Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Experience on G4tv's Attack of the Show

A few weeks back I did an interview on G4tv's Attack of the Show - Global Loop interview segment. It was an interesting experience doing live television via satellite linkup pulling together a guy in Dubai, a guy in Tokyo, and the show production in Los Angeles, California. Click below for a report on how the early morning went for me that day.

Until about one hour before the interview all my communication with the G4tv people had been via email. No voice contact whatsoever. The guy at G4tv had gotten in touch with me via the comments section of this blog.

The show segment was to take place at 4:30pm Pacific Standard Time which is exactly 12 hours behind Dubai time. So that meant I would have to be in place and ready to go with the interview by at least 4:00am Dubai time. Ugh. But I thought the experience interesting enough to try it at least one time.

A week before the show I knew the general topic of the questions they would ask me. Then the night (LA morning time) before the show they tightened up the questions and narrowed them down. They also made a tentative plan for which of us would get which questions. I also didn't know the location of the Dubai studio until a day before the interview. But I had recommended Media City so I knew the general area.

Last minute changes in the show also included the people being interviewed. Originally it was to be a woman in Argentina, a guy in China, and me. But the satellite setup in Argentina didn't work out and the Chinese government put the brakes on the interview from China. So the show ended up being just me and a guy who runs a Gaming website in Tokyo.

I got an email around 9:30pm Dubai time on some final show details and then I went to bed around 11pm. I slept lightly and woke just before the alarm (unfortunately this seems to happen in middle age :) at 3:15am. I got dressed in a blue dress shirt since I had been instructed to not wear anything green as I would be interviewed in front of a "green screen" in the Dubai studio. The green screen is what you actually sit in front of but then the computers are able to superimpose an image behind you so that I would appear in front of say, a picture of the Burj Dubai. They ended up using an Emirates tower/Shiekh Zayed Road backdrop.

I drove down an almost completely empty Zayed Road (never seen it like that!) and was pulling into Media City when my phone rang and I spoke with the Producer of the show. He just wanted to make sure I was on my way and he asked me to feel free to engage in lively discussion during the interview.

I had a little trouble finding the building but eventually parked just outside the CNBC building where I go for McDonalds sometimes. There were two tech-looking guys standing outside the doors when I walked up and they asked me if I was there for the television interview. A little surprised, I said I was and they escorted me up to the 2nd floor studios.

All the newscaster/reporters desks were empty but all the tv's were turned on and CNBC Arabia was running. We walked past the main newscasters desk with cameras in front of it and huge wrap-around screen behind where I imagined they'd be broadcasting from later that day.

They opened the door to a small back room which had several cameras in it and a blank screen behind the single chair in the middle with bright lights shining down on it. An immediate problem presented itself.

The screen was blue not green! My shirt was blue. This meant that anywhere I had blue on would appear transparent or at least translucent on screen. Argh!

The tech guys asked if I had another shirt with me. No, I didn't! Could I go home and get another? No, interview time was in 30 minutes and a fast round trip run back home would take at least 40 minutes. So they began rifling through the dressing room closets of some of the newscasters! A couple of times there was laughter as they pulled out women's clothing and held it up for my consideration and I waved it off with a snide comment and a smirk. Finally, they found a whitish men's dress shirt that came close to fitting me and I quickly put it on and moved toward the camera room.

There was only about 5-10 minutes left as I settled into the interview chair, got my ear plug speaker adjusted (so I could hear the other interview participants and the interviewer) and my microphone set in place on the front of my shirt. The camera height was adjusted as well. The only thing on a tv screen I could see was my own image in front of me and just off to the side of the camera. I realized then that I would not be seeing anything other than the camera that I could fix my eyes on and respond to... no interviewer nor the other interviewees. In addition, the camera man, after he had adjusted the camera height, told me not to look at myself in the monitor next to the camera. This would be difficult not to do as it was a bright colorful image with some movement set just next to the black, round, and "dead-looking" camera lens. I immediately asked if he could turn the monitor so that I couldn't see it and wouldn't be tempted to look at the image as I spoke. He agreed it was a good idea. :)

Then they all left the room! For some reason I had imagined more personal interaction but it wasn't to be. I was there alone in a empty small room and I was supposed to engage in "lively" discussion with people I couldn't see. Pretty weird.

