Goodbye Alarm Clock

Post by Mark

Back in 2001 when I first moved back to Kuwait from university and started my first job, the first thing I did with my very first salary ever was buy an alarm clock. It wasn’t just any alarm clock, it was the Nakamichi SoundSpace 3. The alarm clock had a CD player and was composed of three square shaped pieces, two were clocks, one for each side of the bed, while the third piece was the subwoofer. It cost me KD220 back then which was basically half my salary, but I used to love the Nakamichi brand and this was love at first sight. The picture above is the oldest picture I have of the alarm clock and its from 2003.

The alarm clock stayed with me for 16 years, and in that time I went through 4 jobs, 4 different blogs, a marriage, a divorce, 5 cars, 3 apartments and 2 dogs. Last night after watching an episode of the show “Hoarders“, I decided I would finally throw the alarm clock out. Now I regret it of course.

It’s pretty sad and reminded me of the old IKEA lamp commercial. I sometimes ask myself if I was to start all over again, would I be able to leave all my things behind? After throwing out my beloved alarm clock, I think I can. This post is dedicated to you alarm clock, goodbye.

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Wonder Woman is Banned in Kuwait

Post by Mark

If you were hoping to watch Wonder Woman over Eid then you’re out of luck. I just got confirmation a few moments ago from Grand Cinemas that Wonder Woman has been banned in Kuwait. The reason given to me was because the lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli.

Update: I’ve deleted all the comments and closed this post up to new comments. This post is just an announcement and I’m not interested in turning it into a political discussion.

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The Lotus Exige S – Three Months Later

Post by Mark

I’ve had my Lotus Exige now for nearly three months and during this time I had a bunch of things done to the car in terms of upgrades and improvements. This post is mostly for people trying to google info on the Lotus, so if you’re not into cars in general, just skip this post. Before I get into the specifics of what I’ve done to the car, I do want to highlight one aspect of owning a Lotus that I wasn’t expecting, the amazing community.

The Lotus Community
The Lotus community has been pretty great so far, from the local dealership to online forums and even the main Lotus factory. Everyone is just so friendly and helpful. Like I’ve already mentioned in my previous posts on the car, the local dealer Alghanim has been incredible, I’ve got the brand manager whom I whatsapp whenever I need anything and is now more like a friend then a brand manager, I also have the same Lotus technician I deal with every time I’m at the garage whom I’m on a first name basis, so the whole experience feels very personalized. I’m also in contact with the only other Exige owner in Kuwait at the moment and we’re planning to meet up soon for a photoshoot. I want to see what he’s done to the car and show him what I’ve done. There is another Exige arriving any day now and its going to a guy who’s connected to my circle of friends as well and then there is another Exige arriving by the end of summer that will belong to a close friend. So we’re going to have a pretty great little Exige community popping up here in Kuwait soon.

But its not only in Kuwait where I’ve been having a great experience with Lotus people. When I first got the car I contacted Lotus in the UK regarding some questions I had with the AC, a guy called Tony who is their ‘Technical & Training’ guy responded to me within a few hours. When I emailed him some feedback regarding the AC system, he forwarded my email to their electrical and HVAC department so they could check it out. They actually care about their customers and since we are a small community take all feedback into consideration. A couple of days ago I had another question which I emailed him and again within a few hours he got back to me. Someone at the Lotus factory is replying to my emails in a few hours, I mean I don’t reply that fast to people who email my blog, it’s really impressive how personal the whole experience feels.

The people in the forums are also amazing. Since I got the car I’ve been an active user in The Lotus Forums and I’ve been trying to contribute to the community as much as I can [eg 1, 2, 3 and 4]. Since there are only a few hundred Exige (V6) owners around the world, there really isn’t much documentation and reviews online on various accessories and upgrades you can perform on the car. So whatever I’ve been doing, I’ve been documenting and sharing with the community.

The Upgrades
So like I mentioned at the start of this post, I went through a first round of different upgrades for the car, below is a list of what I’ve done so far.

Sound System
The first thing I did as soon as I got the car was upgrade the sound system. The car had four cheap-ass speakers and a very basic single-DIN car stereo that didn’t even have bluetooth. So I decided to upgrade the car with the following setup:

Alpine CDE-HD149BT Receiver
Alpine KTP-445A Amp
Focal 100AC Access Series Speakers (Front)
Focal 130AC Access Series Speakers (Rear)

The whole setup looks stock with the amp also hidden in the dashboard so you wouldn’t really be able to tell I changed anything. But sound wise its a huge improvement over the stock sound system and it didn’t really cost me much for basically what is top of the line stuff.

