Dubai: Day 4 & 5

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Day 4 was for resting. So that’s about all we did.

On day 5, we went to the pool and saw a skink:

Max liked playing on the “rocks” in the baby pool.

 

But then we moved to the big pool so I could get in the water too!

When we got back, Max had some tummy time and practiced crawling:


Dubai: Day 3

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The plan for Day 3 is to get out and about. I’d like to take the metro to Downtown Dubai (Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa) and scope the place out. But first, we need breakfast. This morning Max tried strawberries but he wasn’t sure about them – maybe too tart for his liking. So he ended up having some banana instead.

After breakfast we took a walk outside to check out the pools. There is a baby pool, kids’ pool and main pool. There’s also a Kidz Club, jogging trail, tennis courts, a babbling brook and some ducks. Here are some Emirati Ducks:

Max is excited to try out the baby pool (complete with a “roof” for shade):

This hotel also has apartments (right portion):

After our walk outside, Max took a nap. When he woke up, we got all our stuff together and headed toward the Dubai Healthcare City metro station (our hotel is surrounded by all kinds of hospitals and other health-related buildings). On the way to the metro station is this Empower cooling plant. It provides cold water to the surrounding buildings for them to use for A/C:

 

The metro system here is pretty new, particularly the green line which is the one near the hotel. The stations are beautiful, clean and futuristic looking:

 

Max was a good boy, waiting for the metro:

I didn’t get to take any more pictures on the metro because when we got off the green line and switched to the red line, it was packed – like sardines. Like the worst I’ve ever seen it in DC. The people here are so friendly and caring, though, they offered me a seat and helped me manage the stroller. They also tried to keep Max entertained the whole way. It was about 6 stops until the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall metro station. The station is connected to the mall by way of the “Metro Link” – a huge, raised, covered, air-conditioned 1/2 walkway with moving sidewalks (which I didn’t use since I had the stroller). Again, it is beautifully designed and pristine. Sorry, no pictures, but here’s a picture of the inside.

Finally we made it to the Dubai Mall. This mall is huge! Though not the largest mall in the world, it is #14 on the list. (It is, however, the largest mall in the world be total area (including non-retail area).) It is really awesome – even though we didn’t go into any of the stores! Actually, the one store we went into was – if you can imagine – a sporting-goods store! I was looking for a couple cheap carabiners to better attach the diaper bag to the stroller. I could only find “real” (e.g. expensive) ones, though. Oh well.

This mall has lots of cool stuff in it. We were there for a few hours and I didn’t see everything, but here are a few things I did see.

There’s an aquarium in here:

And an ice-skating rink:

And a beautiful, artsy waterfall:

A dinosaur:

Also, they have “baby rooms” off of the men’s and women’s bathrooms. It’s a room with a couple changing stations, a sink, chairs and toys. Very helpful! We wondered around the mall a bit and then we decided to head back to the hotel. On the way, I got a couple more pitctures.

Some pretty buildings:

The Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the World. Honestly, at first glance it didn’t look that big. But I think it is deceiving. It really is a beautiful building. We’ll get a closer look when we come back after Meredith is done working. It is 2,717ft, 163 storeys and has 58 elevators! Here is some more information about the Burj Khalifa.

That’s where the pictures stop. We were both too tired to document any more! And we had to get back on the completely-crowded metro (red line). This time, I folded the stroller and tried to consolidate things as best I could. As soon as I got on, people were so friendly and helpful. A guy gave up his seat and other guys helped me wiggle back to the seat. During the whole ride Max was looking around and smiling at people. They loved him! There was really no way I would have been able to manage Max, the stroller, diaper bag and camera bag if these people weren’t there to help. When it was time to switch to the green line, a guy who was next to the seat I was in was nice enough to carry the stroller and diaper bag off of the train and wait for me to make my way out before he got back on.

If there’s one thing I can say about this place, it is that Americans have it wrong! We think “Middle East” and immediately conjure up images of terrorists and bombs and other scary things. And I know other places around here are actually like that, but the UAE – or at least Dubai – seems like a really great place to visit and to live. The people here are so friendly and caring. And it’s nice that the people who are working in the stores aren’t inattentive and buried in their cellphones like they usually are in the US! Max gets attention from just about every person we pass. He has many girlfriends here at the hotel.

Well that’s it for now. Day 4 will be about relaxing and maybe some swimming. Stay tuned!


