just us

Spent the morning in chat, many people, some are actually friends. It’s amazing.

Met for lunch at a new Vietnamese place, we had beef noodles and a small steamed rice roll. I had a lemon 7-up. Was going to visit the big NY festival at the park but she found a smaller food exhibition at the convention centre, so we took the bus there.

Quite crowded but I could manage my claustrophobia. We decided it was a good idea to visit after lunch, cos we only tried very few items and bought even fewer, compared to what we normally did. Just some honeycomb, tea leaves and noodles. Oh, and a case each of blueberry vinegar drink. That woman at the stall was so rude it was hysterical.

There was also a gift expo downstairs, included in the nominal admissions fee. What did we buy? A pair of crocs each. Mine is in boring chocolate and hers in butter.

Talking of foot, we had our usual foot massage afterwards. Dinner of lamb hotpot and steamed fish; and we bought dessert home.

20 minutes to go. I’m in the study and she’s just fallen asleep on my couch. It’s just us this New Year’s Eve. It’s good.

roast chicken, ice cream

All things considered, sitting in my office all day pretending to be busy but in fact bored out of my mind surfing the net isn’t a bad way of spending the friday before a long weekend. I sent myself a couple of faxes, got the dept secretary to give me efax access and wrote an email to imation about my flash drive. That’s about the only productive things I did. I’d much prefer to be a little busier. Ha! Famous last words!

We left work at 6.20pm, met up at the tram stop, but the trams were way too crowded. So we walked about 20mins to the restaurant we were planning to go to. All I remember about this restaurant is that it’s pretty old and I last went there with her and her sis. I think. Anyway we had roast chicken, fried dumplings and a vegetable / tofu soup.

Afterwards we walked around for a while before coming home. Love walking around in this weather, after dinner.

Had the rest of the hokey pokey ice cream.

Now this is the life.

favorites

My poor boss asked me if there’s anything wrong with her. Apparently some people made not so stellar remarks about her and commented that she suffers from favoritism.

What rubbish. She manages a whole team of people, and cannot possibly give equal attention to everyone. People need to realize bosses are people too.

quiet

In the grand scheme of things, 271 emails over 2 weeks isn’t a lot. Once I sift through announcements and read receipts there were only about 100 to deal with. Manageable.

Quiet day at work, people are probably out on holiday. Only about 2/3 people in the office. Had to get back to my routine.

My fridge is still full of food.

<

Last free day

Not thinking about the end of the holidays. No. No. No.

Still trying to sort out our photos and catching up on reading.

Family Christmas celebration today, later than expected, cos of timing. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, Swedish meatballs, Christmas pud, mulled wine. Everything very nice. I took one drumstick and the carcass home, parents took the rest. Lots to eat, my fridge is totally full.

at home

This jetlag business is strange. I don’t feel that tired, but we woke up at 6.40am again. Couldn’t get back to sleep.

Today we decided to go out for morning tea, which ended up being brunch. Had the hokey pokey ice cream that we bought yesterday at home, then I made vegetable soup.

Sorting pictures is taking a long time, which is why NZ posts are taking some time too.

happy christmas

woke up at 6.45am and couldn’t go back to sleep, must be the jetlag. She cooked us breakfast and went to church. I really should go but I was lazy. I’m also afraid that I’d get roped into the choir and group activities, same as her.

So I caught up a little with my reading and had the most unlikely Christmas lunch of vegetables. I have no fresh food in my fridge.

Mid afternoon we met up and had foot massage. On the way, my bus broke down but no delay as everyone just hopped onto the next one that came along. The streets were full of people and I felt my bad mood rising with each person in my path. Why can’t they all go away?

Bought hairy crabs and went to the market near her place to buy vegetables for my fridge. Got some hot wings from McDonalds too. Okay, that sounds like a weird Christmas dinner, but well, it’s what we like.

Tired from our travels. She was asleep by 10.30pm. I stayed online to chat a little, but had to go to bed just after midnight too.

trip recap

I’m going to slowly post entries from 10 Dec, the first day of our vacation. Entries will be post-dated. The slowness is because: a) there are so many entries; b) we did so much and c) I want to include pictures but we took over 2,800 in total and it’s a huge job to sift through them. So if you’re reading this entry on the website, scroll down to see where I’ve managed to get to, and come back regularly during the next week or so to find all the entries until 23 Dec. Of course if you’re reading via a rss reader the new posts will show up automatically for you.

Anyhow, it’s Christmas Eve and we got home early evening. I’m w, flaiting for her to come over, and in the meantime I’m catching up on emails and writing group posts.

To start at the beginning of the day. We got up around 6am, had breakfast (the only hotel that has breakfast included) and set off at 7.30am-ish. It was a miserable day in Auckland, rain rain rain. The drive to the car return office was free of traffic, and the guy there took us to the terminal in the same car.

Auckland airport is the largest so far, but there was a hellishly long line at check-in. I guess we’re so used to using the in-town check-in, and I use the club counter, that I’m so not used to having to line up for more than half an hour just to get to the front of the line. Turns out the baggage handling / conveyor belt system at the airport was down. So we weighed our bags, the check-in lady came out of her booth and attached the tag, and then we had to wheel our bags ourselves (following a trail of uniformed staff) to the side of what seems to be the baggage warehouse. Then a window opened and we shoved our bags in. sheesh, first the eftpos system breaks down for 2 hours on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and then the country’s largest airport has a systems failure on Christmas Eve? Not doing well, them Kiwis.

Anyway the flight was full. And full of the Asian Majority. Day flight, so I only managed to nap occasionally. They fed us well, we had a nice lunch of chicken and cake; tea of ice cream and shortbread; dinner of beef noodles and cheesecake. Food on Air New Zealand has been impressive. Also had a good pinot noir with my lunch but skipped the alcohol for dinner.

No personal screen, only the large screen at the centre. Had to change headphones a couple of times before finding a pair that worked. Watched most of Bewitched, some of Goal! but wasn’t interested in the third film, a little league baseball fatherly film with Billy Bob Thornton.

Most of the time I read Geek Love, which I brought for the trip but hadn’t touched at all. It soon captured my interest. It’s twisted, yet compelling, and easy to read. It basically appeals to anyone who never wanted to be just a grey, nameless cog in the conveyor belt of life; anyone who wanted / knew / liked it that they’re a little bit different. I got to page 306 by the end of the flight.

Bags came out quickly, and we were on the airport train soon. Not so many people around, most have probably gone on vacation, not come back. Heehee. I’m all unpacked, taken a shower, and checked with Mum that we’re not having a Christmas family thing tomorrow.

mm’s bringing sushi. After 2 weeks of relatively heavy food, it’s good to have something lighter.

nz holiday – day 13

Rotorua – Auckland

Tried making ostrich omelette for breakfast. Very thick. Didn’t scramble properly. Couldn’t finish it. Heated up the fried rice again, for the trip.

First, zorb! NZ$45 for one trip down. They didn’t have the strapped in version, and most people went for the wet one anyway. So they gave me this yellow clingy outfit to change into, I was glad I had a swimming costume underneath.

A Land Rover ride up the slope with 2 other people. When it was my turn, the guide told me to take a running dive into the zorb that he had already filled with warm water. It was stuffy inside, and of course pretty wet.

I chose the zig-zag course, which was supposed to be more fun — at least it was longer and more bumpy. The guide tapped the zorb and I pushed it down, it was slippery and rolled around a lot, quite difficult to stay on my feet and I didn’t even try. I went “weeeee!” all the way down, it was a little dizzy and I think I ended up going backwards. And it was me in this zorb.

zorb

Heh, they didn’t call it “spin cycle” for nothing, it did feel like being inside a washing machine during the spin dry cycle. It was fun, although I might not do it again.

After the zorb, we popped by the blueberry farm and bought a carton of juice for the trip. I was hungry, so I got started on the fried rice. What a good idea, to pack some food for the drive.

Long long drive to auckland, only 236km but a lot of traffic and slow moving vehicles. There was even a traffic jam on the motorway on the way into the city, a big difference from the open roads on South Island. Staying at the Kingsgate hotel, much like a travelodge.

Got checked in then drove out to city centre, looked for parking space. Damn, expensive. Eventually we gave in and parked at the Sky Tower. Luckily we validated the ticket at the souvenir shop (bought a few fluffy sheep) and it saved is $11. The charge for 3 hrs was $18 and we only paid $7.

Walked around the very busy city. Lots of Asians and Koreans. Stopped by Starbucks, I had a crème brule latte and she had a hot chocolate; a veg pie and a berry muffin too. It was extremely windy by the time we reached the bay.

auckland

Bought sushi and sashimi to eat at the hotel, didn’t want anything too heavy. Took the car out again after dinner to drive over the harbour bridge and to look for some ice cream but with no luck.

Back to hotel, it’s the end of our trip now. Sad but happily satisfied.

nz holiday – day 12

Waitomo caves

Today’s target was Waitomo caves. It was supposed to be 200+ km but the drive was extremely boring. Nothing to see, windy roads, narrow and winding, rain one minute, sun another.

The cave more than made up for it. The glow worms were astounding. They’re just larvae and they make thin strips of gunk that hang down from the ceiling of the cave to attract food. There were thousands of them in the dark, we were in the boat and there was silence and darkness, the glow worms were bright enough to give light. It was romantic.