Carbon Fiber Covers for the Engine Bay
This was strictly a cosmetic and practicality upgrade. You can see the Lotus engine through the glass boot and since we have a lot of dust in Kuwait, I have to clean the engine bay every so often so that it looks presentable under the glass. I kept having trouble dusting one of the large plastic covers in the engine bay because it had a rough texture. So I ordered a pair of glossy carbon fiber covers from Komo-tec in Germany, and now the engine is sandwiched between two shiny carbon fiber pieces. If you want to see how the engine bay looked like before, click [Here]

2Bular Exhaust System
This was the biggest upgrade I did to the car, I swapped out the stock exhaust for one by 2Bular. There are three popular exhaust brands for the Lotus, 2Bular, Komo-tec and Larini, all three cost the same so in the end it came down to aesthetics and sound signature. 2Bular won on both those counts for me. The 2Bular exhausts are hand built by a guy called Jim Valentine in Aberdeen and he just does Lotus exhausts and nothing else. It took around a month from when I placed an order, had him build it and then get it shipped and delivered to my door here in Kuwait. Last year he had a backlog of orders and so was taking months to deliver the exhausts to customers which is why I was grateful it just took a month in my case. I had the exhaust installed at a local garage called Gemballa and I’m currently in the processes of breaking it in. It sounds really angry so far, but like the stock exhaust its also valved which means I can have it quiet when I want it quiet, and loud when I want it loud.

Soft Top
This is the last thing I got but won’t be using it till fall when the weather cools down. During the cold months I’ll be removing the hard top roof on the car and replacing it with the soft top. It will make taking off and putting on the roof a lot easier plus it rolls up and fits in the trunk, something I couldn’t do with the hard top. New at the local dealer the soft top costs KD900, but I found a used one on the German eBay for KD400 shipped to Kuwait. I decided it was too good a deal to pass and just bought it and will now store it till winter.

Whats Next?
Nothing, I think I’m done for now. I’m considering getting a small sub for the sound system, but because of the size of the car, it’s gonna be a bit of a headache to install and hide which is why I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet. Other than that though I think I’m done with all the upgrades. I fucking love this car and I’m so glad I’ve got a friend getting one because we basically spend the whole time now sharing Exige videos and talking about the cars. It’s so much fun.

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‘Bou Salem’ Won a Bronze Lion at Cannes

Post by Mark

Back in November, local creative firm Beattie + Dane launched a campaign for Al Munayes Tea called ‘Bou Salem’. It was a hilarious campaign where they created a fake candidate for the parliamentary elections and it ended up going viral pretty much overnight.

Well yesterday, Beattie + Dane won Bronze at the Cannes Lions festival for that campaign. Cannes Lions is to advertising what the Oscars are to movies, its the most coveted and well respected festival in the entire advertising and creative communications industry. Being shortlisted for a Lion is a huge accomplishment by itself, yet alone winning an actual award.

My favorite commercial from the ‘Bou Salem’ series is the one below where he day dreams while drinking his tea, but you should really watch the case study video on top first which explains the campaign and is in English.


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New App: Flat Real Estate

Post by Mark

‘Flat’ is a new real estate app that just recently launched and unlike most new real estate projects, this one is starting off with a large selection of ads, over 1,500 at the time of this post.

Visually the app is decent looking but I found navigating through the listings a bit inefficient since at any one point you can only see two listings at a time while scrolling. One cool feature I did like though was the ability to find apartments available around you. Say you’re in an area you like, you can just launch the app and click on the “Nearby” option and the app will find apartments available in your vicinity.

Flat is free and available for both iOS and Android devices and you can download them using the following links: [Apple iOS] [Android]

You can also visit their website [Here]

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uBuy Ad Makes Reddit Front Page

Post by Mark

uBuy is a local e-commerce website and their latest commercial (above) made it onto the Reddit front page on Saturday. Not sure if it was shot locally or somewhere else but it’s a pretty funny ad.

