Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm a millionaire!

On the weekend I met up with my friends Carrie and Khamal. Khamal just got back from Zimbabwe where he had been working on assignment for Al Jazeera. Now in Zimbabwe inflation is going crazy, at one estimate now at 165,000% a year, so prices are doubling on almost a daily basis. This makes it difficult for the government to keep up in terms of the value of currency, they keep reprinting currency with more and more zeros on it to keep up a price inflation. So as a gift Khamal gave me a $10 million Zimbabwe note.

I'm a millionaire!

So what is the note actually worth? Well, the official Zimbabwe government exchange rate is something like $300,000 to one US dollar , which is a rip off considering a can of Coke was $50 million (and that was a couple weeks ago, it's probably something like $125 million now). Kamal is saying that on the black market however the rate is much higher -- 100 US dollars will get you something like 5 1/2 billion dollars (yes, feel free to say it like Dr. Evil). So in reality my $10 million note is probably worth something like $.30, and perhaps $.15 by the end of the day.

Living in a country with such high inflation rate must be absolutely insane. Kamal tells me that in Zimbabwe if you get local currency you spend it immediately since its value is decreasing daily, but if you get foreign currency you hang onto it for as long as possible.

Despite the economic chaos people living in the rural regions are generally supportive of the government. Many of them received parcels of land from the government during the land seizures of a few years ago, for which they are quite grateful. And the rampant inflation does not affect subsistence farmers much since they do not deal with a lot of currency. They grow their food, and they eat it. The odd time that they earn some money they can to spend it immediately on what they need.

As for my $10 million I might get it framed as a souvenir.

As a side note, last Friday at "classic movies night" we watched the Mel Brooks comedy The Producers. Great film. We then briefly watched the more recent version with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. While the modern version is pretty good I will have to say that Matthew Broderick does not hold a candle to Gene Wilder. Try to get hold of both movies and compare for yourself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Alcohol, dieting, and more...

Well, the heat is finally upon us. I have the AC on that pretty much 24 hours a day now and it isn't even the end of April. So, what's new?

It looks like in the last month or so the law changed regarding local Muslims and drinking alcohol. Before, any Arab in a thobe (that's the long white robes arabs wear) were not allowed to be served alcohol in hotels. Now, hotels are allowed to serve the so when you go to the bar you see a number of men in thobes having beer and whiskeys. While unusual for Qatar this is not unique to the Gulf region, Arabs can drink in Bahrain, Dubai and Oman. As for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, alcohol is completely banned so I doubt there will be any change to the laws soon.

A friend of mine in my carpool group just got himself a new vehicle so today we drove in to work in a Nissan Armada. That had to be the biggest vehicle I've ever been in short of a bus or airplane. Absolutely huge! I guess that's the advantage of having gas at $.19 a liter, everyone can afford to drive these massive vehicles. I must admit it was a very luxurious ride especially since I'm driving a Honda city.

No trips planned for the near future though I might be heading to Dubai or Oman in the near future on business. Will keep you posted.

In other news, I have discovered a new way to ensure that my social calendar is filled up with plenty of lunches and dinners and invites to barbecues -- announcing you're on a diet! Seriously, I announced a few days ago that I was going on a diet to try to lose weight and in the last week I've gone out to four different lunches, three dinners, a barbecue, and will be going out to dinner on Saturday. Oh, and today we have a big staff lunch. Try this trick at home.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Speech software!

Yesterday I received speech recognition software. I've been trying it out and so far it's been working really good. As an example, this entire posting was written using it and not making any edits. I was skeptical at first that this is a program would work well but I do because of my repetitive strain injury and decided I really had to try it out just to see if he could save me typing.

As you can see it is working very well. There are just a couple of edits need to be made every paragraph, that's not too bad. So now I should be able to put regular updates on my blog using the software.

So what is new? Well it is starting to get hotter here and I need to put the air conditioner on now at night. Temperatures are around 35°. But he is still cool enough to go out on the weekends and evenings so I've been going to the beach and doing other activities.

I will leave it for now but I'll be back more frequently with updates.

[not using software] not bad, eh?