Saturday, July 31, 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

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!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

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!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Movie Review: Splice

Budget: $30 million
Grossed: $17 million

Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac

So not worth the 1:45 minutes spent watching it.

Splice is basically a 2010 remake of Species, however the director must have had a skin-head fetish, as I would rather take Natasha Henstridge’s psycho alien-human hybrid any day over Delphine Chanéac’s more chrome-domed, hermaphroditic version. Much like “The Animal” starring Rob Schneider was a snide remake of “Inspector Gadget” with Sara Jessica Parker’s Hubby, Mathew Broderick (a testament that the good guy often does end up with the great gal!)

The script is well thought of, a semi-original idea where man tries to mix human and animal DNA for medicinal research purposes. Once more science goes too far and, lo and behold, a monster is created. It does not delve into the characters story-lines much, flash-backs are used with no relevant tie in as to their impact on behavior.

Dren (name of ani-human hybrid femenoid) is a direct copy of the aliens from "The Arrival", Charlie Sheen's 1996 Sci-Fi movie.

Summary: Avoid watching at all costs. Acting was sub-par. Contains sexual scenes (3 in total, 1 human, 2 interspecies). Only credit to this movie is Oscar winner Adrien Brody being on the cast.

Monday, July 26, 2010


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!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

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!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What'd the 5 fingers say to the Face?

Dave Chapelle has successfully dropped off the Radar for going on 4 years now; a Muslim, he said, "“I don’t normally talk about my religion publicly because I don’t want people to associate me and my flaws with this beautiful thing. And I believe it is beautiful if you learn it the right way."

The Chapelle Show was the greatest, no other comedian can fill his shoes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

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!).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

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.

Thursday, July 15, 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)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

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.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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?

Monday, July 12, 2010

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.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

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.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

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.

No Shame II

In an effort to be recognised by the media in the midst of football fever, the Kuwait National Football Team made headlines in Egypt:

Footballers ‘detained’

: Some players of the Kuwait national soccer team were forced to pay the bill at a disco club in Cairo, reports Al-Shahed daily.

According to reports the players were trying to sneak out of the club without paying the bill and when the staff failed to get the money from the visitors the guards of the club intervened.

This is the problem with "celebrities", they are unaware that their status comes with a responsibility. This goes to feed the popular Gulf stereotype in Cairo, they are there to enjoy the many "taboo's" that Egypt has to offer, and albeit being super-spend-thrifts in certain areas such as food and gifts, they pull similar stunts as this.

For shame.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

No Shame

In a very strange move, a Kuwaiti bridegroom reportedly placed a K-net machine beside him during a wedding to receive presents in cash from his friends and relatives, reports Al-Shahed daily.

According to tradition friends and relatives offer presents in cash on the wedding day. However, it looks like the newly married man wanted to receive money through technology.

Some friends and relatives who went to wish the bridegroom used the machine to offer gifts in cash to the amazement of some onlookers.

I heard the groom would hold on to the guests hand in a shake until he got the "Approved" print-out, at which point he would give them their copy of the receipt and send them on their way. Woe befell any whose transactions got bounced!

No Soup for You!

In the News Now

Checking out is always good for a chuckle.

Ever wonder why is blocked in Kuwait? There is a method aroung these tedious filters, and it is simply known as 3rd party browsers, where you basically surf the web through another website, which has a bounced IP address making you appear to be surfing from another country.

Long story short, is a blog of arabic controversial news.

Getting back on track, what do we have this week in Kuwait?

Ghosts. For those who grew up in Kuwait, the most famous haunted house was the blue-&-white villa that stood on the fourth ring road, where the huge new hotel/ mall is now being built and near completion. I guess this means, if ghost stories are true, that the building will also be haunted.
This story however, seems to have a few holes in it:

KUWAIT CITY, July 4: Kuwaiti Mansour Al-Ajmi who claims his house in a suburb of Fahd Al-Ahmad is haunted has appealed to HH the Prime Minister and the State Minister for Housing Affairs to allot him and his family a house in another area, reports Al-Dar daily.

Al-Ajmi claims his family can hear the weeping of children and either at 5:00 am or 5:00 pm some part of the house catches fire.

He went on to say with the help of his children he prepares buckets of water to put out the fire although he does not know which part of the house will go up in flames. Al-Ajmi added he was advised to play verses from the Holy Quran but the cassette player caught fire when the verses were being played.

He added when firemen were called to put out the fire, they too heard cries of children and they thought there were more children in addition to his five children.

Firemen and personnel from the Criminal Evidences Department have failed to identify the cause of the fire.

Al-Ajmi says he now lives in a rented house in Oqaila and pays KD 800 a month.

If it weren't for the first and last paragraphs, I might believe this story. First, the man is asking for a new house in a new area, and then states his rent. You can easily get a decent place for half the amount he is spending. Somehing fishy is going on.

Story number 2, apparently, wastah (arabic word for nepotism or favoritism) is a 2-way street, as a police office found out:

KUWAIT CITY, July 5: In a strange incident an unidentified Syrian man who was in custody of the State Security police is said to have filed a complaint against a policeman one month after his release, reports Al-Shahed daily.

It looks like the Syrian is influential enough to carry out his threat of getting the policeman terminated from his job.

According to police sources the concerned policeman had earlier filed a complaint against the Syrian for humiliating him and speaking ill of HH the Amir when the policeman issued him a traffic citation.

The Syrian was referred to the State Security and so many people reportedly intervened to force the policeman to drop the complaint.

