Super 8

Posted by Mark

I watched the movie Super 8 tonight here in Lebanon and all I can say is that it kicked ass. If you’re a fan of 70s/80s sci-fi/adventure movies then you’re going to love this. I thought it was a combination of three great classics, ET, The Goonies and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I loved it.

There was no nudity, kissing or anything of the sort so it should be censor free in Kuwait.

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John West Seared Tuna Fillets

Posted by Mark

I’ve been getting really bored of regular tuna and so when I found this John West packet at Sultan Center it looked like an interesting alternative. I checked the back label and it said I could heat it up in the microwave and it was just 156 calories. I bought a packet to try it out and it turned out to be actually pretty good. You just open the packet, empty the tuna onto a plate and microwave it for 30 seconds.

It looks extremely unappetizing but it actually tasted much better than regular tuna. Wouldn’t mind having a few packets at home for those late night cravings. The biggest issue though is price, 1 packet costs KD1.750 for the “Sweet Thai Red Chilli” although they did have different flavored ones for around 500fils cheaper.

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The Mada WiMAX Review

Posted by Mark

On Thursday two engineers from Mada came over and handed me a router so I could review and after using it over the weekend here are my findings. I’ll start the post with the speedtest results since I know that’s what everyone has been waiting for. I used for the testing and although I was originally planning to test using the servers in London, New York and LA, I ended up running into issues with the New York and LA server and so decided to add two more locations which are New Jersey and San Francisco.

I don’t know why the NY and LA servers were giving me such terrible numbers but I think it had to do more with the server than my connection since the connection worked perfectly again with their neighboring cities. The location of the WiMAX router does effect the speed of your connection. For example I live in Salmiya block 9 and according to a Mada engineer, Salmiya is one of their most focused areas so the speeds I’m getting are probably the fastest you can get. When I tried the Mada router at my office in Kuwait City, I was getting on average around 2.8Mbps tops. The engineer told me it had to do with the location (Kuwait City), the fact my office is on the 21st floor (connection starts dropping after the 15th) and the fact the windows were double glazed (bounces signals). A reader called Kevin tried Mada in Mangaf block 1 and his download speed was around 6.5Mbps. So location does make a big difference on the speed. I don’t play many games online but my brother who lives next door and leeches my connection does. He spent the weekend playing on his Xbox online and according to him he didn’t notice any difference going from DSL to WiMAX.

Setting up and connecting the router was a very simple process. You just plug in the power cord, wait a minute and that’s it. You can then either connect to the router via one of the two ethernet ports on the device or by wifi. I did face a minor problem when I wanted to log into the device so I could change the wifi password as well as setup other options. Underneath the device you have two sets of login information. One is supposed to be the default wifi password the other I assumed to connect to the device to change the settings but it wouldn’t work. It was around 11PM and I wasn’t sure if there would be anyone at Mada support to help but I called them up and someone answered right away and gave me the default username and password which was just “user”. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to go through a dozen menus on the phone just to get to someone from support and I liked the fact that I didn’t have to wait on hold either. This probably has to do with the fact that the service is still new and so not many people have subscribed with them yet.

Which brings me to the future. The Mada WiMAX service currently has no download cap for the next 3 months, after that they are still not sure what the download cap will be but they’re saying it will be at least 20GB and that they will be offering a package for people who consume more. 20GB a month means around 600MB a day which is too little and makes the device really useless. 600MB a day is suitable for users who just use their internet to check email, maybe visit a few websites and also watch a video or two on YouTube. Those kind of users aren’t heavy internet users and for them if it’s a 1MB connection or 10 it wouldn’t make a difference. The real people who can use and fully take advantage of Mada’s WiMAX speed are users like me who spend all their time online surfing through a ton of websites, watching a million YouTube videos while iTunes is busy in the background downloading all the latest TV shows and Movies, the Playstation and Xbox downloading game demos and the server downloading torrents. For me it makes a huge difference if the connection is 1MB or 10.

Which brings me to a potential future issue. The connection is really great right now but that’s because the service is only a few days old, how will it be a month from now or even a year from now? I am not sure. Mada has been around for awhile now catering for the commercial industry so that gives me a bit of confidence in them. But still, 20KD for 10MB is going to attract a lot of people specially with all the problems people have with the ISP’s introducing download caps. Personally I am going to take it day by day and right now the Mada WiMAX internet connection is the fastest connection I’ve ever had. I’ve already disconnected my DSL modem at home and replaced it with WiMAX, that’s how much I’m loving this connection.

