Thursday, May 7, 2009


This is my third blog entry on Doha. Previous two entries:

It definitely makes for an interesting juxtaposition of cultures. Let's see here: gutra, thobe, sandals, and no riding gloves on what looks like to be a BMW R 1200 RT tourer.

Not to mention, powerboating and dhows as we'll see below.

I stayed in the high-rise section of Doha (shown in the distance above).

The Al Corniche Rd connects that section to the purposely low-rise section fronted by the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), which is right next to the location where I took the above photo.

(Click to see an enlarged annotated satellite view of the area.)

It's a nice 10K run from my hotel along the waterfront to the Diwan (nr. the MIA) and back. That should give you some idea of the scale of the place.

On the day I arrived there was a Class-1 World Powerboat Championship race going on right in the bay. Using the 10x zoom on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5, I found it hard to properly track the boats: However, I was able to capture the next boat cleanly with my point-and-shoot camera (despite shutter delay) because it was dead in the water: Qatar has a long tradition of boating given its fishing and pearl diving history. Next to the MIA is the port where traditional dhows are still built: Here is the view looking south from the man-made hotel beach (though I'm sure the sand is locally sourced) towards the port and museum area (in the far background):

Hmm, perhaps the view is clearer from a higher vantage point:

(Yes, I took a brief swim in the Persian Gulf. It was surprisingly warm even in April. As a sinking swimmer (see here), I enjoyed the buoyancy offered by the sea water. However, as a scuba diver, I rate the visibility as downright murky though.)

You may also have noticed the huge project near the top of the satellite map. That is the Pearl-Qatar, an immense project which is still under construction (like much of Doha). Supposed to be a Riviera-style man-made island complex. Perhaps appropriately, this is the southern view from the patio of Bice, an Italian restaurant there:

I didn't get to see much of old Doha (if it exists). On a brief visit to the souk, which looked rather gentrified, I managed to take two 360° spherical panoramas:

(Use Apple's free QuickTime Player to view the special .mov image files, which can be zoomed and rotated 360° in all directions. Click on the links to see the spherical panoramas.)

Hello Majd!
That's it for my Doha entries. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Doha: CMU at Qatar

(See my previous entry on the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) here.)

My visit to Doha was made possible by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) at Qatar. CMU-Q is located in a 14 sq km campus (named Education City) on the western edge of the city. Education City is a massive initiative housing multiple institutions and is the flagship project of the Qatar Foundation.

A bit like with the MIA, CMU has just recently moved into a building that looks somewhat quiet and fools the eye, appearing deceptively small from the outside, but is impressively large and opulent from the inside.

To illustrate this point, here is the entrance.

Behind that dark glass is the atrium, here is a 360° spherical panorama of what it looks likes on the other side:

(Use Apple's free QuickTime Player to view the special image, which can be zoomed and rotated 360° in all directions. Click on the link to see the panorama.)

(Notice how the atrium is lit from above by the Arabian sun. Also, I took this during setup for Meeting of the Minds, an end of semester student poster event: hence, the easels and tables for food. You may also be able to pick out the location of the next panorama.)

The next spherical panorama shows another open area to one side of the atrium.

(Unfortunately, there are only regular chairs in this picture. When I first arrived, there were wonderfully large red cushions in the seating area with students sitting around chatting and using their laptops. I missed that photo op.)

Next panorama, something at the other end of the size scale: the small but rather classy looking library:


(I like the way the library has floor-to-ceiling glass affording a view of the outside courtyard but always shielded from the blast furnace of a hot sun that I'm told can reach 55°C in summer. The only direct sun exposure here is filtered through the geometric openings on the far wall.)

Finally, here is the entrance to the building again (rumor has it the cost was $500 million to $600 million): If you click on the picture, you may be able to see water running continously down that center channel.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ping Pong: Yokohama World Championships

I've been following the 2009 World Table Tennis Championships over the internet, on Japanese TV and live in person at the Yokohama Arena. Whew!

The finals just concluded yesterday.

Let's begin the day appropriately with a little dimsum in Yokohama's own Chinatown (横浜中華街):

Then head on up to Yokohama Arena in Shin-Yokohama (新横浜) to watch the matches.

Me, clutching my precious ticket for the men's and women's singles finals.

6,000 yen. Arena premium seating. Row 7. Worth every penny...

I sat in the section opposite the umpire. Apart from the tv cameras moving around, I got a great view.

Below is Wang Liqin (王励勤), world #5, in game 3 about to deliver a blistering forehand loop to Wang Hao (王皓), world #1:

It's a shame Wang Liqin lost 4-straight. But to be honest, I was really rooting for the other Wang anyway. Wang Hao uses the less common penhold grip. He has a great reverse side backhand loop game as well as a very strong forehand (the traditional hallmark of a penholder).

