Monday, 30 March 2009
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Preparation before the Earth Hour - The big words 'EARTH HOUR' being laid on the beach
The sitting arrangement for some important earthlings during the Earth Hour
The sitting arrangement for the little earthlings who would be doing the colouring work
Voila! The big words 'EARTH HOUR' glow in the dark for aliens to see
Moments before the Earth Hour at The Walk
During the Earth Hour at The Walk - can you see the aliens living above us? Ha ha ha
Before the Earth Hour at Dubai Marina
During the Earth Hour at Dubai Marina - Any difference? You tell me...
The Emaratis sing in the dark
Others eat with and without the lights
It's better to be hopeful rather than be hopelessly ignorant, I think.
They don't give free things in Dubai that often but tonight I get free T-shirt and refreshments too.
Friday, 27 March 2009
The sea is a fascinating and an intriguing scene to see. It gives me the chance to zoom out and see the big picture out of life. I scan through my mind to spot on the things that stir of late. At work, there is this loud Egyptian engineer who challenged my authority after I challenged his way of work. The confrontation was unpleasant and he really pissed me off. At home, my apartment is a mess. There is a pile of laundry waiting. There are so many things to be picked up on the floor and there is so much sand on my balcony after the last sand storm. I hate it when I have to tip toe in my own living quarter. There are my dying orchids. My age, how I have aged and the many undone items in the mental list. With the sea is in front of me and its vastness, my issues are now becoming too tiny to be mentioned.
In the mood of seeing the big picture with the sea in front of me, I have down-sized all the above issues and thought about the report I read recently in the news. The 'red tide' has hit the northern coast of UAE. It has been reported that a desalination plant in Ras Al Khaimah has been sealed off as a result of the spread of the 'red tide'. In this arid desert land, if we can't have water from the desalination plants over a long period of time, it can be a threat to life sustainability. Of course, the red tide is over now in Ras Al Khaimah and I see no sign of it from the waterfront of Dubai. It is a blessing but there is a need to know more and be aware of what might come to revisit our shore in the future. So I google for the answers for some questions that I have.
What is 'red tide'?
It is a naturally-occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of the microscopic algae Karenia brevis (formerly Gymnodinium breve). This organism produces a toxin that affects the central nervous system of fish so that they are paralyzed and cannot breathe. As a result, red tide blooms often result in dead fish washing up on Gulf beaches. When red tide algae reproduce in dense concentrations or "blooms," they are visible as discolored patches of ocean water, often reddish in color. "Red tide" is a colloquial term used to refer to a natural phenomenon known as a "harmful algal bloom" or "HAB". The term "red tide" is being phased out among researchers for the following reasons. The red tides are not necessarily red and many have no discolouration at all. They are unrelated to movements of the tides and a wide variety of algal species are known bloom-formers.
What can cause it?
Red tide is a natural phenomenon not caused by human beings. When temperature, salinity, and nutrients reach certain levels, a massive increase in Karenia brevis algae occurs. No one knows the exact combination of factors that causes red tide, but some experts believe high temperatures combined with a lack of wind and rainfall are usually at the root of red tide blooms.
Can we control it?
There are no known ways that humans can control it, but many scientists around the world are studying red tide at present.
How does it affect mankind?
