Monday, December 31, 2007

NYE 2008

After a quick dinner of fried rice, grilled spatchcock, and pork adobo, GF and I headed down to the city for the NYE fireworks. As usual, this year's fireworks extravaganza is supposed to be the best ever. By 8:30pm we were already on the Pyrmont Bridge. I searched out my colleague and turned over the emergency pager to him. From here on, I'm a free man - till the second week of January.

This is the first time I watched the 9pm fireworks on the bridge. I must say it is spectacular. The firing barges are just in front of us and the fireworks display is really up close and personal. You can hear and feel the explosions, which makes it all the more exciting. With time to kill till the midnight fireworks, GF met up with some of her friends for some picture-taking before they headed for Circular Quay. Us, we just stayed around the Pyrmont Darling Island area till twelve. We had a pretty good view of the Harbour Bridge and the CBD skyscrapers participating in the fireworks display. From our vantage point, we can actually see three to four sets of the fireworks. It's not as good as the 9pm one though because they all seem so distant and the explosions a bit muffled. After 4 straight years of watching the NYE fireworks, the magic tends to wear off a bit. Anyway, it's still a pretty good show. Happy new year, everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

O Brother, Where Art Thy Vegetarian Lunch?

It was a long time coming, but my sister finally invited my vegetarian colleague and his family and friends over for lunch. It wasn't easy preparing for it because my colleague is a strict vegetarian - not any vegetarian food will do. We opted for steamed fish, stir-fried vegetables, veggie sausages, red-bean siopao, caesar salad, and DIY pizza. For dessert, we had fruit salad, some cakes, and a big box of cookies GF brought along as her contribution.

Spent the rest of the afternoon watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? with GF. Written and directed by the Cohen Brothers, it's supposed to be very good, but for the life of me, I can't see what's good about it. I know the story, I understand the dialogue, but I just don't "get" it. Maybe I should watch it again.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Spent most of the afternoon making embutido with my sister. Takes a lot of time to prepare the ingredients, then about an hour to steam the embutido. Nothing tricky about it though.

First, the ingredients:

  • 1.5 kilos of ground pork
  • 1 pc. green bell pepper (a.k.a. capsicum), chopped
  • 1 pc. red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 slices of ham, chopped
  • 50 gms of sweet pickle relish (a.k.a. dill cucumber), chopped
  • 200 gms. of raisins
  • 200 gms of frankfurt or vienna sausage, cut into strips
  • cheese, cut into strips
  • 3 stalks of spring onion, chopped
  • 3 whole eggs
  • dash of liquid seasoning
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • aluminum foil, 10" x 12" sizes
Cooking Procedures:
  1. In a bowl, combine all the chopped ingredients and mix until well blended. Leave the slices and strips for now.
  2. Spread and flatten the mixture onto the center of each foil. Divide the slices of hard cook eggs and strips of Vienna sausages and cheese. Place another layer of the mixture on top.
  3. Roll the aluminum foil into a tightly packed log about 1" to 2" in diameter, sealing on both ends. Repeat with the remaining pork mixture.
  4. Place the embutido in a steamer and steam for an hour.
  5. Remove from steamer. Let it cool and slice into rings. Alternatively, you can also fry the embutido slices. Serve with your favorite catsup or sauces.
  6. Refrigerate unused embutido.

Greater Union Movie Marathon

It was my first time to try a movie marathon (on terra firma), and frankly I'm surprised so many people are into this thing. I guess the main draw is the cheap ticket price ($16.50 for three movies), plus the chance to do something different with your friends. Most of the people inside the cinema are high school kiddies, who brought along food, blankets, pillows, and friends. Me, I was with my sister, GF, and her brother.

First movie was I Am Legend. This is actually the only movie I wanted to see. Set in post-apocalyptic 2012 New York, Robert Neville and his German shepherd Sam seem to be the only survivors of a lethal virus that broke out during 2009. The genetically-engineered virus was originally developed as a cure for cancer, which later mutated and wiped out 90% of the human population. Over 9% were infected by the strain, but didn't die - degenerating into the aggressive Infected. Less than 1% are totally immune from the virus, but are hunted down by the Infected for food.

