Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on 2012

So another year has come and gone. Let's look back at my 2012:

Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain

Taking a dip in the Aegean, near Bodrum, Turkey

Testing out some new wheels, Calgary

Deep blue, Dubai

On top of the Walls of Avila, Spain

The Necropolis ruins, Parmukkale, Turkey

Feeding falcons, Qatar

Medications I was taking during a lengthy illness

Looking down on the courtyard of Jibreen Castle, Oman

Drying off at a hammam in Bursa, Turkey

Hanging out with friends at a Russell Peters show, Abu Dhabi

A strange concoction, at a bar in Madrid

Chilling near the Inland Sea, Qatar

I can't believe we ate all that! At a sushi restaurant in Calgary.

Shopping in the market, Beypazar, Turkey

An angelic altar, in a Cathedral in Salamanca, Spain

And so ends a tiring year.

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Xmas 2012

Just a brief update about my Christmas here in Doha. As you know here in Qatar Christmas is not a public holiday so most people do not get a day off. My office does give us Christmas off thankfully so in the morning I went and visited some of my Qatari friends at their offices just to say hi. After chatting with my friends for a while it was off to Christmas brunch at the Ritz Carleton with some friends.

I'm usually not one to do hotel buffets but I make an exception for Christmas since it's nice being able to spend the day with friends and eat a proper turkey dinner (I'm certainly not going to prepare one myself). In truth thousands of Western ex-pats go to the Christmas buffets offered by the hotels. We had a table in the ballroom right by the stage but we were surprised by the entertainment -- a western bar band playing rock tunes. At first my friends and I were all a bit surprised as it certainly wasn't very Christmas-y but after we settled in and started into the food the band left and some carolers came on stage to sing a few Christmas songs. After the carolers left the band came back and truth be told my friends and I all agreed it was nice having them there. I have no idea why we were enjoying rock music at a Christmas buffet but ultimately it did work out well.

After a while a couple of little kids wandered up onto the stage. The band didn't mind and kept playing. Soon people thought this was so cute they were bringing their kids up, and eventually the place started rocking. Here's a video . . .

Rocking at the Ritz

Weird, huh? Anyway a good time was had by all and people really enjoyed the band.

I hope you all had a good Christmas as well.

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012

So to (mostly) no one's surprise the world did not end today. Why in the world people would believe that an old Mayan calendar turning over today would signify the end of the world I have no idea. Anyway I'm glad that's over with, I was getting sick of these Mayan-calendar doomsayers going on about how the world was going to end today. I'm sure soon there'll be some new doomsday announced that the gullible can get their undies in a bunch about.

Meanwhile I just was busy watching YouTube to witness Gangnam Style get over 1 billion views. I have no idea why I did this. It was great looking at the comments though. I think over 100,000 people were doing the same thing I was, and comments were flying by at about 5-10 per second so you could barely read them before they zoomed on by. Anyway, glad to have played a small part in Internet history. More interesting than sitting around waiting for the end of the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The 12 days of (Qatar) Christmas

It’s 12 days until Christmas!!

Sing it with me now...

♫♪ On the 12th day of Christmas my good friend showed to me . . . ♫♪

♫♪ Twelve falcons perching

♫♪ Eleven Arabs dancing

♫♪ Ten shishas standing

♫♪ Nine illegal parkings

♫♪ Eight Lords of Swimming

♫♪ Seven camels chilling

♫♪ Six lanes-a-changing

♫♪ Fiiiiiive hooooope-fullllll rinnnnnngs ♫♪

♫♪ Four wooden dhows

♫♪ Three sweet(s) dames

♫♪ Two rescued cats

♫♪ ♫♪ ♫♪ And some ex-pa-a-ts with a Qa-tar-iiiiiiii. ♫♪ ♫♪

I hope everyone in Qatar has a Merry Christmas!

Glen McKay

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Pearl – Qanat Quarter

Yesterday I had to see some friends near West Bay but I had a bit of time to myself so I stopped by the newest area of the Pearl. Called the Qanat Quarter (I think), it’s a Venetian-themed area that just opened up.

It's kind of weird how it's like a freshly-painted Venetian ghost town. There was hardly anyone around and there were no shops open yet.

A few of the apartments are occupied and I assume more people will be moving in soon. The area looks nice, if a developer is smart and has the appropriate businesses there (nice caf├ęs and restaurants, not so much in the way of overpriced five-star clothing stores), then I think it'll be a really nice place. Probably better than the main area of the Pearl.

Not so sure about parking though. There didn't seem to be a visitor parking garage and there's not a lot of parking around the outside of the Quarter. If they don't resolve that then many of the coffee shops that set up there'll be hurting for business since I don't think there's enough apartments/villas there to support a ton of shops and restaurants. Why is parking always an issue in this country?

Monday, December 03, 2012

The 787 Dreamliner

This weekend I went to Dubai with a friend of mine and I was pretty excited because we would be flying on Qatar Airways latest plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It's going to be used on the Doha-London in a couple of weeks but ways is testing the plane out by using it on the Doha-Dubai route.

Took a peek at the business class area and it looked really nice, with big screens for the entertainment system, but I was in economy. So how was it?

Seat size: didn't notice any difference, about the same size as their other planes. Everyone seemed to be expecting that the seats would be bigger -- not sure why, a newer plane doesn't mean they are going to put in bigger seats.

Entertainment system: I think the screen is slightly bigger than on their other planes. One cool feature is that you have a choice of either using the touchscreen or using the small controller. The small controller is also operated by touchscreen so I found it easier to use the larger screen as the buttons were bigger. As per Qatar Airways’ newer planes the entertainment system worked while the plane was on the runway, so you could start using it as soon as you got to your seat.

Windows: the windows are bigger and no longer have shades! Instead you use a button under the window to adjust the level of tinting, allowing you to darken the window. Unfortunately I was sitting in the middle section but it was pretty cool to see (my friend took a picture so once I get a copy of it I'll post it). The safety video did not announce anything about making sure your window wasn't tinted during takeoff or landing so I assume there is some “master switch” the crew can use to make sure the windows aren’t darkened.

Engine noise: hard to compare since it's been a while between flights but I believe it was a bit quieter.

Air pressure: neither my friend nor I felt any difference in air pressure or ‘popping’ of the ears, which was pretty impressive.

Air humidity: I've heard that the humidity level in a 787 can be set higher than in other planes so the air is not as dry. Unfortunately the flight was only 45 minutes so I couldn't really gauge how dry the air was. I didn't notice the air being exceptionally dry though.

Other: there was no foot rest that you could bring down to rest your feet on. Not sure why.

All in all I thought was quite pleasant. If the air humidity really is higher it would make for a more pleasant trip on those longer flights, like to London.