Friday, May 01, 2009

Another Obama Administration mistake???

Read the following link..looks like someone at the State Department is screwing things up between Israel and the Arab World (as if things were not screwed up as is), courtesy of the Arab News:

King/Peres Meeting?

If you want to piss off the Arab World to no end, keep on doing this stuff, Barry.

A few other items of news from KSA:

Marriage, Saudi-Style annulled

Arab News editorial on the end of the British Mission in Iraq

I've been out and about after work and on the "weekends" (Thursday and Friday) here in Riyadh - yesterday I went to the local Harley-Davidson dealer in Riyadh (Five year anniversary of opening in Riyadh) - picked up a couple of T-shirts and a ballcap. The owner was very gracious towards the visitors in the showroom and was having a sale on riding gear and other items - a raffle for a new Harley and a H-D soft drink vending machine. While I was paying at the counter, a young lady was raising hell with the guys ringing up customers about the freebies they were giving out (keychain and pen). She later came up to Glen, one of the guys I work with, and rolled back her burhka and talked directly to him (a big taboo in KSA) perfect English! We got the impression that Dad was the front man with the bankroll, the son designed some of the bikes that were sold there, but she was the brains of the operation...Women will be the voice of change here in the immediate future, and I would not be surprised if she was one of the leaders...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The beauty of the Universe...

Just came across this today on the 'net - photos from the Cassini spacecraft that is in orbit around Saturn (it's mission has been extended, and it is the Cassini Equinox).

Saturn Photos

NASA and the other space agencies get a lot for the little money that they are provided by their respective governments...and they get not just photos back but data that allows scientists to put their theories to the test about how the universe, and Earth formed billions of years ago. Cassini and the two martian rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) are just two programs that have earned their keep, and then some.

BTW - Spirit and Opportunity are still going strong five years after arriving on Mars (although Spirit has been having some computer problems over the last week). The were only supposed to last for 90 days...

If you get a chance, check out the JPL's website and see what the NASA/JPL team are doing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just a few things...

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, there has been a few things going on that have distracted me from keeping the visitors to this blog up to date on things in KSA...

Dengue Fever has made an appearance here in KSA - according to the local press, only 139 people have been affected by it, with at least 2 fatalities. With the above normal rainfall over the last couple of weeks, the mosquito population is literally out of control, regardless of how much DDT is sprayed in the area. Best guess - add a zero or two to the numbers above for the true picture. Also, if Dengue Fever progresses to Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, your chances of survival are almost zero...

Police have been clashing with Shiite pilgrims in Medina and other cities - It's the Shiite - Sunni/Wahhabi communities (Wahhabi's look at Shiites as being infidels)protesting for equal rights, with the police stepping in and clashing with the Shiites. How long this can be kept in check is anyone's guess right now, but there are threats of strikes and other acts of disobedience to come if there is no change

Internet cafes and secret videotaping - The Ministry of Interior has made it mandatory for Internet cafe's to secretly videotape and provide then with records on patrons that use them. "Big Abdulla" is watching you surf on the 'net here....

and last, but not least...Hai'a to improve their image - The Hai'a (better known as the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) are trying to improve their public image... the matawa's work for this arm of the government and enforce religious law in KSA. I think that they have some way to go, with the public executions and beatings that they administer as punishment - anyone know of a good PR firm for hire?

BTW - the punishment for defacing the Saudi flag is 150 lashes and jail time - a foreigner was awarded that recently. And people get upset at home with how the flag is treated under "free speech" - at least they don't get flogged in public for burning the Stars and Stripes...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Some news from Saudi Arabia...

Here are a few newsworthy items from the Arab News (English language paper in KSA):

11 Al-Qaeda suspects arrested

End of Life debate

One other newsworthy item....about a week ago, there was a murder at a local store, about a mile from the compound. The murderer was the store owner - he had an obsession with a 11 year old boy who lived near by (pictures of the boy taken with a cell phone were found on the suspect's computer). The father of the boy sent him to the store to pick up a few items for dinner; when the boy got to the store, he was sexually assaulted and choked to death by the owner. The father, wondering where his son was, went to the store and found his son dead on the floor. He confronted the store owner, who proceeded to kill the father with a meat cleaver, then locked up the store and escaped. Members of the family found the father and son at the store, and called the police, who were successful in apprehending the store owner.