We were very lucky, there was a fire last wed that destroyed the entire ticket office and shop and it had only reopened again this week. Luckily none of the smoke ended up in the caves. No wonder they were so disorganised. The river level was rising and any higher they’d have to close. And if CO2 levels got high they close the caves too. We were very lucky.

[ETA: 30 December 2005, some despicable people vandalised the caves, spraying graffiti on the caves and limestone formations, forcing it to close again. So awful.]

On the way out, we stopped at a home farm and bought an ostrich egg. Empty, since we couldn’t have eaten the entire egg — equivalent to 24 normal eggs. We did buy a small ziploc bag worth of frozen ostrich egg that was about a quarter (ie 6 hen eggs). The lady very kindly gave us some herbs from her garden too.

We were very hungry, and by the time we had lunch it was 3.45pm. We headed towards Te Kuiti, the nearest town. After investigating several cafés we decided on the Chinese takeaway. My god — the mountain of fried rice and the fried noodles without noodles, in-teresting.

Drove the longer but faster way back via Hamilton. Another visit to countdown to get asparagus, mussels, clams and more venison. Couldn’t stay away. I fried the venison rarer today, I think I have the hang of it now.

rotorua02 rotorua03

More spa. today mm joined. More nice.

nz holiday – day 11

Waimangu volcanic valley – prawn farm

Leisurely start today, our main aim was to head for Taupo. On the way we stopped at the Waimanga geothermal area and after a short debate decided to pay the NZ$28 each entry to the reserve. Wow, so worth it. The walk was quite long, but well marked and explained. There were 3 stop-off points and a bus took people back to the entrance, so they didn’t need to walk back.

The frying pan lake, cathedral rock, and inferno crater lake were awesome. We took the harder Mount Haszard hiking trail between bus-stop 1 and 2, quite steep and harder than we were used to. Then it began to rain. Then it poured. Eeep. We were so glad we had our waterproof jackets cos we hardly felt the rain. We missed the time for bus-stop 2 so we walked the extra 15 mins to bus-stop 3. nice. We were very very happy, even though we were damp and hungry.

waimangu01 waimangu02

Short drive in the rain to the prawn farm. Too late for any activities, we had a late lunch of 1 kg large prawns. Quite nice, but not as prawn tasting as they could be. These had pinchers too, the first time I’ve seen them.

Just about enough time for the honey place before everything closed. It was still raining hard. Bought honeycombs and tried the hokey pokey ice cream – yums. A favourite.

mm drove us back to Rotorua and we went to Countdown to buy more mussels and venison. Happy that we had another nice dinner.

I drove out to town to have 1 hr of surfing, thanks mm. Car’s posting today, must check on her. When I got back, mm ran the spa for me, nice.

nz holiday – day 10

Christchurch – Rotorua

Our flight was at 10am. Quick drive to the rental car office, they took us to the terminal by van. The terminal was larger than the one at Dunedin, the domestic and international terminals were next to each other and connected. We checked in, got our boarding passes and went over to the international section, where it was quieter, and shared a pot of tea. I was so tempted to use the internet terminals again but they were $2 for 15 mins, expensive.

No metal detector check, just walked to the tarmac, up the steps and we were on the plane. Flight was longer than I expected, probably cos it was a small plane (one of those with propellers). We were served cookies and tea and eventually we touched down at Rotorua.

Another regional airport, the rental car lady was there with a noticeboard waiting for us. She took us back to town and left us our car — a 2.2 camry, much bigger than the Pulsar.

Our motel was the Coachman Inn, along the main hotel street. Room 8 again, same as Christchurch. Room was okay, large kitchen with 2 hobs (yay!) and a spa tub. The furniture and decorations were little old though.

Drove out to town to have kebab, not as good as Dunedin. Then to the information centre and around the lake. North island was definitely more populated and there were a lot of cars and people and much much more built up. On the way around the lake we stopped off at the agrodome and looked at the zorb. I wanted to try, even before coming here, ever since I saw it on TAR; just watched today though.

A short drive away to the Mamaku Blue blueberry farm, tried the blueberry wine and liqueur and the juice. Ended up buying some liqueur and the juice as well as some jam and chocolate as presents.

The lake drive was okay, a letdown compared with south island scenery. we stopped a little way for photos, then went to the Blue and Green lakes. Honestly, disappointments.

rotorua01

Still light out, went to Woolworths and bought mussels and lamb chops for dinner. The mussels were the best man, so sweet and fresh. We opened the second of our pinot noir bottles, a good wine.

I tried the spa tub, it took a long time to fill so by the time I got in, I was kinda impatient.

nz holiday – day 9

Christchurch – Kaikoura

6am wake up, 7am leaving time. She drove us up to Kaikoura – 2.5 hrs. It was overcast and foggy. We were really early, got there at 9.30-9.45am, checked in and were told that our ‘10.30am’ sailing meant watching a video at 11am, then boarding. We walked around the village and stopped for a drink, she had peppermint tea and I had a nice chocolate milkshake.

A short coach ride to the boat, it was a fast speedboat that held around 60 people and was full. We couldn’t walk around like other cruises, sat at our seats till the guide found a whale, then we all trundled up to the roof.

The crew consisted of a guide and a couple of spotters. The guide gave funny but clichéd comments. But it didn’t matter, we spotted a whale very quickly. The boat got into a perfect position just behind the whale for about 5 mins, then the crew could tell it was diving and over the PA system the guide even told us when to click our shutters.

Saw 5 whales in all, got close to 4. I tried out the fast shutter speed and got some very cool pics for one dive. And to cap it all, mm took a fabulous movie.

Then the guide got us to all scramble back to our seats and the pilot moved the boat quickly inland to shallower waters and caught up with a pod of dolphins, it was the most dolphins I’ve seen at once. It was wonderful.

There must have been around 30 of them. Some of them were even doing jumps and flips. The best advice from the guide, they usually did 3 or 4 flips, so focus on them and they would probably repeat. And I caught one!

 

And finally, just watch them swim about, there’s something so peaceful about it.

Lunch was at a pub called Strawberry Tree, we had fish and chips and a fisherman’s basket meal. Service was very slow, there was only the one guy serving and cooking and he was cooking everything from frozen. I had a pint of dark ale too. Food wasn’t value for money either, the fisherman’s basket was a few deep fried fish nuggets, one mussel fried, and probably 3-4 potatoes worth of wedges.

I fell asleep almost all the way back to christchurch. Thanks mm for driving us back. We did a little laundry. While waiting she did all the photos and I watched the Australia vs South Africa test match, Brad Hodge made 203 no. wow.

As if the day wasn’t eventful enough, we went to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, it was open till 10pm and we sneaked in before they closed part of one section. Nice stuff — deers, birds, farm animals and KIWI!!! Plus other interesting animals. it was worth the trip.

Raining when we left, wanted to find a Chinese takeaway but the one we found was closed. 9.45pm and a takeaway is closed. wtf. Ended up at Mcdonalds where we got the deli sandwiches, kinda sad, but it was what we felt like.

Pretty much all packed now. Bye to South Island.

nz holiday – day 8

Franz Josef – Christchurch

I wanted to go to the internet bus again this morning but when I walked over there at 9.20am there was music and a dog but the door was closed and the sign said ‘closed’. I was so disappointed. mm took her time getting ready this morning, and I was short with her, perhaps it was my disappointment over the internet thing. Sorry, mm.

Long drive to Christchurch, on the map about 5 hrs. We stopped at lunch at Hokitika, a largish (for NZ) town that was quite touristy. It was full of jade and craft shops and a whole bunch of coaches that stopped and disgorged tourists. Kinda forgotten it was sunday but we were reminded by the sign at a restaurant that advertised sunday roast. We had a large plate of roast lamb each – $13.95 gave us a small mountain of roast lamb, roast potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cauliflower cheese and peas all in a big heap on the plate. niiiice. That place was self service and boasted “the largest teapot collection in nz”, so we had to try their tea. I had a very strong English breakfast and mm had peppermint, both from tea leaves. Altogether an excellent sunday roast lunch.

hokitika
are we coming back in March?

Moving on, the drive to Christchurch took us through Arthur’s Pass, quite a steep climb, especially in our car that had no uphill ability. There were still few cars on the road. The road eventually levelled out and by the time we were 50km from Christchurch the road was almost ramrod straight. It was also extremely hot outside so the effect was that I could see the heat from the road, and oncoming vehicles were hard to spot. Driving in remote areas like this I always turn the headlights on full, even in bright sunshine, it makes me so much more visible to other cars. I was thinking that we probably saw more roadkill than cars at some point.

Christchurch was a city alright. It was the first time we stopped at a traffic light for a week! There were more cars than we’d encountered the entire week. Trams! Taxis! Buses!

christchurchtram

Our motel was the Milano motorlodge. Very nice again, large room, this time with very soft carpet. Nice colour coordination, everything was yellow and blue but very pleasing. The landlady was also extremely friendly and helpful, we’re lucking out again.

