Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy St Andrew's Day to all Scotsfolk...

wherever you may be.

For those who don't know, like St Patrick is to Ireland, St Andrew is the patron saint for Scotland (and a couple of other countries too, actually). If you're interested in finding out more about the saint, have a look here...

It's also a day when the already fiercly-partisan Scots celebrate the things we have contributed to the progress of mankind. Yes, you think you know of a few (telephone, whisky, tyres, penicillin and so on), but you'd be amazed at just how many more there are...things that contribute to all facets of life. Have a look here...

Anyway, to all Scots around the world, Happy St Andrew's Day...

"Wha's like us? Damn few, an' they're a' deid!"

Translation: "Who's like us? Damn few, and they're all dead!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brace Yersel' Shteven...

Last night I filled in for Fishman at action cricket as he was too much of a girl to go out with the guys and still get up at 4am to head to the airport.

Maybe I should have gone to the airport for him.

Today, I spent almost 4hrs between the Xray department, doctors rooms and an orthopaedic consultant for a wrist brace, and almost ZAR700 (excluding xray costs), to be told that I have a fracture in my right wrist and it's out of action for a few weeks. Luckily, I'm left handed... :-)

I tried to take a catch off my own bowling, missed the ball and fell flat-handed onto the carpet, feeling the pain in my wrist almost straight away. Needless to say, I carried on playing instead of getting some ice into my glass, I mean onto my wrist, and am suffering for it today.

The doctor was obviously bemused by the xrays judging by his comment of "we rarely see this kind of injury" which made me proud in a stupid sort of way. On top of that, my left knee also has a carpet burn, not uncommon in action cricket.

Anyone for chess?

Stupid People piss the hell out of me...

Just how fuckin' stupid do you have to be to think that an organisation like "Make a Wish" or MicroSoft are going to give you money, or make a donation to a charity on your behalf, for every time you pass on a FUCKIN' CHAIN LETTER!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Firstly, do stupid people think how these organisations are going to track just how many times the "Amy Bruce Lung Cancer Cause" has been sent, or how many times you've forwarded the "Don't use Internet Explorer" CHAIN LETTERS!?!?!?!?

Secondly, do stupid people really think that charity organisations are going to make donations to other charities!?!?!?!?

Thirdly, do stupid people not think that MicroSoft owner Bill Gates would have had his overpaid accountants investigate how much it might cost him if he was to donate $7 every time someone passed on a fuckin' MicroSoft email!?!?!?!?!


Fuckin' morons...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Problem with being a Global organisation...

is that you have to work across so many different time lines and, in the end, don't have much of a personal life.

Right now, I'm working with Saudi Arabia (1hr ahead), Dubai (2hrs ahead), Italy (1hr behind) and the USA (depends on where you are, but from 7hrs behind). The result is that you end up working more than the average 7.5 or 8 hours per day on a number of days. And what recognition do you get for it? Fuckall, except "it's your job" or, as is the case with SA these days "you have a job, be thankful".

FUCKOFF!!! is what I say to those arguments.

Yes, I have a job which, mostly, I enjoy and which pays my bills at the end of the month (speaking of which, I must do my banking tomorrow) and I am thankful not to be in the lines at the end of the month trying to collect unemployment benefits. Mostly, however, I get strange looks and comments when I say "I have a life. Work can wait until tomorrow if it's not important". But that's the truth of it. I do have a life, a home, a family, animals, bills, and all the other trappings of the working Joe's life. So if I do skim an hour or so here and there from my working day, I don't feel guilty and expect my management to not hold a whip to my back when I tell them I just came from having my car washed. What's the old Biblical quotation? "Let he who hath not sinned, cast the first stone"...not too many takers there, would be my bet.

The other big problem with working globally is that you end up waiting for people on the other side of the world to get back to you on things, things that are important to you both getting things done but, because of time differences, can end up taking place over a couple of days instead of a couple of hours if you're both in the same vicinity.

And then there's the other things that take up your normal working day too...the menial, mundane, tasks and processes that corporations enforce upon their "valued staff members" (read: "serial numbers", which is what we have, not an "employee number"). I reckon that, if you had to take all the internal processes we have and add the time together it takes to complete them all over the course of the year, you would probably spend around two months completing them if you did them from start to finish at one sitting. It's bollox, I tell you.

This actually gets me back to a theory I developed many years ago, round about the first time I did a file transfer from one computer system to another (probably goes back about 20yrs)...Communications will be the downfall of mankind.

