victory, in wake of the tragic sinking of the Egyptian ferry in the red sea, and the loss of 1600 lives. Egypt is an economy that has been subsiding on 40% of its true income, as the rest is lost, stolen or squandered by the Powers-That-Be. Adding to that, the death toll of the sinking ferry, Egypt was in need of a respite. Hosting the games, and effectively winning. Their previous victory in 2004 not withstanding, the hand that feeds decided that that year, the victory should quell the tragedy.

All in all, the world revolves around Marketing. Everything is a product, everything is an endorsement, money makes the world go round.
To every rule, there is an exception, this could be naught but a whisper in the wind, however,,,

What If?

Joggin’ in the Killer Heat, Just ain’t Neat

Death by dehydration is not in the least bit funny.

Wondering how to spend the extra weekend day yesterday, and having just bought a nifty sports t-shirt, fueled by the fever that is the world cup, I decided to go for my customary jog (the route is outlined in a previous post).

I donned my red-bandana, put on my sun-screen and pumps, tuned the ol’ ipod to my favorite music (playlist entitled “Jogathon”) and decided to head out.

FYI it was 1pm, 44*C, humidity at 40%.

A killer combination.

The first 2km went smoothly, I was actually on time. However, I started to feel nauseous, so I slowed down to a trot, then a walk, in the meager shade provided by the desolate trees.

I felt drained. It was difficult to breath, literally! The humidity hung in the air like a dark specter stealing away the oxygen from what mouthfuls of air I could swallow. It felt like running underwater.

The heat alone can be dealt with, but humidity makes breathing that much more tedious. I could feel every cell in my body begin to anaerobically respire (which leads to muscles forming acid that causes muscle pains, thank you biology!)

Whenever I am on my “trek” a tiny voice inside my head (my sanity) always beckons me to cut short, why torture yourself? Just stop, walk home. I always ignore this under the pretense of male bravado. I feel that it’s a personal challenge to keep on trucking. For the first time, I conceded that I was in over my head.

I stopped on a road that would take me directly to my house; however, the distance seemed eternal. I grudgingly placed one foot before the other in an act completely fueled on auto-pilot, a persistent thought that I did not wish to pass out on the streets. I came to a realization that there is no shade whatsoever in Kuwait at 1pm! Not to mention the fact that it was a holiday, hence no shops were open; therefore the respite I would receive when a customer vacates a shop as a result of the cool winds flowing out was non-existent.

My hands were numb and clammy; I was measuring the distance between one water cooler and the other. Let this be said about the streets of Kuwait, they are properly hydrated. Albeit some not having the really frozen cold water, I would douse myself at each one, hoping that the evaporation from my head of hair would cause a brief release from the harsh rays of the unrelenting sun.

I mouthed a silent prayer of gratitude for the anonymous lady who had erected a water cooler that had freezing cold water! A real miracle after passing by 3 that had luke-warm, hot, no water.

After quenching my thirst I thought I was ready to restart my jog. Big mistake. After sprinting for merely 4 blocks I was beyond exhausted. The old leg-of-lead syndrome kicked in, and I sat down in the shade for a breather.

After closing the gap and being able to view my house in the distance, and crossing before a mall in the area, I thought it pertinent to once again try to run the remaining distance, another silly proof of bravado. Not only that, the mall had baby trees booming outside, I ran and jumped over a couple of them. Needless to say, I didn’t make it home jogging, as the jumping process took a lot out of me.

Never run in the sun, its just not that much fun!

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

Part 1: Terminology

One of Warren Buffet’s pearls of wisdom instilled to the masses; ensure that your salary is not your single source of income.

For some, that constitutes a dilemma, how else are they to make a steady stream of income that is not related to their 9-to-5?

It has come to my attention recently that people are different. Surprise! The information I might deem boring, monotonous and tedious as it deals with my chosen profession and field of qualification, may be vastly unknown and hopefully interesting to someone who is say, a dentist, or an architect, or a nurse.

First off, a little introduction to trading, the act of buying and selling shares.

There are two ways to earn revenue from shares: sale price and dividends.

Simply put, revenue from sale price means you no longer own the shares, so it is a one-time deal. You bought 100 shares for at 100KD in January, in February the total share price was 150KD, you sold for 50KD profit.

Dividends are rewards for investing in the company, paid annually. They come in two forms: cash and stock. A cash dividend is a percentage paid per share owned, so if you owned 100 shares in company X and the cash dividend was 10%, you would get 10KD. Stock dividend means you get paid in shares, so instead of owning 100 shares at 10% stock dividend, you would own 110 shares.

However, sometimes companies do not pay dividends. So it is not guaranteed.

There are also two ways to invest in the market: through portfolios or funds. The difference being when you invest in a portfolio, you control it yourself; you set the buying and selling, you own the shares until you decide to sell them. In funds, run by banks and investment companies, a fund manager is responsible for purchasing and selling shares, you are merely one in a pool of investors, you do not technically own a specific stock as the buy/sell action takes place at the fund managers’ whim.

With portfolios, you keep all the earnings. With funds, the fund manager skims a percentage off the top for admin fees etc.

Class dismissed.

Next up: Round lot & Odd Lot markets, Primary & Secondary markets, Opening an account.

National Geographic

Scary fish with hands is coming to mess you up

The Delusion of Privacy

“I can see you.”
What is the meaning of privacy, in the 21st Century? Does it even still exist, or is it, like the dragon, a myth, or like the bengali tiger, near extinction?

With everything we read on the internet, it is amazing how some people still fall for the guise of privacy. The most common example I can give is, when registering on a website, for an email, a newsletters, blogs, forums etc. does anyone actually ever read the privacy statement? No. Yet we all tick the box that reads “I have read and understood the Privacy Statement”.

