Undo. Redo.

Oct 8, 2010 | | 0 comments |

There's something deeply satisfying about removing an old network with a box cutter and a pair of scissors. Slicing the old cables and pulling them through walls and cable clips without any regard for their use is quite fun, especially after the meticulous work involved in installing the new wires beforehand. The book store where my wife works is finally jumping head-first into the 21st century, updating their VT200-based stock keeping and point of sale system to a PC-based system. Out with the telephone-cable-based 'network', in with the new. Shiny new Cat-5e cables, gigabit switches and routers, WiFi - it's been an interesting but fun task so far. And we're barely 25% done. I have to look forward to installing 4 more PCs, data migration off the old system, setting up a rigorous backup facility, antivirus, password management - the lot.
Which is curious and odd because way back at school, in my computer science class (realise I'm talking about 1985 or 1986 here) were given a project to theorise how we'd bring a shop into the computer age. My choice at the time? Computerising the stock-keeping and point of sale system in a book shop.
Go figure.

1010 - what the hell?

Oct 7, 2010 | | 1 comments |

"No pressure, but if you don't comply, we're going to kill you." That's largely the message some organisation called 1010Global is putting out. I suppose you've already seen it - it went viral a couple of days ago - but if not, their current advertising campaign involves exploding children in a classroom because the kids didn't want to be part of their campaign, followed with the message "no pressure". I don't know what they're trying to promote but their message (whatever it is) has been rendered completely moot by a TV advert where they blow up children. Graphically. Full-screen. In front of a class full of other children.

If you're curious, the three ads are below. Watch them and then realise how ill-conceived this idea was. I suppose someone thought this was funny, in the same way people think 'The Office' is funny. People are often wrong.

10 days in Asia

Oct 3, 2010 | | 2 comments |

Well here we go then - the longest blog entry ever. This is our trip diary from our recent 10th anniversary trip to Singapore and Hong Kong. The trip was a surprise for Paula, centred around going to the Singapore Formula 1 race - a street circuit, raced at night. A micro selection of pictures are here: Singapore & Hong Kong 2010

Thursday.
Arrived in the afternoon (with all luggage checked all the way through from SLC) and took a taxi to the hotel. The Orchid arrangement I'd asked for was in the room waiting for Paula. She cried :-)
Walked up Orchard road. Had a snack at Spanish cafe in Ngee Ann City mall. Took the MRT to Raffles City to collect our F1 tickets. Had dinner at Malaysian vendor in the L4 Food Republic in Wisma Atria mall. Walked Orchard road again, but at night to see the Digital@Orchard displays of light and art. 

Friday.
Tested our MRT route to the track and got there a tad early; decided on Gate 2. Picked up 3-day MRT tourist passes that allow unlimited travel on the underground and bus system. Went to the new Marina Bay Sands casino / hotel, and up to the Singapore Skypark on top. Impressive engineering! Got in to the track at 3pm and rode the Singapore Flyer (think London Eye on steroids) twice while the support practice sessions were going on (Formula BMW and Porsche Carrera Cup). Met up with Paula's acquaintances Christy & Regan in the evening, and ate at Lagnaa in Little India. Sit-on-the-floor, barefoot restaurant with awesome food. Went back to the track later for the Friday F1 practice session. Watched from various walkabout positions around the track and took one more trip on the Flyer. The MRT had a power failure when we were trying to leave so we ended up getting a taxi back to the hotel. 

Saturday.
Went to the Singapore visitors centre. Picked up some leaflets and decided to go to the Science Centre at Jurong East. Interesting place out in the boonies, with a great live Tesla coil demonstration. The Jurong East MRT interchange was totally Bladerunner. Back to the city centre and went clothes shopping in Ion mall. I found shorts and shirts that I liked at a store called Net Fashion. More importantly, I've lost so much weight I now fit Asian sizes! Paula also found tops at the same place. Ended up eating a Chinese dinner at Ion mall Food Opera. Went back to the track for saturday qualifying, starting at 10pm. Bumped into Sir Jackie Stewart and had a picture taken. Met Dave & Anne from Australia who were sitting next to us supporting Mark Webber. Getting out of the track was a crush but it turned out to only be 50 minutes from grandstand seat to hotel room. The entire event was really well organised, staffed and signposted and the MRT is blindingly efficient at getting people away. For where we were, discovered that every train goes through Dhoby Ghaut interchange, and the Orchard Road MRT station is so huge underground that you can walk to almost anywhere around the Orchard Road crossroads without ever going above ground.

Sunday.
Browsed the shops in Lucky Plaza and Sim Lim Square for the heck of it. Both are tourist traps known for bait-and-switch electronics resellers. Didn't buy anything, obviously. Met up with a motorcycling friend and his wife who now live in Singapore - Walter and Ilke. They took us for a long lunch at Lau Pa Sat Festival Market (hawker food). Had nasi goreng and murtabak. Paula had Ton Ga soup, carrotcake and octopus. We all had vietnamese spring rolls. Made a quick pit stop at the hotel before going to the track at 5pm. Race started at 8pm. Ended about 10pm with Heikki Kovaleinen's car on fire after Hamilton spun off after contact with Webber. The pre-race show, the crowds, the whole experience was something not to be missed. It was amazing. We had a relatively easy trip back to the hotel again using the MRT.

