Monday, 16 November 2009

Question time

Like any normal relationship, friendships requires attention and effort in order to blossom. In these relationships one shares and learns more information about the other person to build up a better understanding. However, our approach in doing so may very well be different. Some like to ask questions; others may choose to sit back and wait for information to be pro-offered. Some prefer more sharp and meaningful contact; others require more consistent interaction. However adaptive I might be at work in managing different people, I have never really learnt to be adaptive with friends in the sense of identifying the unique interactions each friend may require or demand from my and hence be more specifc in my approach.
Sure, friendships should ideally not be hard work and one tends to flock towards those with similar approaches. But we are all different right?

Conversely, I have never really diagnosed my own approach to friend interactions and hence I may have potentially become more distant to some due to my type of attitude. Unfortunately for many of my friends, I have once been told that I am not the type of friend to keep in touch very often since I was not one to make the effort to call others. I can honestly raise my hand meekly with regards to that!

Someone was quite surprised that I didn't know much about my friends' past - e.g. were their parents around, how they grew up etc. Not knowing this was quite normal for me, but to the other person seemed quite strange.
"How do you build up a picture of them without knowing their past? Their past and history shapes their thinking and actions."
"But why is their past performance an indicator of future performance?"
This struck me as somewhat difficult in the sense that I never really enquire about my friends' background or family history. Is this a necessarily a pre-requisite to being a good friend i.e. to know about their past? I am more interested in what they are thinking and feeling now, than in the past and therefore I think it is more important in shaping their current actions and thoughts than their past actions or events.

I am not necessarily a big believer in asking a lot of questions - rather if my friends are comfortable sharing that information, then I will listen. I guess I feel it is more important to know where friends are going than where they have been in the past.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

1994 Lindemans Pyrus

Looking at my very makeshift wine cellar, I noticed that I really needed to get crack open a few wines which were starting to hit their stride. Obviously, I had opened one of my favourite wines some three years ago, so I decided that it was time to try the 1994 Lindemans Pyrus. This wine was bought a few years back, but now given it was 15 years in, I thought that it was time to drink (especially given it is a varietal blend and doesn't age as long as the more pure wines e.g. cabernet sauvignon).

Initially, I was worried that the wine was corked given my style of wine cellaring. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it was still in very good condition and it was not corked! Interestingly enough, a birthday present of Riedel 'O' glasses in 2006 allowed me to enjoy this wine much more than in smaller wine glasses (yes- it was a very well conducted and controlled experiment, exempt from all biases whatsoever).

I would have to rate this bottle of wine around 93/100 as it drank quite well and was still a deep red colour with the cork still reasonably wet.

For those who are wondering, the second bottle was a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Bluberry Hill in the Hunter Valley. This bottle was quite easy to drink and very fruity, so quite a good mix of wines. My (uneducated) rating would be a 88/100.

Just looking at my current collection of wines, I am rather worried that some of them are spoiled since some of them getting reasonably mature. What I now need is a wine fridge so that temperature and humidy can be stabilised for better cellaring (one can keep dreaming too...).

When I buy something. I often try to save it up and not use it - however, wine has taught me that unless I sell or trade it, there is a useful life and unless I consume, there is no real inherent value. I definitely would rather have drunk the wine, rather than realise that the wine was corked upon opening it too late!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Chugging Along

Many years ago, when I was travelling in a rather hectic manner, I craved some certainty. Certainty as to where I would be next week. Certainty with regards to being able to make plans with friends and family. Being able to join a sporting comp without having to worry about not being able to commit to the team. So one of the big drivers was to come back and inject that certainty in my life. It was also at around the same time, that I saw an exodus of people who had decided that they had been enveloped in too much certainty.

Fast forward three years and here I am with a fair degree of 'certainty' around me. I know that I can respond to invitations and requests a month in advance. I can play sport when I want to without thinking about not committing to the team. I don't feel the urgency to rush out and a maximise my weekends while I am here as I used to. There is a fair amount od freedom in being able to just plan out ahead, rather than have to plan around what lies ahead. In a way, I am happy just chugging along - watching the days blend into weeks; blend into the months.

