Mrs Robinson Review

As we’ve mentioned time and again, Burgers are the new Sushi in Beirut. One of the newest burger diners is Mrs. Robinson, in Annahar Building in DownTown Beirut. We were invited to dinner there two weeks ago to learn about Picon’s Happiness Heroes campaign, which hopefully I’ll be following with you here on the blog.

I must say, Mrs. Robinson is probably the only burger joint where I could go out on a date with. It’s location and decor are up-scale enough, and the name sorta helps too. The menu is also more diverse, with plenty of salads and appetizers to choose from, apart from the place’s speciality: burgers.

Now, let’s get to the chase: the burger. As usual, I order the Swiss Mushroom burger, and did not regret it. The patty was perfectly cooked, nice and pink on the inside and crispy dark on the outside. The patty also had some flavor, with a zing to it that takes away the unpleasant raw-meat smell and taste. The mushrooms, cheese and sauce were scrumcious too.

As for the price, again, nothing close to Brgr Co’s prices, but a tad bit more than CBJs. I’d say similar to Burger Nation’s pricetag, which is incredibly good compared to the location of Mrs. Robinson.

Verdict: It actually does glamorize the burger experience, with a posh interior and location with equally superior burgers

Price: More expensive than CBJ, cheaper than Brgr Co, similar to Burger Nation

Atmosphere: It’s NOT a smoke-free restaurant (FAIL) but it’s sophisticated enough for an important business lunch or date.

Staff: Courteous, knowledgeable and have a good sense of humor

Food: I’d recommend the Swiss n Mushroom burger, truly my perfect burger

PS sorry I compared to CBJ, Burger Nation and Brgr Co so openly, but I feel it’s the best way to help you get a feel of what I’m trying to say =P

check out Najib’s Blog Baladi review =)

Lebanese Fuel Crisis… Facepalm, Facepalm, Facepalm

I cannot help but be incredibly amused when I see dozens of cars cued up at gas stations across Lebanon, hoping to fill up their tanks. It amazes me to see the reaction of the Lebanese people to such unimaginably stupid crises which affect our lives so profoundly, for no real reason. Instead of being outraged, we are mildly annoyed, in fact, the real sad thing for most of us is that this weekend is probably the last one on the ski slopes this season…

But, why is this happening, and whose fault is it really? Well, all concerned parties are irrational infants that have been engaging in penis-measuring contests for the past four weeks (even though one of them is a woman).

The steady rise in fuel saw 20 liters of 98 Octane is at a whopping 37,000 LBP and the 95 Octane at 36,300 LBP. This is almost double what it was only 10 years ago, and some 40% more expensive then when crude oil prices hit a record in 2008′s global financial crisis. This is largely due to the crippling tariffs by the government, which amount to a total of 13,000 LBP. So, the actual price is 24,000 LBP for 98 octane and 23,300 LBP (that’s with VAT on the gas price minus the tariff). What’s funny is that the government adds the tariff to the original price, THEN adds the 10% VAT, creating the absurdly inflated price of 37,000 LL, which is 154% the price it is imported at…

On one side lies Gebran Bassil, who is currently the caretaker minister for electricity and water. He is loyal to Michel Aoun and is often the problem at the heart of political stalemates and strifes involving the FPM. On the other side, is a staunchly Hairi-loyal finance minister, Rayya El Hassan, whose shady performance in the finance ministry has exposed deep-rooted and far-reaching corruption that threatens her side if the cabinet falls into the opposing team’s hands.

Now, Gebran decided he was going to win some political points before stepping down, so he decided to lower the tariffs 3,600 LBP, back when it was just 36,600 LL per 98 Octane 20 liters, bringing it down to 33,000LL. The legality and bureaucratic dick-measuring then began, with the Customs authorities and Finance Ministry saying it was too much of a loss for the country’s income, and that it was not within Bassil’s jurisdiction. Then, in a hypocritical tour-de-force, Rayya El Hassan proposed lowering tariffs 5,000 LL. She knew well enough though that her proposal needed a functional council of ministers, a majority vote and an ok by the President and the PM, something that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Here, when things got tough and decisions needed to be taken, as usual, the President shied away and allowed this juvenile fiasco to unfold and the average person suffer.

