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Expat wanderer

Household Goods Arrive

Sorry, friends, I know I have been off-line, but our household goods arrived, went through customs today and were delivered this afternoon, the first day of the great Doha HUMIDITY. I really felt sorry for the guys having to carry everything in. While the current temperature reads 98°F / 37°C, the humidity is 52% – your sunglasses steam as soon as you leave your house or car. You go through about three changes of clothing a day – your clothes stick to you. You drip sweat, if you are outside for any length of time – or if your doors are open so boxes can come in. It’s pretty awful, and I am thankful that although all my stuff is pretty well baked, it was not steamed.

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I got most of the kitchen stuff unpacked, and then AdventureMan and I looked at each other and laughed and said “We quit!” Moving used to be more fun.

I’ve got a couple mountains to move, and I will be back with my normal commentary.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Weather | 7 Comments

Which Ear Do you Use for the Phone?

This article is from BBC Health News, posted Wednesday, 24 June.

It was mildly interesting to me until I got to the part about phones. Yes, I think I hear and process better with my right ear, but I have always used my left ear for phones. I assumed most people do. So I asked AdventureMan, who is left handed, and he said he picks up his phone and listens with his right ear, but that is also because he needs his left hand for taking notes. Aha! And I use my right hand for taking notes.

So my question is – which ear do YOU use, and are you right handed or left-handed? I think it would make a difference.

Right ear is ‘better for hearing’

The left-side of the brain processes much of what is heard in the right ear

If you want to get someone to do something, ask them in their right ear, say scientists.

Italian researchers found people were better at processing information when requests were made on that side in three separate tests.

They believe this is because the left side of the brain, which is known to be better at processing requests, deals with information from the right ear.

The findings are reported online in the journal Naturwissenschaffen.

We can also see this tendency when people use the phone, most will naturally hold it to their right ear
Professor Sophie Scott, of University College London

In the first study, 286 clubbers were observed while they were talking with loud music in the background.
In total, 72% of interactions occurred on the right side of the listener.

In the second study, researchers approached 160 clubbers and mumbled an inaudible, meaningless utterance and waited for the subjects to turn their head and offer either their left or their right ear.

They then asked them for a cigarette.

Overall, 58% offered their right ear for listening and 42% their left.

In the third study, the researchers intentionally addressed 176 clubbers in either their right or their left ear when asking for a cigarette.

The researchers obtained significantly more cigarettes when they spoke to the clubbers’ right ear compared with their left.

Brain
In conclusion, the researchers said: “Talk into the right ear you send your words into a slightly more amenable part of the brain.

“These results seem to be consistent with the hypothesised specialisation of right and left hemispheres.”

Professor Sophie Scott, of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, agreed.
“Most people process speech and language on the left-hand side of the brain and while it is not cut-and-dry a lot of what goes in our right ear will be dealt with by the left-side of the brain.

“The other side of the brain is more involved in things such as interpreting emotion and that is why we have these kind of findings.

“We can also see this tendency when people use the phone, most will naturally hold it to their right ear.”

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Health Issues, Random Musings, Statistics | 29 Comments

Kitty and the Camera

These are from youTube and ICanHas Cheezburgers . . . it’s not the cats that are so funny, but the noises of the people holding the cameras!

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Humor, Pets | Leave a comment

Today’s News from Doha

It’s a very brave thing to take an honest and open look at the serious problems confronting any society.

Report on domestic workers by year-end
Web posted at: 6/24/2009 2:49:44
Source ::: The Peninsula.

DOHA: The first national survey on domestic workers in Qatar will be completed soon and the findings will be announced by the end of this year, a senior official of the Qatar Foundation for Combating Human Trafficking, the organisers of the study, has said.

On Monday, the Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development for collaboration between the two bodies in carrying out the survey. The MoU was signed by Mariam Al Malki, director of the Foundation and Richard Wilkins, managing director of the Institute.

Speaking on the occasion, Al Malki said the survey which is the first of its kind in the region, aimed at identifying the problems of domestic workers in the country and seek solutions. Another major objective of the study was to assess the impact of housemaids and other domestic workers on the Qatari family and the society.

The survey conducted through direct interviews with a randomly selected group of domestics workers and families has received a positive response from the society, added Al Malki.