Sure, sometimes things can get mundane and boring, but at least I have my time back and am able to do things here in Sydney which is less accessible in other places. Although the grass can be greener on the other side, I am happy as to which side of the fence I am sitting. I definitely feel that I am doing activities at my own pace, on my own terms and when I want. There is no need to rush.

Everybody needs a break now and again. Previously, because I was travelling so frequently, my R&R consisted of coming home and doing nothing and going nowhere, as I just needed a break from it all. However, this is in stark contrast to now, where travelling is more about the rest and enjoyment that it was ever before.

Now, time to plan my next overseas trip....

Monday, 31 August 2009

Road Rage

Back on my feet and driving around lately has made me appreciate the different road users. In some instances, this has led to some actions which are starting to alarm me. Allow me to highlight my gross generalisations based on Sydney:

1) Car drivers
- Almost feel like the natural users of the roads, within which there is a hierarchy whereby fast gets more respect than slow; semi-trailers get more respect than a compact car (size matters purely for the reason of 'who wins in an accident').
- Drivers in Sydney feel no need to get into the left lane if they are travelling slowly.
- Unfortunately, some drivers feel that indicating means right of way and that other vehicles MUST give way (was almost in an accident today when a car in a merging lane just entered my lane!)
- If someone is kind enough to let you in, at least show some gratitude - it certainly wasn't your skill which got you there!
- At an intersection, it is selfish to queue across - especially so when the light is about to turn red, and the impatient driver on one end dashes to the other side to block not only traffic but also pedestrians.

2) Cyclists
- I had a cyclist swear at me as he had to stop while I walked across a zebra crossing....(what the?)
- I have seen numerous cyclists run red lights and ride in bus lanes. How does one expect respect without respecting some basic rules. Not sure, but is it somewhat unfair that cyclists can commute unlicensed without having to be subjected to tests which are common to all other users? Bizarre.

3) Pedestrians
- When running across a road to avoid cars across a busy street, although initially running full pelt, there is a need to slow down when approaching the kerb. However, this merely increases the chances of getting hit by the cars as the pedestrian slows down! The task is to make it across all lanes safely, not just the first few lanes.
- Some people really should learn to use a pedestrian crossing. Case in point: had an older man with a walking stick wave it at oncoming cars in a three lane street so that he could cross....with a pedestrian crossing not 10metres away.

So in a way, currently all of the road users have some fault or other. Of course not everyone adopts those attitudes, but the incidents are on the rise.
I do have to admire the bus drivers in the morning as traffic congestion shows no signs of easing and the bus is full of commuters happy to delegate the unnerving task of navigating through all the obstacles...while being on time (thanks to bus timetables).

Meanwhile, the dedicated bus lanes implemented are being cheekily used by non-buses to sneak ahead....

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Special healing

Who doesn't want a break. Who doesn't need a break? How about a two week break? Sounds awesome. Well, I am at the tail end of my two week break and I feel terrible. I'm sure everyone would be asking why, but I guess, it's because two weeks is a long time to be on sick leave.

What started out innocuously as a small cough, blew out to me seeing the doctor with flu like symptoms and then waiting in a hospital emergency to see whether the current medical welfare could accommodate yet another patient according to their pneumonia severity index.

So here I am, hopefully on the road to recovery *fingers crossed*. I really don't recall being this sick before in my entire life. Waking up feeling as though one can't breathe is not a great feeling. Cold in the middle of the night, with coughing fits - hardly enough time to suck air into the lungs before another cough erupts. Fevers causing wild temperature fluctuations and headaches - which were exacerbated by blocked sinuses. To top it off, having a chest X-ray confirming pneumonia. Grrrrrreat....

That first week was barely bearable. Sleepless nights were mixed with uneventful days of just being around the house, quarantined at home keeping the 'fluids up'. Being ill is already a sorry state - looking after oneself is even worse. Cooking, cleaning up - all really take a backseat as one lacks the energy, but it all just ends in a vicious cycle. No cooking or cleaning up means no getting better.

So when my mum came home after my first feeble week of trying to take care of myself, I was both relieved and ashamed. Relieved that she was here ('cos mum always knows what to do) and ashamed (that I did such a bad job, I managed to make myself get even more sick - no mean feat in itself). As my mum did what my mum always does and looked after me, I definitely felt I was getting better. I just didn't want my mother to get sick too. Within the first couple of days, she helped clean up and air out my room and the house, started cooking for me, changed all my bedsheets and made me feel a whole lot better.

