A Visit to Kuwait Dino Park

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A couple of weeks ago I took the kids to the Dino Park Exhibition that had been operating in Mishref since March. The exhibit was in an open area behind Hall 6 in Mishref International Fairgrounds. The main attraction was about a dozen or so animatronic Dinosaur puppets that had some basic movement and sound effects.

I grew tired of it after a while but the kids had a great time and after we had seen all the dinosaurs in action they had some fun on the amusement rides at the venue. If the park is still open I’d suggest you take your young children there as they’ll get a kick out of it.

The ticket prices were advertised as 4KD but when we visited it was 2.5 KD per person and children below 3 went in free. I was also trying out a new lens and took some strategically angled photos there to avoid the cluttered background but some of them needed some photoshop manipulation as well.

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Mais Alghanim – Lebanese Cuisine

Mais AlGhanim

I’m surprised there hasn’t been any blog reviews for Mais Alghanim in all these years. Maybe because the place has been there for a long time and almost everyone I know has been there. Everyone except me, that is. In all my years in Kuwait I’ve actually never dined there and it has always been takeout orders, whether at the office or at client meetings.

Sheesha Pipe

Last week a few friends and I went there to celebrate a recent event and we had a good time there and some of them enjoyed the items I suggested so I thought I’d post them here. This isn’t a full review of the place but rather a list of stuff I always order from there. I wish I were a little more adventurous and order the Kibbeh Nayyeh but maybe next time.

Olives

Pan Fried Chicken Liver in Pomegranate Molasses

For starters we ordered the Hummous Beiruty, Assorted pastries platter and Fried Chicken Livers in Pomegranate Syrup. The last one is a personal favorite of mine and I’d decided on that even before we reached the venue. A few of my friends loved it too. For drinks we had some mint lemonades, colas and our old friend, the Saudi Champagne, that I wrote about a few years ago.

Saudi Champagne

The restaurant seems to be very smoker friendly and most of the tables around us had men and women lighting up and we ordered a bunch of Sheeshas for ourselves. I don’t smoke generally but I did enjoy puffing occasionally on the apple flavored sheesha.

The main course consisted of several orders of Mais Alghanim Grill platters that consisted of Shish Tawouk, Kababs, Tikkas, slices of Kentakli bread and French Fries and their Charcoal Grilled Chicken.

Grilled Chicken

Grilled Meat Platter

We ended the night with assorted desserts for everyone but I convinced a few friends to order the Um Ali which is one of my favorite Arabic desserts. For all the pictures you can click on the album link [here]

Um Ali

Mais AlGhanim is located on Gulf Road, opposite the Kuwait Towers and they have a location in Mahboula as well. Locations and maps [here] and the full menu is [here]

Senseless Killing of Wild Birds

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In a previous post I’d mentioned how my friends would go out into the desert to shoot the local wildlife and migratory birds. During the last couple of outings they had also come across instances where birds where shot with shotguns and other live ammunition and left there to die in the desert.

It’s a shame that people get a kick out of shooting these rare birds for fun then and leave them to die. A few months back there was even a news report of a crane shot on Gulf road, which is not only a danger to the birds itself but to passersby on the street.

As you can see from the pictures below, the desert habitats of these local and migratory birds are something that needs to be cherished and maintained in pristine condition. All photos taken by my friend Manoj Olikara.

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Now’s a Good Time For Comic Lovers

Dark Knight

The past year has been quite interesting for comic book lovers of both DC and Marvel camps. There has been quite an explosion of new shows and each one keeps getting better than the previous one! I used to consider the series; Gotham as my favorite of the bunch but today after watching the first episode of Daredevil I’ve changed my mind. I can’t wait to see the next episode of Daredevil!

I’ve compiled the list of popular comic book based/inspired TV shows below;

Daredevil [link]
“Matt Murdock was blinded as a boy in a tragic accident. An accident that also gave him extraordinary senses. Practicing as an attorney in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City by day, he fights as a masked vigilante at night.”

Gotham [link]
“Explores the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon.  He is still a detective but he has yet to meet Batman and the villains who made Gotham City so famous.”

The Flash [link]
The Flash is the story of Barry Allen, a police scientist who is the victim of a freak accident. While working late, his lab is hit by lightning. The blast shatters a number of vials, so Barry is both electrocuted and bathed in dozens of chemicals. When he recovers, Barry finds that he has gained the ability to move at almost impossible speed.”