It would be better if the box read “I haven’t read the Privacy statement but agree anyway as I have no choice in the matter”.

In the online, digital world of zero’s and one’s, the term privacy is a myth. Nothing done online is private, there is always a trail, for some it is as confusing as schematics for a nuclear submarine, for others it is as clear as day.

Google, has become both a noun and a verb, just like wikipedia (abbreviated to “wiki-ed”). Simply type your name on google and see what shows up. You do not have to be a celebrity to find your “dirty laundry”, be it a website you recently registered with, a profile you do not wish your family and friends to see, an update you made to your facebook/twitter/myspace page etc. At times, the information that pops up is embarassing, and you would rather not have complete strangers knowing such details about your life (you joined a group for those in credit debt for example).

What people fail to realise is, albeit the world wide web being a vast, deep, ocean of information, what life you lead online is not cloaked in anonymity, you no longer have to be a tech-wiz to find out about people. You no longer need to hire a private investigator to dig up dirt on someone, all you need is an internet connection and a quick wit.

Example: someone sends you an email asking about how you are etc, an old friend or recent acquaintance. Take said email, search facebook, if said person is not as savvy about their privacy, you will be able to view pictures, read comments etc. And there you go, you have officially stalked a person.

I need not count the many cases of which employees were sacked, doctors licenses revoked, and lives torn asunder as a direct result of posts and postings made online, the most recent example being CNNs Middle East Editor for posting the following comment to her twitter account:

“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

Did Octavia Nasr violate a penal code that warranted her dismissal? She merely expressed her opinion, in a sea of opinions that are expressed on twitter, much like Gen. McChrystal. Was it on work-time, probably, probably not. The fact remains that due to a decision made outside the scope of work, albeit being loosely related to work (in Octavia’s case, not McChrystal’s), the penalty was paid in the work-place.

Now, you have friends on facebook who post pictures of themselves getting hammered, wasted, high etc. You might think, “well I’m no celebrity, why would anyone besides my friends care to investigate me?”

The biggest problem lies with people is their lack of understanding as to the gravity of the situation of privacy. Companies have come out and said directly we view potenial applicants FTM (facebook/twitter/myspace) pages before making the decision of whether to hire them or not. And this is where the issue becomes sticky.

So the pictures you took at last night’s beer-n-bongs over at your friends house, for which he subsequently posted the pictures and tagged you in them, will eventually end up being seen by a complete stranger. It is inevitable.

The issue of privacy is currently being debated on one of the hottest trend online; World Of Warcraft. The issue at hand is simply that the management want users of the forums to post under their real names, and not their avatars or aliases. Sounds simple right?

Wrong. As one player points out, he does not want the fact that he enjoys online-gaming to be made public, as it would damage his reputation in the workplace. Now, he is not a stripper, or a hooker, he merely enjoys online-gaming, its not poker, its not gambling. Yet, c’est la vie.

People refuse to understand. They believe the right to privacy exists.

Remember, Big Brother is Watching.

Pearl Diving Festivities – Reigniting Tradition, Celebrating Culture

Before there was Oil, there were Pearls.

Before there were Oil Rigs, there were Dhows.

In keeping with this deeply rooted cultural aspect, on an annual basis, young men from all walks of life (how many walks of life are there exactly for young men in Kuwait?) enroll in a parade to reminisce about the days of yon, donning their swimming trunks to rough it out as tradition bestowed.

These are the men that paved the way for Kuwait to be as it is today:

This is what we have today, plastered all over the newspaper, the youths who will take us into tomorrow:

It seems that the traditional diet that the ancient divers subsided on must have been lost to the annals of time, or fed to the fish, as this generation is more geared towards the tradition of McDonaldisation and the fast-food-culture.

What with the recent article in CNN about the bulging belt-sizes in Kuwait and the tradition of over-eating entitled Fast food loving Kuwaitis battle the bulge. It would seem to be a losing battle.

I count 7 out of 16 to be obese. Thats 44%. According to CNN, obesity is more in the region of 75%.

Maybe, instead of building a culture that hangs on to traditions, a more permanent approach can be taken to gear the youths for a healthier life-style.

Granted, Kuwait is too hot most of the time for any sort of out-door activity, but that is where the multi-billions of Dollars being stored in the Kuwait Future Generations Fund (KFGF) should come in handy. At this rate, there will not be a Future Generation as a result of all the risks involved with obesity such as diabetes etc.

Times have changed. Gone are the days when the family would come together on daily basis for meals. The unity factor has dissolved, decentralised as a result of fast-paced lives, hectic jobs, and regular lavish behavior. What right has a mother to leave her children with the maid whilst she goes out from noon to night to shop? Or for the father to spend all day in the office, then all night in the diwaniya with his friends?

To every yin, there is a yang. Some will argue that the parents deserve a rest, do you view this as true?

The problem gets worse; so one is able to get out of the fast-food line and into a gym to work out, in a culture that breeds results, much to the same mentality as fast-food, they need fast results, so they turn to steroids and performance enhancers. Just the other day my Gym coach wanted to coax me into using Amino Acids, which granted, may not be that much of a threat as they are proteins, still. I am fit, I do not have a saggy belly, I work out to maintain my form. I have seen a different coach literally inject others in the locker room.

It may seem as damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That is where proper parenting comes into play. The next generation need to be raised on the norms that their parents were raised on. Working hard, earning a living. Eating home cooked meals instead of the fatty, grease-encrusted filth they are shoveling down their collective oesophagi.

It is easier said than done, like skating up-hill.

When will we be the change we want to see in the world.

Health should be our top priority.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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