I remembered waking up one morning during the week. The cold morning air was dancing outside my window, just as it did when I was child. The aroma of my mother's cooking had infiltrated the house, even though the windows were wide open - just like when I was kid. Of course, there was my mum, checking up on me and making sure I was comfortable and fussing over me - just like so many years ago. I feel so lucky that my mum is around and it's as though nothing has changed.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Built this, done that

I had never built my own computer. I never felt comfortable assembling all those parts without putting a wrong wire somewhere and watching my effort go up in a ball of smoke (literally). Or risk bringing down the entire power grid in my area. However, I decided to take the plunge as I wanted to build something tangible.

I have to say, the internet has made it virtually impossible for someone as inexperienced as myself to make a mess of things. There is a wealth of information out there with regards to building one's own PC.

For those who are interested, here is a log of how I bult my computer (more or less on an Australian basis):

- Research and more research
I used the internet and hopped onto some of the forums available. The one I really liked was Whirlpool. The way I saw it was - if it isn't too complicated, there is a high likelihood that someone is or has done something similar. There seemed to be some very knowledgeable individuals on the forums (hard to verify as I don't have a clue), so very handy for asking a question or picking up tips. I worked out my budget and needs, and searched for similar criteria. Furthermore, Whirlpool have suggested boxes across a good range of prices (for those who are looking for a rather quick upgrade). The main thing for me was ensuring that I was getting good value and that the system parts were compatible. If unsure, ask!

- The price is right
Once I had worked out the build/box I was happy with (and was within my budget), I started to run some searches on where I could source the parts I wanted. The main search I used here was Staticice. I just typed in the computer part (e.g. HD4850) and viola!. Up comes the goods. Sneaky thing was that shipping costs for some parts started to add up which blew out my budget/feasibilities.

- Low cost parts
I then visited the shops I had determined had the lowest cost. One of the good low cost options I had found was in MSY. I have to say, these guys really take low overheads to a new level. Fortunately, I had done research as sales staff don't give advice. Unfortunately, there was a long queue out the door and it was raining. Not great, until I headed inside and watched all the people carrying their newly bought parts out the door. Like kids in a candy store - but with adults. (ok, mainly guys who are nerdy like me!). One thing I didn't prepare well was a parts list (premarked with what I wanted), as the store I went to didn't have every part I wanted and I ended up forgetting to buy one part! Doh! I realised after leaving the place and by then I didn't want to line up again for another rivetting 45mins. Tip for next time - take a handheld console. I went to a store in the city, but they were selling it up to 40% dearer - ouch! Another quite reliable place was Megaware. They were great in terms of advice and they answer their phone so I could confirm my order in advance. The main reason I chose these two places was because I could pick up (and save on costs) and also, they were open over the weekend.

- Putting it all together
This is where I had the most apprehension, and there was a point where I thought to myself, 'What am I doing? Why didn't I just pay someone to do all this?'. Anyway, one of the more sound pieces of advice is to read the manuals for everything. The last thing I needed was to misread something. The main steps I followed were on Whirlpool (again) and just to be sure I looked a simple video (pictures telll a thousand words!). I only got stuck on three things: power cables, front case switches and LED statuses and the powering of the case fans.

After checking that everything was correctly positioned and all the wires were correct, I crossed my fingers and powered my new build up. When the boot up screen appeared, I think I whooped for joy as I managed not to botch it up! I then powered down and made sure that the wires were all neatly positioned (as one wire was precariously positioned next tothe blade of one of the case fans!). It isn't every day that I get to build something quite so tangible, so before attaching the case covers, I couldn't resist taking a photo:

I have to admit, it was definitely satisfying to finally complete the build (I liken it to completing a video game). It was a bit easier than I expected, and I would definitely do it again. Sadly, my research into parts revealed the extent that it is better in the US in terms of pricing and shipping costs. *sigh* The volume game wins again. (Depressing looking at compared with prices in Australia)

So for those interested my final build was:
CPU: AMD AM3 Phenom II x2 550BE
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA720-US3
RAM: Kingston 4GB DDR2
GPU: Sapphire 512M HD770
CAse: CoolerMaster CAC T-05 w/ 460W PSU
Optical Drive: LG DVD-Drive
KB/Mouse: ASUS Vento

Not the most powerful of machines, but it should serve its purpose over the next few years. For now, I will keep it at stock settings, but hopefully my build is flexible enough to overclock later on down the track (at which point more research will be required).

