Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bad news digging

I posted  a few weeks ago  about the media's role in the mood of depression hanging over Australia.
This in spite of us being one of very few countries which didn't go into recession during the GFC, which has a strong economy, low unemployment, high salaries.
Yet the media goes out of its way to ignore good news while it digs around to find bad news stories.
There's a classic of the kind with the lead story in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald business section.

The report begins by telling us: "AUSTRALIA faces a run on its currency, a deeper collapse in housing prices and a bank funding crisis to rival Europe's as it attempts to come to grips with life after the mining boom"

But then it tells us this is the prediction (ie crystal ball gazing guesswork) of  'a boutique US advisory firm.'

If that isn't digging around to find bad news stories and giving them undue prominence, I don't know what is.

The Sydney Morning Herald story  is here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good to bad

We've just enjoyed the warmest August day for seventeen years, at 27C. And only 21% humidity.

The sort of winter day I can live with.

A beautifully warm sunny morning, spring in the air.

It's not all good news though because later in the day we've had winds gusting up to 100kph.  That's caused the usual chaos. trees down all over the city, bringing power lines with them. We have nearly 20,000 houses without power across Sydney and into the Blue Mountains.

Roads are covered in trees and other debris, traffic lights are out of course and a rail line is closed because of a tree across the tracks. Absolute chaos for the peak hour trip home.

Emergency services are dealing with over 600 calls for assistance, including the fire brigade which had to cut a woman from her car which had been crushed by a falling tree..

It's a real problem that happens several times a year but no action is ever taken to limit the damage and costs.

We have huge gum trees in most suburbs, towering over houses and roads. They're evergreen and branches die off constantly, ready to fall on anyone and anything below them

Then we have the ugly power lines that visually pollute every suburb, hanging from wooden poles. The branches and trees fall on them, down they come and off goes the power.


And of course in the bushfire season, the live power lines are brought down and start fires.

Councils refuse permission for dangerous trees to be removed. I've even had refusal to lop a dangerous branch off a huge Liquid Amber which later came down, breaking an outside tap causing a major water leak and wrecking the garden fence.

And in spite of the huge increases in our electricity prices, 51% of which goes towards poles and lines according to my latest outrageous bill, power lines aren't put where they should be - underground.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Unfortunate name

DooDoo isn't a name I'd choose for a company, other people obviously think differently.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dangerous driving is universal

The one advantage of being in Dubai during the worst of the summer weather is that half the population is on holiday avoiding it. That means the notorious traffic is thinner than normal with roads easy to drive along, no jams that I've met and parking space available.

It's not all good news though. This year there's a problem due to Ramadan, with drivers stressed out having not had a drink, a bite to eat or a cigarette for fifteen hours, dashing home for Iftar, the fast-breaking meal at sunset.

There is, too, the perennial problem of bad and dangerous drivers anyway. Thankfully at least there are less of them at this time of year.

The problems are highlighted in two articles in this morning's Gulf News.

The first is headlined: 'Iftar rush leads to 441 crashes'.

BTW, I'm pleased to see that they're using the word 'crash' rather than 'accident' - something I nagged about over the years on my Life in Dubai  blog.

In the three weeks since the beginning of Ramadan there have been 441 crashes between 6.30 and 7.30 pm.

Dubai Police's Brigadier General Omar Abdul Aziz Al Shamsi, Director of Command & Control Room at the Department of Operations summed it up well:
"During this one particular hour before and after iftar, people tend to drive very fast and recklessly, do not leave sufficient distance between vehicles, do not stay in their lane and overall have poor concentration on the roads."

The second article gives a good idea of the levels of dangerous driving we're exposed to and the fact that dangerous driving knows no gender or national boundaries.

Traffic stats have been released for the second quarter of this year and they show the ranking for fines.

Top of the list is a woman, a Bangladeshi, who racked up AED201,140 in fines, most for speeding. That's about A$50,000. In three months. About three offences a day! Solidly, for three months.

The silver medal also goes to a woman, a Syrian, who managed even more offences at 288 and fines totalling AED186,900 (nearly A$47,000).

The men then came into their own, an Egyptian with AED169,420 (A$42,000),  an Indian with AED137,400 (a$34,000) and an Iraqi with AED135,100 (A$33,000).

The original articles are here:
Iftar crashes.
Traffic offences.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Back in Dubai

I'm back in Dubai for a couple of weeks.

Left Oz in perfect winter weather - sunny, cloudless and daytime 20C - and arrived in Dubai's worst summer weather. Daytime high forties celcius, nightime down to mid thirties, high humidity and, the worst part, strong winds whipping up the dust and sand.

It's also Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, so eating and drinking in public during daylight hours is banned.

There are a few cafes open, screened off from public view, with a special exemption licence from Dubai Municipality.  Thankfully I can get my morning caffeine hit at Dome in Madinat Jumeirah.  Dome is an Aussie franchise and my usual morning coffee shop.

Following a world-wide trend my morning broadsheet paper, Gulf News, has gone tabloid since I was last here. Berliner size in fact. For someone who's read broadsheets all his life it's a disaster, I hate it. Sydney Morning Herald has announced that it too will go Berliner soon, so I'll just have to adjust.

There's a 'trial' of an Express Path for Immigration at Sydney airport. Emirates gave me a pass to use it and it's another of those 'initiatives' that had me shaking my head because it ignores the bleedin' obvious and doesn't need a trial.

The problem at most airports is unmanned desks and long queues at the few which are manned.

Sydney's 'Express Path' is simply an additional section of Immigration desks, absolutely identical to the non-express section.

I would have thought it was blindingly obvious that if you open more desks you clear people through faster. You don't need to have an 'express' section, just more manned desks.

And if you do have a section for a limited number of selected travellers it won't have queues, so it will inevitably be 'express'. You don't need a trial to establish that.

Naturally there were no queues so I sailed straight through.

Then at Dubai airport the e-Gate was playing up as usual, randomly letting some cardholders through but refusing entry to others. Including me.

After five tries I gave up and went to the officer on the desk to be stamped through.

I've had the same problem arriving at Sydney. Scan my biometric passport, look at the camera and...refused entry. Go to the desk to be manually stamped through.

Still, at both airports it's a lot quicker even done manually than queuing in the general section.