22 November 2008

19 November 2008

The Toy Store

I guess after a while of growing up, we all get caught up in a world of business, stress, responsibility, tasks and so much more. It all becomes a lot and it sort of dulls us down from the (hopefully) exciting people we were back in college, school, or whatever we were previously. We work more, put our mind into achieving what we need to achieve, not doing what we want.

Not me, not today.

We walked around City Center Mall sort of bored; my friend was looking for something specific to buy - work related obviously - and we managed to stumble upon this huge toy shop:

Not that we usually go inside most toy shops we see, but this one had a really cool full-size dragon in the window! Yup, a huge mutha, twice the size of most people; anyhow, that got us inside the shop, and we started walking around this childrens' wonderland:

These guys had everything; stuffed dolls, robots, flying remote-controlled helicopters, science-experiment-game-type-thingies, board games, and a lot more.. Sure beats what we had when we were kids; I remember we used to get things like those bags of plastic green soldiers; what a load of crap those were, some couldn't even stand straight and kept falling. But yeah, today's kids have got it all sorted out huh?

Looking through all these toys, we figured, yeah, it would be nice to be a child in today's world. On our way out, we passed by the model section; models of cars, boats and planes, and I stopped and looked at them.. Wow, I remember putting these things together back when I was a kid, and, damn; the more I looked, the more I wanted one! The guys told me I was being silly, but I wouldn't leave the store without one (sort of reminds me of when I was younger and my mom would try to drag me out of random toy shops).

I picked up a model plane, and while contemplating whether this thing might be a little too simple to hold any interest for me, I saw the label on the side. Number 4, it said. A key on the back explained what 4 meant, on a scale of 1-5:

1- Easy, snap on kits not requiring any glue or paint.
2 - Simple kits with up to 30 parts to glue and paint.
3- More demanding models with up to 100 parts.
4- Kits with up to 150 parts for more experienced modellers
5- Difficult models with over 150 parts requiring a very high level of skill
paid, and went on my merry way, gleeful in the thought that I got myself a toy!

Cool! I rushed to the counter, paid, and made my way home gleeful in the knowledge that I had just bought myself a toy! Lovely, I feel all child-like again!

I got home, ripped open the box, and figured that I was faced with a hell of a task; putting together all these pieces needed a LOT of time and effort, and the 20 page instruction booklet looked like something out of a mechanical engineering graduate book. Crap. But a challenge, no? :p Looks like fun! I'll document progress over the next few days (Weeks? Months?).

If you don't see anything on this topic in the next while then just know i've already given up on it, and perhaps I should leave the toy world to the kids!

17 November 2008

Music of Days Gone By

I've got millions upon millions of discs (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is I have quite a lot). These include anything from original music CD's (which I stopped actively buying sometime around the turn of the century), to VCD's, DVD's, a few laser discs (the technology that never really took off), but mostly, I have tons of CD's and DVD's holding backup data, images, files, music, etc.

Through years of backing up data, copying music, creating mp3 CD's, etc, these discs have managed to accumulate into a large pile of unlabeled rubbish. The process is simple; you burn a disc with whatever on it, and then you look for your permanent CD marker pen, which always seems to get lost at that exact moment. You then decide, ok, i'll write something on this later, which you never do, and a few years later you have hundreds of CD's with no obvious description of what's inside them. Of course, a day comes where you're looking for a specific file you managed to back up ages ago.


So today was the day; I looked at my unlabeled CD collection with a mixture of emotions; confused, horrified, amazed.. How on earth am I suppose to find that file?

So I decided i'd fix this whole mess by going out and buying a set of 4 CD markers, sat down in front of my computer with a table covered in discs, and started going through them one by one, figuring out what they contained and labeling them as required.

I found quite a bit; photos from college days, random videos, an old CV, lots of music, and quite a bit more. Of course, through the years your discs get mixed in together, and between every 4 or 5 unlabeled CD's is a DVD or an original music CD.

I found an old music CD I bought years ago; 1993 to be precise (Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince; Code Red). Great album, really, and I decided to play it; although a few of the tracks were a bit cheesy, others were great, and the whole album sounded amazing and took me to a much simpler time a good 15 years ago. I was in a different place in the world, in school, hardly any responsibility, and the vibe was nice and chilled out.

But it wasn't just that; there was something different about the music itself. The music felt richer, deeper, and much stronger than most of the tracks I listen to nowadays.

Why is that?

It's not that this album was specifically done really well. It was a good album, but nothing overly special about it, except that it sounded amazing.

I decided to rip some of the tracks to mp3 to play in my car later, and that's when it hit me; the music here wasn't compressed. The music isn't as compressed as mp3's are nowadays. The music isn't compressed to fit a small file size of a few MB per track.

I pondered; on regular music CD's, you could fit a good 15 tracks or so on the CD before it got full. That's an average of around 40mb per song, while today's mp3's rarely go above 6 or 7mb. Compression means loss of quality, and although mp3 music does sound clear, listening closer you can feel the difference; certain small instruments get lost, some of the not so obvious tunes get compromised, and although the song is the same in general, it's the small touches that give a song it's depth that are gone.

Most people can't tell the difference, or can't be bothered to tell the difference, to be honest. Music has changed from something that lives with you, to something disposable, tracks that you listen to a few times and then replace, shifting from classics, to hits. The subtle underlying tunes don't matter to most people, and go unnoticed.

