Monday, October 23, 2006


I love radio. I've owned a radio as long as I can remember. Throughout my insomniac youth I smuggled my radio under the covers and eventually fell asleep to Casey Kasem or Wolfman Jack or the Ten O’Clock News. In Italy in the days before cable TV and English language anything, we had Armed Forces Radio. We got music, news, and weekend afternoons with novels, old radio serials, and talk shows out of the UK or US. College in Boston was radio heaven. My radio station was WGBH, with All Things Considered, A Prairie Home Companion, Morning Pro-Musica, Car Talk, Songs for Aging Children, and all the BBC radio game shows. Or I tuned into WERS, the hippest college radio station in town with leading edge (it was punk then) music, fantastic jazz and my buddy Carl’s classical show. When I went to DC it was all about National Public Radio and occasional AM talk radio; I spent my morning commute getting up on current events and gossip in the District. In Japan & Korea, radio was my entertainment of necessity. And choice. I didn’t have a television during most of my teens and twenties and didn’t miss it at all. Don’t have one now (though I do have my DVDs) and I don’t care.

I’ve always felt that my morning commute is better for having the radio on. CDs are nice, but rush hour just means radio to me. However, the radio in this town is utter, utter crap.

First, there is virtually no choice. My car radio gets three stations in English (Radio 2, Radio 4 and D. FM I think they’re called), each worse than the next. Most of the music is either trashy pop or bubblegum stuff from the 70s and 80s, much of which never got popular enough to make it across the Pond, and so is alien to me. Second, there is no talk radio at all. There is the occasional ‘interview’ show, but it’s either some amateur pop psycher giving fatuous advice, or a thinly disguised hour-long advert for some real estate scheme. Third, even the “favorite” station here (and therefore I suppose the ‘best’) is appallingly bad. I suffered though Thi Bidda Meex for my first few years here and put up with the silly morning shows and insipid music on my way to work. They’ve got a woman there who has the Ugliest Voice on Radio, and I even put up with her for a while, except that the late morning talk show she hosts/ed got so inane that I couldn’t deal with the awful topics on top of listening to her talk, so I turned her off (Please god she’s only spinning discs now and not interviewing any more – I even can’t bear to turn it on to find out.) Except for the hour of jazz between 9 & 10 pm that I run into every now and then (the DJ is pleasant if a bit vapid, but she has decent taste in music and knows when to shut up), these people wouldn’t get airtime on Community Free Radio back home.

I felt my commute was captive to Thi Bidda Meex until I discovered iPod and podcasts earlier this year. Now I’ve got WGBH, KQED, BBC, Radio Wales, NPR, Jim Lehrer, Washington Week, and all kinds of great things to listen to, provided I keep my iPod charged up. Which it wasn’t this afternoon. So sitting in Sharjah traffic, I decided to give Thi Bidda Meex one last go. I tuned in and caught the Beach Boys singing “Kokomo”, a catchy, 80s tune I hadn’t heard in a while. Promising. I sang along (as you do) until, three refrains before the song was over, the idiot DJ starts in yapping about something or other. He didn’t even bother to fade out the end of the song. How or why he thought what he had to say was more interesting than the Beach Boys listing Carribean islands is beyond me.

I switched it off. I should have known better. The iPod is charging up as we speak.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The brand new Zayed University campus on the Al Ain Road is nearing completion, more or less. It's an absolutely massive building in the middle of the desert, with large covered-over "outdoor" areas with water features and plants and cool places to relax. The whole thing --indoors and out--is air-conditioned beyond the freezing point.

Can anyone tell me why then, in a country with abundant sunshine and in an institution that prides itself on being progressive, they did not design the campus to use solar power? It seems to me that they missed a huge opportunity to set an example to the rest of the city, as an institute of higher learning should. And I hear the electric bills are higher than the entire rent on their last campus. Besides, using the plenteous sunshine for cheap energy and selling the precious and soon-to-be-scarce oil to the foreigners who will pay top dollar for it would have made such a lot of economic sense. Surely a little forethought and additional expense in the construction would have paid off handsomely in so many ways for years to come?

Monday, October 02, 2006


I am well cheesed off. On a recent diving trip to Sharm, I thought I had lost my DSMB, which I keep tucked up behind my backplate. "OK", I thought when I discovered it was gone as I was packing up my gear, "It could have slipped out, even though it usually only dislodges with a firm tug and my ample derierre should have kept it from falling out into the sea. Fair enough, kit gets dropped." But -- I went diving on Friday and assembled my kit only to discover that, between my last dive in Sharm and the following morning when I picked up my kit from the dive outfit, somebody had nicked the integrated air horn off my inflate hose! These things do not fall off.

I have dived all over the place and have never given much thought to the safety of my possessions. I would have thought that a five star resort's dive center would have been a safe place to leave my kit to dry. The beachfront dive shack in the Philippines has always been fine.

I don't actually think it was a member of staff at the dive center or hotel; they would be mad to play that game, as I'm sure a steady job at the Hyatt garners much more dosh than they'd get fencing stolen goods down in Naama Bay. If it had been one of the boat guys I might understand (not condone, mind you), since they are so very badly paid and rather poorly treated (though I find it ironic that throughout the week, I was one of the few divers who tipped them!). However, it would have been hard for a boat handler to rummage around in the kit boxes of the paying customers looking for nickable stuff without being noticed.

This leaves my fellow divers, and a very bad taste in my mouth. I trust these people with my safety underwater and can't trust them with my stuff above it? How mad is that? Have I just been incredibly naive and incredibly lucky that stuff hasn't gone walkabout before now?
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