Manga Dave

Trip Report: Dubai

In Dubai, I'm very aware that this is the farthest I've ever been from home:
  • The travel time is more than 24 hours "subjective" time. By this, I mean that I left Boston at 10PM Sunday (Boston time) and arrived in Dubai at 11PM Monday (Dubai time). This works out to about 17 hours objective time, but ends up feeling like a lot longer.
  • Dubai is so unlike home it's a very surreal experience.

I've seen so much, I'll just sum up things that stand out and random thoughts/impressions:
  • If you think of a particular airport as huge, and it's not the Dubai airport, well, you've never been to Dubai. I'm under the impression that all of Logan Airport would fit inside the Dubai terminal...
  • Dubai is like Disneyland for architects. If an architect had a crazy idea -- no matter how crazy or impractical, he'd be able to find somebody in Dubai willing to fund it.
  • It wasn't enough for Dubai-ans to build crazy buildings on normal ground -- they've gone and created crazy artificial landmasses on which to build crazy buildings. We drove around on "the Palm" (the main one -- unbelievably there's more than one), but didn't get to see "the World"...
  • Dubai-ans really love their towers.
  • Bostonians, remember how horrible it was driving downtown during the construction of the Big Dig? How the routes through certain neighborhoods would be different from one day to the next? Dubai is like that all the time,
    , not just in certain neighborhoods.
  • No matter where you are in town, easily more than 50% of the buildings within sight are currently under construction.
  • Remarkably, given the above, new construction in Dubai has slowed drastically due to the recession...
  • On Tuesday I got to go wading in the Persian Gulf. The water was so warm it was completely unlike any ocean experience I've ever had before.
  • Later on Tuesday, Stefan and I went on an amazing desert safari. It included:
    • Mad crazy driving of SUVs over shifting sand dunes (only certified tour guides get to drive like this -- it's clear I lack the desert-driving skills required).
    • Being happy the vehicle we were in had a roll cage installed even though it proved unnecessary...
    • Stefan and I jumping off of steep sand dunes.
    • Sunset in the desert over reddish-tan sand.
    • A ride on camelback.
    • Getting to take a 4-wheeler out over the dunes in the dark (we did get to drive ourselves on this one, although we were accompanied by a guide).
    • A huge feast out under the stars.
    • A belly-dancing performance.
    • An after-dinner shisha while reclining on cushions under the stars.

  • Dubai-ans really love their rotaries.
  • Wednesday's training session was good. I did another zero-PowerPoint-slides presentation.
  • Doing this style of all-day training is exhausting no matter what country you're in.
  • Wednesday evening Walter and I went into "Old Dubai".
  • Throughout the "Gold Souk" section, I was approached approximately once per minute with an offer to sell me a watch, a Rolex, a "copy watch", etc.
  • The "Spice Souk" is an olfactory assault, but in a good way.
  • Taking a boat across the river to another part of town, it hit me that my life-long impression that "desert" equals "lack of water" isn't actually correct. In reality, "desert" equals "lack of vegetation".
  • I've always enjoyed hummus, but fresh-made here is easily ten times better than a grocery store tub back home.

If I had to sum up Dubai in one word, it would be "overwhelming".

It's 1:50AM Dubai time. I have to check out of the hotel at 5:30AM to get to the airport on time, so I'm off to catch a little sleep. I'll next have 'Net access in Istanbul.
Manga Dave

Dave and Stefan's European Tour 2009: Round 3 is a Go!

Work is sending me to Europe again. I'll be gone almost two weeks. The intinerary looks something like this:

  • Sunday 18 Oct - Leave Boston
  • Monday 19 Oct - layover in Frankfurt, fly to Dubai
  • Thursday 22 Oct - Fly Dubai --> Istanbul
  • Sunday 25 Oct - Fly Istanbul --> Stockholm
  • Tuesday 27 Oct (early) - Fly Stockholm --> Brussels
  • Tuesday 27 Oct (late) - Drive Brussels --> Amsterdam
  • Friday 30 Oct - Fly Amsterdam --> Washington, Dulles --> Boston

I'll be out of touch phone-wise, but should be on email every couple days. I'll post pictures when I can...
Manga Dave

European Tour 2009 - Round Two!