It can cause eye and throat irritation due to the high concentrations of the algae. It's usually okay to eat fish, crabs and shrimp during a red tide bloom because the toxin is not absorbed into the fleshy tissues of these animals. Oysters and other shellfish such as clams, mussels, whelks and scallops can accumulate red tide toxins in their tissues. People that eat oysters or other shellfish containing red tide toxins may become seriously ill with neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP). Once a red tide appears to be over, toxins can remain in the oysters for weeks to months. It has the potential to destroy the corals, reduce the fish population and cause losses to the fishermen.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Sunday, 22 March 2009
I swim in the open sea for about 30 minutes, braving the mild waves and stroking to cover the planned distance. I have to alter my head positioning in the freestyle stroke. Unlike swimming in a standard pool where there is a black line at the bottom for me to follow, I have to tilt my head higher to occasionally spot my marks. In this open water swimming, my marks are the tall buildings of Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) on my left. The water is very salty. It is clear. Once I have seen a fish about 12 inches long that looks like a barracuda, supposedly a lonely barracuda, an outcast of its school. Most of the time there are small fish swimming away as I get closer. The sea bed is not as even as I thought. For safety reason, I always ensure that I see a clear bottom; but there are some parts that sink in almost suddenly, where I don't see the clear bottom. The clue to this, is the sudden creepy coldness that I feel before I realize being in this zone which I called the 'bed of bottomlessness'. My Nike goggle has been a great help. So far it hasn't allow a drop of water to seep in, so I can see and navigate better during the swim. Still, I am at the stage of seizing the contour of the sea bed of Jumeirah (in front of JBR) and familiarizing with the water conditions and its tidal timing, before I can proceed safely with 1 hour swim.
After the short swim, I change into my running short for 1 hour beach run. I run bare-footed. It beats all other running experience. The sand is so soft that the knees and ankles don't complain. Landing my feet on the sand over and over again, leaves my feet with the same sensation after a good feet massage. There is no blister, no damage to the nails and when I touch my heels, I am proud to tell that the callous is gone now. The only setback is at certain some part of the beach, there are scattered shells with sharp edges that sting, but it is not too bad.
It takes some time to dry myself up from the sweating after the run and to get rid of the sticking sand on my feet. It is the time to sit and see the sunset. The best sight of the sunset is brief but beautiful. Ca fait mon affaire.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
No 1 - The worth of 50 cents
I was born in Singapore and at the age of 6, I was supposed to die there. It was early in the morning. My father walked me to school. He tied a 50 cents coin at the edge of my handkerchief. He kissed me on the cheek and left to work. I had to wait for about 2 hours before the school started. So I was left alone to entertain myself in the school compound. I did the helicopter swing with my handkerchief. The knot loosened and the 50 cents coin took off. It was no where to be found. I panicked. I ran out of the school compound to get my father. I hoped he was still there waiting for the bus. I hoped that I could get another coin. Without the coin, there would be no Bubblegum after school (these were the days before Singapore banned on chewing gum). I ran across the street. I couldn't find him so I turned back. A car at high speed was supposed to ran over me but it stopped. I felt the wind at the back of my ears. I heard shouting and screeching. I continued running to reach the school compound. I didn't look back. I cried. It was not because of the serious near miss. I cried because I would miss the afternoon treat of Bubblegum. In the evening, a neighbour came to our house. She saw what happened in the morning and reported the details to my mother. She made a big deal of the whole thing. I psyched myself up for a good spank from my mother. After that nosy neighbour left, instead of getting the cane from the top of the cabinet, my mother went to the kitchen to make pulut kuning. As a child, I thought an angel had taken my 50 cents as a charge to protect me from the car and the cane.
No 2 - The temple
I love my mother. She taught me to read and write. I love my father. He taught me to ride a bicycle. I was a happy child thinking that I would always have them together for they have affected my life in different ways. But it was not meant to be for them to be together forever for me. The happiness in my childhood was gradually eroded with my parents' struggle to sustain their marriage. When they had their series of serious adults' disagreement and misalignment, I had my silence and sadness, mapped by the tears on my wet pillow. Then I started to realize that despite the love and shelter they provided, I couldn't count on them or anyone else for my own happiness. Overtime I have created a temple and a shield around it. This is my own happiness. The happiness may radiate beyond the shield but nothing can come in to ruin in. It is the core of my mental strength that has made me thick. By the way, my parents divorced when I was 15.
