Earthquake?

Posted by Mark

Did anyone feel the earthquake a few moments ago? (around 3pm)

Update: Confirmed, an earthquake hit Southern Iran awhile ago with a magnitude of 6.2 [Source]


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Two things to do in Prague

Posted by Mark

There are two things I did in Prague that I would highly recommend to everyone going there.

Hit the slopes

If you have the time and you’re there in winter then I’d highly recommend you hit the slopes. The cheapest option I found was around 75 Euros per person including travel to the resort from the city and including rental gear and slope passes. But, the resort was tiny and mostly made up of fake snow. I ended up going to Špindlerův Mlýn which cost considerably more but that’s due to the the location being around 2 hours away from the city. The resort was huge and there was lots of soft powder snow since it was snowing when I was there. I went midweek so the slopes were mostly empty which meant I never had to wait in line for the ski lifts or bother navigating hoards of skiers on the way down. The slopes are not all connected together but there was a free shuttle bus service to navigate from one slope to another. The whole experience cost me around KD90 but that included snowboard gear rental, a half day pass to the slopes and a personal driver for half a day as well.

While there I would highly recommend you rent a snowmobile as well. They rent for a minimum of 1 hour and you go off alone with just a black and white map that makes absolutely no sense. I think it was around KD20 for the hour, I don’t remember but I took the snowmobile and headed all the way up to a peak. It was snowing and foggy along the way and I froze my ass off but the trip was really beautiful and scenic.

Visit the psychiatric hospital

Ok I know this sounds weird and it is but it’s really worth the experience. I went and had lunch at the Psychiatrická léčebna Bohnice cafeteria. I had read on a forum online that the staff that work there are recovering patients and that the visitors are families visiting their loved ones at the hospital. Anyway the hospital grounds is huge, like a massive university campus. The buildings all looked like they had been built in the early 1900′s with beautiful but crumbling architecture and looks of interesting looking floor tiles. The cafeteria had a style that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shinning but don’t expect the food to be anything exquisit. Actually don’t expect to really eat there, maybe just a slice of cake and a RC Cola since the menu really didn’t have much food just microwaved sausages and croissant.

Still it was a different experience and one that doesn’t cost much to try. The trip from the city to the hospital by cab was KD7 and I think I paid like 800 fils for my lunch and desert.


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A Doctor’s Rant

Posted by Mark

Below is a kinda long but interesting write up by a friend of mine currently working in the medical field. It’s related to the “Kuwait to segregate medical care” post from last week:

—————————

Its not a sprint, its a marathon

We need help. Everyone can agree that healthcare in Kuwait should be paramount. We need to have a healthcare system we can be proud of and confident in. I need to feel proud of where I work and the job I do. The recent lobby towards segregated healthcare for none emergent cases is just one more example of a quick fix for many failed and saddening endeavours that we as a profession are at least partly responsible for.

From the outset I doubt that anyone working currently in Kuwaiti healthcare is evil or bad or totally and completely corrupt. In fact, I think many of us started our careers inspired and full of promise but were met by challenges that we cannot possibly overcome. At a healthcare system level, we need to refine our goals and find our way towards something more efficient and dare I say it welcoming to people.

How many people reading this have a family doctor?

I doubt many of you do. This may be because you are perfectly healthy but it’s probably because you show up at the emergency room if you need anything because you have no confidence in your local poly clinic or mustawsif. The fact of the matter is that I wouldn’t either.

We need to re-create the family doctors as the go to guy or girl for all things non emergency and as the primary referring physician (small bruises, vaccines, high blood pressure, diabetes control, breast and colon cancer screening). This will mean two big changes. The first is that one doctor or centre will have all your medical history and that from now on you won’t show up to the emergency room unless it is an actual emergency, otherwise the emergency department will refuse to see you (this is the norm in the US, Canada and the UK NHS, it is becoming the norm in many south east asian countries gradually as well). More importantly we need to equip our poly clinics and family doctors with information and facilities such as x-ray facilities, ultrasound and turn a rundown office into an actual treatment facility. We also need to mandate a minimum amount of courses to be taken by these doctors so that they remain up to date in their fields (this should be true for all doctors in general come to think of it)

Provided you’ve got a referral or are trying to see a specialist, how many of you see them on time?

The way things are now, if you live in Mishref, you go to specialists in Mubarak, if you live near Adan then you are sent there. This means that the areas with the highest population end up with the longest waiting times. We need a structured dynamic referral system. I’m sure that there is some sort of solution I’m just not sure what it is. Perhaps if there was a regular update of which areas had the shortest waiting time were made available to family practitioners on a daily basis (via email). It may mean that patients will get their appointments earlier.