It’s funny how everything in Lebanon happens “for-one-time-only” and in defiance of the constitution and set laws. Even the President’s election is technically invalid by law, needing a constitutional amendment that never was. But, when it comes to lowering fuel prices, or anything related to our daily lives and incomes, suddenly, everyone becomes law-abiding and unmoving towards the originally unclear jurisdictions and procedures.

Accepting Bassil’s proposal immediately, or special OKs from the President and PM are enough to lower these prices, but no one is budging. It’s sad and a truly double facepalm moment.

 

Now, why won’t fuel importers supply local gas stations with fuel? Well, fuel prices have surged after the unrest in Egypt, Bhrain, Yemen and now Libya. Libya is an OPEC member, and fears of unrest there have raised the price of a crude oil barrel some 25$ already, reaching its highest level since the 2008 financial crisis. So, the importing company is paying more now, but the prices are still fixed at the original 24,000 LL. In other words, they’re losing money if they sell newly imported, more expensive oil at cheaper prices of oil four weeks ago.

So, with Bassil’s refusal to sign the updated prices list for 4 weeks now, there is no clear solution to this unless someone caves in. Hopefully, the prices will be lowered 3000-5000 LBP by extraordinary approval, and ideally, price of oil fixed at 25,000-30,000 per 20 liters (eh mbala), with fluctuating tariffs depending on international fuel prices. So, if oil becomes cheaper, tariff gets higher, and vice versa. This “buffer” of a tariff might quell the brewing unrest, with Bassil issuing a 24-hour ultimatum for his proposition’s approval. If not, we’re going to have a 40,000+ LBP fuel pricetag, which is some 1,200,000 LBP/month in a country where the minimum wage is 500,000 LL. So, either the minimum wage is at least tripled to 1,500,000 LL, or we start subsidizing commodities, and with rising oil and food prices, the prospects are looking very grim.

Read more in the Daily Star
Read more on iLoubnan

 

24 hours after this post, 5000 LBP was shaved off 20 Liters of fuel… Unclear how yet, but according to caretaker Power and Water Minister Gebran Bassil, it was through his executive order, not a “special issue” by the president and prime minister.

Personally, it looks like our dear leaders wanted their friends in the gas business to sell what was left of the fuel at the higher price, after all, we wouldn’t want 0.0001% of the Lebanese people to lose 5000 LBP =)

iPad “Review” and Apps You MUST Have

I’m tired of people whining and acting too hot for an iPad. “It’s useless” “too expensive” “too big” “too bla bla bla”. Well, I’ve had my iPad for over 10 months now, and I absolutely adore it. True it doesn’t have a USB port, no bluetooth, no built-in camera (I have the Wifi 16GB iPad). True it’s not the absolute first, or absolute best. But, as usual, Apple saved the day and made a new concept go viral. Just like it did with the iPod and digital music, the iPhone with mainstream smartphones and now the iPad with tablets.

Even though Apple might be the trend-setter, it’s not always the dominant one. After the iPone and iOS’s immense success, Google’s Android has surpassed the iOS as the biggest smartphone OS. The preferences are debatable, for Apple’s close monitoring and filtering of apps and it’s refusal to go open-source, and Google’s ultra-liberal open source policy, both have their ups and downs. I’m more partial to the Google mantra, cause even if the apps and software is buggy because anyone can do it, the sheer potential produces the envelope-pushing developments, that Apple then perfects tweaks.

Anyway, enough techie-politics. Let’s get to the chase: What I use my iPad for:

  1. Notes. At university
  2. Books. Both from the app store, and pdf files of my AUB textbooks (which Ghali Bookstore in Hamra would gladly scan and convert to pdf for you)
  3. Games. Need for Speed series, Red Alert and about two dozen other games, both first-person action games, and god games
  4. Music. In my experimentation with mixing and producing, the iPad acts as an invaluably versatile tool to both produce and mix music and light effects
  5. Work. I use it to jot down notes from interviews and events I cover for Beirutnightlife.com
  6. Internet. I browse the internet from the comfort of my bed, through elegant apps for portals such as the Huffington Post, the NYTimes and even Tayyar.org
  7. Social Media. Even though Facebook fails at creating apps for itself, there are plenty of awesome FB apps for the iPad. Twitter apps are also fantastic.
  8. Videos. Despite the fact iOS doesn’t support flash, YouTube and most video sharing websites have special iPad versions.
  9. Scouts. I use it to present my sessions, preferring the HD, interactive, colored, energy-saving screen versus environmentally un-friendly photocopied papers.
  10. Navigation. After I traded in my Nokia N97mini for a Bold 2 (horrible mistake) and then an Android Galaxy S (best decision of my life), the GPRS connection was way too slow, on the iPad, Google Maps is built-in with full navigation options that are incredibly accurate, and need no internet connection. There’s also several Lebanese apps that provide superb navigation services while offline.
  11. Stalking people. Like anyone with an iOS, crank callers and stupid drivers can no longer stay anonymous, with the Lebanon number and license plate directory apps, no one’s anonymous, thanks to our glorious government who somehow believes it will help with security =