Took a drive out to city centre. everything was closed, it was worse than the UK. Walked round a bit, to the cathedral, the pedestrianised zones and took some pictures of the trams. Dinner at this place called Six missing chairs that was supposed to be award winning. Service was home-styled and the cooking pretty decent, but I’m not so sure about “award winning.” mm had venison and I had lamb shanks. We were reading brochures we picked up from the hotel and discovered this was a byo restaurant, so I ran down to the car and took one of the bottles of pinot noir we bought in Bannockburn. Corkage was NZ$5 per bottle.

I really wanted to go to one of the internet cafes there. $3 an hour was good but she looked so sad and resigned, I swallowed my urge. sigh. what else could I do?

At the end drove up the road to a 24 hr supermarket, bought some silverside and hummus for picnic lunch tomorrow. So tempted to buy more but we’re flying the day after, so we have to restrain ourselves.

I’m amazed at the familiar names. There’s a Hereford street one block from Worcester, another street up is Gloucester, followed by Armagh and Chester. There is Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Liverpool, Salisbury, Aberdeen, St Albans and the whole region is called Canterbury. Christchurch itself is located on the River Avon. It was like going home.

nz holiday – day 7

Franz Josef Glacier

Our helihike was at noon, so early morning after breakfast, mm let me out for an hour to go interneting again, thanks mm. smack

Gathered with our group at the check-in point, paid our NZ$640 (eeeep!!!) and got changed into boots and waterproof jackets. The guide told us to just take our cameras and water, no need for anything else. It wasn’t that cold up there anyway. I only had a polo shirt and a t-shirt underneath the jacket.

Waited about 20 minutes for the helicoptors to arrive. The ride was short but beautiful, the hike itself was 2 hours and … what can I say? Amazing. Breath-taking, Trip of a lifetime. The crevices were deep, but we were with an easy group of 12 people so nothing too challenging. Crampons on the boots helped, and we got our ice-legs soonish. The caves and the water flows and general sights were so great. Probably better told with pictures.

 

 

It’s hard to comprehend exactly how large the cracks were. What seemed like just small gaps could be the size of a person. There were also ice caves hidden away that we could crawl into. Where there was ice, the surface was slippery, and blue ice even more so.

Every so often we’d turn back and look up at the glacier. It was a sight.

Chopper trip down I managed to get the front seat and took some more pics. At the valley station we got a little brochure and a “certificate” that we “did” the Franz Josef Glacier. There was also a bunch of information about how glaciers form and how come there’s a glacier at this latitude. The main reason is the lack of any landmasses that stop the rainclouds that blow into the western side of South Island. It takes 5 years for climatic changes to take effect, so if it doesn’t snow enough one year, 5 years later the tip of the glacier will retreat.

Back to our room for shower and a late lunch of toast and pate, yum. I was so hungry I had finished eating by the time mm was finished with her shower. I was toying with going to the internet bus again but decided to be lazy and napped on the bed.

Drove out to Fox Glacier and another 6km to Lake Matheson. 1.5 hour walk around the lake, more exercise and walking for the day. Good scenery but the main attraction was the mirror lake reflection of Mount Cook. Which was behind clouds mostly but still nice photo opportunities.

Dinner back at The Landing, our food took a long time to arrive, it was just a chicken/brie/cranberry sauce pizza and lamb salad, apparently something went wrong with the pizza. I was kinda annoyed and they refunded us $20. Not expected but good gesture.

Tired. My back is killing me. But what a wonderful day.

nz holiday – day 6

Queenstown – Arrowtown – Haast – Franz Josef

Driving day. We started early at 9.45am. I was glad to be out of the motel, not very impressed with this place. First place to visit was the petrol station, we took a longer way to a mobil that was the cheapest in the area. Sometimes every little helps.

Drove to Arrowtown, it was HOT! Arrowtown was a small mining town, still with original architecture. Where we ended up was the sweet shop, very much like the ones in British seaside resorts. The lady there (from Ireland) said the sweets were actually imported from the UK. We bought cola bottles and flying saucers and some of their home made fudge.

 

We passed by the Shotover jetski station and stopped for a couple of pictures. [ETA 5 Jan: The Shotover Jet operation was shut down before Christmas, and again at New Year’s, because of technical problems and fire. I’m doubly glad we didn’t go.] More adventure watching at the AJ Hackett bungy jump place at Kawaroua bridge. Seemed fun, but not for us.

Finally got under way with the real journey, heading towards the glaciers. We took turns driving, changing over more often than usual, and taking more stops. Perhaps that helped so we weren’t as tired. It was an extremely hot day, we were burning up through the glass in the car. I tried to keep my arms in the shade but not much luck.

Stopped at Lake Hawea for quick photos. BEAUTIFUL.

Eventually our lunch was at almost 3pm at Haast Township. We had fish and chips. Ah, township, what an interesting definition, there was a supermarket, a café, a pub and several motels, that’s the township.

Another 140km or so of roads, and that was when the unsettled weather started. It could be bright sunshine, and the all of a sudden we’d hit a rain patch. Eventually we reached Franz Josef township early evening. Heh, township. It was another one main street settlement.

Our hotel was the Alpine Glacier, one of those where you parked your car directly outside your unit door. Quality wise, it was in between Portabello and Colonial village. Large room, clean and new fittings. No cooking facilities though, not even a microwave or electric frying pan.

At the advice of the very friendly and helpful owner lady, we booked our heli-hike for tomorrow and investigated the restaurants. Ended up at a place called The Landing, we had lasagna and shepherd’s pie and a beer each. Originally we wanted venison hotpot but they’d sold out.

Afterwards I investigated the converted bus that was the local internet access place. Wow, my writing group has been busy with the posts. I was suffering from internet withdrawal and the short half hour was too short.

nz holiday – day 5

Wanaka

Woke up at 9-ish, had breakfast of beans on toast, taking it easy after yesterday. By the time we headed out it was almost 11am. Drove via Cardona to Wanaka, about 1 hr away. There are 2 possible routes to Wanaka, one via this Cardona road which is shorter but more windy, the other is via the main highway. We both wish we’d known more about Wanaka, cos it would have suited us better to stay there rather than in Queenstown. Had a quick lunch of mutton pie, steak pie and diet coke – $9.20. Enquired at one shop about fishing, but it was full. Asked at another place and we were in luck.

She always liked fishing. Me, not as much. this was a small boat, max 3 passengers so with 2 of us and the captain it was perfect. Did a type of fishing called trolling, where we cast the line with colourful lures and moved the boat along very slowly. Had 3 lines – me and mm one each, and another downrigger which was weighted and went down further. First hour went by and nothing. Then James, the captain, changed the lure on mm’s rod and quickly she reeled in a salmon. It was about 1.5 foot long and perhaps 1-1.5kg. We were really excited! Decided to keep it. Soon I got one on my rod, another salmon.

The downrigger got another salmon, but we put it back, thinking 2 was enough. We then stopped for tea and coffee and I was still eating my trail snack when I got a pull on my line. Reeled in slowly, it didn’t feel like a salmon. The salmon fought and pulled, this one felt looser and didn’t fight — it was a large brown trout. I decided to put it back, cos we had 2 salmons already and we couldn’t possibly eat them all. Sorry mm, I know she loves fish and has been wanting to try a trout. But honestly, it would have been a waste.

Two more salmons followed quickly, we put them back in the lake too. So all in all 5 salmons and 1 brown trout — wow, in only 2.5 hours, impressive. Would have liked to have snagged a raiinbow trout too, but they were much rarer in that lake.

We agreed it was a way way better experience than the jetboats, rafting or other activities. Such a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. We bought some salad and oven bake bags for the salmon, and a utility knife at a homeware store. All prepared. heehee.

Drove back to the hotel, I took a nap and mm cooked the fish. Some of it went as sashimi and the rest were poached inside one of the bags, in the microwave. Yummy. And free too! well, free with the NZ$285 + $18 licence that was the fishing trip.

salmon01   salmon02

After dinner we drove out to town and visited a bar called minus 5°. It was a bar constructed entirely out of ice, NZ$25 including one vodka cocktail. They provided us with warm jackets and gloves. Could have boots if needed but we were both wearing sneakers so no need. Our drinks were served in ice glasses and we sat on seats made from blocks of ice.

minus01   minus02

It was so much fun, we took lots of pictures of the ice sculptures and the drinks. A lot of them didn’t turn out that good, cos of the reflection. Actually the temp was –7.8°C, but I wasn’t that cold, taking my gloves off was fine.

minuseagle

Great trip so far. We’re enjoying ourselves.

nz holiday – day 4

Milford Sound

Major panic this morning – my camera memory card decided to stop working, so I spent a very frustrating early morning in freaked out mode. We tried it on the PB and it was the card, not the camera. Still not good. The day when we drive to supposedly the most beautiful scenery in NZ.

Ooops, I’m getting ahead of myself. We got up at 6am and were out by 6.45am, I was hurrying her a lot, even with the camera panic. She drove very well through the fog and morning conditions, we got to Te Anau in very good time, about 2 hours. Found an electrical shop and bought a new memory card. NZ$220, yikes, but no choice.

