Thursday, December 22, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
this is the first place where we actually stopped and got off to walk around a little, so could take more stable shots from the ground...
and another pit stop almost an hour later...
one of the window displays at that stop...
all in all an interesting but slightly disappointing ride in parts. it was nice to see all the lights, but after having seen some of the grander displays, anything else is like "don't waste my time man"! lol... i've become a christmas lights snob :p so i would have liked to spend a bit more time at the grander displays, and have the opportunity to stop and take decent pics rather than view most of it through the glass window of a (slowly) moving bus. oh well. i think next time will have to round up some people and do a self-drive tour of the houses of note - princejay is already talking about firing up the ol' GPS for such a trip! haha.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
- What is 'Santa Claus' called in:
- The Netherlands.
Santa Van Den Claus
Papa Giuseppe Claus
Santo Clauso (Basil Fawlty told me that)
- The Netherlands.
- What were the gifts received in the Australian version of the Twelve days of Christmas?
12 cold stubbies
- Why is December 26 known as Boxing Day?
That's the day we have the boxing matches with family members who annoyed us at Christmas lunch and gave us stupid presents
- I want to buy a candle for each member of my family. I want to get them each the same size, and they come in three sizes priced at $2, $3 and $5. I need a candle for Mum, Dad, Gary, Breanna, Jessey and Bob, but I only have $22. Which size candle should I buy?
Christmas day is hot and there is a total fire ban in force, no candles
- When were Christmas lights first used on Christmas trees?
- How many spirits appeared to Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas carol'?
If Ebenezer Scrooge is having visions, I'd say there were lots of sprits involved but most likely whiskey
- In 1974, one Australian city had a miserable Christmas experience because of a disaster. What was the city and the disaster?
Melbourne - was the boxing day test rained out? That's pretty miserable
- What is the name of the Australian Christmas carol that has the line "Racing Santa Claus in the blazing sun"?
Santa Claus racing in the blazing sun
- When is Advent Sunday?
the day after Advent Saturday
- Where did Rudolph come from?
- He was created by a department store employee as a promotional gimmick.
- Henry VIII's court jester introduced him to Christmas folklore.
- A very drunk Christmas reveller rolled into a publishing house dressed as a reindeer – the rest is history.
- He was created by a department store employee as a promotional gimmick.
- Which day of the week did Christmas fall on last year?
It doesn't matter which day of the week Christmas fell on, we had a holiday.
- You are trying to wrap a present for your nephew Charlie. The present, a small teddy bear, is in a box that is four inches long by eight inches tall by three inches deep. Which piece of wrapping paper should you use - one that is 16 inches by 10 inches, or one that is 22 inches by seven inches?
Charlie lives interstate, his mum and dad have to wrap his present. I transferred money into their account to buy it and my work is done.
- In which country did the Christmas carol 'Silent Night' originate?
New Zealand. Have you ever tried to get a beer there on a Sunday Night?
- What happened to Christmas in 1647?
- It was cancelled due to lack of interest.
- It was made illegal.
- It became a public holiday.
- It was cancelled due to lack of interest.
- What were the gifts brought by the Three Wise Men?
The three wise men brought ties, socks and handkerchiefs
- Some people like turkey at Christmas time. If you were hosting a dinner and each person eats 300grams of turkey, how long will it take to cook a turkey for ten people if a turkey should be cooked for one and a half hours per kilogram?
Mum looks after that sort of stuff.
- Why is Santa Claus portrayed as wearing red and white?
- A Coca Cola ad showed him in these colours to fit their branding.
- To represent the white of snow and the red of berries.
- So children can see him as he flies through the sky.
- A Coca Cola ad showed him in these colours to fit their branding.
- From where did 'Good King Wenceslas' hail?
Good King Wenceslas hailed from the castle - all kings live in castles
- What plant is traditionally hung in doorways at Christmas time?
after a few too many cold ones over lunch, it seems like every plant in the world is in the doorway as you stumble onto the verandah then down the steps, sprawling into the front yard on your way home.
