Showing posts from May, 2009

Vintage week: That's a ballsy move

More old Ottawa Sun column fun.
July 17, 2007

Lululemon is prone to eye-catching windows.
But anyone walking past Edmonton's Whyte Avenue location last month could have been forgiven for doing a double-take.
The window featured two male mannequins with their pants around their ankles and several cheerful signs pasted to the window urging male passersby to "Play with your balls!"
Store merchandiser Karla Silva said the display was a cheeky way to get men thinking about the risk of testicular cancer.
"When guys scratch themselves, we laugh," she said. "So this is kind of aimed at what guys already do, but making it with a purpose."
Silva said the reaction to the window, which carried the balls theme throughout June, was great.
"One man came in and he was almost in tears, because he had lost a friend to testicular cancer," said Silva. "He thought it was awesome, because we're saying, 'this is what you have to do.'"
Lululemon has …

Vintage week: I met my match in Minnie the Mouse

Due to vacation, have pulled out an old lifestyle column I wrote for the Ottawa Sun.

February 18, 2004

The mouse landed in the middle of the night.
I awoke with a start, to a high-pitched squeal coming from the bathroom. My 23lb. cat had the mouse cornered behind the door.
Half awake, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a mop, wrapping it in a bunch of newspapers and fixing them in place with an elastic. I was apparently planning to kill the mouse with a newspaper-covered mop before I realized a mouse is not a mosquito or a fly. So I tried to catch it in everything from a cottage cheese container to a garbage can. I laid a trail of cheese bits leading out into the hall, hoping it would recognize an opportunity and leave gracefully through the front door. I went back to bed, hoping the 23lb. cat would take care of it for me.
As I suspected, the cat was utterly useless.
Now I like to think of myself as fearless, and by that I mean someone who can overcome most problems and scary things and take…

Vintage Week: Redneck Uncle Bob Spoke Volumes

Ottawa Sun
June 5, 2005

I couldn't help laughing when the man Lynn Warren calls his "redneck uncle from Arizona" got up during his wedding reception and made embarrassing comments about his sexy 24-year-old daughter and lewd suggestions about Warren's gay friends and their sex life.
Hey, I thought, straight people have been putting up with these sorts of wedding antics for years.
Lynn Warren and Alex Ali became reality stars recently after appearing on CBS's The Amazing Race 7. They married this past week, here in Ottawa of all places, at the invite of radio station Hot 89.9.
Whatever you think about them, one thing that strikes most people is what a devoted and in-tune couple they are. I don't think I've been at a wedding where the love between those saying their vows was as palpable.
When Warren told Ali "I don't have a doubt in my mind," I fully believed him. And wondered how many other people walking down the aisle can say the same thing.

Vintage week: I'll keep holding out for butterflies

In Australia still; here is something I wrote when I was a lifestyle columnist at the Ottawa Sun.

June 18, 2003

He's funny, and smart, and successful, and thoughtful, and he doesn't take himself too seriously.
And tall, dark and handsome, and travelled, and curious. He has nice eyes. He came from far away, leaping out of a past I hadn't given much thought to, grabbing my attention and piquing my curiosity.
He bought me dinner, he made me sushi, he listened and remembered stuff about me. He dropped off coffee while I was working and paid compliments.
He wants a relationship, and kids.
And as I started to suspect, though he ostensibly came here on business, his ulterior motive was to tell me something.
He thinks I'm pretty cool too. And has for a long time.
I listened; touched, flattered, confused.
And then later, he left. And we're both still alone.
For any person who has wanted to settle down, who has stumbled across a person who is perfect on paper, fitting all criteria re…

Vintage week: Race is on for a cancer cure

I am actually on vacation in Australia for the next week, so I've decided to run a few old Ottawa Sun columns. Forgive, I may have been going through a bit of a Sex and the City phase in some of them. I also seem to have been obsessed with cancer.

June 1, 2001

No sleep for me tonight.
Or for 2,000 or so others, people who have spent weeks pestering co-workers and friends for cash, just to shiver in between turns circling the Lansdowne Park track for 12 strange and emotional hours.
I'll wager when the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay For Life is all over early tomorrow morning, after things get a bit weird and kind of desperate and downright frigid sometime in the 4 a.m. flickering candlelight, we'll be glad we did it.
Mike Hale is one of the reasons I and more than 80 others have joined forces under a Bushtukah Great Outdoor Gear/AMS Management Systems Inc./Bruce Moore Russell Direct banner, forming six of 115 teams in the event. The 29-year-old IT consultant met most of h…

Vintage writing, the good old days, or just a vain attempt to keep you coming back until I return

I am actually on vacation in Australia for the next week, so I've decided to run a few old Ottawa Sun columns. Forgive, I may have been going through a bit of a Sex and the City phase in some of them. I also seem to have been obsessed with cancer.

June 6, 2004

Whenever I see a picture of a yoga-loving celebrity like Gwyneth Paltrow or Madonna toting their little rubber mat on the way to or from class, I can't help but think about the, um, farting.
You see, no one ever talks about how the vigorous yoga poses they do can bring on sudden bouts of flatulence. I've heard it with my own ears. Last year, I participated in a power yoga class in which the teacher softly chanted "let it go, let it go, le-" when a nearby male student let a loud one rip.
A male friend once witnessed a wiry female yoga devotee fire off two large, explosive farts in succession -- "If I was sitting at home alone, I would have been embarrassed," he said -- only …

I am sure Kevin Costner flies Turkish Airlines ALL the time


Ten things I still can't get used to about the UAE

1 No chai tea latte, cold or hot, in Starbucks. This, despite the proximity to India.

2 People keeping the original plastic on their car seats - for years.

3 The empty taxi illusion: when I think the taxi coming in my direction is empty, failing to notice the tiny, fully-veiled Emirati woman in the back left seat.

4 How to instruct a taxi driver to "turn, next left" without him slamming on the brakes and trying to take "this" one.

5 Why so many people come into the theatre one-third, a half, or two-thirds of the way through the movie.

6 Khandooras (long white gear that is the traditional dress) and baseball caps.

7 How late the little ones stay up.

8 That grocery stores and malls can be that busy.

9 A kiss on Friends is cut, yet Sex and the City airs in its entirety on Showtime.

10 Calling the corner store and having anything I want from it delivered to my door five minutes later.

Plant souk: perhaps the most peaceful place in all of Abu Dhabi


An interesting choice for car seat covers

As my colleague John Mather wrote about in The National's m, the Saturday magazine a few months ago, for years the cartoon cat Garfield has boxed up the troublesome kitten Nermal and label it "To anyone, Abu Dhabi".

So although these would be an interesting choice of seat cover at the best of times (surely an adult drives this car?) I found it even more compelling when considering the context.

Apologies for the poor picture quality - it was obviously evening when I took this.

And yet the washroom is so clean


They do it because they have to

I went into Aramex the other day, to pick up some packages. (Aramex is a service that gives me a post office box in the US and UK, I can order stuff and have it shipped here without disappearing, like both my birthday packages last year) I love going to Aramex because one of my favourite people in Abu Dhabi works there, Tariq. I am pretty sure I have written about him before: he darts around, doing seven things at once, sliding on his shoes across the floor to go faster. He is always happy and full of energy; he has a great smile and is an excellent mimic. In short, he is just about the world's best employee.

I knew he was heading back to India for a month to visit his wife and toddler, a little boy. I saw him a couple of days before he left and he was bursting to get there. So I waited to pick up my packages, thinking I could see him when he got back and ask how it went.

I walked in, oddly, the only customer there. Tariq was behind the counter, in his regular dress. It was like so…

Snap caption: Cute kid


Abu Dhabi: Artists rendering versus reality

Centre for Documentation and Research

Pork, glorious pork

I checked out the Spinneys pork room this week; I am pleased to report pork is back on sale. And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed my ham sandwich.

Quote of the day: Defending the sale of six burgers in one

"Burger King's introduction of the six-pack Burger Buddies is consistent with this approach, and is meant to celebrate the spirit of sharing by allowing family and friends to share in the excitement of sharing a single meal."