According to my Saudi co-worker, the suspect, if found guilty (an almost sure thing) will be executed - and supposedly in the neighborhood where it happened. As you are aware, execution is done by decapitation, and it is a public event. What is not known by many Westerners is that there are two types of execution - the typical "Hollywood" style of execution, and a slower version (that many Westerner's that have been captives of the Taliban and Al Qaeda)...

I wonder what the ACLU would think about that?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Thanks to a fellow Blogger...

Need to thank PCD from "The Loose Cannon on the Right" for directing some of you over here to read about my adventures in Saudi Arabia...and if you came here by some other means, please go check his blog out.

Feel free to leave questions or comments here, I'll do my best to answer them as soon as I can, and hopefully give you some insight into life over here in Saudi Arabia.

Article from the Saudi Gazette....

Just looked over a newsletter sent out by the company I work for here in the Kingdom...the Ministry of Education has ordered all privately owned schools to remove images of pigs and musical instruments from English Language teaching materials. Seems that the materials must conform to Islamic teachings - and that the minister has asked all regional directors to ensure that this policy is followed immediately.

Religion plays a huge role in the lives of those that are followers of the Islamic faith in the Kingdom - the King is the "custodian of the holy sites" and there are the religious police (mutawas) that ensure that Islamic customs and traditions are followed to the letter of the law (they get their marching orders from the local imam's and the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and the Prosecution of Vice - yes, that is what it is called). The mutawas are dressed distinctly from an ordinary Saudi male, and they are not afraid to enforce Islamic Law - event to the point of shops and businesses closing down for prayers throughout the day.

Living here is opening my eyes to what life is really like in a society where religion plays a role in just about every aspect of daily life. I'm assuming that life in the former Soviet Union and other communist states must have been something like this - with "big brother" ensuring that you follow what is acceptable for society...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wow...what a meal....

Just finished up with work when I got a call to go to a Shawa restaurant - it's a place where they serve BBQ or rotisserie chicken with rice and something to drink for about $3.00 for 1/2 chicken (11 Saudi Rials). There's a lot of chicken and rice, and it's more than enough to stuff anyone with a hearty appetite, and have leftovers to take home for lunch the next day.

Tomorrow I'll be going out to one of the infantry training ranges on the SANG base called Khasan Al An (pronounced Kas-ma-alan). The base is named after a plateau that when looked at from lover elevation looks like the profile of a camel's nose.

My job pays pretty well ($7k to $8k based on overtime), but like most military jobs that I have had, there was no turnover between my predecessor and myself, and he left nothing in the way of a passdown log or instructions, so I'm figuring things out the hard way.

One last thing - I'm provided with a vehicle while I'm here (a 1999 Ford Expedition) - it's a "hand me down" from the US Army/US Air Force units here in the Kingdom, so they have been abused. Today I looked inside and saw that the rear view mirror had fallen off the windshield and that when I started it up, it stalls out when it's put into gear. I won't have a license for a few more weeks (after I get my internal passport, called an Iqama - pronounced E-gama) so driving isn't a priority right now.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dinner and shopping in Riyadh....

Just got back from shopping at the Saudi equivalent of a mall....visited two stores (Hyper Panda and Best). Hyper Panda is like a Super Walmart, with more emphasis on the supermarket aspect. Visiting on a Friday afternoon before the last prayer (about 6:15 PM), the store was busy, but not packed. Best is a Best Buy type store, but expensive compared to Electro (another electronics/appliance store).

ATM's are usually found at gas stations here (off on their own small island). Using a ATM card here to pull Rials (Saudi currency) is pretty easy - it asks you if your want English or Arabic menu for getting money. Little kids seem attracted to the units, one actually watched me pull money out of the machine (must have thought is was some sort of XBox or Wii). After the transaction was finished, it gave me my balance in dollars instead of Rials. 200 Rials was about $60.00 dollars (exchange rate is about $1.00=3.75 Rials).

I've eaten out at two resturaunts (Fudruckers and Applebees) in the last couple of days. Prices for the meals are about equal to what I paid back home (I had the Fiesta Chicken and Iced Tea for about 60 rials). Final bill for meals also have a 15% gratuity, regardles of the number in the party, figured in. Waiters in the resturaunt are all foriegn workers (usually filipino males), and seating is segregated (males only in the front of the resturaunt, families seating in an isolated area in the back). Smoking is still allowed indoors here, but there is a push to ban it in certain areas.

One last thing - gasoline prices (and this will piss off alot of people). Gas prices here run about $0.20 to $0.30 per gallon (yes, that is right)...gas is cheaper here than water. Stations are run by Bagledeshi or Pakistani workers that do full service (check under the hood, ful up all fluids, etc...), but they look like death traps from the outside.

BTW - thanks to my internet friend over at "The Loose Cannon on the Right" for traffic that comes over to my blog...PCD was more than happy to allow me to let you know about life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from a "infadel's" point of view.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'm in Saudi Arabia...

Well, I arrived in Riyadh last Thursday, after a total of 17 hours on two separate jets (Portland to DC was 4 1/2 hours, DC to Riyadh was 12 1/2 non-stop). The week was spent trying to get my biological clock on KSA time (just about there as of this posting) and checking in to the new job here, which took 2 days. Inital impressions:

Internet service - have DSL on the compound that I live on, but limited bandwidth. During workdays, they narrow the bandwidth from 4 AM to 6 PM so it can be used for work. In the past, many of the employees were downloading while they were at work, clogging up the 'tubes for work purposes. After work and on the weekends (Thursday and Friday), service can be slow at times, but workable. The KSA government has filters on the 'net, which block out pron and sites that they feel are "immoral" or decadent (LGF is one that I check out and its blocked). I've called home using Yahoo's Messenger service - the call was a penny a minute, which seems like a good deal, with no monthly fees.

Living accomidations - I live in a small home, which I share with a former Army enlisted guy (Thomas). it has three bedrooms, three bath, living and dining rooms, and a full kitchen. The compound has about 300 employees total, but just a few spouses here, and no families (terrorism is still a concern here). The compound has a resturaunt, two pools, gym, tennis and B-ball courts and bowling alley. "Fellowship" meetings (aka: church) is done on Friday mornings. There is a small shopette, barber shop and even a jewelry store on the compound, but prices are higher that off the compound.

Riyadh - just about all of the buldings here are made out of concrete and brick, with wood used for doors. Marble is used for flooring in just about all buildings. Building colors are varying shades of tan...very few bright colors seem here. The city's streets are layed out in a North to South, East to West orientation, and poorly marked...buildings don't have proper addresses, like back home. Driving here is like NASCAR on steroids...only men drive here and they are in a hurry to get from point A to point B. Air quality is horrible...LA on a bad day is no where near to Riyadh on a good day. Saudis, for all the money they have, live in cities that are third world at best...

I've got more to post....don't want to put anyone on info overload....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Layover in DC....

Well, today is the day I started my trip to Saudi Arabia - I left Portland, OR (cold and wet) for Dulles (cold and gloomy) for an overnight stop. Five hours on a plane is long, but I have 12+ hours to go until I get to Riyadh - at least it's on a 747, not a C-141 crossing the Pacific (I've done that four times).

This is the second time I've flown First Class on United (the first time was last month for my screening with Northrup/Grumman). Flying on a Airbus 319 both times, the seats are nice, but not a lot of legroom...meals are OK - they try to make the meals a gourmet experience...not real impressed.

I'm gonna put in a plug for Candlewood Suites (the hotel I've stayed at both times). If you get a chance to stay at one, please do so. Staff at the hotel in Fairfax are great, greeted me with hot cookies (you could smell them baking when you walked in) and the rooms have kitchenettes. They have a pantry area that is done on an honor system...mostly 7/11 or QuickMart type stuff. You may pay a little more for the stay, but it seems to be worth it.

I'll post more after I get to Riyadh...need to go find something to eat...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ready to go...

Just got word that I'll be leaving for DC tomorrow, with my flight to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday evening. A little disappointed that I'm starting a week later than I thought, but it gave me more time with my wife and time to take care of things here at home.

I'll make it part of my routine to post at least weekly, and hopefully throw in a few pictures of KSA (and hopefully generate some interest in this blog).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Still waiting to leave....

Just came back from the Oregon Coast, after spending time with my wife and one of the dogs (Rufus lived high on the hog for the last couple of days). The company that I have a contract with delayed my departure from tomorrow to possible as late as next that gives me time to take care a few more things here at home before I go....

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Economy....

nice perspective from the WSJ on the economy....WSJ

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Departure day is getting closer...

I've been running around trying to get things ready to go to Saudi Arabia...and trying to get the "Honey do" list cut down to size. Spent the last two days sick (projectile vomiting and diarrhea), still feeling like crap, but finished grouting the slate tile in the kitchen.

Picked up an ASUS G50Vt laptop for the year looks hot and runs nice (even though it's a Windows Vista 64 bit machine). Still figuring out how to use all the built in goodies on it, but it's a nice toy (I've usually bought Sony Vaio's for the wife, so this was a out of the norm for us).

I'll try to post a couple of more times before I go...BTW, I've been invited to post over at "The Loose Cannon on the Right" on my time in the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to let those that visit these two sites what is happening over there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Things are happening...

FYI - I have a hew job...will be going to Saudi Arabia for a year, so I'm trying to take care of the "honey do" list before I go. If you come across this, please be patient...I'll be back...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Crap Sandwich (aka the "stimulus" bill)

I'm sure that all of you have read about the Crap Sandwich that the Donks and RINO's in Congress and Obama are about ready to shove down out throats. I'm not a fan of pork barrel politics and this is full of so much pork that it gives me hypertension. I'm not a economists, but here are my ideas of how to jump start the economy:

1. Tax breaks for families that make less than $250K
2. Tax break for small business
3. Waive collection of FICA for 6 months for working families (income less than $250k)
4. Top to bottom review of business practices and employee utilization in all government offices - done by an outside company. Report to President within 120 days, with recommendations for improving business practices, including using contractor/outsides sources that can work more effectively that current organization. Terminate/early retirement for personnel that are considered "redundant" to reduce workforce. Employees terminated from job to get 3 months severance pay; employees forced into early retirement to be paid on a scale based on total years of federal service. Recommended changes to take effect within 180 days of approval by the president.
5. Termination of government programs that are ineffective or performing a redundant function. This includes programs that do not benefit ALL AMERICANS (read funding for ACORN and other organizations like them).
6. Consider merging some cabinet posts/departments that have overlapping functions.
7. Sell off/privatize PBS/NPR/NEA
8. Terminate government funding for research grants that do not have an immediate (less than 5 years) payoff in the following areas - National Defense, Health care, Energy, Agriculture.
9. No payouts to banks or business that can not return to profitability within 2 years.
10. Slash the pay of members of Congress, President, VP, Cabinet members, senior executive staff and federal judges by 15%.

The federal government will never be taken seriously when it comes to looking out for us...this bill shows all of us that they don't have a clue about what is happening to us out here. Until they "get a set" and make some hard decisions, then they need to find other employment at the first available opportunity....courtesy of the voters.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Poor leadership in action...

Just a few thoughts about leadership...

1. President Obama and using fear as a means of getting your way - If you're doing this, your base is going to fade away real quick. This isn't get over it and be the leader that you "claim" to be. Oh, BTW - stop with the campaign machinery that is on the Internet...if you can't get things straightened out by Labor Day, the electorate is gonna turn on the Democrats in 2010, and you'll find yourself dealing with the GOP in the majority in the House.

2. Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys) - this was off the Dallas Cowboys blog maintained by the Dallas Morning News:

Jerry made it clear that the Reeves departure was not about a control battle. And Jerry made it clear that no coach/consultant/executive has ever or will ever get ultimate control as long as he's roaming the Valley Ranch hallways.

"Not one time with any head coach in 20 years does anyone have an authority to hire a football player, fire a football player, draft a football player, hire a coach, an assistant coach," Jerry said. "In 20 years, not one coach has ever had it. I've always had it. I want to make that clear."

The Cowboys are a team that seem to be a textbook case of "the inmates running the asylum", where teamwork is a dirty word for some of the players, and Jerry seems to let the team run itself. This is a franchise that is in an almost constant state of turmoil, with problems on and off the field, and the Owner/GM (Jones) calling all of the shots.

I've worked both of these situations before while in the Navy, and I've told the "leaders" the truth - THEY SUCKED! Both people paid for the ineffective leadership with their promotion chances diminished, and they were the butt of jokes in the Officer's Wardroom and CPO mess....

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Democrats and taxes....

Just a few thoughts about President Obama's recent choices having to remove themselves from consideration due to "tax issues". If this was anybody else (like you or me), we would be under the IRS' hammer if we failed to file or accurately report our taxes, to include bank accounts seized, wages garnished and liens on property. What slays me is that these individuals, who obviously have further designs on future employment with a democratically controlled White House and knowing that they would be scrutinized by the Senate (especially after what happened to Joe the Plumber), all of a sudden have an epiphany and realize that they didn't pay their taxes???

Are they that stupid? Do they just sign their returned mindlessly, thinking that TurboTax/their accountant did his/her job? And some in power feel that they are "qualified" to be advisers to the President and his Cabinet??? I wouldn't trust any of them with my checkbook, and they were going to provide oversight on "government performance" or healthcare reform.

Memo to Obama and his "advisers"... maybe you need to vet your people by looking at their taxes first before asking them if they would like a job working for President Hopeychangey...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Democrats and money...

Well it's Saturday and the MSSM is reporting on some "financial" issues that the Democrats have their fingers in:

Daschle and taxes

Defense Department budget

Congress gives itself $93K for "petty cash"

But Barry has the guts to scold Wall Street about bonuses? Looks like there's a disconnect here. This is a man who stood there during the primary and general election campaign and preached "hope" and "change", and scolded Americans about their SUV's and thermostats cranked up to 72 degrees, but he and his fellow Democrats are spending money like it's going out of benefit their "friends" and "special interests" more that helping us out.

If the Democrats are so concerned about the economy then I have a proposal for them. Every citizen that has files a tax form over the last five years, making less than $100K for single filers, $250K for married, that does not owe back taxes is entitled to a "bailout" of $5-$10K. Money could be used to pay off school loans, credit card debt, saving for college - something to "stimulate the economy".

I don't know about you, but I bet I could put that money to better use than the Democrats and their friends could.

Tip to Drudge Report, Gateway Pundit and Doug Ross @ Journal

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hope and change is at it again...

Well, according to Fox News and other websites, President Barry is now telling the Defense Department to slash the FY2010 budget by 11%. He's already delayed/killed missile defense for Eastern Europe, and has been making overtures to Iran and North Korea.

I don't know about you, but he's gonna hurt those in uniform harder than Jimmah Carter did in the 1980's (and for you youngsters, things were really bad back them). Someone needs to sack up (Secretary of Defense Gates???) and get it through to Barry that he's cutting off America's the expense of national security.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our new POTUS...

Yesterday, the Republicans in the House made a statement - they and 11 Democrats voted against the Stimulus Bill, knowing that it was full of congressional pork and providing no real immediate help to those Americans that have lost their jobs. Yesterday alone, the following big named companies announced revenue losses and /or job cuts:

Starbucks - closing 300 stores worldwide, 6,000 jobs to be eliminated
Boeing - slashing 10,000 jobs across the board
Delta Airlines - $1.4B dollar loss for the fourth quarter
Kodak - 4th quarter loss, 4,500 jobs to be cut

And last night, President Obama decided to hold a cocktail party, with a few of the power brokers in DC. I would have liked to be there since he was serving Vodka martinis and wegyu beef ($100.00 per pound). He also likes to have the temperature in the White House at 77 degrees, while he like to take us to task and wants us to lower our thermostat to 72 degrees.

As a leader in the Navy, one of the first rules of leadership is, "'do as I say, not as I do' get's you in trouble with your Sailors". People are facing economic hardship of the type that has not been seen since the Great Depression , and yet the president is engaging in "do as I say, not as I do" behavior. How many of you had martinis and wegyu beef last night for dinner? I thought so...

I've told my wife that Obama will have 100 days to deliver the goods to his supporters, then his support will start fading away...and the MSM that sold their collective souls to support him will stop reporting poll numbers. "Hope and Change" and "ethics" will go by the wayside soon enough....and we will pay the prices for it.