Are You Friends with Royalty?

I am, and I wish I wasn’t.  Just call me a “Lady-in-Waiting” to my so-called friends and work colleagues, especially those from the Middle East.

This afternoon I rang Diana who was busy with Ali.

“I’ll call you back in 5 or 10 minutes”, she said.

Now I know she didn’t mean it, no where near it.  And the fact that she was in with Ali made it a better bet than a wager on a four legged horse in a field of amputee nags.  Now to be fair to Diana, Ali is the ultimate picture boy when it comes to bad manners.  Any time you want to speak to him, you need to take his mobile phone away because in the middle of talking to you, he’ll remember he “just has to call someone”, and you’ll just sit there like an idiot and wait for him to finish.  Last month, he asked me if I could buy him an iPhone 4S – who is he trying to kid?

So why do these people think that you want to wait on them?

Wikipedia defines a lady-in waiting as “a female personal assistant at a royal court, attending on a queen, a princess, or a high-ranking noblewoman” and I find this definition helpful.

Female personal assistant – obviously these people think you are there to be their secretary or slave.  Since they believe you slavishly want to attend on their every wish, being continually late, or being inconsiderate should not bother you in the slightest.

At at royal court – Their immediately environment with themselves as the centre piece should fill you with awe and wonder.  A person can be considered lucky just to have an audience with them, and like all royalty, you should expect to wait for them to bestow their attention on you.

A queen, a princess, or high ranking noblewoman – Not all the free range rude are women, and in the Middle East, it’s mostly men.  But doesn’t this say so much about how they view themselves and your relative position to theirs?  Would they do it it someone they considered superior to them?

No body minds if someone is honest and tells you they won’t get back to you for say an hour or more – that’s fair enough, but this “5 or 10 minutes”, “just wait a bit”, “we’ll be a smidge late” is completely unacceptable.

Ah, but then I’m forgetting something….. they’re royalty 🙂





“Sorry” seems to be the hardest word?

Elton John was wrong.  In the Middle East “thank you” beats “sorry” any day.  I don’t enjoy working and living in Dubai, and I put this down to the terrible manners I encounter everyday.  This isn’t limited to the people I meet when going about your daily business, but more so amongst the people I work with. I was wondering whether or not this was just my experience, so I googled the subject and came up with this:

“Since working in the night club / bar industry in Dubai I have come across so many twats / pretentious idiots, some people really have no clue of the world, to think they are above you, I’ve been involved in nightlife for 20 year and worked in some of the best places around the globe. Dubai seems to be in some cloud, manners get you very far in life. I am from London and British and have been brought up to respect people who ever they are, treat people the way you expect to be treated, it’s nothing about rich or poor. I can only think of the way that some peoples mannerisms are if they are uneducated and narrow minded, and this can only harm Dubai reputation as a destination I think.”

It seems that I am not alone in my perceptions.  However, manners have very little to do with education; in my experience, the more education and titles (Sheik, Doctor, Engineer etc.) these people have, the more they think they are above the common herd.  While education and qualifications are important, I do believe that a lot of this comes down to genetics – you are either born smart or you are not.  Similarly, you either have the genetic potential to be an Olympic marathon runner, otherwise the best it gets used a 10 km fun run.  Neither the Ph.D. nor Olympic gold medal exempts anyone from good manners.

“My friend, I hope you have the chance to go to somewhere like Saudi Arabia. The welcome from immigration is such, that makes you want to turn and take the same plane back. Arabs are naturally racist, and rude – they think money can buy respect. It can’t. Their countries economies are run by desperately underpaid people from the Sub Continent, who work outside in 50 degrees Celcius. Even the camels & horses here have more worth….”

I must’ve gone through the immigration line in Dubai at least fifty times, and never once have I ever received a welcoming smile or hello.  And it’s not only the Arabs who are racist, the Iranians are  worse (I know, I work with them).  Once upon a time, the Persians ruled the world and I don’t think they’ve ever forgotten that.  In Dubai, the working class are made up of poorly paid Filipinos, Indians, and others from the subcontinent become unfortunate cannon fodder Middle East racist attitudes.

“I don’t think it’s fair to generalise and say that “Arabs” are naturally racist and rude.”

This is indeed generalisation and we are justified in concluding this as these attitudes are part of their culture and their worldview.  In the West, Christmas is part of our culture and whether or not a person believes in the tenets of Christianity, the one thing most people agree with is that Christmas is a time of peace on earth and goodwill to your fellow (wo)man.  A number of cultural studies such as those undertaken by Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars suggest that some cultures, particularly Islamic and Confucian based, do not embody egalitarianism.  It would follow that if one does not believe in the doctrine of equality of mankind, it would be easy to see others, especially outside one’s own race, as beneath any consideration at all.