There were some sound transmission problems just before the show was to go on and it took a few confusing discussions between G4 talking in my ear and the Dubai tech guys just in front of me. Eventually they got it worked out and I could hear the tv show audio in my ear in the last 5 minutes before the show. I also met the show's host over the audio feed as well.

There was one moment that has really stuck in my mind since that early morning. With just a few minutes to go before the airing, G4 did a little promo of an upcoming show they're doing on a pornography convention happening sometime soon in the U.S. It seems they regularly report on the adult media industry and they portray it in a positive light. I don't approve of the pornography industry as I think it's only destructive to those who make it and those who consume it. I had second thoughts of being on the show at that point. Since that time I've thought that I would consider doing more "Global Loop" interviews despite G4's coverage of the pornography industry. I'm still mulling this over though and it's weighed on my mind.

Finally, the were a few minutes before the segment was on and it was clear that the audio feed between Tokyo, LA, and Dubai had some significant latency or delay in transmission. Have you ever tried to have a free flowing conversation over an internet connection with a delay? Yeah, it's kind of impossible. But that's what we had and pretty soon there was one last Dubai tech guy in the doorway saying "30 seconds til broadcast..." and then he backed out the door and closed it.

The rest you can see on the embedded video that I posted a few entries earlier. The delay was difficult to deal with and I found myself a couple times talking over the show host and my other interview partner. It made for awkward conversation as I tried without success to interject comments somewhat spontaneously.

At the end the show host thanked us on air and they went to a commercial. The earplug went silent. I sat there for about 15 seconds and then said, "hello?... anybody there?" No one answered. An inauspicious ending.

The Dubai tech guys asked if it went well and I told them I had no idea since I'd not done it ever before. They shrugged and began to lock up and head out the door. I walked toward the door and drove home in the dark as it was still only 5am.

All in all, it was very interesting and I think I'd do it again if it didn't happen too often. I learned that live television is very difficult and multi-site satellite linkups are even more prone to problems. No surprise there.

Later the show producers emailed me and said they thought it went well all things considered and they'd like to try it again in the future. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Eid Al Adha and Hajj Begin

There are two Eid celebrations per year and the second, Eid Al Adha is likely to begin on Tuesday. This is the celebration of when Muslims believe Ibrahim (Abraham), at the command of God, took his son Ishmael to sacrifice him on a mountain. Christians believe the son was actually Isaac and that story is told in Genesis chapter 22.

This is also a time for many Muslims to go on the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which is required at least once in the lifetime of all Muslims who are physically and financially able.

I have a friend, Mohammad, who is traveling there today. I wish him well and I'm praying for him.

Here is an interesting slideshow on the Hajj. (The link goes to the multimedia page... the Hajj pics might rotate off soon so check it out soon if you want to see them.)

And below is an interesting (and short) Youtube video on the Hajj. Check it out.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

G4tv Global Loop Interview

Well, I appeared on the cable channel G4tv Global Loop interview. It was a very interesting experience and I'll blog about it in the next couple days. But here is the video of the segment. The segment is an international view on pop culture issues that Americans are interested in. Originally it was to be me from Dubai, a guy from China and a girl from Buenos Aeres. But the Argentina situation had technical difficulties and China had government approval problems (communism!). So it ended up being me in Dubai and guy from Tokyo. We had tech difficulties too as you'll see if you watch but in the end I think it came off ok. As I said, I'll blog more later.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness?

I recently had to buy four new tires. As I waited at the local petrol station for the new ones to be put on the car I noticed a sign I'd never seen before in that garage. "Cleanliness is Next to Godliness". Now I've heard that saying before but never seen it posted in a auto garage!

I understand the desire to have the workers keep their work environment clean. It would promote safety in the work place and an image of excellence. But IS cleanliness next to godliness? Does the cleaning of your body or your environment enable you to better draw near to God and be like him?

A few things come to mind.

Jesus said stuff like this on the subject.

