Archive for August, 2010

Telegraph Island on Warehouse 13!

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

So, being a busy summer and all, I’m a bit behind on some of my television shows. Yesterday I caught up on a few of the recent episodes of ScyFy’s Warehouse 13. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s like The X-Files, but instead of aliens and conspiracies these government agents track down historic “artifacts” that have supernatural powers and lock them up in, well, Warehouse 13.

Some of the artifacts so far include: Lewis Carroll’s mirror, Ben Franklin’s lightning rod, Sylvia Plath’s typewriter, Edgar Allan Poe’s quill pen, Harriet Tubman’s thimble, Timothy Leary’s glasses and the Studio 54 disco ball. As you can imagine it’s a combination of the historic, the nerdy and the, well, goofy.

I’m not really selling it, am I?

It was created by Jane Espenson, who worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and wrote episodes of Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, and, oddly, the third ever episode of The O.C.

It’s good. Well, good for ScyFy.

Anyway, one of the episodes from about three weeks ago was called “Around the Bend”. In it the goofy guy agent (why is the guy agent always goofy and the female always by-the-book?) goes a little crazy and starts imagining conspiracies and betrayals among the Warehouse 13 crew.

The artifact that caused this?

The telegraph from Telegraph Island!

Pete playing with the telegraph from Telegraph Island

Pete gone crazy because of the telegraph from Telegraph Island

Pete almost shooting his coworkers because of the telegraph from Telegraph Island

You might remember Telegraph Island from our days in Dubai, twice we drove up to the Musandam peninsula to Khasab, Oman (see Khasab and Khasab 08).

The Musandam peninsula

Remember, we took the dhow boat cruises along the fjords and went snorkeling?

Closer on the peninsula. Note the fjords.

Well smack dab in the middle of the fjords is Jazirat al Maqlab -Telegraph Island. It’s a rock, really, about the size of a football field where in the 1860s the British built a submarine telegraph cable through the Persian Gulf to India. Apparently the construction crew found the locals hostile, so they built the station on an island for ease of defense.

Telegraph Island

Oddly, Telegraph Island doesn't even make the map on Google

I’m not really sure what happened next, either a mainland cable route opened, or some other alternative appeared, but the British abandoned Jazirat al Maqlab shortly thereafter. I think they were there all of five years.

Today all that’s left are stairs down to a dock and some squared off rocks.

Well, that, and a phrase.

Apparently the expression “around the bend” was coined because of the number of British troops who went crazy taking the cable around the bend in the Gulf, i.e. the Strait of Hormuz.

I’m amazed that Warehouse 13 referenced it. It’s quite the esoteric joke. Not even a half-percenter, I mean, how many people in the world have been to Telegraph Island?

I certainly, have been around that bend.

Dubai, Global City

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Looks like Dubai is number 27 on The Global Cities Index for 2010 from Foreign Policy, A.T. Kearney, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Here are the top ten:

1 New York
2 London
3 Tokyo
4 Paris
5 Hong Kong
6 Chicago
7 Los Angeles
8 Singapore
9 Sydney
10 Seoul

Boston is number 19.

2011 Jetta

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Ooh, the Orlando Sentinel has a glowing review of the new Volkswagen Jetta: “All-new VW Jetta bigger, prettier, cheaper.”

While I really don’t care if it’s any bigger, I am a fan of cheaper. I also like the front grill is back to normal.

The color ain’t bad, either …

More on the Cordoba House

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

If the debate over the proposed Muslim community center in NYC were actually a discussion, we’d probably see more articles like this one from the Christian Science Monitor: “Sex shop and strip clubs near ground zero show double standard over Park51.”

Key quote:

… the Muslim community center would not be a blight on the neighborhood surrounding the World Trade Center. That neighborhood has two of New York’s most architecturally-important churches. One is Trinity Church, a classic example of 19th-century Gothic revival. The other is St. Paul’s Chapel, the city’s oldest surviving church and its finest model of Georgian architecture (it was modeled after St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields in London). George Washington worshipped there and it became a refuge for rescue workers after 9/11.

But the World Trade Center neighborhood is also filled with eyesores. When I walked from Park Place on the north side of the World Trade Center to Rector Street on the south side, what I encountered were a string of bars, betting parlors, and fast-food restaurants. And within this cluster of buildings, especially noticeable were two strip clubs, the New York Dolls Gentleman’s Club and the Pussycat Lounge, plus Thunder Lingerie and More, a sex shop with a peep show.

