My Etihad Airways Experience

Post by Mark

I flew Etihad Airways to Geneva via Abu Dhabi and honestly I was kinda disappointed, mostly with their airport. For some reason I had the impression that the Abu Dhabi airport was going to be huge but it wasn’t. There were a bunch of high end boutiques like Hermes and Rolex plus a decent amount of restaurants but the problem is they’re all squeezed into a very small place. The business class lounge was also pretty small with low ceilings and it filled up pretty quickly with barely any room to sit. Food was good plus they have a spa but there wasn’t much space in the lounge to chill out.

The flight from Abu Dhabi to Geneva was pretty comfortable but that’s because I hadn’t slept and it was already 9AM by then. The Etihad business class is slightly claustrophobic since it looks like it’s divided into cubicles but unlike British Airways for example, the space didn’t feel bright or big. But, my seat folded into a flatbed which is all I cared for. Service was also friendly and the bathroom had a window (I love that).

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Review: The McLaren MP4-12c

Post by Mark

A blog reader contacted me around two weeks back asking me if I wanted to review his McLaren and of course I said yes. After spending the day with it this weekend I can easily review the car with 3 words… “I want one”. Seriously I want one. I can’t afford to buy it but that doesn’t change the fact I really really want it.

There are a lot of reviews of the McLaren online and Top Gear have a great one which you can watch on YouTube. So, not wanting to come about this review in the same way I decided to look at the car differently. It’s obviously a fast super car and everyone already knows that but I was curious to how the car would perform as a daily driver in Kuwait. I would hate to spend this much on a car and then only drive it on weekends. I’d want to drive the car to work, to the gym or even to the supermarket.

First thing I looked for after getting into the car was cup holders and I ended up finding two right behind the center console. Cup holders are great for holding your drinks but they’re also more useful for storing items like your phone or sunglasses. The McLaren not only has two easy to access cup holders but there is also a 12v socket inside one of them which means you can plug in your phone charger as well. That’s practical. Another practical feature is the AC, both the driver and passenger have separate control panels which is a feature you usually find in large cars but not super cars.

The seats are also fully electric and have 3 memory positions which is convenient if the car is being shared between say a couple or family members. The sound system is naturally located in the center console and is made by the high end audio guru’s Meridian. The sound system control panel is a large touch screen that is more than double the size of the iPhone and is 100% iPhone/iPod compatible. Once you connect your iPhone or iPod to the car you can then navigate your music by touch and even view album art beautifully all on the center console screen. I think it has the best iPod integrated system I’ve seen so far. The car boot is a lot bigger than I expected. I wouldn’t take the car to IKEA if I need to get a bookcase but it’s definitely supermarket friendly.

The McLaren is very comfortable to drive. I actually found it more comfortable and forgiving on worn out roads when compared to say my old Z4. I’m also pretty tall (6’1) and I didn’t feel claustrophobic or cramped in the car neither did I have problems finding my correct seating position (the seats are incredibly adjustable). Driving the car I was actually impressed by the fact I could cruise in it at 80km/h and not feel like I should be driving it a lot faster. Of course once you step on the gas the car is breathtakingly fast but as a daily driver you want to be able to drive on regular roads at regular speeds and the McLaren does that really well. Even the car’s gas mileage is pretty good at 15mpg which is similar to my FJ Cruiser. I did find the brake peddle a bit too stiff to press but it’s something you would get used to after a few hours in the car.

The only two things that hurt the car as a daily driver is the ride height and the doors. It’s a pretty low ride since it’s a sports car which means the majority of the speed bumps you’ll need to take sideways. The second issue is the doors, they swing open upwards which means you can’t park in very tight spots. If the parking spot is tight you won’t be able to open the doors so you always need to make sure you have ample room on the sides. But again if you’ve paid this much for the car, I doubt you’re going to be squeezing it anywhere.

I love the car but then again who wouldn’t? The thing is I don’t only love it because it’s a super car, I love it because it’s a super car you can actually use every day. I wasn’t kidding when I said I want one, I do I just can’t afford the starting price of around KD70,000. But if anyone from McLaren is reading this, give me a fat discount (like 75%) and you’ve got yourself another customer.

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Movie: Battleship

Post by Mark

I watched Battleship earlier tonight at the movies and I thought it sucked. The movie was filled with every cliche you could imagine and it also felt like a Transformers movie mixed in with the movie Armageddon. Once you get near the end of the movie it goes from bad to worse with some of the most cheesiest scenes I’ve ever seen which is why I have no idea how it scored a 6.5 on IMDB (it’s too high a score).