Mark 7:14-23 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”

Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

In Islam, one place and time where physical purity is necessary is during prayer. Muslims must physically cleanse themselves for their prayers to be heard by God and therefore effective. The cleansing procedure is called Wudu. says, "Muslims must have perfect ritual prayers to pray the Salah (ritual prayers). Here is an excerpt from their posting on the subject.

Physical purity means cleanliness of the body, clothing and environment. According to the rules of Islam, Muslims should keep their bodies and clothing clean from any impurities, especially the body wastes of humans and animals.

Islam insists on the use of clean water to cleanse the body of impurities, and only when water is not available can a person use other things. Even the clothing should be perfectly clean from any impurities. For that reason, Muslim bathrooms have a source of running water or pitchers of water next to the toilet.

Similarly, any animal discharges — including the saliva of dogs — are unclean and Muslims should make sure their clothing, environment, and bodies are free of those impurities.

Muslims must have perfect physical purity to pray the Salah (ritual Prayers).

You are in this state of ritual purity of wudu’ until you urinate or defecate, pass wind, sleep, or become unconscious. If you do any of these things before or during the Salah, you must repeat the wudu’.

The history of the phrase itself seems to indicate that it came from ancient Hebrew writings of the 2nd century A.D. In English it appears to have derived from Sir Francis Bacon and then later John Wesley, the famous Christian evangelist, mentions it in a sermon in 1791.

As a follower of Jesus, I tend to think that cleanliness doesn't have much to do with godliness at all. I can see where an understanding that one's body is a creation and gift from God should lead one to take care of your body. And there are some references to working hard with your hands (as opposed to being idle) in the New Testament. But cleanliness is hardly a "doorway" to godliness.

What do you think?

International Interview on G4tv

This is the home page of the cable channel G4tv. I'll be interviewed live on one of their best rated shows Tuesday at 4:30pm PST. The show is called Attack of the Show and the segment is called "Global Loop". There will be someone from China, Argentina, and (me!) from Dubai. We'll be commenting on everything from inflight internet service, the shortage of the Nintendo Wii gaming system, to world opinion and popularity of American movies. It should be fun. I've included an embedded link of the last "Global Loop" episode so you can see what it's like. If you're not able to catch the show on air I'll try to post the segment here later.

Just for Fun... Dubai Ultimate Frisbee Tournament

Ouch. I'm still sore from the Dubai Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. This was the second annual and it took place at the American School of Dubai to raise money for a school in north India. Last year my team came in 1st. This year we settled for 3rd. :( But fun was had by all and we're already looking forward to next year's tournament. (Boy, am I a "white" boy or what?!)

Monday, December 03, 2007

National Geographic's Commercial Motives Are Revealed by New Translation of the Gospel of Judas

Remember that big controversial Gospel of Judas that National Geographic Society released during the Easter Season last spring? The one that supposedly depicted Judas as a hero that Jesus had told to betray him?

Seems that initially the NGS had not released the manuscript for other scholars to translate. They eventually did, under pressure, and now it has come to light that their translation was very very poor. In fact, the meaning of the text is nothing close to what they proposed in their magazine issue. Another scholar has translated the original texts, published the results in the New York Times (and other places), and come up with something much different and ... less controversial of course. A text that would not sell nearly as many magazines certainly.

The text is still said to be Gnostic but portrays Judas as a demon rather than a hero.

Ah but no one will care about it now. The damage is done. The public has moved on to other things and the impressions are left lingering in their minds.

And the reputation of the NGS is further tarnished. This is surely a magazine you only want to buy for the great pictures. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pic from Jordan: Not Your Average "Starbucks View"!

A friend who lives in Jordan sent me this picture. It's definitely not your average "Starbucks View"!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On this date... "6th Century Christians Massacred in What Is Present-Day Yemen

This entry in the Christian History Institute "story of the day" popped up on my homepage. (I have it set to show me what's on the page every day). The story below is about the massacre of Christians on the Arabian peninsula back in 500's A.D. It happened in what is present day Yemen... two countries over from where we live. Interesting stuff.

In the sixth century, the nation of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) dominated the kingdoms of Himyar and Yemen on the southern Arabian peninsula. There were flourishing Christian churches in the area (also known as Homerites) which looked to Christian Abyssinia for protection.