So with the countdown of the financial year, I can say that I have built something and done something new. Next challenge.....

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Art of one

Work sometimes dictates that I order my lunch and head back to my desk. Often, this involves finding a spare moment to duck out and find the closest and most likely fastest form of food that money (on a budget) can buy. There is no time to call others or to socialise. Just out the door, down the stairs by oneself.

These moments are quite precious as it breaks up the day and is the one truly accepted time to head out and get some fresh air. Furthermore, I find it is a good distraction from the day to day activities even if only for a minute or two amidst a busy schedule. It is almost sacred "me" time.

Although I can blame the fact that I am busy, if alone, I would rarely sit in a food court and eat unaccompanied. At least with 2+ individuals, upon completion of their meals, a conversation would ensue. There would be no urgency to move. However, a single person, having finished their meal would tend to get up and leave the table. It would be different if one had some reading material. A conversation at a table for one would sport looks of lunacy. Heck, they would have even less looks if they were merely sitting at the table and having a smoke.

Why is it so weird for someone to just sit at a table and do nothing?

It would be ok if they were reading or writing, listening to music, sunbathe or even sleep. But to just sit there and do nothing is a "no-no". I mean we can shop on our own, watch a movie on our own, but we can't be doing nothing. Even if in thought, gazing at nothing in particular and not moving, is seen as strange. Is there such a deep aversion to being alone; what is wrong with being lonely? Last time I checked, it wasn't THAT contagious....and as Chicago sang, 'Everybody needs a little time away...' Maybe it is because that time alone should be private and spent in the absence of prying eyes and ears and that we are out to be seen and heard. I reckon that there should be no embarassment by someone or indeed judgement passed on someone merely sitting there, minding their own business and doing nothing...even if it means hogging the seat in a packed foodcourt!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Dude, where's my wallet?

I decided to play indoor soccer out at Olympic Park in Homebush. This was the first time we were playing at the venue and I couldn't find a parking spot, having circled around a good few times. I finally found a spot, and walked over to the ticket machine to pay the extortive parking fee and found a ticket in the machine. I grabbed the ticket and headed across the road, and it started to rain - just my luck eh?

After a tiring session of running (and being absolutely dominated by the other team), it was time to settle the bill. I rumaged through my bag, and couldn't find my wallet. Hmm, my keys and mobiles were there - where was my wallet? I swear I took it out to pay for my ticket....but hang on, I didn't need to since there was a spare one there. Thankfully one of my friends settled my portion of the bill, and I promised to pay him tomorrow.

Worried, I rushed back to the car, and decided to do a search of the ground around the car as well as the inside the car. Being parked in an underlit area made it difficult to see and with no torch handy it was proving to be a very difficult task. Frustrated, I thought hey maybe it's at my girlfriend's place since we had dinner at her place. I rang but no answer....damn. Tried again.....damn. Third time lucky. I could sense I was short, but panicky.
"Did I leave it on the table?"
"Is it on the coffee table?" I asked hopefully.
"Nope, I can't see it. Is it in your bag?"
"I obviously checked my bag," I said, half annoyed (ok, maybe very annoyed).
I continued to drive and was feeling around in my bag, perhaps too enthusiastically as I almost ran into the side of the curb.
Got to my her place, and lugged my bag up to and frantically pulled out all my belongings. Nothing.

I started to calm a bit, and thought, maybe I needed to attack this logically. Think - where did I see it last?
Starting at the beginning of the day:
I got driven in to work that day, so I didn't need to get my ticket from my wallet.
I had a work lunch today, so didn't need my wallet for lunch money either.
Got spoilt as I had a lift back home too, so I didn't need my wallet to get home.
Had dinner at my girlfriend's place, so no need for it then either.
Here is a good example of why we should spend money every day - at least one would know they had used their wallet!
Maybe I left it at home???