-Yasser Abdel Azim, director of marketing for First Food Services, which operates the Burger King franchise in the UAE

A moment of silence, for Al Mashwa

The Lebanese restaurant around the corner from work that made hummus so creamy and nutty and delicious I hold it personally responsible for this, has closed down to make way for another outpost of a mediocre Italian eatery in town.

I ate from this restaurant at least twice a week, with their delicious and reasonably-priced salads and shish tawooks delivered right to my desk. Right now I am looking for answers: how could such a brisk business close? Did the owner sell enough mixed grills to retire?

As a friend of mine put it, with the business from The National, it could have been tipping oil as Abu Dhabi's most profitable industry.

Publishing job, "numpties" need not apply

Advertisement for a publishing company hiring in the Middle East, with this kicker:

"If you are one of the many hysterical, workshy publishing numpties we seem to bump into all the time, we're definitely not for you."

Snap caption: Where window treatments go to dry out


A word or two about "sand boarding"

It's rubbish, as the Brits say. My father took this picture on a really good safari we went on in Abu Dhabi. Here I am, exhausting myself, only to find that my sand board would barely inch down the mountain. I have no idea how he managed to miss capturing it on film, as it was the most painfully slow downward journey I have ever taken.

Whoever invented this "sport" has some answering to do for it.

Random conversation with a cab driver about my fictional husband

I haven't made up a husband in awhile here in Abu Dhabi. Perhaps I now carry an air of weariness that suggests I did not just get off the boat (actually, the Etihad plane, but whatever), but cab drivers just don't seem to be as curious about me as they used to be. But the other night Mohammed from Afghanistan was very curious. (He also made a rough grab for my knee as I was paying from the back seat, so I deleted his number, which he had ordered me to put in my mobile phone for the next time I need a lift – but only if I happen to be "near", whatever that meant.)

Mohammed: You have children?

Me: No.

Mohammed: No children? What problem? You go to doctor?

Me: No.

Mohammed: Your husband go to doctor?

Me: No.

Mohammed: Me, no children. Then, go to doctor, two years, two girls!

Quote of the day

“A reshuffle is introduced when there is a need for it and when we find that it suits an active handling of the need of national demands.”

-Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, answering questions about possible Cabinet changes on his website last month. There was a major reshuffle yesterday, which saw two new deputy prime ministers appointed

It's getting harder to trust living in a place that clearly does not trust me

Banks are now demanding that people who buy cars using loans – ie most people – provide large, up-front payments to be able to take them across the border. Several banks are demanding a deposit the size of the outstanding loan or a guarantee from another bank that you've got it. Apparently banks are worried you are going to steal the car. And don't try to take a rental car to Oman for the weekend, without securing a no-objection letter from the rental agency. A surge of thefts have led to people being held up for hours and/or turned away. I feel claustrophobic just thinking about all this.

I went to buy a Blackberry on Saturday and left the store, frustrated, without one. I am travelling to Australia for two weeks on Friday (I've been blogging ahead - so keep coming back while I am gone!) and need to be able to make calls back to North America. My frustration came because I was told that to get a phone that will work in Australia, allowing me to make outgoing calls should I…

This is really quite something

Couldn't some North American newspapers use this kind of advertising? For two days this week Northrop Grumman, the US defense contractor, took out full page ads in The National advertising its E-2D Advanced Hawkeye (that's it reflected in the hawk's eye, if you didn't notice), an early warning, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

Northrop Grumman, "Keeping a watchful eye and safeguarding today's peace and tomorrow's promise".

Home mail delivery in three years!!!

Today's big news: Emirates Post plans to use GPS to get mail to residential and office boxes by 2012.

As I am still waiting for my birthday packages from May 2008 to arrive, I remain skeptical.

Random picture of a government building: Emirates Identity Authority


Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Living in the UAE for a year now, I realise I have come to view my home and native land in an impossibly rosy light. I catch myself saying "back home" a lot, and pondering good old days when people didn't pervert the word "inshallah" to mean "never going to happen"; a girl could kiss her guy on a street corner without fear of being arrested and foreign workers weren't blatantly exploited with no fear of reprisal. Right. Turns out the Toronto Star, one of those rare papers that still funds major investigative journalism, has revealed otherwise. After interviewing two dozen foreign workers, reporters Ron Cribb and Dale Brazao found that dreams of working abroad instead lead to fraud, mistreatment and misrepresentation - if not no job at all.

