Author Archives: mathew

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.

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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)

Quick Trip To Kerala

I made a really short trip to Kerala during the Eid holidays last week to attend to some personal matters.

I knew I had a tight schedule but while packing my cameras I figured I’d get some free time to go out alone but that didn’t happen.

Here’s some of the few photos I did take during the week I was there.

Cormorant

Boatman

Navigating

Vigil

Another thing I found out that most of the bars in Kerala have now been shutdown due to some court order and that means getting a drink with your lunch means you’d have to go to a place that’s above 4 Stars. Quite a shame really as there are many hotels in Kerala that have a nice ambiance but the alcohol bans keeps out the clients during lunch time like this place below.

Honda City 2014 – Review

City 01

A couple of weeks ago the local Honda dealer contacted me asking if I wanted to take out the new 2014 Honda City for a test drive. So I picked up the car first thing on a weekend morning and used till noon for some personal errands.

First Impression:
Now the Honda rep informed me that the new 2014 was a radical change from the previous model but I  thought it was just the usual marketing jazz. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The 2014 model looks leaner and with each iteration it’s catching up to the design cues of its bigger siblings.

City 02

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