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Mikimoto was here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Optimus Prime

I like Transformers... And this guy Dr. Smoov rocks...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bye Bye Amstel

So it's the last day of our stay in Amsterdam. We went out to NEMO as we have planned... To find out that it really is for kids. We thought we could use our resources in a better way by not going there. But first of all, we had to get a brekky in one big hurry. We were fading fast. We found this joint diagonally opposite to Centraal Station and ordered chicken sandwitches only to find out that they are blisterlingly spicy hot. I like hot food, but It was actually hot enough to be unpleasant. So we ended up hogging them down anyway, and decided to go through the flower market. It was interesting, but. The Land of Sheep limits importation of bulbs anyway. Clogs were too heavy to carry around. Souvenirs I'm not interested in. So we ended up not buying anything. At least the place smelled nice with all these flowers. We walked through shopping districts but again, we knew we could get better deals elsewhere and hence didn't buy anything. Crap we have more time to kill before we have to go to the airport. So, we headed out to the History Museum. The exhibits were interesting, and again lots of models... I think this one was better than some other museums we went. Probably we should have come here instead of some other ones; with I amsterdam card, this place would have been free... In the end we didn't have enough time to go through all the exhibits in depth. We headed back to our hotel to get our gear, hopped on train from RAI station to Schipol. We killed more time by going through the shops there. There are a few things I was tempted to get but I didn't as they are electronics, and since we are going through Hong Kong on the way, I figured that it might be cheaper over there. And here comes the end of our little trip to Amsterdam... It always makes me a little sad to leave a place after a travel. Especially a city I enjoyed visiting, like Amsterdam. It was a good stay, and some time in future, I'd love to visit again...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Den Haag is The Hague

We had a day off after our little fish meeting. I tried to book for this day excursion of Netherlands to go through Rotterdam and The Hague; I said tried, because I couldn't book... Well. The tour operator needs booking at least a day before. I thought I did that; on Sunday. Well. I guess the office was not open on Sunday. Probably we should have gone to the office near Dam ourselves to see... And I never got that confirmation email from them. Bugger. So, we decided to do it ourselves. I wanted to go to Den Haag because of its history. The place is not unlike Canberra; it is a city to carry out capital function. Except that this city is not the Capital; that's Amsterdam. I find it a little odd, but it's probably from historical reasons. The place was chosen for political purposes because it was a village without much power; just like Canberra. We went there by catching a train from RAI; we changed train at Leiden. It was a pretty quick and cheap trip; 40 minutes each way, about 16 Euros for a return trip. Not bad. What is it with the English language for changing city names? Munchen is Munich, Wien is Vienna and Den Haag is The Hague. Oh well. Anyway. When we got Den Haag, the first thing we tried to find was an information centre so we can start doing a bit of sightseeing. But there is none at the Centraal Station! WTF? It turned out that we had to walk about 10 minutes to get to one. I'd say... Make one at the station since that's where most of tourists and visitors come through. Unless you go there, you cannot even get a map of the city. So we went looking for this place. Once we got there, we found out that everything I mean absolutely everything you get charged for. What you get for free in Amsterdam costs you 2 Euros. WTF? Not even a simple street map to orient ourselves? We tried our best to find free information but to no avail. In the end we had to buy one so we can get to places, but... It turned out that most of places are closed on Monday. I dunnot why, but they are. Anyway. We went to the Hall of Knights (basically their Parliament) which was across the street from the visitor centre, but the tour is starting in an hour's time. We just checked out where Mauritshuis was, headed off to a nearby cafe and killed time. I had an ice tea, but... It was carbonated! Jeez! I'm just not used to something like this. The tour of the Parliament went well, it's always interesting to see other country's political system for a comparison; Dutch Parliament has two chambers, in Westminster fashion, and the Queen Beatrix is the reigning constitutional monarch. Apparently the new Parliament House was built for a walk-through, but with all the security scares in recent times, it's now closed off. What a shame, but a necessary measure I suppose. I forgot to ask which Parliamentary chamber is more powerful though; I found it fascinating that different countries have different ways in dealing with deadlocks in their respective Parliaments. In Japan and Britain, the Lower House can push through a bill. On the other hand, it cannot be in Australia. New Zealand has only one chamber so it doesn't matter. The US seems to have a little more complicated system but a bill that passed their Congress may still be vetoed by the President anyway. So I tried to look this up for Dutch but couldn't really figure out, but it seems that the lower house has more power, as usual in this style of legislature. Anyway. We went through Mauritshuis; really liked stuff there, especially Vermeer paintings. After a quick pick-me-up energy injection at a local cafe, we walked up to see the Palace; we didn't realize that we just passed it... It was really that small. Compared to what I'm used to, that is. Even Governor General's residence would be bigger... We continued our sightseeing by traveling up on a tram to get to the International Court of Justice. This was the reason why I wanted to come here, to take a look at this compound. What a disappointment though after finding out that we couldn't enter the grounds... Oh well. We continued our journey through the city by riding the tram yet again to get to the beach resort suburb of Scheveningen. Pronounced "sukebe ningen" in Japanese, I wanted to see what "perverted person" looked like. I didn't know that it was just a suburb in Den Haag until I came over here. It was... Well. Another let down, I'm afraid. The place really reminded me of Ocean City, MD. The beach, the Promenade, people, the sand, the whole works. Plus doggie do-dos all over the place. Bad weather didn't help either. We just took the tram back to the city, and did one final thing; search for that salty licorice our grad student asked for. We found one after rifling through a local supermarket. He'd better be happy with what we scored after all this fuss. In the end, we were out of steam, and just took the train back to RAI, and called it a day.

