Thirty Aspire Academy student athletes took part in Tarsheed Carnival held by Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) at four locations in different parts of the country. The academy students participated in activities at the Wadi Al-Dehool natural site near Al Khor city. The Tarsheed team held many activities and games for the academy students, introducing them to the Tarsheed campaign and its significance and also the importance of conserving electricity and water and seeking sustainability, in addition to introducing them to the State’s efforts in sustainability and future plans. "This year, the fifth carnival took place in four different sites in the country’s regions. We were pleased with the participation of Aspire Academy students at Wadi Al-Dehool near Al Khor city, where many interesting and various events were held, including cleaning meadows and planting seedlings. These events and games were aimed at encouraging students to play entertaining games that do not require electricity consumption, in addition to preserving meadows, preserving the environment and natural goods," said Fatima Saeed AlMesnad, head of events and community awareness at Tarsheed, Kahramaa. On his part, Khaled Daifallah, head of the guidance department at Aspire Academy, said: "We thank the Tarsheed department at Kahramaa for inviting Aspire Academy students to participate in the fifth carnival. It was an opportunity for student athletes to get to know Wadi Al-Dehool site, encourage the preservation of the Qatari environment and learn about the activities of Tarsheed campaign. We wish for more such events that urge sustainability and conservation of the environment in line with the academy’s mission in instilling the principles and foundations of urging student athletes about the importance and conservation of the environment." Student athlete Khaled al-Hammadi expressed happiness at taking part in such an event, saying: "We benefited from and enjoyed the events held at this carnival. We learned about the Tarsheed campaign and its importance, and benefited a lot as student athletes from this event. We learned about sustainability and its importance in preserving the Qatari environment, taking advantage of the motivation and awareness we received within our programmes at Aspire Academy, which urge us on the importance of the environment and the need to preserve it." The Tarsheed team organised competitions including questions about the Qatari environment and the major achievements of the State to preserve the environment and sustainability. The participation of Aspire Academy student athletes in Tarsheed Carnival came as a part of the academy's role and efforts in instilling the values of community service in its student athletes, and in the context of its work with local co-operating entities. The academy always welcomes such participations because of its importance for community development, in addition to its student athletes benefiting from various events held in the country by different government authorities, a press statement noted.
By Shefa Ali Don’t you just love how it turned to winter in Qatar over night? One of the things I love about winter is that I can walk. It’s so enjoyable, even to walk alone, quality me time, observing Mother Nature. Once I finish my walk, I feel like I have replenished my entire being. I use my walks as time to quieten my mind, to focus on my breathing. Sometimes I walk on the Corniche, take a seat on the wall and just breathe. I count slowly, deep, rhythmic breaths, it calms me and I relax into solitude, no matter how many people are around. Sometimes if I sit really still, I am greeted by fish, other times I simply observe them gracefully swimming past me. Instead of looking down at my phone screen I look down at my feet for small creatures. Sometimes I lose my shoes and I gain some perspective. That feeling of bare feet on the ground, the sea or even mud is so soothing. Seeing all that nature comforts my soul and reminds me of my own insignificance. Makes me feel as if my worries are trivial and not worth worrying about at all. Being at one with nature, gives me a feeling of power and strength, it reminds me I am part of something truly majestic. The weather in Qatar right now is glorious, I love the soft glow of the winter sun on my skin like a warm hug, it makes me feel happy and healthy. Walking is simple, free, and one of the easiest ways to get more active and become healthier. You don’t have to walk for hours, a brisk 10-minute daily walk can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier. * The author is a consultant and coach. Instagram handle: @miss_shefa, Website: missshefa.com
Information has become the currency of the world. New content circulates the globe constantly, refilled consistently by media from numerous time zones. As passive recipients of the information currents, there is an inverse relationship between the time we spend contemplating this information and the rate at which we consume it. Have you ever just sat down and thought about how much content you process on daily basis and how much of it, you have no expertise on. Since it isn’t possible to question every single piece of information we consume, we have to trust our intuition and choose to BELIEVE it’s true. Imagine now, how many things we believe to be true but have never truly identified as fact or fiction. And what happens when our brain gets attached to these false beliefs, when counter beliefs are brought to life and our internal beliefs are challenged? The way online discourse has been taking place recently, it’s quite obvious we can agree that people are gambling their emotions in a game of beliefs rather than facts. History of Beliefs The whole world works on a belief system. We believe in the power of money, in the power of governments. You’d hope that the confidence with which we share our beliefs in the world would guarantee that we know what we’re talking about. Yet, even as a Psychologist, I often forget the actual definition of the word. In simple terms, a belief is defined as an idea or principle that we judge to be true. Dating back to our ancestors, it’s interesting to note that beliefs were formed only through actual lived experience. As the only information crucial to your survival was what you experienced yourself, there was no need to accept information learnt through the eyes of others. After all, a false belief could actually lead to your death. Belief formation has since changed from aiming at accuracy to ensuring maximum efficiency. Abstract Beliefs Beliefs that are based outside direct experience, evolved from the introduction of language and are today referred to abstract beliefs. With the abundance of information available, from millions of views, the process of belief formation has become quicker and not as accurate. We form abstract beliefs by: 1. We hear something; 2. We believe it to be true; 3. Only sometimes, later, if we have the time or the inclination, we think about it and vet it, determining whether it is, in fact, true or false. To add to this, the neurochemistry behind belief formation reveals that emotions strengthen our beliefs and therefore, we hold on to beliefs that might not even be true. Neurochemistry of Beliefs Dr Shermer, author of The Believing Brain, provides a comprehensive two process model on belief formation, highlighting the emotional attachment. He refers to the brain as a belief engine, constantly seeking patterns from sensory data flowing in from the environment, and ultimately infusing them with meaning. The first process, patternicity is the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data. Followed by the second process called agenticity: the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency. In other words, Dr Shermer explains how the brains ability to create meaningful patterns of external information become beliefs. Once these are formed, the brain actively seeks evidence to confirm and support the belief, which in turn emotionally boosts the beliefs and reinforces them. This process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation, which is then hard to change. This is why when we hear opposing information or are challenged on our beliefs, our brain gets triggered into defence mode. What’s even more interesting is the way our biochemistry gets affected by our beliefs. Each and every cell in our body is fully aware of our beliefs and this belief reinforced awareness becomes our biochemistry. If you believe you are sick, the biochemistry of your body will unquestionably obey and manifest it. If you believe you’re fragile or tough (despite your body weight and density), your body will mirror it. Funny how something so essential to our identity is still blurry in its effect and power it holds. Now that we’re a little closer to understanding how our beliefs can affect us, we can play a bigger role in shaping them and controlling how they manifest within our brains. * The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah
Ramadan is a month of both test and blessings. Muslims try to make the best of Ramadan as they indulge in prayers and charity more than they usually do the rest of the year. With the blessings of the holy month, there are also some challenges for many Muslims. One such challenge is for men and women to increase their work productivity while fasting, which is when energy levels remain low for most of the day. Muslim employees often find it diffucult to engage in multiple work related duties because they feel tired and sleepy. Research and tips from health and lifestyle experts shows that if certain practices are adapted during Ramadan, work productivity can surely be increased. Experts suggest that a fasting individual needs to start his or her work as early as possible after Suhoor. They should try and take advantage of high energy levels in the early morning. If possible, they should begin working soon after morning prayers. They say that early morning has gold in its mouth. Individuals fasting need to start their daily work with the tasks that need most of the concentration. They should prioritise accordingly. Since one is more energetic and can concentrate better during early morning hours of Ramadan, one must prioritise tasks that require more concentration and focus on them so as to complete them first. Further, those fasting need to avoid interruptions during work. Since there are no interruptions like tea or coffee break during Ramadan, one should try and be able to avoid other interruptions and work for uninterrupted periods of time to finish the given tasks sooner. One can try and develop new habits for work in the holy month. Since fasting lets you exercise your willpower, it is a good time to get rid of bad habits and acquire good ones. Experts suggest that one needs 21 days to form a habit. Ramadan can be a very good start with a 30-day trial period of a new habit. If the individuals fasting can control their meals, they will be more energetic. Fasting for long hours and then having too much food all of a sudden will not result in any spiritual or health benefits. One should try to take food in intervals after Iftar. This will make people feel more energetic to practice nightly rituals and enjoy a sound sleep. Additionally, people fasting should avoid watching TV during Ramadan so they can have a good sleep. If one does not sleep well, it impacts the energy and concentration levels the next day as well. Sleeping boosts the ability to deliver results without stress. Ramadan is the holiest month for the Muslims where they can recharge spiritually for the rest of the year. They should also use it as a chance to recharge their productivity rates through a set of good habits that we follow from Ramadan onward.