It happened that a Himyarite Jew, Yusuf As'ar (better known by nicknames referring to his braids or ponytail: Dhu Nuwas, Dzu Nuwas, Dounaas, or Masruq), seized the throne from his king and revolted against Abyssinia, seeking to throw the Ethiopians out of the country. He captured an Ethiopian garrison at Zafar and burned the church there and burned other Christian churches.

Christians were strongest at the North Yemen city called Najran (sometimes spelled Nagran or Nadjran). Dhu Nuwas attacked it. The Christians held the town with desperate valor. Dhu Nuwas found he could not capture it. And so he resorted to treachery. He swore that he would grant the Christians of Najran full amnesty if they would surrender. The Christians, knowing they could not hold out forever, yielded against the advice of their leader Arethas (Aretas or Harith).

What happened next was so appalling that Bishop Simeon of Beth Arsham (a Syrian) traveled to the site to interview eyewitnesses and write a report... "The Jews amassed all the martyr's bones and brought them into the church where they heaped them up. They then brought in the priests, deacons, subdeacons, readers, and sons and daughters of the covenant...they filled the church from wall to wall, some 2,000 persons according to the men who came from Najran; then they piled wood all round the outside of the church and set light to it, thus burning the church with everyone inside it."

In the ensuing week, hundreds more Christians were martyred, among them many godly women, who were killed with the most horrible tortures when they refused to renounce Christ. According to Simeon, many were told "Deny Christ and the cross and become Jewish like us; then you shall live."

Versions differ as to date, but one says that it was on this day, November 25, 523, Dhu Nuwas took his vengeance on Arethas and 340 followers, killing them. These men were quickly included in martyr lists in the Greek, Latin and Russian churches. A song was even written about them by one Johannes Psaltes, although it reports only about 200 deaths.

Other accounts written within a century add that deep pits were dug, filled with combustible material, and set afire. Christians who refused to change faiths were hurled into the flame, thousands dying in this painful martyrdom. Some think that this is the event that the Koran refers to when it says, "Cursed be the diggers of the trench, who lighted the consuming fire and sat around it to watch the faithful being put to the torture!" although Muslim commentators deny this.

A wealthy lady named Ruhm was compelled to watch her virgin daughter and granddaughter executed and to taste their blood before she was killed herself. Asked how the blood tasted, she answered, "Like a pure, spotless offering."

When word reached Constantinople, the Roman Emperor encouraged the Ethiopian king Ellesbaas (Ella Atsbeha or Kaleb) to intervene, as did the Patriarch of Alexandra. Ellesbaas was only too willing to do so, since his garrisons had been massacred and fellow Christians killed. He destroyed Dhu Nuwas and established a Christian kingdom. An Ethiopian-Jewish writing known as the Kebra Nagast regarded the downfall of Dhu Nuwas to be the final catastrophe for the Kingdom of Judah. Another Ethiopian book told the story of the massacre under the title The Book of the Himyarites.


  1. "Aretas and Martyrs of Nagran (Nadjran)."
  2. Bell, Richard. A commentary on the Qur'an. Edited by C. Edmund Bosworth and M.E.J. Richardson. Manchester, England : University of Manchester, 1991.
  3. _________. The Origin of Islam in its Christian Environment. London: Frank Cass and co., 1968; pp. 37 - 39.
  4. Budge, E. A. Wallis. History of Ethiopia, Nubia and Abyssinia. Oosterhout N. B., the Netherlands: Anthropological Pubns, 1966. pp. 261 - 262.
  5. Brock, Sebastian P. & Harvey, Susan Ashbrook. Holy Women of the Syrian Orient. Berkeley, CA: Univ of California Press, 1987; pp 100-121.
  6. Haqqani, Abu Muhammad ‘Abdul Haq. An introduction to the commentary on the Holy Quran : being an English translation of al-Bayan. Lahore : Oriental Imprints, 1975.
  7. Jones, A. H. M. and Monroe, Elizabeth. A History of Ethiopia. Oxford, 1953; p. 30.
  8. Koran. Sura 85. "The Constellations." trans. by N. J. Dawood. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin, 1968.
  9. Mackintosh-Smith, Tim. Yemen, the Unknown Arabia. Woodstock: Overlook Press, 2000; pp. 41 - 43.
  10. Nyrop, Richard F. et al. Area Handbook for the Yemens. United States Government Printing Office, 1977; pp. 13 - 14.
  11. Smith, Sidney. "Events in Arabia in the 6th Century A.D." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies #16. London: University of London, 1954; pp. 425 - 468.
  12. Trimingham, J. Spencer. Christianity among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times. London and New York: Longman, 1979; pp. 287 - 307.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Water-Truck Poetry

