Sunday, September 30, 2007

Randompost

It's time for one ofy my patented random posts...

Want to screw with your mind? Learn about the weird psychological quirk called the McCollough Effect. Click here and follow the instructions, which involve staring at your screen for a few minutes.

The one thing that really bothers me is heights, so I am virtually shitting myself just looking at these pictures. There are many things I would like to do if I ever go to Vegas, but going on these rides is certainly not one of them.

Attention font geeks: here is a really interesting article in the New York Times about the process behind changing the font used on road signs in the USA. Shouldn't be interesting, but it really is.

And finally, here is Robert De Niro with Elmo. As with all Muppet stuff, there is some class comedy here.

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Flash photography comparison

Friday, September 28, 2007

Not dead

Just busy and lazy. Last weekend I went up to Inverness with Mark and Claire to celebrate Simon's return to town, and this week has been a mix of poker, house stuff, and a return to pub quizzes (we lost). Yesterday I spent more on a single item than I ever have before, dropping £1500 on a sofa. Posts here will continue to be erratic until after the move, but I'll try and do a few over the weekend.

Anyway, with the ongoing political events in Burma, the trailer for Rambo 4 is very prescient. Yes, this is a genuine trailer, and yes, he does chop that guy's head off.


Now that's how you make a movie trailer. I'm now off for sticky toffee pudding and Heroes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back

HeartIntricateHere be dragonsGolden glow

I arrived back in the UK on Saturday. South-east Asia is a lovely place to go, but those flights are killers. 24 hours of transit and travel, including 13 hours of actual flying, wiped me out such that I am only just getting back to normal now. At least there was a benefit to the travel: I am a "silver" level frequent flyer now. Here's to gold by this time next year...

So, as I have said, Kuala Lumpur was its usual lovely self. Chinatown at night is awesome: a mad hustle of locals eating and shopping, tourists wandering around bewildered, a cacophony of light, noise and smell. One of the main differences between the "West" and "East" is the way that places come alive at night. Not just on the grand and awesome scale of places like KL, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, but in the smaller places like the small town (Sungai Pelek) where I have stayed with the family of my Malaysian friend. In Asia, everyone seems to come out of the woodwork after sunset: in certain areas the streets are packed, with street food, shopping, and general bustle. This could never work in Europe: temperatures of at least 20C and cold beer add massively to the atmosphere. Travel in Europe is one thing, full of history, subtlety, and famous names and places; traveling to Asia can be like landing on another planet. The sights and sounds are often completely alien, the food is (generally) astonishing, the people are (again, generally) incredibly welcoming, and the prices (compared to Eirope) are very low. In other woeds, I strongly recommend a trip to Asia as soon as you get the chance; I can't wait to have a go at Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing.

Icons in the night

The week in KL cemented my opinions on one thing: the Petronas Towers. Niall wrote an excellent post about the new wonders of the world, and whilst I am unconvinced some of them (Taj Mahal, Christ in Rio) should be on the list, I am now convinced that this remarkable sight should be. I have been to many of the great cities of the world, and have seen some of the major buildings of the world: the Hong Kong harbour front, Empire State Building, Pyramids, and Eiffel Tower all spring to mind. But none of them (save for the beautiful Empire State Building) have made the lasting impression that the Petronas Towers have: sure, the first time you see the Pyramids or Eiffel Tower it's a "wow!" moment; when you are in KL you lose your breath every time you catch a glimpse of the buildings. To me, they are like a drug: the amount of time that you have is never enough to look at them. I am not being a crazy man here, either: I have discussed this with several people who agree that these towers are utterly breathtaking. Besides the architecture, the buildings also symbolise the birth of a modern, thriving nation in Malaysia. Suffice to say, I quite like the buildings, and would put them as my number one in the world.

So tomorrow it's back to work and back to planning for my move. It's not long now...

PS pictures of the trip here.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Neither shaken nor stirred

In the last 24 hours, there have been 3 major earthquakes in Indonesia, which the media (BBC and CNN) at least, are describing as being "felt in Malaysia". Sorry, journalists, but this populous corner of Malaysia didn't feel anything. I was out in town and only heard about the "big one" on my return. There have been a few more big tremors since, but there was a distinct lack of quake in the earth here. Disappointing, in a way, as you would expect to feel something if there was a huge earthquake within a few hundred miles.

Aside from the rippling ground and hourly earthquakes, KL has been its usual charming self. A pleasant temperature (i.e. not as cripplingly hot and humid as it can be) has meant that I can wonder around a few of the sites. This morning I had a meeting in the twin towers (surely a better way to see the views than queuing up with the tourists) and tonight I will head across to chinatown for beer, food, and frenzied counterfeit-goods selling. This is my last full night here; my flight home is just before midnight (!) tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

KL

I arrived in KL safe and well yesterday, after the energy-draining 12-hour flight from Amsterdam. For the first time in living memory, I managed to get some sleep on a flight (maybe 2 or 3 hours in half-hour blocks), but 12 hours is still way too long for a flight. My back and legs were very angry at me by the end...

After checking in to the hotel, I popped over to the Petronas Towers for my traditional first stop in KL: BBQ chicken rice. The shopping centre under the towers has a food court that, although it is near high-end shops (like Chanel, Luis Vuitton etc.), is astonishingly reasonably priced. My favourite is BBQ chicken rice: a simple dish of rice, Chinese chicken, Chinese BBQ sauce, coriander, cucumber, and a bowl of chicken broth. Simple, delicious, and the food and a soft drink cost around £1. I know that I have arrived in Malaysia when I am exhausted and eating this meal.

I fell into bed, and my tiredness led to a sitcom-style moment this morning: I set an alarm on my phone for 7am, more than enough time to be ready for the start of the conference at 8:30. Of course, in my haze of exhaustion I forgot the concept of time zones, and forgot that 7 on my phone is actually 2pm in Malaysia... Cue me waking up at 8:25, and comedically throwing on my clothes whilst simultaneously shaving and cleaning my teeth. And when I made it up to the conference (more or less on time), I was told that my presentation had been moved up to first. Let's just say that the start to my day was interesting...

My presentation was, thanks for asking, fine. Standing ovations, weeping of joy, thrown flowers, and shouts of "bravo" were just some of the things that might have happened had I actually been in a sitcom. As it was, there was polite applause and a few nice comments.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Busy times

For once, I actually have an excuse for not posting frequently enough. After the good news of a successful offer on a flat comes the nitty-gritty of sorting out the survey, finances, and logistics of the move. The survey came through fine, actually more than fine, with a clean bill of health and an excellent valuation which (to my delight) is much closer to the purchase price than I expected. On Saturday the finances on my end were sorted out very easily and relatively painlessly (thank you Halifax); from Niall's side (buying my place) everything seems fine. So no more worries: my solicitor is dotting the t's and crossing the i's on the contracts so that everything is set for October 12. Barring something unfortunate happening with my seller or Niall, it's a stress-free cruise from here.

Now I have to start arranging everything for the move, including all the admin involved with moving address. I now (finally) get to spend all the money that I have been diligently saving for the last couple of years on new furniture and fittings for the flat. Exciting, but expensive, times.

My organising time will be reduced by a trip to Malaysia next week. I should be annoyed about losing the time that I could do without losing, but KL is my favourite city and I can't wait to return once again. Next Monsay night I will be sipping a cold Tiger in view of the Petronas Towers. There are worse things to lose some momentum on the house move to, I concede.