I can see why the movie would appeal to the guys. (The girls only wanted to see Will Smith working out half-naked.) I mean, the main character had the whole of NYC as his personal playground. He takes any flash car he likes, go hunting around town all morning, and chat up the ladies (mannequins) all he wants. The rest of the day, he works at bit at the lab, searching for a cure. Absolutely no night life though because that's when the Infected comes out in search for fresh meat.

In a chance encounter, he meets up with two survivors - Anna and her son Ethan. They're on their way to Vermont where there's supposed to be a colony of survivors. Finally, after three years of trial and error, Robert finds a cure. Just in time, too because the Infected manages to track him down to his HQ and mounts an all-out attack. Robert gives Anna a vial of the cure and whisks them out of the house through a backdoor. After that, he blows everything to kingdom come. Anna and Ethan safely reaches the survivors' colony with the cure, and that's how the Legend of Robert Neville came to be.

Next on the line-up in Beowulf. Having watched Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within years and years ago, I'm surprised CGI animation still hasn't improved much at all. I mean, there were times when I struggled to identify the real Angelina Jolie from the CG one, but that's about it. And there's nothing special about the story, too. King Hrothgar and his men offends the monster Grendel, who prefers a quiet night, so he comes to the mead hall and kills off most of the merrymakers. King Hrothgar contracts Beowulf and his men to kill Grendel, which Beowulf did. In retaliation, Grendel's mummy kills Beowulf men in their sleep, and skins them, too. Beowulf goes to the flooded caves for payback. Instead of getting his revenge, Beowulf gets seduced by Grendel's mother (now in the form of luscious Angelina Jolie) with her promise of fame and fortune in exchange for a son. Beowulf willingly obliges.

Years later, Beowulf dreams of a golden man who threatens to kill his wife Wealtheow and consort Ursula. He knew then that his son is out to create trouble in Heorot. That same day, a great dragon attacks his castle. He manages to kill the dragon by ripping out its heart with his bare hands, but not before he was mortally wounded. He leaves the kingdom to his good friend Wiglaf and passes away. In the final scene, we see Wiglaf standing on the shore. Grendel's mother appears out of the water and stares alluringly at Wiglaf. We don't know if Wiglaf took the bait or not.

Last movie for the marathon is 1408. I've seen this one on the plane before. Wasn't scared then, wasn't scared now. It does help that during both times I was already half-asleep. There's really no story to this movie. Just a mishmash of scares strung together. This hack of a writer visits this haunted room to prove there's nothing paranormal about it. About an hour or so of strange happenings, he comes out an almost-dead believer.

Spent the rest of the day catching up on my sleep.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Steak Dianne

This is one recipe where you just can't go wrong. I mean, this is steak we're talking about. The accompanying photo is not the best, but that's only because I used a cameraphone.


  • 4 fillet steaks, about 150g each
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g butter
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (Chinese cooking wine, if you're Chinese)
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh parsley
Cooking Procedures:
  1. Flatten and tenderize the steak pieces.
  2. Spread the garlic over both sides of each steak and grind over the pepper.
  3. Heat half the butter in a frying pan. Cook the steaks over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes to seal each side, turning only once. Remove the meat from the pan; cover and keep warm.
  4. Heat the remaining butter in the pan; add the spring onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brandy. Stir to dislodge any crusty bits from the base of the pan.
  5. Stir in the cream; simmer for about 3-4 minutes, or until reduced slightly. Stir in the parsley. Return the steaks to the pan unitl just heated. Serve immediately with the sauce.

Young Organists' Day at Sydney Town Hall

Dropped by Town Hall for a free lunchtime organ concert. It's not everyday that the Town Hall is open to the public, so I took the opportunity to check it out on this Young Organists' Day. There were originally 10 pieces all in all, reduced by one because Nicholas Liney can't make it. All of the players were quite young - ranging from 11 to 16 years of age. And what's remarkable is that all of them are multi-talented. Most of them play more than one instrument. Others interest include composing, conduction, chorale, football, aviation, debating, etc.

