Sunday, July 31, 2005

Honeymoon with High School Teacher

It's a long story. Anyway, we met up with a honeymooning couple (my sister's classmates) and our long-lost high school teacher (and her husband) for a get-together tour of the city.

We picked up the couple at Circular Quay after their lunch cruise, and we set off for Bondi Beach. We got a bit lost after that, but we managed to pass by Coogee, then to La Perouse for some picture-taking. We wanted to take the Prince of Wales scenic drive, but the entrance gates are closed after 5pm. Then we went to Olympic Park and cruised around Newington. Our teacher suggested buffet dinner at the Liverpool Mounties. By the time we reached there, my stomach was growling already. Worse, there's a long long wait for the restaurant to take in the next bunch of diners. After dinner, we dropped by Huxton Park to visit their place, then off to Rydges Capitol Square to drop off the couple. End of tour.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Josh Groban and Michael Buble

Been listening to the sophomore studio albums of Josh Groban and Michael Buble the past few days. David Foster ought to be real proud of his boys. Their self-titled debut albums were great, and their follow-up albums don't disappoint.

They are basically targeting the same crossover market - classical for Josh Groban, jazz/swing for Michael Buble. Josh Groban puts more passion into his singing, while Michael Buble is the consummate crooner. In Closer, Josh Groban sings a good collection of English, French, Italian, and Spanish songs - from the standard Caruso to theme songs such as Mi Mancherai (Il Postino) and Broken Vow (Meteor Garden II) to MJ's She's Out of My Life. In It's Time, Michael Buble sticks to his standard formula of revivals and remakes. Not to missed are You Don't Know Me (from My Best Friend's Wedding) and Quando, Quando, Quando (duet with Nelly Furtado).

Friday, July 22, 2005

Albert Goes to Wollongong (Part II)

With hours to kill before the dinner costume party, I spent the whole afternoon walking around Stuart Park, the North Beach, and ended up at the Flagstaff Hill with its twin lighthouses. Lots of photo ops, I tell you. Tonight also happens to be when the moon is closest to Earth.

I'm not really a big fan of costume parties, but the company has one every year. This year's theme is Las Vegas. Last year was Hollywood. I swear some people showed up with the same costume as last year. Worse, I didn't even get a proper dinner. We were served a dish of fish fillets with a very creamy sauce. And that was it. I waited and waited for the main course, but none came. People got up from their seats and started to wander about. At that point, I just gave up and went back to my room to catch Lost. Too bad it's a refresher episode, where they show all the highlights from previous episodes. The magic show during the "dinner" was very good though.

Found out the next day that steak was served (very much later) as the main course.

Albert Goes to Wollongong (Part I)

Went down to Wollongong for a two-day company event. We had some team-building activities in the afternoon, then a costume party at night.

Participants were grouped into teams of 15 and asked to go to certain landmarks in Wollongong to complete certain tasks (a la Amazing Race). After each task, teams will receive a piece of a puzzle, which they have to complete after the five tasks. We had at our disposal a volunteer driver and a mini-bus, and we get to decide which venues we want to go first. First stop is the nearby Stuart Park for some canoeing. Each team was given 5 canoes, three persons to a canoe. Once everyone has paddled to the other shore, the whole team has to paddle back. In the heat of the moment, some of the canoes tipped over and people has to be plucked out of the icy waters for a change of clothes. Meanwhile, we proceeded on to the next event. At the Flagstaff Lighthouse, we were asked to form a human pyramid. This was not too hard considering that there's only 10 of us left. After the coordinator has taken an official photo, we were off again. We were supposed to wait for the other team members, but as everybody knows, winning is more important than teamwork. At the Win Stadium, each of us was required to do a free kick with a rugby ball. It's not as easy as it looks on TV, as the ball kept flying straight, instead of up across the goalposts. At the Mt. Keira (Kum-Ba-Yah) Girl Guide Camp, we were asked to pitch a big canvas tent. (The earlier team tried to slow us down by hiding the tent and the pegs.) We were also asked to cook spaghetti and consume it. Last stop is the Berkeley Sports Stadium for a free throw. Hailing from Philippines where basketball is the national sport, I'm embarrassed to say that I'm the second last person in our team to get the ball in. Back at the meeting place, we put together all of the puzzle pieces, and it turned out to be a table and chair set from IKEA.

I was genuinely surprised to find out that we were the last to come back, considering we cheated a little. It's true that our volunteer driver is a chubby mum with thick eyeglasses who drive slow, but we finished all the events chop-chop. Apparently, the other teams didn't play fair either. During show-and-tell, some teams admitted to hiding the tents and other equipment. Another team closed the gates to some of the venues, and even posted signs giving wrong directions. Yet another team called up other people and gave misleading instructions. One team was delayed from proceeding because their driver went off to buy some liquor. Now you know what kind of company I'm working for.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Ban Them Books!