I drove the rest of the way to Milford Sound, site of very spectacular fjords and scenery. At the back of my mind I wanted to catch the 11am cruise, although we had decided to aim for the noon one. A couple of slow cars and campervans slowed me down, by the time we got to the ticket counter it was 10.50am, not enough time. At the information centre they told us there are other companies and they all go on the same cruise, only on different boats. We took the 11.25am from Mitre boats and it was the best decision today –- a small boat, few passengers and NO TOUR GROUPS! Gotta see it to believe it, but the entire Milford Sound was teeming with tours. Luckily we were early, and they all took the other bigger boats.

Our cruise had only about 20 people, plenty of space to move about and take pictures. As much tea and coffee as we could drink on the boat. Weather started off not so good, cloudy and rainy, scenes weren’t exciting. The boat went full speed out to the tip of the fjord and it was a fun bumpy-ish ride. On the way back the sun came out again and we spotted some seals sunning themselves on a rock.

Then we saw dolphins. many many many, and they played around with the boat. The captain turned the boat around in a giant circle and they surfed along the wash, it was brilliant. Also trying to spot penguins but no luck. It was a great cruise though. Here’s the Stirling falls, next to the Elephant, see the trunk?

milfordstirling08

Driving 4 hrs to Milford means another 4 hours back to Queenstown. Stopped at Te Anau for an hour, to stretch our legs and have a frozen yogurt. Bought venison pie at the ice cream place, chatted for a llittle while with the owners. The drive back was long too, but I got up to 110kph on the open roads and we were back at our hotel by 8pm.

Did laundry, popped over to KFC to buy some chicken wings, then had the wings and pie for dinner. I washed it all down with some Speights beer we bought at the Woolworths in Dunedin, seems so long ago.

Debated at length about what to do tomorrow. initially we thought of jetboating or rafting, but we were 50-50 on both. decided to take it easy and drive up to Wanaka to enjoy the scenery.

nz holiday – day 3

Dunedin – Queenstown

Bade goodbye to the Portabello, we were very comfortable there. First on the agenda this morning was fill up the car. It was cold, windy and wet at the BP, grrrr. Pleasant drive though, we were heading towards Alexandra, via the “fruit route.” There were lots of fruit farms near Alexandra and we bought a large pack of cherries $12. The cherry orchards were shrouded by nets, to protect them from birds and insects apparently.

By the time we got to Central Otago the weather had changed so much, from wet and windy to positively hot. Scenery changed too, we drove alongside the Clutha River and stopped at the Cromwell Lookout to take some huge photos.

clutha14

Alexandra is supposed to be a largish town in the region, but the main street was still pretty tiny. We had a late lunch of mini quiche and bacon & egg pie (more like a quiche than pie IMO). Visited the tourist information centre and got tons of brochures. Armed with our newly acquired ‘Central Otago Wine Map’ we headed towards Cromwell to the vineyards. This is the southermost winemaking region in the world (NZ holds a lot of ‘southermost’ records) and the climate of hot summers and cool winters suit the grapes very much.

The vineyard we visited at Cromwell wasn’t impressive so we decided to move on, and ended up at Bannockburn. Almost by chance we hit Olssens, which is the last one along the road it is on. We tasted the available wines there, had a brilliant chat with the lady there and bought a couple of bottles of pinot noir and some verjuice, which is sour like vinegar and used in dressings and baking. 2 bottles of ice wine too, total $165, pretty good. There were some sculptures on the grounds, more photo opportunity.

Here’s a photo at Cromwell Lookout and one of the sculptures at Olssens. Kinda similiar?

clutha10  olssens04

Then it was onward again to Queenstown. The view on the way was stunning. Rock formations, driving along the river, sheep, deer, lovely. Passed by the place where bungy jumps were invented but it was closed. Still tourists there taking pictures of the bridge.

Queenstown was very touristy, she said it was like Davos. And yes, it felt like a downmarket version of any alpine resort. Very commercial, lots of outdoor shops and backpackers hostels. We had dinner at a posh restaurant called the Tatler – sat outside, she had john dory on risotto cake and asparagus and I had rack of lamb with potato dauphinois and ratatouille. Half a dozen oysters to start and a beer for me. $90.

qtdinner06  qtdinner02

Still light out so we walked around the town. Bought cheese, eggs, ribena and stuff at a small supermarket. Tried to decide on what to do tomorrow. Saw a few internet places, about $3-5 an hour. VERY tempted. sigh. Here’s a photo of sunset at the lake. NO FILTERS, NOT PHOTOSHOPPED.

qtlake04

We’re staying at the Colonial Village motel. It cannot compare with the Portabello at all, it’s one of those places where you try to touch very little of the furniture and fittings. nothing particularly wrong, just not 100% comfortable.

nz holiday – day 2

Dunedin – Otago Peninsula – Penguins

Breakfast at “home”. We indulged ourselves and cooked a full breakfast of sausages, eggs, grilled tomato and toast. I need to say this again and again, the Portabello was very very nice place, newly renovated and we love it. The plan today was to see the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula, which is one of NZ’s biggest eco-tourism centres. Drove out to the tip of the peninsula to find the Royal Albatross Centre. VERY windy, so windy all we could hear was the wind. We decided not to go on the 90 minute tour of the albatross centre – we weren’t 100% enthusiastic about albatrosses. Took a short walk down to the cliffs, even more windy. Came across a group of sophisticated photographers, this guy had an EOS lens that was HUGE, I wish I could borrow it for a minute.

Drove about 5 mins to Penguin Place, and there we did take part in the tour (2.15pm, 1.5 hours) to see yellow eyed penguins. It’s a conservation project that provides sanctuary for penguin pairs to raise their chicks in a safe environment. Apparently this year there are 21 pairs. Altogether just about 4,000 yellow eyed penguins are left in the world, concentrated in NZ and South Australia, so it’s vital to give them the opportunity to breed. We walked with the guide in the reserve, there were seals there too, lazing about. Even one that was surfing in the water! We also saw some seagull chicks. The penguin chicks were brown and almost the same size as the adults. We walked along trenches and tunnels that had viewing gaps at ground level so we were invisible to the animals. Managed to get close to a few penguins, it was fantastic and well worth the trip.

penguin41

Started drizzling a bit in the late afternoon. Drove back out to Dunedin and had kebabs. NZ$6 each, plus a diet coke. The kebabs were different from London ones, the meat was a little tougher but the cook put hummus with it and it made the whole thing very tasty.

At the outer edges of Dunedin is Baldwin street, holder of the world record of steepest street. And it was steep, by the time we walked up the top we were exhausted. On the way down I took her hand and we did a traverse, just like in skiing, she was a little unsure of the height. A guy in mountain bike was biking UP the street, he was good.

Bought our dinner at Woolworths — lamb shoulder steak, monkfish, carrot soup, steamed puddings. Cooked ourselves. The monkfish was so fresh we set aside a little for sashimi. niiiiice. I had some beer too, heehee.

One thing about NZ in December, it gets dark late. So we were having dinner at 8 and it seemed early.

nz holiday – day 1

Auckland – Dunedin

Arrived Auckland at 11.30am local time. Had to claim luggage, go to the domestic terminal via a slow courtesy bus and check-in again. I was getting anxious because there wasn’t a lot of time. What struck us was the number of Asians in Auckland, well at least at the airport, we called them the ethnic majority. Honestly, they were everywhere, I was afraid we’d arrived at another Vancouver.

Flight to Dunedin was via Wellington, so more time wasted with the stopover. Got very tired at the end and it was a relief to finally land. Dunedin airport was tiny and very provincial. Our car was a Nissan Pulsar, NZD524 for 10 days rental. The guy didn’t have change for 530 so there was a bit of faffing around, he kept asking if we had change and we kept saying no. Dude, we just got off the plane and only have large notes. Last time I drove was in April, so it took me a few minutes to get used to driving again. Luckily not many cars, and slow speed.

The Tunebase worked perfectly, all we needed to do was find an unused radio frequency and set the Tunebase frequency. Quality was really good, some reviews said that it wasn’t so good, but we were happy.

Didn’t see much of Dunedin town itself, we drove straight to the Otago Peninsula where our hotel was. First shock to the system was the narrow road, next to coast with no barriers between the car and the water. Our motel — the Portabello — was fantastic, way beyond our expectations. The pictures on their website didn’t do it justice. It was spotlessly clean, big, with kitchen, balcony. Everything looked new. Lovely.

Took a shower and napped for 10 mins on the armchair, we were both too tired. Almost 7pm when we headed out for dinner. Hey! it was like London! Still light out. Actually it didn’t get dark till past 9pm, which was another pleasant surprise.

Drove a little round the city, found parking space easily. Decided on Japanese food at this casual place called Minami — grilled fish, fresh oysters, one sashimi bento each. We hadn’t had any lunch so we were starving. NZ$40 approx.

dunrestfood

Drove to Woolworth’s after dinner, bought essentials — breakfast, water, drinks, bread, peanut butter, snacks and stuff like that. Took some pics on the way back to hotel of the sunset by the bay. Very nice.

dunbay5

nz holiday – day 0

Long day of waiting, group chat in the morning but fewer people than usual. After everyone went to bed eventually, I took a shower and set about waiting for the phone call from mm.

Flight at 7pm, but it was almost an hour before we took off. Seats are 2-3-2 and we had the 2 seats at the second row of our section, next to the emergency exit. Nowadays nothing is sacred on the internet, I already found out as soon as I knew we were 19A and 19B that we had emergency exit seats.

