Saturday, March 21, 2009


Man, last week really sucked. I came down with some kind of flu/cold that had me in bed for days. By Tuesday I was feeling a little better but by the next day it'd come back again so I had to take Thursday off as well to recover. Mom came down from Canada on Tuesday evening and she got off the plane sick with a nasty cold, which meant that for the next few days we just sat at home being miserable and going through dozens of tissues. I am sure by the end of this week I will have mom's cold and she will have come down with mine. Joy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stupid internet connections

I'm trying to change my profile picture but the connection is so bad it can't upload - stupid compound internet connections.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Upcoming Critical Thinking conferences

Now it has been a while since I have done a "critical thinking" post, which is funny because originally that was the whole point of the blog! So now would be a good time to mention some upcoming conventions on critical thinking:

The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas, July 9-12, otherwise known as TAM7. They used to hold this convention in January which suited me fine because it was when I would go to Canada to visit the family so I would pop down to Las Vegas for the convention, which was how I got to TAM 3, 4 & 5 (I believe a detailed summary my TAM5 experience is available on this blog). Unfortunately the timing of the convention was bad for teachers and educators so they shifted it to the summer which means I can no longer go. Maybe that won't stop you though -- check out the list of speakers and sign up.

The location in Las Vegas, while convenient for North Americans, was a little more difficult for Europeans to get to so someone is organising the first TAM UK this October 3rd-4th in London. That is a bit closer to home for me so I'm seriously considering going to it. I'll know my schedule better in a few months time. Meanwhile if you live in the UK or Europe you should consider attending. TAMs are great fun and you meet a lot of people. Details are still being worked out so check JREF for updates.

There is another convention organised by UK Skeptics this September 18-20. So there is another possibility for those of you who can't make TAM UK.

And finally the JREF forum has a section where people post upcoming skeptic events. Many cities have skeptic groups that do periodic events or even once a month pub meetings. I know that people regularly post about upcoming events in places like Vancouver, Houston, Calgary, Seattle and Toronto so if you're interested in meeting other skeptics check out the forum and see if there is an event near you.

Qatar Natural History Group

So the other day I went to a dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Qatar Natural History Group (QNHG), of which I've been a member pretty much since I've been here. I appreciate the QNHG because thanks to the organisation I've done all sorts of things I would never have even known about. They organise once a month lectures, small half-day "rambles" around the city or the countryside, and longer field trips to interesting sites in Qatar. It was through them that I went digging for desert roses, scratching for fossilised shark teeth, swimming in the Inland Sea, exploring rock carvings, archaeological digs, and abandoned villages.

Anyway the entertainment for the dinner was a group of young Qatari men performing traditional sword dancing. Apparently they were part of a club at the University they attended where they learn, and thus preserve, Qatari traditions and culture. They performed a couple of dances for us, which consisted of them forming two lines facing each other and chanting in rhythm to the music while one person from each side would go into the middle. The two men in the middle would circle one another and twirl their swords at each other in rhythm to the music. As far as I could tell the swords were real but their movements were slow so there was no worry that they were going to hurt one another. It was a great and appropriate entertainment to the dinner, and it was something I'd only seen live once before.

Men standing in lines and dancing to a rhythm, usually with swords or canes, is a common traditional dance in the Middle East and I occasionally see them on TV as I'm flipping past Arabic channels. Kuwaitis, Qataris, Saudis, Omanis, all cultures in the Arabian Peninsula appear to have a version of this type of dance. As far as I can tell it is for men only, women in the region may have their own dances but I doubt they are displayed in general public. Maybe in women-only gatherings such as weddings are the traditional dances performed?

Anyway if you're interested in seeing traditional Arabic dancing try searching YouTube, I am sure someone has posted some video clips of this type of dancing.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Doha is a very unusual place, a city of less than a million people in the Middle East yet I sometimes cannot get over the high-quality sporting events that occur here. I have already mentioned tennis and how I've seen both the top men's and women's players here. There was also the Asian Games where the top athletes from all over Asia competed. There was also the Motor GP event last year I went to.

So this Wednesday there was an event at the local soccer stadium, a 15-minute walk away. The captain of the local soccer club, Al-Sadd, was retiring so in his honour they arranged for a friendly match with...

... AC Milan !!

Yep, AC Milan was playing 15 minute walk away from my apartment. No, not their junior team, the star team. Caca, Ronalhino, Beckham, they were all there. Bizarre, huh? Who would have thought you could see one of the top soccer teams in the world in Doha.

Now due to injury Caca and Ronalhino did not play but they were still there and gave a small award to the retiring captain at half time. Beckham and the others did play. Because it was a friendly I can't say that the game was very exciting, for the most part AC Milan took it easy and did not make many exciting plays. I guess they did not want to embarrass the Qatari team too much which was unfortunate because the crowd would have loved to have seen a lot of world-class play. They did score two great goals but generally just passed the ball around taking care not to wear themselves out too much. Al-Sadd of course were playing their hearts out and they did score a goal (and I think it was legit, I don't think AC Milan were being nice and letting them have a goal) but the score ended 2-1 for AC Milan.

Anyway it was neat to have been able to see AC Milan, it's unlikely that I will ever get the chance to see them play again.

p.s.: anyone who watched the game find it odd that Al-Sadd only did short corner-kicks? You would think if ever there was a chance of scoring against a much better team it would be on firing a corner straight into the crowd in front of the goal. At first I thought that Al-Sadd were deliberately doing it, to prevent heads knocking together going for the corner kick and potentially injuring an AC Milan player, but AC Milan had no issue with firing their corner kicks into the group. Weird.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Medical & Tennis

Well I went to the clinic today to get my stitches taken out and get the results of the biopsy. Turns out everything is okay, it was a non-malignant nevus. Hooray! I now have a small scar above my left eyebrow but that's okay, better safe than sorry. Overall that was a quick and painless experience. It is good to get the stitches out though. Because the stiches were just above my eyebrow everyone whose saw it thought at first I had been in a fight. One Arab guy even asked if I was married because he wondered if my wife had hit me! (Maybe things like that happen all the time in this part of the world??)

I've now started playing tennis again after almost 3 years. I used to play all the time in Bermuda, sometimes up to three times a week, but I arrived in Doha in May so it was too hot to play tennis here. I played squash instead, messed my elbow up, didn't play any racket sports for months, then it got hot again, then I got repetitive strain injury, then my knees, etc etc. So now a small group of us are playing every Saturday afternoon and my knees don't seem to mind.

But wow -- does my technique ever suck now.

That first time playing I literally could not sustain a rally, or even get most of my returns in the court. Didn't get a single first serve in, and probably missed about half of my second serves. If all the people I used to play tennis with in Bermuda could have seen me play they would have been horrified. Thankfully when I played again this past weekend I started getting my groove and things greatly improved from the previous week. Still nowhere near the level I was at back in Bermuda but I was just grateful for just the quick improvement. At least now I won't be embarrassed to play tennis. Which is good because I always enjoyed playing, it is my favourite sport and probably the only one I am reasonable at.