I know communications are necessary in the digital world to move information around, but we abuse it way beyond acceptable levels. Imagine if we'd said 50yrs ago that we had to send an email to people on the other side of the world and would get worried if we didn't get a response within a day? Ridiculous...Fifty years ago, people still sent surface mail from one continent to the other and it would take six weeks one way!! Never mind waiting for the person to reply to, and post, his reply. Add another six or seven weeks to that!!

Now we get ants-in-our-pants (like me, right now) if we don't hear from someone who is supposed to be organising a flight for us to satisfy a deadline (20yrs ago, what the hell was a "deadline"? - never heard of it) brought on by some other non-delivery fuckup in the digital world which I now have to go and fix. I'm supposed to be in Turin (ok, Wreckless, "Torino"), Italy, on Monday next week to start a new project for a large motor manufacturer, but I'm also waiting to hear if I'm required in Saudi Dryland to do a presentation of a report I drafted recently. They might want me there around the 8th or 9th December, but because they organise all travel arrangements from their side, I have to wait for them to send me travel confirmations and e-tickets before I can even start making my Italy travel arrangements. That, in itself, is a fuckup due to the three management levels I have to go through seeing as the travel is international. Try getting that done in a day, and still getting the flight reservation confirmed and ticket issued...ha!!

It gets back to those internal processes I mentioned earlier. Management, too, have their own set of processes and tasks that they have to get through in a day. Do I want to be a manager in this corporation? Do I fuck...and I told them as much a while ago just after a Leadership Development Course I went on. I'd love to have a Chief Financial Officer waiting to do nothing more than approve my flight plans, but that would be ridiculously expensive to the corporation and I don't think they'd go for it somehow.

Anyway, where was I going with this ranting?

Oh yes.....I long for a small, easy to manage organisation to work for. Somewhere that I can have a little stress (unavoidable these days), not too much, somewhere I will enjoy going to work every day (not necessarily from home), people I will enjoy working with (yes, I have some today, but would like more), where I don't have hundreds of repeatable processes to perform annually, where I don't have an email system sending me mail that I've missed capturing my hours worked for the week, where I don't have a cellphone/PDA to store hundreds of contact names and numbers that manages my diary for me, where I can afford to take five weeks to go from SA to Europe by boat and not spend eight cramped hours on a jet plane...etc, etc, etc...


Monday, November 26, 2007

A few Nursery Rhymes to teach your kids...or not...

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
The structure of the wall was incorrect
So he won a grand with Claims Direct.
It's raining, it's pouring,
Oh shit, it's global warming.
Jack and Jill went into town
To fetch some chips and sweeties.
He can't keep his heart rate down
And she's got diabetes.
Mary had a little skirt
With splits right up the sides
And everywhere that Mary went
The boys could see her thighs.
Mary had another skirt
'Twas split right up the front
...But she didn't wear that one often.
Mary had a little lamb
Her father shot it dead.
Now it goes to school with her
Between two chunks of bread.
Simple Simon met a pie man going to the fair.
Said Simple Simon to the pie man
'What have u got there?'
Said the pie man unto Simon
Pies you dickhead.
Mary had a little lamb
It ran into a pylon.
10,000 volts went up its arse
And turned its wool to nylon.
Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play
He kissed them too cause he was also gay.
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To have a little fun.
Jill, the dill,
Forgot her pill,
And now they have a son.
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
And planned to do some kissing.
Jack made a pass
And grabbed her arse
Now two of his teeth are missing.
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white and wispy.
Then it caught the Foot and Mouth
And now it's black and crispy.
Mary had a little lamb
Full of fun and frolics
It tried to jump a five bar gate
And landed on its head.
Mary had a little lamb
She also had a duck.
She put them on the mantlepiece
To see if they would play with each other.
Mary had a little lamb
It's fleece was black as charcoal.
Everywhere the poor lamb went
Sparks shot from it's arsehole.

The End...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Previously, I mentioned the price of fuel in Saudi Dryland...

now you can see one of the reasons why it's so cheap...they have all these large old American gas guzzlers to run...

We took a trip down to the Car Souq on my 2nd last evening in Riyadh. CC had mentioned it before and how large it was, but I didn't believe it until I saw it. In Shit Towne terms, it is the size of Sandton. In New York terms, it's probably the size of Central Park. I shit you not!!

