07 December, 2009

Me no understand!

I was working on a Beta version of Microsoft Office 2010. Powerpoint gave me a unique remark. Click on the picture to enlarge and read:

"Whats this? Its all gibberish to me! Naaaahh. Throw it out. Throw all  that shit out!"
Funnier if you read it in a Chris Rock voice, BTW.

29 September, 2009

The end of Blogging

In 1996 I had a geocities website which I coded entirely in HTML using notepad. Old school. I also used HTML based chat rooms. That was big then. But times changed. 
10 years later I started blogging here on my desktop. And blogging as a concept came to be. 
A huge leap to be sure. But, as is the case with print media, blogging as we know it is dying. 
It was cute to see people describe thier blogs as ramblings, thoughts, opinions, and the like. It gave humans insight never previously available. Access to restricted news and innermost thoughts to humans. But, is this even valid right now?

I concider my self a good measure of when things are gaining popularity and when they begin to die. It is my opinion that blogging in that sense is dead. I really do not care what bloggers think anymore. 
Example: if you overheard someone talk about anything on a supermarket line or on a train or a bank, does it really matter to you? Probably not. It's just something someone anonymous to you said. So what? Why on earth would the same thing matter to me if it was printed on a blog?
Gaining an insight on peoples thoughts was once what blogs enabled you to do. Twitter has since took over that responsability. And still, twitter reflect only the tweeting community, not general public, it is then still a limited tool but it has two advantages. For one, I would think that hot topics and breaking news are better represented by an average of a group rather than the one sided argument of one or two bloggers. Trends in Twitter does that. I also think that the common blogger does not resemble the common man much, twitterers however, while still different, are a closer match. 
Twitter is not complete. It will either evolve or something better will come along. But blogs ceased to provide me with solid opinions representative of the masses or unbiased credible news.  
So are blogs dead? No. They are simple different. 
Specialized blogs are a valuble source of information and expression. While the musings of a random girl or the rants of some man start losing interest, specialized blogs by informed people gain importance. They resemble newspaper columnists. A finance website by someone with a solid background in finance or investment can provide valuable insight. Car blogs by racers and die hard car guys, fitness blogs by trainers or amature players and movie blogs by film aficinados are all good examples. 
It is from this understanding that I started two other blogs, arablish.net is one that focuses on the lack of respect and attention we show to the Arabic language, being an ex newspaper columnist and the son of a renouned poet I saw my self able to add value there. My other blog, ithnain.com is a video cast presented by my self and fellow blogger Eyad Ebrahim in Arabic as we both have around 20+ years of gaming experience. 
This blog (theredbelt.com), being unfocused has been losing both readership and my interest. Infact, most Bahraini bloggers feel a slump is taking place. Blogs, as they were, are ineffective in this age and have little, if any, impact at all. Posts are dwindeling and bloggers are stopping. In fact, if you are Reading this, chances are that you are, or were, a blogger yourself. It is a small closed inactive community. 
It is a shame but it has to be realized sooner or later. Blogs and bloggers need to evolve and provide significant value added. The times are achanging.

I used to blog from my desktop. But not anymore. I now wrote this on an email on a very different device. 
Times changed  We must change. 

Sent from my iPhone

07 July, 2009

Trustworthy Juice


This is from a Kuwaiti Juice Company "JUDA". Well, at least they are honest. Someone should give them a call and laugh at them.


25 June, 2009

Daddy Knows Best

My dad returned from China yesterday. So I went to see him and welcome him back. After some small talk he reaches into the still packed suitcase on the floor and yanks out a bag with an Astro Boy Silhouette.

Dad: Here you go.
Red: What's that?
D: Somethings I got for Baby Tameem. There is a T shirt for you too.
R: Gee dad! ASTRO BOY! Love that! cute small clothes! I love the T Shirt too. But it looks a bit big?
D: BIG? Says who?
R: Well look; you got XL. I would need L.
D: Who says you're a size L?
R: Huh? I do!
D: No you're not! You are XL, if not XXL even!
R: Wait.. What the?? How can "I" be XXL?
D: I wear XXL sometimes.
R: That is your call! I am M or L. This shirt is big!
D: No you are NOT! You are an XL and this T shirt fits just fine!
*goes to toilet, door closes*

21 June, 2009

Handicapped Internet for a Premium

It is no wonder why telecom companies make zillions in this world. From over charging sms rates and data rates to internet. The biggest legal scam ever.
Batelco just released their new pricing. Some will say that these are good. But they are only good when compared to Bahraini rates, which are a rip off anyway. In real life, it is bad. Very very bad.
The rates, if you are still in the dark:
SpeedPriceMax Usage