The polls may be middling, the fundraising so-so, but Elizabeth Warren has one key asset in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination — a campaign plan more clearly defined than that of just about any other candidate. While many of her rivals are recalibrating their strategies and looking for new ways to stand out in a huge field largely eclipsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren is pressing ahead, tortoise and hare style. She is unfurling one carefully honed policy proposal after another — child care, student debt relief, a tax on giant fortunes, combating opioid addiction. “I’ve got a plan for that!” is her stump speech mantra. Warren has also invested heavily in campaign staff in Iowa and other states with early primaries. She has a crisp, unchanging populist message rooted in years of arguing, as a professor and politician, that the government now works for people with money and power, not the middle class. “This is my life’s work,” she said in a phone interview while travelling in Ohio recently. “What happened to the American middle class has been the central issue I’ve worked on for decades. This presidential primary gives me a chance to get out and talk about what’s broken and how to fix it.” Warren has been on a roll over the last month, in a series of well-received performances at candidate forums — on CNN, before women of colour and other black activists, at a labour-backed event. For the first time, a national poll in April showed her in second place — albeit just barely, and way behind Biden. She is on the cover of this week’s Time magazine. “People are coming off the sidelines,” she said in the interview. “When I talk about what’s broken, they get it. When I talk about how to fix it, they get it.” But most polls still show her lagging, and two gigantic boulders block her path. One is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, her ideological soul mate, who has dominated among progressive voters who might otherwise have been her base. Even if Warren were to surpass Sanders as the left’s principal alternative to Biden, however, the other impediment looms. She is being held back by a peculiarity of this year’s Democratic primary electorate: Voters, more than ever, are acting like pundits and basing their own candidate preferences on “electability” — their guesses about how candidates will fare in a general election more than a year away. “I love Elizabeth Warren’s energy,” said Rosa Wilson, president of a Communications Workers of America local in eastern Iowa, who heard Warren speak at a Democratic Party dinner here but supports Sanders. “But I don’t think she’ll be able to beat Trump. The old money is not ready for a woman.” Standing out and gaining voter attention in a field of more than 20 poses a challenge to all the candidates who are not named Biden or Sanders. Senator Kamala Harris of California recently seized an opportunity to shine again in her signature tough-questioner role, confronting Attorney General William Barr in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Former Republican Beto O’Rourke of Texas traveled to Yosemite National Park to roll out a climate change plan. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey tried to up the ante in the gun safety debate by calling for firearms to be licenced. But Warren’s struggles have been particularly perplexing because she entered the 2020 race with far more political assets than most of her rivals. She had a big national fan base for her work as a consumer advocate. She was a darling of the left in 2016 when progressives begged her to run against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. When she didn’t run, progressives flocked to Sanders — and many still harbour resentment against Warren for refusing to endorse him in his primary fight against Clinton. Warren and Sanders, long-standing allies in progressive causes, have avoided taking shots at each other now that they are rivals in the Democratic Party’s left lane. Asked after a campaign event in Iowa why progressive voters should support her over Sanders, Warren dodged the question. “All I can do is tell you what I am fighting for and my plan to get there,” she told reporters. But there are clear contrasts between the two. Sanders, a democratic socialist who criticises some in the party establishment and is still not registered as a Democrat, paints mostly in broad thematic strokes when he campaigns for his signature issues of “Medicare for All,” free public college and a higher minimum wage. Warren proclaims herself a capitalist who thinks markets should be firmly regulated, not abolished. She is presenting herself as a less divisive candidate with a much more policy-specific, concrete vision. At a candidate forum held by She the People, an organisation for women of colour, Warren got a standing ovation for speaking bluntly about racism and her specific plans to remedy it in healthcare, housing and other areas. Sanders drew some jeers from the same audience who thought him insufficiently focused on the concerns of people of colour. Early polls can be volatile, but polling averages calculated by the nonpartisan RealClearPolitics website show a clear trend in national surveys: Sanders has outpolled Warren by wide margins, but since Biden got in the race, the edge has narrowed. Sanders and several other candidates have lost ground; Warren has remained stable. Warren may have more room for growth than Sanders among potential primary voters, according to a survey in late April by two progressive groups, Data for Progress and YouGov Blue. Asked which candidates they were considering or ruling out, the survey found that 13% said they were not considering Warren and 40% were considering her; 28% were not considering Sanders, and 36% were. She brought her message to red states late last week by travelling through West Virginia and Ohio to promote her new initiative to combat opioid addiction. Warren’s camp has sought to rebut the idea that she’s less electable than a candidate like Biden. Roger Lau, her campaign manager, put out a memo earlier this spring challenging the assumption that cautious, centrist ideas would be more successful in 2020 than a bolder progressive agenda. “This is not a moment for incrementalism or timidity; it is a moment for moral clarity about the structure of our economy, our society, and our democracy,” he wrote. “Elections are not won by nominees chosen to appeal to or pacify the other side: elections are won by candidates who inspire their party’s voters to turn out on election day and who have an effective organisation to drive it home.” Another source of doubt comes from a common belief, even among many women, that after Clinton’s defeat in 2016, Democrats risk another loss if they nominate a woman. When Warren was asked about that at the Houston forum, she took a deep breath, edged forward in her chair and answered with the passion of someone whose campaign depended on this point. “Are we going to show up for people that we didn’t actually believe in because we’re too afraid to do anything else?” Warren said. “That’s not who we are.” She also reminds voters that she faced similarly deep doubts when she ran for the US Senate in Massachusetts in 2012 against a popular Republican incumbent, Scott Brown. People warned then that the state was not ready to elect a woman. “I’ve been around this block before,” she said. “When I first ran for Senate in Massachusetts, reporters wanted to talk about my clothes. Pundits wanted to talk about my voice.” Indeed, some voters still comment on her voice and speaking style. She is often described as schoolmarmish and shrill even by some admirers, reacting to a presentation style of a woman who spent years in teaching before coming to the Senate. — Los Angeles Times/TNS