You can find any model of car that your heart desires. Hummers (pick a model) are a dime a dozen. I had my eye on a Dodge Charger RS/T, one of the fastest production cars on the road and, after currency conversion, I could have picked it up for ZAR200k. The only downside to that (fuck the fuel bill) would be the import taxes this fucked up govern-munt of ours levies on vehicle imports. Last time I checked, it was 100% of the value of the car.

Chrysler 300C...would make any chick squirm in her panties...

The New Toyota FJ Cruiser...hasn't even arrived in Shit Towne yet...

Rolls kidding, and in mint condition...



Baby condition

No idea what this was, but it was permanent four wheel drive

Looks like this came out of the Gulf War, but it was a Toyota

Just down the road from the hotel was a car dealer (not aligned to any particular manufacturer), called "My Car", who sold 2nd hand luxury vehicles. Not one of them has more than a couple of thousand km on them, but each of them has a tiny flaw (paintwork chipped, what looked like a bullet hole in the rear fender of the yellow Lamborghini, etc).
Chevy V8 pickup

Ferrari...a dime a dozen...

Lamborghini...the one with the bullet hole in the rear...

Maserati Quattroporte...mmm...

One day when I'm big...Audi R8, next to it was a black one too...and another black Ferrari...

And, by the way, this was my bathroom in the last hotel I stayed in...the shower and bath were a bit small but it was clean... :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All our lines are busy at the moment...

but leave a message after the beep and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Things have been kinda hectic on my side for a while which is why I haven't posted anything recently. But bear with me folks, I promise to put up some photos of my last trip to Saudi Dryland (got back Thursday last week) and I'll stick up some other stuff I've been thinking about.

Also, it appears I may be off to Turin, Italy, in two weeks time for some more business on a different project as the Dryland one is coming to a close (for now at least). I'll find out more details in the coming days and keep everyone posted and jealous (even Wreckless called me an unpopular name for a fanny!! - as you may know, he's of Italian decent).

Hope you're all well...


Friday, November 09, 2007

This is how they clean the machine gun vehicles...

out here in Dryland.

The quality of the photos is not great but they were taken into the sun on a phone camera (not mine, Big Brother, I don't have a camera on my cellphone). Basically, where we are based there is a pickup truck with a bren mounted on the back (no driver, only a rifleman - unless he can perform both roles at the same time somehow) as protection for the site. The rifleman is there 24hrs a day, with basically nothing to do except fiddle with his cellphone or sit on his arse.

Now and then, perhaps as a bit of a break from the monotony, the rifleman gets a couple of the ex-pat Filipinos (all manual labour here is performed by some or other ex-pat from somewhere) to come out and clean the back of the pickup. Fuck knows what he would do if one of them inadvertently stuck the broom handle into the trigger and let it off. There would be absolute pandemonium and I don't want to be around if it does...

Monday, November 05, 2007

I dedicated a song to all my friends from my Facebook page...

after watching a strange movie last night. The movie was called "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", starring Jim Carrey ("Me, myself and Irene" and "Cable Guy"), Kate Winslett (nice), Kirsten Dunst (yummy) and Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings, and still looking like a Hobbit in this film).

Basically, the weird characters of Jim and Kate meet on a train station platform, get chatting on the train, fall in love, fall out of love, and then want to erase each other from their respective memories. It's a bit confusing to start with, but eventually the story falls into place and you end up (or at least I did) thinking "oh, ok, that's what it's all about".

Kate's character starts acting all strange toward Jim's and he finds out she has gone to see a company called "Lacuna, Inc" after reading a note something to the effect of "xxxx has erased you from her memory forever", which he wasn't supposed to see. In spite, he decides to do the same, and has to take some of Kate's things along to Lacuna so that they can begin work on him. He gets a machine linked up to his head (like a big colender) and so begins the process. You see his memories that they are trying to erase and how they become dark spots in his mind as they go through them.

Eventually though, he comes to the realisation that he doesn't want to erase the memories and starts talking to Kate in his mind. She responds, and together they choose to remember each other and fight the machine.

In the meantime, Kirsten, who is receptionist at Lacuna, is also shagging one of the technicians and ends up wanting to shag the doctor who is called out later to resolve a problem on Jim's treatment. It's here that you find out that she has also undergone the treatment previously to erase the memory of her having shagged the doctor before, which was insisted on by the doctor's wife.

Upset, Kirsten goes back to the doctor's rooms and finds a whole load of files and tape recordings made by all the people who have undergone the treatment and she listens to her tape, hearing why she has had the treatment. She then decides to steal all the files and tapes and send them to their respective owners to let them know what went on. Naturally, Jim and Kate also get theirs, and hear parts of the others recordings and some of the spiteful things they said about each other.