How about that?
In a discussion on Facebook in the Bahraini Internet Society's group, I posted this (with correction):

Some of you may know that I host a gaming show at Ithnain.com. So from a videogamer viewpoint: These speeds are useless.
Speeds and ping rates prevent us from playing online properly with other players. Simply the devices and software are not designed for our slow "speednets".
We are falling behind on productivity. As an example: There is a device called OnLive, which will be an always connected gaming console. Its minimum (I repeat: Minimum) speed requirement is (real) 1.5MB. I said real, not "up to". That is the minimum.
Average performance is suggested at 5mb. (Wikipedia)
By looking at this device alone we can see that we are no longer going along the rest of earth. Even Facebook, Vimeo & You Tube find it hard when I upload videos and I must use the "basic" uploader for our "slow" speeds. I have 1 Mb at home and 2 mb at work.
Netflix are renting movies online by straeming them in Hi Definition. This would be impossible in Bahrain. When will it be possible? Probably when a strong family business man or a royal makes a similar site and orders Batelco to increase speeds to accomodate this.
These new Batelco speeds and prices are appalling. The prices would be right if you multiply the speeds by 10. ie: 100mb for BD 80, and so on. Don't get me started on the threshold. I do know that a few (very very few) companies abroad have thresholds but they are much, MUCH higher than these weak limits. Threshold should be to prevent you from making your PC a server or a torrent seed point, not to stop you from using the damn connection!
If this situation is not fixed and soon, we could find ourselves in the next two years with unusable websites and services.
You've been warned.

31 May, 2009

Where is this blog going?

I started this blog to comment on another.
Then I used it like Facebook for a while.
Then I thought I'd write to foreigners about Bahrain.
Then I thought I'd write about videogames to Bahrain.
About Sports.
About politics sometimes.
And even about nothing.

But I can't help to feel that ... This blog is pointless.
nope. It's not doing it for me.
I have two other blogs, one is Arablish.net (Arabic) about misuses and errors of Arabic usage. I kinda like this one.
The other is Ithnain.com (Arabic also) which is a videogame show which started out monthly and should be weekly starting June.
But the Redbelt is rather vague, isn't it? I thought I'd keep it as a free space to write whatever I please, but that does not bring in regular readers, and if no one is reading, it'd be pointless, won't it?
I have been think about making this an Arabic speaking blog. If this blog is to make a real impact, it should speak to the masses. Theme? I think I'd still stick with logic. I like logic. That could be a decent them, can't it?
Now I need a motive. Why should I change the Redbelt (or keep it at all really)?
I like to improve "things".
people, systems, everthing.
If I can sense that I am of use to someone out there, that would give me good reason to blog.
I need to sleep on this thought a bit. Please share with me your thoughts as well.

09 April, 2009

LMRA Taxes, are they any good?

I have ignored this blog for longer than I should, haven't I? I apologize, and that demands a dedicated post on its own.

This blog of mine usually does not delve into politics. If you look at the most used tags, you will surely find politics somewhere at the bottom. My most used tag is of course: Bahrain. Which is why I'm writing today.
His Highness the crown Prince has a vision of where he wants Bahrain to be economically. Thus he established the Economic Development Board (EDB) which in turn established the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA or sometimes pronounced as: lemra).
LMRA has many goals, but one of the main ones are to make Bahraini's the employee of choice rather than expats, especially if they were unskilled or moderately skilled. The EDB established another entity called "Tamkeen" to help with that but more on it later.

Now, the LMRA is taxing companies, they have to pay BD 10 per month per each expat employee they employ. Once that happens the world goes NUTS! "We are DOOMED" cry businesses. For this tax apparently will break their business. Because I am a blogger and not an LMRA spokesman I can use colourful expressions like "Fuck you, you dumb fuck. You are what is holding us back." But I wont. :)
See, several companies write in the papers saying how doomed they are, some well known papers, oh hell, let me name them: Akhbar Alkhaleej & Alwatan are at the forefront of a media campaign to battle this tax. Alwasat is also defending the majority of shiite readers with stories on how businesses are failing, families are bankrupt, prices are going up for Bahrainis and how maybe, just maybe, the government, maybe (did I say that before?) does not care about us poor citizens. Maybe.