On the bright side there isn’t anything to be cut from this movie, I don’t even recall a kissing scene so it’s Kuwait safe. Still, that shouldn’t be an excuse to go and watch it. It’s not worth it. [Movie Website]

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Hashtag Burgers

Post by Mark

There’s a new burger place called Hashtag that opened up next to Solo Pizza in Kuwait City and I got to try it out tonight. I don’t usually have burgers in the evening but since I had been eating super healthy and clear for nearly 3 weeks I kinda had a weak moment when Fahad posted about it on Instagram. Once I was done with the gym I headed to Hashtag to try it out. I was actually hoping the place would be packed since it would have given myself an excuse not to cheat and drive off but it wasn’t so I parked my car and went in and ordered a burger.

If I was to open a burger place it would be very similar to Hashtag. It’s a very tiny joint in the middle of no where with just 4 burgers on the menu (my place would probably have just one). I ordered a double Hashtag which is 2 beef patties, 2 slices of cheese, grilled onions and their special sauce. I also ordered water as my drink and no fries since I didn’t want to cheat too much.

The burger didn’t take long to make and I sat down and quickly dug in. First impression it looked messy, juicy and delicious. Taste wise it also didn’t disappoint. The bun was soft the patties very juicy and tender and the onions were grilled just the way I like them which is slightly raw. The sauce on the other hand wasn’t that great and I didn’t think it did the burger any justice. Next time I’d probably have it with just ketchup and mustard instead.

My biggest issue is that the place is fairly expensive. A double burger and a bottle of water came out to KD5.250 (4.5 for the burger, 750fils for the water). I think that’s pretty pricy for what should be a small casual burger joint. If you’re interested to try them out (you should), they’re located in Kuwait near Solo Pizza in the building behind Tatami. Here it is on Google Maps [Link]

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Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod

Post by Mark

Over the weekend I had a project I needed to shoot which would require low light shots and very low angles so I decided to pass by Alghunaim Photo and pick up a tripod. There were a few tripods too choose from but only two fit my budget. The first one I checked out was the Manfrotto 290 series with the quick release ball head. The ball head is the upper part of the tripod which connects to your camera (picture near end of post). Generally you can choose I think between 3 types of heads but I like the ball head due to it’s ease of use. Anyway the 290 was pretty stable, easy and quick to operate but my issue with it was that it wouldn’t go down low enough since 38cm from the ground was the lowest it could go. It was disappointing since price wise at KD45 including the ball head I found it really affordable (for a quality tripod that is).

The second tripod I tried was the 190XPROB. This tripod didn’t go as high as the 290 series but it could go down a lot lower to around 8cm from the ground. It was also slightly smaller and lighter but not by that much. Since I was looking for a tripod that could go very low I ended up getting this one for KD35 WITHOUT the head. The cheapest ball head would set you back another KD25 on top of that price so you’re actually paying around KD60 for this tripod which isn’t cheap specially if like me you won’t be using it that much. But it’s made in Italy and really should last a lifetime so I decided to bite the bullet and just get it. After using the tripod for my project over the weekend I actually found it a bit complicated to use. Maybe finicky is the right word here. Each one of the tripod’s leg adjusts to 4 or 5 different angles and I ended up spending a lot of time trying to get all three legs to open at the same angle. If one of the angles differs then the tripod would end up being slanted. But even though I ran into that issue I had no regrets getting it since I found it very versatile specially since I was able to lower the tripod down so much that my camera was just a couple of inches off the ground. It would really be perfect for anyone wanting to shoot ants or other insects.

If you’re interested in buying a Manfrotto tripod Alghunaim Photo is the local dealer. But, you might be better off waiting until the end of the month before passing by since they’re currently out of stock on most of the items and their new shipment arrives end of the month. Their prices are similar or cheaper than Amazon’s listed price which is amazing. If you know what you want then I guess you could pass by and reserve your tripod. When I checked they had the 190XPROB in stock but only the high end ball heads (KD60 and up).

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China Garden Review

Post by Patrick

Since Mark is back on his strict diet he asked to review a Chinese place called China Garden. I really enjoy good Chinese food but when it comes to Chinese take-out in Kuwait I’ve become quite skeptical with the options we have. I’ve tried a bunch of places and there doesn’t seem to be one that really stands out, a place that serves good Chinese food that isn’t overly greasy and that isn’t overly expensive.

