Saturday, May 29, 2010

Culling the trolls

Not something I'd normally bother to give exposure too, but this is a post about trolls.

The reason for the post is not that we have a troll frequently visiting 'Life in Dubai', but because other readers have been responding to his crass stupidity.

The problem with that is response is trolls' reason for being.

This definition explains:

In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Their comments are usually extremely childish - think seven year old schoolboy trying to impress his peers by writing rude words on a wall - and their infantile egos feed on responses.

Here's an example of the high intellect, the jaw-dropping creativity of our very own troll. He repeats this and similar messages on many of my posts:

"Yes you are back indeed!

Mrs Seabee?!?! The writer is a HE?

With all the whining, bitching and whimpering, I really thought you were a woman!

Either the "we" in "We lived in Dubai from 1977 to 1984" includes your mustachioed civil partner hidden behind a 'abayah, or you are a closeted basket case."

Boy, aren't we all impressed with the cleverness of that!

BTW, our troll has an interesting obsession with homosexuality, revealing a particular liking for cross-dressing moustachioed men.

Some people think that trolling is, like attempted suicide, a call for help.

Disturbed they undoubtedly are, but I take a different view on how to deal with them.

They're simply a waste of space. If they were animals they'd be culled.

Now although we don't allow culling of humans in the real world it is allowed in cyberspace.

Moderators can hit the 'Delete' button.

So the trolls go exactly where they belong. They cease to exist.

The fun part is, I probably get more enjoyment out of culling troll than he does in leaving his messages.

If you're tempted to respond to a troll, don't. Just ignore them. Don't give them the satisfaction and ego rub of responding to them.

There's an acronym to remember - DNFTT. Do Not Feed The Trolls.

Definition of troll.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Good news for the boys in blue

Some good news for the UAE's outdoor workers - the summer midday break will be extended by a month, running from June 15 to September 15.

It'll last through Ramadan this year too, which must be a huge relief for those workers who'll be fasting.

The bad news is that the hours of the break won't be extended, it will stay at 12.30 to 3pm.

When it was introduced in 2005 it was from 12.30 to 4pm, and the later finish is important because the hottest part of the day is often around 3pm. But construction companies complained and the next year it was shortened by one hour, where it's stayed.

Eighteen inspection teams from the Ministry of Labour will monitor compliance but it's inevitable that some companies will flout the law. MoL say their statistics show that more than 650 companies were fined last year for non-compliance.

Fines range from Dh10,000 and a ban on obtaining new labour permits for three months for a first offence to Dh30,000 and a ban on obtaining new work permits for one year for a third offence.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The pests are back

Spam phone calls seem to be back in fashion, and they annoy the hell out of me.

Mrs Seabee tells me she's recently been getting calls from banks offering her credit cards.

Just like before the big crash. Proving yet again that people never learn from their mistakes.

Yesterday I was in a friend's office when his mobile rang. He was offered 'financial investment solutions' from a very persistent telesales person.

I've had one this morning too, trying to make an appointment for a 'financial advisor'.

She wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, suggested that if I was looking after my own finances I didn't know what I was doing and became quite aggressive.

My last firm 'no' produced the reply that I had 'the wrong end of the stick' and I did need financial advice.

Apart from the irritation of unsolicited sales calls to my phone and aggressive sales people, the product they're selling has lost all credibility over the past couple of years hasn't it?

The proposition is that the financial industry can give me advice on how best to handle my finances.

Oh yeah?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The blocking explained

A quick update on my post that the lunatic driving clip on YouTube is blocked.

As Alexander explains on his 'Fake Plastic Souks' blog the clip has gone into the YouTube Age Verification section and that's what's blocked by the TRA, not the individual clip.

Thanks Alex, I think that may well be the first 'clarification' that actually makes sense.

Monday, May 24, 2010

'Arrested'. But now what?

The story in my last two posts goes on.

According to Arabian Business, the drivers involved in the crass stupidity have been arrested by Dubai Police and the vehicles impounded.

It's a start, now we'll have to wait to see how justice is applied.

As I said in the earlier posts, I think it deserves nothing less than a life ban on owning or driving vehicles plus a lengthy jail term for deliberately endangering life.

But I don't for one moment think that's going to happen.

And apart from the the drivers doing the stunts there was a convoy of hangers-on accompanying them, cheering them on and filming them. They need to be arrested too, charged with aiding and abetting the offences.

What the eventual outcome will demonstrate is just how serious the authorities are about stamping down on dangerous, irresponsible driving and in promoting road safety.

So far it seems to have been a half-hearted campaign without much successs, a couple of weeks emphasis here and there on specific things such as tailgating, child seats or mobile phone use. I've seen no reduction in any of those offences, in fact with mobile phone use it seems to me to be on the increase.