Arrow [link]
Arrow is a modern retelling of the DC Comic character Green Arrow. Multi-millionaire playboy Oliver Queen is missing, and presumed dead after a shipwreck at sea. He is found five years later, having survived on a desert island off his wits and by mastering the bow and arrow. When he returns to Starling City however, he discovers that it is rife with corruption and crime. Oliver decides to put his skills to use by taking on the persona of Arrow and becoming the vigilante that Starling City needs.”

Agent Carter [link]
“In 1946, Agent Peggy Carter is grounded after World War II, stuck in administrative work at the Strategic Scientific Reserve. However, industrialist Howard Stark asks for Peggy’s help clearing his name when his weapons are used to spread death and destruction”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D [link]
“Based on Marvel’s fictional government organization, S.H.I.E.L.D.  It shows that not all heroes have to be super. Agent Phil Coulson (The Avengers) recruits a new team to go into the field and handle any cases involving the strange and the bizarre.”
Dark Knight at Burj Jassim

2015 Honda CRV Review

CRV 2015

As a long time automobile enthusiast I’ve often looked at global auto trends and compared them with the local market here in Kuwait. The most glaring difference is in the area of best sellers in both sedan and Crossover categories. One of these is the Honda CRV. Honda has three SUVs in their  portfolio starting with the MRV, the CRV and the HRV and I’ve seen all three vehicles even in Dubai but in Kuwait they don’t appear on the roads as much.

Last week I got an email from my contact at Honda asking if I’d like to take out the 2015 CRV for a spin. It was a great coincidence as one of my colleagues was looking to trade in his 2007 CRV and get the new one. I spent a weekend with the car and here’s my review on it but with a little difference this time.

Up until now I’ve only reviewed the sedans from Honda and this is the first Crossover I’ve received to review. I’m a married man and father of two kids and we’re a single car household so a crossover makes pretty good sense for a family man. I’ve had my own Outlander for 7 years now and it’s perfect for my kind of use.

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Whats new in the 2015 CRV?
Externally the CRV has undergone changes to the front that brings it more in line with its Honda siblings. The front grill and the headlights have styling elements that’s common in the Honda lineup. The new front is an improvement I must say, I didn’t like previous generation CRV that looked like it was missing something in the front bumper. The rear though is a love it or hate it affair and I’m not a big fan of the bulbous look. It may be functional in terms of increasing load area but looks-wise its not for me.

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Exploring the Wild

It’s been a while since I’d joined a group on a photo-shoot, so in January when some friends were out exploring the ‘wilderness’ in Kuwait I tagged along. Apparently there are a lot of bird species in places like Wafra and Abdali and several other places like the nature reserve. The group I was with, Q8Clicks, has a bunch of avid birders and they manage to get some great shots of birds on most outings.

Here’s some from my trip with them.

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Herd

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Close encounter

Camel herder

At the peak

Sunrise

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Low angle

One word of advise though, if you’re gonna spend time in the desert, be sure to clean up after yourself. It’s disgusting to see the amount of garbage left behind by campers and visitors.

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Taking Care of Vintage Toys

Old toys

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days at my home in Trivandrum and while I was there I was rummaging through my old stuff which has been gathering dust for about a decade or more since I’ve not lived there after 2000.

Thundercat toys

One of my most prized possessions which I’ve managed to hang onto till now are my toys from the 80s and 90s. My parents were pretty liberal when it came to buying us toys and my brother and I had so many toys that it could have bought a decent piece of real estate in my dad’s village (in the exact words of my father and he likes to use this comparison more often than not).

Prince Adam

Now considering the age of these items and the amount of stress they’ve been through I’m actually surprised they made it this far. Check out the stamp on Lion-O’s foot; 19-fricking-85! That’s 30 years old!

LJN toys from 1985!

Most toys and action figure are made from or a combination of; PVC, ABS, Polystyrene, Vinyl, rubber and glass. They all age/deteriorate differently and unless you take really good care of them your toys will develop cracks, break off at joints or accumulate grime and dirt. Here are some links to help you take care of them and preserve them for as long as possible.

Cleaning and restoring [link]
Tips on caring for old toys [link]

I’ve also linked to some online resources for Thundercats and G.I Joe’s that will help you identify your old toys and categorize them. You can find more pictures on my Flickr album [here]

Thundercats.org [link]
Action Figure Archive LJN [link]
Yo Joe Figures [link]
Yo Joe Vehicles [link]

G.I Joe Lineup

GI Joe vehicles and weapons

Cobra Vehicles and weaposns

GI Joe team ready for action

Cobra team ready for action

Old Batman toys

Interstellar – Must see in IMAX

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After months of waiting I finally watched Interstellar on IMAX a couple of nights ago. Without giving away any spoilers of the movie I can say that it was a moving experience. Moving, not because of the script or the acting, actually I cared more for the concepts visualized than the script. I’ve been reading about space travel and interstellar travel for a long time but have never seen a movie that actually went to such great lengths to show this on the big screen.