This whole topic makes me ill.

Banning Mixed Marriage in Dubai

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Yesterday’s The National had an interesting article about banning Emirate marriages to foreigners: “Grand Mufti of Dubai calls for curb on mixed marriages.”

I like how they have statistics for some numbers (30% of marriages this year were mixed) but then they go off into la-la land with sentences like this:

Mixed marriages are more likely to end in divorce and their children are more likely to commit crimes, some experts at the majilis said.

Um, proof please?


Mickey Hates Muslims, too? Shit.

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Yuh-oh. Nobody wins here: “Disneyland Prohibits Muslim Worker from Wearing Hijab on the Job, Suit Claims.”

Tide Power

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

You probably heard about the tidal current generators Eastport last week, but this article has a good description (and pictures) of the TidGen turbines: “Maine offshore energy project exceeds expectations.”

Every time I go to the ocean it strikes me how much energy the tides have. And it seems much more constant than wind, too.

I hope they can make this work on a larger scale …

Not Very Social of Him …

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Is Justin Timberlake flipping us off in the new trailer for “The Social Network“?

Looks like a double middle finger to me.

I kind of can’t believe the MPAA allowed that!

We’re Number 3! We’re Number 3!

Friday, August 20th, 2010

And now for some happy news this Friday morning: “10 Signs The U.S. is Becoming a Third World Country“.


Pentagon Mosque

Friday, August 20th, 2010

This article is from a week and a half ago, sadly it doesn’t seem to have picked up much traction in the whole Cordoba House brouhaha: “There’s a mosque inside the Pentagon!


Friday, August 20th, 2010

Just read an interesting fact in an article about Chinese megacities over at Foreign Policy.

In Britain, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, there are only two cities with a population of more than 1 million; in the United States, there are just 10 such cities. But already in China, there are 43 cities of more than 1 million, and by 2030 there will be 221, the McKinsey Global Institute predicts.


American hatred

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Another mikeyhemlok article from the “Attackerman” blog: “Getting Ugly Out There“:

I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable with where we find ourselves going. It’s moving quickly past mere reprehensible politics, fueling itself with more vitriol, more lies, more fear and more hatred, taking us all too fast to a place that, as an American, I believed was behind us for good …

So I look around, at all the racial and ethnic hatred spewing forth from every corner, and I wonder where we can go from here. Is there a path back from all this, or have we passed some kind of tipping point from which there is no return? Will it all fade away after November, or have we lit the fuse and now stand helpless, perhaps even regretful, as we await the inevitable explosion? This all seems like such a very, very bad idea. As the rhetoric gets uglier, the hatred more explicit, it can only be a matter of time before somebody feels threatened enough to push back, and then somebody is going to die. And at that moment, when, shocked into silence, we all hesitate and draw a collective breath and wonder if we should just stop and think, talk to each other, LISTEN to each other, will we have it within ourselves as Americans to back away? Or will we, the most heavily armed nation in the world, reach for our weapons and go to war against ourselves?

Cordoba House

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

I could go on-and-on about the Cordoba House Mosque and Islamic Center controversy all day. But most of my thoughts are being said elsewhere on the internet tubes, so why not link to them instead?

One of the blogs I regularly read is Spencer Ackerman’s “Attackerman”. Lately he’s had guest posts, and one gentleman (at least, I think he’s a he) “mikeyhemlok” and I agree on many topics. His post on the Cordoba House is pretty fantastic: “It’s Not About THEM, It’s About Us.”

It’s a short article, I almost pasted the whole thing here but this is the key:

No matter how you personally feel about Muslims and mosques, you have to recognize that this is a one-way trip, a simple, irreversible binary choice. As there can be no real doubt that the Imam and his congregation have every right to build their mosque where they wish, it comes down to something more nuanced, and much more pernicious. Do you want people, either by dint of their popular majority or their frantic shrieking and hand-waving to have the power to over-rule the basic rights and freedoms granted to all Americans? Do you understand that if it’s just Muslims today, it will be Jews tomorrow and atheists after that and in the end, the battle for the smouldering rubble of the American experiment will be fought between Catholics and Protestants, with the victors laying claim to just another totalitarian theocracy?