OK people, calm down. Let me explain why and how this works:

1- Too Many Expats, Too many jobless Bahrainis:

We do have way too many expats here, over 50% 0f the population actually. Companies hire in Bahrain for two main reasons: Cost & Stability.
Decreasing costs is at the forefront of any business. So companies here try to pay the lowest salaries possible. But they do that in an unethical way.
Picture your friendly road digging worker. They get at best BD 80 per month. Just a bit over US$ 200. Yes, PER MONTH. Now obviously this is much less than the job deserves. For one, the workers work under the direct rays of our friendly sun. Next they work in roads which anyone in Bahrain can attest how safe that can be. Not to mention the lousy work environments.
This job obviously is worth much more than a mere BD 80 per month. True, it doesn't need a degree, but it is freakishly hard work. What happens is instead of companies paying what the job is WORTH they pay salaries based on MARKET PRICE (See the Supply/Demand image attached). Because there is a supply of cheap unskilled labour, they get away with paying less than what they should. Just because there are many supermarkets doesn't mean we can pay less than 100 fils for a cola can, but companies do. If Bahrainis woun't work for that salary, Indians will. If Indians woun't, Bangladeshis will, if Bangladeshis woun't maybe the Vietnamese will. So companies scoure the Earth looking for the cheapest alternative. This creates an unfair work package. This point leads us onto the next: stability.

Bahrainis will not work for such low salaries. And if they did, it's a matter of months or weeks before they can find better jobs. So Bahraini people will not work for long at unfair jobs. But expats, thanks to a sponsorship system, cannot leave to find another job. They HAVE to stay and work for the greedy employer or be returned home which is often not an option for many of them.
This example was based upon road workers but is true for every job capacity.

2- Making things even:
So since they hire for cost and stability, these reasons must be made equal to Bahrainis and fair for all. The LMRA tax serves to make expats a more costly option. But still, that alone is not enough. So the next logical step is to abandon the sponsorship system and adopt issuing working Visas to expats. Giving expats the liberty to change employers if a better chance come up.
In essence: if Bahrainis will not stay and work for you, eventually expats woun't.
Companies which have crappy packages or working conditions get around the high turnover in Bahraini staff by hiring expatriate ones.
When this system is fully in place, it will mean that companies cannot hire for cost nor stability anymore. They must hire for competency and competency alone. If you can do the job, well, you are hiered.
What this also means is that the salaries will get better organically. If a company suffers from a high turn over of staff because the package or work environments are lousy, then they HAVE to make them better to attract people to stay.
Eventually this will happen:
Companies offer better jobs, better salaries and also have better quality because they hire for competence.
Good no?

So Why are they making a fuss? Because they are greedy.
They want to keep earning money as if its 1985. Same profit model. The thing is, they can't. They just can't. The world is different now.

The companies that are going to be stubborn and stick with unfair low salaries will simply have no one to work for them. They have two choices:
1- Improve working conditions, including salary, benefits and safety
2- Die

If you have no one to run the business, you don't have a business. So businesses better step up.

So companies are complaining about paying BD 10 per month. Big freaking deal! You will not go bankrupt because of that and if you are, then you have another problem.
Lets imagine shall we? You have a business, OK? And you employ 50 expats. Fine? Which means you have to pay 500 per month. OK? See, that should NOT be a problem. Because if you have 50 staff members, and 500 dinars a month puts you in the red, then, you are running a real crappy business my friend! BD 10 per employee should in no way make companies go bankrupt or affect their profit in a significant manner. If it does then here are some solutions:
a- Go to business School you idiot
b- Change the business you are in
b- Sell the business. You are crap and lazy.

Companies that wish to AVOID paying extra fees for expats should simply hire Bahraini's. If you simply click on Tamkeen's website, you can see that they will go out of their way to help you and train all the staff you need for free. There is really no comparison here:
Unskilled uneducated expat + fees? OR Skilled and Educated Local + No fees + lotsa support?

This model will cause the price of goods and services to spike up of course. After all, companies are not used to this. However, salaries should also spike because of this, so theoretically you will not feel it.

I personally feel this is a great step in the right direction. I am passionate about it and can't wait to see the fruits. I know we will soon get into a "Storming" phase, but will eventually move on to the Norming & Performing phases in the future.

If only companies see things the way I do.

08 March, 2009

Umm alhasam's speed

This was taken (and written) in Umm Alhasam's traffic. The 2 is my calculated average speed.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say: "FUCK THAT!"

15 February, 2009

Bahrain is in which country?

The Google search results as of today moments ago. Look at the highest two search results. (Click to Enlarge).