If you’ve read the book ‘A brief history of time‘ by Stephen Hawking you’d have heard about some of the assumptions of worm holes and bending the space-time continuum.  In my previous post on Gravity I’d said that after 2001 Space Odyssey there were very few good space movies and now this is my second best movie after 2001.

I’m going to watch 2001 again this weekend and considering that a movie made in 1968 is on par with a movie made almost 50 years later shows how great a collaboration between Astrophysicists /scientists/thinkers like Carl Sagan and  and movie makers can be. Christopher Nolan consulted Kip Thorne for the movie and it was as close to real science as possible.

If you haven’t watched the movie ‘Contact‘ you might wanna see it if you’re into this genre of film. That too was a great movie concept wise but it wasn’t popular back in the day. The series ‘Cosmos’ is also highly recommended.

This post has probably turned into a ramble about Sci-fi but coming back to the main subject;  watch Interstellar on IMAX NOW! The only negative things I have to say about the movie are; running time is almost 3 hours long and unless you’re a geek you may find it dragging. Since its in an IMAX theater the sound is great but at certain points the bass is so powerful that the dialogues kinda get drowned out.

Best 4 KD that I spent on a movie this year!

Cinescape [link]

2015 Honda Accord – 3.5 Sport

Accord Badge

I was pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks ago when AlGhanim Honda asked me if I’d be interested in test driving the 2015 Honda Accord. I was even more surprised when I was handed the keys to see that I got the top of the line 3.5 v6 Sport model for the whole weekend!

Accord Front Offset

OK, now I’m going to deviate a bit from my regular style of reviewing since this is a special car. I usually get family sedans for testing and they’re almost always focused on utility and small features that makes life easier for the driver. I’m not going to do that all, instead this post is going to be about how happy this car makes you feel.

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Synology Disk Station DS212+ Quick Look

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The last few months I’d suffered a significant amount of data loss during to failing disks and the last straw was a recent failure where I lost some personal files and home videos which I had failed to backup. Since I was already planning to invest in a NAS I quickly did a comparison of the available options for the Home and Small Office segment and made my decision.

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I picked up the Synology DS212+ from Cameo‘s brick and mortar shop in Salmiya. They also have an online shop but I was facing some issues placing the order online so I went there personally to get the items. I’m lucky I did coz the guy at the shop gave me a decent discount for the items, something which I wouldn’t have got if I’d ordered online. I filled the bays with WD RED 4TB drives which are Enterprise Edition drives and meant to run 24/7. I also configured the drives in RAID 1 so that I’d have redundancy and less headache if one of the drives fails.

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Whats in the box
The box contains everything (except the tools) you need to install the drives and connect it to your home network. NAS Chassis, two drive trays, screws for 3.5 and 2.5 inch HDDs, Cat 5 cable, power adapter and installation CD.

Installation and Setup
Attaching the drives to the trays was done in a couple of minutes and the drives easily slide into the chassis and click into place. The drives are hot swappable and you only need to remove the front panel to quickly access the trays. I hooked it up to the network and installed the utility that detects the NAS on my network. Once I had access to it I downloaded the latest version of the DSM OS and formatted and configured the drives. If you’re using a media streaming device like an XBMC, WD Live or Apple TV it would be a good idea to give it a static IP. I had created network shares for certain folders so I needed a static IP anyway.

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The good thing I noted about the DSM was the non-intimidating GUI and the menus. I don’t have much experience with setting up storage boxes but with the DSM OS I was able to configure things very easily. The OS also supports many widgets that lets you use the box like Media server, FTP server, Mail server etc.

Home Media Server and Backup
I’ve had the DS 212+ for a couple of weeks now and primarily use the NAS to backup my personal files and media. Since I have a WD Live connected to the network I can easily stream music, videos and photos to the main TV in the living room. The specs on the DS 212+ are enough to handle streaming media to multiple devices but I did face some issues with 1080i BluRay videos. The NAS has a Gigabit network card but my router and switches are all 10/100 so I believe there lies the bottleneck. I might upgrade the network components at a later date.

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Final Thoughts
I previously was working with multiple drives and my old media server was just acting in JBOD mode but now with the NAS I don’t have the worry of scattered drives and data loss. If you’re in the market for a storage device I’d recommend you take a look at the models from Synology as they’ve got systems to suit all budgets.

Online reviews from Xbit Labs , Bit Tech and PC World

Synology DS212+ video review [link]