Programme below:
  • Chorale in A minor - Cesar Franck (1822-1890) - Gary Cheung
  • Benedictus - Max Reger (1873-1916) - Samual Allchurch

  • Scherzo - Eugene Gigout (1844-1925) - Jessica Lim

  • Toccata from the 5th Symphony - Charles Marie Widor (1844-1937) - Jonathan Chan

  • Toccata in 7 - John Rutter (b. 1945) - Adrian So

  • Transports de joie - Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) - Luke English

  • Toccata in C minor - Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) - Marianne Ching

  • Toccata from "Captain Logon Variations" - Colin Brumby (b. 1933) - Nicholas Liney

  • Duet: Marche Triomphale - Anon (1850-190?) - Jessica Lim and Edith Yam

  • Prelude and Fuge on B.A.C.H - Franz Liszt (1811-1886) - Marko Server
After the concert, kids (and others) were invited to try out and play the Grand Organ. It is truly the "King of Instruments." The whole pipe structure occupied most of the stage, yet the organist's booth is just big enough for two people to sit side-by-side. There are panels of stops left and right to control the sound of the organ, and in the middle are rows and rows of keys and pedals. I quote from the programme: "The Grand Organ of the Sydney Town Hall was the largest organ in the world when it was opened in 1890 by the acclaimed British organist W T Best. Build by William Hill and Son of London, the organ have five keyboards for the hands and one for the feet. There are 126 speaking stops and nearly 9,000 pipes ranging in length from a few centimeters to almost 20 meters; the largest belonging to the famour pedal stop Contra Trombone 64'."

After the concert, I went to the lobby and joined a tour of the town hall organized by The Friends of the Sydney Town Hall. Apparently, Town Hall is being closed for all of 2008 till mid-2009 for major building renovations, so really happy I came along today. Unfortunately, I left my camera in the office. Such a pity because there's so many things to take pictures of. First is the Vestibule with the grand chandelier. The ceiling of the hall is repainted in its original colors. The dome in the middle of the room is decorated with twelve glass panels representing the 4 basic elements and the 8 virtues. The chandelier used to be raised and lowered, but now it's fixed in place. It comprises of 1,952 pieces of crystal. Next, we visit the Grand Staircase with its stenciled decorations. Beside it is a bird-cage lift installed in 1906. It is said to be the oldest and sole surviving example of its kind still operating in NSW. Too bad we didn't get to try it out for a ride. Up to the second level, we had a magnificent view of the Centennial Hall with the Grand Organ. Our guide tells us that the metal ceiling of the hall was specially designed to withstand the vibrations from the organ. Moving on, we visited the Council Chamber, where the city council meetings are held, and the Lady Mayoress' Rooms, where certain items from the Sydney Town Hall Collection are displayed: a chair from the Queen's inauguration, a large Sevres porcelain-covered vase, a lock of hair from Napoleon Bonaparte, etc. We then went down to the basement to check out some construction areas where bodies have been uncovered (and put back in). Not surprising as the site used to be the Old Sydney Burial Ground from 1792 to 1820. For our last stop, we visited the Town Hall House to look at its scale model of the Sydney CBD.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Enchanted La Perouse

Brought GF to La Perouse for a relaxing Boxing Day walk. I'm surprised that after years for living in Sydney, she hasn't visited the Botany Bay National Park before. First place we visited is the nearby Congwong Beach. The beach is pretty small, not as well-maintained, but quite safe to swim in. Since we didn't bring any beach gear with us, we didn't stay long.