Blue Man Group

I'm a bit of a bore when it comes to entertainment; I'll be fine with what I have thank you very much. Anyway. I was catching up with Dr. A. Chitnis at the European fish meeting. He suggested we go out for this "Blue Man Group" show. Well. I'd never heard of it, but I decided to tag along... Ticket wasn't cheap, but I enjoyed the show. It's a 3-man percussion show; 3 men with their heads painted blue. It's about mocking rock concerts in a very clever, intelligent way. The show is pretty interactive I mean with the audience. I cannot describe it properly here as this would just lose the context, thus not funny, and most of all, I would be doing an injustice to the show... But it was very very well done. I immensely enjoyed it, and thanks Ajay for suggesting to go out for this show.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Last minute sightseeing

Before the conference began, we had another half-day for ourselves. And so... We went down to Molen van Sloten to see a Dutch windmill; apparently there were 10,000 of them, but now there are only about 1,000 remain. This was a working windmill to drive an Archimedes' wheel to pump water. With much of landmass under the sea level, Netherlands required an intricate network of windmills and their pumps to keep water pumped out of the land. It was a very interesting exhibit. One thing though; what's the go with the fascination with the miniatures and models? It seemed to me that everywhere we went, there were miniatures to demonstrate things, be that how windmills operated or in fact any other topics. We ran a little late, but thanks to the tram and the metro, we managed to get to the conference in... Well, missed a little bit, but managed to get there anyway.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sight seeing continues

We went out at 8AM this time; I made it on time. Today, we went up to the Botanical Garden to kill time to have a morning coffee. That was because... All the things we wanted see opened at 10AM. The Botanical Garden opened at 9AM, and conveniently located closely to the Dutch Resistant Museum. When the Germans occupied Netherlands in WWII, Dutch people organized resistance to the occupation. Initially it was more of bureaucratic bottleneck in nature; but as the time went by, the Dutch began to bother the Germans in a major way. It was a pretty moving exhibit as it showed the bravery in the face of adverse conditions. Our next stop was at The Hermitage Amsterdam; small travelling collection from The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in Russia. They were showing artistic works from Persian region this time around. Well. To be honest, I wasn't too impressed; I'm not really into carpets and pottery. After lunch, we went down to the Tropenmuseum (Anthropology museum). I like this kind of stuff, but there just wasn't enough time to explore them fully. Oh well. Pity that was, but better than not seeing it at all, I guess...

Sightseeing

We got out around 8:30AM to see things around. I was late for the meet; a bad start. Anyway. We went out to... Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt (The Night Watch was wonderful), Van Gogh museum (Sunflower was wonderful, and his re-take of Ukiyoes were great), then to the Heineken Experience. When got to the Heineken Experience though we found out that it's 11 Euros with 3 drinks; I knew I cannot handle it, and so did the other two people with me and so we gave up on it. Instead, we went onto the Diamond jeweler. Now I know what to ask for a diamond if and when I ever get to do that... In between, I managed to get a local SIM card for my mobile, and got the first ever taste of V. It was a good day.

Leaving the planning to men...