So, spare me your whining of “it’s useless” and “i’m so hot”

Now, why not a Galaxy Tab? Well, I tried it, and it’s no iPad yet… I’ll wait a little before switching to an Android tablet. Plus, with an iPad and Galaxy S, I have the best of both worlds =)

Now, you might be wondering if I buy or illegally download these apps. I do both. Some apps I buy off the App Store, others through Installous. Here’s a YouTube that’ll help you learn how to jailbreak your iPad and then install Installous through Cydia

Now that you’ve done that, here are a few apps I downloaded, tried and loved myself:

Games


  1. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
    : this is the latest version. Beautiful HD, plenty of levels as both a cop and a racer. I LOVED this game. Do NOT download shift, it sucks! And NFS Undercover is just for iPhone, so graphix on iPad are not so good.
  2. Angry Birds: Need I say more? The beloved game, on a 10″ huge screen. Enjoyed it a lot on both my Android and iPad
  3. Cut the Rope: *nom nom nom* feed the kyoot creature the candy, using elaborate gestures and pure physics. Lovely game
  4. Ninjump: incredibly addictive. You’re a ninja running up an infinite wall. You need to avoid obstacles and get power-ups. My highest score is 6776 meters, beat that!
  5. World of Goo: If I ever designed a game, graphics and storyline, this would be it! It’s a very entertaining game, enough said, download it and play!
  6. Tycoon Millionaire: This is a blend of sims with monopoly, super-addictive, very fun
  7. Red Alert: It’s impressive, but takes a while to get use to the controls. Challenging nevertheless, a must-try for any Command and Conquer fan

Music

Looptastic

  1. Shazam: You can tag music with it, handy. SoundHound sucks btw, don’t try it
  2. Looptastic: I bought this app for 12.99$, worth every penny! Create music in a very simple, yet efficient way, with loops, effects and synth pads in a beautiful multi-touch display
  3. Loopesque: my less electronic-music-savvy friends drool over this game. It’s basically a circle with several partitions, each with a distinct sound and frequency. Creating patterns and overlaying them will create awesome music every time.
     

    Loopesque

  4. RJ Voyager: Extremely fun way of combining technical music features, with a more visual control interface. Lovely, and doesn’t just create a loop, but can be used to create dynamic tracks, live.
  5. TouchOSC: create your own knobs/faders/dials/pads/push buttons and hook them up to your TraktorPro laptop and DJ decks. FREEE. James Zabiela uses it =P

Social Media

  1. Friendly for Facebook: these guys did a better job than Zckerberg
  2. Tweetdeck: My favorite Twitter client, use it on my mac, iPad and Android
  3. G-Whizz: the solution for your several google services, all grouped into one neat app (gtalk, picasa, google docs, gmail, etc.)
  4. Stumbleupon: the reason I don’t sleep anymore…

News

  1. AJA Live: Al Jazeera live, perfect resource for live feeds, especially with all the turmoil in the arab world at the moment
  2. Huffington Post: Biased, but love it. Very diverse and very nice “gliding” app
  3. NYTimes: editors’ picks which are always interesting
  4. Tayyar.org: Not the greatest app, but a lovely initiative by a Lebanese website. Handy for live news about Lebanon

Medical/Science


  1. 3D Brain: perfect app of the 3D brain, free-moving, and with multiple labels and shading to show you specific areas, circuits and a anything you need for neuroanantomy
  2. Brain Tutor: see the brain through MRI slices, dorsoventrally and longitudinally
  3. Molecules: interactive ball-and-stick, space-filling and cylindrical models of any protein. Amazing for visualizing and understanding biochem and organic chem

Lebanon-Related

  1. Lebanon Directory: punch in any mobile or landline number, and know who it is registered to instantly (not always accurate, especially for post-paid and newer lines)
  2. Lebanon Car Directory (LCD): punch in any license plate number and find out if it is registered, and to whom
  3. NRJ Lebanon: awesome app, with 6 streaming radios and lots of other interactive interfaces for NRJ Lebanon, such as charts, social media, etc.