China Garden is a place that has been around for a while (it’s located next to Showbiz/Holiday Inn), but was purchased by two Kuwaiti restaurateurs, revamped and reopened around a week ago. There are a few things that make China Garden stand out from their competitors. First off, they’re “Green”, meaning they’ve gotten rid of all their styrofoam boxes, got rid of the majority of plastics and aluminum and replaced them with paper take out boxes that are made here in Kuwait. Their plastic bags have been replaced with fully recycled and biodegradable brown paper while they ditched their plastic eating utensils and replaced them with sustainable bamboo forks and knives. Even their menu’s are made from recycled material.

When I usually order Chinese take-out I like to place an order for an appetizer, a chicken dish, a beef dish, and some noodles. I typically finish all the food on my own so when it came time to ordering from China Garden I decided to go with Sweet Corn Chicken Soup, Shrimp Spring Rolls, Orange Chicken, Beef Black Pepper, Mixed Noodles and Nutella Wontons for dessert (who can say no to anything Nutella?). The first thing that struck me once the food arrived is that there is no way I could eat all this food by myself. Their quantities are pretty big and the food I ordered could have easily fed two or three people and definitely not just one person. I basically had a lot of food leftover for dinner.

The food was generally pretty good and I did’t have any complaints. The soup wasn’t too watery and wasn’t too sweet with a good mix of chicken and corn. The Shrimp Spring Rolls were 6 decent sized pieces and they were nice and crunchy. The Orange Chicken was the most impressive, the dish is sweet and spicy and cames mixed with orange peels, chili peppers, ginger and chicken. It looked really appetizing. My “safe” dish that I always order is Beef Black Pepper because it’s really difficult to screw up a simple dish like this. China Garden’s Beef Black Pepper was pretty juicy, the beef wasn’t overly cooked and it wasn’t too saucy. My only complaint is that there were way too many large pieces of onions, something which they can easily fix (and should do so). The Mixed Noodles were the last things I ate and I found them neither bland or greasy and actually hit the spot quite nicely. Finally the Nutella Wontons were the perfect way to end the meal, the moment you bite down on the crunchy wonton you’ll be welcomed with the taste of delicious Nutella, not to the point where it feels like you’re drowning in chocolate, but enough to satisfy your Nutella urges.

The total for my meal was KD10.700 which seems like a lot for one person but like I previously said this meal could easily feed two or three people (if not more) and if I had two other friends over, it’d come out to around KD3 per person, which seems like a really reasonable price to pay for the quality of food you’re getting. I would definitely order again from China Garden, they have a decent sized menu with a lot of choices, not to the point where you feel overwhelmed but enough where they can satisfy everyone’s needs.

They’re open Saturday to Wednesday from 12PM to 12AM and Thursdays and Fridays from 2PM to 2AM. To order you can call them on 25720010 or 25720070. They’re also available on 6alabat.

Posted by Patrick.

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Elago Slim Stylus for the iPad

Post by Mark

If you own an iPad you’ve most probably already downloaded Draw Something or Paper by FiftyThree. If you haven’t all you need to know is that they are two very popular apps right now that involve drawing. The regular way to draw on the iPad is using your fingertips but you can also use a stylus for a more natural feel.

I searched Xcite, Office Depot and Blink and ended up going for the Elago Slim Stylus from Blink. I thought from all the models I checked, the Elago stylus looked like something Apple would have designed themselves. The stylus weighs enough to feel comfortable and is made of metal but has a rubber tip. It also comes with an extra rubber tip in case you damage one for some reason.

Drawing with a stylus is a lot easier than drawing with a finger obviously. I won’t show you how my drawings improved using the stylus because I can’t draw for shit with or without the stylus. But it really does make a difference and if you’re having difficulty drawing properly with your fingers or if you’re serious about illustrating on the iPad then getting a stylus is a must. Their prices range from around KD3 and upwards. The stylus I got cost me KD7.250 which is very reasonable and just KD2 more expensive than amazon. It’s definitely worth getting a stylus.

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En Mexico – Mexican Cuisine

Post by Mark

Tonight I passed by the new Mexican restaurant in Jabriya called En Mexico. It’s a new place that has been open for around a month now. A friend of mine on twitter had recommended the place so I decided to see if it was any good.

The place is small, cozy and located right across the street from Champions Gym and only around 50 meters from Early Bird. When we arrived there was only one other table occupied and so we were able to quickly sit down and check out the menu. I already knew what main courses I was going to have based on my friends recommendation which was the grilled chicken burrito and the braised beef brisket tacos. I also orders chips and guacamole and the jicama and mango salad.