The problem is that I doubt that a person living in Jahra would be happy coming to Amiri for his echocardiogram even if it meant he or she would get it quicker. Having referrals to different hospital for different things would mean that you need to have all the patients data accessible across different hospitals in a sort of a cloud. Lets face it people, I’m more likely to see a giant flying saucer deliver free red velvet cupcakes at 360 than I am to see the ministry of health manage a cloud based patient filing system.

Having exhausted all efforts to get an early appointment you decided to go private, how many of you see a physician in his private practice after trying to get an early appointment in his government funded one?

Many of us have a conflict of interest when we are employed in private and public healthcare. I know colleagues who completely neglect their public healthcare patients and I know others who have no interest in private healthcare. Regardless, clear guidelines have to be set so that a physician working in the private healthcare field does not neglect his or her public healthcare practice. A bill requiring all doctors working in private healthcare to have 50% of their practice as public or pro bono might be the best solution but it’ll also mean that you would be the most hated minister of health in the history of Kuwait. (Maybe if we start with 30%, doctors are less likely to revolt)

Read the rest of this entry »


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Meeting the Mayor of Rotterdam

Posted by Mark

Over the holidays one of the cities I traveled to was Rotterdam and while there I was lucky enough to meet the mayor of the city Ahmed Aboutaleb. Before I left Kuwait my friend in Rotterdam told me he managed set up a meeting for me with the mayor and that we would have 30 minutes of his time followed by a private tour of City Hall. I was pretty thrilled, I hadn’t been to Rotterdam before and getting to meet the mayor on my first visit was really exciting.

We got to City Hall early because obviously we didn’t want to be late for the mayor. Once there we were given a very friendly welcome by the mayor himself and his staff who all met us outside at the entrance of his office. Once inside the mayors office we were led to the seating area where I was told to sit opposite the mayor. On the table in front of us was a little stand with three flags, a Dutch flag, the flag of Rotterdam and the Kuwaiti flag since that’s where I was coming from. Their hospitality and professionalism made me feel like I was someone very important.

We started talking about the weather first since that’s always a good ice breaker and then the conversation shifted towards the city and finally to the way the mayor runs the city. One thing I loved is the fact he checks his emails personally. Everyday he receives on average around 50 or 60 emails from Rotterdam citizens regarding various topics and he reads them all himself. Then depending on what the email is about he assigns various members of his team to follow up and sort the issues out. Rotterdam is the second largest city in Netherlands but the way he runs things hands on you would think he’s running a small town like Pawnee. I loved that.

After my 30 minutes were up I was given a parting gift by the mayor and then had a photo taken with him. I was then given a tour of City Hall before I ended up leaving for lunch. It was such a great and inspiring meeting that it made me more determined to want to be the Mayor of Salmiya one day.


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The Netherlands

Posted by Mark

I’m in Holland for the next few days so if you’re interested in following me on my trip I’ll be posting photos on my Instagram account @mark248am. No idea what I’ll be doing here since I’m kinda winging it but I know I’ll be meeting the mayor of Rotterdam today and having lunch at Parkheuvel which has 2 Michelin stars (it will be my first Michelin experience). Other than that nothing is really planned.


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Have a Great Shani Day!

Posted by Mark

Have you gotten your loved one a Shani today?


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Brunch at The Cheesecake Factory

Posted by Mark

I passed by The Cheesecake Factory at The Avenues this morning for breakfast. Every Saturday morning from 10AM to 2PM they have a special brunch menu and I was curious to try their pancakes since I had heard they were really good. I ended up ordering two dishes for myself, the Monte Cristo Sandwich and the Buttermilk Pancakes. What is the Monte Cristo? This is the description from their website:

Monte Cristo Sandwich
Crunchy French Toast Stuffed with Bacon, Grilled Ham, Scrambled Eggs and Melted Swiss Cheese Dusted with Powdered Sugar and Served with Strawberry Preserves.

The Monte Cristo was ridiculously good, probably my favorite breakfast dish right now. Their pancakes now are also easily my favorite pancakes in Kuwait. They were really fluffy and light and I had to stop myself from finishing them. Which brings me to a very important problem with this breakfast.

THE CALORIES!

If you’re a calorie counter you’re in for a treat. The Monte Cristo Sandwich is a whopping 1,618 calories while the Buttermilk Pancakes are 1,310 calories. Try to figure out a way to burn those.

Service was so so. Took me a few tries to explain to the waiter I wanted pancakes and even when I pointed at it in the menu he thought I was pointing at another dish. I also told him to bring all the food together but my Monte Cristo came first. Not major issues but still worth noting. The pancakes cost KD3 while the Monte Cristo I think was KD4.250. I highly recommend both dishes and it’s too bad they only serve them on Saturdays. Oh and of course I wish they were both just 500 calories combined instead of being nearly 3,000…


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Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Review and Giveaway

Posted by Mark

A few weeks back the local photography store AAB World provided me with the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 full frame lens to try out. My current collection of lenses that I use with my Nikon D800 are the Nikon 24mm f/2.8, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8. So at 35mm, the Sigma fit snugly between the 24mm and 50mm lens. Actually a bit too snugly because I stopped using both those lenses while I had the Sigma with me.

