Friday, 29 February 2008

Leap Year Day

I just had to blog today as I won't get this opportunity for another 4 years! It is a bit unlikely that I will get a proposal today - Mrs DB and I have been married since 2001. I know that Feb 29 is nothing special but I kind of like it.

Baggins decided to celebrate this morning by waking us up - Friday is part of the weekend here in Dubai and Mrs DB and I were having a bit of a lie in as the alarm normally goes off at 6 am every day. Baggins lasted until about 7:30 and then decided that enough was enough - nearly 7 kilograms of cat stomping all over the bed with no particular care about where he stomps is enough to wake anyone up! And yes, when referring to Baggins, stomp is definitely the right word!

Thursday, 28 February 2008


I wonder if there is anyone on the internet who has not yet been tagged by this meme thing that is currently doing the rounds?

Anyway, I've been tagged by Jayne.

So If you don't yet know the rules, here they are:

1. Choose the closest book to you with more than 123 pages (don't cheat)
2. Open it at page 123.
3. Read the 5th sentence.
4. Blog the next 4 sentences.
5. Tag 5 more bloggers.

So, here goes:

1. The Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby is the closest book to me because I'm sat at my computer and this is one of my bibles!

2. Yeah, done that.

3. Yeah, read that.

4. "When you apply Auto Color, it just does its thing. It doesn't ask you to input numbers or make decisions - basically, it's a one-trick pony that tries to neutralize the highlight, midtone and shadow areas of your photo. In some cases, it does a pretty darn decent job, in others, well ... let's just say it falls a bit short. But in this tutorial, you'll learn how to supercharge Auto Color to get dramatically better results, and transform it from a"toy" into a real color-correction tool."

5. Well, who could resist:

Scott Kelby
The Shepherdess
The Kitchen Insider
Dean Stables

Just one person from Dubai 'cos I'm absolutely sure the rest of us have all already been tagged!


Saturday, 23 February 2008

Dusk Over Skopelos

Dusk Over Skopelos image 1Dusk Over Skopelos image 2Dusk Over Skopelos image 3

I've been trying to do this on Blogger for a while now - put multiple images on the same line and I finally worked it out today - I just used a table for them! The three images are collectively called Dusk Over Skopelos and will be printed on canvas and hung on my bedroom wall in the next few days, individually they measure 41 by 80.67 cm and the whole image (allowing for the picture wrapping the side of the frame will be approximately 117 cm by 79 cm.

Now, the next think I want to figure out is how to get the gaps between the images to be slightly larger... if anyone knows, please share.

Linksys Gateway V Etisalat - The Result

Well, folks, the results are finally in. The guy who supplied the Linksys Gateway finally came round today to check out the problem - remember Etisalat say the Linksys is at fault and Linksys say Etisalat is at fault. The problem - turn the power to the linksys off and it can take up to 3 days to get a connection to the internet again!

So the guy brought round a D-Link Gateway to convince me that the fault lies with Etisalat and guess what - D-Link connected instantly!

Etisalat 1 - Linksys 0

Guess who won't be recommending Linksys to anyone in the near future!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Onward with the Uefa Cup

So, last night Bolton Wanderers played out a 0 - 0 draw against Athletico Madrid in Madrid and, by virtue of having won the first leg in Bolton 1 - 0 progressed to the last 16 of the Uefa Cup where they will face Sporting Lisbon!

We've never been this far in Uefa Cup before! I'm dead chuffed.

When I was a kid I used to hear about teams like Athletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, Dynamo Kiev, Spartak Moscow, Benfica, Red Star Belgrade and others and they sounded so exotic. So distant. So much better than the rest. These were great football teams - not the likes of teams Bolton Wanderers would ever play against. No, these were reserved for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United who we might play if we were lucky enough to get drawn against them in the FA Cup. But these wonderfully sounding foreign teams that conjured up visions of strange cities that I would never travel to (Bolton can have that effect on its kids) - they were out of the reach of my team.

And now here we are, playing against them and reaching the last 16 of the Uefa Cup.

Pinch me I must be dreaming!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Is It Just Me

That has trouble with those funny little word verification things when you want to leave a message on someone else's blog? I've left about 7 or 8 comments tonight and have got most of the wrong the first time I typed them (and by most I mean at least 5 or 6). Perhaps I'm getting old and my eyes are growing dim... or something.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Our First Anniversary!

OMG! I forgot! February 12th was our first anniversary!


Oh, nonononononononononnono, NO! Not that anniversary!

Ye gads, how mad do you think I am - forget that anniversary and then blog about it! There is a point where self-preservation kicks in you know!


On the 12th of February 2007, Mrs Dubaibilly and I went to visit Lesley Court. Amongst other things Lesley is a hypnotherapist. We had the first of two sessions with her and neither of us have had even a drag of a cigarette since.