At this point, for a happy ending for the film, they both declare that they did not mean all those nasty things they said and declare that they still want each other. The End...

The song played at the end of the movie was an oldie called "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime", originally performed by The Korgi's, but in this case sung by Beck. I thought it was a great rendition and dedicated it to all my Facebook friends...just for the hell of it. If anybody else reading this is on Facebook, and not yet a "friend", let me know and I'll hook up with you...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Ok, so now that I'm in Saudi Dryland, what happened en route?

Let me see...

We left Shit Towne an hour and a half late due to the plane arriving late, which goes to show how these things work. It obviously costs airlines money to park, and leave, a plane at an airport, so they fly them in, turn them around in as short a time as possible, change the crews and then throw them back into the air again. I suppose, with the reliability of engines these days, they can actually do that whereas in the old days, they would have to overhaul the engines first.

The flight was uneventful, except for some cow who pushed her seat so far back I could hardly move my knees (yes, I was in camel class), even after I banged on her headrest the first time she did it...bbeeeaaattccchhhh...

I watched a couple of good movies, "The Simpsons Movie" and the last Bruce Willis "Die Hard" film too. The latter was just to pass the time, so don't kak me out.

As we got into Dubai an hour and a half late, I decided that sleep was of more value than a trip around the old part of the city (and cheaper too). Emirates supplies everyone with a longhaul stopover with a room in their Millenium Hotel so I went and had about 5hrs sleep, a decent meal (also on Emirates in the hotel) and was then back at Dubai Duty Free after taking an hour to get through check-in and customs, by around 5:30pm. A couple of CD's later (Chris Cornell - Carry On, and John Mayer - Continuum) and it was time to go through the boarding gate. After about a half hour, we were herded on board and I was sat in the second last row of the big silver bird. It was actually quite a nice seat, a bit more legroom than the forward rows and right near the gally where we were served our meal first. With only just over an hour flight time to Riyadh, I watch an old episode of The Simpsons and then listened to some of the music channels. Incidentally, on the average Emirates flight these days, there are about 500 radio, music, TV and movie channels you can watch or listen to. Does anyone still remember the old days of air travel where everyone on the flight had to watch the same movie on the same big screen in the front of the cabin? LoL...

Anyway, customs in Riyadh was relatively painless but it still took a half hour more for my suitcase to arrive on the belt. My driver was the same one as last time, "Mr Happy" as I called him (not to his face though), but he was at least in a better frame of mind than last time, even though he still made me carry all my luggage myself (again).

We made small chat in the car about how the temperature had dropped, ("it's winter", he says to me, but it's still 25degC outside the airconned car) and the fact that I was going to a different hotel to last time due to the OPEC conference that's not starting until the 9th but they've booked all the hotels out already...bastards.

The hotel, to say the least, is a hole. It was once a hotel, but is now more like a doss house for ex-Iraqi officials. The place is decorated in the same style as you see in the movies, Turkish carpets on the floor and walls, large vases with nothing in them on marble tables, mirrors facing each other from opposing walls, that sort of thing. Then, of course, there's the chain-smoking Arabian fellow behind the marble Reception desk, looking and sounding a bit like Manuel from Fawlty Towers; same moustache, slightly different accent, same stupid look on his face.

I'm in Room 310, on the second floor (don't ask me...I thought it would be on the 3rd floor too). The bathroom has been recently refurbished and the tiles are as slippy as hell when they're wet. I struggle to turn around in the bath/shower, which is as narrow as George W's mind (speaking of whom, he hasn't written in a while, I wonder what's wrong?). The carpet has seen better days and instead of the original rich, brown, colour showing down along the walls, it is now a sandy sort of colour with a path worn down the middle. The bed looked great, until I sat on it and it creaked like a set of wooden stairs, even though it's firm and comfortable enough. Don't want to think about what's happened in it before I plonked my hairy Scots arse on it...{shiver}...

Anyway, due to the amount of airline food I'd consumed over the last couple of days I decided not to eat dinner, and would skip breakfast as well. Considering the new bed and pillows, I slept pretty well. Mr Happy picked me up at the hotel front door just before 8h30am, ten minutes early, and whisked me off to the office. "Whisked" is rather a lame word for how he drives. I wish I had a video camera to take some footage of it. It's like low flying a spaceship through an asteroid don't see where the asteroids are coming from as they're all driving in the same manner, so your driver has to bob and weave his way to avoid them, all the while ignoring the little bell-thingy that sounds when he hits 120km per hour. And this is in a 60km/hr zone!!!! I shit you not! We get there in one piece though and I wonder if I should go and check my undies as I'm sure I followed through on one or two of the farts that escaped me as we ploughed head first through the asteroid field.