Monday.
Took a taxi to Mount Faber then rode the cablecar to Sentosa Island. Went to the Underwater world, Butterfly house and motion simulator log ride. Rode the Skyride - like a ski lift - as the wind picked up ahead of a whole afternoon of rain. Took the MRT back to Orchard road. More clothes shopping in Ion Mall. Quick pit stop at the hotel then took the MRT to Clark Quay. Had dinner at Octapas - a Spanish Tapas bar. Desert of delicious mini doughnuts from TinyBites (run by a little old lady) in the food plaza of The Central (another mall). Saw a very talented didgeridoo player on Read Bridge. Grabbed the MRT back to the hotel.

Tuesday. 
Up early and took the MRT to Ang Mo Kio interchange to get the bus to Singapore Zoo. The bus station was just as well organized as the MRT. Found the right stand easily and the bus was rigidly on time. The Zoo was great. The "Fragile Forest" enclosed area was amazing - we got to mingle with the wildlife up very close. The humidity all around the zoo was close to 100% - a true rainforest. Bailed out after lunch to splash and dash at the hotel. Missed the afternoon rainstorm as we were in transit while it happened. Gave back the MRT cards for a return of our deposit, and cruised Paragon (mall). Ate at L4 Food Republic in Wisma Atria again.

Wednesday. 
Up early for the flight to HKG. Checked out no problem and took a taxi to the airport. Flight was about 50% full and on time. Arrived in HKG, grabbed bags and took a red taxi to Tsim Sha Tsui (pronounced sim-sha-tjoy). Our room on 19th floor had a great a harbour view. Tentatively took to the Hong Kong underground, confusingly called the MTR (as oppose to the MRT in Singapore). Got rechargeable Octopus travel cards which can be used just about everywhere. Used the MTR to get under the harbour. Took the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak for dinner and sunset. Ate western for the first time on our trip - Bubba Gump's - but the view from the restaurant was to die for. Went to the observation deck after sunset for some photo opportunities. Huge queue to get down on the peak tram but we waited. The taxis from the peak were trying to run off the meter which is illegal - they wanted HK$200 for an HK$18 journey. 

Thursday. 
Took a star ferry over to Central. Cost the equivalent of 32cents. Took a number 6 bus over to Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong island - the scenic route. Walked around Stanley market and got some lunch on the sea front. Bus 260 back - the express route. Pit stop at the hotel then went to iSQUARE mall - a 31-floor shopping mall - very narrow but very tall. Started figuring out that Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui East MTR stations (TST and TST-E) were interlinked and you could walk to anywhere via all the tunnels without ever going above ground. Sort of like Orchard Road in Singapore. There are so many exits that you end up with a mental map that's like a chess game. For example, N2 exit was opposite our hotel. N3 was in B2 of the K11 mall under the hotel. L5 was opposite Ocean City, L6 was next to the art museum. D2 was near the camera shop (don't ask) and F was the exit that linked the two stations together.
So we walked to Harbour City shops to put us close to the Star Ferries terminal. Elevator to lobby, lobby elevator to '3'. K11 mall elevator from '3' to 'B2'. Into the subway at exit N3. Walked probably half a mile and emerged at exit L5. See the image in this blog post for the complexity of the TST interchange.
Paula blitzed M&S. We ate at Suzuki Cafe Company. Oddly one of, if not the best French onion soups I've ever had. Service wasn't up to much though. Took the Symphony Of Lights star ferry harbour tour to see the 8pm light show from on the water. Walked the MTR subways back to the hotel.

Friday. 
Leisurely breakfast in the room, then took the MTR to the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. Long queue for tickets. Long queue to get on. Rode in a glass-bottom car ('crystal cabin') which gave a wonderful view of the surroundings. The trip on the cable car took about 20 minutes. Spent time in Ngong Ping village which is a vast tourist trap, then walked up 176 steps to the Tian Tan Buddha - the largest seated Buddha statue in the world. Back to the village for a lunch of kebabs and bhajis, then rode the cablecar back to the bottom station. Took the MTR back to Kowloon to the sprawling TST subway station and walked to Hong Kong art museum. Refunded Octopus cards. Made sure we were back to the hotel by 5pm to avoid dealing with the MTR for People's Republic Of China day. The evening fireworks show in HKG harbour attracted about half a million people. Room service dinner so we could watch the fireworks from our hotel window. Holy crap! I think they blew the entire Sugarhouse Park July 4th fireworks budget in the first 10 second barrage! Still - chinese fireworks in China - what do you expect?

Saturday. 
Up at the normal time. Did most of the packing then had breakfast in the hotel cafe. Went to HKG space museum which was quirky and only took an hour to go around. Back to the hotel via Ocean City mall. Taxi to airport. Spent a couple of hours in The Wing business lounge. Flight delayed by an hour for transfer passengers and landing on LAX delayed by 20 minutes for weather. Unbelievably made the connection via immigration, customs and a terminal change with 15 minutes to spare. Thank you Global Entry and the green cards. I did fall twice though during the sprint to make the flight and now have cuts, burns and bruises all up my right side. Whatever - we made the flight home.

The TST map: