Friday, April 25, 2008

Tantrix Puzzles

I don't know how many of you are already Tantrix fans, but on my last trip to Perth I came across this brilliant puzzle game in a puzzle shop. Its basically a bag full of hexagonal bakeolite tiles with coloured shapes that weave through them. You then have to make up ever increasing loops of the designated colours.

Ok, thats not the fullest description of how it works, but you get the idea I'm sure. More details can be found at:

I have now set up a separate blog where I am uploading my solutions to each of the levels in the puzzle. This is at:

Hope its useful to you if you get stuck, but don't hope for too much, I'm only up to #24 in the game pack so far. The record is currently 256 tiles in a single loop!!!

Roof Rack for Sale

I know its probably not the done thing to use your blog to sell stuff, but there is a story to go with it so hopefully you'll forgive me.

The roof rack in question in the the ARB full length roof rack. Details can be found at:

Or here is a picture of it fitted to the YBOD3

So whats the story. Well, the story is this. I bought the roof rack with the intention of sleeping up there during camp trips. I therefore bought the ARB rack becuse its 2.2m long so plenty long enough for me to lay out flat. So I fitted it, loaded up and set off to Oman for the grand adventure.

We arrive at turtle beach (Ras Al Had) and I set up the roll mats and sleeping bags and got the new bug and creepy crawls clear sleeping platform ready. Pleased with myself I presented my hand work to the Co-pilot and waited for the whoops of glee and pats on the back. However, I'll still waiting for them. Instead I got "You want to sleep where? I'm not sleeping up there!!" I explained the advantages of the elevated sleeping platform; up away from bugs and creepy crawlys, smooth and level etc etc.

However, following a very short 'discussion' of the matter 'we' decided that 'we' didn't want to sleep up there and that 'we' thought the whole roof rack was a daft idea. 'we' the agreed that I would get the tent out of the boot and set it up on the ground and 'we' would much preferred to sleep down there.

Added to all this, when we returned home from the trip it was discovered that the loaded roof rack didn't actually fit into the underground car park at the co-pilots place and as such would have to be unloaded in the street outside. In fact, even empty it could only fit in by an inch or so clearance below ceiling ducting....provided I drive by a certain route, and not the most direct route. I guess Emaar didn't plan for the YBOD3.....with a few inches of lift kit......and a loaded roof rack. I mean, honestly!!

Anyway, as a result of the intended use for the rack being removed, and the parking restrictions brought to light, I've decided to get rid of the rack to free up the cash to spend on alternative toys ;0)

I bought the rack just over a month ago for AED3,600 including the FJ Cruiser rails. I'm selling for AED1,800.

I can deliver to anywhere in Dubai (city not Emirate that is). Sorry can't do Sharjah any more as I don't work there any longer.

The rack will fit on any truck with a rack, or if you are lucky enough to own an FJ Cruiser then the supplied rails will do the trick. I'm afraid that despite six years here in the UAE I have not yet been able to adopt the local love of haggling. However, if you have a need to embrace this local custom then the price is AED3,000 and you can knock me down to AED2,500 and we can both feel happy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

An offer for Jake the peg

Not a long blogg, but I was wondering through MOE this weekend and came across an offer in a shoe shop that I simply couldn't walk past without laughing out load and so I thought I'd share it with you:

Who on earth needs THREE shoes!!

Why would I buy two shoes and see it as a bonus to get one free, and do I get a choice on the third shoe? Do it have to match the others or can it be a random shoe?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bahrain vs Dubai - How to run and event

As you might have gathered during my write up of the Bahrain GP, apart from the initial problems with the tickets, I was VERY impressed with how Bahrain ran its GP. Now I'm not sure how many people went to the GP on the race day but it was a lot (33,500 according to the Bahrain GP Circuit web page) but despite that the event went smoothly and I came away pleased to have attended.

I didn't feel I was just an annoyance to the officials when I arrive at the airport, I was able to get to and from the event without sitting queues for hours, I was able to buy food and drinks from the kiosks etc without first having to go to a desk and buy vouchers to then take to another desk to have them encashed before going to a third desk collect the wrong order.

Each day there were more than enough taxis to go around, the organizers had arranged a constant procession of buses between the venue and the airport as well as ten key hotels throughout the city. And at these hotels there were well stocked taxi ranks.....which meant that you could get the free bus service to the nearest hotel to where you were going and then get a taxi from there.

Now these buses didn't all sit there all day and all leave at the end of the event regardless of how many people had left the event early and were subsequently stood in queues as we saw at the Rugby 7's this year in Dubai. They went every 30minutes throughout the day. That mean't you could come and go at any time during the day knowing there would be a bus.

The buses went to eleven different places - unlike the 7's buses that went to one place, which was only a few round abouts away and then left you there to try and find a taxi along with the very same people you were waiting with at the exiles club. No, the Bahrain buses took you to somewhere useful, well away from the venue and spread across the city, and therefore reduced the problem rather than merely transferring it.

And then on the last day, did the Bahrain Police simply direct all the traffic away from the venue to a road one roundabout away and then leave it at that. In a word no. We came out after the race along with at least half of the other spectators (some stayed on for the evening entertainment) to find police and stewards directing traffic out of NUMEROUS exits from the car park and onto a NUMBER of key roads. These all then lead to the freeway, which had been closed and all GP traffic then used all the lanes on both sides of the freeway!! The traffic could then quickly disperse from the venue and dissipate via the nearest junction to where it wanted to go (exit ramps were all open, entry ramps closed).

Also tens of free buses were ready to take anybody who needed to go to the airport, not a few taxis which you had to queue and fight for, but ample buses.

Within an hour or two the traffic had all left, the roads were back to normal and we were sat on our plane flying home and thinking what a fantastic trip. And yes there were problems, things weren't all perfect but when things did go adrift the staff (Bahrain's and expat) we met were generally polite and helpful and aimed to solve the problems rather than simply looking to move you on to somebody else or just generally get rid of you so that you weren't their problem.

Imagine anybody thinking that after a Dubai event:
  • How many people thought that trying to get in to gold cup this year?
  • How many people were impressed with the free buses that sat empty for hours and didn't go anywhere after 7s
  • How many were forced to queue for at least two hours for the pitiful number of taxis at the 7s
  • How many were impressed by the car parking at the boat show
  • How many people were impressed with the taxi situation while still waiting at 3am after the Shakira concert?
I mean come on.....Shakira!! No offense, but not exactly a top flight event. Imagine if the rolling stones came to play? No, I take my hat off to Bahrain. You ran a good event.

Dubai events organizers could do well to visit the next Bahrain GP and take notes. This is how an event can be ran.

Bahrain GP - Day 3 - THE RACE!!

We were up early and in a taxi by 9.30 having had another dillman club dinner (and beers) and another early night. We arrive at the circuit to see some of the other sights, but this being race day is there anything else to tell you about except the race, and so without any further ado lets get over to the race.

The stage was set, the track was readied. The teams arrived for the days racing:

and in eager anticipation the crowds started to gather with so much excitement you could almost taste in in the air

and the most important guests of honor found their seats

and the dignitories started to arrive and the royal pavilion (and you'll notice that at least one had the style to turn up in an FJ Cruiser!!)

The King then arrives, the digitiories are all place

The flags are waved, the biggest of course being the Bahrain Flag (presented upside down you will notice)

and so with the top brass in place the race can commence and so the track is checked

The driver get ready as the team make final checks

The fire marshalls are readied

The flag marshalled are given a quick recap on what they have to do

and then, with the stage set its all cars go...go....go.....

and as they enter turn one all cars are threw safely to start the 5th Bahrain GP!!!

and all that is left to do is race these fabulous machines!!

Sadly the final score didn't go the way I was hoping for, Hamilton lost 7 places off the grid and then had a "coming together" with Alonso and finished 13th and the victory went to Massa, Kimi Raikkonen in second and Kubica in third. Good race, bit of a procession, but GREAT to be there to see it none the less. If you get the chance to go to a GP go, don't just think about going, just go. The race is easier to watch and keep up with on the TV, but the energy and anger the cars kick out into the grandstands in insane, and worth the not quite knowing what is going on in the race.

Bahrain GP - Day 2 - Qualifying

After a very good nights sleep at the Bahrain Mansion we were up bright and early, mainly because the co-pilot had been left in charge of setting the alarm clock on the mobile and hadn't adjusted for the hours time difference to Dubai.....still all in forgiven.

So we booked a taxi and agreed a collection time of 10:30 and, to the utter amazment of this traveller used to Dubai Taxis, we were stunned to find him there at 10.30 on the dot. When we then insisted on the meter being turn on her frowned at us confused and replied "Of course, all taxis are required to use meter by law" and low and behold it cost us jsut BD8 to get to the circuit this time.....I'll say no more.

So with the early start we were able to get ourselves installed in our seats, cameras ready and looking forward to a good days racing:

And with the early start we were there in time to see the Porsche racing:

and then the GP2 Asia race, which are cars that look like F1 cars did a few years ago, have reduced power and make for LOTS of very close, very competitive and very fun racing.

But the highlight of the day, as it should be, was certainly the Formula 1 qualifying.

And how to describe the F1 cars........well......the only words I can think of are horrendously noisy. Yes they are supremely fast, they take corners at impossible speeds, they accelerate at incredible rates and they are are super sleek beautiful works of art but the thing that hit me most about these beasts is definitely the noise.

But how to describe that noise. As they turn on to the start finish straight you and hear a demonic whine like a thousand hornets straight form hell, as they come along the straigh it gets loader and loader. By half way along the straight the whine as built to a scream and your ear drums are physically stinging.....and then by the time they pass you you feel like you ears have been torn apart and your spleen is going to rupture.

It is like being in a small concrete bunker with a hungry 3 month old baby screaming through Metallica's sound system.

It hurts.

Its horrendous.


Bahrain GP - Day 1 - Free Practice

So, now that I have all the moaning off my chest here is a more up beat and positive recount of the Bahrain GP Adventure:

With my birthday approaching the Co-Pilot asked what I wanted to do to mark the event of turning 21 for the 11th time. After some thought we decided upon the Bahrain GP as I've never been to a GP and it was so close by it seemed daft not to so we put a plan together.

Sadly, owing to prior commitments and boring fartedness, Mrs Bailey and Mummy Dodd (respectively) were unable to make it....and with Mummy Dodd not attending Daddy Dodd was not allowed....although he blames work commitments. And so the Co-pilot, Mr Bailey and myself headed off to Bahrain.

We booked flights in advance with the local sleazy yet provider and bought three days GP passes oon line via the Bahrain GP web page. A few clicks later and we were kitted out with a bundle of e-tickets and a bucket load of excittedness. Added to this Mrs Baileys parents had VERY kindly offered to let us stay in their spare rooms in the Bahrain Mansion (complete with pool and tennis court.....very nice) so we were sorted.

Come the morning of the start of our petrol powered weekend we had a 10.15 flight, therefore allowing the usual 2 hours we planned to get to the airport at 8.15 arrive so we figured 7.30 for a taxi. We called in advance the night before to get a taxi but it being Thursday night when we called all the taxi's were going to be busy therefore Dubai Transport in their usual terrible service had decided the best solution was to ignore the phones altogether.

Unable to book a taxi we decided to play it safe and head out into the street at 7.15 to track down a taxi and hope for the best.........and the best we got, as we walked out, there jsut dropping a fare off was a taxi - happy days, in we jump and off we go to the airport and we are there by 7:45, check in and through to duty free by 8 (Jazeera check in staff are great, quick, efficient). So we then had two hours to kill in Duty Free which I decided to liven up by losing my passport.......but thats another story......which I may tell later....but suffice to say it was a drama and I ended up with a soaked passport.

With time (and money) spent in duty free we boarded our flight and, after a little pray for the flight we were on our way and before we knew it we were in Bahrian, landing 1o minutes before we had taken off.

When we arrived in Bahrain we had been warned in advance that we needed to get an entry visa on arrival (the joy of the British Passport) and that it cost BD2. Now if you have ever arrived at Dubai Airport intending to get a visa you will know how long it can take, how many queues can be required and how frustrating it can feel (while you are convinced they are going as slow as they possibly can). If you havn't then read Page 2 of Peter Wood's excellent book "If the Sun Doesn't Kill You The Washing Machine Will" where he describes the similar process in Qatar.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Bahrain.

Well, despite all my trepidation I was completely amazed, pleased and perplexed when we walked through to passport control and found clearly sign posted tables with the necessary form ready and waiting to be filled out, with lots of pens and then a polite and freindly chap in immigration uniform directing us to numerous desks, empty and ready to help us. The immigration guy at the desk was in good humour (dispite my soaking passport) found a dry corner and wished me a pleasant stay while stamping my passport with a special Bahrain GP visa AT NO COST!!

Once through visas, baggage collection and passports we were in Bahrain and had found Mr Bailey and we all headed off to the circuit in our taxi.

When we got in to the circuit at about 2pm we were just in time to witness the noise explosion that was the GP2 Asia cars starting their first race, and stone me are they noisy!! These were in effect the second billing on the race calender (Lumina, Prosche, GP2 Asia, Formula 1) but they were still impressively load!! With the start of the race missed we went off in search of food and water before finding our seats in the Turn 1 grandstand and setting ourselves up for some great racing action and hopefully one or two good photos.

From our seats in the grandstand you could see all along the home straight

and into turn 1, 2 and 3 which was fantastic!!

However, I am going to have one more moan here, but only a small one. As you will notice in the above shots, while the human eye was able to see eveything in our view, because of the very high safety fencing it rendered much of the track un-photographable as the camera would either focus on the fencing or if it was able to focus through on the cars then the meshing would spoil the shot.

Still, I am well aware from years of watching GP on the telly that this fencing is there for a good reason as a detectch wheel leaving an F1 car and entering the grandstand does kind of cause a mess. Small complaint over.

So once we had sounded out our grandstand and established that even on practice day when all other grandstands were about 90% empty we were not allowed a look around the other place it was established that due to the saftey fencing there were in fact only three good shots of the cars we were going to get.

The first was over the top of the fencing where we could get the cars leaving Turn one:

On the straight in front of us through a marshalls gaps in the fencing:

but this required lightening fast reactions to time it just right, and a super fast shutter speed as you had little chance of panning with the car to get it in sharp focus. The third option was to combine the two and get a shot of the cars entering turn 2 through the gap in the fence:

Which gave a nice context to the composition, but resulted in shots of the rear of the car only, and quite a long way away.

So as you look through the rest of my pictures bear in mind that while they may all look the same this is because I had limited shots and angles to work with.

After watching the days practice sessions and the other racing events we took a complimentary bus back into Manama (which were clean, comfortably, ran on time and to a number of usefully places - Dubai take note), took a walk along the front to see the new turbine building (I'm sure it has a better name than that) then a taxi back to the Bahrain Mansion for a shower, food at the dimwhit club and a good nights sleep.

A good day all in all.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bahrain GP - Day 1.....if you can find the tickets

In writing up about the trip to the Bahrain GP I have decided to report on the first day in two parts. This is to allow me to separate the initial annoying crappy, disorganized, un-helpful, $h!tty rip-off parts from the fantastic part that was the rest of my Bahrain GP trip.

And being a Brit, and a typical whingging pomme, I will start with the complaining. In my defense this is also almost the chronological order as well.

The plan was to travel from Dubai Friday morning, meet up with Richard in Bahrain (who was coming from UK where he had been surprising his parents....that's another story) and then get a taxi to the circuit.

My co-pilot and I arrived at Bahrain no troubles (see the non-whingging version), met Richard and after some discussion we figured hiring a car might be the best option as we could find our own way around, avoid repeated taxi fares and do a bit of exploring. And so we headed to the "Frequency" car hire company desk where we were told it would cost us BD50 for a small car. Thats AED500 a day for a small car so we politely suggested somewhere they could park their small car. As we walked away it seems there had been a massive crash in the Bahrain car hire market because he was suddenly able to offer us a 20% discount on their 'standard' price and dropped to BD40. We still though too high for a small car so went for the taxi option. "Frequency" were clearly making the most of the GP weekend!!

However, once we got outside the taxi proved no better. We got in to one of the airport taxis to find it had no meter. Instead the driver produced a list of “special agreed rates” for the Bahrain GP weekend. Looking down this "special list" we found it was BD30 to the circuit!! That’s AED300. We took it but in hindsight should have refused - but 20:20 is hindsight - as it appeared clear that the whole of Bahrain had embraced the "fleece the tourists" approach to this major international sporting event and we just wanted to get there.

[Apologies to Bahrain, but this was only our first impressions, it later proove to be unfair]

After a manic journey at break neck speed we arrived at circuit, paid Dick Terpin the taxi driver, and spent half hour trying to find somebody on the gate who knew where to collect the pre-purchase tickets.

When booking the tickets on-line at their web page I had chosen to collect the tickets at the box office rather than have them delivered as I was sure that with just two weeks notice the courier was bound to get it wrong, not be able to find my location or generally bugger things up as is the norm in Dubai. So we strolled over to the nearest gate where we had to have all our bags scanned, near stip searched and then had to feed ouselves head first through a metal detector before we could speak to the man who knew - this is honestly how he was pointed out to me when I asked where I collect my tickets "speak to him, he is the man that knows".

Sadly he turned out to be the man who didn't know where the box office was, and pointed us in the direction of the next gate....only to find that their man who knew also didn't know either and pointed us on to yet another desk, after first requiring we be scanned and searched again of course (what on earth were they so despirate to search for as they didn't pick up my co-pilots Leatherman knife or the numerous electronics we had in our bags?) Eventually after a few of these gate hops we decided to head over to what looked like the main entrance where we managed to find a very helpfully german sounding lad who was working at the same desk as 'the main gate man who knew' (who of course didn't know), who looked at my e-ticket, scratched his head and said:
"Ah yes, you are supposed to collect zem from zee box office"
"Yes I know that, it says that on my e-ticket, but where is the box office"
"Oh, I do not know, but it is probably zee same place they sell zee tickets"
"Which is where?"
"Ah yes, zat is at zee petrol stations on zee Manama road"
"OK, and how do I get there?"
"Well you drive back out of the stadium car park..."
"Wait a minutes, drive? I have just come from the airport in a taxi. I don't have a car"
"Oh dear......zen it iz a long walk"
And that was as good as it got. He gave us directions and we set off on a 2.7km, 45 minute walk into the desert in the 39 degree heat......I kid you not, below is a view of the box office from the stadium:

When I finally arrived at the box office, the co-pilot and Mr Bailey have faded and stopped under a shady tree en route, I stumbled up to a desk and asked if this was the place to collect the tickets "no sir". "What! " I growled getting ready for a fight "The collection desk is that one there" he said indicting the other side of the room. Phew, I didn't have the energy for a fight.

I stumbled up to the new desk, sweating perfusely, and requested my tickets. While waiting, and sweating, I explained to the Bahrainee guy behind the counter (yes, for all those living in Dubai you read that correctly, a Bahrainee was manning the desk) that they really need to get their act together and have the box office at the stadium, or else explain in the e-ticket where this place is. "but they know to send you here at the stadium, and there are free shuttle buses". "Oh no there isn't" I explained "and they know nothing of this place at the stadium, I've just had to walk here". "What!!" he exclaimed and got on the phone and started shouting in Arabic. Mid sentence he switched back to English, asked me a few questions about how I had been treated, then turned to another fella and said "get him his tickets and get him back to the circuit....and get him something to drink" and turning to me apologized and assured me he would sort it all out.

Five minutes later I had my tickets, plenty of water and fruit juice and the distinct impression somebody somewhere was getting a new ar$e ripped. I was lead out to the staff transport which, in true gulf Arab style, was a brilliant white Porsche Cayenne!! It was very comfortable and got me back to the circuit VERY quickly and VERY smoothly.

With the initial fiasco sorted out we can now return to the rest of my Bahrain GP report, which contains far less complaining (but not completely without) as the rest of the weekend was BRILLIANT!!