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, California — The fighter jet was flying low over the desert valley when it banked and dove into a ravine. Between the ancient walls, it rumbled like a giant marble careening around a wooden floor. The noise, a stark contrast with the quietude of the desert, is part of the lure for the military veterans, aviation enthusiasts and photographers who gather at the top of ‘Star Wars Canyon’ on the western edge of Death Valley National Park. But what they really come for is to catch a glimpse of mechanical birds tearing the sky apart — and the US Air Force and Navy pilots who manoeuvre them like fictional X-Wing Starfighters. Hearing the rumble, Evert Van Koningsveld grabbed his camera and rushed over to a railing on the edge of the canyon. He followed the jet with his Canon 80D, snapping 14 photos in as many seconds. He stopped, lowered his camera and watched the jet disappear in a band of clouds stretched out like a string of cotton balls. The sky grumbled. After the high-speed pass, Koningsveld reviewed each shot with a displeased look on his face. The photos were vivid and sharp, but none of them had been shot from an angle that emphasised the sleek body of the F/A 18 Super Hornet: its trapezoidal wings, its cockpit, wing strakes or tail. There were no condensation trails on the wingtips or glowing afterburners to convey the manoeuvrability and power of an aircraft that is capable of travelling faster than the speed of sound. “That’s aviation photography for you,” he said. You never know what you’ll get.” Koningsveld walked back to his car, sat near the edge of the opened trunk and placed his camera next to him. He gazed at the sky and waited, hoping for another chance. The canyon — more than five miles long and up to 5,000 feet wide — is about a three-hour drive northeast of Los Angeles, off State Route 190. On paper, it’s known as Rainbow Canyon because of its gray, orange and red strata. The US Air Force refers to it as the Jedi Transition, but almost everyone else refers to it as ‘Star Wars Canyon’. For first-timers, it may seem like an odd place to pull over. The desolate landscape offers little beyond the craggy hills, rocks and tufts of brittle flora that look as though a month of rain could never revive them. But the canyon is part of a restricted military airspace called the R-2508 Complex, used for air-combat training, supersonic flight tests and other military operations, and it’s been a magnet for plane spotters for several years. There’s only one requirement for membership in the fellowship: “You have to be bananas for aviation,” says Koningsveld. Plane spotters who were interviewed over the course of two days in March spoke about the power and the speed of jets that zoom through the area at speeds up to 500mph. That brief moment in time when feats of engineering obliterate any prior notions about aircraft — and gravity. When a fighter jet transcends its role and becomes a testament to mankind’s technological achievements. Wearing an orange hat with a back flap, Candace “Candy” Campbell of Pacific Grove, California, tried to catch her breath as she explained the thrill she gets from watching. “It’s pure, raw excitement,” she said. “It’s power. … those pilots are skilled and they’ve got courage.” Some of the pilots dive right at the start of the gorge, afterburners blazing. Others change course in the middle of the canyon, flying at eye level with spectators before dropping down. Some pilots fly straight through like a bullet. “Sometimes they’ll come down and turn so you can see their face and you can take their picture,” said Campbell, 68. “We’ve seen one enter, swing and go right over us.” Some of the images on social media look as though the pilots are truly aware of their audience as they flash a thumbs-up or rock ‘n’ roll sign. Campbell and her husband had set up camp at a vista point called Father Crowley Overlook, named after a Catholic priest (Father John C. Crowley) who served the desert area during the 1920s and ‘30s. There are at least two other viewing points nearby, but Crowley is the hot plane spotting spot. For Campbell, each pass is different from the next. In addition to fighter jets, she’s observed helicopters flying in the same space, and once she watched a C-17, a fat military cargo plane with four engines, drop into the canyon like a Slinky and then — as one spectator described it — “saunter” above the desert floor. “It just moves side to side so gracefully,” she said. “It’s like ballet. It’s gorgeous.” The Air Force and Navy have used ‘Star Wars Canyon’ as a training area since World War II, long before it became part of the national park in 1994, according to Patrick Taylor of the US National Park Service. Most of the aircraft that pass through come from nearby bases such as Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Naval Air Station Lemoore, Edwards Air Force Base, Fresno Air National Guard Base and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Foreign allied forces are also known to make flybys. Over the years, Taylor said the number of plane spotters has increased, in part because of social media. In 2010, the National Park Service installed a parking lot, a railing along the edge of the canyon and a bathroom at Crowley Overlook to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Larry Grace, a former Air Force veteran and president of the International Society for Aviation Photography, said the Mach Loop in the United Kingdom and ‘Star Wars Canyon’ in Death Valley National Park are two of the most publicized plane spotting areas in the world. “As pictures got out,” he said, “people asked about where they were taken, and that’s how those areas got popular.” Ten years ago, Koningsveld drove to the canyon and waited for half an hour hoping to see a plane. The gravelly voiced Dutchman, who became obsessed with aircraft as a child, was not successful in his quest. But he and his wife, Jose (pronounced Josae), were already frequent visitors to the United States, attending annual air shows in Nevada and California, when four years ago, Koningsveld, 61, decided to give ‘Star Wars Canyon’ another try. This time, he spotted a fighter jet, and since then, he and his wife have made annual trips to the desert. “Now I’m a little more patient. I can stand around all day here, getting old,” he said, chuckling. Success at ‘Star Wars Canyon’ is frequently about luck. Some days the only things in flight are crows (or as some of the more frequent regulars have come to dub them: “B1-RD”.) And then there are those holy mackerel days when dozens of military aircraft make an appearance. Experienced plane spotters (many of whom are professional photographers) come prepared. They bring meals. They unload their gear, unfold their chairs, apply sunscreen — and they keep their eyes to the sky. “If you’re talking to someone or looking somewhere else, you could miss it,” Koningsveld said. Koningsveld and his family lived in the town of Zeist, not far from a Royal Netherlands Air Force base in the centre of the country. He was a toddler when his father took him to his first air show and introduced him to the world of aviation. Eventually, Koningsveld channelled his interest in military aircraft into a freelance photography career. By the early 1990s, he was flying with — and shooting photos for — flight demonstration squadrons such as the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, known as the Red Arrows, and a Royal Canadian Air Force display flight squadron, called the Snowbirds. As he waited at the overlook for the next jet to fly through, Koningsveld said he was hoping to spot his favourite plane, an F-15 Strike Eagle — and he did, the following day. “It looks good and it’s enormously powerful,” Koningsveld said. His wife was sporting a denim shirt with the picture of an F-15, a suggestion, perhaps, of a shared enthusiasm. “She’s married to me, so it’s by default,” Koningsveld said, laughing. Jose smiled and remained as silent as the desert. The origins of the canyon’s nickname are up for debate. Some aviation enthusiasts talk about desert scenes in the Star Wars movie franchise that were filmed in Death Valley. The exposed rocks on the canyon walls remind them of Tatooine, the home planet of Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Others suggest that the pilots who fly into the canyon feel as if they’re dropping into the trench of the Empire’s Death Star, avoiding fire from laser canons — just like Luke in A New Hope. But the nickname was not a hot topic among the plane spotters — the European aviation photographers, military brats, veterans and the Campbells — stationed along the canyon rim on a breezy March day. Their focus was elsewhere. Hours passed. People napped. A woman worked on her tan. Some of the visitors made small talk, stopping mid-sentence whenever they heard the crackling of a radio scanner. A few of them would jump up with their cameras the second they heard a rumble. — Los Angeles Times/TNS