Mada currently have a booth setup at Marina Mall right outside the Mac store Digits and they also have a booth at Mohallab. It’s KD20 a month and if you sign up for 3 months it’s KD60 but you get the router for free. Here is a link to their website [Link]

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An evening with the KitchenAid Mixer

Posted by Mark

Earlier in the week someone from the KitchenAid dealer in Kuwait sent me an email thanking me for my post on their mixer. They person also asked me if I would be interested in trying the mixer out and since I like to bake I was like sure why not. So the next day they had a delivery guy drop off a pretty black mixer for me to try out.

There are two things that grabbed my attention right away. The first is how heavy the damn thing is. The mixer not only has a solid metal base but the upper body is also made of metal and even all the switches. The second thing I noticed was the Made in USA marking. I knew KitchenAid was an American company but I didn’t think they actually made the mixers in the US.

I was originally planning to bake a triple layered chocolate cake but decided instead to bake cookies since I’ve made cookies a lot of times before and so would be able to compare this mixer to previous mixers I’ve used. Instead of my usual cookie recipe I decided to try a new one from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. I’m not going to share the recipe here, if you want it then buy the book and support them. Anyway, those of you who follow me on twitter know by now that the cookies I baked turned out to be delicious! Even though The Hummingbird Bakery recipe was pretty similar to my old recipe the little changes they made were enough to turn my fairly good cookies into amazingly good ones. I was originally planning to eat just one cookie but ended up eating like a dozen!

Working with the KitchenAid mixer was very easy. I’m pretty aggressive when I mix (I like mixing at full blast) and by the time I add in all the flour and sugar the mixer usually starts to bounce around and I need to kinda hold it down or lower the speed to stabilize it again. With the KitchenAid it just breezed through the process without a sweat. It didn’t even do a little hop or shake a bit. The mixer is just really well built and I love how it looks. They come in a ton of colors but the most popular one I’ve seen is the Empire Red. The black one is nice and evil looking though.

I really loved the cookies and I really love the KitchenAid Mixer so it’s going to be sad to give it back. If you’re interested, the dealer is called Mabrook and their phone number is 24818242.

If you want the cookbook I used it’s available on [Amazon]

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Solo Pizza Napulitana

Posted by Mark

Around a month ago I found a video on YouTube of a guy in Kuwait making pizzas and since then I’ve been eagerly waiting for them to open up. I’m a huge pizza fan and the pizzas in the video all looked delicious but they hadn’t opened the restaurant yet and so I had to wait. Then a few days ago while I was in Lebanon I get an email saying they’re opening on the 15th but since I was busy yesterday I decided to pass by tonight instead to try them out.

Solo Pizza Napulitana is a new small Kuwaiti owned business that’s located in an old building in Kuwait City right behind the newly opened Japanese restaurant Tatami. From the outside it doesn’t look very appealing and on the inside it’s honestly not that great looking either. But the restaurant is as close as you will get to a mom and pop store in Kuwait. This is not a franchise, this is not a big business, this a tiny pizza joint where the owner makes the pizzas and from what I could tell his friends help him out waiting on tables and taking care of the payments.

I passed by after the gym in my shorts and t-shirt expecting the place to be empty but to my surprise it was pretty packed. I decided to sit on the one table outside but no one served me. So after growing impatient I popped my head inside and asked if I could have a menu. A minute later I got the menu which is pretty small, I think they had only 3 pizzas and 3 salads and maybe 2 desserts. I’m a fan of small menus as I’ve mentioned before and I quickly looked through it and decided to go with the Margherita since I couldn’t find a mushroom pizza on the menu. A few minutes passed by and no one came to get my order so I decided to move inside. I was seriously thinking of just leaving since I didn’t want to wait indefinitely for someone to come get my order but I kept reminding myself that they’ve only been open for 2 days and they’re already packed and probably not prepared for this much pressure. Finally a guy came over and was very apologetic for making me waiting very long. I told him it wasn’t a problem and asked him if they had mushroom pizza. He told me they did so I decided to go with that. From my table I could see the owner prepare my pizza and around 2 minutes after taking my order my pizza arrived. I was thinking to myself that’s ridiculously fast!

The pizza wasn’t sliced up which I thought was interesting since I don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza that didn’t come cut up into triangles. I took some shots quickly and then dug in. What a pizza, it was ammmaaaazing. The pizza crust, the tomato sauce, the cheese, the mushrooms… it was all just delicious and I couldn’t find anything to pick on. I was eating it and thinking to myself where have I ever tasted a pizza that was as good as this and I couldn’t think of any place. I mean sure we don’t have many pizza places in Kuwait to compare to but I’ve had a ton of pizzas in Lebanon and I even just got back from a trip where I tried two new great pizza places over there and yet here I was sitting in this tiny little restaurant in some dodgy back street of Kuwait City having what I thought was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had anywhere.