Dubai: Day 2

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Today, Meredith had to go to work early. I woke up at 7. It was a foggy morning, you can see the Burge Khalifa poking up out of the mist:

I thought I’d let Max sleep a little more but I didn’t want him to sleep too long and get off schedule. So I had some fruit:

I woke Max up around 8 to go get breakfast. Since we have access to the Grand Club, we get to eat breakfast at the Market in the atrium as well as continental breakfast in the club. We went to the Market where there are probably 7 different food stations. I had:

  • blueberry muffin
  • apple crumble
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • half-tomato with cheese atop
  • chicken sausage
  • an egg
  • some dough thing atop which I placed a nice coconut chutney
  • banana smoothie
  • “antioxidant” fruit drink
  • coffee
  • maybe something else, I can’t remember.

Max had fresh mango and a bottle:

We also checked out the koi. There are about 15 huge koi – about 2 feet long!

After breakfast, we went back to the room and took a nap:

Then we got geared up and headed out to the Wafi Mall. It was about a 15 minutes walk from the hotel. It was pretty hot out, but not nearly as hot as it could be – 106 is the average temperature in the summer! Max wore his hat along with sunscreen to protect his precious body from the Sun’s harmful rays:

And here’s a better shot of the Grand Hyatt hotel:

This area, where the hotel and the Wafi Mall are located, is called Wafi City. Some of the buildings resemble Egyptian architecture. The mall is a pyramid:

The mall is nice and has some pretty stained glass sky lights:

 

We wandered around a bit and decided to get a fresh fruit popsicle. I shared with Max:

We walked a little more and found Cactus Cantina where I got a quesadilla to bring back to the room. It got a bit windy so Max put on his shades to keep the sand out of his eyes:

We were greeted in the lobby with an offering of hot Arabic tea. Not exactly the most desirable beverage after a hot walk in a desert, but I tried it anyway. I little bitter for my liking. After lunch, it was time for another nap – this time in his own bed:


Dubai: Day 1

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Meredith is working a conference in Dubai, so Max and I decided to tag along. Although she’ll be busy working “16 hours days” (likely more than this), Max and I will scope the place out and then once the conference is over, we’ll take her to the places we liked the most. Making the trip with Max (verses just Meredith going) was a difficult decision. We were’t sure how he’d handle the long 12-13hr flight or how he’d adjust to the time difference (8hrs ahead). Safety wasn’t really a concern as this city is very safe and modern.

We ordered a cab to take us to the airport – cheaper and less hassle than parking. Max liked looking out the window on the way to Dulles – he can’t usually see out the window in his car seat. Max got to use his new umbrella stroller in the airport. He was a good boy!

The flight was about 13 hours. We pre-ordered a bassinet which bolts into the wall in front of the seats (the bulkhead). Max barely fit in it! He slept for a good portion of the flight, part of the time in the bassinet, part of the time in my arms. He was very well behaved, as usual, and at the end of the flight people complimented him on how good he was!

We did have a baggage snafu once we got off the plane. The stroller, which we had checked at the gate, was not there when we got off the plane. We waited for probably 15 minutes and then asked them to just send the stroller to baggage claim. Well, it was a long walk to baggage claim with an 18+ pound baby in my arms and our carryons in tow!

When we finally made it to the main terminal, we easily got through customs and Max got his first stamp in his passport.. I had done some research regarding how to not get ripped off (or get less-ripped-off) when converting currency. The recommendation was to use your ATM card to withdraw a small amount of local currency at the airport, and then use a credit card to make purchases if possible. Using a bank was another good option, if you need to have cash on you. Using the airport currency exchange kiosks is not a good idea. They charge a service fee and they don’t give you good conversion rates. So I got a little bit of cash from the ATM without issue. The baggage took another 30 minutes or so to start coming out – and the stroller didn’t show up. Luckily there was a woman there who helped us track it down and 15 minutes later we were on our way out of the airport.

It was crazy to see how many people were waiting outside the airport to pick someone up – there must have been hundreds of people lined up in waiting areas, and then another 50 cabs all lined up with people directing travelers and helping them with their luggage. We instantly got a cab (van) and took the short trip to the hotel. It’s just across the “Dubai Creek” (it’s more like an inlet as far as I can tell). The car ride only took about 10 minutes.

At the hotel (the Grand Hyatt), our bags were quickly unloaded and put on dumbwaiters. We were given a claim ticket and were told that they would bring the bags to our room. The lobby of the hotel is massive and beautiful. There is a huge crystal (I assume) chandelier, multiple levels of seating and live music. We were also greeted with fresh orange juice at the reception desk.