In a building tucked into tony Carillon Point, voices are low and candles are lit. The bathroom is equipped for whatever could go wrong: a stain, a stray hair, something stuck in your teeth. There is sleek wood, white walls and lots of glass, behind which staffers — men and women, but mostly women — look up from their screens and smile. This is Pivotal Ventures, an “investment and incubation company” created by philanthropist Melinda Gates to attack the issues she has found most vexing. Paid leave for working families. Mental-health support. Closing the gender gap in tech. Providing venture capital to women-founded businesses. But it is also a place where Melinda can establish herself more fully, separate from her fame, her family and the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which she established with her husband, the Microsoft co-founder, in 2000. Melinda, 54, calls this “my house.” She had just emerged from a pocket door in the back of a meeting room that was more like a living room, filled with white-leather couches and family photos, a few awards and a fire going. Just outside the door, a table was stacked with copies of her new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. The book — which Melinda has been promoting with, among other things, an onstage chat with Oprah Winfrey and a sold-out, May 9 appearance at McCaw Hall — is a “roundup” of the things she has learned in 20 years of travelling for the foundation. Those trips, taken with her husband, her children, and alone, have been spent administering vaccines, carrying water, winning the trust of villagers in the developing world. And listening. Lots of listening. “What I tried to do was to take these women’s stories that you just don’t know you’re going to be the beneficiary of when you’re in the developing world,” Melinda said. “When a woman opens her heart to you, and her home, and shares her life with you … I wanted to put those stories down in the hopes that they would call other people to action.” The stories are contained in separate chapters focused on issues like maternal and newborn health, family planning, girls in school, unpaid work, women in the workplace. All the issues that Melinda has lived and studied for two decades. The book’s title comes from the space launches Melinda watched growing up in Texas, the straight-A daughter of a Nasa engineer: “There was nothing more exciting than the moment when the engines ignited, the earth would rumble and shake and then the rockets started to rise,” she said in a promotional video for the book. “The moment of lift. The moment we broke through gravity. That’s what I want to see for women and girls around the world. I want to see the forces pulling us up overpower the forces pushing us down. “Because I believe when you lift up women, you lift up all of humanity. I believe that this is the moment. We are the lift.” Melinda had been thinking about writing a book for four years. But it wasn’t until the #MeToo movement caught fire that she saw “this window, this opening in time” to talk about the greatest frustrations in women’s lives: Labour inequality, family planning, child care, income potential and the desire to be treated as equal partners. Respected. “I want to make sure that that window doesn’t shut,” she said. “That it’s not open for a short time. That we actually make huge progress for women around the world. And so it is a bit of saying, ‘This is what I have learned, and these are the places where we still need to go as a society for low-, middle- and high-income countries.’ ” In telling these women’s stories, though, Melinda also tells her own. How she joined Microsoft after attending Duke, and at a company event, took one of the last two empty seats at a table. Her future husband — and boss — took the other. She wrote about how she didn’t want to move into that massive, state-of-the-art compound on Lake Washington that her husband had started building before they got married. (” … I was wondering what people would think of me, because that house was not me.”). How she felt alone in their marriage after the birth of their first child, Jenn. “He was beyond busy,” she writes of her husband. “Everyone wanted him, and I was thinking, OK, maybe he wanted to have kids in theory, but not in reality. We were not moving forward as a couple to try to figure out what our values were and how we were going to teach those to the kids. So I felt I had to figure out a lot of stuff on my own.” Her husband made her feel invisible, “even on projects we worked on together.” When a friend told her, “Melinda, you married a man with a strong voice,” it gave her perspective — and the desire to find her own voice and seek a more equal partnership. It worked, in big and small ways. The first time the Gateses wrote an annual letter for their foundation, she wrote, “we almost killed each other.” Bill Gates started writing it without his wife, even though much of what it contained they had learned together. “It got hot,” Melinda wrote. “We both got angry.” It took a few years — he writing one section, she another — but they now write the letter together. Melinda also writes of asking her husband to take over getting their three kids to school in the morning before work — inadvertently launching a fleet of fathers, prodded by their observant wives, to follow suit. (“If we ended up role modeling that one, hey, fantastic, right?”) She also became a more public co-founder and co-chair of their foundation “because we wanted people to know that it was both of us setting the strategy and doing the work,” she wrote. That work included visits to developing countries, where she walked with village women to stand under trees to talk about their finances. She prepared meals in tiny cooking huts, carried water, stood out in the dust doing dishes at 10pm. She learned what the approach of rain smells like on the plain. She also spoke with women about their struggles to feed their families and prevent unwanted pregnancies. The issue of birth control raised some conflicts with Melinda’ Catholic upbringing, since the Catholic church teaches against contraceptives. “But there is another church teaching, which is love of neighbour,” Melinda wrote. “When a woman who wants her children to thrive asks me for contraception, her plea puts these two church teachings into conflict, and my conscience tells me to support the woman’s desire to keep her children alive. To me, that aligns with Christ’s teaching to love my neighbour.” Her time with these women taught her, humbled her, and enraged her. “I have come out of the developing world both heartbroken, at times, and just angry at times,” she said. “And it’s that brokenness, that touching someone else’s life and understanding ‘That could be me.’ And sometimes it’s the other side of our emotions, which is our anger. And either one of them can fuel us to action.” Melinda remembered leaving places in Africa with one thought in her head: “If only.” If only women were more empowered. If only they had this or that policy. But Melinda would learn that those wishes held true in the United States, as well. Only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Less than 2% of women get venture capital to fund their ideas. And women don’t even make up 50% of Congress. “It will be at least 60 years, at this rate, until we have equality,” she said. “To me, equality matters. It can’t wait.” There is hard work ahead, but Melinda is pleased to have the work of the book behind her. “Anytime you’re vulnerable, it’s difficult,” she said of the more personal passages. “But I chose to be because I thought that people could relate more to me and the stories of the other women in this book.” She also wanted to show that her marriage, “like any healthy marriage,” has tension at times. But being able to wrestle with things is how you move forward. “I have gone into several situations where people kind of allude to, ‘Well, it must all be fine for you because you’ve got a lot of money,’ ” she said. “No! It’s not all fine. Sometimes this stuff just needs to be worked through. I get asked so often — particularly early in the foundation’s years — ‘How in the heck do you work with your husband?’ “Well, you just have to work it out, you know? If you believe in equality, you have to believe in it in your home, in your community and in your workplace,” she said. “It’s what holds us to our better selves.” —The Seattle Times/TNS