It's "hello"s all around in the office, among the "oh, you're back, how long this time?"s and I can see the sniggers on some of the British ex-pat faces as they know what I'm going through to get this job done. It's good to see Ahmed again, he's a decent and likeable Saudi (watch this video on YouTube and you'll understand why, after tonight, I won't be able to look him in the face without thinking "Silence! I keel you!") and he's just been appointed my contact in the customer office.

I pass a boring day in the office, meeting with CC to discuss a plan of action so that we can get the job done in the coming two weeks so that I, hopefully, don't have to come back again this year.

CC tells me of a little Thai restaurant down the road from the Roach Motel and I decide, after getting changed into jeans and Springbok t-shirt, to take a walk "down the road". It turns out to be about 2km "down the road", but it's a pleasant enough walk now that the evening temperature is down around 20degC. On the way down, there's a 2nd hand car dealer, which CC said I should have a look into. I can see why, as it's packed wall to wall with Lamborghini's, Maserati's, Ferrari's, Mercs, Bentley' name the sports car, it's there. And not one of them, judging by the paintwork, is 2nd hand. I think they're all brand new. I'll see if I can get a photo next time I go for a walk.

I didn't take a camera with me this evening, as I wasn't sure where, or for how long, I'd be walking. The restaurant is called "The Villa" (original name for a Thai eatery) and is literally the size of the average home kitchen. On top of that, there are two entrances (as there are to most restaurants in Riyadh), one for men only, and the other for families or couples. The waiters are all Thai-folks and so are the patrons sitting at two of the four tables. I get shown a chair (all old style formica and plastic kitchen furniture) and have a tatty menu shoved in front of me. The TV on the wall is showing Thai Boxing and, thankfully, the sound is turned down. I ask the waiter what he recommends I eat and decide on a prawn tempura (batter-fried prawns) and a chicken dish which supposedly has bay leaves in it. The tempura is quite good and has a sweet chilli sauce to drown the prawns in, while all I can see sticking out of the chicken dish are chillies and chillie pips. There's the odd green leaf as well, but I think they're chilli leaves to add a bit of heat to the already blistering dish. By the end of the chicken dish, I've cried, sweated, and blown my nose four times, all to the amusement of the waiter and the four Thai lads at the table under the TV. Strangely enough though, by about five minutes after I've finished eating, I can't taste the chilli any more which goes to show that there was only chili in it and no "extras" to add heat. Most importantly, it was tasty too and I might go back in a couple of days time when the ring sting has worn off. Best of all, the bill for the dishes and a Pepsi (Saudi champagne) came to SAR31, or 60 Souf Efrican at the price.

So now I'm back in the Roachery, where the internet access is free, typing this posting. In about ten minutes, I'll be in my creaky bed hopefully getting a decent sleep in time for work tomorrow. I'll write some more in the next couple of days, if I can...

Hope the rest of you are doing okay...

Wouldn't mind getting bitten by one of these Sharks...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Off to Saudi Dryland again...

for another two weeks. I leave tonight at 22h30 local time, flying Emirates Air as usual. Getting into Dubai at 08h30 (local time), I'm no doubt going to be knackered as I don't sleep well on 'planes. Ah well, at least I have a hotel room in Dubai (compliments of Emirates) that I'll be using to grab a few hours of catch-up sleep in. Such is the price I have to pay in being on the Global Team.

Even my hotel in Riyadh is not the usual. There's a big oil conference on at the same time as my visit and thousands of people have had their hotel reservations cancelled by the various chains, regardless of frequent visitor status, just so that all the oil barons can get a decent place to stay. Pain in the fuckin' arse, is what it is. I was supposed to be booked in at the new Holiday Inn (usually I stay in the Intercontinental) but even that's now been comandeered by the rich folk and their entourages...bastards. Now I'm stuck in a pokey little unknown place, probably cockroach-ridden, for the duration of my stay. Thank fuck this should be my last visit there for a couple of months, due to the upcoming holiday period and the time it takes to get things done over there.

Anyway...I'll try and stay in touch. Take care y'all...