Inflation: Down, Reserves: Up

27 04 2009

Oman has lots ‘o’ money. Which is good, ‘coz inflation drops. And it did (bottom half). As for the budget surplus, I really can’t tell what to do with it. Medical services is one field that comes to mind. I’m still being harangued by these private medical clinics whose interest lies more in the bottom line rather than sick people. I really do think that education (specially higher and professional education), medical services and emergency/civil services are very much no-go areas for private companies. NO, at all costs. Since in these areas the quality of service provided HAS to be dependant on nothing, not something as stupid as the bottom line, comparatively. A person’s knowledge level/mental treatment, physical treatment and saving lives has no value. Private entities are going to squeeze you for it. Who can easily stop using a medicine or forego the fire brigade just ‘coz he/she can’t pay for it?

Anyhooo, we have a surplus. Maybe we can get a govt-run hospital where expats are allowed? Allowed peace of mind?

This should be apicture of a newspaper clipping!

This should be a picture of a newspaper clipping! http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/09/04/13/10303653.html

Menafn reports that Oman’s inflation index has decreased from 9.4% to 7.9%. They say this is due to lower prices of crops, fuel and other thingies. The break down of the General Index is interesting:

Jan 2008: 9.4%  v/s  Feb 2009: 7.9%

Jan 2009: 8.1%  v/s  Feb 2009: 7.9%

Foodstuff, soft drinks & tobacco:  -1.7%

Crops & Products to:  -2.1%

Meat & Poultry:  -1.5%

Oil & Fats:  -2%

Fisheries:  -5.3%

Milk & Products:  -2.7%

Transport & Communications Group:  -0.1%

Personal commodities & other service:  +4.9%

Textile, readymade garments, shoes, medical services & education services: +-0%

House leasing, electricity, water and fuel:  +0.2%

Furniture & Households:  +0.4%

Recreational & Cultural services:  +0.2%

Go Fish!

-TFK





Omani Blogger Trial – Released

25 04 2009

Ali al-Zuwaidy has been released. Gulf News managed to get a few words out of him:

“I have mixed feelings,” Ali told Gulf News later but pledged that he would continue Blogging albeit with some more restraint.

“The judge in his judgement did say about freedom of expression but also added that it must come with responsibility and authenticity,” Ali said, adding that henceforth he would be more guarded.

At the same time, he added, he would not hesitate to criticise.

Ali said that the trial period was tough and yesterday morning before the verdict, his blood pressure went up considerably. “I am relived now and have already posted an entry on Sablat,” he revealed.

He said that he was unlikely to appeal his conviction. On his acquittal, he said he was happy that the judge exonerated him. On possibility of Omantel or Dr Al Woahibi appealing against his acquittal in the first charge, he said that he doesn’t see that happening. “Dr Al Wohaibi is no longer the Omantel CEO and I think the matter has ended here,” he reckons.

He, however, wondered about the true identity of the Blogger Booz Allen, who posted the entry accusing and criticising the Omantel CEO. “I have feeling it was some insider and close to him and with excellent IT knowledge,” he believes. The authorities’ efforts to trace his IP address led them to Berlin as the Blogger had cleverly masked his IP.

“When the post was first blocked by me I was reminded of my belief in freedom of expression by the other Bloggers and I ran it,” he says about the post that put him in prison for 11 days and had to endure the trial period.

So much for listening to others. Carry on kiddo!

-TFK





Ultra-Secure Security

23 04 2009

ATMs are appearing a lot. This is good. Generally. But not when those bank people have to construct a structure just for the ATM. Why not incorporate it in a building? A standalone structure is fine where is is space and requirement and no adequate building nearby, e.g. Petrol stations. (However, even there, BM mananges to put them inside an available convenience store.)

The Khimji’s store in Wadi Kabir has one such eyesore sitting smack int he centre of the building facade. That ATM has, for security purposes, a surveillance camera pointed at the transactor. Here is how it looks like:
(sorry for the quality, it was quite dark there)

WK_KhimjiATM This thing is wrong on so many levels!

– The camera is pointed at the ATM. It sees the transactor and the transaction. Cameras are supposed to see the transactor only. Why can the bank people see my PIN number as I key it in? They already have access to my account #, personal details and other things. Only my PIN # was mine!

– Notice the wonderful security arrangements wherein the camera cable is exposed! Anyone can approach from the camera’s blind side and snippity snip. Tamper away!