Bahrain,The Redbelt.com


09 February, 2009

Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T Test drive [Redcast]

The car was real fun to drive, although I do demand more power than the 2.0T offers. However the turns were tight and the suspensions stiff (this may turn some people off).
The Turbo's boost is hardly felt, it seems to kick in after 2000 RPM but it isn't noticed unless you are trying to notice it on purpose. The doors open and close firmly which is pleasant. The Mustangs and Camaros I've seen had their door rattle when I close them despite being brand new in the show room.
I didn't like the fact that the RPM was over 3000 when driving on 120 kph, guess the V6 will take care of this hopefully.
Smart features I liked: the boot (or trunk if you're American) is quite spacious for a car like this. Moreover, the two rear seats can be flattened to increase space. And you can do that directly from behind the car by pushing a button. You don't need to do it from inside the cabin.
Another tiny feature I liked was the locks. Most cars lock the doors when it starts to move, and so does this one. But the coupe actually opens the doors again for you when you shift the gear to "P". Cute!
Overall I am happy with the quality and ride. This car is perfect for a daily driver that does not mind a stiff sporty ride. It is also great for tuners that do not care for warranty.

Way to go Hyundai. It's cars like these that will make your brand a little more desirable and exciting.

26 January, 2009

Liberating Speech

Five days ago, I wrote a note on Facebook:

Imprisonment of Speech

I am sure most of you know of the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and Information to ban websites. I think we are all together that this is unacceptable, unimplementable, and simply put: ILLEGAL as it goes against the Bahraini Law which protects the freedom of speech.
A group of us tried to avoid this by introducing the Anti Hate Code of Ethics (http://www.bahraincodeofethics.com) and prefer that any offending website be prosecuted under the law with a chance of representation rather than resort to this old and ineffective method.

My friends,
Whether you signed the code or not, I implore you to write about the matter in your own blogs. We should also unify our forces to make our voice heard. We could hold up a rally or send one letter of objection bearing our signatures. I invite you to come up with more suggestions on what we can do about it.


Manaf Almuhandis


Now, this has started with Shaikha Mai Alkhaleefa taking the helm as a minister. I am a fan of much of her work. She brought a breath of fresh air to Bahrain when she saved our souls with the “Spring of Culture”.

However, I would have to disagree with her on this virtual blind fold. Let me try to paint you a picture:

It is the 1980’s. No internet and no Satellite TV channels and nothing. The only communications we have with the outside world are videotapes, cassettes, books and magazines.

In these simpler times, banning something would actually work. If the government says for a reason or another that a film for example is unacceptable and not wanted, the majority of the population, if not all, will not get to see it. Tapes will be easily found and confiscated. And then what? Banning media at that age was quite effective.

But that was a long, long, LONG time ago. Just look at my brother, he was a mere idea in ’86 and was born in ’87. Today he is a 186 cm tall man, with a goatee, driving license and a college degree. Media has grown that much too.

What is the ministry hoping to achieve? Seriously? If they think they can stop people from accessing info and media in 2009, they must be delusional. Let me just count the ways that I, a non IT technician, could think of:

1. Use a proxy website. I know these get banned too, but hundreds pop out every day. The proxy websites are aware of that and email their customers a list of new addresses periodically.

2. Use a programme like Hotspot. Even if the download site is blocked, many have it and will circulate it through email forwards to all of Bahrain by this weekend.

3. Subscribe in RSS & Atom feeds: Simple. All blogs and many websites have them now. Simply click on “Subscribe to the Redbelt” to the right side bar and you will see the familiar orange box looking icon. Just click that icon wherever you go and you can get the posts immediately by email. Or you can use a service like Google Reader to read it there.

This is just off the top of my head.

Let us assume I had a blocked website (god forbid), I can easily clone my ENTIRE website and have it running from a free server with a new unblocked address. I can also email all my readers so they would know. Effectively making the ban absolutely worthless in 15 minutes.

I do understand that Shaikha Mai Alkhalifa, and the rest of the people at the ministry, mean well. So, here is my honest solution to the ministry: Go with the flow.

Example: In martial arts; to stop a punch you can either block it (which uses lots of energy and you risk injury) or... redirect it. Like Akido. Look at the following video.

Now, this is implementable in real life.In practice we can look at Apple:

One day, people found out that MP3s were popular. CD sales went down. Piracy went up. All the companies started FIGHTING mp3 sites trying to stop it, but they couldn’t. They still can’t.

Apple went and introduced itunes. If people want MP3s, give them MP3s! So simple. It worked.

The ministry is trying to block sites, which is pointless. I will still go to the same websites I went to and get all the media I got before the ban. I REPEAT: I will still go to the same websites I went to and get all the media I got before the ban. I am not affected. Bahrain is.