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Kuwait Ice Skating Rink (1995)

Post by Mark

Just digitized this video taken at the Kuwait Ice Skating Rink back in April of 1995. 1991-92 is when I frequented the ice skating rink mostly and back then the music was amazing with hits like Snap – I got the Power and Soul II Soul – Back to Life. Still, the video above should bring back memories and if you look closely you can even spot the arcades in the background.

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Digitizing Old Videos

Post by Mark

Like with the pager in my previous post, while going through old boxes at my parents place I also found a bunch of old Video8 camcorder tapes. Luckily I also found my old camcorder and although the battery no longer works, the camcorder still functions properly when plugged into power. So last night I decided to digitize some old tapes.

If you want to digitize your old videos that are on VHS tapes or camcorder tapes, its actually not that complicated to do so. I’m using the Elgato Video Capture which I bought around 7 years back and it works on both Mac’s and PC’s. The way it works is also pretty simple:

1) Plug the Elgato device into your computers USB port
2) Connect your old VCR or camcorder to the Elgato just like you would to your TV
3) Run the Elgato software on your computer and press record
4) Press play on your VCR or camcorder
5) Thats it. Once your’d done click stop and the software saves the file

So if you’ve got old tapes lying around it’s really not that hard to digitize them and if its important stuff, I’d try and get it done as soon as possible. Here is the Amazon link to the Elgato video capture device I use [Link]

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Found my old pager!

Post by Mark

Yesterday while going through some old boxes at my parents place I found my old pager from high school (circa 1994/1995). I didn’t know I still had it so was pretty surprised to find it. I looked around the device to see what kind of charging cable I needed but I couldn’t find a charging port. Then I remembered it used regular batteries so I popped open the battery cover and inserted one AA battery and lo and behold, the pager turned on!

For those of you too young to know what a pager is or how it works, it was basically a device that was used before mobile phones when you wanted to talk to someone. Every pager had a phone number and when you called it, the number you’re calling from would display on the pagers screen. The pager owner would then call back the number when they were near a phone to see who called. When you would call a pager, the automated answering system would also ask you if you wanted to leave an optional 3 digit code. That 3 digit code would show up on the persons paging device when you called. So usually you would assign different codes to different friends, so say my best friend would use “666” that way when I get a page and I see “666” after the phone number, I know it’s my best friend trying to get a hold of me. If you left “010” it basically meant fuck you, “911” meant it was urgent and I’m sure there were other numbers that also had other meanings.

What I also remembered was how when you got a page you’d go looking for a shop that would let you use their phone so you could call back the number from. I mostly ended up using the phones at baqalas but it was also an issue the other way around. Sometimes you would use the phone of a shop or a baqala to page a friend, and then you’d just wait at the place near the phone for your friend to call you back.

The pager model I had I think was the most popular (Panasonic EK-2097), but I think there were only ever two models of pagers available to choose from back then. There were no private telecom companies, the pager I have was from the government operated Mobile Telephone Systems Co. (K.S.C.) which I think later became Mobile Telecommunications Company (M.T.C.) which later became Zain. If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments.

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Gatwa W Gahwa, the First Cat Cafe in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Gatwa W Gahwa is a cat cafe thats soft launching this coming Saturday. They’re located in the basement of Galleria 2000 in Salmiya and they have around 10 cats which you can hang out and play with. The idea of a cat cafe isn’t new, I got to experience one around 5 years ago when I was in Japan, but this will be the first cat cafe in Kuwait and only the second in the region.

The price for spending time and playing with the cats is KD3.5 for half an hour or KD5 for an hour. They will be offering discounts for those who wish to stay longer and even a monthly membership for those who want to come in everyday. You’ll also be able to book the whole place for book readings or even cat yoga. I was there earlier today and the cats are super cute and really playful. I was pretty surprised at how beautiful some of the cats were, for some reason when I heard they were rescued cats I was expecting to find a cafe fill with street cats but instead all the cats I interacted with were so cute and fluffy.

They’re soft opening from this Saturday and their timings during Ramadan will be 12PM to 4PM and then 8PM to 12AM. After Ramadan their working hours will be 11AM to 10PM. They’ll also have an online reservation system up and running this weekend. For more information check out their instagram account @catcafeq8

PS: Remember Abdulai? He now works at the Cat Cafe!

Update: Their website and reservation system is now online [Here]

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