Annual Book Post

Continuing the tradition that began 10 years ago and then never occurred again until now, here are the best books that I read for the first time last year. The books are in alphabetical order, not ranked order.
  • Artemis by Andy Weir
    This is Weir's follow up (not a sequel) to The Martian. A heist novel set on a colony on the moon. The science is better than the characterization, but it was a fun read.
  • A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
    Made into a movie that came out last year, this is a novel that tells the story of a dog and his attempt to find his purpose. It made me tear up several times.
  • Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion by Ronald L. Numbers
    A very interesting collection of essays, each written by a different scholar, that look beyond the myths about science and religion that we have all been taught and examines the much more interesting truth of each of these cases.
  • A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
    A fascinating and fun history of how six drinks (namely beer, wine, liquors, coffee, tea, and Coca-cola) have both reflected and change the societies that drank them.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
    The story of a grumpy old man who is dealing with the loss of his wife, who now finds himself without purpose in a rapidly changing world. Has a lot of similarities to Gran Torino, the Clint Eastwood movie of 2008.
  • The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver
    A scary look at what could happen if the US budget deficit continues to grow, seen through one extended family that is trying to deal with the repercussions. Does a really good job of explaining the economics of what is happening while still being a great read.
  • Meditations Marcus Aurelius
    The classic stoic writings of the Roman emperor.
  • Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right by Ken Stern
    Stern, a former CEO of National Public Radio, became concerned about the growing rift between Republicans and Democrats in the US, and what he viewed as the intolerance for dissent among his liberal neighbors, spent a year visiting conservative states in the wake of the 2016 election.
  • The Road to Serfdom Friedrich A. Hayek
    The classic anti-statist/libertarian essay.
  • So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
    Ronson looks at people who have been shamed on social media for making jokes or comments.
As a bonus, the three worst books I read:
  • Thor, Volume 1: The Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron
    What would happen if Thor was no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir and instead it was a woman who took it up instead? You would get this, which starts off interesting, but then turns into the worst sort of liberal feminist posturing and hectoring, including a story where the female villain lets Thor win, because "Girl Power!"
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    It begins as a moderately interesting adventure story and then quickly devolves into terrible pseudo-profound BS.
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
    A purported history of how the modern world emerged from the middle ages. It is full of the types of myths that are debunked in Galileo Goes to Jail.


Those Pacific Fans

My own theory is that the US has never quite grasped the give-and-take character of world sport. Countries devoted to soccer, cricket and rugby play regular international fixtures; they win some and lose some, and learn to live with that.

Violence erupts in the streets as fans brawl at Euro 2016


I am a Professional Photographer

In this blog's most exciting news since the great Instalanche of '07, one of the photos that originally appeared here has now been published in AramcoWorld, "the award-winning bimonthly magazine inspiring discovery of interconnections among Arab, Islamic and global cultures." The publishers were writing a story about dowry chests and wanted to use one of my photos of the now demolished Mandoos Roundabout.
You can see the article here, on page 24, and the photo appears on page 31.


Customer Service, a Continuing Series

A couple of weeks ago, I was called by one of the companies that provides an essential service to my home. I don't really want to name the specific service, since this story could really be about any of them, but you might be able to guess as I tell my sad story. Anyway, they said that a certain piece of equipment that I was using to access their service is old and needs to be replaced and that they would contact me soon to set up an appointment.

Then yesterday I got a text from them asking me to send an SMS to a four digit number so that this switch out could be scheduled. But, when I try to send this SMS, it doesn't work. I would assume that it doesn't work because said service assumes that everyone who uses their services is using one of the telecommunications companies, but I am using the other.

No problem, I figure, I'll just visit their website and have a chat with them to straighten this all out. Needless to say, 20 minutes of chatting later has done nothing to solve the problem. So I try calling instead, thinking that maybe I might find someone who could help.

Me: Yes, a couple of weeks ago I got a call from you all to replace [equipment]. Then today I got an SMS asking me to reply via SMS to schedule this. But I cannot send the SMS to the requested number.

Him: I do not see any requests for service in your account sir.

Me: Yes, I didn't request this, you all contacted me via phone and SMS.

Him: But I do not see any request for replacement that you have made.

Me: Yes, I know. I was contacted by you. I'm following up on the contact that you initiated. What should I do about the call and SMS that you sent?

Him: Oh, I would just ignore that sir.

Me: ....

Me: Really?

Him: Oh, yes sir, you should ignore that.

Me: Does your company normally send out information to their customers that they should ignore? [At this point I am exerting everything I can to not ask if I can ignore the bills I get from them too.]

Him: I don't see any request for replacement in your account sir.

A bit later:

Him: If you need your equipment replaced, you just need to call us and tell us and we will schedule a service call and replacement if needed.

Me: OK, my equipment isn't working properly and would like to have it checked out.

Him: OK, so just call us and tell us that.

Me: What number?

Him: This one.

Me: You mean like I'm doing now?

Him: Yes.

Me: OK, I'm calling to report that I need a service call.

Him: Yes, sir, just call this number and report it and we will get a service call scheduled.

So, this afternoon it is off to the local branch. Maybe if I show a person the actual SMS something will change. But I doubt it.


Wednesday Camel is Ticklish

I never knew that camels were tickish. Apparently they are.



Over Eid in Al Ain, a Toyota Landcruiser that was parked on the sidewalk was nearly swallowed by a sinkhole.

A person who saw this story and felt that it was somehow fitting that someone who was parked illegally had this happen to them would be experiencing schadenfreude. Many people think that if you experience schadenfreude, then you should feel shame for feeling that way.

I don't think that there is a word to describe the feeling that it is unfortunate that this happened to one such person and not to all sidewalk parkers.


So, we are back

Yes, we are back in the UAE. But now we are living in Abu Dhabi. And we have started a new blog. So, if you want to read about our adventures in Abu Dhabi, point your browser here: http://www.returntocamelland.com/


How Unique?

The article states that this is a "unique practice" to UAE Pro-League clubs. But, I know that the Premier League has this rule too, Rule V.7.2: "during the period of the Temporary Transfer of his contract registration a Player shall not play against the Transferor Club;".
So, obviously this is not unique. But is it limited or widespread? Any experts on {football/soccer} transfer rules?

Tastefully Done

So I was reading an article in a UAE media, and at the bottom, in the related article section, was this:
I especially love the last photo. Quite tasteful.


R at the Chinese Restaurant

Another demonstration of the amazing ability of small children to sleep anywhere.


Best soccer defender ever - Updated

Thanks for pointing out the video was taken down kochumanavalan. I found a different version.