We saw a sign saying Henry Head Scenic Walk, and proceeded to follow it. The sign didn't say how long the trail is, so on and on we walked. Felt a bit sorry for GF because she wasn't dressed properly for hiking (nor was I), and was slipping from time to time. We eventually reached a fork in the trail: one continuing to Henry Head (700 meters more) and another leading to Browns Rock (280m). We decided to try the latter. Halfway down the pass, we sighted this middle-aged guy stark naked. Like a frightened bunny, he jumped into the bush and run away without so much as an "excuse me". Very strange. At the end of the trail is a narrow ledge where quite a few people were fishing. Seeing that there's no other way, we doubled back to the fork, and followed the main road to the golf club and back to the parking lot.

After a quick lunch of ham sandwiches and banana on the slopes, we checked out the Macquarie Watchtower. The sandstone structure was built in the 1820s to watch for smugglers and escaping convicts. Initially used as a customs house, it later became the first school in the area. Just behind it is the La Perouse Museum and La Perouse Monument. Across the bridge is the Bare Island Fortification. It was built in 1855 to protect Sydney from Russian invasion. If it looks familiar to you, that's because it was featured in the final scenes of Mission: Impossible 2 where Tom Cruise did battle with the bad guy on bikes.

Back at the house, we had a second barbecue lunch, then off to Westfield to watch Enchanted (at GF's request). It wasn't too bad actually. The animation was standard Disney, and the songs quite catchy. As expected, the movie had a happy ending, but with a few twists. Prince Edward's kiss fails to wake up Princess Giselle after she ate the poisoned apple. Giselle slays the monstrous dragon (actually Queen Narissa). The fairy-tale princess didn't end up with her prince charming. Instead of going back to the land of Andalusia, she married Robert and started a company making princess clothing for girls. As for Prince Edward, he hooks up with Robert's fiancee Nancy, and they all lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

12 Days Of is celebrating 12 days of Christmas (from 25th December until 5th January) with offers ranging from quota and subscription bargains, to low cost prints and gifts from the Fotopic workshop.

Special offer for Christmas day is half-price quotas. The standard 250MB that Fotopic gives out for free accounts is definitely not enough, so this is quite welcome. Normally, I delete my older collections when I hit the quota. This time I decided to splurge a bit and bought 1GB of storage space for my photos. Sort of like a Christmas gift for myself. At £1 per 100MB, the price is quite reasonable. And it gets even cheaper if you purchase 2.5GB or more.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Dinner

Normally, I would spend a quiet dinner with the family on Christmas eve. My having a GF changed all that. She and her colleague hijacked me into having a last-minute dinner with her boss at her house in Beecroft. There's a remote chance she'll be fired from work if I don't show up, so I agreed.

To be fair, the dinner was nice and the conversation enjoyable. The plan was to do an eat-and-run, but it didn't materialize. We arrived 30 minutes early, had the dinner an hour late, and finished around 10:30pm already. As is typical in Filipino dinners, we left with some baon and Christmas presents.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Helsinki in One Day

If you have only one winter day to explore Helsinki, here's how you should do it. Take the 4T tram and get off when you see the Uspenski Cathedral. It's the red-brick cathedral up on a hill. Hard to miss as it's the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. Admission to the Cathedral is free, though it's closed on Mondays during winter.

Walking towards the wharf, you'll pass by the Presidential Palace on your left. The wharf is where you can take the ferry to Suomenlinna Island. I didn't take the ferry anymore because I'm sure it'll be freezing cold and I'm short of time. Instead, I check out the stalls at the Market Square (Kauppatori). Items on sale are gloves, beanies, shawls, scarves, knives, crafts, keychains, fridge magnets, small toys and dolls, etc. Definitely more stuff to see during the summer.

Also in the Market Square is the Old Market Hall (Vanha Kauppahalli). Completed in 1888, the red-and-yellow brick single-story building is full of shops selling local food and delicacies, chocolates, fish, souvenirs, cheese, coffee, etc. There's also a few restaurants and cafes inside. West of Market Square is the Havis Amanda fountain. The bronze sculpture of a naked woman is supposed to symbolize Helsinki, daughter of the Baltic. Further on is a statue of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Finland's national poet, at the Esplanade Park.