I decided to drive home and was thinking about what I had in my wallet. Unfortunately, I don't really do audits on what I have in my wallet, so it was a bit of a struggle - but I did know I had withdrawn some cash the day before. I got home and ran to my room and searched my work bag and any other bag it may have been in. Nope. With my usual bad habits of leaving my stuff around, I searched my usual spots, but to no avail.

At that point, I decided I should cancel my cards, so called up the financial institutions. After verifying my identity, AMEX had informed me that I had no new charges on the card. That was a relief, but I could not put a hold on the card. I had to cancel the card. I declined and called up ANZ. Interestingly, they didn't even allow me to check if there were any new charges on the card before cancelling. It was cancel, and then they can check or don't cancel and the can't check. Not sure what that was all about, so I cancelled first and asked questions later. No charges for the entire day. This got me thinking - maybe it isn't stolen (since I presumed that most thieves would be opportunistic and use the credit cards). Maybe I left it at work?

Since I then remembered that my drivers license was also in my wallet, my mum and I drove into the city to my office to see if I left it on my desk. I raced into my office, and searched everywhere. Still not here! I was both annoyed and disappointed. By now it was way past midnight, and I still hadn't found my wallet. I was tired. Why does this sort of thing happen to me? (Yes I was feeling sorry for myself). Where could it possibly be?

In a last ditch effort, I decided that maybe it dropped out as I got out of the car in Homebush. We set off for another long drive out to Homebush. During that leg, I was thinking to myself that my old wallet was a forgone conclusion, and resigned to the fact that it was gone. It had served me well over the years. I was beginning to think of what kind of wallet I would like next. Maybe a brown wallet this time, like a long card holder style....

Finally, we made it out to Homebush and in a last ditch effort, we started searching - with torches this time. I didn't see anything and then walked to the ticket machine. Nothing was around it. The sports centre was long closed, but I thought I would try and walk in that direction. I drew an imaginery line between the ticket machine and the entrance to the indoor centre and proceeded to walk. This time it wasn't raining as I walked across the road which was divided by some trees and grass on the median strip. As I approached the grassy area, between two trees, I noticed a small black object resting on the grass. My heart skipped a beat as I ran towards it. There it was. My wallet. Sitting on the grass in the median strip. It was slightly damp from the rain, but I checked and everything was in there. Even the cash was still there. It must have fallen out of my unzipped bag as I ran across the road to avoid the rain.

I walked back to the car, where my mum was still searching and told her to abandon her search and that I had found it. She was very pleased that I had found it, and told me that she was praying that I would find it.

Initally, I was thinking I was lucky to find my wallet (but heck I was unlucky to lose it in the first place). But thinking about it, was I really that lucky? Was I lucky that it fell on a patch of grass and not the paavement or road? Lucky that nobody picked it up or saw it. Lucky that I had decided to come back to Homebush that same night. Was it luck that it was raining so most people wouldn't be out? What were the chances? I am not the religious type but I am not sure I can put it all down to luck and was extremely thankful that I had found it. So I have put it down to being fortunate (and careless) and maybe someone was looking out for me.

I don't usually check what I have in my wallet, but it's a good idea if this ever happens again. From now on, I will check once in a while. That and making sure I zip up my bag.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Another year...?

Geez, it has been a while since I last posted. Reading my only post for 2008, I had fallen back into my previous habit of just being lazy. As much as I had some grand ideas of posting, that had fallen by the wayside and I didn't dust off the keyboard to make some changes. I must admit, the past year has been extremely hectic, but I myself admit that I have posted at an appalling rate.

Over the last year, perhaps I was too ambitious in trying to play basketball four times a week, and indoor soccer and golf while trying to pick up a few other things as well.
But like all things in one's life, it takes time to nurture and do well in each activity - things don't just come naturally or just "happen". (I wish I had the skills of Jarod from The Pretender).
So I have come to the conclusion that being time (and resources) poor, like many companies these days, I need to downsize the activities I am undertaking and stick to core competencies or strengths (hmm, not sure that I have that many of those though). This rationalisation has also considered the fact that for some activities continued participation may see my getting worse and not better over time. Yes, I am feeling older so I think it is prudent to cut back on the uber exertive exercise such as basketball and soccer. Not only are my joints reminding me, but so is the opposition who plays with far more skill, speed, accuracy (damn it).

I guess I now need to maximise my time which I have released as a result of making these changes and not stay too lazy...