The policeman was shocked when an unidentified police station summoned him for interrogation based on a complaint filed by the Syrian.

Miscarriage of Justice, or Rightful Revenge? You be the Judge. What is it with media in Kuwait always stating the person's nationality? It only serves to further the stereotyping of crimes by nationalities. You protect the person's name, but tarnish the reputation of their entire populace, smart move.
Story number 3: Smugglers smuggling... Uniforms?
Customs officers at Doha Port foiled a Kuwaiti woman and Iranian sailor’s attempt to smuggle military uniforms, reports Al-Anba daily.

An informed security source said supervisor of the port grew suspicious when he saw the woman handing over a bag to Iranian captain of a dhow berthed in the port.

The supervisor searched the bag and found 11 military uniforms used by the Kuwaiti army, 3 pairs of boots, 3 belts and 9 berets.

The woman and the Iranian have been referred to the State Security Department and during interrogations, the woman admitted that she have sent such clothes to Iran more than once.

Probably the saddest and most disgusting piece of news one can read in the newspaper is the abduction of women and their subsequent sale into prostitution rings. Is it really that easy? You simply spy a woman, a maid in most common cases, conspire to abduct her, and easily find someone willing to pay the going rate to have her imprisoned in a brothel somewhere?
Some people do not fully comprehend the issue, they believe these women, out of desperation or seeking to escape their "moazebs" (Kuwaiti term for employer, which literally translates to "tormentor" in Arabic) opt for this life. They do not know that these women are pinched off the streets as easily as one hails a taxi, and are whisked to a life of crime and vice.
2 Bangladeshis arrested for abducting, raping woman in bus

KUWAIT CITY, May 8: Police arrested two Bangladeshi men in their 30s for kidnapping and raping an Asian woman, reports Al-Anba daily.

A police source said the two kidnappers were traveling in a mini bus and were stopped at a police check point in Hawalli. While checking the identification documents of the Bangladeshis, police heard groans from inside the vehicle and on checking, found the woman tied with a rope and her mouth gagged with a plaster.

The woman said she was kidnapped while she was walking along a road in Salmiya and that one of the Bangladeshis raped her in the bus.

During interrogation, the kidnappers said they planned to sell the victim to a pimp.

Last but not least, looks can be deceiving, never fall for a pitch, even if it is from a handicapped person.
Handicapped man cheats bedoun of KD 3,000 in fake ‘house rent’ deal
Police are looking for a handicapped Kuwaiti man for cheating a bedoun to the tune of KD 3,000, reports Arrouiah daily.

According to a complaint filed with the police, the bedoun said he read an advertisement in a newspaper ‘A house for rent’ in Sa’ad Al-Abdullah City. He added he felt the rent was cheap and contacted the owner.

The owner took him to the house which was still being furnished. However, he convinced the bedoun that it will be ready in a month and said he should pay six months rent in advance.

The bedoun agreed. The man paid the rent in advance and when he went to the house after a month he discovered he had been cheated because it turned out the house belongs to someone else.

See? In this story, it is painting bedouns to be "slow". This article is old, but it does serve as a caution, seeing as how the house was advertised for rent in a newspaper.
Better safe than sorry!

Monday, July 05, 2010

IFOCE - Really?

Two words that should never, ever cross paths in the English language, or any tongue spoken by man for that matter: Competitive & Eating.

When pondering over all the so-called sports that are absurd and yet, have a global presence, the IOCE takes the cake (literally).

The challenge? See how many hot-dogs one can scoff down their throat in a 12-minute period (the record is set @ 53.5 hot dogs held by Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi from Japan.

The hot-dog eat-off is contested annually on Coney-Island (naturally) on the Fourth of July, a day man is considered independent from morality and girth issues. Probably not a smart idea to have the mascot parading around in a hot-dog outfit. Imagine if one of the contestants shows up high.

A little history & trivia:
The International Federation of Competitive Eating, Inc. (IFOCE) organizes, supervises and regulates eating contests across the globe, acting as a central resource for the sport. Top events include the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, La Costena "Feel the Heat" Jalapeno Eating Challenge, and the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship. The IFOCE was founded in 1997 by brothers George and Richard Shea.

The IFOCE develops, promotes and runs more than 100 events in all variety of venues during its annual circuit.

The organization also produces television shows on competitive eating. In 2002, IFOCE produced Glutton Bowl, a 2 hour eating event on the Fox Network. In 2007 the IFOCE produced four one-hour programs for Spike TV under the title "Chowdown." In 2006, the IFOCE produced three hours of programming on ESPN, including a one-hour live show on the 2005 Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest and one-hour shows on the Johnsonville Brat contest and the Krystal Hamburger contest.

The English Dictionary defines Gluttony as eating to excess (personified as one of the deadly sins).

(The seven deadly sins are Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Envy)

In an attempt to add a disclaimer, the IFOCE notes: While there are no studies showing proven dangers, doctors have warned of the potential risks of speed eating.

No studies showing proven dangers? Seriously?

One never ceases to be amazed at the lack of compassion of the human race.

This photograph was named best photo of the year:

There exist in this world people that subside on less than $1 per day, they are not below the poverty line, they are below the starvation line. And what does Corporate America do? They host eating contests that turn man into nothing more than a common swine, consuming food in excess and unnecessarily. Remember in highschool how they used to have canned-food drives?

It is all a part of the freedom illusion, the guise we have pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth. The bystander effect, why should I do anything? Someone else is bound to come along and save these unfortunate souls.

"William Osler - We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from life."