The ceiling above the atrium – where there is a winding path between lots of vegetation and babbling brooks, etc. – has three massive “undersides of boats”:

We received a nice surprise when we first came to the registration desk. We had been upgraded to a club-level room. So we were escorted to the 14th floor where the club registration desk is located. It was all very fancy. Everyone is so friendly here, so far! Having access to the “Grand Club” is really awesome. Basically we get free wifi, breakfast in the morning, and snacks throughout the day. Sweet bonus!

After we got to our room, the luggage showed up promptly and Meredith had to get ready to go “check in” for work. Max and I went to look around the hotel. He didn’t last long…

While we were out, someone delivered a bottle of wine and two glasses. Nice touch, too bad we don’t drink – I’ll just dump it down the drain and smash the glasses. (Kidding, of course, someone will make use of these.)

I was going to eat while we were exploring the hotel, but I figured it was time to get Max to bed. So I had my food delivered instead: spring rolls and chicken fried rice – a traditional Middle Eastern dish.

I wanted to get him adjusted to sleeping at “night” (remember, Dubai is 8 hours ahead of EST). It was a little rough to get him to sleep through the night. He would sleep an hour, wake up, then I’d coax him back to sleep – this happened probably 5 times. Then he was asleep for good!


Our Civic Duty

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Millions of people will walk out of their local polling facility today feeling as if they have done a really good thing. We’re taught that voting is our civic duty; good citizens go out and vote at least once every four years. If you don’t vote, then you’re spitting in the face of those who fought for your right to do so. Many of these people, who proudly display their “I voted” stickers, fail to realize that filling in the ballot is only half of our civic duty.

The other half of our civic duty is knowing for whom to vote. Some people vote based on their party lines and never look at other options, others are even less informed and they copy the sample ballot that was handed to them onto their real ballot, but some actually do research – ignoring the party affiliation of the candidates – and vote on the issues. I fall in the latter category, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.

So the question is: if you voted based on political party without doing any research or hearing other sides, did you really complete your civic duty? I suggest that you did not. In fact, voting within party lines without researching is what has got us into the situation we find ourselves in today. Those voters, who I believe are the majority, have given complete control to the Democratic and Republican parties. Those voters are driving the Democratic and Republican parties ever closer to each other (though they would maintain that the parties are vastly different), giving us even less choice every four years.

I’m not suggesting that voting for the Democratic or Republican candidate is an invalid or incorrect vote. If you’ve done your research and you’ve decided that yes, Barrack Obama or Mitt Romney does match up with what’s important to you – more power to you; you’ve voted honestly. But if you did your research and found someone you really like, but feel that they “can’t win” and decided to cast your vote for the “lesser of two evils,” you’ve really done a disservice to your fellow Americans and the entire world. That may seem harsh but I really don’t think it is. The point of voting is not to get the other guy out, it’s to get the best guy (man or woman, of course) in office.

Now that the campaigns are effectively over, we can all take a deep breath and look at what we’ve done. It will be interesting to see the outcome in the next few days; but no matter what happens, 50% of America will be displeased with the result. Doesn’t it seem strange that after the votes are tabulated, the “winner” was only chosen by 50% of American voters? The other 50% didn’t want that candidate to be elected! However, that’s how our first-passed-the-post system is engineered to work. It is probably one of the worst ways to vote, honestly. If we want to fix our issues and make elections truly fair, we need to move toward a new voting mechanism. I suggest you look into range voting (more on that later).


UI/UX No-no #2: Don’t Obscure Your Content

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Here’s a quick one. I was reading an article and I had to keep scrolling in order to make the content of the article readable. It was obscured by a sharing toolbar which doesn’t have an option to hide or close the toolbar. Luckily, I’m using Chrome which includes developer tools (as do most other browsers), allowing me to easily get rid of this nuisance:

  1. Right-click on the element you’d like to remove.
  2. Select “Inspect Element” (or similar, depending on your browser).
  3. Hover over the elements in the developer panel that pops up, and find the outermost element that is obstructing your view.
  4. Right click the element’s tag and click “Delete node” (or similar).
  5. Et voilà!

UI/UX No-no #1: Form Labels in Form Fields

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One annoyance I’ve come across more and more as of late is developers putting form labels inside form fields. For example, while reading an online petition, I was entering my info in the form on the right side of the page (and to the right of this text). I was doing this in Chrome so I can’t speak to other browsers and how they handle this type of form – but in Chrome, since the fields already had text in them (the labels for the fields), I didn’t get any auto-fill options.