Yes folks, the first anniversary of Mrs DB and I giving up smoking and it was only noticed in retrospect!

Not that we haven't wanted to have a smoke now and again, but the point is we haven't.

Many thanks Lesley.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

More of Baggins

OK dear reader, it is time to share some more Baggins pix with you. I know the only reason you come here is to see photographs of Baggins, so today you can have a reward!

Baggins in the Laptop Bag

Let's get this straight - Baggins IS allowed on the furniture - he is allowed on the couches, on the beds, on the table (not while we are eating), on the thing with the television in it, basically anywhere he wants to go. This can lead to a bit of grouchiness sometimes when he wants to sit next to Mrs Dubaibilly thus relegating me to the other couch, but that's by the by. So where is his favourite spot at the moment - in Mrs DB's laptop bag. He loves bags of any description, but this one seems to be his special place right now.

Baggins in the Laptop Bag

Friday, 15 February 2008

Trolling blogs

Mrs Dubaibilly is still in bed and I am at the computer mindlessly trolling blogs. Do you ever do that, just click on the Next Blog icon and see where it takes you? This morning I've been to several Spanish blogs including a20-something female exhibitionist who just about stops short of revealing all, a few American blogs including a truck driver who has had his vehicle license transferred from Colorado to Wyoming by the Department of Motor Vehicles with his knowledge! (he isn't best impressed) various foreign language blogs which were meaningless and a blog by a shepherdess in western Montana who has a lovely, gentle sense of humour and who I'm going to link to so that I can go back and read more about her life on the farm. This will take you there if you would like to read her musings. Her story about socks is priceleess!

Linksys Gateway V Etisalat - The facts

OK, so the internet was off again this week - mid-week this time though. I got home on Monday and it was down. Interestingly there had been a power cut at home that day, and I think that is important.

Y'see I got to thinking about the other times it was down - once because we hadn't paid the bill, well, yeah, that was Etisalat but it was my own fault. It also went down when we bought this new computer table - once it was built we had to unplug everything to run the wires through the table. Result - no internet for a day or so. Then (about a week later) I wasn't happy with the gang socket being on the floor so I moved it and hung it from the side of the table (at a point where it is pretty inconspicuous and out of the way of my feet. While I was doing it the linksys transformer fell out. Result - three days without the internet. Then, Mrs Dubaibilly was playing some game or other on the computer and managed to knock the transformer out with either her leg or the chair. Result - 2 days or so without internet. Then I came home to a power cut and was off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

So, you may say, Billy, why didn't you piece the evidence together earlier - well, in my defence, there where none of those occasions where I wanted to go on the internet immediately after unplugging the linksys. And really, modern electronics shouldn't work like this.

Like what exactly?

Well, and this is what makes it so ridiculous; If I turn the linksys off now and then immediately reconnect it, it will take between 12 and 36 hours to connect to the adsl line and a further 0 to 36 hours to connect to the internet! That is ridiculous! I can only assume that some micro-capacitor in the electronics is really not working properly and is constantly discharging thus stopping the electronics doing what they are supposed to.

I have had etisalat out, they have checked out the line and say that nothing is wrong. The guy who supplied and fitted the linksys gateway thing (we have it 'cos Mrs Dubaibilly needs to use her company's lap top at home now and again) swears that there is nothing wrong with the linksys and the problem lies with etisalat!

So, the guy is coming round tomorrow to prove to me that there is nothing wrong with the linksys. He is going to do this by bringing another one which he will connect to the system after disconnecting mine to see if the fault happens again. I have insisted that he bring an adsl gateway by a different manufacturer! We shall see, but until he comes tomorrow I will not be switching the linksys off because I have a connection now and I don't want to lose it!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Happy Valentines Day

Well, more problems with the internet forr the past few days - I am now reaching the stage where I am convinced that it is the linksys gateway that is at fault, not Etisalat. But more about that later.

I just wanted to wish any ladies who happen to read my blog today a happy valentines day and give you this:

red rose

Friday, 8 February 2008

Barcelona 5 - The Final Chapter

So eventually we reached the end of the course and we all jetted off back to whence we came. The corse finished at noon and my flight wasn't until 8:30 ish that evening. Three of us with late flights went into Barcelona for a last look around and I took a few daytime pictures.

It wasn't a great day - the sky was uniform grey and it rained on and off - I got a few pics and I'll share them with you now.

Casa Mila

This is the side of the Casa Mila. All these photo's were taken in the area known as Los Ramblas on the Passieg de Gracias.

Casa Batllo

And just across the road (and a bit further down) from there is the Casa Batllo. This place is beautiful - I love the roof which is shown in a bit more detail below.