The salad came first and I didn’t think much of it. It’s made up of sliced jicama (which is a sweet vegetable) and sliced mango. Problem is neither the jicama nor the mango were sweet so the salad felt a bit dull. The chips and guacamole followed soon after and I thought the chips were great but kinda regretted not ordering the regular salsa instead of the guacamole dip. So far I wasn’t too impressed but I was hoping things would change with the main course and luckily things did.

Both the chicken burrito and the beef tacos arrived at the same time. I ordered both of the dishes without any bell peppers but didn’t change anything else. The first thing I started eating was the chicken burrito which was pretty good although I wished it had a bit of spice. Later I found out that they were serving it spicy but customers were complaining it was too spicy. They’re still fine tuning the dishes so by the time you try it the spice level should have been adjusted. Now the star of the night was the beef tacos and that’s the dish I’d go back for. One bite into the taco and I knew this was it. The flavors just burst into my mouth and it completely turned the dinner around. The taco is soft which makes it easy to eat and I really loved everything about it. Once we were done I wanted to order the churros with chocolate sauce for dessert but turns out they needed 20 minutes to serve so I decided to pass on it.

En Mexico is currently still in a soft launch but I already have a favorite dish there. Next time around I would probably start off with the chips and salsa, I’ll skip the salad and order two side dishes instead, the Elote which is a mexican style grilled corn on the cob and the jalapeño corn bread with honey butter. For the main course I’ll definitely stick with the beef tacos but next time will make sure to order the dessert as soon as the main course is served.

While I was leaving in my car after dinner I nearly ran over the owner while reversing which was a funny incident. He’s a cool young Kuwaiti guy who’s running the place at night while having a regular day job during the day. I told him I’d be back again which I will. They’re currently only open in the evenings and they’re easy to find as long as you can get to Champions Gym. You can check out their menu by clicking the links below:

En Mexico Starters, Mains and Desserts
En Mexico Salad and Sides

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Datacolor Spyder4Pro Review

Post by Mark

Alghunaim Photo contacted me last week asking me if I’d be interested in reviewing the Spyder4Pro monitor color calibration tool. Since I’ve always wanted to try one of those tools I passed by and picked it up and then spent the weekend playing around with it.

Every monitor displays colors differently and my 27″ iMac never really felt very accurate when compared to other screens around the house. Even though there is an option built into the Mac system to calibrate the color, it involves a lot of eye squinting and results in a final calibration that I don’t trust. The Spyder takes away all the decision making from me, kinda like a little robot with a focus on keeping the colors on my screen calibrated.

First thing you need to do is install the Spyder software and connect the Sypder to a free USB port on your computer. When you run the software the first test it performs is to measure the ambient light in your room using the light sensor on the Spyder. Once it’s done measuring the light the software then asks you to hang the Spyder on top of the illustrated Spyder on the screen. The Spyder software then proceeds to perform a bunch of tests displaying various colors on the screen while the Spyder measures the results. After a few minutes the test is completed and you’re given an option to either save the new settings or go back to your previous one. You can also compare the new settings with the old one and they even provide you with a variety of pictures to use for comparison.

The best way to perform the before and after comparison is turn away from the screen while changing from one setting to the other. By flipping between the before and after I realized that before the Syder calibration my iMac screen colors were a very cool tone (cool = more towards the blue). After the calibration the colors are more balanced and even the screen brightness which was absurdly bright before is in a much more natural state after the calibration.

All is not good though since I do have a few quibbles here and there but they’re mostly the fault of Datacolor the company and not the Spyder product. My biggest issue is with the documentation or should I say lack of it. The manual doesn’t really tell you about any of the features of the Spyer and it’s also out dated. According to the manual the way to hang the Spyder onto the screen during the tests is with the help of the supplied rubber bands. But the model I got didn’t have any rubber bands and used a simpler newer method using a movable counter weight on the cable. Because of the lack of documentation there’s one feature that’s still confusing me. When connected to your computer the Spyder continuously measures the ambient room light and informs you with a a red icon if the light is different from when calibrated. What’s confusing me is what to do when the ambient light doesn’t match the one the test was performed with? Do I calibrate the display with different ambient light? Do I perform a test during the day and a test during the night? Do I switch between the different color settings myself? I have no idea what to do and the Datacolor website doesn’t even have the latest manuals uploaded yet alone answers to my questions. If you actually do end up purchasing the Spyder I would actually recommend you visit the product page on Amazon where one reviewer has a step by step guide on how to set everything up. That’s how poor the product’s documentation is.