– The physical placement of this ATM room is atrocious.

– Are so many lights really needed on an ATM machine?

– TFK

-TFK





Omani Blogger Trial – Verdict

23 04 2009

We have a verdict. As expected, no news in the local papers. As expected, the international media knows more than we do. As kinda unexpected, websites are copying the same news article (1) (2) (3) (4)etc.

Anyway, the verdict gave us mixed results. On the two counts that he was indicted on, Ali was found Not Guilty of defamation in the allowing-the-anonymous-post case. It might not be easy peasy, but it is certainly not very impossible to get hold of the anonymous poster who posted that post (eh!). But I don’t think the effort and amount of work justifies the target. He was acquitted, right.

In the 2nd, kinda into the mix mixed case of the leaked Ministers Council memo, Ali was found Guilty, albeit it was Lightly Guilty since he was fined 200 R.O and 11 days in prison. And on top of that he was allowed to walk since he has already been in gaol for 11 days previous following his arrest.

Whilst the defamation case was brought on and tried because it was a legal case filed with the Public Prosecutor’s office, the memo case was not legally filed by anyone. Or maybe it was filed in a high-level phone call. And since the Omantel CEO has left office, maybe the case was allowed to fizzle out. But a statement needs to be made about leaking memos and tryna make things transparent! What were you thinking Ali??! I was of the impression that we competed with SA and Kuwait for media freedom, but after Muscati and a review of the stories their press publishes, I stand corrected. They even can give headlines like “Woman Beheaded for Killing Hubby“.

Not much of a Hubby if you not only kill, but behead him, eh!! *shudder*

Edit: There’s a comment thread going on at Muscati’s blog. My comment has ballooned so I’ll post it fully here.

Suburban says:Words fail to describe how dissapointed I am with the government, and the MOI in particular, with this case. I really thought we were different from Saudi, Egypt and China. I fear this is the thin end of the wedge.

I don’t think so. After all, we ‘are’ talking about Oman here right. Its not as if this was some landmark human rights case where the rights of ‘journalists’ was on the line. It was more of a strict scolding from Big Brother on the little one getting out of line. “Didn’t delete the post? Make that a option next time. Leaked the memo? Bad Boy! 2 spanks on the butt”

While I’m not downplaying the importance all this holds, but you really can’t hinge rights, principles & laws on majorly (kinda) impromptu trials, sporadic trial sessions and vague ambiguous laws that are open to interpretation both ways. Obviously Big Brother is going to get the final say.

Of course, it would have been landmark & groundbreaking if we knew that no matter what Big Brother’s preferences, if the verdict based on facts was pointing against BB, it would be announced and the case decided as such.

Since I can’t go through the al-Shabiba article without crutches, moral support and a bottle of Tylenol, so I’ll just use Google Translated version here.

Before sentencing the judge said in a speech addressed to the presence of most of the writers and literary freedom of expression in the country, stressing that the laws that have been developed not to stifle freedom of expression, but to regulate [it].

Now, can someone tell me what regulation does to freely expressed speech? Stifles it? “Corrects it to be socially and morally acceptable”?

Alkiomip smile and have a lawyer at the Zweidi satisfaction of government as a victory for freedom of expression and said that this demonstrates the impartiality of the judiciary Oman.

The lawyer smiles Alkiomi that it expected the patent to the first charge and the second was expected with a conviction, noting that the judge did not disappoint them to defend it

The General of the Omani writers and literary in a statement issued yesterday that the rule of Oman through the elimination, and with full transparency, the high awareness on the Elimination of Oman and is based on the deepest understanding of the spirit of the law, and a genuine vision of the breadth of many of the texts.

Of course! Why not! Obviously!

-TFK





Our North Northerly Neighbours

20 04 2009

Iran. The bad boy to the Western hemisphere. The injured and wounded but resilient, emerging and on-the-cusp-of-power  nation to its people. The country that the world is wary of. Whilst Iran has no overt friends, Pakistan, Lebanon and Syria tend to display a soft corner. But not the Arab League. But then again, Oman was represented at the Head of State session by deputy Prime Minister Oman Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al-Said. Local coverage was also low-key.

Post-summit, diplomatic cross-linkings are going on. The Iranian FM visited us back in March. Lieutenant-General Malik bin Sulaiman Al Ma’amari, IG ROP visited Iran. The official statement noted the cooperation of both the countries in curbing illegal immigrancy.