The pieces have even swept up the federal Multiculturism and Youth critic, Brampton MP – and Liberal darling – Ruby Dhalla, who is accused by two women employed by her family to care for her aging mother of an a…

Not what I needed it for, sir

So I went to the pharmacy the other night and asked for epsom salts, expecting to find a big bag of them like I would at Shopper's Drug Mart back in Canada. I needed them because my sister-in-law said I should put them in the bath, to draw out the toxins and help me get over what seems like a never-ending series of colds and sore throats.

The pharmacist plucked one of these pill bottles off a shelf. I was confused, as I needed way more than that for the bath, so I asked for four. He may have looked at me kind of funny.

When I got home and unscrewed the top on the first one, I noticed the bottle recommended taking a teaspoon "for the symptomatic relief of occasional constipation".

Snap caption: The proof is in the pork sign at Spinneys


One step forward, too many steps back to count, and heartbreaking

On Monday a judge in Dubai's Sharia court ordered a 27-year-old woman from Lebanon to pay diyya, or blood money, for the death of her unborn child. She was nine months pregnant and driving when she got into an accident last fall, one that apparently severed the umbilical cord of the fetus. The judge ruled that the woman did not take proper care of her unborn child. In addition to the diyya, which was Dh20,000, or more than $6,000 Cdn, she was fined Dh1,000, or almost $320. The diyya is to be deposited with the court until the relatives of the baby - I am assuming the father's side - file a civil case with Sharia court to claim it.

A legal consultant in the UAE said there was a law establishing legal diyyah in the accidental death of a fetus, requiring it to be 10% of the regular amount of Dh200,000; it has just not been tested before.

A traffic prosecutor went on to caution that heavily pregnant women should avoid driving to protect their unborn babies.

Last month the UAE'…

An update on Friday's "May Day" "fun" run

I spoke the reporter who was there (although typically, the event was organised in such a way he wasn't able to find the finish line, and I'd wager some of the participants couldn't either). The Bangladesh man who won had never even run a race before, let alone in 40+ plus heat. He was, as you can imagine, absolutely shattered. He did win Dh5,000, or about $1,600 Cdn, and everyone else who participated was given Dh500.

Apparently some of them got quite into it, while others walked. Not surprising. We could all learn something from these people; so many of them are masters of making the best of it.

Commas are indeed very important...

... and Grammar Sheikh's comment reminds me of this post.

Random bacon conversation

Friday morning, Beach Rotana, beginning of the body pump class. Penny, the instructor: "Has everyone had their breakfast? No bacon though, right? Boy I miss it."

And how Penny. And how.

Why wouldn't they want to run 4k in 40 degree heat on their day off?

So the Ministry of Labour decided to hold a fun run down on the Corniche yesterday to celebrate May Day. They rounded up hundreds of labourers to participate, on their only day off, gave them Carrefour trainers and running kits, and set them loose. Cash prizes on offer.

I am quite sure, after six hard, long days working in the blazing sun, labourers were jumping at the chance to enter a race they had not trained for, in shoes they had not broken in, in heat so intense I felt like passing out just walking from my house to the cab.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Everyone needs to calm the &%$# down (and pork IS a funny word)

So if I could roll around with a bunch of sick pigs and STILL not get swine flu, as it has nothing to do with pigs, why is Egypt killing all its pigs? Why has the UAE banned pork, a decision I am wagering will not get reversed anytime soon?

Saudi Arabia is not allowing incoming flights from countries where swine flu appears, and last night I read something on the wire to the effect of "WHO is still urging countries not to close their borders". Cold stab of fear at that, after all, could I have moved to a smaller country on my world adventure, and one that, now at least, I cannot even get a crummy piece of real bacon? What was wrong with Gabon?

If they close the UAE's borders I am stealing a small boat and get dibs on a particular British colleague who has almost rowed across the Atlantic twice (third time's a charm, I bet!)