Kuwait Events: Hala February Festival

The Hala February festival or Hala Festival is an annual event that takes place in Kuwait during the month of February. This year it coincides with the beginning of the National Day 50/20 celebrations. That means 20 years since the liberation from Iraq and 50 years since independence from the British. “It is also a time when parched sands of the desert transform into a magical green carpet covered with blossoming, colourful flora. The arrival of migratory birds and seasonal animals during this time add further colour, elegance and beauty to the desert,” according to the government website. All this means it should be quite a special month with many cultural events showcasing art and folklore, music, and of course since it’s the middle east– shopping events (prizes, sales etc.).
The celebration has already started with the re-enactment of the battle freeing Qurah Island (the first to be freed by the US/coalition forces during Operation Desert Storm in 1991).

photo : Eric Guzman

The more publicly accessible part of the festivities begin on Friday, January 30 at the carnival area on Salem Al-Mubarak Street, according to a member of the Higher Committee and Head of the Media Affairs Committee of Hala February Festival Walid Al-Saqobi (and Kuwait Times). He also said that this time around, there is even greater than usual participation by embassies, state bodies, and private sector institutions in the events; there is going to be considerable media coverage and live broadcast from several locations and venues, via KTV I and other channels.

Hala Festival Kuwait 2010(courtesy Arab Times)

I’ll hopefully have some photos on here from the festivities. If you can make it out, let me know what you thought!


Red Panda

When they think Panda, most people think large, furry, black, and white. Adorable as Giant Pandas are, though, there are other pandas that are equally awesome, and unfortunately endangered.

Distantly related to the larger, better-known black-and-white giant panda, the red panda is a solitary creature found in the mountains of Nepal, Myanmar, and central China. Photograph by Mark W. Moffett

Meanwhile, these guys just made their public debut the other day, after a harrowing summer of fighting through infancy. On the cuteness meter, there is no disappointing.

baby red panda
The Assiniboine Park Zoo gave the media a glimpse of two infant Red Pandas that were born in the facility in mid-June. Zookeeper Janice Martin holds one of the cubs on Thursday, September 2, 2010. (Winnipeg Sun)

According to National Geographic’s article, “The red panda has given scientists taxonomic fits. It has been classified as a relative of the giant panda, and also of the raccoon, with which it shares a ringed tail. Currently, red pandas are considered members of their own unique family—the Ailuridae.
Red pandas are endangered, victims of deforestation. Their natural space is shrinking as more and more forests are destroyed by logging and the spread of agriculture.”
The National Zoo in Washington and the Brooklyn Zoo in New York both have Red Pandas–and there are apparently 800 or so of these lovely creatures in zoos worldwide. Hope you can get to see one!


Google Images gets new look

In case you haven’t searched for an image today, Google Images has a new look! There are several differences, the major two being what shows on the inital search, and what shows when you click on the picture itself.

I like the first change. When you search for an image now, many more show up on the same page, with less gaps inbetween. While it looked a bit cleaner with the white-space, I’d rather have more efficiency per page when I’m trying to look something up quickly. When you hover on an image, it also blows it up just a bit larger, making it easier to see. Also along the same easier-to-see-more lines, the pages now scroll from one “page” to another– which, of course leaves it no longer as a page, but instead views the whole thing like one continuous webpage. Why even bother leaving a page number if it’s just going to be one continous list of images going down?

The second change on the other hand…I just don’t quite get! When you click on the image of your choice, previously it would open up the website containing the image and have a bar above which you could see the image in thumbnail form. Then you could blow it up. But now, the “thumbnail” is at a much higher resolution– something like 500 x 600 or so, pasted on top of the site. Here’s the kicker, though–after it loads this too-large thumbnail, the image then GOES BLURRY!! Now this is completely  and entirely confounding to me. Why–after already loading a clear image–would you have it go blurry?

At this point you have the option of clicking to see the full-size image or pressing the “X” button to reveal the webpage behind the image. But seriously–blurry? AFTER spending the time to load? Not cool.

So there it is. I’m sure many people will complain, and then eventually everyone will likely get used to it and accept the new look for what it is! At this point I’m complaining–a little bit.