“Unfortunately in Dubai, there is more importance placed on the colour of your skin than the type of person you actually are. You could be a complete douche but if you’re white, you might just get away with it.”

Working in Dubai is very difficult when you’re an Australian woman of Chinese origin.  Most of the time, people see me akin to the Filipinos who hold some of the worst jobs in Dubai.  Once while I was dining in a restaurant, I was asked to bring the menu to a table when I was on my way to the toilet.  On another occasion I was staying in Sharjah, on leaving my room someone called out to me that they were leaving and I could now “make the bed”.  More embarrassing still was the occasion I was looking after my friends small daughter, and someone asked me if I was the child’s nanny.  These days, I am ready for this and have no compunction in letting loose with a string of Australian swear words which will no doubt land me in ado by prison one day.

“As about the “locals” being rude, I lived in London before coming to Dubai and was overwhelmed by the “thank you”, “sorry” and “please” English people use in their language, but that is just a cultural thing, the locals don’t mean to be rude, it is just the way it seems to us because they don’t use that many “friendly words” and their tone sounds rough to our European ears.”

Whenever so-called colleagues of mine visit Australia, I’m compelled to give them a lesson on manners.  I let them know that no work is dishonourable and that nobody is beneath them and anybody that serves them should be thanked.  I understand that it isn’t personal, however this does not make it right.  I might be having a bad day, so bad that I pushed my shopping trolley into the side of your car as a means of venting my frustration.  It isn’t personal  (especially you don’t happen to be around) but it still leaves a dented car door and affects you even if it doesn’t affect me.

“I lived in a few countries so far and seen that people often forget that we are just “guests” in the foreign country and have to respect the local laws and traditions – whatever these are and no matter if we like them or not. We have chosen by free will to be here and if we don’t like it, there we go….”

I totally agree with this sentiment, and if we don’t like it we should never return.  However the reverse is also true; Australia has enough problems of its own without adding to them by importing bad manners (and other cultural nasties) from the Middle East.  I admit that I never appreciated how fortunate I was to be living in Australia until I had to live in the middle east.  I never valued the manners we take for granted here every day.  Obviously, manners and not something that we are born with and therefore I take my hat off to all parents (including my own) who persist with their children and coach them with, “Can you say “please”?” and “What do you say?” when they are given something.

My Mother, Arthritis and Me

I dreamt I saw my mother last night.  The last time I saw her I was twenty one years old, and for the last twenty years of her life, we were estranged.  I own no photographs of her, and in my waking hours it’s difficult for me to remember how she looked, but I see her very clearly in recurring dreams which dissolve within moments of waking.

Our relationship was mixed; while I adored and worshipped her, she rarely returned any sign of affection and to this day I’m even unsure she loved me at all.  We did not have what anyone could remotely consider to be a normal mother-daughter relationship, there was a forty nine year age gap between us, adoption and cultural issues, but the real interloper was arthritis.

I have no memory of any time that she was not in agony and neither did I understand anything about this awful disease.  I only knew that she was often in immense pain which stemmed from the swelling in her knees, ankles, and hands.  I was always an early riser and every morning I would enter my mother’s bedroom to say good morning. A “good” morning was very rare.  Usually she would have taken a cocktail of drugs while still in bed, turned on the electric blanket and waited for the pain to become bearable before getting up.  Quite often here first words to me were, ” I’m very bad today”.  She was definitely not a hypochondriac; I have no doubt she felt terrible from just the look on her face..  A short woman, she was very overweight, her face was bloated, and her knees, ankles and hands were always swollen.  Under her upper arms she had a large flap of skin which hung weblike anytime she lifted her arms.

She depended greatly on Prednisone and I think she dosed several times a day. I did noticed over the years that the prescriptions got progressively bigger until she was bringing home bottles that contained five hundred pills.  Only recently did I discover that Prednisone had some bad side effects for long-term users such as weight gain through increased appetite, as well as leaving them moon shaped face.  Only now do I understand the terrible toll that arthritis and Prednisone took on her body and most probably her moods.

Over the years, she did everything she could to relive the pain.  This included traditional and non-traditional medicine, diets and prayer.  Today, many years later, I realise how desperate she must have been to get some relief, and mobility.