Our ambassador in Iran then met the Iranian Deputy FM, groundwork was layed, followed up by the visit of our Minister for Foreign Affairs visiting Iran this week. He met the Iranian President and Iranian FM. Again, local papers are wary of covering this piece, instead Iranian and other news agencies are reporting on the same.

The ongoing Egyptian stand against the Hezbullah is something over the top for the region. Egypt’s miniscule, but far-reaching activities, like closing the border, allowing/disallowing refugees, prohibiting imprmput markets along its borders etc etc are like small squeezes and nuances in the diplomacy and internally (within Arab League) varied levels of support for the Palestinian cause. Iran, of course, retaliated.

Bu now we see SA being its usual self, aloof. Egypt tried to make a move, but currently nothing is coming out of it. Iran; I get a mental image of an Australian rugby player; continues on it’s path. Obama is reconciling and I think the American/Iranian journalist could be freed in a reciprocal manner being the Iranian reply to Obama’s green signals, that is, IF Iran wants to give a green signal. Oman, doing good in its own way in this matter. After all, with all due respect, our North Northerly Neighbours better than our Notherly ones.

-The Fark Knight





XXVI

19 04 2009

Happy Birthday to Me.

pic_12343280402075For some odd reason I feel melancholy. Birthdays (for me atleast) are a boisterous affair, with me actually calling up my friends and asking them what they are getting me! I even suggest things when there is a chance of a clash or a repetition of gifts.

Yesterday, at the stroke of 12, I got a Most Wonderful gift from dearest Wifey (or is it Honey? as opposed to Hubby). Made me realize how lucky I am, how lucky I shall be. Talking to her, enjoying the not-so-warm breeze that was blowing at around 2am-ish, I had an epiphany that I had all the tools and pieces to die a happy man. It is just a matter of arranging them so.

May God Bless all those who have a part, no matter how tiny in making me what I am.praying-girl

May God Bless all those who shall have a part in making me what I shall be. What shall not kill me will only make me stronger.

May God Bless my Parents.

May God have mercy on my ancestors.

My Wife Rocks! God Bless Her.

-TFK





Just Noticed…

16 04 2009

This is not new news, maybe a new review of an old news, but still not new, just something I noticed now. Better late than ever, eh.

This site has an article that is pretty pointed about the Doha Summit that took place recently. Whilst I shall not comment on the other things, this statement strikes me as pretty odd:

This year’s Arab League summit meeting, held in Doha, capital of Qatar, was intended to promote Inter-Arab reconciliation following Israel’s violent invasion of Gaza at the end of last year. A united front was also sought to take a stand against the spread of Shi’ism sponsored by Iran.

Huh?! A united front against spread of Shi’ism? Why? Is religious freedom wrong on an Arab level now? Or is it just that Shi’ites are a particularly nasty brand of  species? Searching for appropriate texts on the Doha Summit, I could not find any news that corroborates this statement. Of course, I could go and try and read through the transcript of the meeting, but not now.

Still, are such things still discussed at head of state level meetings? “Oil, Economy, Israel, and oh yeah, lets also do something about this 15% of the population”. Okay, our brotherly northerly neighbours have had an official stance against these people. Saddam also officially took offence. Persecution of Shi’ites is nothing new, but still.

*shaking head in wonder*

-TFK





Healthcare? What healthcare?

15 04 2009

It pisses me off. It really, royally pisses me off.

In the near past, I’ve had to spend some time in a hospital room. Mom had a bout of food     poisoning (probably) followed by weakness, resulting in dehydration, shooting of her blood-sugar level (darned diabetes), blood pressure and hospitalization. Called from work by a very flustered sister and being the nimbnomcoop that I am, I took Mum to the great Badr al-Sama’a in Ruwi.

Were sent to the emergency ward/room. The inital emergency saline drips were attached and  lots of blood extracted for tests. That is fine. Apparently.

After initial reports, the case is referred to Dr. S. He arrives, looks around for someone with her, spots me, confirms if I am with her, and in a very important voice proclaims “There is severe dehydration and weakness. Blood sugar is high, we shall try to control it. Also there are many ketones. We shall have to admit her for atleast 2 days”. I hmm & huh in the right places, say ok, confer with dad, consider our options and decide, ok, lets continue here itself. Mistake # 1.

Then comes up nurse # 1, hands me a slip of paper and vanishes. I stare at it, at the place where she was and then figure maybe I need to get Mum registered as a patient, after all, the “paperwork”! So I go to the reception, state the case, present our medical insurance cards, get a stare and get a :

“Where’s the patient?”

“In the Emergency Room”.

“Who are you?”

“Her son.”

“Whose medical card is this?”

“Hers”

“What is company name?”

“Xyzabc ltd”

She then proceeds to press 20 keys, the spacebar 5 times, looks around twice and asks 2 people something in her native language. Rest assured I don’t understand a word! She then calls the company, asks for a relevant person, gets Mum’s profile, rank/grade/file and get a confirmation of the medical coverage. After being satisfied *phew* she proceeds and processes us. What if it had been after-office hours? What if the relevant person had been unavailable?

“Show me Labor Card”

Okay. I show her mine.

“Is this the patient?”

“No, this is me!” *Duh*

“Want patient’s card”

“I have no idea where it is, at home, in her purse. I can find it and bring it later. You need it now?”

“Yes, now”

“We came in an emergency, kinda. Can’t it wait?”

“Now”

Luckily Mum had her purse alongwith her with her card innit. Another What If…?

Anyway, we get a room, transfer Mum, do the first round of settling in. Get a couple of close relatives to know what’s happening, get a few essentials from home, I volunteer to be the permanent attendant (I have never trusted the nursing staff, sorry). Then begins the ordeal.

We stayed there 3.75 days. I was there with Mum the whole time. In 24 hours, there are 3 different nurse shifts of 2 nurses each for the in-patients. The evening shift 5pm-1am has 3 to cope with visitors & extra load & all. Out of 7 professional nurses in an Arab country with multinational citizens in a medial clinic only “one” was kind enough to understand and speak “a bit of” English.When I asked for a spare blanket, I got a bedsheet. When I asked if there was some facility to re-heat eatables/any microwave ovens, it was something like a conversation between  2 deaf mutes, sorry, but seriously:

“Can we reheat this?”

“Huh?”

“Do you have some thing to heat this?”

“Huh?”

“Do you have a pantry? A kitchen?”

“No tea. Tea downstairs.”

“No, no, no. Do you have a microwave?”

*blank stare*

“Can I make this *pointing to dish* hot? For eat?”

“Ah! Hot!”

*enters the bathroom, opens the hot water tap*

“Ergh” *facepalm* “Forget it. Thanks”

In the end we got one of those electric hotplates.

And then there was Dr. S. He made his rounds twice a day. Only 2 rounds for an inpatient with an in-doctor (don’t ask me how I know, but he lives in the same building. 3 days in place teaches you lots.) Apparently more money is made treating out-patients. So he comes in at 9 am, when the patient is invariably asleep. But no problem, his 9 am can be as late as 11 am, no worries. He sees the blood/sugar reports, sugar/bp/medic log of the past 24 hours, the nurses and he converse in their local lingo (tamil/malaya/telgu no idea).  And then leaves. Only because I interrupt his Snape-like sweep of his coat to return, does he consider telling me something, “Blood sugar is high, we’re administering Insulin. These drips shall continue. We are giving medicines for blood pressure. Ketones are still there”. Another Snape-movement. “Doc. Till when do you expect to have her here? I need to fix things with her office and mine.” “I shall wait until stability is there.” And then Gone! Leaving me staring at the door open mouthed! (This was my 2nd encounter only. I was numb by the 8th time).

Being the way that I am, out comes the trusty P1i and Wikipedia and I search Ketones. Apparently they are something that forms when body nurtition is low. And, apparently, they are not much of a big deal. Whenever you skip a coupla meals, ketones appear. But whatever the doc says.

To cut a long story short, Mum came home. Alhamdulillah. The company footed a bill of 370-something rials. But atleast Mum was home. Albeit with 9 tablets to have per meal. For 3 days. After 3 days, the weakness is still there, blood sugar is still high, blood pressure is still high & now, her taste system is wrecked. Everything tastes ultra-salty. So we go back. Dr. S, in his infinite wisdom, increases the dosage.

“You were taking 2 tablets of Diamicron per day? Now take 2 in the morn & 2 at night!. Take 2 multivitamins.”

“For how many days?”