Casa Batllo Detail

The total lack of discernible sky is testament to what a lousy day it was!

Beggar on the Passieg de Gracias

So my heart went out to this old dear. Apart from being wet, it was also quite cold.

Finally, I promised you a flower pic and here it is:

Red Flower

There was a, for want of a better word, planter full of them on the street, there were so many in there it was difficult to get the right photo, but I particularly like the two big water droplets just about to drop off the bottom of the flower. Needless to say I took this just after it had been raining.

So my course is over and I got back safe and sound thanks to Air France. I'm back at work and it feels like I've never been away! Ho hum, isn't it always that way!

What Is It - Answer

Well done to Grumpy Goat who was the first to identify it as ice on glass. It is, in fact ice crystals forming on the outside of the window of an Airbus A330-200 at 40,000 feet on the way to Paris and it is (was) approximately 2 cm long.

Well done Grumpy - huge kudos to you!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Barcelona 4 - Available Light Photography

And so we touched down in Barcelona - 3 hours later than we should have because we had been delayed for 3 hours in CDG - they said it was because the plane was late arriving from London Heathrow -3 hours?? Did the captain get lost? Anyway, we got there. Now it is interesting travelling within Europe with a non-European - after the hassle at Paris, we expected more of the same at Barcelona, but no, in fact it was completley different - there weren't any immigration people there! Now, dear reader, you may be familiar with my views on immigration officials the world over. But I have to say I like Barcelona's take on that particular profession - they just don't exist.

My colleague was desperate to get his passport stamped coming into Spain incase they didn't let him out again! We couldn't find anyone to do it. Someone suggested a visit to the police station a hundred metres outside the airport - we even tried that, but they weren't interested either. So we got a taxi to our hotel and checked in and went to our (seperate) bedrooms.

The next day we had the first day of the course which was about maths.

That evening a group of us went into Barcelona exploring and I took my camera.

Now, dear reader, you know I like to take photo's of flowers (and I won't disappoint you, there will be one in the next post) but did you know that I am a big fan of available light photography?

What is it?

Well basically it is what it sounds like - usually taking photographs at night without using a flash - indoors or outdoors using the ambient light that is around.

It is a lot easier to do it now than it used to be, digital cameras save you wasting a whole film on mistakes! But the techniques are the same as ever. There are two main (and indispensable) items of equipment. 1 - a camera that will allow you to take long exposure shots and 2 - a tripod.

I took 4 days worth of clothing, all the notes and stuff I needed for the course, a book to read on the plane, my camera with both lenses and I couldn't fit my tripod in - 'cos all that went in a bag small enough to be classed as cabin baggage!

So, no tripod - no available light photography.


This is the front of Gaudi's famous (and still unfinished) Sagredo Familia Cathedral.

Now I have to admit that I have done some photoshopping on this - I have actually used a technique called Repairing Keystoning and you can click there to find out what it is if you are interested. But I haven't done anything to change the light or the colours in this or any of the rest of these photo's.

Gaudi Balcony

This is a well photographed balcony on one of Gaudi's buildings on the Passage de Gracia and below is the doorway to the same building.

Gaudi Doorway

I particularly like the ghosting effect of the people walking in front of the camera during the exposure.

Finally I took this from my hotel bedroom - this one was particularly difficult because it is a 4 second exposure which is really quite a long time without a tripod!

Street at Night

So, no tripod, how do you do it. Well - I don't like to up the film speed because I don't like grainyness in photographs so I improvise. Lean on a lamp post with the camera up against the metal of the post, choose a time for the exposure (these are 1 second each for the first 3 and 4 seconds for the last), take a breath, hold it and gently press the shutter release. As for the street scene - stand next to the bedroom window with the curtains wrapped around you to minimise reflections, build a tower of table, flight bag, book, camera and any other little things you may need to get the perfect angle without the camera ending up on the floor, set the exposure time and again, take a breath, hold it, gently release the trigger, when the shutter closes look at the photo and zoom into one of the traffic lights to see if you have got it without any movement - if you have, good, if not, try again! By the way, the greenish-grey building in the top left of the last photo are the spires from Gaudi's Cathedral. The reason they are that colour is because the building is lit up with (I think) halogen lamps rather than tungsten lamps and that is also the reason that the first picture is very much less orange than the others. You can, with Photoshop, get rid of these various casts to the light but I quite like them and don't want to get an available light photograph to look as though I have used a flash.

Barcelona 3 - Interlude - What Is It?

I got this idea from Dean Stables who does some really great photography. Anyway, a few posts ago he ran a "guess the pic" competition and I thought I'd give it a go.

So, what is it?


I'll give you a few days to post your answer, dear reader, and give huge kudos to you if you get it right.

Barcelona 2 - Paris to Barcelona

So we landed at Paris CDG after the flight from heaven. Walked up the umbilical cord to the top where there were 2 police people, a man and a lady. They were checking passports.

Oh, did I forget to tell you? I was travelling with a colleague from my school who happens to be from India. But it's no problem, he had an official invitation from the course organisers to attend and he had a Shengen visa issued by the Spanish in Abu Dhabi. So we got to the front, I passed over my EU passport, it got a cursory glance and I was past the policeman - my colleague did the same with his Indian passport, the policeman put the passport in his pocket without even checking it and said "Wait there." He then checked the passports of every other passenger on the plane and managed to treat two Indian ladies in the same fashion.

This was my colleague's first visit to Europe and I thought it better to wait with him.

When the final passenger had passed the inspection and the mobile phone belonging to an American passenger who came running back to tell the policeman that he had somehow managed to leave it on the plane had been found, the policeman gave us an explanation for his actions.

"Are you two together?" (directed at me)

"Oui, monsieur."

"Where are you going?"

(Good of him to keep asking in English 'cos my French isn't up to much!) "Barcelona."


"Nous etes proffeseur du mathamatique. Nous avvez une course."

"Follow me, I have to do a computer check."

So off we went, to his office, all four of us so that he could do a computer check on my colleague and these two ladies.

Eventually he pronounced himself satisfied and bade us well on our journey:

"That way!" points in the general direction of what I assume is Barcelona.

So off we go.

Now CDG is an odd place, when you transfer there you actually have to go out of the terminal! Dunno why. Especially as we landed at terminal two and were taking off from terminal two - but you do.

So we arrived at immigration.

Usual cursory look at my EU passport.

The full song and dance for my colleague.

Shengen visa notwithstanding. Police computer check no longer valid apparently.

Where are you going? Why are you going? Have you got proof that this course exists? Have you got an invitation

I don't know how my colleague put up with it... if it had been me<

Where are you going

You've got the f&*$ing boarding pass in your hand mate, are you having a larf or what?

Why are you going

Why does anybody go on courses?

Have you got proof this course exists

What about the f&*$ing visa - do you not think they checked before they issued it?

Have you got an invitation

See previous answer.

I was stood behind the immigration booths and getting well pissed off by now. My colleague just put up with it.

So we get past there. We approach the area where our boarding gate is and there is the cabin baggage check.

To me "blurby blurby blurb blurb blurb blurb blurby blurb?"

"Escuzes moi, monsiuer, je ne comprend pas, je suis anglais"

"Do you have any liquids in your bag?"


OK, go through.

To my colleague "Open your bag, take off your shoes, stand still while we search you!"

I'm sorry, it was bloody embarrasing. Total Absolute Racism. My colleague had two problems, he has the wrong nationality and he is the wrong colour.

Eventually we got all the bloody racist checks out of the way, boarded our flight for Barcelona, endured the most firghtening take off ever then I fell asleep and woke up as we began our descent into Barcelona.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Barcelona 1 - Leaving Dubai

I´m sat in the Cyber Centre of my hotel - it is the last morning of the course and this is the first time I have managed to get on the internet and actually have it working! I have about half an hour before it is back to work, so I can´t say a lot, especailly as I am using a Spanish keyboard and some keys are in a different place to those on my keyboard at home (I just had to look individually through the keys for a hyphen! Mind you, whilst doing so I found ¿ which I think is great!)

Anyway, I left Dubai on Thursday and, apart from a completely pointless trip to the worlds local bank (about which more later!) everything was fine. I got to the airport in plenty of time, check-in with Air France was stressless!!! The first reasonable check-in that I have had for years - well done Air France for making such a simple procedure... well, simple!

Then it was through, using the e-gate card and up to the Irish Village for breakfast - magnificent - bacon, sausages, black pudding, 2 eggs over easy (and cooked to perfection - plaudits to the IV chef ´cos so many chefs seem to bog that up) mushrooms, hash browns, beans, toast, various jams, tea and fresh orange juice and all for 44 dirhams or about 13 US dollars or about 6 GBP. An absolute bargain. Before long it was time to get the flight - flight was fairly empty, it left on time (I kid you not!!!), the food was fantastic - I honestly think that the food was the best airline food I have ever had (at least when travelling cattle class) so even more plaudits to Air France! I had a couple of those little bottles of red wine with the meal - now those of you who know me will also know that I like my red wine with ice. I didn´t really want to upset the French Air Hostess by asking for ice with my wine so I didn´t bother - imagine my surprise then when I found it to be chilled to perfection (as far as I am concerned!) After dinner the hostess asked me if I would like a brandy (I wouldn´t have even thought of it) and she gave me two of them.

All in all a very pleasaant trip. So for the third time, well done Air France.

Then we landed at Paris Charles de Gaulle...