Going north, we see one of the hallmarks of Helsinki, known simply as the Cathedral, also sometimes known as St. Nicholas' Church. It's the white church with the green domes on top, and a statue of Alexander II in front of it. Facing the Cathedral, the building on the left is the Helsinki University Library. On the right is the Palace of the Council of State. Inside, the church is pretty bare - just the pews, the organ, the pulpit, and the altar.

From the Cathedral, you walk down Aleksanterinkatu, checking out the signature shops and boutiques until you hit Stockmann. Parts of the store is under renovation, but the Christmas windows displays are up, which explains the huge number of kiddies and parents milling about. In front of the Stockmann is the Three Smiths Square. Behind the sculpture of The Three Smiths is the Old Student House, built in 1870. It's currently open for the Christmas markets. Very nice architecture inside.

Crossing Mannerheimintie, I end up at the Forum shopping mall, where I had my lunch/dinner at the Manhattan Steakhouse in the food court. Walking along Mannerheimintie, I pass by the Kiasma museum, the statue of Mannerheim in front of it, the Finnish Parliament Building, the National Musuem and Finlandia Hall. I take a short stroll along the frozen banks of Toolo Bay until I reach the Finnish Opera House. Lots of parents and kids about. Apparently, there's a matinée for Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. Would've loved to watch the ballet if only I had enough time. I continued on to the Olympic Stadium, then headed back to my hotel, where I rested for a while before catching the Finnair bus to the airport.

The Case of the Missing Dinners

Strangely enough, during the six days I've been in Helsinki so far, I never managed to have dinner - at least, a proper one. I blame it on the grueling 9-hour time difference between Helsinki and Sydney. I spend the better part of the day trying to keep awake, listening to the instructor in class. I get back to the hotel around 5:30pm. It's too cold to go out sightseeing. It's too early for dinner. I lie on the bed for a quick nap - something to pass the time before I go out at 7:30pm for a proper dinner this time around. And I wake up at 11pm - every day, without fail. I look out the heavily-draped windows, and I'm in no mood to go out, despite my grumbling stomach.

Thanks to the K-Time Twists and Milo bars and John West Tuna-to-Go packs my GF insisted I bring along, I managed to survive. (And Smith's Stax for dessert.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra Classics Series

For tonight, we have Olli Mustonen as conductor and solo pianist. Programme consists of a piece by Rautavaara, Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 24 C minor KV491, and Prokofiev's Symphony no. 6.

I got to Finlandia Hall's ticket office around 6pm. The ticket lady tells me tickets are all sold out, and if wanted to be on the waiting list. I have no idea who Olli Mustonen is, but I figured he must be good, so yeah. Half an hour later I got my balcony ticket for €17.50. The lady offered me the student ticket for €5. Unfortunately, I'm way past being a student.

Wrong time to be attending a concert. For one, I'm exhausted from a full day of doing nothing inside the classroom. Second, I'm not really familiar with any of the pieces, which tends to make me drowsy. All in all, I probably slept through 85% of the concert - not counting the intermission. I reckon I must be nodding off pretty badly because I can sense the lady beside wasn't too happy.

Incidentally, it's St. Lucia's Day today. I should've just gone to the Senate Square instead for the coronation of St. Lucia. Every year, a young blond girl is crowned as St. Lucia at the Cathedral. With her crown of candles and dressed in white, she leads the parade from Senaatentori, along Aleksanterinkatu and Mannerheimintie to the city centre.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Malling at Leppavara

Usually, when I'm on training in a foreign land, I would've covered much of the city by the middle of the week. Not this time. There's no sign of snow, yet it's freezing cold. You get some light drizzle in the morning once in a while, but the ground is dry. The puddles turn to ice, so you have to careful where you tread. And it's dark and gloomy most of the day. If you're lucky, you get sunlight for about 6 hours - from 10am till 4pm. When you're out and about, you definitely need to have a beannie, a scarf, and gloves on, or you won't last long. Every time I take off my gloves to take some pictures, I need at least 15 minutes for my hands to recover.

