It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. We moved, then kept on moving until we could move no more. Or at least that’s how it felt. From the quiet fresh and mostly healthy environment in the mountains of Lebanon to the confinements of Beirut, it wasn’t really that much fun. It took a while to get settled, and I could honestly say that after 3 months of that we’re still not there yet. I don’t think we will be settled here in any case, so it’s not that big a deal.
The only problem is that the coping is not the same as enjoying. And the creative process needed for coping is pretty different.
I won’t go on a rant, I still have things to do. I just thought I would share a few things I’ve been doing in the last 3 months or so.
We had been thinking about this Moulinex bread machine for a rather long time. Pia did the research and it seemed like the best one we could find in the Lebanese market. We didn’t shell out an extra 60$ for the “Baguette” version as it seemed very silly to pay that much for a simple insert!
Since then, we have been making our own bread. Played around with the recipes and indulged in some “pain au lait” and brioche the first week or so. Then we moved back to our regular whole wheat bread. That smells and tastes just great.
I am still looking for Rye flour, and not finding any. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.
For some reason, I am not able to find anything these days. Or things are simply too expensive to be reasonable. We need a couple of desk lamps, but I couldn’t find anything below 100$. Now tell me this is not crazy! I found clip-on lamps at the Chinese store in Manara for 4000LBP(~3$). But their necks were too low. So I bought a microphone stand for 15$ and fixed the neck of the clip-on lamp on that. Pia was positively impressed and I felt pretty proud of myself. Compare this to prices on Amazon! *sigh*
I did not hook the TV to the cable/antenna/sat receiver yet. For different reasons (mainly being lazy). I will probably do that soon, but meanwhile I am enjoying getting all the latest TV series and my favourite movies thru a combination of flexget, deluge and xbmc. Oh, and here’s a good howto to get you started.
I also use the official XBMC remote for android and Transdroid (not from market) from my phone to control those. It’s a good combination, pretty easy and I don’t have to think about it. The only problem I have is that the old Dell i6400 I’ve been using as HTPC is slowly dying of old age and I have yet to find a suitable replacement!
Almost all of the PCs/Laptops we have are in sync. Still using the IDE and re-syncing the files on the laptop after working all day on the desktop (even with the ease of git) is a bit annoying for the lazy programmer in me. And I have been looking for an IDE to use on the road even when I’m out of the house. Enter Cloud9 IDE. Sure it’s nice to work in the cloud, but it turns out they have a standalone version that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles (no problem here). You will need nodejs setup along with a few dependencies and modules. But it’s really worth it. I’ve been playing with a new personal app for the android (and perhaps iOS) to be released soon and doing all of the work (so far) inside c9.
Here’s my list for the coming months:
I’ve been playing the mandolin every day since I got it, and songs like Speak Softly Love (from The Godfather) and For Elena (Cinema Paradiso) are getting easier to follow through. But it seems that between exercises for songs I want to play, I always end up playing tunes that I remember from old times. The introduction to You’re the Love or “Enta el Hob” (Umm Kulthum) is a constant for some reason. It is a catchy tune!
Yesterday I was playing For Elena, and I ended up with Tony Hanna‘s “La thalifini bil shanab“. Don’t ask why, the mind works in strange ways. And after I finished going through it the first time (slowly) I started thinking of the cultural implications of this song. Let me try to translate the first part in English and see if it makes sense:
Don’t make me swear on my moustache
Don’t try to shame me with reproaches
From the bottom of my heart I swear to you
That I will always be faithful to your love
But keep the moustache out of it
The moustache has a very important part of the male look for centuries. In Arabic many idioms, sayings and even curses are related to the facial hair on the upper lip. At one time, the only guarantee needed from a man in Lebanon was him touching his moustache. That was the same as saying “you have my word” or “I swear on the Bible/Coran”. Tony Hanna was in fact saying, you can have anything you want and I’ll offer all the guarantees you need, but don’t even think of mentioning the moustache in a derogatory way.
But in this day and age where men are clean-shaven and won’t live up to their end of any bargain even if it’s written, sealed and notarized, does Tony Hanna’s Shanab/Moustache mean anything?
