Thursday, May 29, 2008

Eating out: baked chicken lunch @ Pita Fresh


Here's my first post on eating out.

It happened thus: we were at the historic Sinclair Center for some reason, and we were very hungry. Being my usual self, I wanted to resume my hunt for those fabulous lunch places of downtown legend before they morphed into disappointing food joints, as they usually do when they're discovered. Tina didn't agree, and I'm glad she didn't.

We ended up having lunch at the Sinclair Center food court. It's a pretty official-looking place, so it's not really where you'd expect a good bite. Pita Fresh was barely a few weeks old, just starting out; they sold Mediterranean dishes for fast food prices. We had baked chicken lunch, which is one piece of baked chicken, rice (pulao or pilao, actually) and two sides you can choose from humus and pita bread, tabbouleh, Greek salad, beans, garden salad and more.

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It was fantastic, and it didn't taste like fast food at all. The chicken was perfect; think of McDonald's minus the so-called spicyness and the sawdust, but only way better and with a homely feel, and, of course, a different bakey flavor. Actually, I shouldn't even be trying this. There's no comparison, at least with McDonald's. I tried digging up the recipe for Mediterranean baked chicken; but I'm pretty sure it's not it. Anyway, you might want to try it at home.

The humus is still the best I've had in town. In fact, the first thing I remember about Pita Fresh is its humus... (here's a humus recipe for you to try out). The pita bread could've been better, but we really didn't care. In short, if you're ordering this you humus and pita bread ought to be one of your sides. For the other one, I choose beans, tabbouleh and these days Greek salad, depending on my mood. In all cases, I can't resist a jalapeƱo or two.

The owners of the place are nice, too. In fact, they're already all set to open a shop downtown that will offer lunch and dinner service. Of course, baked chicken isn't everything they sell: they have lots of other dishes (including shwarmas and kebabs) and even sweets (baklavas and rice pudding). But let's leave them aside for future posts. (PS- everything in this place is halal and lard/MSG free.)

The price of the baked chicken meal? $3.99. I'm generally full after I've devoured it, but you can 'upgrade' (hey, this blog is called 'techqi' after all ;-D) to a 2-piece meal for $5.49, and a 3-piece meal for $6.99.

I've done quite a bit of eating around, and mark my words: you won't find a cheaper meal that tastes this good anywhere else in Vancouver! Perhaps except... (let's leave that as a secret).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

After having a bad dream

I had a bad dream. The details are immaterial, but if you have had your fair share of nightmares you know that dreams as such have a cascading effect on your day's unruly events. Alternatively, -- which is the best it can get -- you try to get back with your usual self by thinking your week hasn't been great, and this bad dream is just the culmination of your age of horrors, which is another way of thinking it's the end of your bad week or month or year, and you cheer yourself up. It doesn't generally work. Sometimes it's ghouls that scared your bedsheets wet when you were a kid, sometimes it's witches that lurk in shadows; sometimes it's a screening of you losing someone you love, and in other, more terrifying moments, it's about a part of your soul that is so true and so maniacal that you wake up in a sweat, a lot like the times when you were scared of ghouls as a kid. Make a guess about my bad dream. Yeah. In particular it hasn't been a bad week (I'm trying to be overtly optimistic): I wrote a paper I was happy with, my blogs are getting lots of hits, I'm learning Sanskrit, and I watched the latest Indy movie. I even had a haircut today, which is a day of celebration for anybody who's doomed to go bald in the next something years. (Ask anybody who fits into that category if you don't believe me. I don't blame you if you don't. Even my wife doesn't realize how tragic my shortage of hair is to me. At this point I ought to post a recent photo of me, but I don't have any on me right now, and this is a public computer.) On the downside, I'm so busy I can't even tell my right foot from my left and I miss-don't-miss home oh so terribly. There's also a mongrel out on the loose who's lifting material from my blogs, and I haven't even had time to write food reviews or suggest any more Really Useful Stuff. In addition the earthquake in China and the cyclone Nargis in Burma (which was in close succession to the cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh) have made me feel horrible. What's wrong with the world? Are we set for a major environmental disaster within our lifetimes? I think I'll settle for my bad dream.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kamasutra for IT people

Even Gizmodo isn't sure where this is from, but it's pretty hilarious, so I had to share it. Enjoy =D =D

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Robotic suit-clad soldiers coming up

What's it about: A recently developed exoskeleton-ish robotic suit that can amplify human strength and endurance as many as twenty times. (source)

Comments: Is it a coincidence this suit made the headlines in the summer of the Iron Man movie? Speaking of which, I don't think it'll be used for similar, superhumanly noble purposes. The guy who made it happens to work for a company that has a contract with the US military, you see. Besides, it's a long way off from perfection: it's not cost effective (we guessed that part) and has a current battery life of only thirty minutes.

