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Drunken Sailor at 39,000 Feet

October 28th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Travel, UAE

We get this sort of story fairly often, in the UAE.

Dubai has one of the world’s primary transit airports. People going from Europe or even Africa to Asia or Australia. The traveller stops and changes planes. And Abu Dhabi, a 90-minute drive south of Dubai’s airport, is not far behind in the transit race.

So. All these cultures. All these nationalities. Circulating through UAE airports — or airports before flying to the UAE. And some of them are nervous or depressed or just stupid, and they act out on a plane.

The latest? The Ukrainian sailor.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Abu Dhabi

October 27th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Basketball, Lakers, NBA, UAE

The Big Fella, the Captain, the master of the skyhook, is in the UAE capital.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, leading scorer in NBA history, UCLA and Los Angeles Lakers star, arrived in Abu Dhabi tonight, flying in on that new Etihad nonstop from LAX to AUH.

He got off the plane and Tweeted, from @KAJ33: “Best service ever! Totally loved my first @EtihadAirways experience! #SlamDunk #TeamEY170

Earlier, he had marveled at “freshly baked cake at 39,000 feet” … which demonstrates he was traveling in first class — which is only right when you are 7-foot-2.

Why is he here?

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Lights! Camera! Abu Dhabi?

October 26th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, UAE

The National’s coverage of this was, perhaps, a bit dramatic.

Abu Dhabi is the New Hollywood … well, not quite yet. Not until it has the sort of ongoing and deep-rooted industry found in and around Los Angeles.

But the point of the story is this:

There are advantages to making movies — or parts of movies — in the UAE capital.

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Too Many Points

October 25th, 2014 · No Comments · College football, Football, NFL

The short headline on’s homepage was something like this: “Coach fastest to 100″.

My first thought?

A college football coach’s team had scored 100 points. And he had done it early in his career. Or early in a game. Maybe in the third quarter?

As it turned out, it was about a Division III guy who got to 100 victories in fewer games than anyone previous.

But given the explosion in scoring, in college football, you can see how I might have thought someone had slapped up 100 points.

Yes, even on the other side of the world, we have noticed that it is far, far too easy to score in college football, and someone will score 100 any week now.

What to do about this?

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The Caltech T-shirt

October 24th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Basketball, Journalism


As the pace of Baby Boomers leaving this dimension — a process that takes them, as newspapers a century ago might put it, “into the shadows” — I predict a sharp upswing in a very annoying post-mortem task.

Getting rid of the dearly departed’s T-shirts.

Boomers, or male Boomers, anyway, have been wearing T-shirts their entire lives, and here I am talking not about just undershirts, but shirts with messages or pictures on them. T-shirts. Meant to be worn in informal settings, or around the house.

And we never throw them out. Somebody might try to “help us” reduce the inventory of T-shirts in the drawer, when we are not looking, but we Never Throw Them Out, and by the time the Grim Reaper gets around to us, the pile of T-shirts will be enormous.

Which takes me to one of my favorite T-shirts: The gray and orange T-shirt from the “2007 Caltech ‘thinker, tinker and stinker’ Classic basketball tournament, above.

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Too Soon

October 23rd, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi

It was about 3 p.m. The air-conditioning had been off for four hours, and it was still mild inside the apartment.

I had an idea. A bit crazy, for October 23, but I thought I would give it a try.

Open the sliding glass door between the living room and the balcony … and close the screen … and see what happened!

About 30 minutes later, I realized I had to concede, in the way comedians do when they tell a joke about someone who has died — and gets no laughs.

“Too soon.”

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No Liverpool Fan

October 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · Baseball, English Premier League, Football, soccer

I didn’t plan not to like Liverpool Football Club. It just worked out that way. Perhaps inevitably, because I came in contact with several of their fans.

As an American who paid scant attention to the Premier League until I went to work in the Old World … I had no violent opinions on much of anything in England’s top soccer division.

I thought Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers had cool names. I knew Manchester United was popular because a half-English guy I know (a Californian) used to tell me about them. (I pretended to listen.) I knew about Sheffield Wednesday because it’s a silly name. I knew Fulham because Brian McBride played for them.

I knew Liverpool was a prominent team, but I didn’t know we all are supposed to be reverential about it or should somehow mystically divine they are the only team worthy of a person’s support. Which probably is where the problems began.

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Following the Volvo Ocean Race

October 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, The National, Volvo Ocean Race

This is a sailing event that lasts nine months, so it’s not like you need to follow it day by day on the first leg of the round-the-world race to have a sense of the eventual winner.

But I am doing just that. Following it day by day.

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The Narrower Newspaper

October 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Journalism, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, The National


Production journalists are creatures of habit. They know what will fit where. How many words with how many pictures. How to assemble four blocks, or five or six, to make a page. Fitting together shapes to complete a puzzle.

And coding it up becomes a synaptic exercise. Just put your fingers on the keys, and they will produce the needed type face and point size. Bang, plakat medium bold.

This comes, however, only after weeks and months of practice.

Thus, I am not sure I have known a production journalist who welcomed a remake in the look of a newspaper. Or a change in the size of the newspaper — which The National went through between last night and tonight.

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The Giants? I’m OK with That

October 19th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Baseball, Dodgers, UAE

If we still lived in Southern California, I might feel differently.

But not only do I not mind the San Francisco Giants winning a World Series … I prefer it to the Kansas City Royals winning it.

How I arrived at this place:

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