Here’s one saying I heard from my dad a lot during my early teens (when I had a moustache), translated: if the moustache makes a man, a [scaredy] cat would be the most manly man. [that really needs a better translation!]
Sorry Tony Hanna, this is really not about you. It’s about the image of virility and manly honour you represented in that song.
CBJ is undoubtedly the best burger joint in Beirut. Their service is always good, the waiters are friendly and helpful. And they banned smoking long before it was mandatory in Lebanon which is great.
The nearest branch to our meeting place is the Jal el Dib branch. I try to eat there with my wife and friends whenever possible. And even though I would rather have someone I know waiting on me, it’s always nice to meet new waiters. I skipped a month and the whole crew was replaced! But they are always so polite and accommodating, so no problem.
So we were there last week, and this fresh new trainee waiter was trying his best to help us get started with our order. I don’t spend too much time thinking about it really. I just order a classic regular burger with no cheese and extra onions, always. So I asked for that as soon as he came our way smiling. But, I had another choice to make: “Would I like the regular or the thick patty?” Are you kidding? Of course I would like the thick one.
So I waited for this thick patty. I’m hungry and just the thought of a larger burger is making my mouth water. And what do I get? Just a regular patty.
Hmm, I thought the guy must have missed it or forgot to mention it to the cook. No big deal really, the burger is great as it is anyway. But Pia said I should ask them, and I did. The trainee guy said he did in fact order me the thick patty. So I showed him my burger and compared it to the one my wife was having, same! He calls his supervisor and she comes also smiling. She checks the burger and says it’s actually the thick patty that I’m eating, but explains that the thick patty is actually 140g while the regular one is a mere 110g (if I remember the numbers correctly). She adds that it would be hard for me to see the difference in any case.
Naturally I thanked her for the explanation. But I’m still wondering if it was really worth it to create the thick patty anyway. Wouldn’t a half-pounder option be more of an upgrade?
Going to eat there again tonight anyway 🙂
A couple of weeks I finally received the mandolin after it spent a month touring the USA as FedEx lost it a couple if times.
I wasn’t able to play it the first couple of days because the tuning wouldn’t stick. Then I learned you should always change the strings whenever you get a new mandolin (or ukulele, or even a guitar). The nice guy at Instruments Garage did a great job at stringing the mandolin and tuning it. And he made it a point to let me know it was a cheap one, unlike the one they had in the shop that cost about an arm and half a leg.
I just wanted to try it anyway, and as one guy put it at a mandolin forum, the first mandolin is not a marriage for life, merely a training instrument.
So I have been training with scales and other techniques like tremolo and cross picking (that’s like nose picking only harder). And for fun, I have been trying to play some songs, mostly Arabic. Here’s a list of the ones I would play almost acceptably in front of a lenient audience (family and close friends):
Next on my list is the Godfather theme, Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)
Needless to say I’m really enjoying it.
I saw a couple of National Geographic wallpapers and those are pretty nice. I did not find an API on their site to download those on a regular basis, but it seemd pretty simple to just download them.
I just uploaded my code as a gist per https://gist.github.com/3002699 (the gist code should be more up to date than the following code)
And I added the script in my crontab:
Let me know if you have any notes/comments/changes
Here’s the code
There’s always been plenty of cats in our neighborhood. And they all stroll up and down the same trail facing my office window almost daily when the sun is up. But recently they decided to come closer and into our lives. Continue reading
It’s all in the broth really. I saved some of the wonderful chicken broth my wife made and decided to use it to make a soup since it was raining!
Here’s my recipe:
Bring a liter of water to a boil. Add 100g of macaroni and some salt, and leave it cook for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, slice an onion and a clove of garlic thinly and sweat them down with a splash of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and stir. I added a pinch of ginger powder. Add the chicken broth, and let it simmer. Then add the whole thing to the boiling macaronis.
Let it all reduce just a little bit while all the flavors infuse.
I topped the plate with a pinch of tarragon
Here’s a pic I took in a haste 🙂