Generally, when I fill out a form that’s asking for this sort of standard data, I go into the first field (in this case, email) and enter a couple of characters and then immediately hit the down arrow on my keyboard and then hit enter. Chrome uses my stored data to populate the rest of the form. It didn’t work in this case and I found that annoying. Since the value of the field has been set to the label of the field, Chrome looks at the field’s value and sees that it has already been filled in – so it doesn’t offer to auto-fill those fields.

The reason a designer may choose to layout a form like this is because it takes up less room and, once it’s filled in, it looks kind of nice to not see the labels. With most fields, after you’ve completed them, you know what that field is based on the value it now contains. However, this method only works well with text fields. Have a look at the state drop down, it has no indication of what goes there – when I focus the field, I do get a nifty pop up indicating that I should select my state – that helps. But it leads to a user experience that is not consistent  Why should the labeling of a drop down behave differently from a text box? And how would the designer make a radio button or check-box blend into these other form fields and use labeling that looks and acts the same? (It can be done, of course, but does it need to be?)

The solution, in this case, would be to revert to a traditional method to display this form. I’ve mocked up the original form in a way that I think doesn’t detract from the display that much while making it much more clear what you’re supposed to do with these fields. (The text being lower case, not having a semicolon after the field label and right-aligning the labels are all optional.) This version does take up one more line of space since the last name field was moved below the first name field. This version of the form will also allow auto-fill to work.

 


Windows 8 Gripe #1: Jump Lists

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Preface: I have been using Windows 8 for a couple of weeks now and I do like it. People were freaked out that the Start menu is now a Start screen – but it does not slow down productivity at all – no big deal!

I have two gripes about Jump Lists:

  1. I have a Visual Studio 2010 shortcut pinned to my taskbar and set to always run as Administrator. However, when launching a recent or pinned solution from the jump list, VS doesn’t start in Administrator mode. This makes the Jump List pointless. This worked fine in Windows 7. The workaround is obvious: open VS as Administrator and then use the Recent Projects menu to load the solution I want. But it is a pain.
  2. To find an app I press the Windows key and then start typing. The new Start screen automatically shows applications matching whatever I typed. However, I jump lists don’t show up here – so I can’t directly launch a pinned or recently opened document. This is annoying since I don’t use some applications often, but when I do, I generally open the same set of files. I have a couple of documents pinned to Excel but I can’t launch them from the Start screen directly. Now, I could pin Excel to my taskbar and the jump list would work fine from there – but I don’t want seldom-used apps in my taskbar!

My Chat with Gary Johnson

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Obviously I’m a big Gary Johnson supporter. If you don’t believe me, you can read evidence supporting this case. I’ve attended two of the Online Town Halls that Gary1 has hosted. In case you missed any, you can view them all on Vokle. The most recent one, held on September 19th, was great; Gary got fired up at least a few times. You can see his passion and excitement, and it feels real – not as if he’s acting.

Anyway, I submitted a question and was picked to participate via video, here’s that clip:

1 Yes, I can call him “Gary” because he’s a regular guy; a real guy’s guy.


How To: Vote for President in 2012

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The internet is worried. Scared may be a better term to use. Why not both? The internet is worried and scared that a Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson (who expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states and DC), will take votes away from Obama or Romney. I’ve read numerous articles from around the web - some claim that Johnson votes will come from the Obama side, others claim they will come from the Romney side. Obama supporters are nervous about this because those votes that go to Johnson instead of Obama may be enough to elect Romney as the next President. Romney supporters are nervous for the same reason: Johnson’s votes may come from Romney and could cause Obama to be re-elected President.

It seems that there are only a couple of reasons for voting this year1.

  1. If you don’t want Obama to be re-elected, you will vote for Romney.
  2. If you don’t want Romney to be elected, you will vote for Obama.

That is to say, people seem to be planning to vote not for who they really want, but instead for the person that they “don’t want less” – in other words, the “lesser of two evils.” To me, this is a very interesting and hard-to-understand way to vote for our next leader. I offer a simple yet elegant solution to this problem. The charts below should help to illustrate this solution. The outcome in all situations is the best outcome – you may call it the “perfect solution.”

 Nobama ChartRomnopey ChartNobomney ChartAs these three charts clearly illustrate, we have at least three choices this November. I encourage Those who are voting for “the lesser of two evils” to instead vote for “the better, non-evil” candidate – Gary Johnson. We need new blood in the Whitehouse. Someone with new ideas (or at least ideas that make sense) who will work for us instead of corporations. Although the solution proposed here may seem silly, it really is this simple: do your research and vote for who you actually want2.

1 Sure some people want Obama or Romney, but it seems most are not in that situation.
2 If you’re not sure who that is, take a quiz to figure it out.