Legroom is comparable to business class. Now I realise comfort on a plane is proportional to legroom. food and stuff were good, but no personal screen, have to watch the film on the big screen.

holiday mood

What did I do today? I can’t remember.

It’s the last day of work before we go on vacation.

I answered some emails, I sent some emails. I wrote a two-page discussion paper on implementation of my latest project. But I can’t remember the details.

It’s the last day of work before we go on vacation.

I met mm for lunch (heh! our lunch date was at … McDonalds!!!) and I was momentarily irritated at her cos as soon as we sat down her cellphone rang and I’d finished my grilled flatbread sandwich when she returned. But I can’t be irritated at her for long.

It’s the last day of work before we go on vacation.

I bought my boss a flash drive, ate some chocolate from an expensive gift hamper that came from a vendor. I tidied my office, cleared my desk, set the out-of-office in my email, forwarded my phone to voicemail. I left the office at 6.30pm.

It’s the last day of work before we go on vacation.

I have some more food to finish in my fridge. I have final packing to do. I have a chat conference with my writing group tomorrow morning.

It’s the last day of work before we go on vacation.

Heh.

foodstuff

One of the first food I remember making as a kid were fairy cakes. With the Atlantic divide my US readers will recognise them as cupcakes. Very easy to make, I think Mum bought one of those 99p recipe books from Sainsbury’s and we followed the recipe. To this day, those 99p recipe books are the best. Simple cake recipe: 2 parts each butter, sugar and flour for each egg, and a little milk.

Cooking to me, who was trained as a scientist, is not a science. The process and outcome depends more on feel and experience than carefully measuring out the exact amounts and cooking for precise lengths of time.

Is that why scientists and engineers don’t make good cooks? cnet discovered a website called Cooking for Engineers which goes through recipes for such culinary delights such as grilled salmon, lasagna and peanut butter cookies via detailed step-by-step instructions, with photos and even recommendations on which brand to use.

I’m not sure if I need step-by-step pictorial instructions on how to grill a steak (my version – season steak with freshly ground black pepper, slap on grill) — which comes with a mushroom sauce and 7 photos. The recipes there are very basic, but I suppose it’s useful for people who aren’t instinctive cooks, or who want to cook more than macaroni cheese or pot noodles.

In other food news, via boing boing, toastabags, which are nylon bodybag like envelopes that you can use to make a full sandwich in your toaster. Just slip your bread, cheese and whatnot inside the bag, seal and put into a regular toaster. The bag keeps the melted cheese from spilling all over the place and in no time, voila! Meal in a bag.

toastabag

christmas lights

terra sent me this a couple of weeks ago.

This is confirmed, it’s not a series of photos stitched together. The display was the 2004 Christmas version from the home of Carson Williams of Mason, Ohio, consisting of 16,000 lights that were controlled via a software called Light-o-Rama.

The music is called Wizard in Winter, from The Lost Christmas Eve by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It is transmitted via FM and people are advised to tune into a particular frequency on their car radios when they visit the display.

Apparently making spectacular Christmas lights is a hobby shared by a few other people.

The latest news is that Mr Williams had to shut down his 2005 display as it was causing traffic congestion. I guess his neighbors were relieved, but it was impressive while it lasted.

Technical note: I wrote up how to embed a quicktime movie in the technical section. Tested on Safari, Firefox (Mac & PC), IE5 (Mac), IE6 (PC). Needs the more recent versions of quicktime and modern browsers. If you don’t have the latest browsers, you should think about getting firefox. Seriously. Also, I find I have to disable adblock in firefox.

being watched

I’ve been seeing this type of sigs in many forums, well actually it’s just the nano forums, but I don’t visit many of them, that’s why. So I made one too, thanks danasoft.

systemwatch

Apparently only you can see what’s on the screen, the info isn’t stored. I know definitely it’s not stored on my servers cos that’s a linked image to outside the invisible company. It’s quite eerie, knowing how much information my browser is showing though.

PB1

I’m back on the PB, phew. Finally got the internet to work again, have no clue why it wasn’t connecting. Switched over to Basic user on TCP/IP (huh?), created another config and reconnected the cable to the modem. Sigh, apparently this dinosaur is too ancient to have a readily available airport express card, so no wireless for my baby.

Of course I’m still resolutely using 9.2.2 and Netscape. I do miss Firefox though, a great deal. Tried installing Tiger, but got an error that the software can’t install on this computer. I know this machine can take up to 10.4.3, I’ll have to check with mm which version PB2 runs on.

I’m just relieved and happy to have the PB functioning again. Perhaps I’ll keep it as a 9.2.2 machine and forget about Tiger. Very tempted to get a new PB so I can run Tiger. Sheesh, it’s not like I’m rolling in gold, I just bought a new camera, and taxes are coming up. Eeeep.

new camera

I bought it. As if there was ever any doubt. Canon EOS350D, aka Rebel XT. Though the silver version is prettier, I went for the black body cos it matches my other cameras.

Comes with a 18-55mm lens, which I promptly changed to my normal 28-80mm. A lot of the reviews says the kit lens isn’t that good. I think it should be fine, but I’m just more used to my usual lens. Also came with 1GB memory card, a tripod and there was an extra gift — a Powerpuff girl coin holder, which I gave to mm. She deserves it!

I guess sticking with Canon has its advantages. The charger uses the same cables as my ixus; the 350D uses the same card as the ixus; the software is the same. Plus the biggest advantage is that it uses my EF lenses. So now my camera collection consists of:

  • EOS650 – first generation
  • EOS300 – still my favourite
  • EOS350D – it’ll grow on me I’m sure
  • Original ixus – yes it’s the 2.1MP version

Right now it’s charging away happily. The first picture I took was of mm in the shop, surprisingly it’s very good.

What else did we do today? We went shopping, ended up in a small shop that sells owl stuff and lots of fun souvenirs. We bought a bunch of presents there. I bought her a green silk scarf.

hair today

I’ve been needing a haircut for about 2 weeks, last week there were too many errands to run, so I didnt’ get a chance. So today after the chat conference I made my way over to my hairdresser’s. And boy was he busy! I got there at 3pm and he told me to come back at 5pm. I remember a couple of years ago when the place was empty, now they’re buzzing.

So I went to a local fast food place and had a chicken drumstick and a pork chop roll. Then to the travel agent to buy train ticket for the airport. Then a little Christmas-y shopping. Lingered at HMV for a while, then went to the supermarket. Got back to the hairdresser’s at almost 5.30pm. Place was still full. Sat down, read food & drink magazines and he finally got to me at 6.30pm. He felt really bad, but I could see that he was working non-stop.

I left at 7.45pm, a good 3 hours after my original plan. I wanted to go home and either nap or edit my Holiday story. Now it’s, like the Swiss say, kaput. Sigh. Not his fault, he didn’t know all his customers were going to show up en masse like that.

I used to go to London for haircuts, when I was living in NY or Zurich, I’d time my visits so I could cut my hair during those visits. Can’t do that now cos it’s too expensive. This particular guy is pretty good, almost as good as the London guy, so I’m happy to stick with him. My hair is way too thick, he takes out the thickness but keeps the shortness, I always feel lighter when I cut my hair.

long way home

In the end I only ate some fruit in the hotel room. 9pm I was down at the reception, all checked out, waiting for my car to come. Significantly more cars at that hour than earlier in the afternoon, I guess night-time is a popular time to go out. The way to the airport was also heavier with traffic.

The airport itself is nothing to write home about. They went through my luggage cos of the alarm clock, they want the battery removed during transit. Whatever. There seems to be a hell of a lot of security, but to me it seems like security for the sake of security. The Clipper Lounge is small. And crowded, there were people at every single seat, felt nothing like a business class lounge. I did have some sandwiches which helped.

As soon as the seatbelt sign came off most people immediately went to sleep. I was still hungry so I was one of about 5 people in my section who opted to have food. Lamb curry and some fruit, quite good for my purpose. Watched a little of Batman Begins, then fell asleep. Must have slept for an hour or two, then it was time for the lights to come back on. All in all, not much sleep I’m afraid.

Arrived at Singapore around 8am. Heh, I’m glad I’m changing planes at Changi, that’s one airport I know like the back of my hand. Had to take the Skytrain from T2 to T1, quickly got my boarding pass and went in search of pandan cake. The Bengawan Solo inside the gates is new, and I was happy about that. Bought one for mm, she likes the pandan cake, it is really good. Then it was off to the lounge to play on the internet for about half an hour.

Flight from Singapore was uneventful. Ended up watching The Skeleton Key, which at places, seems more scary than the PG-13 rating it has. Hmmm. Interesting film.

By the time I got home it was around 3.30pm and I was tired and sticky. Unpacked, then a much needed shower.

Really wanted to stay home but I had departmental Christmas dinner to attend. And I’m in charge. Yes, even though I was away all week, I was remote controlling the function. Food was good, not as good as last year’s. We had gift exchange again and I got a Christmas scented candle. I did away with the big prize draw and grab bag … combined them and decided that everyone will get vouchers, of varying amounts. So I gave the secretary a total amount and amount in each envelope. She and another lady went out and bought a selection of vouchers, so each envelope will have a mix’n’match set. I got the second prize, whoo-hoo! Now I can treat mm to a nice steak dinner with one of the vouchers, at a gourmet supermarket.

