The Pros…

Things I will miss about Dubai:

1.  The weather in late Autumn and early Spring.  This cannot be beaten.

2.  The swimming pool on the roof of my apartment block.  I doubt I’ll have one of these in Sakhalin.  Maybe a skating rink, but not a swimming pool.

3.  Multi-screen cinemas.

4.  The shopping malls.  Normally avoided, I will surely miss being able to buy all manner of clothes, household goods, and electronics all under one roof.  The first time I need a new pair of jeans, I know I’ll be wishing the Bur Jamman Centre had a branch in Yuzhno.

5.  Driving about in a Mercedes coupe.

6.  Clean streets.  I know they are covered in litter and sand, but at least it’s dry dirt.  Your car doesn’t get covered in sludge, and your shoes don’t need a polish every day.

7.  Being able to nip out to the grocery store without changing clothes or putting on a jacket.

8.  The abundance of electrical and computer shops, and the prices at which they sell stuff.

9.  The Viceroy bar in the Four Point Sheraton hotel, and one or two other bars and restaurants.

10.  Seing the sun shine every day without fail.

11.  The Fillipino band in the Sea View hotel.

12.  Cans of Pepsi for 1 Dirham.

13.  Proximity to a major airport served by a pretty decent airline, and a superb geographic location for travelling.

14.  Scuba diving.  Although I’ve heard you can do this in Sakhalin, if you bring a pickaxe with you.

15.  Watching live Premiership football immediately after work on a Saturday and Sunday.

16.  MBC2.  I know they show a lot of crap, but I’m going to miss it.  I really liked how they had no watershed for showing 18-rated films.  You could wake up on a Friday morning and find yourself watching an uncut Platoon.

17.  The general benevolance, or laziness, of the police.  They leave you alone, which is good.  I’m going to yearn for this after a year in Russia.

18.  Dirt cheap petrol.

19.  Seeing Dubai’s megaprojects completed.  I know half of them won’t be, and the other half will be white elephants, but I’d still liked to have seen the Burj Dubai and The Palm finished.

20.  The guarantee of doing next to bugger-all at work in the three months of summer and a month of Ramadan.


Modern Battlefield Protocol: Stay, Observe, Die

This battle that is raging in Lebanon is at times taking on the appearance of a parody of warfare.  Take for example the bombing of the UN outpost, as reported by the BBC:

UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon contacted Israeli troops 10 times before an Israeli bomb killed four of them, an initial UN report says.

The UN report says each time the UN contacted Israeli forces, they were assured the firing would stop.

This could have been lifted straight from the pages of Catch-22.  Here we have an all-out war between a well equipped and agressive army and a well armed and ruthless militia, and in the middle we have what their commanders are laughably calling peacekeepers making observations.

When in the history of warfare has any neutral bystander deliberately stayed put in no-man’s land when two armies clash in a pitched battle, much less for the purposes of keeping the peace some 12 days after hostilities began?  Of all the numerous examples of battlefield idiocy that history keeps for us, this must surely rank up there with the practice of marching slowly in a straight line towards massed cannon.

And when did it become acceptable practice for a neutral observer to telephone one of the battlefield commanders and ask him to cease fire?  The Israeli commander who took the request must have thought his UN interlocutor had taken leave of his senses.  Can you imagine Wellington at Waterloo receiving a note asking him to lay off the Frenchies for a while because some dickheads in the middle were getting hit with grapeshot?  I mean, take this for example:

A senior Irish soldier working for the UN forces had warned the Israelis six times that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff, Ireland’s foreign ministry said.

It’s no wonder the Irish practice strict neutrality if that’s the kind of soldier they are putting into the field.  Does he not realise that by keeping his staff in situ during a bombardment he is endangering their lives?  Any soldier worth his salt who is not involved in the battle would have high-tailed it out of there after seeing his first request go unheeded by the Israelis, and this chap should have done the same.  But he kept them there even though he had asked no less than six times and each time his plea had been ignored!  Did our hero not get an inkling after the second or third request that the bombardment was going to continue and he really should get his men the fuck out of there?

Jeez, it’s no wonder foreigners’ armies send their best to Sandhurst for training.  If standing around in the middle of a battlefield waiting to get hit is now considered sensible military practice, I’m mighty glad I’m not a conscript in their army.


Vanity Fair and Agent Orange

The Norm links to a distressing article in Vanity Fair which describes the horrific effects of Agent Orange on the population and subsequent generations of the areas in Vietnam on which it was dropped.  Norm chooses to excerpt the following sentences:

This was not a dreadful accident, or a tragedy. It was inflicted, on purpose, by sophisticated human beings.

Now I’ve read the piece, and I have repeatedly read the passage from which the above is extracted, and it is clear that it refers to the effects of Agent Orange, i.e. the horrific mutations described in the passage were inflicted on purpose.  This being the case, the statement itself is preposterous.

Agent Orange was created specifically as a defoliant, as the article itself states, and there is very little doubt that Agent Orange has proven to be the cause of terrible mutations amongst the population in Vietnam.  But there is no evidence whatsoever that the dropping of Agent Orange was intended to achieve anything other than its purpose as a defoliant, and there is also no evidence whatsoever that the US military or the Agent’s creators knew at the time that this product would have these terrible side effects.