Well, apparently the feedback from our partner was good -- they're willing to pay to bring us back to run more trainings. I'll be running 3 or 4 trainings back-to-back-to-back in each of 5 different cities over two weeks.

Monday I fly out and will be going to Paris, and then Rome. I'll spend the weekend in Rome - which should be awesome. Then the second week I'll be going to Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, and then flying back to Boston on the 6th.

All of the cities except Stockholm will be brand new to me, and I'd happily return to Stockholm...

I'll be unreachable by phone while I'm gone, but I should have access to email at least once a day. I'll try to get pictures posted as I go, and will post a link to them here.
self-portrait, Lego

Man vs. Nature, Round Two: Man the Clear Winner

Dave: 1, Tent Caterpillars: 0

Before last night we had a nest of tent caterpillars in the peach tree in our backyard. What the little guys hadn't counted on was that one of my torch-style cigar lighters is broken. Well, it still works, in that it produces flame more-or-less on demand, it just no longer produces the tiny little blew blow torch-like flame. Instead it spouts a 6 to 12" tongue of blue/yellow flame like some sort of mini-flamethrower.

Which makes it a wonderful cigar lighter if you want to scare the crap out of people around you, but I digress.

So after lighting my cigar to begin yesterday evening's yardwork1, I stood on one of the deck chairs and burned that tent right out of the tree. I managed to do this without setting fire to any of:

  • the tree
  • myself
  • the yard
  • the house
  • the neighbors
  • the neighbors' houses


1 Smoking a cigar is the only thing I have ever found to be effective in repelling mosquitoes. Apparently I taste particularly good or am somehow otherwise excessively attractive to mosquitoes. Deep Woods Off! doesn't work, Deet doesn't work, everything else I try, I still get bitten. Light up a cigar and the blood-sucking pests flee. My theory is that they're very concerned about the effects of second-hand smoke, which makes sense when you consider that they must have really tiny lungs...
self-portrait, Lego

Man vs. Nature: The Jury's Still Out...

Let me start off by apologizing to residents of New England. I think the rain we had last week was my fault.

You see, on Monday I bought a new lawnmower.

This, naturally, caused it to rain so I would be unable to use said lawnmower.

I needed a new one because my old gas engine mower, which never ran smoothly at all last year, finally died right about the end of lawn-mowing season. I decided to replace it with an old-fashioned push-mower, figuring that gas prices are too high, I might as well do something "green", and besides, it's not like I don't need the exercise. Oh, and the grass was finally approaching the point where if a child get lost in the yard, not only would we need to organize a search party, but that search party would need to set up a base camp, and it's just not that big a yard.

I finally got the chance to try it out on Saturday. Let's see how the new mower stacks up against the old in a number of hypothetical situations:

Hypothetical Situation: Very Tall Grass
Power Mower: If the grass is very tall, it simply slows the power mower down a little bit. It bends the tall grass down under the spinning blades and chops it all up.
Push Mower: If the grass is past a certain height (and, given the rain caused by the purchase of the mower, it was), the push mower bends it over, and then the blades pass harmlessly over the bent-over grass. Actually getting the grass cut requires running over the same spots multiple times from different directions.
Advantage: Power Mower

Hypothetical Situation: Need to Run the Mower Over the Same Spot More Than Once
Power Mower: The blades are always spinning. If you need to go over a spot more than once you simply pull it back towards you, and it cuts moving backwards as well as when it moves forward.
Push Mower: The blades rotate only when the mower is moving forward. Pull it backwards and there is not cutting going on.
Advantage: Power Mower