So this will be an interesting one to follow because it's such a serious, deliberate flouting of the laws that could have had disastrous consequences for innocent drivers caught up in the lunacy.

The Arabian Business report is basic and short on any detail, but they say the police have promised a full statement shortly. What they have is here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dangerous driving clip banned in UAE

My last post was about the totally irresponsible, life threatening driving deliberately carried out by a bunch of youths on Sheikh Zayed Road.

I gave a link to the YouTube clip showing the madness but a comment left on my post alerted me to a strange decision. When I clicked on the link my screen looked like this:

The rest of the world can view the clip, so why is it banned in the UAE?

At best it might be a misguided attempt to stop others copying the dangerous stupidity.

But the kind of brainless morons who are prepared to endanger other people's lives by such stupidity brag about it to each other and show each other the clips on their mobile phones.

I think that rather than being banned the clip should be widely publicised and used in educational campaigns. It should be used to demonstrate that such behaviour is not clever or adult but is childish, unintelligent, antisocial and irresponsible.

Those involved should be named, ridiculed and exposed as childish, irresponsible, life-threatening fools.

Then they should be jailed for endangering life, be banned from owning a vehicle or driving for life. Their punishment should also be used in educational campaigns to deter others from copying them.

If you're in the UAE and haven't seen the stupidity on film you can still, at least for now, accesss it through the website of The National newspaper, which carried the story. It's here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Life threatening lunacy

There's a new film on YouTube showing innocent motorists' lives being endangered by a bunch of brainless morons.

On Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, a 4x4 and a pick-up doing stunts while other traffic is around them.

Some stills from it:

Dubai Police are efficient enough to identify the Eastern European ram-raid gang and to get massive amounts of information on the hit squad that assassinated Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Identifying the idiots in the clip should take the police about five minutes.

Deliberately putting other people's lives at risk like this deserves a lifetime driving ban, a lifetime ban on owning a vehicle and a lengthy jail term. And I mean lengthy.

The obvious question is whether they'll be arrested. Cynics will doubt it and will talk about wasta...

After you've watched the clip here you'll probably prefer to use the Metro rather than driving.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An interesting week or so

I've just about caught up with things since the UK trip and being tour guide to our visitor.

I've always enjoyed the tour guide thing wherever I've been living. I guess most people are similar, we tend to get a bit blasé about the city we live in and things we see every day we pass by rather than looking at them.

Showing people around means you have to look at and talk about the attractions so it refreshes our own appreciation - or otherwise - of the city.

As I always do I tried to give a flavour of the two totally different Dubais, the city and New Dubai.

We trundled around Beach Road, Al Wasl, SZR and sat on the beach near Burj Al Arab for the obligatory tourist shot. Visited Mercato, Ibn Battuta and Mall of the Emirates. Spent time in Madinat Jumeirah and Dubai Marina, toured Media/Internet Cities/KV. And of course Burj Khalifa, Old Town Island, the aquarium and gold souk in Dubai Mall.

Then for the flavour of the city, an abra ride across the Creek and time in the souks of Deira and Bur Dubai, a visit to Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort and a couple of hours in Satwa.

I tried to give the same kind of variety with the three dinners we had time for - Indian, Arabic and the international buffet at Al Qasr. It's disappointing food there but the building and decor is so good that overall it makes a good last evening impression for visitors.

Having a visitor also highlighted the fact that while most companies here are way out of touch with modern communications (websites lierally years out of date and non-reply to e-mails for example) some of them are on top of it.

Emirates Airline has a good interactive website, it's relatively easy to find what you're looking for, you can choose & reserve your seat when you book, get your boarding pass online which reduces the queueing at the airport. They have good updates on the volcano ash cloud too.

There was also news a couple of days ago that Emirates have extended their online booking facility to allow their passengers to apply for a visa online. That story's here.

DNRD has a great idea with the e-gate card to get you through the airport without having to queue at Immigration desks. There's the occassional blip when it refuses to recognise your fingerprint and you have to try again once or twice, but it's a whole lot better than the queues at Immigration.

You now have to show the machine the barcode on your boarding pass in addition to the e-gate card itself. I had a message on my mobile that said there was a change to the system, with a number to call for further information, so DNRD is also using new communications system well.

The running about on SZR meant that I got the usual reminder that my Salik account needed topping up, so the RTA is also aware of how to communicate with us.

So, amazingly, is our bank. Actually going into the branch and trying to deal with people - especially if you have a problem to resolve or a question to be answered - throws up the usual 'customer service' problems.

But we took money out to transfer back to Oz (a much better deal from the local currency exchange than the bank itself offers) and even before the cashier had put the money in an envelope my mobile rang with a message telling me how much had been taken from my account.

I was impressed with that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dubai Marina this morning

I get the feeling he probably wasn't travelling at the speed limit, which is 60kph in this area.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back to blogging

A week in the UK, one day to warm up when we got back, then a visitor for four days so there hasn't been time to blog.

I had a quick look and deleted the infantile comments from our new troll who originally used the name 'Bruno' but now has various aliases including, inevitably, 'Anon'.

I suppose some trolls are twelve year old schoolboys who get a kick out of using obscene words, while others are older in years but not mental capacity.

Before the internet you used to see the rude words that excite them so much chalked or sprayed on walls, now they scrawl them on blogs and forums.

I'll continue to delete them of course, so their efforts are pointless.

And so on with my catch-up post.

The UK was cold. Very cold. They've had their coldest winter for decades which the scenery reflected. Late spring but the early spring flowers were still blooming:

Most days were bright and sunny but the temperature was only around ten or twelve celcius and there was a strong cold wind most of the week that made it actually much colder. Walking around was uncomfortable so driving was the real option, with the countryside looking fresh, green and beautiful:

The best thing to do was drive through the countryside and find a pub:

In the pubs the meals were warming winter comfort food - it went down well too:

And one final pic, just because I like it:

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I've just stopped by to say I'm back and it's taken me a day to get the cold from the UK out of my bones.

Ten or so degrees celcius with a cold wind making it feel much less than that.

"You should have been here last week, it was lovely and warm", I was told several times. It didn't help.

I'll be too busy to blog for a few days, we have a visitor arriving this afternoon so I'm doing the tour guide bit until about Monday.

Monday, May 03, 2010


The Eyjafjallajokull -postponed trip to the UK's been rearranged and we're off early tomorrow morning for a week.

Thanks to the volcano we seem to have missed the heatwave - Brits were 'basking in temperatures of 19C' then.

Now the weather forecast says 5C at night, a max of 16C for the next few days, a mixture of cloud, sunny intervals and rain showers.

My comfort is going to depend on a small foldable umbrella, the nearest thing I've got to waterproof clothing (a 'showerproof' jacket) and sweaters.

See you in a week...

Sunday, May 02, 2010

More Metro nonsense

A problem that shouldn't have happened, no information for those affected, waffle that insults our intelligence from the official spokesman.

Situation normal then.

The Metro had another technical fault yesterday, this time to do with the signals the trains send back to the computer, so trains were stopped on most of the system for three to four hours.

Inevitably, passengers complain that they were given no information, had no idea what was happening, they were just shuttled about on buses.

Lack of communication is exactly what I complained about last week, when the Metro's last 'technical issue' inconvenienced passengers but they were told nothing.

Seven new stations were opened on Friday and additional trains were added. You'd assume that it would all be tested and any problems fixed before the public was invited to use it. Yet it all ground to a halt during peak time.

But according to Pehyman Younes Parham, Director of Marketing and Communication for the RTA, such technical issues are normal and to be expected.

Oh really.

It's just the same old comment that's been used before, an insult to our intelligence repeated yet again to explain away a problem that should not have occurred.

Last week's technical issues were to be expected too, according to Mr Parham after that episode.

I realise it's alien thinking to companies here but what I think should be 'normal and to be expected' is that technical issues are all sorted out before something is opened to the public.

The Metro system is closed for seven hours during weekday nights and for fifteen hours Thursay/Friday. Time enough, I would have thought, for the necessary testing to be carried out, any glitches fixed and the system running efficiently before the public was encouraged to use the new stations and extra trains.

I've always thought that the worst thing any company can do is set the bar for achievement so low that the target is 'we're no worse than anyone else'. I was reminded of this during Mr Parham's interview on DubaiEye radio this morning.

He began by saying that the Metro has been benchmarked against other similar systems around the world and guess what - we're no worse than them.

That's OK then, if that's the lofty goal that's been set.

Then the old 'it's to be expected' excuse was trotted out yet again to explain away the problem.

On behalf of several listeners who complained about the total lack of communication he was asked what the RTA had done to tell inconvenienced passengers what was going on. He took the time-honoured route and ignored the question, waffling on about something entirely different for a couple of minutes.

In true UAE journalistic style the question wasn't repeated and he wasn't pushed for an answer.

The answer I suppose comes from the passengers - nothing was done to tell them what was going on.

True to the Dubai customer service ethic, something is opened before it's ready, infuriated customers are given no information at the time they're being inconvenienced, then are later told it's all perfectly normal.

Gulf News has the report here.