Finished at 10.30pm, walked home, took another shower. Now I’m debating whether to wait for mm, cos she’s STILL AT WORK!

mumbai day four

I’m so used to the road now, the kamikaze driving doesn’t bother me that much. I got my camera out and snapped some roadside pictures today. There are still moments, when a car, a couple of rickshaws, a bike, a motorbike and 5 pedestrians are all vying for the same tiny space that I get a little tense.

Flight at midnight tonight, sheesh. Car will come at 9pm, I’m thinking whether it’s too early, and I’ll be bored at the airport. Trying to find out if there are lounges there, but the airport website isn’t that helpful. I need to think about whether it’s worth eating at the hotel or waiting till I get to the airport. Oh the dilemma. Anyway I’m not that hungry, I still need to take a shower, I’ll see how it goes.

mumbai day three

No breakfast this morning, didn’t feel like it. Car showed up early at 8am (had booked it at 8.30am), but traffic that time of the morning was better. May be I’m getting used to it, the madness, I’m more relaxed for the journey. Oh, those tricycles are called rickshaws, not tuk-tuks, that’s the Thai term.

Another busy day, lunch at the canteen again — rice, dal, okra, veggie in coconut sauce, and one of those sweet Indian desserts. Also had a savoury lassi, which they call buttermilk.

My colleague took me to a restaurant, Mang(something), which is next to my hotel. Pomfret tikka and prawns in garlic sauce, naan. Shared a bottle of Indian shiraz. Now that’s one up and coming industry — Indian wines. If we have any money, we should invest in a vineyard, the wine was as good as any of those that come out of Australia or Chile or South Africa.

Had to change rooms. Wow, this is a junior suite, which means … living room, 2 bathrooms, walk-in closet. But too big for me. And there was hassle about moving my luggage, should have stayed at that little twin room.

I’m warming up to Mumbai. I had no expectations coming, actually I had poor expectations. Yes the roads are bad, crowded, polluted and I don’t get some behaviour. But I’m not against the idea of visiting again, provided certain conditions are met, most importantly driver and translator. mm will be pleased, no?

mumbai day two

I woke up at 5am — body clock telling me it’s time to wake up. But I managed to sleep again and woke up at 7.30am as planned. I had breakfast coming between 7.30 and 7.45. Then I noticed that I had a blinking red light on my phone. Argh, remember how I hate any sort of voicemail? Turned out to be a text message from my colleague, who was gonna pick me up at 9.30am. Alamak! Why did I order breakfast so early???

The drive to the office was about 30-40 mins. It’s confirmed, I cannot drive there, at all. There are no road markings and cars pass each other with inches to spare. Help.

The office is a modern building, still under construction. The surrounding area is dirt and more dirt. The office spaces are large, but no windows. Brand new computers, but many seats are empty, some without phone extensions. Young staff, very lively and friendly though. My colleague is almost like a mom to them.

Lunch at the staff canteen. A rice flour cake dipped in curry sauce and yogurt sauce. Wholesome and nice food. Mid-afternoon we had a vegetarian burger — curry veg in a roll, nothing like a burger but much nicer. I left at 7.15pm, a driver picked me up, one who didn’t speak English at all. The 40min ride back to the hotel was like an adventure in itself. He was an even more aggressive driver than my colleague and there were times when the tuktuks or other cars were right next to the car. Man, was I glad when I got back to the hotel.

Wanted something local, and intended to go to the Indian restaurant downstairs. But that looked far too posh, so I ended up at the buffet. Now the buffet probably was more expensive than the restaurant, but I got to try many different dishes, including this lamb on the bone in mint and coriander. Now I hate coriander, but there’s only the barest whiff, the mint takes over.

Only had a little dessert, the portions were too big and offputting. Had a bottle of water plus a beer and the bill came to just over Rs. 1,100 (US$25), that’s really good.

Tomorrow I have to change rooms, meaning tonight I have to pack everything up. No more rooms at this rate, I have to move to a junior suite. Oh the hardship!

Mumbai day one

Flight via Kuala Lumpur was early, so I had time to walk around the terminal. Another modern Asia airport, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and KL — all very state of the art and efficient and impressive. The plane to Mumbai was kinda silly — it’s been many many years since I was on a business class flight where there was ONE central screen at the front of the cabin. Even most economy classes have individual screens nowadays. And then … the film was a bollywood of course. I slept.

Mumbai airport was surely not as modern as KL, but it’s perfectly fine. A little queue for immigration, bags out in good time. I was met by an assigned driver that my company had booked — I walked out of the exit and there were boards and boards of people’s names. People had warned me about child beggars outside, but the short walk to the carpark was uneventful. The drive to the Marriott was uneventful too, I saw one cow, and a boy selling balloons / begging knocked on the glass at a traffic light.

Apparently India beat South Africa at a cricket match today so there were people on the streets. The feel of the roads is like Kenya actually — concrete roads, then dirt, then houses. Streetside stalls selling sweets, cigarettes and papers, just like Kenya. Lots of tuktuks, like Bangkok though. Driving takes nerves of steel, lots of honking and cars just swerving out of the side road. Actually there’s no difference between main road and side road, there are no road markings.

The hotel is nice. Had to go through security checks, on the car and my luggage went through a metal detector. wow. It’s a twin room, would have liked a large bed so I can roll about, but I’m only here for a few days. There are 4 bottles of water in the room, which I’ll need cos you should use the bottled water for brushing teeth. I brought my own water (3 litres, yes I’m crazy) and cans of diet coke and soda water (yes, I am very crazy).

Well, not much of a first impression. Too dark outside to see anything. More tomorrow I hope.

busy day

I was supposed to go to church with mm this morning, but I was too sleepy. And she let me sleep, bless her. She had choir practice afterwards and she said she’d be done by 11.15 / 11.30, so instead of waiting for her call, I took the bus down to that area. Called her on my cellphone when I arrived. Called 3 times. Argh! Spent a good 40 minutes walking around a boring supermarket, clutching my cellphone, getting annoyed.

Can’t be mad at her for long. 😛 I took her to the Singaporean noodle place and we shared a laksa, a mee siam and a rojak. Very authentic lah. Afterwards we walked towards the German bread shop, on the way we discovered a small street market which was very nice. She bought a set of 3 cuddly dogs for her brother’s family and I bought a Christmas decoration for my niece. At the bread shop she bought a loaf of wholewheat bread and I bought 2 half loaves for Mum.

Then it was bus time to get to the other side of town. First, we looked for sports sandals for her, but not easy in the winter. Then she did some clothes shopping, which I must admit was my least favourite part of the day (sorry, mm smack). Oh, before that, we checked out the price of the new camera I want to buy. It’s considerably more expensive than I thought. Like, um, twice as expensive. Ordinarily I’m not a very price sensitive person, but this, I need to think about. Problem is, if I’m going to go digital SLR, I have no choice, because of the existing lens set that I have. I’ll check the price at the duty free tomorrow.

Mid afternoon we had bubble tea and peanut butter thick toast at the Taiwanese tea house chain that I haven’t been to for years.

Rested and rejuvenated, we went to look for my Christmas present. 😀 A waterproof, windproof jacket with down interior. Tried a few combinations of inner colours and outer styles. I have an old old old jacket that is full of holes that I’ve had since first year at college. And my ski jacket. But this one has warmth, and it’s bought by mm, what more do I want? Oh, and it’s 10% of the price of the camera!

Back on the bus, then went to the computer mall. Bought a spare flash drive and the Tunebase FM for our trip. Our original plan of getting an iTrip was forgotten when we came across this one, cos it can recharge via the car cigarette lighter.

I had dinner with my family. My sis’ parents-in-law are in town and we went to the favourite vegetarian restaurant. Poor mm had to go home on her own, no bb for dinner tonight, sorry honey.

Right now, I’m doing laundry and feeling icky about the trip. I’m all packed for the India trip tomorrow. Did I mention I don’t want to go?

Phasers … grrr

From new scientist

What do boys (and girls) who play with guns do when they grow up? They go into the military and invent “non-lethal” laser guns.

phasr

The Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHASR) rifle was developed at the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, US, and two prototypes have been delivered to military bases in Texas and Virginia for further testing.

They temporarily blind suspects at a distance, allowing the police and military personnel to quickly disarm them.

It seems that the military have been developing these laser weapons for a long time but they were too strong that they caused permanent blindness. Anyone who owns a laser pointer for presentations can tell you the risk. However these new weapons may use less powerful laser beams and reduce the risk of long term damage.

Me? I think they just want to play with phasers and lasers. I mean, they are the stock in trade for sci-fi programs and films for ages and ages.

at college, no hoodie

From the Guardian.

College security ban on hijabs and hoodies
Polly Curtis, education correspondent
Thursday November 24, 2005

 

Imperial College London has banned staff and students from wearing hijabs or hoodies on its campuses as part of an effort to improve security.

The college’s management board approved the new dress code at the beginning of the month. “Clothing that obscures an individual’s face is not allowed on any of the college’s campuses,” it reads. “Employees and students should refrain from wearing clothing which obscures the face, such as a full or half veil, or hooded tops or scarves worn across the face.” College officials said the move was part of renewed efforts to improve security after the summer bombings in London. It was also an attempt to combat theft and deter animal rights activists.