Life is not meant merely for one to survive. It is actually meant to thrive with a mission and passion. To thrive and to achieve a certain goal, one must challenge one’s abilities and need to go beyond one’s ordinary capacities. To do so, we need to have constant motivation and inspiration in one way or another. One such way is to get advice from professional motivational speakers. In this connection, Inspire Training Academy, one of the premier professional training institutes in Doha, recently organised an inspiration workshop titled ‘Go Beyond With Priya Kumar.’ The workshop was meant to provide motivation and inspiration for professionals from different sectors of Qatar. Priya Kumar is an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker and the bestselling author of 10 inspirational books. In her 24-year-long journey with motivational speaking, she has worked with over 2,000 multi-national corporates across 46 countries and has touched over 3 million people through her workshops and books, and is the only woman speaker in India to have done so. She is the only Indian author who has won 31 international awards for her books. The workshop was a day filled with inspiration, passion, motivation and humour at Al Wajba Ballroom, Intercontinental Hotel and Residences. The workshop by the most sought-after personality brought together representatives from different industries of Qatar, ranging from educational institutions, banks, shipping companies, entrepreneurs and businesses. The host, Inspire Training Academy, has state-of-the-art training facility. The academy carries the expertise to design, develop and deliver courses with their professionalism, passion and love for education. Prominent among those who attended the workshop were Sheikh Fahad bin Hamad Jassem Bin Jabor al-Thani, National Tourism Council representative; Ashud Ahmed, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Qatar; Surinder Bhagat, First Secretary (Political & Commerce) Embassy of India; Dr. Sameer Moopen, CEO Aster DM Healthcare; and Dr. R. Seetharaman, CEO Doha Bank. The prominent figures also addressed the gathering during the workshop. As many as 150 people attended the workshop. The audience termed the workshop one of its kind to be held for the first time in Qatar. Priya, known for her unique style, kept the audience engaged and motivated, helping them align her story-telling approach to their vision as professionals. The audience was driven by the motivational speech to outperform themselves. Priya’s power talk covered topics like ‘Start Small – Think Big’, ‘Challenges to Opportunities’, and ‘Commitment to Deliver’. The workshop went hand in hand with experiential activities like board breaking and the most unique and inconceivable – ‘Fire Walk’. Fire Walk – Priya’s experiential USP (unique selling point) – made the workshop extra special. She said: “Come and walk on fire with me. I have been doing the ‘fire’ work for 20 years now. While some believe it is a symbol of spiritual transformation and mind over matter; for me, it is an analogy that the past does not equal the future. You may have been burnt with fire before. You may have been hurt before. You may have failed before. But, do not allow that past failure or that past accident to set the bench mark for your future and destroy it. Because, if you can take one step forward in seeing the difference between that failure, that heartbreak and the reality that stands before you today, holding an opportunity to change your life. Now, that is an awakening that fire walk (where fire is a positive nergy) promises. “Do not believe what I say. Believe what you see. See for yourself that this fire does not have a connection with your past burns that this fire does not sell ruins. It invites celebration. Let this be an example that the past does not equal the future because a person who can distinguish his past from the present is a person who is on his way to conquer the future,” Priya said. Speaking on behalf of Inspire Training Academy, its director of Sales & Marketing Minal Saluja said that the academy would continue to evolve with new training and learning methods through the partnerships. She thanked all the participants, guests and the sponsors for making the workshop a successful event.
Tranquil, sandy stretch near a landscaped park with a playground, grassy lawns and a paved promenade – these are some of the features of the Abu Dhalouf Park. This beautiful park of Qatar lies on the lip of the sea in the northern town of Ruwais. The area is generally known for many historical sites nearby, as it falls in the district of Shamal area. The Abu Dhalouf Park has playgrounds, space for barbecue, beaches, mosques etc., so it comes with a variety of activities that you and your family can enjoy, especially on the weekend. The refreshing scenery as well as the fresh air, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, can be a source of rejuvenation for the young as well as the adult members of your family. If you can’t decide between a quick swim, a stroll in the park or a quick bite of a barbecue, you can always hop on a boat ride at Abu Dhalouf Park! — Photos and text by Labeeb, @LABEEBPHOTOGRAPHY
consideration — and when the world might want to use them. The United Nations Environment Assembly recently shelved a resolution to commission a report on the subject, because even studying it is contentious. (The US helped block the proposal.) Many questions revolve around scientific uncertainties and economic arguments. But the debate also taps into thorny philosophical questions: Is intentionally altering the climate a defensible last-ditch effort to stave off climate damages — or a dangerous act of hubris? And do we betray future generations by contemplating such drastic measures, or by failing to pursue them? The origins of geoengineering lie in 19th-century efforts to combat drought by conjuring rain, and later attempts by the US military to engage in “climatological warfare.” These mostly consisted of Cold War thought experiments. But during the Vietnam War, the Air Force dropped nearly 50,000 silver iodide flares over southeast Asia in a cloud-seeding offensive designed to flood the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The move helped prompt the UN to adopt the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques in 1978 and soured the US government on funding research into climate modification, according to historian James Fleming at Colby College. But interest in geoengineering has reemerged as the world continues to emit more greenhouse gases. Research suggests that it may already be too late to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord — limiting warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures — solely by cutting emissions. There are various approaches that could help, each with its own risks and benefits, and they fall into two distinct categories: removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing how much energy the Earth absorbs from the sun. Of the two, removing CO2 is far less controversial, and most scientists have accepted that it will be necessary to zero out greenhouse gas emissions. Few people object to strategies such as planting forests and managing land to maximise the carbon stored in soils. But other proposals — including growing biofuel crops for energy, capturing the CO2 when they are burned, and storing it underground — have raised more red flags. Though the plants pull CO2 out of the air as they grow, they also use up precious land and water that may be needed to grow food. Another option is to remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere by drawing air through great fans and absorbing the carbon on filters, or through chemical reactions with hydroxide solutions. A company in Canada has started testing “direct air capture” at a pilot plant, and another in Switzerland opened for business in 2017. However, the cost and scalability of carbon-removal technologies is still unclear, and many researchers say we’d be gambling with the future if we bank on them too much. If, for whatever reason, they don’t deliver, “we can’t go back and say, ‘Oh, I guess we should have cut more,’” said Duke University climate scientist Drew Shindell. “It’s too late.” If carbon removal has inched into the mainstream, the idea of tinkering with sunlight remains a pariah. Some fear the mere prospect of a techno-fix would sap the world of the motivation to act. But the longer the world waits to cut emissions, the more future generations may have to consider other options, said Sikina Jinnah, Associate Professor of Politics at UC Santa Cruz. “It’s time to start thinking about some of these more fringe ideas.” The one that has attracted the most attention involves injecting microscopic sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere, where they would spread around the planet over the course of a few weeks and reflect sunlight before it hits the ground. Scientists know from studying volcanic eruptions — which do the same thing — that this can cool the planet, though new injections would be required every few years. Engineers have also started designing special vessels for spraying sea salt into the air to make marine clouds brighter and more reflective. Others have suggested whitening the oceans, as Revelle proposed, or stationing mirrors in orbit. Though carbon removal addresses the source of the climate problem — the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — these strategies for solar radiation management only mask some of the symptoms. Solar Radiation Management (SRM) would offset warming, which could help stabilise glaciers and keep species from going extinct. But it doesn’t prevent CO2 from acidifying the oceans or curtail the pollution from burning fossil fuels, Shindell said. “This can’t replace emissions cuts,” said Peter Irvine, a climate scientist at Harvard University. “But it might help to reduce risks.” There are still many scientific uncertainties around SRM. Computer models indicate that reflecting too much sunlight has the potential to disrupt global rainfall patterns, especially in countries that have not contributed much to climate change and are already most vulnerable to its effects. (Irvine’s latest research suggests a more restrained approach would benefit most people.) More answers may come soon. The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is launching a study to guide future research into SRM. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will consider the subject in its next assessment report, to be released in 2021. But the public remains squeamish about real-world tests. A 2011 experiment by British researchers, which would have used a weather balloon to release a bathtub’s worth of water into the lower atmosphere, was cancelled in part because the project faced a strong backlash. Researchers at Harvard now hope to try a similar experiment over New Mexico. The launch, which researchers hoped could take place as soon as early 2019, is on hold as they try devise a responsible way to proceed into controversial but virtually unregulated territory. Climate affects everyone, and that makes geoengineering a tricky prospect. Who gets to decide when and how it’s done? One country — even one company — could unilaterally alter the planet with a single round of aerosol injections. All they’d need is a fleet of planes and a few billion dollars. Imagine a nation that’s hit by drought or famine as a result of global warming and sees SRM as a possible solution, said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “I think a politician from such a country would be hard-pressed to explain why they’re not doing it.” Given that everyone would be affected, it may be impossible to make a decision about SRM in a truly just and democratic way, said Christopher Preston, an environmental philosopher at the University of Montana. Future generations will have to live with the decision, too. Once humans start injecting aerosols into the atmosphere, they can’t stop until greenhouse gases have stabilised at target levels. If they quit while CO2 concentrations are still too high, they’ll be hit all at once with the warming SRM was covering up. Whether it seems wise to consider such technologies depends in part on whether you believe the world will act fast to cut emissions — and if you don’t, whether you see geoengineering and its possible consequences as a lesser evil than unabated climate suffering. It also depends on whether you think we should dare meddle with Earth’s climate in such a fundamental and unprecedented way. The idea is “incredibly scary,” said Jinnah, even for people like her who study SRM. “It kind of cuts to the heart of who we are on this planet and what our role is as human beings.” Of course, we already have changed Earth’s climate. That was an accident — in the beginning, at least. But for some, it makes all the difference in the world. —Los Angeles Times/TNS
I often find myself puzzled at the irony of my expansive, often boastful, self-knowledge, with no real effort utilising that information for self-care. I know myself better than anyone could physically or cognitively know me, yet I struggle to indulge in matters of my mental well-being with the same passion as my mother does. If my personal well-being was a course, my maternal unit would be gracing the assignments with excellent effort grades, while my average grades stared guiltily at the floor. On this occasion of celebrating motherhood, I invite puzzled students to take notes on how to ‘Mom your Mind’. Under the millennial pretense, “I always have to be productive”, I overload my day with numerous tasks, filling daily planners with ambitious schedules and pretty squares that remain unticked at dusk. I’ve grown accustomed to my mother’s concerned cheer, ‘Slow down’, as I tackle the day’s agenda like a footballer playing a 1 on 11 game. At burnout, it’s coach mom that tells me off with research to back up her claims. The mind tricks us into believing it can hold more information, yet research shows that our short-term working memory is extremely limited. Studies reveal that at one time, the brain can hold only 7 pieces of information in its maximum capacity. Therefore, emphasising the point that looking busy to show off our skills isn’t the same as focusing to get the work done. To slow down doesn’t mean to reduce pace, on the contrary, it means to prioritise that daily list and focus in a realistic manner. We might reward our minds for achieving that huge list of tasks, but in reality it can’t possibly process all that information effectively at the speed we want it to. Getting those top three priority tasks ticked off my list with a steady mind, would make my mother a lot more content than tirelessly scoring ten tasks in the same breath. Motherhood consistently proves that caring for one’s child isn’t necessarily giving them what they want or what they like, but offering them what is unquestionably good for them. And it is this crucial lesson, we must learn from our mothers and apply to the nurturing of our minds. Multi-tasking, though considered a trend to be acknowledged in this generation, is not as healthy as we think it is for our brains. Cognitive psychologists have found that switching between tasks causes the brain to drain energy and resources on small shifts. One study showed that it took approximately 23 minutes and 15 seconds to focus attention on another task after ONE interruption. And we all can shamefully agree that interruptions while attending to tasks are usually in the double digits- so you can do the math. The brain, exactly like a child, enjoys this dopamine-addiction feedback loop and convinces you to reward yourself for losing focus. It’s these areas of our brain, that help us focus and also get easily distracted, that we need to train. In my experience, receiving praise from my mother after consistently focusing on one task, for a longer period of time, is more fulfilling than waiting for a pat on the back every two minutes. There are innumerable ways in which mothers show their love, and it’s the unconditionality of this love that keeps it strong. It’s time I showered my mind with this same unconditionality. To allow it to sleep when it’s exhausted (even if it is a 30-minute nap), to reward it when it needs it and not when it bullies me into it, to check on the load I feed it and the costs of overworking it and mostly, to make this self-care a daily practice. I promise to Mom my Mind; what about you? * The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah
Have you ever noticed that it’s possible to be introduced to someone’s energy before you actually meet him or her? It’s just the feeling you get when they enter a room, it’s that something that precedes them. I believe our energy is our greatest source of power, I like to refer to it as ‘personal power’. When you operate or vibrate on a high frequency with loving energy, you can be sure to receive that energy reflected right back to you. On the flip side, when you vibrate at a low level, you become an energetic magnet for scenarios that are also vibrating at that level. Therefore, it’s so important to learn how to take responsibility for your own energy. Personal power lies in our ability to be in control of our energy at any time no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, to ‘own’ our energy. It might sound impossible, but changing your energetic vibration is much easier than you think. When we function from a doubtful, fearful, low-level energetic state, our vibes can literally disrupt the world. But when we function from a place of positive energy, the world around us becomes a more positive place. I make it a point to check in with myself regularly “What is the energy that I’m sending out at this very moment? And how is my energy affecting the people I come in contact with?” We all know how much our words and actions affect the people we interact with, but what we may not realise is how much our energy affects them. In fact, your energy affects everything in your life, because your energetic vibration attracts its likeness. For example, if you want to find new friends, you’ve got to bring high vibes when you go to social events or if you want to achieve a dream it’s a must to bring high vibes when you bring your thoughts to it. I also make a point to set my intention to protect my energy. In my mind, I say, “I set my intention right now to be loving, to be kind and to be joyful. I am a fountain, not a drainer. I’m also not a sponge. I am not going to absorb the negative energy of others.” This is especially important if you’re going to be entering a space with someone who has low level energy or someone who is constantly negative or pessimistic. Setting that intention immediately creates an invisible shield. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a negative attitude, it simply means you are protecting yourself. Protecting your energy will help you stay positive, aligned and happy, and you’ll still be loving, kind and happy and send out an intention of trust to the world. Once you tap into your personal power and learn how to command your energetic vibration, trust me, you’ll start to notice changes in your life. People will want to be around you, they’ll feel elevated by your presence. You’ll be more vibrant in all ways, even smiley and glowy. You’ll also feel the change; you’ll feel energised, joyful, more inspired and more creative. Try it, I dare you, raise your vibes and tell me about the results. * The author is a consultant and coach. Instagram handle: @miss_shefa, Website: missshefa.com
AFP Driven by the quest for an abundant, non-polluting alternative to fossil fuel, scientists said Tuesday they had developed a method to produce propane using sugar and the gut bacteria E. coli. Though still far from being commercially viable, the inventors of the process said they hoped it would one day yield a renewable source of clean fuel that could be seamlessly introduced and used by existing technologies. Propane makes up the bulk of LPG (liquid petroleum gas) used in heaters, gas burners, refrigerators and some types of cars. It is derived as a by-product from natural gas processing and petrol refining -- both finite resources. Adding to its attractiveness as a alternative energy source, propane is released as a gas but can be stored in an energy-dense liquid form, and is less toxic than other fuels, wrote the authors of the study in the journal Nature Communications. However, no method existed for its manufacture from a renewable source. Until now. "Our proof of concept study provides a method for renewable production of a fuel that previously was only accessible from fossil reserves," said study co-author Patrik Jones from Imperial College London. "Although we have only produced tiny amounts so far, the fuel we have produced is ready to be used in an engine straight away." The team grew engineered E. coli, usually harmless gut bacteria that can sometimes cause food poisoning, in sugar in the lab. Inside the bacterial cells, some of the sugar would ordinarily be turned into fatty acid and protein molecules, which would then be turned into new cell membranes. In the modified bacteria, however, the process of making fatty acids was interrupted to instead yield a nasty-smelling compound called butyric acid. This was, in turn, coaxed into becoming propane through the addition of several enzymes. "We created a system to renewably produce a product which is chemically identical to a molecule that until now only was available from fossil sources," Jones told AFP. Productivity and yield would need to improve by a factor of 100 to 1,000 before one would be able to assess if the method is commercially viable, he added. "Although fracking has provided a boost in the supply of liquid and gaseous fossil fuels, there is still a continued need for genuinely sustainable energy technologies over the long-term," the study authors wrote. And they pointed to a "need to phase out current crop-based biofuels and move towards next-generation technologies that do not compete for food" -- a criticism of some biofuel crops like maize. "I hope that over the next five to 10 years we will be able to achieve commercially viable processes that will sustainably fuel our energy demands," said Jones.
Identified as PS2, the platform which was built about 50 years ago has about 145 staff working during the day and houses 96 people at night. It’s a stretch of four floors and a maze of rooms. Photo by QP By Aney Mathew How would you like to live and work with a view of the ocean? What if this is coupled with half the year off (excluding annual leave)? Add to this a close-knit working community, a generous remuneration package, food and board (at no cost), and finally, have a free helicopter ride thrown in, for good measure. Sounds too good to be true? The flip side would be: you live and work in a steel structure in the middle of the ocean with no sight of land, working a 12-hour-shift sustaining round-the-clock operation of oil and gas production and above all, staying away from your family for weeks. Would you call this island-style life fascinating or a grind? The only way to find out would be to visit an offshore production platform and see firsthand the life of people there. After all, the heart of Qatar’s oil and gas production literally lies in the middle of the ocean. This would mean taking that helicopter ride mentioned earlier. A trip offshore on a chopper is no easy plane ride. There are courses and strict procedures to be followed even for a visit, to prepare individuals for any eventuality. The H2S training while not intimidating, leaves you with a great sense of respect for those working in danger-prone areas. The sea survival training which is mandatory for all offshore employees and frequent visitors is a different story altogether. Simply put, you are dropped into the waters and taught to escape from a submerged, rolled over helicopter — so yes, not for the faint-hearted! As preparations for the trip gain momentum, the initial enthusiasm slowly gives way to some uncertainty. Even as I consider flapping my wings, clucking nervously and completely chickening out, Khalid Yousef Shams, Senior Operations Engineer with Qatar Petroleum, puts my mind to rest. “Don’t be afraid, I’ve made this trip countless number of times,” he says reassuringly. The support received from Shams and Mohammed Ali Humaid, Assistant Manager Operations-PS2, QP, has been invaluable! After an exciting 40-minute helicopter ride wearing lifejackets all the time, we finally land atop a production platform of QP, situated on the Maydan Mahzam oil field. This is where some of QP’s high quality crudes and associated gas are produced. The platform rises 100 metres above sea level and is firmly fixed to the ocean floor. This height coupled with the limited landing space for the copter can be intimidating for anyone with a fear of heights or water. The view of the vast expanse of water can be both breathtaking and daunting at the same time. Did I mention this is not for the faint-hearted? Fast forward to life offshore; identified as PS2, the platform which was built about 50 years ago has about 145 staff working during the day and houses 96 people at night. It’s a stretch of four floors and a maze of rooms. Our first stop is at the office of Nasser Manzoor al-Sayed, the Offshore Installation Superintendent (OIS), who has had a long stint of 35 years on the platform. Elucidating the life of an offshore employee he says, “Most employees are on 7/7 rotation — working seven days straight here and then having seven days off, with their families in Doha. To work successfully offshore, it’s important to be well organised and to work things out on the home front. Otherwise it’s simply not possible to work offshore on a long term basis. People here are very close to each other, like a family.” “Life of an employee on the production station is demanding; so we have a special offshore allowance to encourage people to work here. We also offer as many facilities as possible within the space available to make their life comfortable. Their safety and welfare are top priorities so if personal emergencies arise, the employee is flown to the mainland at the earliest, even if it is at night — depending on the nature of the emergency,” he adds. Ahmed al-Kuwari agrees completely, “If you’re synchronised and disciplined, then offshore life can be managed. Recently, the roof of my house collapsed and although it was a Friday, I was flown back to