Apart from her visits to the doctors and her pharmaceuticals, she also tried acupuncture.  Initially, she was very hopeful that this could provide some sort of cure.  I remember accompanying her on a visit to her acupuncturist on one occasion and seeing a chart of the human body with needles stuck in just about every conceivable place and wondering how this could possibly help.  However, after a while these visits ceased so I can only conclude that acupuncture didn’t work.

She found a book recommending honey and apple cider vinegar, and she gamely drank a large tumbler every evening.  I liked the honey, but I didn’t care for the strong smell of vinegar.  She also gave up on eating tomatoes because they were acidic; this was a real sacrifice because she really did love tomatoes in her salad and also in toasted cheese sandwiches.

A staunch Catholic, she went to church every single morning of the week.  She obviously got something out of it, because she never missed a single day which annoyed me for some unknown reason.  In her belief, she often said that her pain was sent by god to try her faith.  I often wondered whether she went to Mass because she was so desperate for a miracle cure.  To me, god never listened and it might have been because her knees were so bad that she could never kneel during the service.  A friend of hers bought her a bottle of “holy” water from Lourdes which are said to have miraculous working properties.  For as long as it lasted, she took a sip from the bottle every day and would dip her finger in the water to cross herself.  She passed her Catholic faith on to me, but the thought crossed my mind that the bottle could contain water from anywhere – it certainly didn’t work for her.

The arthritis in her knees and ankles seriously hampered her mobility, but her hands were so bad that she frequently dropped and broke things, and lifting anything even slightly heavy or opening a jar of anything was completely beyond her.  We didn’t have an automatic car with drive assistance, and any trip in the car made her hands ache. Over a period of time, she had her knees drained as well as operations on her knees which might have been replacements.  Each operation involved a considerable stay in hospital, and a very painful rehabilitation which I remember so well.

I never saw her cry, and while she complained about the arthritis, I think that was her total right.  Where was I in all this?  I was an insensitive teenager who simply didn’t understand why my mother was always ill and couldn’t do things other mothers could.  The house and garden were unkempt to the point of filthy, but I didn’t help.

Today I’m 52.  After a lifetime of running, by knees and back are not in the best shape.  I get up every morning with a stiff and achy back and sitting in my office chair for any long period of time is unbearable.  My aches cannot even compare to my mother’s, but I have some small understanding of how life must have been for her.  Once, she told me how she wanted to die, and today I can sympathise.  In heaven, she was sure there would be no arthritis and her body would be pain free and whole.

I have many regrets and guilt that I didn’t do more than I surely could have. I wish I had known her when she was a young, beautiful and energetic woman that her younger photographs suggest.  I suspect I’ll always have these painful dreams, but I don’t wish they would cease.  She’s been dead for over ten year, but it is only in my dreams that I can tell her the things I was not able to say to her in life.  So for now we continue to share in these dreams; my mother, her arthritis and me.

Dragon Dictate 2.5 for Mac – Review

Every morning I have the unenviable pleasure of downloading at least 50 emails from Microsoft Outlook.  I wouldn’t mind if it was advertising, interesting offers, or technology news, but it’s almost always work related.  There’s an analogy from my younger life here. Long before we had email, every day the mail box would bring forth a mixture of interesting advertising, magazines and not so friendly bills.  The bills I could do without, but the colour brochures (except those advertising the latest food specials) were always welcome.

Just about every email from colleagues has to be acknowledged in one way or the other; from a simple “thanks for the information” to a full blown project.  In every case, it means time on the keyboard and I find the Macbook keyboard uncomfortable for long typing.  I can’t type as fast as I can speak, so when I heard about Dragon Dictation for the Mac (published by Nuance), I was interested and disbelieving –  how could any software translate my Australian accented natural speech to text on the screen?

What’s in the box?

I bought a copy of Dragon Dictate from the local Apple Shop for just over $200.00.  Inside the box were two disks, the program and the data disk, a one page “Quickstart Guide” and a cheap Plantronics USB headset.  It’s important that the headset is the USB variety; the program doesn’t work well with the pin plug variety (I tried it), and it completely bombs out if you try to use the internal microphone.

Installation and Initial Tryout 

Installing the software was a no-brainer  but setting it up to start working was another thing entirely.  Whenever I tried  a short sentence, the colour wheel would spin and spin, and the computer would hang.  To add insult to injury, a problem email would be generated for optional sending. And if I did get it to recognise a spoken word, it invariably ended up being completely wrong.