— snip —

Understandably the students are planning to seek to amend the code to to allow the hoodies and religious dress. They believe that “students should not to have to seek permission to wear any religious item.”

The folks at the Register thinks that it’s “more likely that the college authorities, fully cognisant of the naturally rebellious tendencies of the average 19 year-old, has introduced the ban as a cunning marketing ploy to drive sales of” the sweatshirt, with the IC logo.

Riiiight. And I went there once upon a time?

turkey day

Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating it. I can’t wrap my mind round how important this holiday is to Americans. Then again I suppose Americans dominate everything that what they think is important overwhelms everything else.

The one and only time I celebrated Thanksgiving was that year I was in NY. My great-aunt invited me to her Thanksgiving. So Wednesday afternoon I left the office (Stamford, right next to the I-95 — remember this), went back down to the city, boarded the bus at Penn Station, and 2 hours after I left the office I was traveling along I-95N passing by the office. I suppose that couldn’t be helped.

It was dark when I arrived at Providence, RI. One of my aunts (daughter of great-aunt = aunt?) was supposed to pick me up from the bus station but I waited and waited and waited and no one showed up. I called the house and it was a continuous busy tone. Argh!!! I stood outside the McDonalds at the bus station for what felt like forever.

Finally I got through to the house. My great-aunt didn’t place the receiver back on the cradle properly and I didn’t have a cellphone. Turned out that Greyhound bus, which was the one I took, didn’t use the main bus station and my relatives had of course gone to the main bus station. Eeeep.

Despite that, Thanksgiving was a fun affair. Lots and lots of food. I mean, they run a fried chicken restaurant, so they know their food. Plus one of my aunts married an Italian and he has a big family too! Most of all, I got to spend time with my lovely great-aunt and great-uncle, I have great memories of my great-aunt but that was the first (and alas last, he’s since passed away) time I met my great-uncle.

The things I didn’t quite enjoy were a) I didn’t know most of the people there though they were relatives; b) I didn’t know what the traditions were so I was a bit lost; c) I was relegated to the “kids” table at meal times because there were too many adults and I was of the “kids” generation. 🙁

Anyway, it being Thanksgiving, lots of turkey will be cooked today. Why people like turkeys I have no idea, there is no part of a turkey that tastes good. A roast turkey is 99% dry meat. Huh. Which is more amazing to read that this 105-pound woman ate a 10-pound turkey in 12 minutes. She sure doesn’t look like the #2 ranked competitive eater in the world, then again neither does the #1.

On the subject of turkey, how about the those turkey twizzlers that got such a bollocking from Jamie Oliver. They look gross, like something you feed the contestants on Fear Factor. Even the “fun” picture from Bernard Matthews is ridiculous.

twizzler1
twizzler2

What’s in a turkey twizzler?

Turkey (34%), water, pork fat, rusk, coating (sugar, rusk, tomato powder, wheat starch, dextrose, salt, wheat flour, potassium chloride, hydrogenated vegetable oil, citric acid, spices, onion powder, malt extract, smoke flavourings, garlic powder, colour (E160c), mustard flour, permitted sweetener (E951), herb, spice extracts, herb extracts), vegetable oil, turkey skin, salt, wheat flour, dextrose, stabiliser (E450), mustard, yeast extract, antioxidants (E304, E307, E330, E300), herb extract, spice extract, Colour (E162)

ewwwww. So glad they stopped feeding them to kids.

p.s. for my American friends, school dinner is the lunch served by schools to their students. It has nothing to do with the meal taken in the evening. I think you might understand me if you’re from Texas, but I’m not fluent in Texan at all, though I like saying y’all. Hehe.

chocolate everything

I’m not a chocolate person. Bizarre. For someone who loves living in Switzerland it’s almost a sacrilege. I mean, the home to teuscher, calliers, Sprungli. Sigh. I even “failed” the chocoholic test — I checked none of the boxes!

  1. Do you think Hershey should be a Patron Saint? No I don’t.
  2. Do you think Carob is a Communist Plot? lol I like carob.
  3. Forget “career vs. relationship”; for you is a major decision having to choose between white and dark, milk and bittersweet, with almonds and without? Nope, plain dark, as high cocoa content as possible. No question.
  4. Do you look at vanilla as somebody’s idea of a joke? [small voice]I prefer vanilla ice cream.[/small voice]
  5. Would you campaign to have Nestle’s birthday declared a national holiday? Nestle was a person??
  6. Has an M&M never had enough time to melt in your hands? Thought they never melt in your hands anyway.
  7. Is your most frequent form of daily exercise prying the lid from a container of Häagen-Dazs chocolate chocolate chip? Not really. Tofu, green tea or sesame ice cream may be.
  8. Have you ever eaten an entire box of still-frozen brownies because you were unable to wait long enough for them to thaw? ewww, no way.
  9. Is your ulterior motive for visiting sick friends to pick through the boxes of candies they received? That’s, um, sick.
  10. Is your idea of foreplay a bag of Hershey’s Kisses? No, but I used this line in a story I wrote.

So, lots of chocolate events happening. There’s Eurochocolate in Italy. And the Chocolateshow in various locations.

Check out the pic of the chocolate outfit at the New York Chocolate show, via Metroblogging NYC.

I don’t belong here

low morale creep

Can’t remember where I found the link, probably metafilter, someone’s Greatest internet moments:

From one web page to the next, I saw people proclaiming this as one of the greatest music videos ever made.

From low morale, a series of flash animations about one mediocre office worker’s struggle with work. A bonus extra animation, set to an acoustic version of Radiohead’s Creep, is so, pardon my french, fucking brilliant. I can’t stop watching.

Watch it, NOW.

Creep – RadioheadWhen you were here before, couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel, your skin makes me cry
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so very special

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin here?
I don’t belong here

I don’t care if it hurts, I wanna have control
I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice, when I’m not around
You’re so very special
I wish I was special

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin here?
I don’t belong here, ohhhh, ohhhh

She’s running out again…
She’s running out, she runs, runs, runs, runs… runs…

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You’re so very special
I wish I was special
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin here?
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong here

remembering numbers

From jillys LJ. Boy I wished LJ have trackback.

I remember names and numbers, but not faces. It seems that the majority of people are one or the other. I’m good at directions, map-reading, and remembering facts.

When I was younger most people only had one number — their home. Adults had work numbers, but obviously not most of my friends. I knew everyone’s number by heart. Then came faxes and cellphones and email addresses and various online handles. The personal data field in each friend/family member’s database grows larger.

Now with most cellphones and email programs, you don’t even need to remember these details. On my cellphone the display isn’t 12345678, the caller display will show “Mum” or “mm work”. I don’t even need to remember the number.

But I still do. I guess it really is the number person in me. I even remember the extension of many of the colleagues at my previous company, even though I left there 3.5 years ago. It’s bizarre.

I read about ways of remember long strings of numbers. My opinion is, if you have no head for them, you will never remember them, however hard you try.

@ttention

And now back to regularly scheduled programming.

From herodios via washington post.

In this age of email, the symbol @ is as common as, well, it is the symbol of email. Before email, it used to stand for “at” and used for measurment … at least in English speaking countries, like 5lbs applies @ $1/lb. Some other countries and languages didn’t used to have this symbol, so in the early days of email, this little symbol was called different things. Most names are related to how @ looks to the native speaker.

Most instances the languages refer to the tail of an animal or the animal itself:

  • monkey’s tail – Dutch (apestaart / apestaartje), German (affenschwanz), Polish (malpa – monkey), Swedish (apsvans)
  • pig’s tail – Danish / Norwegian (grisehale)
  • pig’s ear – Polish (ucho s’wini)
  • cat’s tail – Finnish (kissanhnta), Polish (kotek – cat)
  • dog – Russian (sobachka), meaning little dog
  • elephant’s trunk – Danish / Swedish (snabel)
  • rollmops – Czech & Slovak (zavinac)
  • worm – Hungarian (kukac)
  • snail – Italian (chiocciola), Hebrew (shablul), Korean (dalphaengi)

Some languages relate the @ sign to a roll, or rolled up food:

  • strudel – Hebrew (shtrudl)
  • cinnamon roll – Swedish (kanelbulle)
  • pretzel – Swedish (kringla)

Some languages are less inventive, going for boring terms like the Thais with ai tua yiukyiu (the wiggling worm-like character) or the Japanese with atto maaku (“at” mark) or in Mongolian buurunhii dotorh aa (A in round circle).

Of course, since that list was first compiled in 1997, the internet has exploded and usage of those terms has faded. Nowadays almost anyone around the world will use “at”.

Wouldn’t it be fun to tell someone that my email address is “invisiblecompany pig’s tail yahoo dot com”?

nano stats

Pretty graphics. First and foremost the ubiquitious little green bar that is so mesmerising. The nanosite introduced this cool flash profile screen where it tracks your progress, the progress of your writing buddies and shows an excerpt of your novel, all in a nice flash animation. I did a screengrab. The chart is from the report card.

nanogreen

nanoprofile

nanochart

final words

My thoughts on nanowrimo.