But, even with the poor documentation I’ve still decided I’m going to purchase the Spyder4pro. The thing is it works and it works really well. Within just a few minutes after setting up to your computer you’ll start seeing results and the difference in some cases can be dramatic. It’s really something every serious photographer should have and also anyone doing any sort of design work. I highly recommend it.

Usually at the end of a review I’d proceed to place links to Amazon but in this case Alghunaim actually sells the Syper for prices slightly less than Amazon. He has three models in the store priced as following:

Spyder4expree KD38
Spyder4pro KD45
Spyder4elite KD65

The three Spyders are similar but each offers additional features than the other model. To see which one is suitable for you check out the chart [Here]

I’m going with the Spyder4Pro because it has the ambient light sensor which is missing from the Spyder4express and I also don’t really need any of the extra features from the Spyder4elite.

Alghunaim Photo is located in Baitak Tower in Kuwait City. Here my my previous post about them [Link]

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Panasonic GX1 Review

Post by Mark

The original Panasonic GF1 is easily one of the most enjoyable cameras I’ve ever used. I got it two years ago and it quickly replaced both my Canon G11 and Nikon D90 DSLR. Size wise it was slightly larger than the Canon G11 but the quality of the shots easily matched that of the Nikon D90. The camera was very well built and had a fantastic and bright 20mm f/1.7 lens and really my only issue with the camera was that the image got fairly noisy once it hit ISO 800 and above. The new GX1 is the GF1 replacement and it’s better than the GF1 in practically every way. I’ve been using it for sometime now so here’s what I think of it so far. This isn’t a comprehensive review, you can find those reviews online, this is just a review of the things I liked.

What I like about the GF1 and GX1 is the size since they’re small enough to fit into a jacket pocket and light enough to sling over my shoulder without noticing the weight. The reason I always stuck with the 20mm lens and never got a more practical zoom lens is because of the size. The 20mm lens is very compact while all the zoom lenses were pretty big and so added bulk to the camera and made it less pocket-able. But, with the launch of the GX1, Panasonic introduced a new series of lenses called X Lenses. These lenses have powered zooms and are a lot more compact than their regular lenses (Here is a comparison picture). How compact? Well the 14-42mm lens is now exactly the same size as the 20mm lens when closed. It’s super compact!

There are a few changes in the over look and feel between the GF1 and GX1. The GX1 is slightly smaller but now has a larger rubber grip on the front which makes holding the camera a lot more comfortable. The buttons have been shuffled around slightly in the back and they’re now made of metal instead of rubber. The rear screen was also replaced with a touch screen which I thought I would hate but I actually like a lot. The main reason I like it is because it makes focusing faster. I like to shoot with the “rule of thirds” so I can now frame my subject anywhere on the screen and then tap where I want it to focus. The touch screen also makes it easy to change various options and settings. Actually that’s one of the best things in this camera, the ability to change various options and settings without having to go into the camera menu. The camera has two customizable physical buttons on the rear and two more buttons on the screen which I can customize and if that’s not enough I also have a “Quick Menu” which I can access with a click on the rear screen which also pops up a bunch of other buttons which I can also customize.

ISO performance is a lot better compared to the GF1 and noise isn’t noticeable until you pass ISO 1600. The camera focuses much quicker as well not that it was slow before. Really everything about the camera is either slightly improved or better than the GF1 which I thought would be impossible to do. The only thing I’ve noticed that is actually worse is the battery life but that’s probably because the X Lens consumes more power than the regular lenses.

When the original GF1 came out it really didn’t have much competition other than the Olympus PEN series but now things are completely different with Fuji, Sony and Canon all coming into the picture with their own variations of the same idea. The only other cameras I was considering were the Sony NEX-7 and the new Fuji X-Pro 1. The NEX-7 is a great camera but Sony doesn’t have that many great lenses and they’re all really big which makes the camera not very portable. The X-Pro 1 is also a really great camera with really good lenses but the size and price put me off as well. In the end I don’t have any regrets and I would highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for a great carry every compact camera.

I got mine from Amazon and they have three different kits:
Panasonic GX1 Body Only $699
Panasonic GX1 with the 14-42mm Lens $799
Panasonic GX1 with the 14-42mm X Series Lens $950

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