The first thing that caught my attention with the Sigma lens was the build quality. The lens is a lot larger than both my prime lenses and due to its all metal casing it felt more durable and a lot more solid. The reason I love prime lenses is because they’re so bright and with an open aperture of f/1.4, this Sigma lens is really bright.

I used the lens frequently during the period I had it with me and the 35mm range proved to be very versatile. The physical size of the lens didn’t bother me much and I actually found the larger lens easier to grip and balance the camera with while shooting. Nikon also have their own 35mm f/1.4 lens but costs around KD470 on Amazon. The Sigma on the other hand is selling for KD240 locally (cheaper than Amazon). That’s nearly half the price for what is basically a very similar lens. The lens is also available for Canon cameras.

If you own a full frame Canon or Nikon camera then you’re in for a treat because AAB World want to give away one of these lenses to my readers. The only requirement needed to win this lens is for you to own a full frame Nikon or Canon camera. To get a chance to win this lens just post the model of your camera in the comments below and I will randomly choose a winner tomorrow night using random.org.

Rules: Only one entry per person and please make sure you use a working email since the winner will be contacted by email. If winner doesn’t respond within 24 hours another winner will be randomly chosen. When collecting the prize you NEED to have your full frame camera with you.

If your camera isn’t one of the following you don’t qualify
Canon – 6D, 1D X, 5D Mark III, 5D Mark II, 5D, 1Ds Mk III, 1Ds Mk II, 1Ds
Nikon – D3, D3X, D3S, D4, D600, D700, D800

Update: I’ve closed the post for commenting and will be conducting the random draw this weekend.


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Review: Organica Fish & Chips

Posted by Mark

Organica Fish & Chips has been open for a couple of years now but I just got to pass by and try it today. I ordered the large fish & chips platter which included 2 pieces of fish along with chips in addition I ordered an extra side order of calamari. I went to the Salmiya branch which has a lot of seating inside but since it was a nice sunny day I decided to sit outside.

While waiting for my meal I got served lemonade which I thought was a nice thing to do. Once my fish & chips basket came I snapped a few pictures before I dug in. I thought the whole basket tasted pretty bland and between the calamari and the fish I think I preferred the calamari. The tartar sauce which I personally believe makes or breaks a meal wasn’t that great either but it did help add some much needed flavor to the meal. On a side note if you want to know what good tartar sauce tastes like go to try it at Sheraton Hotel. Finally the chips were the most disappointing part of the meal, they were undercooked and soft which was a let down.

Overall, even though the fish basket didn’t awestruck me I still think it’s a good place to pass by for a quick bite. It’s not located in a mall, there’s lots of seating, places to park and the food was above average. Price wise the large fish & chips platter goes for KD3.750 (KD2.750 for the small) while the extra calamari cost me an additional KD1.400. They have three locations around Kuwait and if you want to find out more you can visit their website [Here]


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My KitchenAid 6.9L Mixer

Posted by Mark

Just before Christmas I decided to get myself a KitchenAid mixer. Originally I wanted to get the regular 4.8L mixer similar to the one I reviewed back in 2011 but it turned out there was a new larger 6.9L KitchenAid mixer and I ended up getting that instead.

I used to think the regular KitchenAid mixer was pretty hardcore but once I saw the 6.9L version the regular one started looking pretty tame. Other than the obvious size difference the other thing that sticks out is the fact with the 6.9L KitchenAid the head doesn’t tilt. Instead, the bowl is locked into place and then lifted up towards the mixer head. Not sure what the advantage of this is but I like it better this way.

Since I got the mixer I’ve baked an apple pie, five different brownies, a cake and muffins. I could have done them all with the regular sized mixer but I realized my mixing is a lot less messier using the 6.9L mixer since with the larger bowl, whatever is inside it tends to stay inside. Also because you can raise or lower the bowl to the mixing head I tend to lower the bowl first before I stop the mixer and that way whatever is stuck on the paddle or whisk gets released into the bowl.

The 6.9L mixer has one major disadvantage over the regular 4.8L KitchenAid mixer and that is the lack of colors. While with the 4.8L mixer you have 29 different colors to choose from, with the 6.9L version you’re limited to just 5. The other more obvious downside is the price. The 6.9L mixer is more expensive than the smaller 4.8L mixer and it’s selling for KD283 here in Kuwait. Whichever you end up getting be it the 4.8L or 6.9L they’re both a lot of fun to use.

I got my KitchenAid from the dealer Mabrook in Shuwaikh but I also spotted them for sale at Williams-Sonoma. If you’re interested, here is a link to the Kuwait KitchenAid page on Facebook [Link]


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