Heard over the radio today that certain Islamic bookshops in Sydney are selling extremist literature endorsing suicide bombings and attacking Western civilization as "the culture of oppression, the culture of injustice, the culture of racism". Because of this, certain parties are calling on law-enforcement agencies to take action against these bookstores - raiding them, if need be.

Let me put it this way. A typical bookstore would have at least thousands of titles. Is it the bookstore's responsibility to screen every item and make sure the contents are agreeable to everyone's sensibilities? Think Kama Sutra. Think the Holy Bible. Think Stupid White Men. Think Lady Chatterly's Lover. Think the Communist Manifesto.

Think Fight Club. "Another thing I could do, Tyler tells me, is I could drive to my boss' house some night and hook a hose up to an outdoor spigot. Hook the hose to a hand pump, and I could inject the house plumbing with a charge of industrial dye. Red or blue or green, and wait to see how my boss looks the next day. Or, I could just sit in the bushes and pump the hand pump until the plumbing was superpressurized to 110psi. This way, when someone goes to flush a toilet, the toilet tank will explode. At 150psi, if someone turns on the shower, the water pressure will blow off the shower head, strip the threads, blam, the shower head turns into a mortar shell." "To make a silencer, you just drill holes in the barrel of the gun, a lot of holes. This lets the gas escape and slows the bullet to below the speed of sound." "You take a 98-percent concentration of fuming nitric acid and add the acid to three times that amount of sulfuric acid. Do this in an ice bath. Then add glycerin drop-by-drop with an eye dropper. You have nitroglycerine. Mix the nitro with sawdust, and you have a nice plastic explosive." "The three ways to make napalm: One, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate. Two, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and diet cola. Three, you can dissolve crumbled cat litter in gasoline until the mixture is thick." Talk about DIY urban terrorism. Should Fight Club be taken off Dymocks' and Angus & Robertson's shelves?

Let's take an ISP for example. It provides Internet connectivity. It provides hosting services. Is it responsible for pedophiles who use its chat servers to lure young victims? Is it accountable for copyrighted songs and movies passing through its network? It it liable for "offensive" materials hosted on its web servers?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Winter Concert Series - Queen on the Bay

Caught the last of the Winter Concert Series at the Darling Harbour Aquashell. I missed Leonard Bernstein & George Gershwin on July 2 and Opera on the Bay on July 9. It's a good thing I was in the city for Queen on the Bay.

The tribute concert is based on the 1986 Queen world tour Queen - It's a Kinda Magic. "Freddie Mercury" opened the show with One Vision. He tried to pump up the crowd, but I figured everybody was too cold to care. The audience started to warm up after a few more numbers. By the time Freddie changed to his red pants and white shirt, people were clapping and singing along to Radio Ga-Ga, We Are the Champions, and the finale We Are the Champions (complete with fireworks). The encore was Bohemian Rhapsody if I remember correctly.

Albert Goes to Melbourne - Part II

This time I was there for two weeks, excluding weekends. The good thing about Melbourne is that most of the tourist spots are located in the city centre. The bad thing was that I'm there for work, so my only free time is after office hours. Coming back late from Sunshine and after having dinner, it would already be 9pm when I hit the city streets.

Ever the optimist, I think the cold, windy nights and the ungodly hours work to my advantage when I'm taking pictures of the city as there's very few people about. I try to ignore the cold wind that is making my neck/shoulder muscles tighten. I try not to think about the ice-cold metal post as I brace my camera on it for a steady nightshot. I try to act cool as the security guard questioned me as to why I'm taking pictures of the ANZ Gothic Bank.

For every night during my Melbourne trip, from Parliament House in the east to Spencer Street Station in the west, from University of Melbourne in the north to Flinders Street Station in the south, and all the crisscrossing streets in between - this is my vacation.

Current Events of Week 27/28

July 2 - Live 8, billed as the greatest rock concert in the world, features 260 acts at 10 venues (London, England; Paris, France; Berlin, Germany; Rome, Italy; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Barrie, Ontario; Johannesburg, South Africa; Tokyo, Japan; Moscow, Russia and at the Eden project in Cornwall, England) on four continents in a bid to end world poverty.
July 2 - Venus Williams beats No. 1 Lindsay Davenport 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 9-7 to regain the Wimbledon title (2000, 2001, and 2005).
July 3 - Roger Federer beats Andy Roddick 6-2 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to complete a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles.
July 6 - Start of the G8 Summit 2005 at Gleneagles, Scotland.
July 6 - The International Olympic Committee declared from Singapore that London would host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
July 7 - A series of bomb attacks on London's transport network has killed more than 50 people and injured about 700 others.
July 8 - Cory Aquino calls on President Gloria Macapagal to make the ultimate sacrifice and resign. GMA says, "I will not."
July 16 - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) goes on sale.