Here's a shot out of my window on the way home from church a couple weeks ago. The water trucks glut the road and make traffic difficult. One redeeming aspect is that the trucks are colorful and seem to have creative designs all over them. When I crept up on this truck I noticed something more creative than usual... poetry on the back bumper! Below is a cropped picture for your close-up viewing.

"Mountains can fly = River can dry; You can for - get me = But I can not you"

If anyone knows Urdu out there perhaps you can tell me if this is a typical Pakistani poem or something else that I'm not familiar with. (I'm just guessing it's Pakistani). Help from the readers?
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Native Deen: Islamic Hip Hop Group Out With New Recordings

You may remember that I met up with the US based hip hop group Native Deen here in Dubai over a year ago. (Deen means "religion") We had some great conversation about truth and comparative religions. They've just come out with a new recording. And here is the music video from the group.

Camel Milk in the Store

Some time ago I posted a picture of the camel milk truck on it's way down Beach Road. Just saw this in the grocery store the other day. An interesting "Arabian Peninsula" sight...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jesus... the Failure?

One of the commenters on the "tattoo" post from a few days ago has mentioned the idea that Jesus came to reestablish the Mosaic Law and never intended for his message to go to anyone but Israel. The idea that Jesus was just like the prophets that went before him would also be included in this idea. The idea is one put forward by many Muslims and perhaps other groups though I'm not sure about that.

I don't believe this idea to be true but I've considered it in the last few days. One conclusion that I come to is that if this was Jesus' purpose then he could rightly be considered a complete failure as a prophet.


1.) If he came to reestablish the Mosaic Law he instead did quite the opposite. His teaching and leadership instigated a radical "sect" of Judaism (Christianity) that declared that though the Law was good they didn't have to fulfill the civil or ceremonial component of the Law. So they threw off the dietary commands, the commands about mixing with people of other races, the Temple worship, and all the feasts and sacrifices. They even spoke of a "New Covenant" which Jesus had made mention of just before his death (or disappearance). Mosaic Law, as Israel knew it in Moses' day, was definitely not renewed.

Where is the record of the resurgence in Law-focused Jewish devotion that would have been brought about by a prophet of his stature? After all, he was called Messiah.

To my knowledge, there is absolutely no record of a wave of Law-focused Jewish devotion as a result of Jesus' ministry.

2.) His message, though it's asserted that it was for Israel alone, ended up spreading out across the whole world and continues to spread to this very day. So it would seem that his followers got it wrong when they fanned out from Jerusalem immediately following his death/disappearance. Either he hadn't trained them well or there was some big misunderstanding on their part. They began specifically spreading this message to other nations and didn't encourage them to become Jews.... rather they were to worship Jesus himself!

3.) Unlike the premier prophets that came before him he never delivered a unified "revelation" from God. He also didn't manage to get his "revelations" written down like the other prophets before him, namely Moses, or the one who would come after him like Mohammad some 600 years later. If he was given a revelation we don't have it. We do have what his followers wrote about him but this doesn't fit the format of other prophets before and after. Some might say that perhaps his revelation was lost but this seems like a preposterous thought given the weight and honor and value that his own written words would have had. His own writings would have far outweighed any writings of his followers.

The lack of a written revelation could be considered a major failure as a prophet.

4.) Referring to the end of my point #2, it could be considered a major failure that his key followers began a "sect" that encouraged the worship of him, that equated him with God, and posed some "trinity" within the One God breaking with conventional Jewish thought. It would be one thing if a 'break-away' group of renegade followers started this. But these were his chosen lieutenants. This would be the greatest failure of all perhaps.

Let me re-iterate; I do not believe what I've written above in points 1-4 to be true. I'm merely trying to illustrate how Jesus could not have been considered a success as a prophet of God AND be one who sought to reestablish the Mosaic Law and get his message out exclusively to the people of Israel.

To my Muslim friends this imagining might seem blasphemous. For they hold Jesus in high regard. So I hope you understand my desire to simply illustrate a hypothetical situation.

What do you think?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friends in Pakistan are Facing Abuse

You may know that Pakistan has been put under Emergency Rule or Martial Law by P.M. Musharraf. The Pakistani population is Dubai is rather large and I have a number of Pakistani friends. One friend had returned to Pakistan to live with his family recently. Mansur is his name. His father is a leader in one of the opposition parties there and his Father's been in hiding for a while now to avoid police interrogation and abuse.

Just this week students gathered at a Lahore University called LUMS to protest martial law. My friend's sister and some co-workers were there for the rally and they were beaten by police trying to disperse the rally. My friend has written about it on his blog. You can read about it there.

And mostly I encourage you to pray for Pakistan. Pray for peace, justice, and for God's purposes to be accomplished there even in this time of turmoil. I'd also appreciate prayers for the safety of my friends there.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tattoos and Islam

An article in the Gulf News yesterday covered the topic of tattoos and specifically addressed tattoos in light of the teaching of Islam. Dubai is a place where you are likely to see tattoos frequently though not as often as you'd see in the West.

But the most interesting part of the article was the information about how tattoos are viewed in Islam.

Ahmad Al Kubaisi, a leading Islamic scholar said, "Some of us unfortunately bring troubles to ourselves. Tattooing is prohibited in Islam because of its obvious dangers as the process requires drawing blood," he said.

"Muslims are prohibited from defacing their bodies as defacement of Allah's creation is not permitted in Islam. They also will not be able to pray because Islam does not allow prayer if you have drawings on your body," he said.

In Christianity there is no specific ban on tattoos though there is one Old Testament reference in Leviticus 19:38 which seems to refer to tattoos as they are related to idol worship. Even still, I believe that this command is not a part of the moral code of the Old Testament Law and therefore is not applicable to Christians today. Yet, other biblical commands should be considered when Christians consider tattoos. I think that a possible count against tattoos is that they seem to often be markings which inordinately draw attention to oneself and appeal to vanity and pride. The question should be asked, 'why can't your personality be revealed in the normal ways of relating with one another?' Furthermore, we're told to be about the business of loving God and loving people. Going to the trouble of getting a tattoo seems to me to often cross the line into self-centeredness.

Still, in Christianity, there is nothing that prevents a person from repenting of their sin in life and putting trust and faith in Jesus... even tattoos.

But what about tattoos and Islam as stated above? My question is this: If you are not a Muslim and you have tattoos there is no way you can convert to Islam and have any hope of pleasing God as Islam tells you to. You would not be able to pray and without prayer in Islam you cannot please God. Even expensive and painful procedures to remove them do not guarantee that the images will disappear. So it seems, based on the Gulf News article, that in Islam there is no hope for acceptance from God of those who have tattoos.

UPDATE: A keen blogger from India has commented that there is provision for those with tattoos in Islam. I'm posting the link to that explanation here for those who are interested. Also, it wasn't my intention to be harsh with my analysis above. I hope the Muslim friends who read are not offended. My intention was just to consider the ramifications of what was taught in the Gulf News article.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

One for the Grandparents: Honor Choir Tryout Recordings

I don't post much here about my family... kind of a privacy thing. But my two oldest daughters (I have 4 total) age almost 17 and 14 recently tried out for the Honor Choir which will sing in London in March 2008. I was pretty impressed so I've put up their tryouts here. The recordings are a couple minutes each at most. They sing scales first to warm up and then sing a song portion toward the end. Wonder where they get their talent :)

This is the oldest, 17 year old.