It's not all bad though; the mp3 revolution has made music much more accessible to everyone. It has managed to open up the market for loads of new musicians around the world. Getting what you want whenever you want is becoming more and more possible by the day. The big labels are losing money on physical distribution, struggling to find solutions to make money through digital sales, while new companies spring up all the time offering music online. The world is growing smaller, and now it's much more easier to listen to music from parts of the world you never thought you would be listening to. There's a lot going on, and a lot more to come in the coming months.

For now, just leave me with my old uncompressed albums, while I enjoy vibes of days gone by.

"Can you feel it? Come on, clap your hands, wind it up if you're feelin alright, clap your hands, wind it up, if you're feelin' the vibe, nod your head from side to side, as we ride the vibe, cuz it's a party all night, You can't fight the feelin' you're feelin'g cuz you're feelin' fine with nothin really on ya mind.."

Oh, and I haven't found the file I wanted yet, either.

5 November 2008

Guys & Girls; Greetings & Hello's

I was sleeping.

*ring ring*

Who could be calling me at this ungodly hour (ahem, 10am)? I picked up..

- الو؟‎

- ها، ليلحين راقد؟
Ha.. You're still sleeping?

- شرايك يعني، شتبي؟
What does it sound like? What‏‎'s up?

- تعال خذني من يورو موترز بعد عشر دقايق
Pick me up from the EuroMotors showroom in 10 mins

- ثلث ساعة
20 mins.

- اوكي
*Hangs up*

This was a guy i've been friends with for years, but haven't seen in ages. It's amazing being a guy; things are just so straightforward and simple, no headaches with feelings and make-believe emotions etc.

I can picture the same conversation with two girls;

*ring ring*

- الو؟‎

- امووون! وي صج صج من زمااااان!! شلونج شخبارج؟!
Amoon! Wowwwwww it's been sooooo long!! How are youuu how's everything?!

- فطومووو وينج انتي وااايد وحشتيني!!!
Fatooommooo! Nooo, where have you been!! I missed you so muchhh!!

- ... اي والله! شلون ابوج و امج و اخوج و اختج و ربعج و قطوتج و
Yeah I know! Hows your dad? And mom? And brother and sister and your friends and cat and...

...and so the conversation goes on for half an hour discussing the most pointless issues, not evening getting to the point which is 'come pick me up'. No no no. That's not how it works for girls; this has to be a preliminary conversation a week prior to calling another girl to ask her to pick you up (otherwise, it's considered rude). All this and the girls haven't seen each other since last weekend.

Funny stuff. Another thing I notice is when girls meet each other in a restaurant/shop/mall/etc and greet each other (this is more specifically true of Middle-Eastern girls, I dunno about outside this region). The greeting is composed of different stages; the first is the one where they spot each other and act totally amazed (hence the big eyes, running to each other, usually screaming), then comes the second stage of greetings which is made of up of endless kissing and hugging, then the post-greeting stage, where they sit and ask each other everything from how they're doing, how their family and friends are, what they've been up to at work/college, to what perfume they're wearing and whether they got fatter/thinner.

You might think it's a bit of an exaggeration but it's not. It becomes more clear that these greeting rituals are ridiculous especially when you find out they haven't seen each other since... Again, about last weekend.

I prefer the guy greetings; you're walking down the road, you spot a friend you haven't in YEARS on the other side of the road, and he spots you too. You raise a thumbs up:

- Hey.

- Hey.

Done, end of story; move on, nothing to see here, no endless streams of fake emotions or hugging. And this is an extreme greeting; on a normal day, a simple head nod would do; no need for words or thumbs up.

It's great to be a guy.


Election Time...

So whose going to win? Who knows... But Obama promised everyone change;

He didn't specify what type of change though; would be funny if he comes out after winning the race and just starts handing out pennies to people..

Anyway, if he does win, i've got a gut feeling there's going to be some sort of assassination attempt in there somewhere; hey, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the guy, but all it takes is one person who doesn't want a Black president for things to escalate.


This race has dragged on far too long, and it's turned more into a TV drama soap/sitcom than anything else.


Obama/McCain. It's 2:00am over here in Bahrain, and i'm heading to bed. Let's see what the polls say when I wake up tomorrow. What a different world it could be.

1 November 2008

The Wailers @ Coral Beach Bahrain

I just got back from what has got to be one of the greatest concerts i've ever been to; The Wailers performing live in Bahrain at the Coral Beach Club. If you don't already know who they are, you might be more familiar with the name "Bob Marley & The Wailers". Yes, they are the backing group for the Reggae legend, and are already a legend in themselves.

Reggae holds something different than most other types of music; sure, it's got a great beat and is something you can dance to, but the vibe real reggae fans feel is one of totally losing themselves to the music.

The concert was great; held in the perfect surroundings of Coral Beach, with a nice cool breeze and a chilled out vibe by the warm-up acts, made for a perfect setting. The real magic, however, was when the Wailers hit the stage; dropping their funky reggae tunes, and suddenly the crowd was transformed. People weren't just dancing, they were lost to the music, they were all getting high off it, and it seemed that almost every single person was in some sort of trance; the crowd upfront were so ecstatic to be in the presence of greatness, and there were people all over just swaying, closed eyes, feeling the music, tasting it, experiencing it.

The Wailers started off with their own reggae vibes, and soon came in with the hits everyone knows, to which the crowd just went wild, singing along, chanting together music based on anti-discrimination, anti-oppression, and being all as one. The crowd was filled with all sorts of races, from numerous countries, and yet there they were all as one, singing and swaying to One Love, No Woman No Cry, Jammin', and more.

The night was an overdose of adrenaline, emotions, and by the end of the 6 hour concert, everyone went home with a smile and a pocket full of memories. An amazing night, one to remember, and here to prove that the reggae legend is still alive and as strong as ever.