Friday, November 30, 2007

Dinner(?) at La Campana

A friend's going back to Manila for a month, so she decided to organize a farewell Christmas get-together at the La Campana Spanish Cabaret along Liverpool Road. She probably didn't have the chance to look up the restaurant at Eatability because most of the reviews are pretty bad. She wasn't the only one fooled. My sister had a look at the set menu, and liked it so much she decided to come along, even if she had to part with $40. And this is my sibling who works out at Parramatta, and reckons a $20 meal is already expensive.

So we got to the restaurant around 7:20pm. Place is a bit dark for my liking, but I guess that's part of the ambience. While waiting, we were given some breads and dips and plates of antipasto with barbequed vegetables and olives. Service is pretty slow. After like half an hour more, came the entrees - calamari rings, patatas bravas, and meatballs. There was another major delay, while the guys put on a show - a lady in red doing the flamenco, a couple doing the salsa, and a semi-nude girl doing the samba. Later, the emcee came on and got random people from different tables to partner up and do some dirty dancing for our enjoyment. Afterwards, they got more people to join in a conga line/circle. All this time, there was no food on the table.

With every passing minute, the volume of the music was getting louder and louder. After multiple requests and an eternity later, the paella valenciana was served. Semi-cooked, soggy, and too salty. Fortunately, my Good Friend and her colleague had to leave early. They didn't have to endure the food and the music. It was getting too noisy, I joined my sister outside the restaurant. Boy, was I surprised. There are now bouncers with metal detectors stationed at the entrance, and I had to get a UV stamp on my wrist in order to get back. The restaurant had turned into a disco! After a while, the rest of the group also came out of the restaurant. Apparently, they got tired of waiting for the creme caramel, and just left. Wise decision, guys. As I always say, cut your loses and move on.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Into the Wild with My Good Friend

My colleague was kind enough to give me his tickets for tonight's preview of Into the Wild. Directed, produced, and written (the screenplay, not the book) by Sean Penn, the movie is about Christopher McCandless and his adventure into Alaska. Christopher (aka Alexander Supertramp), played by Emile Hirsch, is not like most other teenagers. After graduating from Emory University, he donated his life savings of U$24,000 to Oxfam, left home, and went hitchhiking across America. Along the way, he met some unique personalities whom he became good friends with. By doing odd jobs here and there, he managed to save enough to buy the supplies he needed for his stay in the wilderness of Alaska: a .22-caliber rifle, a few boxes of rifle rounds, a machete, a knife, a sleeping bag, a fishing net, a bag of rice, a camera, a notebook, and some books. Fortunately for him, he found an abandoned beat-up bus in the middle of a snowfield, so he made that his home. Days were spent hunting game, collecting water, sprucing up the bus, and reading books.

It was all good for a while, until reality sets in. His bag of rice is not going to last forever; there's less game for him to catch; and I'm sure he's finished reading all the books he brought along. He packs up all his stuff, and leaves his magic bus, ready to go back. While he only needed to cross a small stream during last winter, now it's a raging river, and there's no way he can cross it. With no food left, he started eating roots, berries and leaves. He did have a book called Tanaina Plantlore to help him identify the edible plants, but too bad for him he read the wrong page. He had been eating some leaves, which are indentified as inedible. These things are poisonous, restricts the digestive system, causes nausea, immobility, and ultimately death.

Christopher, ever the brash smart guy, knows what's coming, so he quietly goes into his sleeping bag, zips up his jacket, and waits for his time to come. He was 24, having survived 112 days in the Alaskan wilderness.

By the time the movie ended, my Good Friend and I were famished. We dived in the nearest Chinese restaurant and ordered Hainanese chicken rice and roast pork rice.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Late Night Rendezvous at Maccas

So my Good Friend's friend's sister has a friend whose brother from San Francisco is here for a vacation. She thought it's a good idea to introduce us, since both families are Fil-Chi. Not knowing which coffee shops would be open at this time of night, we decided on that McDonald's restaurant along Canterbury Road. The more we talked, the more we're convinced the world is getting smaller - different schools but same classmates, different religion but same acquaintances, different workplaces but same colleagues, etc.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Coffee with ASIMO

Honda's ASIMO is coming to town, as part of his(?) Alive and Unplugged Australian Tour. Last day today at Darling Harbour's Palm Grove, then he's moving on to Parramatta's Prince Alfred Park. I've got a slight fever, but I just had to go to his show, and see how he compares with Sony's QRIO. Watching Japanese robots move around is probably not her thing, but my Good Friend was nice enough to drive me to the city. We got to the ticket tent an hour before the 4:30pm show, and was told all tickets are gone - even for the last 6:30pm show. Just my luck.