Hypothetical Situation: The Clone You Send Out to Clear the Sticks From the Front Yard Does a Less Than Stellar Job of Stick-Clearing
Power Mower: When encountering the unexpected stick, the power mower alerts you by making a loud cracking sound and then shoots small pieces of stick out its right-hand side.
Push Mower: When encountering the unexpected stick, the push mower alerts you by suddenly coming to a complete halt, jamming its handle into your solar plexus.
Advantage: Power Mower

Hypothetical Situation: Dog Poop
Power Mower: The power mower deals with dog poop by grinding it into tiny particles and spraying them out its right-hand side. It's like a bonus fertilization of the lawn.
Push Mower: The push mower deal with dog poop by cutting it into inch-log fragments and spewing them back in the direction of the mower's operator. 'Nuff said.
Advantage: Power Mower

Hypothetical Situation: MPG
Power Mower: I used maybe two and a half gallons of gas in the power mower last year.
Push Mower: On Saturday I covered as much distance with the push mower as I did all last year with the power mower (see "Very Tall Grass" and "Need to Run the Mower Over the Same Spot More Than Once" above...) for zero gas consumption.
Advantage: Push Mower

Hypothetical Situation: The Exercise Factor
Power Mower: Pushing the power mower and maneuvering it around would give the operator some exercise.
Push Mower: Pushing the power mower and maneuvering it around is exhausting, sweat-inducing, back-breaking, muscle-straining work (see "all of the above" above...)
Advantage: It's not clear...

Overall, the power mower wins hands-down for ease of use, but I'll grant that the push more is more "green".

Speaking of green, there's one thing I'd really like to see be less green, and that's our swimming pool.

Before this weekend, the water was so deeply green that I was beginning to wonder whether or not the pool had somehow become bottomless over the winter. Now, following the application of a double-dose of the chlorine "shock" and a double-dose of algaecide, the water you can once again tell that the pool does, in fact, have a bottom. The water, while less green, is by no means clear.

Still more to be done...
self-portrait, Lego

Signs of Life

When I went out to shovel this morning, I found two separate very clear sets of tracks in the new-fallen snow.

The first was from a rather large cat who came up the driveway, spent a while trying but finally succeeded in squeezing under our gate, went under the deck, out the other side, and left via the diagonally-opposite corner of the back yard. The straight-line of the path taken leads me to suspect this cat's done this before.

The second was from a smallish rabbit who explored our front yard, came into the driveway, spent a while underneath my car, then hopped off further down the street.

Then I saw cardinals in at the neighbor's birdfeeder.

I'm hoping the increased animal activity is an omen of an early spring.
self-portrait, Lego

Quick Update on Three Fronts

  1. I'm home safe from Europe. More about the trip later. For now, you can see the more than 2,000 pictures I took here:
    European Tour - January 2009

  2. I started the Linear Algebra class. More on that later, too. For now, I seem to be grasping it, but feel like I'm stretching to do so, so it's probably just about right.

  3. Tomorrow morning is the Pinewood Derby, so we've been busy building cars. Like last year, I'm using Flickr to document not only the event itself, but the also builds. You can see what we've got so far here:
    Pinewood Derby - February 2009
self-portrait, Lego

European Update

The score so far:
Countries: 4
Plane flights: 5
Presentations scheduled to give: 4
Presentations given: 7

You learn a lot when you travel. Here's some brief bits that some to mind:

  • The phone company telling you you'll have service overseas is not the same as having service overseas.
  • Plane flight is uncomfortable in any language.
  • People are generally friendly and very welcoming to the tourist in the group.
  • After midnight, German TV becomes soft porn.
  • Turns out there's more than one airport that is the "Frankfurt Airport".
  • Same is true for Venice...
  • Europe gets some weird version of MTV that actually plays music...
  • The Germans are still talking about this guy who came out last June and presented for an hour with only one Power Point slide. Apparently, doing over an hour and a half without any slides is even more impressive - or at least different than what they usually get.
  • Venice is even more beautiful than I ever imagined it to be.

More as I get Internet access.

Oh, and picture being uploaded to my European Tour 2009 Flickr Set as I get access.