Thursday, August 30, 2007

Out for the weekend

Taking a quick weekend getaway to Abu Dhabi. My friends Mike & Elushka are going to drive down from Dubai and meet me there so it should be a fun weekend. None of us have been there before so we'll take a bit of time to see the sights. I'll post again when I return.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another journey

Well everything has been finalized and it looks like I have another conference coming up in October.

So where am I heading this time? . . . .

I can’t quite believe it myself . . .


Yes, I’m off to China in October! The conference is three days but I’ve taken some time off so will be there for a week to see the sights. Got my guide book, already spoken to a few people who have been there – I can’t wait to go now.

My one hesitation is the air pollution, some types of air pollution can sting my eyes fiercely, so I can only hope that I’ll be okay while I’m there. If the air quality really affects me then this trip could turn out to be a misery instead of interesting. I’ll try to arm myself with eyedrops before I go.

Forbidden City here I come!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Here she is!

Happy Birthday Karis!

A Happy Birthday wish to my niece Karis. I'll try to dig up a photo for the blog - she's so cute! She is one of those rare children who rarely cried through the night, thus letting Mommy & Daddy get a decent night's sleep. She calls me "Unkee Glen", mostly with "No" around it, such as "No, Unkee Glen, no!" whenever I do something she doesn't want me to do (but she's cute when she says that too).

It is an unfortunate part of living so far away that you rarely see family. I only visit Canada once a year, so it has been a while since Karis has seen Unkee Glen. Hopefully she recognizes me when I visit in Janauary!

Have a wonderful Birthday Karis! *kiss*

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Liquor Permits

So after being here about 15 months I finally broke down and got a liquor permit. You see in Qatar you need a license to have alcohol at home, otherwise the only place to buy it is a hotel bar. I wasn't too fussed about it so I didn't bother with the permit but I'm finding the prices at bars so outrageous (~$8-9 a drink) that I decided if only so save money I should get one. That Ramadan is coming up (when even the bars can't serve alcohol) is a factor as well.

So I had to fill out a form, get copies of my passport and work permit, and get a letter from my employer noting:

-- that I am allowed to have a liquor permit. Can't get one without employer permission.
-- my salary, as it affects how much I can purchase a month.
-- my marital status (??)
-- where I live (??)

oh, and pay a QR1000 ($US275) refundable deposit.

So I go to the only liquor store, wait an hour at the permit office with about 10 other guys (only men were there for permits for some reason), then got a permit card with my picture on it so I could buy some alcohol right away!

My monthly limit was mind-numbing. For a country that restricts alcohol I certainly wasn't expecting the limit that I got. Think 4-figures $US! A month! I'd have to open a small bar to go through that much booze.

So now I'm stocked up with some spirits to get me through the next couple of months. I shouldn't need to go to the bars now if I want to drink something, especially since and entire bottle of spirits from the store costs less than 3 drinks at a bar.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Premium vs. Regular gas

I had always wondered what the difference in octane between premium, super and regular gas was supposed to do. A little research came up with some surprising results. The difference is very little, except price of course. Apparantly lower octane can cause pinging, but only if your car engine is designed for high octane fuel (check your manual for recommeded octane) and it doesn't have some kind of engine stabilizer to prevent pinging, which almost all cars have. So in other words paying extra for premium or super gas is usually a waste of money.

While I could like to all sorts of technical websites, the guys who run Car Talk, a popular North American radio show about cars, do a better job of descibing the situation. Read about it here. My favourite quote:
We don't believe that any modern engine that claims to require premium will be damaged by using regular unleaded judiciously. Neither do any of the sources we've checked with — including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Engine Rebuilders Association — even a chemist (who would rather go unnamed) at a major gasoline company.

So save some money and use regular gas!

Monday, August 06, 2007

A trip to the movies

Wasn't doing much the other evening so decided to check out "The Simpsons Movie" as I had heard that it was pretty good. This will mark the second time I have been out to the movies in Doha since I arrived 16 months ago. No particular reason, I'm just not a big movie buff.

Like North America the movie theaters in Qatar now have that nice "Silver City" type seating with drink holders etc. Tickets were QR30 (~$8) but drinks were fairly standard, a small popcorn and soda was QR12 (~$3.50).

Now one thing that many around here mention about the movie theater is that in Qatar apparantly it is perfectly acceptable to keep your cell phone on, answer calls, or chat loudly with your friends during a movie. Everyone complains about that. Luckily for me the theater was only about 30% full and I don't recall anyone chatting away or doing other annoying things. I guess that's the sign of a good film right there.

What this cinema had that I hadn't seen anywhere else was a "VIP theater". I guess serfs like me use the other 13 screens while the VIP theater is for important people or something. I found where it was and since nothing was showing there at the moment I snuck in to take a look. Pretty nice I must say. The seats reminded me of business class seats on an airplane. Looks like they swiveled side-to-side as well (which goes to show how much space there was between seats). The cup holder was to the left of the armrest and had wood panelling. They probably have waiters come by with your food & drink order so you don't have to stand in line. If I was more interested in watching movies I'd find out how to get VIP status, but since the show in that theater was an Arabic-language movie I can only assume it's for locals only.

The movie was good, popcorn was fine. What more can I say?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ladies, does your husband work in Doha on his own?

If so, and he's 45+, I put it about a 1-in-6 chance he's roaming around Doha with a young pretty Asian lady.

Stopped by a couple of bars last night. As per usual the guy to girl ratio was around 12-1 or so, but inevitably there is always some older Westerner with some Asian 20-something sitting at a table. You see these guys in every bar, sometimes he looks older than 60. She never does. I don't think the girls are hookers though, I think most of them are girlfriends who like being with a sugardaddy. Like I've said in previous posts most workers here from Asia do not make a lot of money, maybe $350 a month, so it wouldn't take much for a Western man to be considered a rich man by some ladies.

I'm not passing judgement on it, as far as I'm concerned consenting adults can do whatever they want. Just want to give all those wives back home a head's up.

Ain't I a stinker. :p

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


While travelling in London I tried to find a place that served absinthe, a drink that I had always been meaning to try out. Absinthe always had mysterious connetations and was a popular Bohemian drink, rumours about its halucinogenic properties led it to being banned by most European nations in the 1910s, the "reefer Madness" of its day. Nowadays the hype has died down and it is legal in many countries.

I didn't have any luck in London but it Paris it was more common (makes sense I guess, Paris was where absinthe was all the late in the late 1800s-early 1900s). I tried it at two restaurants and both served it properly: glass of green absinthe, glass of ice-water, sugar cube, & slotted absinthe spoon for the sugar cube.

Absinthe is a strong spirit, usually around 50% alcohol, but I was fine after drinking it. I did have some strange dreams that night after the first one and I wondered in the absinthe played a role, but I had no problems sleeping after the second time so I doubt it.

What does it taste like? Would you like it if you ordered it? Whether one would like absinthe or not really depends on how much you like sambuca since they taste very similar (both being anise-flavoured). I like sambuca so absinthe was a pleasant enough experience.