There's also the inaugural Sydney Christmas Parade, which we also missed. All that's left is the Christmas Village at Tumbalong Park. There's song-and-dance performances on stage, picture-taking with Santa, and the many booths promoting tourism, climate change, the Bee Movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and others. Starbucks was full, so we went to Gloria Jeans Harbourside. Who would we expect to meet there if not my Dad and sister?! You bet they're surprised. Such a small world.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Massacre at Heartbreak Ridge

It's a good day to let out some steam. The past few days I've been stuck in Mascot doing integration and SAT for Flexi-ISN, and things are not going smoothly. Mainly IP connectivity, firewall rules, and hardware redundancy. Anyway, it's an hour's drive to Heartbreak Ridge along Richmond Road. I got there half an hour late. Fortunately, I was still able to catch up. Each one of us is given a camouflage overall, a JT protective mask, a Tippmann Model 98 fully-loaded paintball gun, and four full bottles of paintball pellets. The ladies get extra gloves, vests, and neck protectors. That's what I call unfair advantage.

For starters, we had our first engagement on a flat terrain with lots of triangular metal structures for cover. The mission is simple: reach the enemy territory without getting hit. I tell you, getting hit is almost a certainty, and it hurts pretty bad. Imagine a small plastic pellet the size of a big holen hitting you at 300 feet per second. Managed to get a guy right smack in the goggles, which made my day. After two games, we moved on to a forest terrain with lots of tree cover and wooden barricades for protection. The objective is retrieve a "nuclear bomb" in the middle of the field and plant it in enemy territory. Managed to score a few hits, but that gave away my position, and I was eliminated before the game finished.

We had a group rest, bought a few more bags of ammo - these pellets are expensive!, and came back for more. Our next game is on dry land with lots and lots of grassy mounds and hills. Objective is simply to eliminate the enemy troops. Gameplay became slower and more intense this time because visibility is very limited, and everyone's trying to conserve ammo. To make things more interesting, there's a hill in the middle of the field, and each team is supposed to keep their flag raised at the end of 5 minutes. Of course, the guy who goes up the hill to do that will surely be hammered with pellets. We could've won the game, but at the 10-second mark, the other team made a rush for the flag, and even when we sprayed them with bullets, they just kept on instead of falling back. Oh well, as they say, it's just a game.

Our last match was played out in this massive forest terrain complete with a dividing small stream with three bridges. 30-on-30 all-out war. Objective is to storm the enemy fortress. Pull on this cord that will set off an explosion to signal a win. By now, everyone's pretty good with the gun, so it's long drawn-out battle. I managed to nail a couple of guys, but I didn't see them raising their arms to signal a hit. Some sneaky son-of-a-paintball-gun flanked me and got me in the shin. Ouch! Not sure what happened afterwards, though I think it was declared a draw.

Lunch is one Domino's pizza (supreme or meatlover's) per person. First time I managed to finish a pizza in one sitting by myself. A special game was arranged after lunch, and it's called mangers vs. the others. Now we're talking. A lot of the managers chickened out, so it became a one-sided shoot-out of 10 managers against 20 engineers. Talk about a massacre - they never had a chance. It was all over in a matter of minutes.

I did a quick count when I got home. Aside from bruises and scrapes on the knees, I got two hits on the shin, one on the kneebone, one on the thigh, and two on the arm - all of them red, black, and blue. That was fun.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sculpture by the Sea, Dinner by the Bay

It's time for Sculpture by the Sea again - the annual free outdoor sculpture and art installation event along the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk. The original plan was for me and my good friend to take the train to Bondi Junction, then bus to the beach. Her Mom and auntie and cousin decided to join in at the last minute, so she ended up driving the whole party to Bondi from Burwood. Our coins are only enough for an hour's worth of parking, so this is going to be short.

Starting off at the Bondi Pavilion, it takes us about 20 minutes just to get Bondi Icebergs. Another 20 minutes has us passing by most of the sculptures along the coast and up on the clifftop. With 20 minutes left to go, we headed back to the car park. Back at my friend's house on the bay, we had a quick dinner of fried rice to end the day.