No 3 - The unforgettable moments
My worst living experience was when I had to look into my father's eyes to tell him that I would follow my mother on the day my parents split their way. I saw the hollow man who had lost everything. My younger brother and sister were too young to be asked. By default, they were with my mother. I knew my father had hoped that I would choose to live with him. But I didn't want to be separated from my siblings. It was a decision I have to make at the age of 15. Now I am blessed with intuition which allows me to be courageous in making any decision. It seems that there is nothing worse than the one I had made at the age of 15. My best living experience was when I cried thankfully when my daughter Aimi was born. She got stuck for nearly an hour and I was already thinking of losing her. She made it eventually and I was blessed to witness such turbulent and intense moment in the peaceful slow-paced Hospital Putrajaya.
No 4 - The magnet
I am inspired by others who push themselves to the extreme in difficult times. I am so easily attracted to them. On the other end, I am pissed off by ungrateful people who complain so loud and fashionably but never get things done. These are the people I repel.
No 5 - The love of unity
No 6 - The phobia
I have never trusted anybody and anything on the road. I keep my distance and drive at a comfortable speed. I am not a risk taker when it comes to speed. I drive in full throttle only during emergencies and when I was late to work.
No 7 - The pet
I love cats. In my life I had lived with 3 cats, Baby, Belle and Bien. All of them had died and perhaps gone to heaven. I believe having a cat in the house brings good luck and protection. Would I have a cat in Dubai? Yes, I'd love to but at the moment I live in a furnished apartment. I worry that the cat would damage the things which are not mine. So currently I'm petless.
No 8 - The addiction
No 9 - The music
I watch MTV at the age of 35! No I don't rewind much to the 80s and 90s though I am a big fan of REM and U2. I am well tuned to the current frequency that soaks me with the sound and music by Coldplay, Nickelback, Snow Patrol, Jason Mraz and even that gorgeous Katy Perry! I stay away from the music that is too loud and too trashy.
No 10 - The weather
I am cool under the hot sun. I can run, I can march, I can swim, I can simply do nothing for hours under the scorching sun. My body will sweat to cool me down like a reliable AC. I wouldn't mind getting my skin darker too. But anything below 20 degrees Celsius, will drive me crazy. There is no heating coil inside my body to generate internal heat to sustain low temperatures.
No 11 - The first few loves
My first love was the girl who liked to sit next to me in my kindergarten. She was the one who gave me the Bubblegum on the day I lost the 50 cents and almost lost my life. She was assigned as my dancing partner in our school concert. But it was a puppy love. When I was in primary school, I wrote to a girl a raya card which contained love at the elementary level. That was another puppy love that ended after she moved to another school. My first real love was when I was in the boarding school. I wrote my feelings for her in a series of love letter and got a series of reply. I like her smile and her innocent view of life. Then she became religious and started to rewrite her past. She changed and matured at the rate I was not able to cope and understand. She had become a woman and I was still a boy. One day she wrote asking me to decide on our affair as I had apparently become cold and distant. She didn't want me to keep her hanging on. This shook my shielded temple of happiness. My instinct decided to let her go, it's not meant to be.....
No 12 - The soul mate
My best friend is my wife. She has been a true friend before I actually fall in love with her. My shielded temple of happiness opened its gate and welcomed her. It's my destiny and it's written (ala the tale in Slumdog Millionaire) in my book that she's the one and it's meant to be, even though before we got married, we had lost contact and were apart for 7 years.
No 13 - The childhood dream
My childhood dream.....to live in a tropical isolated island and live with a mermaid. This is inspired by the combination of Gulliver's Travel, Robinson Crusoe and Little Mermaid.
No 14 - Another dream
My teenage dream....to write like Ernest Hemingway.
No 15 - More dreams
My young man dreams....to become a marathoner and a triathlete.
No 16 - The latest list
My young-at-heart dreams....to scale up Mount Kilimanjaro and to witness the wildebeest migration in Africa, to dive in the Mediterranean, to run in Boston Marathon, to complete the Ironman race, to trek in Tasmania, to tour across North Africa from Egypt to Morocco, to retire in a small tropical island and hopefully, to die in Mecca.