This is the younger one, 14 years old.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dallas Willard Quote on "Knowing God's Will"

I fear that many people seek to hear God solely as a
device for securing their own safety, comfort and
righteousness. For those who busy themselves to know the will
of God, however, it is still true that "those who want to save
their life will lose it." My extreme preoccupation with
knowing God's will for me may only indicate, contrary to what
is often thought, that I am overconcerned with myself, not a
Christlike interest in the well-being of others or in the
glory of God.
... Dallas Willard (b.1935), Hearing God [1999], p. 28

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eid Trip out to the Desert

We went to the desert for the first time two weeks ago. Fantastic time! We didn't spend the night but came back late. The desert is a beautiful place... God's handiwork is evident everywhere. Enjoy the pics.

Our favorite location almost all the way to Al Ain, UAE

My shadow!

A beautiful sunset.

Here's a cool video of the action of the fine sand as it cascades down the dunes.

More sand detail and a panorama

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Incredible Palm Island Views!

A couple of weeks ago I took my daughters to babysit the child of some church friends. They live in one of the new, super-tall high rises in the Dubai Marina. And their view is directly overlooking Palm Island and the beachfront of the Marina. I snapped some pictures and a video as well. Leaning over the railing to get the best camera angle was a little unnerving. But worth it :)

Looking down the coast you see the trunk of Palm Island and the Burj Al Arab faintly in the distance

A more direct view of Palm Island and the coast. That's the beach for the Ritz Carlton

Closer view of the Palm Island Trunk and the 'decorative' island just off the end of the pictured marina

The Ritz Carton Beach and if you look closely you can see the para-sailer just off the beach!

Looking down on the Ocean Beach Hotel

Zooming in on the para-sailer

The tower I was in was on the right

Again, the towers from the beach

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Khaleeji Club Iftar at American University of Dubai

My company does some business at American University of Dubai and in the past we've been a corporate sponsor of the I.T. Club. Lately, the Khaleeji Club has contacted me about helping them out with some leadership training or just coaching. Khaleej means "Gulf" as in the Arabian Gulf. So the Khaleeji Club is essentially the "Gulf Arab Club". Students from the UAE, Oman, Saudi, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait could be a part of it.

Tuesday night they had an iftar dinner (the meal to break the Ramadan fast each day) and I was invited as a guest. In addition, two local TV personalities were invited. These guys are local storytellers and reciters of poetry.

As soon as they entered the tent they came to me and wouldn't let me just kiss their cheeks... they pulled me closer and face to face for a "local - only" nose to nose touch. That's the way the locals kiss. And they were laughing hard the whole time. These guys were hilarious and couldn't understand 98% of what they were saying! Every once in a while they pointed at me and said something like "America".

Later that evening they left for the TV studio to broadcast their program. It was a great evening of fun and cultural enlightenment.

The two TV personalities... a hilarious pair!

Gulf Arab students from AUD

The guy on the floor in front of the coffee pot is a Saudi student who tells poems himself!

My friend Yaser on the left is a recent graduate of AUD.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Shoulder update: A Fracture too!

My x-rays from last week got lost and sent to the wrong clinic. So the doctor just called this morning to give me an update. Seems I might have a torn ligament but definitely have a fracture in my clavicle or collar bone. She re-emphasized that there could be no exercise, save running, until 6 weeks had passed.

Somehow knowing it's fractured makes it hurt more :)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Separated Shoulder from Football

You may have read my post below about football (soccer). Well, we played our second game last night and I'm happy to report we won again 3-0. I'm not happy to report that I separated my shoulder during the game. I fell across a diving goalee as we both went for the ball. I went over him and landed on my shoulder. Ouch.

A shoulder separation (as I'm learning) is when the ligament that attaches the clavical to the wingbone or acromion. That ligament seems to be torn. And it will take 6-8 weeks to heal the doctor tells me.

I'm most disappointed that this will put me out of Ultimate Frisbee for more than a month. I better get my running shoes out of the closet and ready for a workout.

The Creek Extension through my Neighborhood... It's coming :(

Well, it looks like it's really going to happen. A local tabloid is reporting that the final phase of the Creek Extension project is about to begin (December) and unfortunately it will be run by the Road and Transport Authority (RTA). This department in the government here is not too popular right now and they seem to be hitting new lows by denying significant problems with traffic especially having made promises to clear things up with a new toll system.

Also, you'll see below the pictures in the paper representing current construction and it's proposed route. It is not scheduled to be finished for 3 years so I don't know when or exactly how it will affect life in my neighborhood. But I am sure it will and it won't be pleasant.

