Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Okay I'm back!

Okay I’m back. Geez whatta trip. I had a blast.

Sorry everyone I realize that I didn’t post to the blog but there wasn’t much opportunity. First I was in Canada staying at my brother’s place and he only has a slow dial-up connection. It would take minutes just to load the blogpage let alone post something. Then I was in Vegas for The Amazing Meeting (go to for more info) and I had an ’amazing’ time, mostly up to 3 or 4 am hanging out with people, or drinking, or gambling, or all of the above! No posting in the blog then. Finally I was in London for 4 days and my only access was a nearby internet café on Oxford street, one of those assembly line jobs where 50 terminals are crammed into a tiny area - you had to keep the mouse in front of the keyboard because there was no space at either side of the keyboard, that’s how cramped it was. I was a little suspicious that a place like that would have all sorts of spyware or keystroke loggers so I just surfed and not go to any sites that required passwords.

There is the odd time in my life where, thanks primarily to air travel, I just contemplate for a moment how crazy this are due to modern technology. I recall sitting in a café across the street from the British Museum waiting for it to open and remembered that 24 hours ago I was playing blackjack at the Riviera then eating a buffet dinner at the Wynn in Vegas. Now I’m in a London café having a latte about to enter one of the world’s great museums. Times like this just make me go “Holy ****!”. Seriously. I feel that my life gets surreal at times.

This weekend I’m going to Kuwait for a couple of days, Dubai on business in a couple of weeks, and in a month I’ll be in Oman seeing the sights. To think less than 10 years ago I was working as a retail clerk in a game store in Burnaby and had almost no money, certainly not enough to be travelling all over the place. (That said I miss working at the store - definitely the most fun job I’ve ever had, analogous to an avid golfer getting a job as a golf pro). But I bit the bullet, studied accounting and got one of those ’real jobs’ as it were. I can’t say my work is comparably exciting but I have travelled all over the world now thanks to it so I can’t regret the decision.

Over the next week or so I’ll post details about the trip, especially the Amazing Meeting, since it’s a skeptics convention and really - that’s what this blog is supposed to be about after all.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Vacation time!

Okay I leave tomorrow for Canada so posting will be intermittant (like I've been posting every day anyway, right?) I'll be in Calgary for a week and a half to see family, then Vegas to attend the Amazing Meeting, then a few days in London just to tour around enroute to Doha. I'll try to update periodically and maybe post some pictures. Just found out that Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creaters of SouthPark) might be at the Amazing Meeting, hopefully I'll get to meet them! I love their work.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Around Christmas time I took a long weekend trip to Dubai to see a couple of friends and check the city out for the first time. (As an aside I've heard that Dubai is in this issue of National Geographic so you can get more info there). Dubai is unlike many other areas in Arabia in that it once had oil but is about to run out. I think it's got about another 5-10 years of it left. And it knows it. So a decade or so ago the ruler was scrambling around trying to figure out what to do cause once the oil runs out the city will start becoming a desert backwater. I guess they went looking around for other cities that were a success despite having no resources and being out in the middle of nowhere. Well he found one -- Las Vegas.

Dubai is fast becoming the new Las Vegas, everything has to be the biggest in the world (biggest building, biggest mall, biggest airport, biggest hotels, biggest roads etc.) because if they don't do this then there'll be no reason to go there, and they need tourists and financial capital to come in to make for the rapidly declining oil revenues. It appears to be working, some of the building projects are mind-boggling, the Dubai Marina area is set to have 35 thousand apartments finished within the next 6 months, the tallest building in the world, Bur Dubai, is set to be completed in 2008 along with the worlds biggest shopping mall right next to it. This is the city that created an indoor ski slope as a tourist attraction (Ski Dubai, look it up). It's crazy, it's interesting to walk around the place, and . . .

. . . it has sold its soul for money. Just like Las Vegas.

As far as I can tell in this city money talks, values walk. However Dubai is still a 'Muslim' state with a Sheikh, mosques and so forth. Yes gambling is still officially illegal there but I give it 3 years before they start allowing it, though they'll put a veneer on it like restrictions so that locals can't gamble etc but gambling is coming believe me. Alcohol is already widely available, prostitution is easy to come by (usually where said alcohol is available). And much like early Vegas it appears popular with the wealthy and possibly criminal. One of India's most wanted crime kingpins is living happily there and it doesn't look like requests from India to extradite him have been going anywhere. I went to the Dubai Airport website and they had 5-8 flights a day just from Moscow alone. Looks like Dubai is popular with rich Russians. I'm not sure what to make of that. Where is all the money coming from to build all of these mega-projects anyway? Unlike Doha, there really isn't much in the way of Arabic character to the place, the malls and new apartment complexes swamped all that. Now it's a big shiny new city.

Now don't get me wrong - I love Las Vegas and try to get out there every year, but Las Vegas does not pretend to be anything else but itself - it's Sin City, it's gaudy, it's over-the-top, and it makes no excuses. Could you imagine though if the mayor of Las Vegas started telling everyone that it was a city that was big on 'traditional Christian values'? He'd be laughed out of the room! Soon Dubai will have to come clean that its Islamic values have walked in order to create an ecomony that can sustain itself once the oil has gone. Hopefully that won't create any problems with fundamentalist groups in neighbouring areas.

With that bit of insight over I will say I loved visiting there, it made for a nice weekend getaway. I'll be over there again in a couple of months on business, and again when my Mom visits the area in March. It's a great place to visit.

Not sure if I'd want to live there though. Like Las Vegas.