Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Doha Diaries: Days 7-9, No Tongue, Hot Chicken, Making it Rain

Administrative note: I am going to post a little more frequently to reduce the epic duration of these posts, at least until there is less to say, and I am going to go by the numbers of the days since my trip started as opposed to the weeks.

[Day 7] November 5 (continued), No Tongue!

After I posted yesterday, I saw a movie with a colleague.  We ended up seeing In Time.  I had been forewarned that I should expect cuts during romantic bits and there were a few.  What's interesting is that there was one gratuitous kiss that was not cut and one shorter one that was.  Of course, no part of the sex scene survived.  So, I think I have their censoring algorithm worked out.
  1. If naughty bits, then censor
  2. If tongue, then censor
  3. Move along, nothing to see
And we all know how racy Puss in Boots is.  I give you...Cat in Boots!

After the movie, we grabbed some dinner...another exotic meal at Chili's. :-D

I settled on a New York Strip with steamed veggies and sauteed mushrooms.  I *was* going to get broccoli as my second side, but the server was emphatic that it was unacceptably redundant, since the steamed vegetables also contained broccoli.  Unwilling to start an international incident, I laughed and acquiesced.

Apparently, the workout earlier and/or the last vestiges of recovering from food poisoning left me too tired for a second workout today.  Ah well, if I skip my day of rest for a couple of weeks, I'll catch up anyway.

Speaking of the food poisoning, I opted to use the Dompy sparingly, and within 24 hours I had stopped.  My stomach is not 100% queasy free, but it's calm enough to stop the med.  The decision to not take the other two meds seems to have worked out fine.

[Day 8] November 6, Peri-Peri Good

The morning workout was interesting today.  I decided to take my iPhone 4S and my Bose SoundLink down to the gym and take full advantage of 1) being able to fit all of my music on my phone now, and 2) the wireless portability of my SoundLink; the goal was to play my own music instead of the loud but strangely sedate clubby...jazzy...music-like sound that played in the hotel gym.

Well, it turns out that there is a plug where I can directly hook my iPhone into the gym's sound systems.  MUAHAHA!

I fired up Audioslave and started rocking the weights.  Much to my amusement, the hotel attendant / fitness trainer there kept cranking up the volume to near ear-splitting levels.  The other guest and I didn't mind, and for a while it was full on rockin' gym mode.  Feet were tapping and weights were lifted with zeal.

And now, a musical interlude

The band Audioslave was formed by the singer from Soundgarden and all but the singer from Rage Against the Machine.  If you have watched Iron Man or Aliens vs. Cowboys, you have heard their music.  Here is a video on their genesis and them performing two of their more popular songs - Set It Off and Gasoline.  It's live, so it's not as polished, cut them some slack. :-)
[If you want the polished version, try this link for Set It Off and this link for Gasoline.]

Both songs do a fantastic job of showcasing the distinct but well-matched sounds.  What Tom Morello can do with a guitar is just amazing, Chris Cornell's vocals are incredible, Tim Commerford's bass riffs are awesome, and Brad Wilk's drums bring the beat.  Good stuff.

OK, musical interlude over.

So there we were rocking out to Gasoline when another guest, a lean British woman, came in and ruined our man party by turning it down so she could listen to her headphones.  Ah well, I can understand; it was crazy loud.  And she's in great shape, so at least the scenery improved.

She had really overdone it on turning down the music, but the attendant snuck over and turned it back up a little. :-D

I had chatted a bit with the attendant during some of my workouts, but today was a whole new level.  I gave a lecture on physics, nanotechnology, communications technology, the genesis of Audioslave, and a lot more.

But then I did something silly...I decided to show him the Spartacus workout while my muscles were still worn out from the workout I had just finished.  I only did one circuit, but holy crap did it kick my ass.  On the plus side though, it was kicking his ass just as hard and he was a fitness trainer ten years my younger. Hooray for fitness!

Breakfast brunch at the W Doha amazing as usual.  I wonder when I will get tired of their fresh mango.  It's hard to imagine right now...but I know the day will come.

Today is a national holiday, so I was told I could work from the hotel.  This is a good thing because there are so many little administrative and compliance things I need to knock out.

I headed over to the mall for lunch and settled on Nando's Peri-Peri.

Now, you may be thinking, "Hey, Michael, Mister I-wanna-eat-exotic; that sounds like some Tex-Mex joint."  Ah, but it is not.  You can read about them on their site.  It turns out they started in South Africa.  Their name comes from a bastardization of a Swahili name for an indigenous pepper called the African Bird's Eye Chilli.  So, there, naysayers, it's more exotic than you think.. We'll just ignore the fact that I could buy the same stuff in Washington or Maryland...

What closed the deal for me was seeing that they had a heat scale.