She attributed the success to an awareness campaign waged with the support of the media prior to the launch of the survey. The survey covered 657 families and a total of 900 domestic workers from five regions across the country, said Al Malki.

The interviews were conducted through questionnaires prepared separately for the two targeted categories. The questionnaires for domestic workers were available in 10 languages including Arabic to cater to the different nationalities.

Wilkins said the study was extremely important since it can help in identifying the problems of domestic workers as well as their impact on the society.

“ Almost every Qatari household has employed domestic workers, especially because most women are now working outside. This is also a sensitive issue, given the impact of these workers on the families,” he said.

Protecting women and children to focus on providing social and psychological support to victims of family violence:

Counselling service launched for victims of behavioural disorders
Web posted at: 6/24/2009 2:47:0
Source ::: The Peninsula

DOHA: The Qatar Foundation for Protection of Women and Children has launched a new service to provide social and psychological support to victims of violence as well as those who suffer from behavioural disorders.

The service named “change your life” is part of the Foundation’s three-year plan to prepare a comprehensive rehabilitation programme for such members of the society. Besides moral and psychological support, the Foundation will provide medical and legal assistance to victims to facilitate their rehabilitation.

Farida Al Obaidli, Director of the Foundation said, recently they had come across a case where a family wanted to abandon their four children.

“This was very surprising. The fact that such incidents still occur underlines the need for social and psychological support and rehabilitation,” said Al Obaidli.

She said the Foundation had been providing legal assistance to victims of violence and abuse. It has 19 lawyers who help people who don’t have the capability to hire the service of a lawyer to present their case in the court.

And one tiny very strange article:

Media Freedom Centre team leaves office

DOHA: Robert Ménard, director- general of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom and his team have left the Centre.

“We no longer have either the freedom or the resources to do our work,” said Menard, in a statement issued yesterday.

The heads of the assistance, research and communications departments have also left the Centre, said the statement.

The Center was set up on the initiative of H H Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned and Reporters Without Borders in December 2007.

Ménard, who became director-general on April 1, 2008, was the founder of Reporters Without Borders, which he headed for 23 years.

It’s a little cooler out today in Doha. High temperature this afternoon only reached 109°F / 43°C. 🙂

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Qatar, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Dr. Kessler and The Power of a Chocolate Chip Cookie

This is an excerpt from an article in The New York Times; Health and you can read the whole article by clicking on the blue type. Dr. Kessler has written a book about how food is engineered to be irresistible. Yes, we all need to develop a little self-discipline. And yes, the decks are stacked against us.

Did you know that almost the entire taste of a potato chip is on it’s surface, designed to give you an immediate impact of taste?

This article talks about Dr. Kessler’s new book, and it’s implications for our food choices:
mare_chocolate_chocolate_chip_cookie_and_strawberry_gelato_sandwiches_h

(photo from Bon Appetit magazine chocolate chip cookie and strawberry gelato sandwiches)

As head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. David A. Kessler served two presidents and battled Congress and Big Tobacco. But the Harvard-educated pediatrician discovered he was helpless against the forces of a chocolate chip cookie.

In an experiment of one, Dr. Kessler tested his willpower by buying two gooey chocolate chip cookies that he didn’t plan to eat. At home, he found himself staring at the cookies, and even distracted by memories of the chocolate chunks and doughy peaks as he left the room. He left the house, and the cookies remained uneaten. Feeling triumphant, he stopped for coffee, saw cookies on the counter and gobbled one down.

“Why does that chocolate chip cookie have such power over me?” Dr. Kessler asked in an interview. “Is it the cookie, the representation of the cookie in my brain? I spent seven years trying to figure out the answer.”

The result of Dr. Kessler’s quest is a fascinating new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite” (Rodale).

During his time at the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Kessler maintained a high profile, streamlining the agency, pushing for faster approval of drugs and overseeing the creation of the standardized nutrition label on food packaging. But Dr. Kessler is perhaps best known for his efforts to investigate and regulate the tobacco industry, and his accusation that cigarette makers intentionally manipulated nicotine content to make their products more addictive.

In “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.

When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.

Dr. Kessler isn’t convinced that food makers fully understand the neuroscience of the forces they have unleashed, but food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire. In fact, he offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt.

The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily,” he notes. And Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.