- When was 25 December first celebrated as the birth of Christ?
- From the day he was born.
- From AD 440.
- From 1634.
- From the day he was born.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
in any case, i watched homerun (aka 跑吧孩子) tonight. i originally intended to watch a different movie, but couldn't locate the actual disc (and it so bugs me when i know i've misplaced something... but i digress). homerun had been in the house for probably a good year or so, but i had never gotten around to watching it. upon reading the back cover, i was struck by how closely the storyline resembled another movie i had seen in the past... doesn't this sound exactly like children of heaven, i asked myself. upon seeing the opening credits, i realised it is basically is the same story, except homerun had been reworked for a singaporean setting.
maybe because my movie diet does include some foreign (and by that i mean non-western-english-speaking-country) films, and my general preference to see something in its original context (eg i'd rather watch a hk flick in cantonese and read subtitles, than listen to a mandarin audio track or worse still dubbed english, even though i would understand several magnitudes of order more of the mandarin dialogue than the cantonese), mixed in with having seen a few more singaporean movies/shows than i have of anything from iran (it could be the bias speaking, but the acting and dialogue in homerun seemed a bit too stereotypical at times, while the whole of c.o.h. seemed so much more "authentic" [which is a rather ironic thing to say/claim given that i know next to nothing about things iran!])... in the end i still definitely prefer children of heaven over homerun. very simple story, yet manages to be moving and touchingly believable. check it out sometime, and i think people would be better served seeing that than only having watched homerun as a not-quite-worthy substitute, though i wonder whether my conclusion would be any different if i had seen homerun beore children of heaven...
Sunday, December 11, 2005
i think that you tend to look forward to Christmas more as a child than as an adult. part of the reason could be that as a child you get lots of time for the anticipation and expectations to build, because you get to be on holidays at least a few weeks out from Christmas. once you start working though, it's usually a case of working all the way up to Christmas eve, and then bam, Christmas arrives seemingly all of a sudden. or it could just be that the wonder and novelty of the day wears off with age..
today i'm humming the tune to "winter wonderland"... triggered by reading the phrase in a holiday update email from a friend who's currently in singapore and en route to europe for a real wintry white Christmas... and i cast my mind back to the white (pre-)Christmas i got to see 3 years ago on my nanae trip in japan. later in the day i see photos of some Christmas lights on singapore's orchard road taken by island... and i cast my mind back to the Christmas eve i spent in that district 5 years ago. i won't be seeing any snow this Christmas, and any wonderlands i encounter will definitely not be anywhere near wintry, but i hope to catch some of the orchard road lights, and have already made plans with princejay to tour some of the local lights next week :) (here's some samples of what we might see)
yes, Christmas is coming... and in the midst of news stories of people calling for a ban on the word "Christmas" (because they think it's too pro-Christian/ity??!), and others (actual people i know) preferring to allocate their donation to the RSPCA (to help animals) than to give to the salvation army or the smith family (to help their fellow human beings), i need to remind myself even more that Jesus (the Christ) is the reason for the season - he came to earth to give his life to save people, and even those who will want to take him out of the day will have to one day bow their knee and acknowledge him as king...
"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.' "Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. (Isaiah 45:22-24, ESV)and the song to be singing then will be
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11, ESV)
"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10, ESV)
Friday, December 09, 2005
we have a free weekly suburban paper - there's not much of it that i actually read, but i do usually flick through it scanning for local community information. and mentions of local eateries. cucina of italy was one of these eateries i saw, and it was the dining destination for this evening. it was at the entrance that i spotted these nails, which actually belongs to the beauty shop next door.
i figured i'd kill a few birds with one stone by combining a desire to try out this restaurant, with the desire to take a few soon-to- depart friends out for dinner. i'm glad i made a booking because when i first walked in (and the entrance is a bit disorienting because you have to go past the take-away counter and the kitchen before you really see the tables etc in the restaurant proper, so i was momentarily confused if maybe i had missed the main entrance) the place was pretty much at full capacity. it had a real buzz about it though, a good sign that it's a "happening" joint. the decor looked smart, perhaps helped by the Christmas decorations and the lighting effects - you can see a sample of the result in this next picture, where the wall on the left serves as the canvas for the ever-changing display of colours and shapes/patterns from ceiling mounted light machines.
