My Year

In 2005 I have:

1. Made six trips to Qatar.

2. Been on a desert safari.

Desert Safari

3. Met Tim Blair and Andy Young.

4. Taken in the sights of The Hague.

The Hague

5. Travelled non-stop overland from London to Crimea, holidayed in Yalta, and been impressed by the scenery.




6. Been Best Man at my best friend’s wedding.

7. Changed my blog.

8. Met a beautiful girl from St. Petersburg, who has become a large part of my life.


9. Gawped at St. Basil’s cathedral in Moscow, not for the first time.


10. Stood on the galleria of St. Isaac’s cathedral in St. Petersburg, and marvelled at the Winter Palace.

St. Isaac's

Winter Palace

11. Enjoyed a week’s holiday in excellent company in Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan.


12. Stood on the bank of the Volga river.


13. Spent a month in Korea.


14. Amassed 41,042 airmiles with Emirates Airlines.

15. Grappled with the grammar of the Russian language, with mixed results.

16. Had my job title changed 3 times, my salary once.

In comparison, 2004 looked like this.


Dancer Sought

Hunt on for dancer.

[Kuwaiti] police have intensified their efforts to arrest the minor girl whose picture has been circulated among cell phone users with the Bluetooth technology, reports Al-Anba daily. The girl who speaks with an Iraqi accent is seen wearing a military uniform and dancing in front of three men and consuming alcohol with them. The clip first surfaced three weeks ago, says the daily. Sources say this is the third incident of its kind. An unidentified person called Al-Anba daily to say the clip was filmed in an apartment in Dubai, another said it was filmed in Salmiya and yet another gave the location as Hawalli. One of the callers also said the girl is Iraqi and was in the country on a visit visa.

Salmiya? Dubai? I swear this is nothing to do with me. I was in Korea. I have icicles to prove it.

(via Tim Blair)


Goodbye to Seoul

Well, my time in Seoul is almost at an end, and I should be on the half-past midnight flight back to Dubai this evening.

It has been hard work, long hours, and damned cold. It has snowed twice this week, and temperatures were down to minus 12 at one point. I haven’t spent enough time here to comment on Koreans as a people, but I will say that with the exception of a few individuals, the ones I had to work with were very hospitable, courteous, hard working, and friendly. Seoul is not a place I would recommend for a holiday, but as a place to come for a month’s work it is not at all bad. I can imagine in summer it would be quite pleasant.

My enduring memory of the trip will be the occasion when someone in the Korean engineering company had the bright idea to take their devout Muslim clients to a musical in the Sheraton hotel which featured two dozen topless women. Never have I seen a group of Kuwaitis evacuate a theatre so quickly. By comparison, this Brit, the Koreans, and the Venezuelan stayed drinking wine and chomping pork until the show had finished, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.


Images of Seoul

Old and New

Don’t ask.

Who knows?
Who knows what lies within?

Insadong street gets lively on a weekend.

Starbucks are everywhere in Seoul. This one is unusual in that the signage is in the local language.




Guilty until proven innocent

The shocking findings of the Council of Europe rapporteur that the CIA abducted people in Europe and transferred them to other countries for torture is not news for many people. However, this is the first time that such a high level authority has confirmed it.

reports today’s Gulf News. Well, it might be of news to the rapporteur himself, Dick Marty, who according to his latest statement has confirmed no such thing:

From a general point of view, the rapporteur underlined that the information gathered to date reinforced the credibility of the allegations concerning the transfer and temporary detention of individuals, without any judicial involvement, in European countries.

Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards. It had to be noted that the allegations had never been formally denied by the United States.

So, allegations are made and seem to be credible, but are still under investigation. The US has remained silent, as indeed as every EU member state. Somewhat different from a confirmation of US culpability. One would have hoped a national newspaper would be able to differentiate between an onging investigation and a guilty verdict.


Hollywood ignored, not forgotten

Perhaps the US has conveniently forgotten the grave dangers of global warming depicted by reputed film directors of its own province …

writes a Mr G. Cecil in today’s Gulf News. Of course, Hollywood productions are an excellent basis for governmental policy. Shame on the US for not doing more to prevent environmental catastophies, alien invasions, giant lizards, meteor impacts, rogue gorillas, and super intelligent robots from threatening the world. How can Bush be so stupid?


Taking the Pisch

So, Russia and Germany agree on a $5bn project to supply natural gas:

Officials including Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov presided over the ceremonial welding of the first section of pipe at Babayevo in Russia’s Vologda region, where the Baltic link will diverge from an existing trunk pipeline and head for the coast.

Gazprom has teamed up with Germany’s E.on and Wintershall, part of BASF, to build the pipeline and is looking for a potential fourth partner, although it will retain a controlling stake of 51% in the project.

The onshore section of the pipeline will run 917 kilometres to the port of Vyborg, close to Russia’s second city of St Petersburg. The 1200 kilometre subsea link will terminate at Greifswald in Germany.

Gerhard Schroeder, Chancellor of Germany up until about three weeks ago, was looking as though he was out of a job. Not so. As Lyndon at Scraps of Moscow reports, it looks as though he has found himself another job:

Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, is to be a director of a Russian-German pipeline consortium controlled by Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled gas group said on Friday.

If true, this stinks to high heaven. Unsurprisingly, the European press has raised barely a murmur over this. Can you imagine the noise that would be made if the US signed an historic deal to export Alaskan crude to China, and George W. Bush took the reigns of the pipeline consortium weeks after leaving office?


UK Fuel Depot Explosions

Reports have been coming in about an enormous explosion at a fuel depot in Hemel Hempstead, north of London:

Three large explosions have rocked a fuel depot near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire shooting flames hundreds of feet into the sky.

The Buncefield depot is a major distribution terminal operated by Total and part-owned by Texaco, storing oil, petrol and well as kerosene which supplies Luton airport.

Being a risk engineer in the oil and gas business and all that, here’s my take on it: the root cause is a human error (most probably someone not following procedures) made during a non-routine operation (most probably maintenance). In short, somebody did something he was not supposed to when trying to fix something. Let’s see if I’m right.