Once I was done with my pizza and I paid my bill (KD3.750 for the pizza), I decided to go up to the owner and introduce myself. I told him what I thought of his pizzas and he explained to me how he worked at some famous pizzerias in Naples and how he belongs to this group that’s trying to preserve the famous Naples pizza. He also asked me if I noticed how quickly the pizza gets done since it takes less than 60 seconds to cook. I wished him good luck and told him I would definitely be back again.

So if you are looking for what I think are the best pizzas in Kuwait then you need to pass by this place. It’s in a crappy location, it’s tiny and the interior isn’t that great looking but damn the pizza is just really great. Here is a link to their website where you can find a map and a phone number. They’re currently only open for dinner. [Link]

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Review: iPod Shuffle

Posted by Mark

I’ve had a lot of iPods but I don’t think I’ve been impressed with one recently as much as I have been with the latest iPod Shuffle. I got it to use while I am running or walking since the new Nano although small and light, it doesn’t have any physical buttons which makes it difficult to control without looking at the screen. The Shuffle on the other hand is super light and has buttons which for me makes it the perfect iPod for exercising.

Of course the downside is that there is no screen.. you would think but it isn’t. The shuffle has a nifty feature (like the nano) called voice over. There is a little button that you press and a guys voice comes in over your music to tell you what song is currently playing. Click that button twice and the voice tells you how much battery is left. Hold down the button and the voice will flip through your playlist and when you decide on one just press play. This feature is extremely helpful since it really allows you to control the shuffle and find out what you’re listening to all by just feeling your way around the buttons.

Price wise the shuffle is cheap. Sheeel had them on sale for just KD10 and I should have bought one then but I didn’t, instead I bought one from the market for around KD17. Still not too bad, it’s more expensive than Amazon but if you include the shipping cost it comes out the same. The Nano sells for around KD50 here as well so the shuffle is less than half the price. Really the only problem I have with the shuffle is the fact that there is no hold button which is annoying since I accidentally managed to press the forward button a few times by brushing against it. Because of that I was going to give the shuffle a 4.5 out of 5 BUT, I just decided to check the manual and make sure there isn’t a way to put the shuffle on hold and guess what? Turns out there is a hold mode, I just need to press the play/pause button for 3 seconds to activate it. So now it’s perfect. If you’re looking for a music player you don’t want to worry about scratching, breaking or losing and if you prefer physical buttons over a touch screen then the Shuffle is perfect for you. Final score is a 5 out of 5.

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Shawerma: Dandosh

Posted by Mark

When I was walking back home from work the other day I spotted this shawerma place called Dandosh. What grabbed my attention was a red skewer of chicken which according to a friend of mine I met there was their “mexican mix”. So since I was taking a day off from my diet I decided to pass by tonight and try out their shawermas.

I didn’t try their meat but I ended up having three different combinations of chicken shawerma which are:

– Mexican chicken shawerma with regular garlic and fries
– Regular chicken shawerma with red spicy garlic and fries
– Regular chicken shawerma with regular garlic and fries

I had all the above without their onion/greens mix.

The Mexican shawerma was a bit too strange for me. It had a lot of different spices and I tasted a hint of green pepper which I don’t like. The regular chicken shawerma with their special red spicy garlic was good although I thought it was a bit too spicy. My favorite shawerma turned out to be the classic, regular chicken with regular garlic. The garlic wasn’t too strong and the overall combination I think might be better than Badar Al Badoor although I would need to go back and try it one more time just to be sure. They also have benches outside if you want to sit and eat.

I would definitely recommend the place and if you want to know how to get there here is a link to [Google Maps]. For those of you who know where Badar Al Badoor is then it’s very easy to get to Dandosh. Just go straight instead of taking the right turn that takes you towards Badar Al Badoor.

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Review: Sennheiser Adidas PMX 680i

Posted by Mark

I got the headphones above specifically for one thing and that’s to use when exercising. None of my other pairs of headphones are suited for sports because they’re either the type you stick inside your ear which isn’t practical when playing sports or they’re the kind you put over your head and then spend the whole time adjusting them so they don’t fall off. The 680’s are made for sports and I’ve had them for a couple of weeks now and really really love them.

First off these headphones are very light, once you’ve got them on you really can’t tell they’re there. You can also jump up and down, wiggle your head and probably hang upside down and they wouldn’t fall out of your ears. The headphones wrap around over your ears and then behind your head and once you put them on there is absolutely no need to fidget with them anymore, they just stay there the whole time. I’ve used them for running, walking and biking without facing any issues or having to adjust them in the middle of my routine.