i quite like this photo. yoonta was sitting across from me and i wanted to capture the table flowers looking along the wall. the distance is perhaps too great to really notice the flowers from the tables behind her, but the colours go well and the foreground flowers are nicely out of focus - my digicam doesn't provide any depth of field control so i couldn't really get a more exaggerated effect.
the food was nice and quite filling, though IMHO a bit on the pricey side at an average of over $20 per head for mains alone - no drinks, entrees or desserts (speaking of which, i find it hard to accept how one of the dessert choices, which looked from the description to be no more than a glorified ice-cream sundae type affair, can be worth almost $12, no matter how good it may taste). we decided to share our meals so that we could maximise our tasting opportunities. first up was a "feed the man" pizza, then (about 50 minutes after the pizza was served) our 3 pastas: the penne romana, linguine con gamberi, and tagliatelle con pollo somethingorother. my favourite was the third dish, whose full name i couldn't remember - there's a menu on their website, but it's not exactly the same as the one we saw in the restaurant itself.
[as a bit of a side note, while i was checking the names of the dishes, i saw that the website has the tubular pasta dish listed as a rigatoni romana, whereas i'm sure we ordered a penne romana. not being well versed in things pasta, i tried surfing to see what the difference was. after doing some brief checking (see the list of pasta at wikipedia) think what we had was the penne... but i digress (from this digression). while surfing for an answer i came across this totally wacky paper on how Penne Rigate will spontaneously insert itself into Rigatoni (order pasta) under liquid to gas transition conditions of H2O to create the previously unobserved species Noodleous doubleous!!! how weird is that? lol. and that page then led me to discover the DHMO.org, website of the DiHydrogen MonOxide research division. if you don't know what dhmo is, you'd better find out, read the FAQ, and maybe even check out the material safety data sheet, cos your life very well depends on it! ahhh dearie me, some people have too much time on their hands :p]
ok so back to cucina... actually the main reason i was attracted to this venue was that they had a piano bar. italian restaurants are a dime a dozen, but how many of them have a grand piano in it?? it's a nice hook, and one that convinced me to check it out. the website says it only plays friday and saturday nights from 10pm till late (up to 2am??), but the music was already flowing when we got there at 7:30pm - maybe because they had a full house? most of it music actually came from the keyboard/synthesizer rather than the piano though, and i for one would have preferred pure piano for the classier effect and feel. still, it was a positive contribution to the ambiance of the place, though i was a bit disappointed on two other points. firstly, i had the image of a slightly separate area of the venue dedicated to this "piano bar" area, but in reality it's right next to the dining area and the only seating in this section is a sofa that could fit 3, maybe 4 people. and that right next to the piano... i'd feel a bit too up close and personal an arrangement to be sitting, enjoying the music, and having a bit of a chat with the pianist a mere 2m away! secondly, we tried to request some songs without success. tekken suggested on bended knee by boys II men - i was doubtful whether the pianist would know it, and my doubt proved right. i thought we'd have better luck with some of the older artists, and tried "anything by lionel richie, elton john or phil collins" as our round two offer, but he didn't know any of them either! oh well... it was still a nice night out where we chilled and chatted, including some discussions on my recent post about the down syndrome detection test article (tekken being a known reader of this blog - *waves hello*), enjoyed some good food in an agreeable venue, took some silly photos (more pics available on my msn space album), got some free lollipops on our way out, and even had the owner take a group shot of us with the piano bar dude :)
so, will i be back? i don't know... i guess if i want "sophisticated yet affordable" (their own words) it's a venue i'd consider, but while i had a pleasant time there on my first visit, i don't think it makes in into my list for "must eat here again" places. still, it's probably worth checking out at least once if you've never been before, and i'm not against the idea of coming back at a later stage to see if the piano bar thing has taken off any... maybe as an after-dinner/supper-y type of thing. we'll see...