I am concerned about the public view of the ministry and, by extension, Bahrain as a whole. We don’t want the world to think that we are ruled by a dictatorship do we? Especially when reality is anything but that. In our post reform Bahrain, freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution itself:

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Chapter III, Article 23 (General Rights and Obligations): “Freedom of opinion and scientific research is guaranteed. Everyone has the right to express his opinion and publish it by word of mouth, in writing or otherwise under the rules and conditions laid down by law, provided that the fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine are not infringed, the unity of the people is not prejudiced, and discord or sectarianism is not aroused.”

The National Action Charter also addressed the matter:

The National Action Charter, Chapter I (Fourth: Freedom of expression and publication): “Every citizen shall have the right to express himself orally, in writing or in any other way of expression of personal opinion or creativity. Under this law, freedom of scientific research, publishing, press and printing are ensured within the scope specified by law”, provided it is a responsible freedom within the scope of preserving the social fabric, and does not infringe on the freedoms of others or their religious, sectarian, or intellectual affiliation.

I strongly suggest that the Ministry uses our Judicial system. If a website is considered offensive, a court case can be filed and the law will take its proposed course (That is, after all, why we have courts in the first place). Even if there was a need to rush and take a site down in a short time, an urgent case can be filed and such an order can be had within a day.

I hope the ministry takes heed of my humble advice.

I thank the many bloggers who wrote on the matter:

Eyad's Coffee Break

Yagoob's Dome



The view from Fez

Silly Bahraini Girl

S as in Saudi


Mughtarib (Ar)

Another Day in my life

Khalidbahrain (Ar)

And many, many more...

10 January, 2009

IDF officers admitt there was no gunfire from Gaza school

In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school. UNRWA is demanding an objective investigation into whether the school shelling constituted a violation of international humanitarian law

read more | digg story

09 January, 2009

Support Ghaza

You may have noticed that this blog wasn't updated with a "Happy New Year". The thing is the new year didn't start happy. Israel keeps bombing the innocent civilians of Palestine. The death toll at the moment stands at 765.
When we hear of the death of one person, we feel sad. Millions felt sad when Bernie Mac died. When Anna Nicole Smith died. When Foe died on the pitch. the examples are numerous.
But 765? It's only a number. You don't know them. Stalin said it best: "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."
People are angry, this blogger included. Today, a Rally to express this rage started out after Friday prayer.

Here is my $0.02 analysis:
Israel claims that Hamas is shooting at Israel and that they hide between civilians. Thus the civilian deaths. Lets analyze this:
1- Hamas could be hiding between civilians. But after 765 civilian deaths, this is proven to be a failed tactic as Israel will bomb you anyway. Hence, if I was a civilian, I wouldn't harbor Hamas in my house. No sense the two of us dying. My civilian death will add nothing.
But this is not the case, is it? As I see more civilian deaths every day; this leads me to...

2- Hamas is NOT hiding between civilians. Which would make sense as Israel claims rockets are still being fired at them. Which means they're not dead yet nor their machinery is destroyed. If this is so, then the only reason I can think of to continue the raids...

3- Israel is killing civilians on purpose to: a) inflict internal pressure on Hamas to cease. And b) Decrease the number of Palestinians anyway.

So I do think that Israel is committing mass war crimes here.

Another catalyst for killing Arabs is Money. Someone somewhere is making money off of it. Rationale:
Israel is the #1 recipient of American foreign Aid.
$2.4 Billion is given away to Israel per year. This will change starting 2009 to be $30 Billion per annum for the next 10 years (That is a total of $300 Billion, my friends).

Virtually all of this money is used to buy weapons (up to 75% made in the U.S.).

So the US gives money to Israel, but forces it to spend three quarters of it on American weapons.
In plain simple English, to me American friends:
Someone is taking your tax dollars, giving it to Israel, and is TELLING Israel to give it to certain arms merchants.
You may as well just give the money to the Arms merchants yourself!

If I was an Arms merchant who can get access to these billions upon billions, I would certainly "secure" my friends in the government who would "facilitate" such laws. I would also be tempted to "increase demand" in Israel by, well, I dunno. Faking attacks? Spreading rumors? Inciting Hamas (or any other) to strike? Having Israel in need of Arms gives me the Ferrari liquidity I need.

People, the ones dying in the middle are innocent. If you have to be a skeptic then most of them are innocent and I don't buy this collateral damage crap.
Do something about it. I'm not talking about mere donations. That is simply giving the man a fish. Please, do something to break this vicious cycle. I implore you.