Next, I am supposed to tag 16 people. I would like to tag the seven dwarfs, Snow White, Prince Charming, The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Cinderella, The Fairy God Mother, Aladdin, Peter Pan and Captain Hook. So please guys, list the 16 things we ought to know about you..or else you might be cursed or something.....I guess.
Monday, 16 March 2009
There was a conference in Bangalore, attended by all kinds of top engineers in the whole India. They discussed a hypothetical topic which is, if God is an engineer, what kind of engineer he could have been when he created human beings.
An electrical engineer was the first to say, "He must be an electrical engineer. Just look at the veins all over our body. They are like the electrical wires, which only electrical engineer could understand. So he must be an electrical engineer". His fellow electrical engineers clapped their hands to support.
One electronics engineer was next to add, "He must be an electrical engineer with good knowledge in electronics. Otherwise we are all blind and deaf without sensory and control devices to see, to hear, to smell, to feel and to react accordingly". This remark created a huge applause. The mutual respect among the electrical and electronics engineers was visible.
A mechanical engineer was all out to disagree. He reasoned that, "Human beings are active, reactive and can be pro-active. The human anatomy is supported by excellent motors work, powered by strong and complex structures of bones, joints and muscles. This is definitely the work of a mechanical engineer!!". The team of mechanical engineers were on their feet with their hands up in the air and making the wave of supporting sounds.
A chemical engineer got up from his seat and started his argument. "Ladies and gentlemen, this morning, we all had great breakfast of paratha, puri and masala dossey, veg and non veg, as we like. The food and water we consumed are all processed and converted to energy to make us do our things physically and mentally. Now tell me, who can handle a process better than we do?". There was a soundless moment of reflection. The chemical engineer sat down, satisfied.
It was not long enough that a civil engineer stood up to break the silence. He first mimicked the chemical engineer's word. "Ladies and gentlemen, this morning, I had 4 pieces of paratha with egg masala. The breakfast has been processed and now must find its way out. Now tell me, who can handle the drainage system and solid waste pipeline all the way to my manhole, as well as we do. So God is a civil engineer. Anyone has problem to deal with this?". Apparently, nobody.
When I was in the college filling up the enrolment form that required me to list my selection of engineering school. My first choice was chemical engineering, followed by electrical & electronics and material engineering. Civil Engineering was not in my list. I enrolled to the school of my first choice and did all my things. All this while I was rather ignorant about civil engineering. It is only when I set my feet in Dubai, I see the powerful contribution of civil engineering work that makes the right first impression, creates opportunities, accommodates the mass community and ensures sustainability. If only the prospect of their career can be as strong as what they have built and as sustainable as what they have contributed.
I dedicate this entry to the civil engineers and their constructions workers who had left Dubai after the completion of their projects. Some of them have to leave unexpectedly and unwillingly as their projects were cancelled or pushed back due to the lack of funding. Some of the lucky ones are here to stay and continue the legacy of their civil work in Dubai.
Image from Google - The aerial view around Burj Dubai under construction months ago
The unhappy face of a construction worker probably worrying about the future of his family
(Photographed by Paul Keller in Flickr)
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Less white, more blue
There is an exaggerated exodus reported in Dubai. It may not be literally true. But we have less people in Dubai now. At least I can tell that from the movers' activities at the lobby of my apartment. In two weeks time I have seen the piles of belongings in two separate occasions . The piles are signs of neighbours leaving the building and movers making money. The neighbours might leave Dubai to their home countries. Or they might just move to another building nearby available at lower rent. I didn't ask to be certain because they were not as nice as the neighbour who gave me Orked. The rent has gone down. The landlord gets less return from his property. The tenant gets more options. The table has turned. Life is fair.
Another neighbour leaving
Thursday, 5 March 2009
A pleasant new found way
Since the first few weeks of my stay in Dubai, I have been dreaming of driving a Toyota FJ Cruiser. My neighbour has one, majestically white and elegantly parked. At one point I was almost certain that it would be the chosen one, my first option, my coveted prize.
The rear view of my neighbour's Toyota FJ Cruiser
Side frontal view of Lucky