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
anyways, i told her that i would give/show her the photos when she was older -- this is my virtual time capsule for such a day. wonder whether she'll remember me if we ever cross paths again... i'll have my other photos ready for a trip down memory lane if such a day ever comes ;)
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Let's get real: a test that enables doctors to identify birth defects in utero will really only be used for only one purpose: eliminate those with the defects. More than 90 percent of children whose Down Syndrome is detected in utero are aborted. (There's no reason to think that this testing will be limited to Down Syndrome, by the way. Eventually, the cost- effectiveness of eliminating genetically-based illness in utero will prove irresistible. As Nancy Press of the Oregon Health and Science University put it in the New York Times, "If you can terminate pregnancies with a condition, who is going to put research dollars into it?")i'm struck by the suggestion that the decisions made on this issue tend to be driven by what is essentially the selfishness of the parents(-to-be). i don't know that this is necessarily true in general (and i'm sure there are those who think beyond themselves), but i just wonder how widespread and accurate an assessment it really is. the answer is perhaps somewhat scary to contemplate.
In addition, there is subtle but real pressure on "at-risk" women to undergo pre-natal testing. [...]
And what exactly is the "risk" here? Why are we having all those abortions? One thing is certain: it's not to ease the suffering of the "defective" children. They don't suffer, at least not from having Down Syndrome. They're often aware that they're different but any pain they may feel in this respect is caused by other people's reactions to the differences. From my own experience with my autistic son, I can tell you that David's autism troubles me a great deal more than it does him.
The inescapable conclusion is that the suffering we're seeking to avoid is that of the adults. How else do you explain the phenomenon of doctors being sued for the "wrongful birth" of a child with disabilities? Children with Down Syndrome or other disabilities represent an unacceptable impingement on their potential parents' freedom: they have to work harder at being good parents and they don't even get to show off with a "My Child is an Honor Roll Student At ..." bumper sticker.
If that sounds harsh, well, it is. It's also true.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
- dine at the golden fortune chinese restaurant in surfers paradise.
went with my family to the gold coast last night to meet some overseas visitors (my very first neighbour ever from my childhood days, and his family). dad asked me to pick a chinese restaurant nearby to their hotel, and i struck out with the entertainment book, so went with the old google fallback. didn't manage to find out much info apart from names, addresses and phone numbers, so i just picked one. spotted it while droving past on the way to the hotel, and soon the whole troupe came back on foot. it looked nice enough, fairly grand/posh looking, and certainly very much in keeping with the "golden" part of the name - all the seats even had covers, which is something i've previously only seen rolled out for weddings and such. really should have looked at the prices before coming in though, cos it was a shocker. i mean, would you pay nearly $170 for this spread? just to clarify, that's 7 dishes in total: 1 vege dish, 1 tofu dish, and 5 reasonably standard meats, of which only one is seafood (prawns). that plus tea and steamed rice, and complimentary fruit and egg tarts at the end... at an average price of over $20 per dish - and that's for "small" servings too - you really don't want to know the price of the set banquets they were pushing (which, although it includes what sounds like an abundance of seafood, is still pricier than some seafood buffets i've had at hotels... and worse of all, the food wasn't even that good. like... quite normal, nothing special whatsoever, nothing at all to suggest/justify the exhorbitant cost. plus i think they actually mucked up one of our dishes. oh well... was too embarassed to walk out after seeing the menu/prices, so felt bad about sticking the parentals (and guests?) in the whole situation of having to order from a grossly overpriced menu. meh.
