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January 31, 2006

Prepping for Bryan Adams

I'm not a huge fan, but Bryan Adams is playing here in Doha tomorrow, and many of the college staff are going. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see a real concert, an artist I recognize, get out of the house and socialize and have some fun.

In preparation, I'm playing the two CDs I have on my laptop today while I work on preparing labs and lectures. I'm looking forward to the show now, I think I'll really enjoy it.

January 30, 2006

Curse the entertainment industry

I've ranted before (long ago) about copyright stupidity. Let me just say again how idiotic I think current copyright law has become. It infuriates me, really.

You see, I bought me a laptop, completely legally, in Canada. It's a nice laptop with a DVD drive. I then took a job in the middle east, which is all completely legitimate. Now that I am here, I legally obtained a copy of a movie. It is the original DVD disc published by the movie house that made the film, not some illegal grey market copy. I put it in my legal DVD drive, and voila! IT DOESN'T PLAY!!!

That's because the MPAA devised the stupid region coding system whereby all DVDs can be marked with a region code, indicating in what portion of the world that DVD is allowed to be viewed. Starting off that sounds ridiculous, but it gets better! You see, computers being the versatile, general purpose tools that they are, you'd think that somebody would write a program to play movies from DVD, and simply ignore that region code. Well, something like that has happened (and I won't talk about the lawsuits that followed). However, the entertainment industry, in their infinite wisdom and obvious keen business sense, lobbied for changes in US copyright law (which finds equivalents nowadays in most developed countries of the world, through trade treaties that require countries to adopt similar copyright laws) which puts a copyright on the specific little math and programming details needed to either properly read or outright ignore the region code on DVD discs.

Now there is this artificial legal protection that says any program (and anybody who uses such a program or even talks about how it works) is breaking copyright law - those ideas, math tricks and so on are the property of the movie industry. So, while I have no doubt I can find a way to play my legal DVD on my legal DVD player, I'm infuriated that I must technically perform a criminal act to do it! OUTRAGEOUS!

Anyway, this is old news, and everybody outside of North America is used to dealing with this. It seems like it's only in North America that people never encounter DVDs from other regions (because nearly all major english movies are released first as Region 1 DVDs). So, I expect sometime soon I'll either download a piece of (technically illegal) software or else do a minor modification to the actual DVD player to enable any DVD movie to play.

I just wish I were angry enough to actually stop buying movies and giving these morons my money.

Another cool day in Doha

I mean temperature-wise. When I was packing to come, I was a little skeptical to hear that I should pack wool socks, sweaters and a light jacket. Now I'm glad for the few warm items I have. It's winter here, and days are mid to high 20s, but overnight temperatures are more like 16-20. When it gets below 20 you start to feel somewhat chilly wearing jeans and a tshirt, especially if there is a good breeze. Since no houses here have any kind of heating, and most of them have stone or ceramic tile floor, it turns out that a pair of wool socks and a sweater is really necessary. I can tell the days are starting to feel a little warmer now that I've been here for three weeks. I look forward to Spring - it's supposed to be really nice here between February and April.

In other news, I got my medical done last week and fingerprints done this morning. That is the last thing, so if everything works smoothly I should have my residency processed in another week or two. That means I can get my driver's license, leave the country, subscribe to cable and a bunch of other exciting things.

January 28, 2006

Settling into life in Doha

The first week was busy with getting settled, and the last two weeks have been swamped with getting organized with everything at the new job - preparing lectures, finding my way around three new (to me) courses with labs, plus the regular start up administrative stuff. Throughout all of that, I've been spending a lot of my personal time trying to stay in touch with home (hi Krista and Kendra!). Technology makes it easier to stay in touch, but it doesn't stop you from missing loved ones like crazy.

So, I'm starting to feel a little more organized, and I guess I'm a little overdue for an update here. There is so much to write about the city, the culture, the whole experience. I'll try to mix in some of my general observations with the record of day to day experiences. For instance, today we had an orientation session on the culture and Islam. It was informative. Afterwards a few of us got dropped at the City Center Mall. Apparently it's the biggest mall in the middle east, with a nice skating rink in the center court. I split a cab with another new CNAQ instructor staying at the building I'm in. Taxis here are real cheap. The generic white and orange taxis are usually older subcompacts like toyota tercels or something. There are more deluxe options, but these are all over the place, and to get a ride from City Center mall to our place costs about QR 7, or $2.25 Canadian. That's about a 10km, 15 minute trip. Can't complain about that.

So, as I sit here watching an arabic-subtitled Jackie Chan movie, eating an arabian sweet that I can best describe as a cross between jello and a ju-jube with nuts and a tangy cardomam flavor, I can only start to describe all of the new and different things that I have seen already and will see over the next few years. I'm barely organized at work, but that will improve. Look for posting to become a little regular as time goes on. Oh, and the cell phone I bought when I got here is a nice little Nokia camera phone, so now and then I'll have some pictures to post.

That's all for now - it's 9pm and I'm still getting used to the early to bed early to rise schedule, but 7:30am classes makes that necessary.

January 13, 2006

Learn something new every day

A while back I wrote about learning something new every day. I think for the next while, it will be quite easy to learn more than one new thing each day.

Yesterday I learned that taxis in Doha cost twice as much after 9pm, post offices are a little harder to come by than one would like, and I like the styling of 700 series BMWs.

Today I learned how to use a front loading washing machine, and I got my new Nokia camera phone to play nice with the wireless IR link for my laptop so I can download pictures.

Missing friends and family is hard, but this Qatar thing is going to have its interesting side.

January 12, 2006

Home again

...sort of. I'm in my new apartment in Doha for the first 24 hours. Despite a few hitches, things seem to be getting worked out. The super has come by to replace some light bulbs, fix a toilet and air conditioner. Yesterday they turned on my power, phone, tv and did a cleaning as promised. When I first saw the place 2 days ago it was a little depressing, but I feel much better now. It really is fairly nice. 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, washer, dishwasher and all the normal furniture. I need to do some more deep cleaning in a few areas, but it's coming together faster than I thought.

So, for those following my progress, I'll post an address and other contact info shortly. I have a home phone, and today I'll get a mobile. On Sunday I'll have my work phone number. If by any chance anybody wants to send me regular mail, it's best to send it c/o College of the North Atlantic - Qatar, PO Box 24449 Doha Qatar. Yep that's all you need. Box 24449 Doha Qatar.

The super and his assistants are nearly finished their assault on my dripping AC unit in the living room, so shortly I'll be off to the mall to get my cell phone and a few cleaning supplies so I have something to do during the weekend while stores are closed. Work will start soon enough. More to follow.

January 07, 2006

Hop, Skip and a Jump

Well, the hardest step is done (or maybe it's yet to be taken, I don't know). Tonight I left Krista and Kendra and my new house in Halifax. I'm at my parent's house in St. John's for two days before I fly to Doha via London.

I usually choose a window seat, but for some reason when I was selecting a seat for this flight a few weeks ago, I chose an aisle seat that was near the front of the plane. I guess I was thinking of getting off quickly, but I understand a little better why some people are bored or bothered by flying. When you aren't at the window, it's really just like a big, cramped bus. Anyway, as for me, I still love to fly, especially when I'm by the window. No matter how many times, it seems, I still love to watch the scenery go by from the window of a plane.