Fortunately, there's a mega-mall right across the Leppavara train station. Instead of going straight back to Helsinki to hole up in my hotel room, today I decided to go window-shopping. Wasn't much fun because I'm not looking for anything in particular. Bought two Christmas postcards - one for my GF and another for my Bavarian penpal. The cashier informs me that for €0.50 more, I can actually get 10 postcards. Very tempting, but nah. Dinner is a Hesburger meal. I don't think it's reindeer meat, though.

Helsinki to Karaportti and Back

It's a bit of a hassle getting to Karaportti because I've never been there before. Most of our technical training courses used to be held at Kutojantie. Before, from my hotel along Mannerhaimintie, it's just one bus ride away, which is quite convenient for me as I usually wake up late and time my 15-minute breakfast just so I can rush out the hotel doors and hop on the bus.

First thing you wanna do is get yourself a regional tourist ticket. This one covers Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vanta, covering all transport services - tram, train, bus, metro and ferry. That's €33 for 5 days (120 hours). From Mannerheimintie, take trams 4, 7, or 10 to get to the city centre. From the post office, it's a short stroll to the central railway station. To get to Karaportti, take the train to Leppavara station, then the bus to the training centre. Trains Y,S,U,L,E,A all pass by Leppavara, though I prefer the A-train that terminates at this station. From here, you can take buses 28K, 29T, or 3 to Karaporrti. To return to Helsinki, just do the reverse.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Bangkok to Helsinki

After only 5 hours of sleep, it's time to have buffet breakfast with the champions - the SEA Games participants, specifically. With the shuttle bus leaving for the airport at 9:30am, there's not enough time for me to sneak into the city for a quick tour. Contented myself with walking around the hotel premises.

More airport woes. After queuing up at the check-in line for half an hour, the lady tells me that I have to pay THB700 airport tax. Well, it's not my fault that my flight was delayed and I have to check in again the next day. So off I go to the Qantas office and get them to pony up the 700 baht. By the time I sort everything out and get to the boarding gates, it's an hour before departure.

The Finnair plane is pretty cramped, and no personal video screens. If you're bored, you can rent a PSP. If you're still hungry after the meal, you can purchase instant noodles, Pringles, cookies, and chocolate bars from the stewardesses. Spent the 10-hour flight reading the newspapers and magazines. Since it came highly recommended, I also watched Disney's High School Musical 2. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think it's natural for kids to suddenly break out into song and dance every time there's five of them around. I'm leaving this to the tweens.

Things got interesting when we touched down. I turn on my phone, and five minutes later I got an emergency page. Apparently, the hard disks of the Sunshine OSCs are acting up again. Strictly speaking, it's none of my business anymore, but they don't call me Mr. Nice Guy for nothing. Turns out the engineer is on-site to change the disk array controller, and wants to know how to turn off the boxes. On the other hand, our customer wants to know how to switch the traffic to Rosebery if the OSCs will be offline. Taking the €22 airport shuttle to the city, I quickly checked in to my room at Crown Plaza, and logged on to the Internet. A few emails later, I managed to quieten things down, so I can have a few hours sleep before I attend my training.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sydney to Bangkok

Not a good way to start my vacation, I mean my business trip to Finland. It's a good thing we got to the airport early because there's a very long, snaking queue to the check-in counters. Not a good thing for my GF's parking ticket because she decided to hang around till boarding time. Half an hour after our supposed take-off time, the pilot informed us that one of the switches on some control panel is defective, and needs to be replaced. Everybody had to get off the plane and cool our heels at the Qantas lounge. About time too because I'm starting to feel hungry already. Some light refreshments and an hour later, we're on our way to Bangkok.

