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.

2015 Honda CRV 09

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.

2015 Honda CRV 03

The CRV now gets LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) and also a key-less entry and push button start. The version I drove has a nice metallic paint job and stylish alloys with black and sliver accents which looked good.

2015 Honda CRV 02

Inside, the changes are noticeable both for front and rear passengers. The gearshift is still in the same position but the rest of the dashboard now has a more ergonomic feeling. The multitude of buttons on the previous CRV is no longer there and you get two LCD screens that provide information on Trip details, Fuel consumption, Audio & Bluetooth settings and rear & side cameras.

2015 Honda CRV 12
2015 Honda CRV 08

The rear passengers get a wide seat that can accommodate three or ,in my case, two baby seats (only one is pictured here as I only took out one from my car). Rear passengers also get an A/C vent which is a welcome addition for this region.

Mechanically, the CRV has a new 2.4 L ‘Earth Dreams’ direct injection engine. The power output is still the same (185 HP) but now delivers torque a little earlier in the rev range. Like previous CRVs this one is primarily front-wheel driven with the rear wheels engaging once a 1.5% difference in torque between the front and rear wheels is sensed through the dual-pump Real Time AWD system. There’s no manual override or controls to change this and you’ll have to depend on the car deliver all wheel drive. The biggest change has to be the CVT transmission in the 2015 CRV and like all other CVTs this one too is smooth and gives a seamless driving experience through the gears.

Practicality

2015 Honda CRV 04
This is going to be the focus of my review as a long-time owner of a Crossover I’ve come to appreciate the functionality and driving experience of this vehicle category.

Ease of Entry & Exit and Seating position:
The CRV’s doors have a wide opening hinge thats close to 90 degrees and this offers an easy entry in to the car for both front and rear passengers. Its even more easier to put your child into the baby seat and ladies can make a dignified exit without having to wiggle and climb their way out. The driver’s seat offers a high level view of the road but at the same time its not too high that you get the feeling you’re driving a truck.

2015 Honda CRV 06

2015 Honda CRV 05
The rear seats have a 60/40 split which makes loading long furniture or cargo easy to manage. The CRV has a lever in the cargo area that allows you to flip the seats down when you want to increase luggage space. There’s enough space in the rear seat to accommodate two baby seats and a ‘thin’ passenger with ease. Leg room is good for those under 6 feet and thigh support was good too. Storage space in the door pockets was adequate for a small water bottle and a magazine.

2015 Honda CRV 07

Controls and Driver Aids:
The steering is leather wrapped and has enough power assistance to make parking easy. Some might feel its a little ‘over-servo-ed’ but I can’t complain since it made parallel parking very easy for me while turning with one hand. The wheel has controls for the Audio system, Bluetooth calls, LCD information display and Cruise Control. There are two USD ports in the center armrest console and an HDMI interface like the one we saw earlier in the Honda City.

2015 Honda CRV 10

The LCDs were both bright and easy to view during daytime. The CRV version I drove also featured the Honda Lane View camera on the right side and I’m beginning to really like this feature. I’ve often had people overtake me from the right and cut across me into the left lane. This camera makes it easier for me watch out for maniacs.

There’s a large glove-box in the dash but personally I’d like to have some more additional space in front for other items that I sometimes have to carry in the car like my GPS, camera and small electronics. I like the sunglasses holder in the front and it has a convex mirror that allows you to keep an eye on backseat passengers. This is a great feature as sometimes my two kids fight in the backseat and I have no way of turning around during traffic. This mirror gives an excellent view to the entire backseat.

2015 Honda CRV 01

Driving and Stability:
The CRV has a taut suspension setup and there’s not much body roll when you’re taking a sharp corner or U-turn. The car pulls cleanly off the line and acceleration is quite smooth. I do miss the option of a manual gear selector but it kicks down a notch quickly when you step on the throttle. The AWD is full-time and kicks in when it detects the front wheels are slipping. There’s a switch to turn off the Traction Control but its best to leave it switched on.