Doha on a special flight, to take care of the situation. So I feel circumstances can be handled.” Despite facilities and allowances, how do people working on the platform actually feel? The rationale that causes people to stay on an offshore job seems quite varied. Mohammed Mahjoob, who has been working offshore for 13 years, says, “It’s like working in any other job but eventually gets boring, since you are away from the mainland for days together. Initially, it was difficult especially for my family, but now they’ve come to accept it. Moreover, the cost of living in Doha has gone up and the extra income is a great incentive to keep this job.” Yousef Ismail, the OIS developee, is more pragmatic. “While this lifestyle is not easy, it’s a good challenge. My incentive is that I enjoy my work here. If everyone wants to work on the mainland, then who is going to work here?” he counter-poses. Ibrahim Sayed, a young lead engineer, feels the 7/7 rotation is the best part of the job as it gives him more time with his family. Facilities on board include a small gym, recreation rooms with satellite TV and indoor games facilities. Offering a tour of the platform, Khalid Abou Diab, the General Forman, says emphatically, “Allowances and facilities are not what keep me here; I’m here because I enjoy my job and its challenges. Our hospitality service takes care of all the boarding needs of employees. We serve a multicultural cuisine. Food is cooked fresh every meal and is never carried from one meal to the next. Fresh bread is baked twice a day. Life begins very early here as people begin work at 6am; so breakfast is served at 5.30. On the recreation front, we organise several indoor competitions during Ramadan and enjoy good participation.” Rashid Sheikh, a mechanical engineer, seems completely in tune with the offshore lifestyle. “We sometimes work 16hours a day; it’s like we work all the time. Working on a platform offers huge experience on the job front which is a definite advantage. Now, I’m so used to this way of life, I would have trouble adjusting to any other lifestyle. I need to give full credit to my wife for managing home in my absence.” “New offshore platforms often include facilities like swimming pool and lifts. While it is true there is severe restriction of space here on the platform, a lift would go a long way in making life easier,” points out Ayman al-Asmar, Field Production Supervisor. The station has sufficient equipment and medications to deal with most common health issues. Ahmed al-Habees, the medic on board, looks after the general health of the staff. In the event of a major problem, the doctor-on-call in Doha is alerted, emergency first aid procedures are performed and the patient is transferred to Doha by a special flight for further treatment. Challenges come in extraordinary packages for people working offshore. An unusual incident that most employees in PS2 recall occurred during the transition from the old living quarters to the current, more spacious one. All staff had been temporarily moved from the fixed platform to a floating barge as an interim arrangement. Suddenly, one of the legs of the barge tilted. “It was daunting. But the OIS decided to evacuate the barge immediately and helicopters were soon deployed to move people to Halul Island, leaving behind a bare skeletal staff to keep the production going. With the weight on the barge being drastically reduced, the danger was also minimised,” recalls Rashid Sheikh who was part of crew that stayed behind at the platform. “Naturally, people panicked and everyone wanted to board the copter, but the evacuation process was quick and efficient and thankfully there were no injuries or fatalities. A major disaster was prevented,” adds Ismail Suthar, Acting Supervisor of Instrumentation. Living within such restricted space and bumping into the same people round-the-clock is bound to get on people’s nerves, you’d think. But on the contrary, the opposite is true. “Here on the platform, we are very close to each other. We work, eat and spend our leisure time together regardless of differences in nationalities or job titles. We are like one family and work like a team. As a matter of fact, we love each other,” says Ismail with a big smile. Similar sentiment is echoed by every other member on board. That sense of camaraderie is likely a major contributing factor to maintaining a healthy and balanced emotional quotient aboard a platform. There are evident rewards as well as apparent consequences to life offshore; but very obviously it has its fair share of challenges — not just for the employees but their families, too. It’s another world out there for them — one where they realise solidarity and amity are their greatest strengths.
Many Indian slums, like this one in the east of New Delhi, are hooked up to the power grid but prices are prohibitive and the power cuts out regularly.By Doreen Fiedler There’s no window in the tiny washroom Purshottam Devji Solanki shares with the other 11 members of his family. But, thanks to a water-filled plastic bottle poking through the roof, there’s enough light inside to find one’s soap and toothbrush and wash the dishes.Indeed, the bottle does such a good job of catching the sunlight that the room feels like it is lit up by a 55-watt light bulb.“Until now, we used a lamp. Now we don’t need one any more,” says Solanki.The lack of a lamp wasn’t due to a lack of power. His home, in the Chinchpokli slum, is hooked up to the power grid. But the prices were prohibitive. Plus, the power cuts out regularly.And then came a group of students from the Indian Institute of Technology with the project A Liter of Light. They stumbled upon the idea online, discovering a concept created 10 years ago by Brazilian Alfredo Moser that has since lit up 200,000 households.“We all thought, we have to try that in India immediately,” said Vatsal Shah, a materials scientist.It’s a simple concept, says the 22-year-old.A plastic bottle is filled to the brim with the cleanest possible water and then mixed with some chlorine to remove contaminants and make sure they don’t come back. Then a hole is sawed in the roof, the bottle inserted and sealed in place. The clear water refracts sunlight throughout the room like a lightbulb, providing light, albeit, only when the sun is shining above.The bottle will then provide light for five years — and much more brightly than a glass window or hole in the roof could do. That’s no small feat in the slums where the houses are pushed together so tightly that barely any sunbeams make it through.The biggest problem was convincing people to try it, says Shah.“At the beginning, they all said ‘No, no, we don’t want that.’”But opinions changed once some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) intervened and got the first 12 households to try it out. They even got one put in for a prayer room in a church in Bandra West in Mumbai.“The neighbours all saw the bottle and think it’s good. Now they want one as soon as possible,” says Solanki.Demand is also growing, says Shah. “We’re organising workshops, where people can learn how it works and then do it themselves.”Rene Eber, president of the Switzerland-based Liter of Light, says the project is picking up new supporters all the time.“But it’s not a big organisation with a global strategy,” he said. “Instead, it’s a movement with a lot of small, independent organisations.”He says each group contributes what it can. The offices in Switzerland do a lot of press work, schooling and money management. A team from Switzerland was just in Mumbai to show the students how to get sponsors and to help with technical details.“We’ve flown to Colombia and Spain, and have had requests from Egypt, Paris, Argentina and Chile,” says the business management student. “The idea has been catching on for about a year and is starting to spread.”A lot of that is due to Illac Diaz. The Filipino studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, where he met Moser. Since then, he has used his MyShelter Foundation to light up tens of thousands of huts around Manila.His group has also instructed some budding entrepreneurs who live in the slums and can now install bottles for a small sum.“Everyone thinks that big ideas have to come from big people,” said Diaz at a TEDx event in Rio in October. But he said the idea is what is key.He stresses that one doesn’t have to be a specialist to get light out of a bottle which would normally be seen as trash. As a bonus, it helps cut down on the generation of environmentally unfriendly carbon dioxide.“This is green technology that belongs to the people. Anyone can own it.” — DPA