It is a perfectly reasonable case to make that the US military was criminally negligent in not researching the side effects of Agent Orange before it was dropped onto the Vietnamese population, and it is equally reasonable to demand that the US military takes responsibility for the suffering it has caused.  But it is most certainly not reasonable to state that the mutations and health problems now being experienced in Vietnam were inflicted on the populace on purpose.  This statement is nothing short of historical revisionism.



My life is changing rapidly.

Last night my girlfriend Yulia and I got engaged.  The smart money was on a throw-back, but the promise of a glamorous lifestyle in Sakhalin won her over.  Now all I have to do is buy a ring, but I’m fast running out of kidneys.

Tim & Yulia

Seriously, I couldn’t be happier.


Ring purchased, now scouring eBay for dialysis machines.


A Change of Scenery

Ah! Dubai.  The Jewel of the Desert, Pearl of the Middle East.  With its rich culture, exotic beaches, authentic cuisine, world class hotels and restaurants, friendly locals, and luxurious lifestyle for all, Dubai is truly heaven on earth.  Witness those who pay thousands to come from the slums of Europe to taste the nectar of this desert flower for a short week, and the place speaks for itself.  And with a dozen exciting new projects under construction and a further dozen on the planning charts, life in the city can only get more idyllic.  Who could want more?

Well, me for one.  I’ve had enough.  I’ve handed in my notice, and after 6 weeks or so I will be moving to that other well known holiday paradise, Sakhalin Island.  Here’s a description of its climate:

Owing to the influence of the raw, foggy Sea of Okhotsk, the climate is very cold. At Dui the average yearly temperature is only 0.5 °C (January -15.9 °C; July 16.1 °C), 1.7 °C at Kusunai and 3.1 °C at Aniva (January, −12.5 °C; July, 15.7 °C). At Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky near Dui the annual range is from 27 °C in July to −39 °C in January, while at Rykovsk in the interior the minimum is −45 °C. The rainfall averages 570 mm. Thick clouds for the most part shut out the sun; while the cold current from the Sea of Okhotsk, aided by north-east winds, brings immense ice-floes to the east coast in summer.

All the snow you can eat, and all the seals you can club.  Now that’s what I call expat living.


Small Arms in Africa

There is a great passage regarding the world arms trade posted by The Remittance Man in a comment over at Tim Worstall’s:

[W]eapons manufactured by the companies that Mrs Robinson obviously regards as the most evil perpetrators of the trade, Colt, Smith and Wesson, Remington, Fabrique Nationale, heckler and Koch, and so on, are relatively uncommon in Africa. The weapons most often seen bear the brand names Kalashnikov and Tokarev and were delivered to the continent in the spirit of fraternal good fellowship in their tens of millions by the regimes of Russia, Cuba and the People’s Republic of China. Strangely, these regimes do not believe in free trade, prefering simple state to state or state to client transactions.

Which is one of the points I made here, and I feel is important enough to make again and again:

You generally don’t see US-made rifles, mortars, and landmines scattered willy-nilly around warring African tribes. What you do see is Russian made rifles, mortars, and landmines scattered amongst anyone anywhere who is willing to have a fight, and right behind them you see the Chinese knock-offs of the same. 


It is the Russian and Chinese weaponery that is has caused and is still causing the deaths of tens of millions of people the world over, not the US high-tech kit. Yet oddly, Russia and China are seldom vilified by the peace activists and do-gooders in the West for flogging millions of rifles and grenades to anyone who wants them, whilst at the same time protesting voiciforously when the US or Britain sells an air traffic control system to Tanzania or India. Were they to actually take into account which weapons were actually causing the mountain of misery in places like Sudan and Sierra Leone, they’d be surprised to see that it is Russian and Chinese kit doing the killing.

This is a pet topic of mine, and I am not going to let it go any time soon.


Back in Dubai

Everything went according to plan, but I never got the chance to post anything from St. Petersburg.  I’ve got a lot to write about, and I’ll try to get it posted as soon as possible.

However, there are major changes afoot and I have a lot of other stuff to take care of, so it may take a while.  Please be patient, it will appear at some point.


Canoeing on the River Wye

I am currently staying with a friend in Hereford in the heart of the English countryside, and the weather could not be better.  Even at 9:00am the sun is noticeably warm and it stays like that until late evening, with it finally going dark around 10pm.  We have spent more than a few hours outside drinking wine and eating barbecue.

Yesterday we decided to go for a canoe trip along the river Wye.

River Wye

It was excellent fun.  There were two couples in a canoe each, plus a chap on his own in a kayak.  Occasionally the canoes would ground and the male of each canoe would chivalrously clamber out and push the damsel in distress to deeper waters.  On the first occasion I did this, I ended up in water up to my armpits, wearing clothes which were not exactly made for swimming (the decision to go canoeing was made after leaving the house). It was supposed to be a lesuirely paddle downriver, but we had only an hour and a half to cover the 5 miles to the end point, marked by a pub, and catch the England v Portugal match.  After much frantic paddling and a several amusing drenchings, we made it to the pub some fifteen minutes into the game and stood dripping all over the floor to watch it.  Having done so, I wish I’d taken the river more slowly.

We are travelling back to London this afternoon, and then tomorrow we will be leaving for St. Petersburg.  If all goes to plan, my next post should be from Russia.