“30”

O_O

The same night, after the 2 multivitamins, some weird sort of swellings, alomst like insect-bites, on the whole of her arm. So at 3 am, we go back to the Great Badr alSamaa. The doc on duty, bored out of life, looks, sees the prescription of his colleague and tells the nurse to prepare a syringe with something. I dare to ask,

“Is this an allergic reaction?”

“Maybe”

“Maybe? Can it be something else also?”

“She has taken no medicine that can be allergic”

“Ah! So you’re injecting an anti-allergy?”

“Hmm.. yeah”

“Fine!”

But when repeated home-checkings of BP & blood-sugar show no improvement even on the double dosage, my non-spidey sense tingled. So did Dad’s. We took Mum to our almost-family doc, a very nice guy, his own clinic, inner Muttrah. We also take the Badr al-samaa file. He sees the list of medicines and then starts,

“This injection they billed you 8 rials. Its actual price is 300 bz”

“This injection they billed you 12 rials. Its actual price is 700 bz”

“This tablet they billed you 1 rial. Its actual price is 200 bz”

“This drip they billed you  1 rial. Its actual price is 150 bz”

“This anti-allergy he injected for 9 rials. Its actual price is 3 rials and that is because it is NOT an anti-allergy, it is a steriod”

!!!!

So this doc does his own tests, decreases the amount of tablets to be taken to 2 per day, enforces a strict diet regime (the previous one had allowed almost everything except obviously sweet things). He called Mum back everyday for 5 days for tests then is satisfied with her progress. Alhamdulilah, its been 2 weeks now, the sugar levels have dropped 50 points (but are kinda hovering around the 170 mark), Mum is back in her swing and is fast gaining on her nutritional levels.

And this latter doc, he charges us 7 rials only & 1 rial for every subsequent test.

GOD I am so anti-Badr al Samaa. Atleast make mindless profits but don’t be lax about our healths. Especially since we, being expats, cannot go to proper hospitals and have to stick to clinics.

Pray for us all.

-The Fark Knight





Paradoxes & Dead Boys

14 04 2009

I remember reading this once upon a time while going through an excellent book dealing with paradoxes, the problem of time travel and Bertrand Russel (he evokes the phrase “What a mind job!”). Anyway, I was thinking that I needed an Easter post & then remembered the time when I was amongst people who would celebrate. And then went back to my weird, nice and most of all memorable times when I actually read something, understood it and it remained inside that top floor of mine.

Coming back, a paradoxical poem about 2 dead boys went something like:

One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
(The blind man went to see fair play;
the mute man went to shout “hooray!”)
Back-to-back they faced each other,
Drew their swords, and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
Came and killed those two dead boys.
If you don’t believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man, because he saw it too
.

Me likey! 🙂 But then I started searching aroun & discovered that there is a backstory to this too alongwith a epilogue!!

The famous speaker who no one had heard of said:
Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
cross-eyed mosquitos and bow-legged ants,
I stand before you and sit behind you
to tell you something I know nothing about.
Next Thursday, which is Good Friday,
there’s a Mother’s Day meeting for fathers only;
wear your best clothes if you haven’t any.
Please come if you can’t; if you can, stay at home.
Admission is free, pay at the door;
pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
It makes no difference where you sit,
the man in the gallery’s sure to spit.
The show is over, but before you go,
let me tell you a story I don’t really know.

One bright day in the middle of the night…

And the epilogue is:

A paralysed donkey passing by
kicked the blind man in the eye;
knocked him through a nine-inch wall,
into a dry ditch and drowned them all.
If you don’t believe this lie is true,
ask the blind man; he saw it too,
through a knothole in a wooden brick wall.
And the man with no legs walked away from it all.

-(not) The Fark Knight





Dubai Bashing – Media Roundup

14 04 2009

Many interesting things going on in the latest round of Dubai Bashing (which is fast becoming a copyright-able term). I have had my rant on it, here I’ll just be a nice person and post some links.

Huffington Post: Ultra-bash – Mr. Hari

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi: Response to above

Johann Hari: Response to the response above

Meanwhile,

‘nother bash

Dubai hires PR group to revive image

PR Group at work apparently (or maybe this is the norm)

Dubai: Investors are positive!

Dubai: Economy stability moves working!

and I am the king of Bohemia!

Meanwhile, check what I found at the Earth Observatory Site.

-The Fark Knight