Sunday, July 29, 2007

Horsley Park Half-Lunch and Civic Centre Half-Salute!

It's a day of halves today. I was supposed to have lunch at a friend's house at Horsley Park around noon. Had a badminton session at Homebush from 11am till 12 noon, so by the time I left the house it's already 12. The TomTom application on my E65 tells me Horsley Park is only half an hour away. It probably didn't factor in normal road traffic because I got there 45 minutes late. From Horsley Park, it's another half-hour to Chatswood where I'm supposed to attend a farewell concert by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir starting at 2pm. Again, the TomTom didn't factor in the fact that I left the concert ticket at home, so I had to abort a nice vegetarian lunch, drive all the way home, then drive (quite fast) to Chatswood.

The concert, entitled Civic Centre Salute, promises to be a grand one. After 35 years of being home to the Willoughby Symphony, Willoughby Civic Centre is transforming into the Chatswood Civic Place, and this is going to be the orchestra's last concert in this venue.

By the time I got to the Civic Centre, people were just coming out for the intermission. That's half of the concert gone already. Apparently, I have missed Rossini's La Gazza Ladra Overture, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, and a few others. The rest of the concert is worth all the hassle though. The second set opened with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Then we had the Willoughby March. The host gave us this bit of trivia about the piece: it was composed in 1969 by Albert Keats, the first Musical Director of the Willoughby Municipal Symphony Orchestra, and first performed on-site by the orchestra on Feb. 28, 1972. Next we had Mozart's Requiem and Tchaikovsky's third movement from Symphony No. 6. The highlight for me was when the choir sang the O Fortuna chorus from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. Chief conductor Nicholas Milton borrowed a violin and started playing the opening bars of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5 (very slowly), then the whole orchestra joined in - playing fast then slow depending on the conductor's whim. We also had Verdi's Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, and a few others. For the finale, the orchestra played Strauss Sr.'s Radetzky March, and everyone started clapping along. Reminded me so much of the Vienna New Year concerts that I used to watch on TV. I was sitting along the second row, so the music's really loud and you can see clearly how the music is being created. Very nice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Radioblog, Old Songs

Found out recently that has a new version out (v3.1.8). I've stuck with v2.5 for quite some time because one, it works, and two, I'm not too sure if the new version works in the non-PHP mode. Only one way to find out. There's a few UI enhancements like new layout and support for playlists. Still the same old songs though. Ripway is only giving me 30MB of online storage space and 150MB of bandwidth per day, so I can't really put up more songs.

I guess it's also time to look for a better webhosting service. When I first set up my, the best I can find is Ripway. This time, I found ZendURL, which gives you 100MB of space, gigs of bandwidth, PHP/Perl/CGI/SSI/MySQL support, FTP, POP, etc. All for free. My only complaint so far is that it's a bit buggy and tend to be offline from time to time. I've already integrated the new to Blogger, though it might not show up if ZendURL is down. If you prefer the old player, go here:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Roasted Duck, Smokeless Star City

So nice to have a free hotel lunch now and then. My colleague received a $30 lunch voucher from Star City, so the three of us went to make good use of it.

First thing I noticed when I first stepped into the casino is the clean, clear air. My colleague tells me that a total smoking ban went into effect in NSW starting July. That would explain why there's a lack of cigarette smoke and punters on the tables. The Trophies Food Court is packed though. Love that roast duck rice and the $6.50 meals (including soft drinks).

Monday, July 23, 2007

So Many Toys, So Little Time

First was the Microsoft Xbox. A few hacks and modifications later, it became a full-fledged multimedia center. During my recent trip to Manila, I came back with a Magic Sing karaoke system. You gotta give it to those Koreans. Literally thousands of songs (actually MIDIs) built right into the microphone. When my sisters came back from Manila, they brought with them an MP4 player with karaoke functions. Works quite well with the MP4 DVDs I brought before. Chalk one up for good compression codecs - thousands of minus-one videos on one DVD. Our latest acquisition? A Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) PC game complete with a Topway dance pad. Sure brings back memories of weekends at the arcade (watching, not dancing).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Asian Cup 2007: Australia vs. Japan in Little Portugal

Went to Little Portugal along Marrickville Road for dinner to celebrate my sister's birthday this week. We got there 5 minutes into extra time of the Australia-Japan match in the Asian Cup 2007. The actual game played out yesterday night in Hanoi, but since I haven't read the news, it's still an exciting game to watch.