2015 Honda CRV 11

I didn’t take the car off-road but to get to my regular shooting place I had to drive through some sandy areas and the CRV did well to get through the sand mounds. It also has enough ground clearance to get you through rough areas.

Now comes the summary of what I liked and didn’t like about the 2015 CRV.

What I liked:

  • The fit and finish is first class and you get a combination of light plastics, soft touch materials and faux wood veneers in the interiors.
  • Driving comfort is excellent and you’re cocooned inside with minimal road & wind noise.
  • Lane view assist and reverse cameras are clear, bright and makes it a breeze to drive.
  • Seat flip down levers in the luggage compartment.
  • Rear view mirror for the backseat passengers

What I disliked:

  • The parking brake pedal is right above the dead pedal on the left and my shin kept hitting it from time to time.
  • I was surprised that there was no navigation in the top version that I drove.
  • There was not enough storage in the front dash and I wished for a second compartment.
  • Its difficult to see the buttons on the LCD screen bezel

Overall conclusion:
If you’ve got a family with two small kids then this CRV makes perfect sense to own.Your wife and kids will love the comfort and space inside and you’ll enjoy long drives on the weekends.

The 2015 Honda CRV starts at KWD 7,300 and the version featured in this review was KWD 8,600.
Contact your local Honda dealer for more details;
Showroom:
Al Rai Safat Alghanim Mall, Al Rai, 4th Ring Road,
P O Box:6474, Zip:70458 Shuwaikh

Shuwaikh showroom – opposite to Classical Car Museum

Phone number: 1822777

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.

Tall grass 01

Tall grass 02

Tall grass 03

Herd

Profile

Close encounter

Camel herder

At the peak

Sunrise

Tele

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.

DSC_6020 DSC_6021 DSC_6019

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

Interstellar Poster

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.

Continue reading

Synology Disk Station DS212+ Quick Look

DS21201

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.

DS21200

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.

 DS21202

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.

DS21203

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.

DS21205

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]

Kuwaiti Trail Mix

Kuwaiti Trailmix

A friend of mine recently started a blog that covers a few of his passions, Bollywood, Movies and Idie music, to name a few. During a chat with him about the blog he mentioned that he wanted to dive into the expatriate subcultures in Kuwait and cover as much as possible about the various foreign communities in Kuwait.

He’s also a movie buff as I soon discovered and has an in-depth knowledge of Bollywood movies and stars. His blog posts will cover movie reviews, filmi updates and also cover Indie music.  Head on over to Kuwaiti Trail Mix and subscribe to the blog feed.

Passion for Pizza

01

I love a good pizza, especially if its baked in a proper oven since it gives the crust a very unique texture. A friend of mine, Nasser Al Sulaihim, is so passionate about the art of pizza making that recently he actually made his own pizza oven. The oven is similar to the one I’d posted about in my Pizza Connection post but while that one was flown in from Italy, Nasser made his own oven himself!

Oven making

I’ve made a collage of the oven in its various stages of design and production and its really impressive. He’s a really talented guy and you can follow him on Instagram to see how good he is at building stuff.

11

Cox and Kings Global Services – Kuwait

CKGS01

Yesterday a family member needed to renew their passport so we went to the newly opened Cox and Kings Global Services office in Sharq to submit an application. The visa and passport services of the Indian Embassy have been moved from BLS International to Cox and Kings.

The good thing about the move is that they’re now in 3 locations in Kuwait so that makes it easier for those living in the suburbs. We went to the branch in Behbehani Complex in Sharq and got our work done in less than 15 minutes.

CKGS03

They’ve got a whole bunch of value added services [link] including passport delivery which I think is quite convenient if you don’t have the time to go there or work in a double shift job. There are 6 counters to submit your applications and a mini snack counter that also serves coffee.

Here are the locations; Sharq, Fahaheel and Jleeb Al Shuyoukh (for some reason many Indians refer to Jleeb Al Shuyoukh as Shuwaikh)