The Quran incident and its reception

[This article was published in OpEdNews.] The US military has apologized for the actions of a soldier who used the Quran for target practice. It's all over the news right now. Most news sites are using the CNN report above, or the AP report. The incident happened on May 9, and was reportedly discovered two days later. CNN was the first to report, and broadcasted a ceremony where the top US military official in Iraq apologized to tribal leaders on Saturday: "I come before you here seeking your forgiveness. In the most humble manner I look in your eyes today and I say please forgive me and my soldiers. [...] The actions of one soldier were nothing more than criminal behavior. I've come to this land to protect you, to support you — not to harm you — and the behavior of this soldier was nothing short of wrong and unacceptable." True. He also read out the soldier's apology: "I sincerely hope that my actions have not diminished the partnership that our two nations have developed together. ... My actions were shortsighted, very reckless and irresponsible, but in my heart [the actions] were not malicious." Depending on, that is, how "malicious" is defined these days -- and by whom. Check out these sites and forums that are reaping the bandwidth of such crises: PhillyBlog ("Who gives a shit?", "A book is an object... If you aren't a Muslim, the book isn't sacred") Godlike Productions ("I [use] pages from it to wipe my ass after I pinch a loaf...", to which one forum member responded "The internet is [flooded] by this sort of comments... if i was a muslim, i would feal threatened, and start to believe the extremists are right about us") Topix ("I THINK THIS IS HILARIOUS! MUDSLIMES BEHEAD PEOPLE,MURDER CHILDREN AND OLD FOLKS AND WE GET OUR PANTIES IN A BUNCH BECAUSE A SOLDIER SHOOTS A PAGAN BOOK! WE NEED TO NUKE IRAQ AND GET OUT. WE SPEND BILLIONS ON THE WAR IN ANOTHER COUNTRY WHILE OUR ECONOMY IS IN SHAMBLES" -- all caps it was) ABC news ("they should NEVER give in to the muslim pigs, burn the stupid book, shoot it, let the dogs eat it", "A religion that worships paper is goofy. That's all it is, paper. If you don't hold the meaning of your religion in your heart and not in material things, your religion is in trouble") and JazzCorner ("He may have found the only way for a grunt to get out of Iraq..."). Comments seem to be from all across the spectrum, but most respondents seemed to be -- amazingly -- approving of the incident. I'm damn sure Glenn Beck will have a great time, too. The situation in Radhwaniya, Baghdad however, is intense. Residents carried banners and cried slogans, calling on America to get out of Iraq. Not surprisingly, a local sheikh termed the incident an "aggression against the entire Muslim world". Tribal leaders, dignitaries and security officials were reportedly at the apology ceremony, where a US military official kissed a Quran and presented it as a "humble gift" to the tribal leaders. The soldier who carried out the misconduct has been relieved from his duties and is set to be deported back to the US. Incidentally, the CNN and AP reports have some discrepancies -- 1. CNN: the bullet-ridden Quran had "multiple bullet holes and an expletive scrawled on one of its pages"; AP: had "14 bullet holes" and "graffiti inside the cover". From my understanding, there's a difference between "expletive" and "graffiti". Images of the Quran have not been -- and most possibly will not be -- released. 2. CNN: "Officials said the soldier claimed he wasn't aware the book was the Quran. U.S. officials rejected the claim." Since it was rejected by US officials, who were the officials who claimed the sniper wasn't aware it was the Quran? Why would anybody desecrate a holy book -- any holy book? What intent -- other than a malicious one -- would incite a person to hurt someone precisely where it will cause enormous grief? The Quran incident will no doubt worsen the situation in Iraq, where apart from other casualties, five children were killed on Saturday when a mortar slammed into their neighborhood. They had been playing. A US soldier died on Sunday, when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle, north of Baghdad. I wonder how the parents of all these people who have died in this war -- the kids, the marines -- are coping with their realities. Of course we don't want to imagine what they're going through -- it's way too much stress, who wants that when we have Lindsay Lohan so screwed up and anyway we always say fuck Bush and so on. Maybe that's why we have wars.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Free Photoshop anthology for download

I'm really tired, but had to share this with you guys before I bow out for the day. Sitepoint is giving away free copies of their Photoshop ebook, valid till May 31: The book is titled "The Photoshop Anthology: 101 web design tips, tricks and techniques". The author is Corrie Haffly, who really seems to know her stuff. It's a zipped PDF download, that's 278 pages long, and comes in two versions: a 64MB hi-res and a 23MB low-res. I'd recommend the book to just about any beginning-to-intermediate graphic designer. Hey, it's got the word anthology in its title, and it's free.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's mumbling season

