Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The UAE (and China, and maybe India) say they are going 'green'. The UAE has lots of solar projects under way.  Dubai has the best public transportation system I've ever seen (clean, air conditioned, comfortable, and safe).

China, now smothering under smog, is hoping to replace 30% of coal by the end of this year, and eliminate coal ASAP.

Meanwhile, the US has a new and much improved president who promises to bring coal back, to bring back the millions of coal mining jobs lost: many millions of coal miners were replaced by a few thousand engineers who programme the coal mining machines, and the US president blames this job loss on stupid regulations he plans to cancel. Those removed regulations (e.g., a stupid ban on dumping the waste from coal mining into potable streams, since safe drinking water must be eradicated to bring jobs back) will greatly enhance profits for coal mine owners, who still won't employ anyone without a Masters in Coal Mining who can programme the machines.

Sunday, March 01, 2015


I reached a point where I was too busy to post, then, after missing for a couple of months, I was out of the habit.

Dubai is still growing. The metro now takes one all over Dubai, and connects to the new Tram to go places the metro doesn't go.

Oil dropped. There are two prices, Texas and Brent. Some of us remember when Texas oil cost a few dollars more than Brent, but since Obama took office and swore he'd reduce the use of fossil fuels, the US has been increasing oil production by 1 million barrels per day per year. One wonders how much more oil the US would be producing if Obama hadn't fought tooth and nail (as the Tea types tell us) to get the US out of the oil production business?

In any case, Texas oil dropped from about $105 to $40, and is now up to about $49. Brent dropped from about $115 to $43, and is now up to $60. So the Gulf has about half as much money coming in. China and Europe have all that money the Gulf isn't getting, and a lot of them are spending it in Dubai. If Brent were still $115, The people from the Gulf would be spending that money in Dubai. So I haven't seen much impact here. Dubai lives on tourism, not oil, tourism from Europe and the other Gulf countries, so it doesn't matter to the Dubai economy whether Europe or the other Gulf countries have the money, Dubai just changes the decorations to fit the tourists. Which seems to me like a reasonable way to run a city-state: more Athens than Sparta.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Problems in the UAE???

Once, Farook invited me to have dinner with some Citizens of the UAE. They asked me, 'Have you had any problems here?' I said, 'Only a very few, far fewer than in any other country where I've lived.'

Farook said I was very stupid. 'When you with Citizens, you say, "No problems in UAE. UAE perfect." You say there problems, you make big trouble for yourself.'

(In private, Farook says there are lots of problems, but when he's around a Citizen, he says 'UAE perfect. No problems at all.' Even Farook's own cousin thinks Farook is stupid; Farook's cousin said that everyone knows that, this side of paradise, there will always be problems, so Farook's cousin thought my answer was better than Farook's.)

Anyway, as someone who does not drive, I am very happy to see that Dubai is doing all it can to try to create the world's best public transportation system.

The biggest problem with Dubai is that it has a four-season climate: 1) Very Warm; 2) Extremely Hot; 3) Absolutely Unbearable; and 4) Summer.

So Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Ruler of Dubai, paid for air-conditioned bus terminals, so one can wait for the bus in a 22 degree shelter.

Unfortunately, if you aren't standing outside in the heat, the buses won't stop. So, whenever we saw a bus coming, we all had to go out in the heat until we saw if it was our bus or not.

Now, Dubai has put monitors in many of the bus stops (and metro stations) that tell which bus will be next, so one can wait in the air conditioned shelter until the right bus comes.

And Dubai has a metro that makes what was once an expensive taxi journey a cheap and faster metro journey.

I have seen few places that go to such trouble to provide everyone great public transportation. Most places I've lived, the rulers figure the people who have to take public transportation are NOT the kind of people who contribute baksheesh to the Rulers, so public transportation is cheap, uncomfortable, and unreliable.

But in Dubai, public transport is air conditioned and comfortable.

Farook said, 'Don't give the sheikh any credit. You have to pay every time you use a bus or the metro.'

But most places don't provide such good public transportation as Dubai, the Rulers put the money in their own pockets, or divert money to the pockets of the kinds of people who can pay big baksheesh. Or wage senseless wars.

But Dubai tries to take care of the people who have to use public transport.

And I greatly appreciate that, even if Farook doesn't.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Belated Eid Mubarak

Growing up in Christendom, I knew some Christians who went to church regularly, but didn't really know much about Christianity. Now that I'm in Dar al Islam, I find some Muslims don't seem to know Islam very well.

Islam follows a lunar calendar. The lunar month is approximately 29½ days, so, every Islamic month (and the months may be a few days different in different countries) the Moonsighting Committees must go out just before sunset on the 29th day of their Islamic month and look for the new crescent moon right after sunset. If they see it, then it's the first of the next month; if they don't, it's the 30th of the same month (days in Islam start at sunset), and it's the first of the next month the following sunset. So every Islamic month must have 29 or 30 days.

But I've heard Muslims say the new month starts whenever the Moonsighting Committee sees the moon, so the month could be as short as 25 days or as long as 35, which is wrong. Mostly.

This year, the Eid Holiday for government workers started on the 29th of Ramadan. Then, on the 28th of Ramadan, someone said, 'I saw the moon. It's Eid,' which would have meant a 28 day Ramadan. Farook called and said, 'Eid Mubarak. It's Eid. Fasting is over and we go to say the Eid prayers tomorrow morning.'

