Showing posts from April, 2010

The Joy of Delay

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be stuck in Doha airport for a couple of hours. This had nothing to do with any Icelandic volcano and everything to do with a delayed FlyDubai take off in Dubai. I'd turned up at 2:30 pm to meet someone off a plane, only to learn from the arrivals board that it had still not taken off. Now before anyone tells me that following a week of total air chaos with thousands stranded for days, I shouldn't be complaining about a mere two hours, let me re-emphasise: I'm not complaining. I had a great time. In fact, I'm seriously considering adding the occasional hour in Arrivals to my routine, say once every couple of months. Because, from a vantage point close to the sliding doors, you are treated to a constant sucession of joyous reunions. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, friends and lovers. Waiters greeting the awaited. Eager anticipation exploding in a climax of smiles, handshakes, hugs and kisses. Even tears, but so unlike t

Visas, Volcanoes and Rubber Stamps

Bad news: thanks to Qatar's new visa regulations, from 1st May, visit visas will no longer be issued on entry at the airport. Good news: my client agrees to obtain for me a multiple entry business visa for the remainder of my contract. Bad news: in order to do this, he needs my 'original certificate', stamped by the British Embassy. Worse news: my 36 year-old (!) graduation certificate is in the UK. Good news: they will refund my flight home to get it, then issue the multiple entry visa when I bring it back. Bad news: if I go back to get it, I can't bring it back without the entry visa - catch 22. Besides which, I'm in no rush to be among the first to test the volcanic ash. I'll let you know how it all pans out. Meanwhile, I'll keep trying to understand why a graduation certificate awarded in 1974 to my distant young hippy namesake is worth several lost days and seven thousand miles of superfluous carbon footprint. Because that's beyond my grasp ri

Any colour you like, but no looking...

Fei was telling us why she always wears black: - In China go see man. Man tell me my good colours.  Ah, so he looks at your hair colour, your skin tones, eye colour, and suggests what would suit you best? -No, man no look. Man take hand, touch hand with fingers. Understand lucky colours. For me, black, grey, blue, lucky. Black number one lucky.  So, he reads your palm, by touch, to pick your lucky colours? -Yes. But maybe he looks at your face first? -No. Man no look. Eyes no working. No can see. Your country no have?  Blind colour consultants? No, there's not much demand for them over here. Though sometimes I wonder.

More about the Salt

To answer my own question , the salt ends up back where it came from, in the Gulf. There are a few technologies available for desalination, but the one used in the Gulf, where energy is cheap, is basically a distillation process: the seawater is heated to produce steam, which is then condensed to produce water. That's an oversimplification of a highly technical industrial process of course, but the principle holds good. The problem (ask your local bootlegger) with any distillation process is one of diminishing returns in efficiency when you try to recover too much of the solvent (in this case, water). Above a certain concentration, the game's a bogey. This means that the byproduct isn't crystalline salt, but strongly saline seawater. Returning this to the sea is not without problems. The long term effect is a gradual increase in the salinity of the Gulf as a whole. The shorter term and more obvious effect is localised damage to the ecosystem through greatly increased salini

Do you want salt with that?

The question came up when I was talking to the guy who drives trucks from Spain to Doha, carrying cables, then sells the trucks locally before flying home. Normally, long distance truckers might expect to carry a different load on the return leg, but not from Doha, where nothing is manufactured. On the other hand, they do need a lot of trucks for the construction projects, so it makes sense. But is it true that Qatar manufactures nothing? The huge desalination plants must produce a lot more salt than can be used domestically, so where does it go? Surely not back into the sea? It takes a shed load of energy to desalinate seawater, so it doesn't make sense to think of the salt as a mere byproduct. Maybe someone in the know can enlighten me - exactly what does happen to all that salt? I could read up about desalination of course, but it's far more fun just to wonder for a while.

Anyone been to Singapore lately?

I ask because, out of the blue, I might have the opportunity to draw stumps, up sticks and/or break camp (the choice is yours) quite a bit earlier than expected, for a relocation to Singapore. Apart from a two-day trip to Malaysia, I've never been in that part of the World, so I'm collecting impressions from people who have, as inputs to the great Paraglider Decision Process. What do you reckon: after Dubai, after Doha, would Singapore appeal to one of my predispositions, attitudes, tastes, garrulity, etc? Answers most welcome, on a post card, or preferably the comments box, especially if based on first hand experience.