EDIT: So it seems this blurring phenomenon was temporary. I have no idea why it was happening here, but I tried multiple computers and it was all the same. I did notice that when I was trying this, the new images format had not yet been launched for google.com.kw, so maybe that had something to do with it. So that’s a big improvement. Still, the popup is a bit clunky.

Dust Devil!

I had seen a dust devil once before, but this one was a good bit more impressive. AND I was able to get a photo with it!

dust devil. there.

Just one of those things one doesn’t USUALLY see back home. Then again, apparently they can and do happen in all sorts of places including soccer games:

They can also get quite large, apparently:

It was fun to see how quickly the intensity along the vertical column changed– at some moments it seemed the whole thing was going to fall apart, but within seconds it would pick up some steam and get higher and more menacing! Reminded me of the tornado machine at the Maryland Science Center We watched it move for a good half mile or so, and it was still going when we walked away. Not surprisingly, there were several smaller ones also seen that day. For more info, the Wikipedia article on the topic seems to be nicely put together.


Countdown to going home!

It’s been very strange to be out here in Kuwait. Unfortunately, I’m carless in a country where EVERYTHING is tied to driving. It’s worse than living in a suburb, it’s more like living in the country without a car! There’s not a lot to “do” unless you count shopping and eating as major activities. I’ve always wanted to find other things, and we’ve found a few, but in the end I can’t wait ’till I get a car when I come back from vacation.
Speaking of which, I have never looked so eagerly towards a vacation!

[fergcorp_cdt_single date=”June 23, 2010, 1400″] I had gone to New York!

Those of you that can be around, please contact (at Virginia’s phone)/ come and visit! I’ll only be in the States for 2 weeks, about 9 days of which is going to in NY, and the rest in MD. I already don’t want to come back, and I haven’t even left yet! It’s going to go by really REALLY fast!

Looking forward,

Vote for Google doodle! love football …err, soccer

Google is having a fun contest asking children around the world to come up with the best “doodle” for the Google logo celebrating the special time of life that is the World Cup season!

From Google’s page on the event (they don’t seem to have a centralized page, but the same info in each section):

“We’re inviting 4 to 17 year olds from around the world to exercise their creative imaginations around the theme: “I love football”.
The winning doodle will have a chance to be displayed internationally on Google home pages around the world. for a day on July
1th 2010.”
There is also a national competition in each of the countries this is taking place, and “the national winner will automatically be entered in the global competition. The public from around the world will vote for their overall favorite doodle. The overall winning doodle will be displayed on the Google homepage of all the participating countries for 24 hours, in July 2010. The overall winner and the runner up will win amazing prizes!”

Around most of the footballing world, this contest is known as the “love football” contest. When I couldn’t find the contest page for the US, even though I found a bunch of other countries from around the world (below), I thought maybe it’s called something about soccer. As it turns out, the Australian competition is called “I love soccer” but still nothing for the US!  If someone finds this please let me know, until then I’m very disappointed that even though soccer is probably the most played sport among children of the competition age in the US (4-17), they don’t have this competition open for us!

Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy some of the nice designs children elsewhere came up with!

Google love football / soccer competition pages:

New Zealand
South Africa


Bicycle, Bicycle!

Requisite background music:

A few days ago, I rode a bicycle for the first time in about 10 years! It’s really weird going from being used to motorcycles to going onto a bicycle. Mostly, leaning into a turn seems to take forever! But in the absence of a motorcycle, it’s really a good way to go! There is also something wonderful about the lack of an engine sound (very odd for a petrolhead to admit!), but I’ve always been in favor of all different types of experiences!
One feels a good bit more dorky with the helmet and supplied yellow reflective vest, but there it is! Cool thing is, the military actually lets you just sign one out! The max. speed for vehicles on base is generally 20kmph, which means I can get anywhere with marginal effort exactly as fast as anyone else in a powered vehicle! So it’s encouraging that there is a month long waiting list to sign out bicycles, and I see a reasonable few around; that having been said, most people still prefer to take buses around, and the ones that have cars will still drive. I REALLY don’t understand why!

If you haven’t done it in a while, find a bike and ride it! It may just surprise you.