Finally, I'm done with one of the 2 papers I was supposed to write. Almost broke my back; despite having started on it over a week or more ago, I ended up without a wink of sleep, writing all night before the deadline. Why am I such a strange creature?... every time, I have time, I don't use it, I try to use it, it won't work... and it all boils down to the umpteenth minute. It's terribly exhausting, and I try my best every time to avoid such happy endings, but alas... Anyway, the good thing is I now have one thing less to worry about. But it's mumbling season again. Mumbling season is the time of the year when I suddenly lose my linguistic prowess in one or more languages I use. For instance, right now I'm feeling uncomfortable speaking English (writing is never affected). The words kinda roll up inside my mouth and I also can't find the right words. I've also suddenly lost my accent. It's so utterly frustrating. It's worse when the same kind of thing happens with Bangla. I then have to do with English, or stuttering Bangla. But we Bangladeshis are very emotional about our language, and people who're convinced I'm trying to be a snob with an Anglocized Bangla accent or simply arrogant don't give me nice looks at the end of our conversations. By the way, Bangla, or Bengali, is my native tongue, but English was the language I learned first. Therefore I pretty much use both of them in my head. Imagine my distress when I'm malfunctioning in either of these... or in both. In such cases, I generally end up being mum or uninterested in conversations for some time, trying to get my mind off it knowing that it's going to go away in a couple of weeks. I don't know why this happens to me, and I'm not pulling your leg here. This really happens to me. I've given the thing a lot of thought over the years; almost nobody believes me, so I've given up talking about it. Is this a psychological thing? I don't think so. Everything else is okay. I'm perfect or as good as I was yesterday in every other respect. It's just the language part. Perhaps a neurological or genetic disorder? Is there any literature on this? Does this happen to anyone else? Nowadays, I'm learning Sanskrit. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, but God knows what's going to happen when Sanskrit is the only language I'm fluent in, in some foreseeable mumbling season. I told you I was weird. Posts will be more frequent, and hopefully deal with more realistic issues.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2 papers 2 write 2 many

Due to some unforeseen spiritual disorder, I always end up writing term papers at the very last minute. Right now, for instance, I have two papers to write -- both huge -- that I had tons of time for. Yet once again I'm back at the umpteenth hour. Some help from above, please? (I'm not sure whether God reads blogs, but the angels might, and I've heard they have a good relationship with the Big Guy.) Things to come on techqi: an overhaul (yes, another one -- did the last one even happen? seems so awfully far away); meal reviews; antivirus reviews, or the likes; literature and tech. Stay tuned. (And yes, I do have to fix this 'read more' thing -->)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Really Useful Stuff: WinPatrol

My pick for this week (belatedly) is BillP Studios' WinPatrol.

If you asked me, WinPatrol should be the one piece of software that you absolutely must install on top of Windows and MS Office. What it does: it's a security monitor that notifies you of any changes made to your system. In English: it basically takes a snapshot of your critical system resources and then alerts you of any changes taking place without your knowledge. So if your computer is being manipulated by malware, WinPatrol will halt the action and ask for your approval. If you think the program in question isn't malware, then you can allow the process to continue, and the digital angels are happy once again.

Actually WinPatrol will monitor changes made by any software, malware and wellware alike. It's effectively a kind of firewall that works as a security layer over your operating system, protecting you from unauthorized manipulations by software. However: this is not an antivirus, anti-spyware or anything similar. WinPatrol's job is to block any kind of changes happening without your knowledge, allowing them only when you approve. If your computer is already malware-infected, you have to deal with them first. (Click here for my antivirus reviews; here for my take on other security software.)

Therefore you can't really do without antiviruses and the such. So why use WinPatrol? Simple -- well, prevention is better than cure, right? Moreover, WinPatrol will also:
  • detect and review new auto start-up programs
  • automatically disable recurring startup programs
  • delay auto start-up programs for quick boot-up
  • monitor toolbars and clean up cookies
  • detect and view newly created hidden files
  • detect and lock changes to file type associations
and much more. And it's free.

WinPatrol is a fairly friendly piece of software -- for the most part, you'll only notice Scotty the Watchdog sitting in your taskbar who'll woof a popup whenever anything happens. However, advanced users are likely to feel more comfortable it, due to all the registry issues that are reflected in the alerts.

BillP Studios does have a paid version ($29.95) though, that provides 24/7 access to the WinPatrol Plus Knowledgebase and real-time infiltration detection. If you're not comfortable or need help about monitoring software-induced changes on your computer, by all means go for the paid version.

For: Super security monitor for your Windows computer (even works on Vista!). Also has a couple of useful privacy features thrown in. Free and weighs less than 1 MB (whoa).
Against: Interface and help features ought to be a bit more geared towards end-users.

Down and under

I'm really horrible at apologies, but sorry for not having posted anything in a while. My ex-computer is really the one to blame; to top it off, I have my hands full with term work (which includes a Sanskrit course!) and overdue papers. I believe I've also missed my Really Useful Stuff installment for last week, not to mention my gastronomical insights which I had promised to share. Hopefully I'll come up with something soon. In the meanwhile, bookmark this site, subscribe to my RSS feeds and come back soon or else something bad will happen to you or your lawyer. No, of course, I didn't mean the last part.