Foods rich in sugar and fat are relatively recent arrivals on the food landscape, Dr. Kessler noted. But today, foods are more than just a combination of ingredients. They are highly complex creations, loaded up with layer upon layer of stimulating tastes that result in a multisensory experience for the brain. Food companies “design food for irresistibility,” Dr. Kessler noted. “It’s been part of their business plans.”

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Chocolate, Customer Service, Food, Health Issues, Marketing, Shopping, Social Issues | | 1 Comment

Gross!

Our son asked how the baby pigeons are doing. They are doing fine. They are huge! Yesterday, I saw the largest one stretch his legs and take a couple steps!

I also know now how pigeons feed their babies. Pigeons are just gross, or at least these wild pigeons who have chosen my villa are gross. (I am sure that Bu Yousefs pedigreed pigeons are much more refined than these wild pigeons. 😉 ) They poop on my front porch. To feed their babies, they eat and then they come back and shake all over and make themselves throw up and the babies go wild and eat right out of their beaks.

I know, I know, it is all part of God’s perfect plan and nothing is gross . . . but it FEELS gross to me!

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00BabyPigeons1

As we were entering the compound the other night, we saw one of the compound wild cats, young, skinny, and oh-so-proud, head high, carrying a pigeon almost as big as he/she was. You couldn’t help but laugh, even though the pigeon was sadly dead, but that cat was strutting! He/She knew he was going to have a great meal in just a minute, once he got that pigeon to a safe, secret place!

June 23, 2009 Posted by | Doha, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Qatar | 7 Comments

Kodak Retires Kodachrome

This is from AOL’s Wallet Pop / Financial News

Kodak retires ‘film that captured youth of Baby Boomers’
Sarah Gilbert
Jun 22nd 2009 at 3:30PM

As the Paul Simon song goes, “Mamma don’t take my Kodachrome away…” But Kodak is doing it anyway, retiring its iconic Kodachrome color film, effective immediately.

I shoot film. (Much to the shock and chagrin of friends and casual acquaintances and family members who see the receipts for processing.) And a few months ago, I was shopping for my favorite, Kodak Portra VC.

I went to photo lab after photo lab, finding only one roll of 100-speed film at a Wolf’s Camera that was going out of business; and nothing at my regular haunt, Citizen’s Photo. Are they retiring my film? I wondered, panicky.

Finally at a huge camera store I spied a totally empty film shelf, but for a five-pack of expired portrait film. Bingo! I rushed home to make sure it was still available at B&H Photo Video, the New York-based photo store of record. Thank the gods of photography, it was still being produced.
But for fans of Kodak’s famous first commercially-successful color film, introduced in 1935, the hunt will now begin in earnest. Kodak is retiring Kodachrome, saying it’s too complex and expensive to produce. Other films — such as my fave, Kodak Portra, and commercial heavyweights Kodak Max and Kodak Gold — now account for greater than 99% of Kodak’s still-picture films. Due to its complexity, only one commercial lab in the world, Dwayne’s Photo, in Parsons, Kan., still processes it.

The lab, which has committed to continue processing the film through 2010, has a sad message on its homepage, saying how sorry the lab’s owners are to see it go. “Kodachrome was truly an icon of the 20th century and has certainly been a very important part of Dwayne’s business for many years. Once it’s gone, nothing will ever capture “those nice bright colors” in quite the same way,” they write, referring to the Paul Simon song “Kodachrome.”

Kodak will stop producing the film, which was only made at one plant, immediately and expects retail stocks will last through the fall, unless fans stockpile. As for me: I’m headed to buy a roll or two, so I can capture a bit of my film heritage before it, too, is gone

June 23, 2009 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Entertainment, Photos | 3 Comments

Doha Museum of Islamic Art – Summer Visit

The Doha Museum of Islamic Art is open during the hottest part of the day. It must be that everyone else is travelling, or at home having lunch, taking a snooze or that they don’t know the museum is open – we had almost the entire museum to ourselves, and we felt like honored guests!

The museum is just beautiful, as beautiful as before. This time, without the crowds of people, I really had time to appreciate the interior, the beauty of the materials that went into this building, and the sound of water throughout, making you feel cool and refreshed.

And then, there is that never-ending view of the Doha skyline, seen through the windows overlooking the Gulf:

00DohaSkylineIslamicMuseum

It just boggles my mind that we are encouraged to take photos, that photos are not forbidden. I love this photo; I am sorry it is not so sharp but if I had used a flash, I would have spoiled the moment. These two men had no idea I was taking their photo; I figure it is OK because you don’t know who they are, you can’t see their faces. I just loved these grizzled warriors examining an even earlier warrior.

00MuseumWarriors

I tried so hard not to breathe, still, there was some shake. Sometimes the shot you get is the shot you get.

These tiles draw me back to the museum again and again; I love the intersection of cross and star:
00DohaMuseumStars&Cross

I used it in placemats for my mother, and in a quilt for my youngest sister:

00PlacematsForMom

00QuiltForSis

The pattern still draws me, and I have some other ideas of how to use it . . . 🙂

If you have ever thought of visiting this museum, oh WOW, the summer is the time to do it at your leisure. It is quiet, and cool and calm; you can stop and reflect on the beauty of the collected pieces, you are not rushed, there is no one around but you and the guards. Go now! It is the perfect time to visit.

It’s also free. It’s free, it’s open to the public for free, no charge, just come enjoy the beauty. What an amazing gift to the people of Qatar. And to the rest of us!

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Public Art, Qatar | | 13 Comments

First Visitor to Doha; Souk al Waqif

We are very happy in Doha. This has to be one of the easiest moves we have ever made, even though I had to sell my car. 😦 We moved back into the same house on the same compound where we lived before. There is a whole learning curve I have already mastered – city layout, major roads, grocery stores, book stores, fabric stores, and major sights – been there! done that!

And yet, Doha has changed enough to still be stimulating and exciting.

Nonetheless, when I was contacted by a friend coming to Doha, with a little time to fill, I felt slightly daunted. We have had lots of visitors here; I tell them to come in November – February, March at the latest, except for Little Diamond, who has lived several places in the Middle East and knows exactly how hot it can be, and who copes with the differences.

I got to the hotel exactly as she and her husband were coming down – perfect timing. I had some suggestions, but what she wanted to do was what I love to do – see Souq Waqif and if we have time, see the new museum. Since they are only yards apart, I had a huge smile on my face.

The smile kept getting bigger – as we drove up to the Souq al Waqif, a truck left in the most perfect, shaded parking spot; THAT is God smiling, it has to be, parking places like that just don’t happen without help.

And, as it turn out, not only does she love the Souq Waqif, she also loves taking photos, so we had ourselves a wonderful time.

Not one single photograph with a person was taken without that person’s permission; not one single person said “no.” They were all “ahlen wa sahlen” (Welcome! Welcome!) It was a sweet morning, and although it was one of the hottest days of the year, it was dry, and the heat was bearable.

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One of my favorite shops in the Souq al Waqif; he has all the things fishermen really need – from traps to twine:

00SouqWaqifFishingSupplies

The bird souk is active and beautiful:

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It’s a real working souk, offering all kinds of household goods:

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Look at the huge serving platters in the background – imagine them piled high with rice and mutton, or rice and chicken! Delicious!

00SoukWaqifHouseHoldGoods

This is the first time I have ever seen this store – it has only been open one month. Everything in it is made in Doha:

00SoukWaqifMadeInDohaStore

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This was one of the nicest stops on our tour. The eqal maker and his helper are so gentle and full of good information.

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We had a great time, a wonderful lunch at the Ispahan:

00Ispahan

No time for a nap! On! On!

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Doha, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Shopping, Social Issues, Travel | 7 Comments

Drink White Tea, Lose Weight

New article from Real Age suggests we drink white tea to blast the fat cells and keep the weight off:

Drink This to Fight Fat

Have a little fat you’d like to lose? Maybe now is a good time to turn on the kettle and pour yourself a cup of this: white tea.

Made from the buds and early leaves of the same plants used to make green and black teas, white tea may have special fat-thwarting powers, a new study suggests.

Fat-Blasting Brew
Fat cells increase or decrease in size, according to your weight. And in a lab study, human fat cells treated with white tea extract accumulated significantly less fat. In fact, the white tea extract reduced the incorporation of fat by as much as 70 percent! The tea also seemed to stimulate the breakdown of fat from mature cells.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Diet / Weight Loss, Hot drinks, News | 5 Comments