The versions I got are the 680i, the “i” standing for ipod or iphone since the remote that comes with it works with them. By that I mean you can pause, play, forward, rewind, fast forward and fast rewind with the remote as well as raising and lowering the volume, activating voice over, answering calls as well as acting like a mic when talking on the phone. Now the problem is ALL the above is done with just 3 buttons. That’s where it gets tricky since you have to memorize a lot of button combinations like a double click is forward, a triple click is rewind, a double click and hold I think is fast forward, a single click and hold does something else… they’re just too many to remember and with my memory all you end up doing is rewinding a song by mistake instead of forwarding it or accidentally ordering pizza while trying to fast rewind.

Sound wise they’re pretty good, at first I found them a bit too bright but that got solved once I put on the tiny black ear foams that came with them. Another solution is to run them through a headphone amplifier like the FiiO E5 which I did and got some great results (without the foams). Only problem is you add bulk by running around with a small amp clipped to you as well as the fact you lose out on the iphone/ipod controls. Overall though I highly recommend these headphones for fitness and other sport activities. I ordered mine from Amazon for $70 but I found the same headphones except the cheaper 680 version without the “i” at Go Sport for KD18.5.

Here is the link to Amazon. [Link]

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Quick Movie Reviews

Posted by Mark

The past few days since I’ve been in Lebanon I’ve been watching a lot of movies at the cinema. Here is a quick summary of what I thought of them:

– Not bad, you think you know whats going to happen but then you get a nice surprise. I like Liam Neeson although the past 3 movies I watched he’s played a similar styled character which is becoming as annoying as Johnny Depp.

Battle: Los Angeles
– This might have been a good movie if no one spoke in it. The cheesy cliche dialogue just ruined it for me and nearly put me to sleep a few times. The movie is like Transformers but without the Autobots, just the evil Decepticons.

The Adjustment Bureau
– Watch The 13th Floor or Dark City instead.

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Review: EasyHotel Dubai

Posted by Mark

On my trip to Dubai I decided to stay at EasyHotel. I had a good experience with them on my last trip to London so was interested to see how the hotel was in Dubai. What attracted me to the hotel was the fact rooms start at just KD7.5 a day (99dhms). Yes KD7.5 a day! I thought that was ridiculously cheap and specially for a hotel in Dubai. I looked for reviews online but couldn’t find anything and the only pictures I found were the PR shots. I was a bit worried to book a room but figured what the hell its only for 3 days so worse comes to worse it would be over quickly.

The hotel is located in the Jabel Ali free zone which is around 40 minutes from the airport and 30 minutes from Dubai Mall. I rented a car from the airport and headed with my GPS towards Easy Hotel. Even though the software on my GPS is the 2010 map it seems since the map got released the roads in Dubai changed because the GPS made me take the wrong exit and I spent 40 minutes trying to get back to the main Sheikh Zayed road. Once you find the hotel though its pretty easy to get there.

My first impression with the hotel was positive. The building was very clean and simple on the outside with ample parking underneath. The reception was also very clean with a few vending machines on one side and some computers connected to the internet on the other. I should mention this in case you didn’t know already but Easy Hotel is a no frills hotel in the same way how Jazeera and Fly Dubai are budget airlines. The rooms are cheap but that’s because you get just the basics and you pay for extra stuff. The Easy Hotel I previously tried in London was also extremely tiny (see review here) but if all you care about is a place to sleep at night then you really won’t mind it all.

The rooms at Easy Hotel Dubai are pretty big compared to the London branch. There was ample space around the bed , a flat screen tv (with just 4 channels), a small open closet with shelves and hangers. There was even a little desk next to the window and a small safe to put your items in. The bathroom wasn’t that bad as well, the sink was kinda small but the shower area was pretty big.

As I mentioned with Easy Hotel you pay for extras. For example the fact I wanted a room with a window.. thats an extra cost. If you don’t care about a window then you pay less for the room. TV remote? You pay for that as well (although we were given one for free), extra towels? you pay, Internet? you pay, you want your room cleaned? you pay, water? you pay, room service? its a vending machine in the lobby. Surprisingly I didn’t have to pay to park my car at the hotel!

But with all that I loved staying there and in the end my room with extras came out to just KD10 a night which is still incredibly cheap and this is DUBAI!!. The hotel was super clean, the Internet was fast and the staff were very friendly. From now on that’s the hotel I will be staying in when I fly there.

Things to keep in mind though, you need to rent a car since the hotel is 30 minutes away from places like Dubai Mall. There are no cabs outside or near the hotel so you would have to order one and I don’t know how long that would take. There is a metro nearby but not walking distance. There is also nothing around the hotel, nothing you can walk to. But, because the hotel is so cheap you can splurge on a rental, my Toyota Yaris from Budget cost me just KD15 a day with all the insurance, gas and crossing 4 electronic toll systems a day. Would I recommend EasyHotel? Yes I would.

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