With nine hours of flight time to kill, I started my movie marathon with Stardust. The movie is based on the book by Neil Gaiman. I've read Gaiman's Coraline before. After watching the movie, I'm guessing the book version is probably better. Story is about this guy Tristan Thorn who is smitten with the town bimbo Victoria. Victoria is supposed to marry rich guy Humphrey on her birthday. On a whim, she says she'll marry Tristan instead if he can bring her this star that they saw fall down from the skies. Tristan goes off in search of the star, which turns out to be a beautiful girl by the name of Yvaine (played by Claire Daines). He's not the only one after the star though. A group of witch sisters plans to capture the girl and eat her heart, which is supposed to bring them back to youth. The princes of Stormhold are after the girl's necklace. Anyone who has the necklace can then lay claim to the throne of Stormhold, as decreed by the deceased king. During the epic battle at the witches' castle, the witches and the princes were killed off during the melee, leaving Lamia the witch (played by Michelle Pfieffer), Tristan, and Yvaine for the final showdown. In an inspired move, Yvaine tells Tristan to close his eyes, and she busts forth her blinding star power, incinerating Lamia in the heat blast. Tristan picks up the necklace and goes on to rule Stronghold. (I missed out a big chunk of the movie when the couple were aboard Captain Shakespeare's flying ship, but like most of the other subplots, it's not important in this kiddie movie.)

Next up is 1408. I've heard good things about Stephen King's earlier movies, but not the newer ones. This is no exception. Or maybe horror-suspense movies just don't work on people who are half-asleep. In the movie, John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, who goes around visiting haunted houses and writing summaries for horror tour guide books. For his latest adventure, he checks in Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in NY. The room has a pretty gruesome reputation. No one has has ever survived an hour inside the room. The guests either commit horrible suicides or die of "natural" causes. For the next hour of so, we see scary flashbacks, ghosts and apparitions, eerie noises, hallucinations, sudden shifts in temperatures, clocks counting down, etc. Mike realizes the room is alive and is out to get him. In a desparate move, he decides to go down fighting and torches the room. The firemen breaks into the room and rescues him. End of story.

Disappointed with my choices, I go for a sure winner: Family Guy. Have seen some of the episodes before, but still darn funnee! I need all the good humour I can get because I missed my connecting flight from Bangkok to Helsinki. By the time the airport staff picked me up from the Qantas lounge, went through immigration, picked up my baggage, checked into the Rama Gardens Hotel, it's already 2:30am.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Christmas around the World Concert

Was supposed to be at King Street Wharf at 6:30pm for a farewell dinner. Got to Darling Harbour half an hour late because my Good Friend spent the better part of the afternoon crying her eyes out watching John Lloyd and Bea in One More Chance. It's a good thing she didn't have to drive - I don't she has the energy left.

The farewell dinner was for a friend who's moving down to Melbourne for a month. My guess is depending on how things work out, she might stay there for good. Anyway, the chosen restaurant was Casa di Nico at The Promenade. Lots of people around the wharf for a Saturday night. Maybe because it's the start of the Christmas season already. I had filetto di barramndi, while my Good Friend had fettuccine ai gamberi. The price is quite expensive - $30 for the mains (each), but well worth it. I even finished off the leftover complimentary garlic focaccia, which turned out to be $5. :-)

By 8pm, we had to give up our tables, so we moved on to Cockle Bay to watch the Christmas around the World Concert. Santa came to the aquashell via jetski, escorted by two of his elves. Bob the Builder and Alvin and the Chipmunks were also on hand to entertain the kids and the kids-at-heart. The Australian Youth Choir with a 20-piece orchestra sang a few classic Christmas songs, then we had a Chinese song and some Aussie-inspired ones. Can't remember the title of the Chinese song; it goes like "Gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni!" Actually, it's supposed to be a New Year song, but let's not nitpick. There was also a lighting of the Christmas Tree in front of the exhibition centre. At 9pm, my Good Friend gave a start, and the fireworks were on. I didn't have my camera with me this time, so I was able to enjoy the fireworks display - instead of taking pictures through a viewfinder.

After the concert, some of the group had ice cream at Gelatissimo, then coffee and chocolate at Harbourside.