Now it was a matter of pride.  I had to conquer their heat scale.  I shall be the King of the "Perio-meter".

I ordered the quarter chicken with grilled vegetables and smoked corn on the cob.  And this is what they served me.

That is unlike any chicken I have ever seen.  I chalked it up to different breeds and soldiered on.  The chicken tasted great.  Not very spicy, but really tasty.  I'll ignore the fact that the sauce probably has sugar in it and is likely not the best for me, but it's tasty and spicy, so screw healthy; I mean it's grilled chicken, so that's gotta count for something.  The Grilled vegetables were somewhat exotic (for me); the chief ingredient was eggplant.  They were somewhere between OK and good.

The corn was not so good, I think it was mummy corn stolen from Egypt, because it would take some special process and thousands of years to make corn that dessicated and tough.  But...they gave me another ear that was more moist and tasty, somewhere between OK and good.

Overall, probably a place I will visit again.  I really liked the taste of the "extra hot" chicken.

Work, work, work.

Hmm...it seems that the Extra Hot peri-peri chicken from lunch is striking back with chemical warfare.  Luckily there are currently no innocent bystanders in my room, so no collateral damage.  Definitely not a good lunch choice if I have a date planned that night.

I hit one of the in-house hotel restaurants, Spice Market.  I had actually had my first meal in Doha here the night arrived - lamb chops.  Tonight I had some funky salad with green papaya and for my entree I had red curry chicken.  It was all very tasty.

The restaurant is nice, but a tiny bit pretentious.  The ambiance is really nice - dark, sections are segregated somewhat so that everywhere still feels a little cozy/intimate.  Beautiful furnishings, etc.  Portions are small, so trying to get by on an entree alone is challenging (I learned this during my first visit).

The jazz piano was fired up tonight and I swear I couldn't recognize a single song.  They were English songs and the person was an English-speaking person, American or European.  I am not sure if the songs were simply obscure (to me) or just so brutally re-imagined that they no longer recognized themselves.  Out of kindness, I will assume the former.

The piano area in the bar was strangely crowded.  The cocktail tables were right next to the piano.  The singer had a very passionate audience of two.  A couple of guys sitting at a table practically in arms' reach, clearly enjoying the alcoholic beverages available, as witnessed by that glossy sheen of  that says, "I am f'd up!"  After each song, the two of them did their best to cheer and whoop enough to make up for the rest of us who were just there to eat.  Gotta give them credit for trying, but it came off more comical than I think they intended.

My body is still sore and worn out from my folly in the gym, so no second workout tonight.  It looks like I'll just have to skip my day of rest each week and slowly get back on schedule over the next two weeks.

[Day 9] November 7, It's Raining?

I had the gym to myself this morning, so I hooked up the iPod (I need the iPhone for the timer) and fired up Rage Against the Machine's first, eponymous album.

Sidenote: When I went to insert a link to Killing in the Name Of, one of the better-known songs off of the above album, I stumbled across a video of a live BBC Radio performance.  Apparently, in 2009, there was a campaign to break a cycle in which a song from the winner of the show X Factor would be the #1 song for Christmas.  This had been true for a few years.  Well apparently, there was a campaign to break this by pushing Killing in the Name Of to the top.  And it worked.  [This performance is a bit raw, if you want the polished version, try this link.]

/end sidenote

I have been told that we get only a few centimeters of rain in Doha each year.  Wikepedia reports 7.5 cm per year.  Egads.  I thought Dallas was bad, but we are practically drowning in rain compared to Doha with our roughly 36" (91 cm) average per year.  So, I was understandably surprised when it rained while I was working out this morning.

I thought it would take me at least two weeks to make it rain here.

Since it was such a special thing, I thought I'd take a video, but this was smack in the middle of the second circuit of a Spartacus workout, so my movies looked like they were taken by Hammy, the hyperkinetic squirrel from Over The Hedge.  I finally had the brilliant idea to brace my iPhone up against the window of the gym and I got a nice steady sequence.  Time to upload it...and we're uploading...and we're uploading...and we're uploading...

Wow, you really feel that low bandwidth when trying to upload a video.  It's only 30 megabytes, but it keeps going and going and going...I wish Blogger would give me a progress bar; the suspense is killing me!  Ah, to heck with it, it's time I created a YouTube channel anyway.

All right, let's see if uploading via YouTube works better.  Ooh, that IS better.  A description, a name, no interference with injecting other video content into my blog post, and a progress bar!  Yay!  Anyway, here is the short (10 second) video.

The rain interlude was nice, since the Spartacus workout was really kicking my ass today.  After the first circuit, I figured out why...virtually no breaks between exercises.  At home, I use the Powerblock  "Intellbells" (they ain't dumb, I tells ya!).