Here is a HD video clip of a point I recorded using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 from my seat. It nicely illustrates Wang Hao's two-winged attack style:

(Also available on Vimeo here.)

Simply put, his two-winged attacking style is the definitive version of the modern penhold game.

(As a penholder, I'm trying to learn the reverse side backhand loop to update my game. See my Shenzhen Ping Pong series on the topic: in particular, the entry here, and the series link here.)

The women's final featured the rather intimidating world #1 Zhang Yining (张怡宁) against the young defending world champion Guo Yue (郭跃), ranked #2.

I also love to watch the attacking style of the lefty Guo Yue. I like this motion blur shot of her looping because, for me, it captures her incredible speed.

All eyes on Guo Yue, as she is about to serve:

She won the first two games, but proceeded to lose the next four. Here is a HD-available video clip I took of a point illustrating her attacking style (score: 5-3 in Guo's favor but Zhang Yining is up 3-2 in games):

(Also available on Vimeo here.)

I used a little bit of zoom on my DMC-TZ5 to capture that rally.

The final HD clip below (at 10-6 and 2-2 in games) when viewed in full-screen mode is more representative of the kind of view I got from row 7 of the premium seating area.

(Also available on Vimeo here.)

(I honestly don't know how people up in the stands can see anything. After all, the ball is only 40mm in size.)

Videos of all the matches are available on the International Table Tennis Federation website ( My favorite point in the men's final is at 30:19 in. Score: 2-0 in games and 4-2 in points. Check it out!

A last (panoramic) look at the venue for the 2009 Worlds: the Yokohama Arena:

Awards ceremony: China swept the men's singles (and women's too):

(L to R: Wang, Wang, Ma, Ma)

The championships are over for another two years. Let's head on back down to Chinatown to put on some more weight...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Doha: Museum of Islamic Art

Recently, I visited the newly opened Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) designed by I.M. Pei in Doha, Qatar.

(View of the MIA with the modern highrise area of Doha in the background. The al Corniche promenade runs in a half-moon along the water connecting the two areas. A good 10K+ run.)

I have an interest in architecture and spherical panorama photography. Previous entries on the topic have included:
  • The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. (Blog entry here.)
  • MIT's Stata Center designed by Frank Gehry. (Off-blog webpage here.)

A close-up of the main building taken by my friend Majd Sakr:

The museum cuts a rather lonely and austere figure on Doha's skyline:

Inside, the building is simply magnificent, and a feast for the eyes (and camera):

View of the interior looking up.

Of course, there are interesting artifacts on display:

including a view of the world that's hard to decipher unless you are familiar with the Middle East:
But for me, the museum itself was as interesting as the displays. The museum simply abounds with interesting touches. Here is an exterior elevator (plan view, i.e. looking down):
Stairs with Japanese-style lighting both recessed and protruding, making for an interesting perspective effect:
A detail of the ceiling viewed through a fisheye lens:

More bendy stuff from my fisheye lens:

On my second visit to the museum, I was graciously permitted to quickly use my tripod after the museum closed. This allowed me to take my 360° spherical panorama shots from the three different positions shown below:

For your viewing pleasure, you should click and view these specially prepared .mov files using Apple's free QuickTime player. You can rotate around 360° in all directions, as well as zoom in and out (shift and control keys in MacOSX). In particular, look up at the ceiling.

Pano #1
Pano #2
Pano #3
(Special thanks to Merridy Wilson at the MIA for making these images possible.)

One of my favorite images:

Since I stayed after closing time (5:30pm) to take the spherical panoramas, the sun happened to be setting as I left. A final view of the museum and sunset:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Swim: endless pool

I don't talk much about swimming. (Last blog entry on the topic here.)

But I believe I've mentioned before that I'm an extremely poor swimmer.

Despite fit enough to ride a bike at a fitness level, e.g. be RAAM qualified (twice) or place in an unsanctioned race. And despite possessing enough endurance and stamina to complete a marathon any day of the week, I've never attempted a triathlon.

It's not because I don't want to. It's because I've never been good enough to complete the swim leg of a triathlon (never mind ironnman distance).

Basically, the puzzle is I get out of breath quickly, and I'm so slow, they'll be taking down the bike course before I get to transition 1, i.e. before I'm done with the swim leg. Obviously, I need to figure out what I'm doing wrong.

Recently, I got the unique opportunity to record my swim stroke.

I was fortunate enough recently to stay at a hotel that had two endless pools: these are short pools with an adjustable current. Since an endless pool permits swimming without actually moving, I set up my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 (discussed here earlier) next to the pool to record my stroke.

Comments? And suggestions for improvement greatly appreciated.