It truly makes me wonder. Can even the likes of Gingrich and Palin actually be proud of an America so willing to run away from her core values? In the name of political expediency and tribal nativism, balanced against all the history and sacrifice that has come before? If they actually got their way, and Cordoba House project was blocked, would they see it as a bright and shining moment for America? Or would it be a Pyrrhic victory, with the taste of ashes, as they wondered if it could be a Mosque in New York today, might it be a Church in Kansas or a book in Georgia or a political party in South Carolina tomorrow.

Bourdain in Dubai

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Back in April the Travel Channel aired an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations shot in Maine (see Bourdain in Maine).

Now, last week, the episode went to Dubai!

Here’s a clip:

It’s for sale on iTunes if that’s the way you get your cable TV.

Return of the Dubai’s Hard Rock

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

When we lived in Dubai we were fans of the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a ten minute walk from our house and they had burgers, salads and, most preciously, beer. Well, beer for awhile – right before I left they lost their liquor license (see Hard Rock Cafe Dubai Update).

Needless to say, shortly thereafter it closed altogether (see Hard Luck For Hard Rock In Dubai).

Well good news from today’s Gulf News: “Hard Rock Cafe to dish up a second serving in Dubai.”

Soon-ish there’ll be a new 26,500 square-foot restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel end of Dubai Festival City. Also, because it is after all, Dubai, the new Hard Rock will build the tallest ornamental guitar in the world outside.

Sadly Festival City is about an hour’s drive from our old apartment, so our friends who are still in Dubai probably won’t make the trek often.

Also there’s no new news about the Hard Rock Hotel Dubai was supposed to be getting (see Hard Rock Hotel Dubai).

Perhaps the recent economy has derailed that train?

RIP Harrison Price

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Oh that’s sad, I just heard that Harrison “Buzz” Price has passed away: “Disney Legend Harrison “Buzz” Price Dies at 89.”

Briefly, Price was the MBA from Stanford who figured where to put Disneyland and Walt Disney World back in the 1950s and 1960s. He put everything into the hopper – economic analysis, population projections, land values – and came out with Anaheim and Orlando.

Clever guy.

His autobiography, Walt’s Revolution!: By the Numbers, is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating; I love how he did what he did in the days before computers, but a co-author would have helped immensely. Sometimes numbers guys should stick to the numbers.

I’m glad he wrote his story down, though, it shows how Disneyland and Walt Disney World were the product of so many clever individuals and not the sole brainchild of one man.

Ramadan Kareem!

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Today’s the first day of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. I spoke about the practices back on the Newlywed in Dubai blog (see Ramadan).

The basic gist is that for a month Muslims fast from dawn until sunset; using it as time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal in the early morning and a post-fast meal after dark.

I was amazed in Dubai how many consumer products used Ramadan in marketing. One example I showed on the blog was the Ramadan M&Ms bag (see Ruining Ramadan).

There was an bus stop poster ad I always meant to take a photo of but didn’t. It was always too hot to stop, and I was driving fast in my air conditioned car. After the ads came down I kicked myself.

But then I found an image online.

First a little background – the Islamic calendar is lunar, so the start of Ramadan is based on the first waxing crescent moon.

Pretty awesome, isn’t it?

Ramadan Kareem, everyone. Go in peace.

Saab’s Future

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Why am I on a car kick this week?

Just read an interesting blog over at the New York Times: “Saab’s Owners Offer a Peek Into Its Future.”

I’ve had a soft-spot in my heart for Saabs since the late 1980s when my folks first got one, and then a 1991 Saab 900S was my first car out of college. Just this weekend I saw a beautiful convertible tooling around Portland and I got a twinge of jealousy.

Anyway, the article says that Saab’s new owner, Spyker Cars, needs to sell 85,000 cars worldwide by 2012 to break-even.

At first that didn’t sound like a lot, until I saw recent production numbers – Saab produced 94,751 cars worldwide in 2008, but only 20,791 last year.

My skeptical mind noted that the first number, 85,000 is “sales” while the second set of numbers is “production”. Perhaps misdirection or perhaps just available figures, you can decide.

Either way, Saab has an uphill battle, I hope they can figure this out.

The Italians Are Coming, the Italians Are Coming!

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Just saw this from last week: “Fiat returning to U.S., looking to open Florida dealerships.”

Their Fiat 500 is pretty cute: