Sunday, July 31, 2011

Impressions #15 - a couple of videos around my neighborhood

I took 2 bits of video along the 25 minute walk from my apartment to the supermarket. Part of the walk is through this quiet neighborhood of mostly middle class homes. Typically they have a high wall right up against the sidewalk with a fancy door. This does not open directly into the house. This opens into a front garden and the house is 15-25' back. So, mostly you can only see the very upper portions of the houses from the street. Basically, they are little fortresses, intensely private. Saudis rarely invite non-family members into their homes. When they socialize it is usually at restaurants.

The next big of video is the busy shopping street where the supermarket is located. I am walking along the median strip. This is a common place to walk as the sidewalks are often torn up or obstructed. You can see a Pizza Hut, a Starbucks, a Pain d'Or. The place called Jarir Bookstore is where I got my painting supplies. They have all kinds of arts and crafts supplies as well as office products, computers, video games. I don't recall seeing any books there.

I know they're not very interesting videos but they give a bit of a feel of the streets. It was about 8:30pm and it gets dark about 7:30pm right now. The temperature was around 115-120 during the middle of the day. At this time of evening it drops down to about 100 and if there's a bit of a breeze you can almost trick yourself into thinking it has "cooled off".

Friday, July 29, 2011

Battle of the Muezzin - Impressions #14

Since the dawn of time (or at least, the ready availability of sound amplification technology) the Muezzin of the great desert kingdom have engaged in daily aural battles, challenging each other, competing to sing the praises of the Almighty, battling to stir in the hearts of the people feelings of awe and humility.

Walking through the streets of Riyadh, you are never more than a few blocks from a "Friday Mosque". Planning guidelines for new developments recommend that no house should be more than 500 meters, 1/4 mile, from a mosque. You should always be walking distance from one. There will be several in the project I am working on.

Anyhow, though they all sing the same words, each Muezzin has his own unique style of singing. Some are more florid, others somber. Nowadays, with every mosque having amazing sound amplification technology, you can easily hear 3 or 4 muezzin, in 3 or 4 different mosques, all singing at the same time. I'm sure all their amplifiers go up to 11. They certainly max them out.

I took this little video this evening as I was walking home from the supermarket. I happened to pass this intersection just as they got going. I could see the minaret of one of the mosques, but the other, the opposite direction down the street, was hidden by some trees.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Impressions #13 - How to Make Money on Horse Racing

This is my 13th entry and I thought it would be appropriate to honor that lucky number with an entry about horse racing.

One of the few TV stations that's in English broadcasts out of Dubai. It's a non-commercial station devoted to broadcasting horse racing events, 24/7. I suspect it is supported and subsidized by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He is a big lover of horse racing and operates one of the great racing stables of the world.

In the evenings, after work, I often leave the TV on to that station while I do other things and let my attention fall on it for a few minutes at a time. The animals are so beautiful and their joy in their prowess is a real pleasure to watch.

Anyhow, I noticed that the favorite (the horse with the lowest betting odds) very often won, or at least placed. I got to thinking, "The favorite wins or places so often. Why not just bet on the favorite in every race?"

So, I found the website of one of the major bookies, Ladbrokes, and pulled up 1 week's worth of racing results, about 180 races.

Engineer that I am, the next thing I did was to open Excel and create a spreadsheet. I entered the results into it and create 2 betting strategies, "Place" or "Win". Betting to "win" means that you get the full odds if the horse wins, i.e. if you place the minimum 2 British Pound (BP) bet on a horse with 4-1 odds, you get your 2 BP back as well as an additional 8 BP. Betting to "Place" means that if the horse ends in the top 3 (top 2 for races with less than 7 horses), you get the "Place" odds, which are usually 25% of the "Win" odds. So, the same 2 BP bet will win you 2 BP.

There are loads of other betting strategies, but these 2 are the simplest to analyze and probably the best approach, if you're betting on a favorite.

After a thorough and detailed analysis of the results for the 180 races I came to the following conclusion.

If you want to make money on horse racing, become a bookie!

Friday, July 22, 2011

impressions #12 - a few photos of my apartment

Here are a few photos of my apartment. First, the sitting area... comfortable enough. The furniture came with the place, though I'm free to get rid of it if I want. I might in a while. Everything's built of concrete. The walls are plastered and the floors are all tile. It makes it easy to wash the floors down since there's a fair amount of dust. But I'm up on the 3rd floor, well up above the street, which helps.

The bathroom is simple. Like you find around Europe, the shower has no enclosure. So make sure to stash the toilet paper away or it will get wet.

This is my front door handle. They love their "baroque" here. My building is brand new. It's 10 minutes walk from my office. I'm quite happy with it.

impressions #11 - a conversation about relationships

(The picture has nothing to do with my post. It's just a building I saw alongside the highway, an interesting blend of traditional and modern. Environmentally it's a good strategy for shading to reduce the heat load on the building, while still allowing the cooling benefits of breezes)

I was chatting with one of my younger colleagues recently, an Egyptian fellow of about 28. We were talking about the future, things we'd like to do, places to go. I mentioned that my long term plan, after completing my work with the company, was to return to France where I have a home, and live there.

He got excited and said how much he loved France. When he was 20 he moved there for a year to study.

"I met a French girl. We wanted to get married. But when I told my father he forced me to come home. He told me, "I didn't send you to France to find a French girl.". I haven't been back since."

He is married now, to an Egyptian girl. He has a daughter of 3 years old.

Everything is under control.