After 30 minutes of extra-time play, the score is still tied at 1-1. Japan could've closed off the match with some promising attempts, but Mark Schwarzer managed to block the balls. The game went into penalty shootout. Japanese goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi turned out to be the better man, denying Harry Kewell's and Lucas Neill's penalty kicks. Despite Schwarzer's valiant attempts, Japan won the game on penalties 4-3 to move on to the semi-finals. Such a sorry ending, but the food was great though.

From the street, Little Portugal looks like a take-away shop. Don't mind that, just walk straight in and you'll find the (small) dining area.
We ordered a whole Portuguese chicken and large chips, which were served almost immediately (after the complimentary bread and butter). My first time to try Portuguese chicken - quite a distinctive taste. And the chips is at par with McDonald's. (That's a compliment.) Our other dishes took a while to come out, so they must be freshly prepared. We had diced pork with potato chunks and pipis and another dish called Bifina (beef steak, bacon and egg, served with wafer thin potato chips, pickles and rice). The servings were so generous we didn't get to finish everything. So no dessert or coffee for us.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bankstown Bites and Badminton

Bankstown Council is again hosting Bankstown Bites for the third year. This year's highlight are cooking demonstrations and book signings from celebrity chef Iain 'Huey' Hewitson. There are also eight food tours to choose from running at 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:30pm.

I got to the Bankstown City Plaza around 10am. Since I'm relatively early, I get a free shopping bag filled with brochures and other goodies. The food tours have interesting names such as Wok It Up, European Eats, Tantalizing Tea, Sweet Treats, Little Lebanon, Know Your Noodle, etc.

I'm a sucker for desserts, so I signed up my friend and me for the Sweet Treats tour. First stop is a Lebanese sweets shop a few block from the town center. The place is basically one long gallery of all kinds of sweets. They also make their own ice cream. The shop owner is pretty generous - everyone gets 2-3 scoops of ice cream and 2-3 kinds of sweets of your choice. We moved on to the cake shop on the next block. There's free hot chocolate for everyone, pastries, and a mini-takeaway package for everyone. Back at the town centre, we visited two more Chinese bakeries where they just plied us with cakes and cookies and pastries. My friend already gave up after the cake shop.

We loitered around and watched Huey do a cooking demonstration. Had a quick lunch of fried rice and Filipino BBQ, then off to badminton.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Want a Charge with That?

Seems like selected outlets of Burger King in Manila are offering customers free charging of their mobile phones with every order. This being in the Philippines, I'm pretty sure people will be standing beside the charging station munching on their burgers and fries while waiting for the phones to charge up. If you're not careful and blink your eyes, you'll lose your phone.

(Just looking at the picture, it's obvious that Nokia is the market leader. Go, Nokia!)

Update: A colleague wrote in to say that mobile charging stations can also be found in selected McDonald's and Wendy's outlets and Ayala Cinemas.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Rail Jam at Harbour Bridge, Inferno at Broadway

The one day when I have to meet up with a friend in Burwood and have a nice dinner. Right around 4:30pm, I got an internal email saying that there are problems with the North Shore line on the Harbour Bridge, and people are advised to seek alternative means of transport if going to the city. I figured I'll leave the office (relatively) early at 5pm and just take the many buses going to the city. Wrong. I went down to the North Sydney station to check things out and found a huge throng of people still confused as to why no trains are coming. Outside the station, there's people everywhere waiting for buses and flagging taxis. There's not even a proper queue anymore. A CityRail officer came by with a megaphone and announced that there are buses waiting along Walker Street. I rushed off to find this long long queue going around the corner and stretching all the way down the road. It's a cold winter night and the wind is blowing hard. Not a good time to wait for buses. Took me an hour to reach the head of the line;15 minutes to get to the Circular Quay by bus.

Good thing my friend is nice enough to offer to drive to the city and meet me at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Still, that's a long walk from Circular Quay to Chinatown, I tell you. To get away from the cold, we ducked into Broadway Shopping Centre and had pizza and calamari at Inferno Cafe, then hot chocolate at Gloria Jean's to cap a long day.