Three major roadways will have bridges built over them to accommodate the path of the waterway. That should be absolute chaos. And it looks like my running track around the park will be cut into pieces as well.


Here are some facts about the extension:

* 10 kilometres of the man-made Creek have been completed at a cost of Dh484 million
* The construction of the final 2.2-km stretch of the Creek extension will begin in December
* The Creek should be completed by November 2010
* The new channel is 100 metres wide on average and 500 metres at its widest point
* The Creek will be able to host yachts up to 60 metres in length

But life is good in spite of this major inconvenience... :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Football and Football

I like all kinds of football... the worldwide recognized kind (soccer) and the American kind as well. I really like watching English Premiership League and the professional and college level American football seasons have started up as well.

Just last night I joined with friends from the Arab Evangelical Church in Dubai to play in a Ramadan Football (Soccer) Tournament. I've played in this for four years now and this year we're playing indoors rather than outdoors. It's cooler indoors but I really enjoyed playing at the Iranian club fields in the past years. There was just something exotic about being an American walking past the Iranian club lobby with the pictures of the Ayatollah Khomeni and President Ahmadinejad hanging there prominently.

By the way, we won our first game 5-0 :)

Here is a clip of one play from a game in the American football professional league weekend games. You can see lots more clips at

Watch the whole clip here...
An Amazing Flip!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dubai Marina Photos

I went for a business lunch in the Dubai Marina area last week and I snapped these pictures as I waited for my colleague. The Marina is still growing at an astounding pace.

We've Got Visitors...

President Putin visited last week and met with Sheikh Kalifa, President of the UAE.

I sure hope they had more fun than it looks like they're having here. :) And notice how the late Sheikh Zayed is looking on from over Putin's shoulder... approval? disapproval? We'll never know will we.

A Caption's Worth A Thousand Words

Sometimes the captions tell you the most. It's been increasingly apparent over the last year or so which son of Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, has been anointed the successor to his father. Shaikh Hamdan is the one it appears. Billboards with his face on them, well attended poetry readings, his own flashy website (you really should click on this just to hear the 'heroic' music!), and now subtle but significant things like the caption on this photo tell the story.

If you read the caption you'll see that the naming starts with Hamdan on the right then shifts to the second from left (also a son of the ruler), then to the left-most (also a son of the ruler), and lastly to the second from right... the one guy who isn't a son of the Sheikh. I'm not a journalism expert but it sure seems like an odd way of labeling a picture except if you wanted to make sure the most important one gets named first and then carefully name the rest in descending order of importance.

By the way... the guy who won the gold medal isn't even pictured. :)

Quote: What to Pray For

I'm struck by how my prayer life inevitably wilts and shrinks over time. When I should be praying with faith for magnificent and amazing things to take place in me and others instead I end up praying for "tame" and ordinary things. The quote below is a bracing tonic for a prayer life in the doldrums...

Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do
not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal
to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no
miracle, but you yourself shall be a miracle. Every day you
shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has
come to you by the grace of God.

... Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Passing the Ice Bar in Dubai

I had to go by an electronics/computer store today and get a new printer for our office and that took me to the new Times Square Mall on Sheikh Zayed Road. As I drove over I remembered that the new "Chillout Lounge", a 21 degree Fahrenheit, all-ice bar had opened to much fanfare in early August. (See this article in the Washington Post).

I happened by it and snapped a couple pictures in the window. In one you can see the ice sculpture in the shape of the Dubai skyline and in the other you can barely make out two figures huddled together in parkas. Supposedly it costs about 60AED (or $17) for the cover charge, use of parkas and gloves, and a hot chocolate drink.

What a crazy idea... I don't know if I'll ever go in. I'd rather go eat a good Lebanese or Thai meal for that kind of money.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's Camelicious!

I took this photo last spring and forgot to post it. My kids and I drove along beside this truck on the way to school in the morning. How many of you have tried camel milk? Me neither :) I hear it's pretty salty. I think it's safe to say that this is a sight pretty unique to the Arabian Gulf.

I dare you to visit the website listed on the side of the truck!
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