Accuracy improved a little after going through the training exercises – I really “liked” reading the story on wolves, Mark Twain’s adventures with stage fright and various emails to sales departments!  But the program was slow, sluggish and crashed a lot – I can attest that swearing doesn’t improve voice recognition one bit!

The following comments were not helpful, and I was convinced I’d done my money!

I tried Dictate 2.5 for Mac. I cannot possibly convey the degree to which this software is not just an absolute waste of money, but a black hole of productivity until you finally figure out that it will never work, that you will never get help from Dragon unless you pay, and finally reach the conclusion that the throwing it in the trash will at least return your productivity to what it was before you made the mistake of wasting your money on this product.

New Headphones to the Rescue

The next morning I bought a $50 set of Plantronics .Audio 665 DSP’s and the difference was unbelievable!  All of the sudden Dragon Dictation delivered the goods instantly and accurately.  Obviously the cheap inbox set was the problem and you have to wonder why a better quality headphone set wasn’t included in the box in the first place.

Now I’m absolutely delighted with the performance of the product – I bought it to handle emails and that’s exactly what I use it for.  I’ve also customised some of the vocabulary to include name and places relating to my work place – and considering I work in the Middle East, this is essential. Dictating takes some getting used to after thinking years of thinking with my fingers, but with practice, I’m sure I’ll improve.

The program also boast a “Command Mode” which can manage your desktop environment such as opening programs, maximising and minimising windows, and direction controls by voice.  Some of them are useful and save mouse chasing and having to learn keyboard short cuts, but the program really excels when it comes to short note writing.

That’s not to say Dragon Direct can’t be used for longer more formal Word documents, after all Nuance does sell a legal and medical dictionary, but I think I’d need a longer training period to use this effectively.


At this point, I’d definitely recommend it.  There’s a lot more to this program than initially meets the eye and thorough  study of the work manual which is available from Nuance’s site is essential to avoid initial frustrations.


What is Fatherhood?

I read the following article this morning on

DNA proves man is not child’s father, mother must pay back nearly $13k

Quoting from the first paragraph of the article, “A woman has been ordered to pay her former husband almost $13,000 in child support after DNA tests confirmed he has not the father of her 14-year-old son.”

The saddest part of this story is that the “father” has ended any relationship with the boy he thought was his son.  I understand the biological imperative of passing on your genes after reading Richard Dawkins books, namely “The Selfish Gene”, but it’s hard to believe that more than 10 years of parental love can be cut off so suddenly and cruelly.  While he may not have been the biological father, it’s clear he  parented this boy.

Let’s have a look at the players involved in this horrible reality:

The Mother – She’s definitely one half of the guilty party.  Sleeping with her neighbour while married is very ordinary, but deceiving her husband into believing he was  the boy’s father was plain deceit and she deserves whatever she gets.  But mothers are rarely moral when it comes to their children – I know of few mothers who would ever turn in their criminal sons.  After the couple’s divorce money might have been scarce, and women in this position would have few scruples when it comes to garnering financial support for their kids.  In fact, unless the husband is willing to continue finanicial support without a court order, the legal system is her only resort.

The Biological Father – He’s the other half of the guilty party.  If the male parent is unwilling to provide financial support, then the biological father should pay, not the mother.  He’s had the satisfaction of fulfilling his biological imperative without any responsibility.  The Child Support Agency should serve him with the debt!

The Male Parent – He’s most definitely the wronged party, but the party that wronged him was his wife, not the the child.  I find it hard to understand how he can disclaim the boy after being his parent since birth.  Perhaps the refund of the $13,000 paid in child support will give him some solace, but did not the role of parenting give this man more satisfaction than the money he feels he was cheated of?  Okay, I get it that this boy is not his genetically and will not pass on his genes to another generation, but surely they must have shared some precious father-son moments that cannot be priced (see my post on childbirth)?

The Male Parent’s Mother – She’s the one who “raised doubts about the boy’s parentage from the time he was four”. And, “(X) is looking less and less like you.  There is nothing similar, not even his ears or toes or fingers”.  I can only wonder why she put those thoughts in her son’s head.  While she has the satisfaction of being right, she’s also lost a grandson.

The Son – He’s the innocent party in this sordid mess.  He did not choose his mother who turned out to be careless with conception, he did not choose his male parent who cared more for his own genes than the father-son relationship they had, he did not choose his “grandmother” who cared more for the appearance of his ears, toes or fingers, and he definitely did not choose his biological father who acted no better than a sperm donor.  In fact, he has now lost the only father he has ever known and you would have to wonder how he can ever recover from this.