- ok well the restaurant was one i'll have to learn from. here's one i just know to avoid... flybuys has been going the big guns on promoting their new reward - fuel discount vouchers. sure, hop on the bandwagon of savings at the bowser in these times of rising/high petrol prices, but is this really delivery value for money? a quick scan of the other offerings in the rewards catalogue puts the points per dollar's-worth-of-reward rate in the range of about 115-135, with 135 derived from 13500 points needed to get a $100 shopping voucher. using 135 as the conservative rate for calculations, the fuel discount voucher costs 1000 points to redeem, which means it's "worth" about $7.50. but to actually get that much real value out of using the voucher (which entitles you to 10c/litre discount off your fuel purchase), you would need to fill 75 litres. we're talking the entire tank, from empty to full, of something like a commodore or tarago. i'd put the average fuel tank capacity of the cars out on the road to be closer to the 50-60 mark. using 115 as the rate would require you to fill over 85 litres to make it "worthwhile". my advice? skip the hype, get a shopping voucher where you can be sure of getting 100% value. if you were a cynic you might think this is just a strategy for flybuys to get people to spend their points in a way that won't cost flybuys as much as other rewards... (disclaimer: i don't actually know how the all the costs associated with running the flybuys program are borne, i'm just being cynical :p)
- i was going to put this one down as a win, but unfortunately that's somewhat inconclusive at the moment. i've been looking for a replacement digicam for some months, and was half set to buy a canon ixus 50 on my last trip overseas. i almost bought too, but for the dodgy salesman who tried to pass a 6 months labour + 6 months parts warranty off as a 12 month warranty. i know that buying locally gives me a standard 12 month warranty, so i didn't want to compromise on this respect just to get cheaper prices overseas and suffer a shorter international warranty. and so i returned home empty handed on that trip. then i found out about the updated ixus 55 model, and have been tracking prices for a few months. found a huge variation in prices, but thanks to staticice managed to find a best price of $479. slight hitch: i could choose between paying for shipping to get it from an interstate store, or pay 3% extra to use my credit card (my card allows me to get up to an additional year's warranty on items purchased with the card, and i want my warranty!) at the local store with the same lowest price, but which has no actual stock anyway. then i was inspired by another guy's success in getting his local store to match competitor's prices, so i gave photo continental a call, and lo and behold they are able to give me a quote for $500! (boo to all the suckers who pay the retail/sticker price of $588, and raspberries to union shopper and apesma electrical who are supposed to help the end consumer get lower prices, but couldn't even come close to the prices i got from my own research). PC also have no surcharge on credit card payments, and they have plenty of stock. schweet... PLUS i found out (not that it's anything new, but i just didn't make the connection before) that i can buy it "duty free" since i'm heading overseas again in a few weeks. thus i popped in there this afternoon and got myself a smaller, lighter, and generally better spec'ed machine than my current ixus 330 (which is still actually going quite well). anyways, happy with my purchase, i start playing with the actual hardware, and give the battery the initial charge. this is when i discover that the battery sit somewhat loose in the charger slot... definitely prone to move about if bumped. and in certain positions (still fully within the slot) it won't charge, or in one instance alternates between charging and not charging, accompanied by a feint ticking sound. some other positions come with a high pitched sound. now i'm very glad i bought it from a physical store nearby, but i still need to find time to get back there during business hours...
- oh and speaking of digital cameras and going overseas, i also had to get some passport photos taken so i can apply to renew my nearly expired passport (which, by the way, will be a new variety of epassports). i found out last time that singapore might not let me in with less than 6 months left on my passport, but by then it was too late to do anything about the matter(it was the night before my flight) , and thankfully it didn't turn out to be a problem. this time round i've only got about 2 months left, and don't want to push my luck. so i went to a photo lab place, asked to have passport photos done, and the guy whips out a digicam. shouldn't really have been surprised i guess... though the last time i had to get passport photos they used a specific camera that took 4 shots of your head simultaneously. this time it was with a normal digicam, single shot, touched up and replicated 6 times on a standard 6x4. 10 minutes and $9.50 later, i'm thinking that i could have done it myself and gotten the photo printed for 30-40c at any self-service printing station. another potential rip off job... but then there are quite specific requirements for the photos used for passports, and it might have taken a bit of tweaking to ensure conformity. ah well... the price of "instant"... though it wasn't quite fast enough to prevent me missing my bus.