Of course, the Islamic scholars said that Ramadan must have at least 29 days, so the reports of seeing the moon on the 28th were wrong.

I was talking about this, and how the Moonsighting Committee can only go out on the evening of the 29th of the month, when someone told me, 'Not always.'

It was more than 30 years ago. I have no idea why, but someone with great influence (in Arabic, wasta) wanted Ramadan to start. It was only the 27th or 28th of the month before Ramadan, but wasta can sometimes trump normal rules.

The Islamic scholars had to say that it was NOT the 27th or 28th, but the 29th of the month, because the Moonsighting Committee had incorrectly failed to see the moon for one or two months, and they'd had to go out and they'd seen the moon. So the next day would be Ramadan, and everyone would have to fast. Restaurants must not open.

Of course, no one thought the Moonsighting Committee could go out that night, so no one was ready for Ramadan to start, and the police drove all over, sirens waking everyone up at 2 am, and megaphones announcing that it was Ramadan and everyone must have the early meal called sohour that takes place about 2½ hours before sunrise.

So, in fact, Ramadan can start somewhat randomly if the King insists and the Islamic scholars all agree. But that hasn't happened for more than 30 years.

And Ramadan must last at least 29 days, so there is no way Eid can come early.

But many Muslims believed that this Ramadan was only going to have 28 days, and that the scholars could declare Eid anytime they wanted to. Which they can't.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Ramadan is almost over

Wednesday, 7th August, is the 29th of Ramadan, so the moonsighting committee must go out and look for the new crescent moon.

During the previous Islamic month, I got several calendars saying that, on the 29th of Shaaban, the moonsighting committee would definitely see the hilal, and Ramadan would start on the 9th of July. Then the Sharjah Astronomical Observatory announced that the moon could not be seen on the 8th of July, or on the 7th of August. The moonsighting committee usually announces its findings by 9 pm, but on the 8th of July the committee did not announce its results until almost midnight, when they said the hilal had NOT been seen. The next day, new and improved Ramadan calendars appeared, with Ramadan starting on the 10th of July and ending at sunset on Thursday, the 8th of August, with Eid on Friday the 9th of August.

Farook says we must wait for the Moonsighting committee tomorrow night before we know when Eid will be. I've been told that they will definitely see the hilal, and that they will definitely not see the hilal.

But we'll know tomorrow.

And Muslims must have paid their Zakat before they can make their Eid prayers. So many are rushing to pay their Zakat now.

(Farook has taken me to many Ramadan tents where I've gotten fed iftar and sohour, paid for with Zakat money. Muslims are extremely generous during Ramadan.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ramdan Mubarak, 1434

Ramadan started in Dubai on Wednesday, 10 July 2013.

The two most common greetings are 'Ramadan Mubarak' and 'Ramadan Kareem'.

'mubarak' means blessed, and 'kareem' means generous.

A reasonable English translation of 'Ramadan Mubarak' would be, 'Have a Blessed Ramadan,' and a reasonable English translation of 'Ramadan Kareem' might be 'Have a Generous Ramadan.'

Ramadan is a time for more than the usual Islamic generosity. Muslims tend to be very hospitable and generous all year long, but Ramadan is a time when devout Muslims refrain from putting anything in their mouths from 90 minutes before sunrise until sunset, so the usual offers of tea when one visits during the day are suspended for the month of Ramadan. But Muslims must give their annual charity, called Zakat, before they can make the end of Ramadan prayers, so they are all looking for appropriate places to donate.

Dubai has a programme called 'Dubai Cares' which aims to end child hunger throughout the entire world, and they are asking everyone to donate generously. The phrase is 'End Poverty. Educate NOW.'

As far as I know, the overhead of Dubai Cares is minimal: all donations will go to the cause of ending childhood poverty.

So I wish everyone who reads this a Ramadan Mubarak and a Ramdan Kareem.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Almost Ramadan

Several people told me there is no way to figure out when Ramadan will be observed, there's a committee that can declare the start of Ramadan whenever they want. This is at least 97% wrong.

In Dubai, today is Saturday, 6 July. Of course, it will be 6 July all over the world after one passes the midnight that marks the end of 5 July.

In Dubai, today is the 27th of the Islamic month of Shaaban. On the  29thof Shaaban, meaning around sunset on Monday, 8 July, a UAE Moonsighting Committee will go out. Farook tells me someone always says, 'I see the crescent moon!!!' And the chairman of the committee will either say, 'Thank you, my son,' or 'I'm sorry, you're mistaken, my son.'

If the chairman accepts the sighting of the tiny waxing crescent, Tuesday, 9 July, will be the 1st of Ramadan. If the chairman does not accept the sighting, then Tuesday, 9 July, will be the 30th of Shaaban, and Wednesday, 10 July, will be the 1st of Ramadan

So this year, Ramadan will start in Dubai either Tuesday or Wednesday. The committee can't declare that Ramadan starts in the UAE before Tuesday or after Wednesday.

Elsewhere, however, the committee might have seen the crescent for the start of Shabaan a day or two earlier or later than the UAE committee, so today might be the 26th of Shaaban or the 28th of Shaaban in other countries, and their moonsighting committee will go out a day later or a day earlier than the moonsighting committee in the UAE, and so Ramadan might start as much as two days earlier or later than in Dubai in other parts of the Islamic world. Which makes it seem like Ramadan could start almost anytime.

But, for any given Islamic community, it can only start on one of two days.