Hope this helps =) Any feedback and recommended apps much-appreaciated

Shankaboot 4th Season Premiere

For those of you who don’t know yet, Shankaboot is a Lebanese-made web-series, it’s the first online drama in the Arab world. Episodes are a little over 5 minutes each, and so far 8 have been released. It revolves the adventures of a young delivery boy (shankaboot) on his vespa around the streets of Beirut and Lebanon. There are bucket-loads of love, drama, crime, and suspense crammed into each 5 minute episode, and now at 34 episodes and some 2 hours and 45 minutes of Shankaboot, it’s definitely worth your time and anxiety-free for those of you who are going to begin watching it now.

On Friday February 11, the Shankaboot team organized the launch of the 4th season of the highly successful webseries. It was set at an amazing venue in Hamra, called Zawiya building (which someone should organize a dance event at, ASAP) with the cast, writers, producers, directors and most of the guys behind the show present and mingling with the guests, who all got a complimentary drink =P

I went there with the Online Collaborative team at AUB, and we had our drink, took pictures with Shankaboot, on Shankaboot’s vespa and of course in a beautiful dress then some of us remained for the live entertainment later. Unfortunately, I missed the bands *secretly woohoos* so not a lotta pictures taken.

Here’s the first episode of the fourth season. Enjoy!

Some pics of the night

 

Burger Nation Review

The recent surge in themed and quality burger joints has proven quite successful in Lebanon. From CBJ to Brgr Co, comes what I believe is the perfect blend.

Classic Burger Joint is a fast, low-maintenance and dine-and-dash (as in leave fast, not as in not pay =P) and Brgr Co. is an overpriced whose cow of origins seem to be more pampered than the Lurpak bovine prima dona. Burger Nation offers the grass-fed, 100% pure and imported beef, but at a more reasonable price and more upbeat environment.

It seems the person I try out new places on Hamra Street with is always Hassan El Rifai, and again, we met up last week at BN.

The menu is either the preset choices, or a do-it-yourself format similar to the one at Lord of the Wings. I ordered the Swiss’n’Mushroom burger with Belgian fries (the thicker kind) and Hassan ordered something he conceived with some crispy fries. I must say, the burger was delicious and perfectly done. It was nice and dark on the outside, and red and juicy on the inside.

To me, a burger is a burger, it’s more about what comes with the burger and where you eat it. If you want to have a long dinner and talk, but don’t want to go broke, Burger Nation is the place for you, with more tolerance for duration of visit than CBJ and considerably more reasonable price for an 8oz burger than Brgr Co.

So, I would definitely recommend this place for my burger-loving readers, who can maybe help me gauge the meat’s quality compared to other places in Beirut.

Verdict: It’s a fair compromise between quality burgers and friendly atmosphere

Price: More expensive than CBJ, cheaper than Brgr Co

Atmosphere: Laid-back, non-smoking inside, and friendly

Staff: A bit rusty, but I guess it’s just cause the place is new

Food: I’d recommend the Swiss n Mushroom burger, but if you really know what you like, building your own burger might be the preferred option for you

PS sorry I compared to CBJ and Brgr Co so openly, but I feel it’s the best way to help you get a feel of what I’m trying to say =P

 

Sound Selection 44 – Non-Electronic and Rappy

Wiz Khalifa – Black & Yellow (Feat. J.A.E.) I like this track, catchy

Lil Wayne – Green & Yello My little boy George told me about this song, which is lil’Wayne singing to Wiz Khalifa’s song, though with imrpov lyrics to support the Steelers (green and yellow uniform)

2Pac – Ambitionz Az A Ridah This song is ooold, but it has a wicked beat to it, learned about it thanks to Maamoun and Maroun

Lil Wayne Ft. Eminem- Drop The World It seems not enough people I know have heard this song. It’s awesome though, some of lil’Wayne’s best work in my opinion

30 Seconds to Mars – Hurricane (WITHOUT STUPID KANYE WEST) Pretty cool track, but I insist on not listening to the retard Kanye