They are wonderful for a home gym because you get 0 to 90 lbs in a very small footprint.  However, changing weights is not instantaneous. You have to slot the weights back in, change the pin, then pull them back out.  If you want to make smaller changes, you have to slide inserts out of the handgrip.  So...that 15 seconds between exercises happened pretty naturally, no matter how motivated I was.

Well...in the hotel gym, I pulled the weights I planned to use and placed them all in easy reach.  My first circuit damn near killed me because I wasn't taking any breaks at all between exercises.  But boy was it a good cardiovascular workout.

The gym was also a bit warmer today, so I was making some salty rain of my own inside as well; it was like one of those Gatorade commercials, except my sweat did not have a cool fluorescent color to it.  At home I have the AC cranked and a Vornado room fan blowing on me the whole time to keep the sweat under control.  Anyway, workout done.

Breakfast is still interesting, as I made a new discovery - menemen.  Now, did you just think of the muppets and the  "mahna mahna" song when you read that word?  I did.  And if you do not know what that means, then welcome to the brain worm:

However, like most of my brunch food, menemen has nothing to do with muppets.  It's a Turkish egg dish with onions, pepper, eggs, etc.  Read Wikipedia for more detail.  It wasn't bad, but a little wet for my tastes.

Work, work, work.

Lunch time.  Off to the mall.  I came across this ad for KFC featuring what I can only describe as a conservative, middle eastern version of Captain Jack Sparrow;  I found it amusing but I can't really articulate why.  I might make up an amusing name for him, but I will err on the side of diplomacy.

Today, I tried another of the trio of what I am calling kabob places in the mall's food court.

As with the others, no matter how hard I try, getting just meat and some green vegetables in a single meal seems impossible.  Green veggies are always an "extra" side.  So, when I ordered "barbecued chicken" (their description, not mine) and tabbouleh, and told them to hold the rice, bread, and chips (they use the UK term for French fries here, given the history of the region and the heavy UK population among the ex-pats) this is what I got:

Notice the pepper.  Score!

The chicken was surprisingly good, but again its shape was unfamiliar to me; I really need to lay eyes on what chickens these folks are slaughtering for this food.  It reminded me a lot of Caribbean jerk chicken.  The tabbouleh was decent, but had a tad too much olive oil.  I caved in and ate that little piece of bread on top because it was slathered in hot spices, but I left the rest of the bread for whomever, and avoided most of the chips/fries.

By sheer serendipity, Ed (the academic fellow that welcomed me into his family's home last week) was at the mall and he took me for a quick tour of Education City before dropping me off at the hotel.

It was a fascinating trip.  Such long stretches of sparse, low level buildings outside of the city center.  It feels so strangely open.  Education City, which is being renamed to something I can't remember at the moment, is primarily an amalgamation of satellite locations of Western schools.  For example, Ed works at the Texas A&M at Qatar facility here.  There are others, including a Weill Cornell Medical School in Qatar that will be collaborating with the Sidra medical center for which I am working.  In fact the same person, Sheika Moza bint Nasser Al Missned, that is the driving force behind Sidra was/is a primary driving force for Education City.  She seems like a remarkable person.

I even got a direct glimpse of the Sidra Medical Center itself, which is still being built.  It has a certain beauty to the lines and it is definitely a large facility.  It's hard to describe.  I forgot to take pictures, but they have a webcam trained on it.

Work, work, work.

I tried a different restaurant in the hotel tonight.  There are like a million or five.  I can't remember which.

Anyway, tonight I tried the place that serves brunch in the morning, Market.  This is not to be confused with the place I had tried the previous nights, Spice Market.  Got it?  Good.

It's been feeling increasingly more difficult to eat a healthy meal, so I opted for simple and ordered the "roasted organic chicken with farm vegetables" and a side of "herbed spinach".  I was expecting a somewhat unexciting, but nutrient-licious meal.  I was grossly mistaken.  It was incredible.  It is the tastiest meal I have had since I arrived.  Everything was awesome.  The chicken had been deboned, which was a plus.

I tried to find a way to rate it, but Yelp doesn't recognize the area...Google Spaces only lets me rate the entire hotel...bah, whatever.  I know it was good and now you do too, that will have to suffice.

Ooh, actually getting to bed at a good time.  Maybe I will wake up a little less tired tomorrow...


  1. I am curious about how the Perio-meter lines up with Scoville units!

    Also, I could not help but make a mental connection to Buckaroo Bonsai with this statement: “I gave a lecture on physics, nanotechnology, communications technology, the genesis of Audioslave, and a lot more.”

  2. I try my best every day to aspire to be Buckaroo Banzai, but I still have yet to start the requisite rock band.