It was a new thing last year, when I discovered it. I can’t even remember how, but it was almost too late. I pushed myself, I had a lot of support from mm, and there was a huge adrenalin rush when I finished.

This year, I started on time, I pushed myself initially, but when I got to 20k by the end of the first week, the thrill was almost gone — there was never a question that I’d fail. I don’t even want to go to all the trouble of editing, designing the cover, and printing a copy this year.

I know that this year’s story is not as good and the writing is more workman-like, it started well, there were some nice passages. Then it got bogged down in repeated hashing of similar themes. In other words, it was a good, averagely nice piece, but there were no flashes of brilliance.

I’m better at writing now. In between last year and this year, I started writing and posting fanfic. And I joined an online writing group. Being associated with people I now consider as friends (even though I never met them personally and have only had voice conversations with a few) because of common interests and shared sense of fun. There must be something dorky about people who spend an inordinate amount in front of a computer, and are home on a weekend night, that they want to congregate together.

The concept of writing buddies on the nanosite is good too. We can mutually encourage each other, and secretly compete against each other.

Will I do it again next year? In the words of Magnus Magnusson, “I started so I’ll finish.” I can’t imagine not adding 2006 to my list of nanos won. Don’t want a break in the ol’ record, eh?

nanowrimo dares

List of dares taken and used.

Dares I used:

  1. Mr Ian Woon – the Director or Mortal Remains Transportation at Air Trans Pacific.
  2. Include a pastry chef – that’s Chef Harley, who Sam hired at short notice. Chef Harley used to work at the Hotel McFine, before that under the legendary Sugar Mary at the Three Marys restaurant.
  3. A young character who is obsessed with a certain college/university – that’s Sherry’s kid sister, who is obsessed with University of St Andrews cos that’s where Prince William attended.
  4. Have a character contemplate death while eating a ham sandwich – Sam’s flashback to 3 years ago, after the accident.
  5. Have a character with silver hair – Sister Dorothy has short silver hair.
  6. “Bad wolf” – Melody’s description of Abe, at the party. justin’s dare.
  7. A walk-on gets hit by a speeding bus, gets up, dusts themselves off, and walks away. Bonus points if only the MC sees it – Melody sees that at the pizza place, a skateboarder is chipped by a bus but he just walks away.
  8. Have a cameo of one of your online writing forum friends (Nanowrimo site or other sites…), but don’t tell them about this cameo until Nanowrimo is over – I included cameos for the entire group (12 people).
  9. A character who keeps a journal, but instead of writing the date, writes the number of days s/he’s been alive – Sam does that.
  10. Include in your story at least once an entire LJ entry that your MC writes that gets accidentally erased. Double points if you also include the replacement post. Triple points if after both those, s/he decides not to post anything, and just keeps it to themself – yep, Sam did that too.
  11. “Great googly moogly” – Sam to Melody re: sensationalist journalism
  12. Kitten poker – in the same conversation as “great googly moogly.”
  13. Death by penguins – more sensationalist journalism.
  14. Murder a character with a tomato. Poison is okay, multiple tomatoes are okay – speculation that Wendy was trying to poison Roy using poisonous tomatoes but was poisoned herself.
  15. Two characters engage in a debate over which is better/more useful/whatever, a scarf, or a towel – flashback of Melody arguing with Abe.
  16. Ken’s Deli Connection – where Sam bought lunch.
  17. “You aren’t a college student until you’ve seen a vending machine pushed off of a 4th floor balcony… Call me when you get to college.” – Melody talking to Emmy at the pizza place.
  18. “That is just so wrong on so many levels.” – Melody to Sam about the tomato poisoning speculation.
  19. “There’s a bomb in the lasagna!!” – Abe making his entrance to the restaurant.
  20. “Gosh. You’re such a Juliet.” – Melody teasing Rob about how he liked to keep his skin soft.

Dares I took but didn’t use:

  • Have a character die in a freak trombone accident.
  • Include a character who is obsessed with pencils, and who, if he/she does not have a pencil on his/her person at all times, will have a mental and emotional breakdown.
  • Someone who loves their computer and carries their laptop everywhere. And if they run out of battery in the middle of their adventure and don’t have immediate access to an energy source, instantly throw a fit. Same goes for someone who is addicted to their mobile phone and can’t get a signal.
  • Have a character who refuses to speak.
  • Have a character who treats an inanimate object as pet (talks to it, gives it a name, etc.). Bonus point if it’s something really random, like a fork or a chair.
  • Have a character who wears a variety of witty shirts, but gets profoundly pissed off when s/he sees people staring at his/her chest. Works best for a female MC, obviously, so bonus points if it’s a male. Double bonus if it’s relevant. Triple bonus if the char wears a shirt that says “STOP STARING AT MY SHIRT!”
  • Have one of your characters wear 7 wrist watches on his hand.
  • Include a character that brags over minor accomplishments. “I got a great parking spot at Wal-Mart today.” And they must really brag, like they’re actually proud of it.
  • a character that only eats purple things.
  • Have a scene focus on winning a stuffed toy at a carnival
  • Have an adult character go into a restaurant, strip, then put on a bib. Make them claim to be a messy eater.
  • Have your MC try threaten to kill another character with a spoon. When asked why a spoon, the MC must answer with “because it would be painful.”
  • Write a scene where your MC defends herself or himself with pepper spray.
  • Include an animal stampede through the busy streets of wherever your story is taking place.
  • Have a bank robbery interrupted by a second bank robbery in the same bank. Have the thieves try to rob each other.
  • Have someone say “the case is afoot!” and “elementary, my dear Watson” but your novel cannot be a mystery.
  • Have an argument between at least two characters over a teddy bear.
  • Have one character hide something incriminating and against Christianity in a Bible/book on religion.
  • Smash up a computer.
  • Include a funeral to which nobody wears black, as per the expressed wishes of the deceased before he/she passed away
  • A book is passed among the characters. Must be passed on to at least 5 characters
  • A jar or bottle of grape jelly must appear in your novel–at least five times.
  • Have someone refer (at least three times) to oversteeped tea.
  • Have the recurring theme of a ticking clock.
  • “Fire bad, tree pretty.”
  • “I have no idea. No one ever tells me anything.”
  • “Now, if I really wanted to stalk someone, it wouldn’t be him.”
  • “But you CAN’T do that with a fork.”
  • “Stop being an ass magnet.”
  • “I’ll get to the pomegranate later!”
  • “Psh. I hate being a Nun. I wanna be a pirate!”
  • “Hello kitty has no mouth”
  • “It’s so cold I’m getting goose nipples!”
  • “This is the worst headache I’ve ever had in the history of my head.”
  • “You can’t have a relationship based on cereal preferences!”
  • “What the muffin?!”
  • “Bitch, do you keep your brains in your glasses?”
  • “It’s purple, and it’s shiny, and really quite stylish.”
  • “I wish there was something like ice tea… but warm.”
  • “I am going away! We just happen to be going away in the same direction.”
  • “She’s a baby, not a bomb!”
  • “My hands smell like onions.”

nano day 15

I finished.

I had the dinner party, but focused too much on the food and not enought on the character development or dialogue. shrug I just wanted to get it over with. I don’t think the story is as good as last year’s, hence the blaséness. Having said that, I’m less stressed than last year. I took the last few days easy, no more than 2,000 until today. My wrists and hands are a little sore, but defnitely not as painful as before.

There are things I had planned, a little cliffhanger at the end, more about the poisoning in Australia, more about Rob’s big change, Melody wanting to be a nun, the restaurant opening, Ruby going on Survivor, and definitely more on Sam and Melody patching up their marriage. But the ending presented itself, and I wrote it, and c’est fini. Did one spell check, I’m not bothering with the small caps and editing. Don’t think I’ll look at it for a while.

Official nano count is 50,141 words, though on Word it’s 50,129. Either way, it’s over 50k.

nano day 14

Almost there.

A hellishly busy day at work, yet another project landed on my desk this morning, and the timeline is tight for this one. It’s interesting but I wish there were more guidelines about how to do these projects, every time it’s like starting from scratch. So now I have 5 projects:

  • global performance evaluation project
  • set up and implement functions in a medium sized country office
  • same in a smaller office in another country
  • a survey system
  • new confidential m&a project

Got home after 8pm, retrieved the delivered goods from the supermarket, quickly made dinner, then conference call at 8.30pm. Sigh, I used to work till 9 or 10 and it’ll be fine, but those were my “aggressively climbing the corporate ladder” days. Not anymore.

I only have one scene left, of the dinner party, right now the guests have just started on the appetizer.

48,209 words.

nano day 13

Steady, for the weekend, progress. A thousand odd words. I could push myself and get the 4,500 I need to get to 50k, but why the unnecessary stress? I have may be an hour before bed and I might write more, but I’m stopping my today’s word count now. They are at the restaurant, trying out the new food, next chapter is the last, and it’s all about the dinner party.

45,508 words.

nano day 12

Long day, and as expected, not productive. I’m getting into some funny typing habits, not putting capitals at the beginning of sentences or names and expecting to be autocorrected when I type “nto” instead of “not”. At least I haven’t used the “will not”, “I am” and “do not” padding tricks. Yet.

Got another thousand odd done today. Better than nothing.

44,040 words.