If men are able to put  genetics before relationships, what can be said about step-fathers and adoptive fathers?  Are they any less fathers and parents?  What then constitutes fatherhood?

From my personal point of view, the Male Parent is cutting off his nose to spite his face – he cannot say the entire relationship with this child was a series of financial transactions, and it’s sad that he feels ripped off.

As an “adopted” child, I have no conception of  relating to a person who is both biological mother and parent and basically, what I got is the only model I have.  Yes, I know I cost my “mother” financially (not that much!) but I would like to think she made a good investment and had the satisfaction of knowing that she parented well enough to ensure I would grow up to be self-sufficient, successful in my chosen career with more letters after my name than in my name.

Until I read Walter Isaccson’s book, I did not know Steve Job’s was adopted.  From birth, he too never had any contact with his biological parents, and refused to have any relationship with his biological father in adulthood.  I wonder if Paul Jobs (Steve’s adoptive father) felt any less pride in his son’s achievements because he wasn’t carrying his genetic materials?  I doubt it.

Big Meets Bigger Mississippi

I don’t need motivation to lose weight, but if I did, I’d watch “Big Meets Bigger” on Youtube:

After watching this, I understand why Mississippi has the unenviable reputation of being the fattest state in USA.  I’m not going to go in-depth into the four women featured in this show.  I think people have a right to believe what they want and manage their own bodies the way they want to – except to the point where is starts to affect others.

I could mention that obesity must be costing the US Government a fortune in health care, and its effect on everyone’s taxes, but I think the Government would continue taxing even if they didn’t have the health expense.

What really interested me was the Buffet.

“The cut price all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants are everywhere, serving food pumped food full of artificial substances.”

“With a massive 250 dishes to choose from for under four pounds, and the plates aren’t small either.”

Diane : “I’ve had one large plate and three small, I have corn, potatoes again because Honey they are delicious. No, I don’t feel guilty, I’m enjoying it, I’ll feel guilty later, right now, not now, the food is good.”

It’s debatable if the food is “good” at all – it may taste good but it can’t be healthy!  I’ve seen first hand how people go crazy at buffets and I understand that it’s important to “get our money’s worth” but how many plates of food do people need to eat to feel they’ve had four pounds worth.  Putting food in your stomach which is not healthy, and to the point you feel totally stuffed is just treating  your body like a toilet – because that’s where the food ends up anyway!

It’s not like putting money in the bank and saving it for a rainy day.  Once in the food is the in guts you can’t regurgitate it and eat it later.

If America, or Australia for that matter, is to have any chance of beating the obesity crisis, we have to “Ban the Buffet” – it obviously brings out a not so nice side of human nature, namely greed and gluttony.

One Born Every Minute – The mother or the child?

SBS has been screening the UK Channel 4 series “One Born Every Minute” and I’ve been watching it with horrified fascination.  The documentary is set in the maternity ward of Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton and it shows about three births every show.

Very little left to the imagination, and some of it is disturbing (to me at least).

For example:

  • Women screaming (and I do mean screaming) in sheer agony during the birth process while the poor helpless husband looks on.  After seeing these, I’d rather run a marathon any day . I have a new respect for women because I know I couldn’t go through that and maintain any sort of composure.
  • The actual birth when the baby exits you know what.  I never realised they come out so slimy and crumply!  In comparison, a baby piglet is cuter.
  • Graphic film of a caesarian section which was just appalling!  I knew in theory that the stomach had to be slit open but to actually see the knife slice through the yellow and white fat (I’m going on a diet), and witnessing the doctor put his hand in the stomach and lift out the baby was beyond belief.
  • Midwives checking between the poor woman’s legs to check the dilation – so much for dignity!
  • The birthing pool – why did I ever think the water in the pool would stay clear?  The poor woman sits in the pool wailing in agony while the birth pains are ongoing and with the baby’s birth, the water turns bloody.  I’d be out of the pool so fast!

How do women go through this, and keep going back for more?  I can understand the first baby would be like a trip into the unknown and they have no real idea what’s coming.  But how do they go back for the second, the third, or more?  I think Queen Victoria had 9 children, she must have been totally crazy!  If I’d been her, I would have kicked Prince Albert where  it hurt if he had approached me for sex after the first child.

However, there were parts of the show which never failed to give my heart a twinge.  The moment when the nurse presented the new born baby to the mother, with the father looking on is one that I could only wish for – not for myself as a mother – but as the new born baby.  The chances that my parents celebrated by birth are practically nil and that’s something that I have to live with.