And head for a certain disaster. 3 of us from Auckland met up in a foreign land of Dykes. What a disastrous start. Two of us took a cab to the hotel believing that the cabs here take credit cards; most of them seem to display that. Turned out that this one didn't. So my colleague had to be driven around the place to get to a Geldmachine... Then got overcharged. In the end we paid 40 Euros or so. Meanwhile our student colleague took a train from the airport down to RAI and she ended up paying... Less than 4 Euros. Well. No more cab rides for us. We wandered around the city almost aimlessly until we got ourselves oriented. It was pretty easy in the end, just base orientation on the Central station and the hotel, plus a tram line that runs between RAI and the Central station. The lunch was pretty small serving and costed us 26 Euros for not much. We managed to get this I amsterdam card. This is a guide book coupled with a discount card and a ticket for public transport. You can choose the duration of the ticket between 24, 48 and 72 hours. We did a canal cruise tour and Rembrandthuis before the time is up for the day. And we stumbled in the red light district without realising... It was interesting to say the least, but the lady in the window was somebody's mom and the sight was something best forgotten. We saw lots of coffeehuises with that distinct aroma. It didn't interest me at all for some reason. Probably because we were so dead tired. Anyway. The day ended with meeting up with a colleague of my colleague for a beer. We again stumbled around the city trying to find some food and a watering hole. With much difficulty we did this... I ended up having smoked eel as an appetizer which is supposedly a local specialty. It was not half bad. Then I had fried monkfish as a main. For this it costed around 30 Euros... Definitely not cheap... Oh well. We managed to get to hotel in one piece, and hit the sack straight away. One thing for sure, the daylight was long! It was very strange for me to see that the sky is still not quite dark at 10:00PM.

Second leg

Well. Changi airport was a bit of a disappointment; I've been told that it has free wireless Internet from a reliable source, but I couldn't get access to it. Maybe they stopped providing the service. So we spent a couple of hours doing jack in the concourse then at the sports bar til the next flight on Lufthansa. When we got to the gate, another surprise. Yet another security screen! WTF? My seat was at the very last row of the plane, but the cabin attendant was kind enough to re-seat me on a nearby row that was not occupied. I think she got told off by her supervisor for doing this as I had an aisle seat but then again... I already had the seat by then. Anyway. I'm writing this on the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt as I don't have anything better to do at the mo. Personal entertainment is definitely lacking here. I guess it's a night flight, but. I caught some sleep, as the plane took off around 4AM AKL time. I didn't fully fall asleep, more of a toss and turn, dozing off kind but after 8 hours of this I'm sure I got some rest... They are playing some crap movie but I'd rather know where we might be flying...

300

Finally I got to see the movie 300. It's about Leonidas and 300 merry men from Sparta plus sidekicks defending the entire ancient Greece. I wanted to see it on the big screen but didn't get to do that... And it didn't do justice to watch it on this tiny screen on the back of the seat in front of me. Made things worse by having a shithouse pair of airline headphones. Aircraft rambling was terrible... I'll make sure I'll carry my noise-cancelling earphone on the way back. Because of an earlier mishap, it's checked in with the rest of my luggage. How unfortunate. Even then, at least I got to watch it. I thought it was pretty good. Quite gruesome, but the fighting scenes and the mob scenes were very well choreographed. Special effects were quite well done as well. Anyway. They turned off lights after the movie, and so... I turned my lights on. You know the overhead kind. Then somebody else's light came on. OMG, WTF? Thank goodness it's only the personal equipment that is miswired.

First leg

So I am writing this on the flight to Singapore. They have served the first meal, which was a seafood lasagna. SQ rocks; the meal ends with icecream. It's wonderful. But. When I was going through the immigration, they actually checked the weight of my carry-on baggage. This has never ever happened to me before. WTF? Could it be because I was using the max size carry-on luggage? Probably. In any case. I've never been stopped for it until today. I was told to check more stuff in, as I had more capacity left over... I actually had two bags inside my carry-on, I pulled out one then moved all expensivue stuff from the other bag and checked this in. Thank goodness they didn't charge extra for it... That was a bit of disaster. Anyway. In the heat of the moment, I forgot that I had my mobile in the carry-on luggage, and checked it in. I hope it will be alright. Damn.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Busy packing

I'm off to overseas tomorrow... And not quite ready yet. I've packed all the essentials. Still need to pack a few more items. The plan is to get to the AKL about 11AM tomorrow morning for a 2PM flight. I hope for a good trip but weather forecast says it will be raining for the first half of my stay and the bad weather continues until I leave... Oh well. I'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Jazz is dead...

I went to see Transformers tonight. I guess I was wrong in my earlier blog entry about things getting here a lot later than in the US for this movie opened a whole whopping week earlier than in the US. I was really looking forward to see this movie even though some sites on the web were skeptical about it, and I can understand why. Michael Bay directed the movie; usually a bad sign. Pearl Harbour was a bit of a disaster, really. Optimus Prime is based on Peterbilt conventional rather than a cab-over. I guess that's something to do with the fact that this body style is not very common in the US for this class of trailer-truck these days. Optimus is sporting this flaming paintjob. What's the go with that? Bumblebee is a Camaro instead of a VW Beetle. I guess a Beetle was not sexy enough for this movie. Jim Phelps is promoted to run the DoD. The list goes on. But... It was a great surprise in a positive way if you don't nit pick. It was a great visual feast and wow the special effects! When I saw that first attack of army base by Blackout, I thought of MechWarrior for some reason... Maybe they can make a movie based on that franchise. Anyway. Even then there were things that bothered me... Aside from plot holes large enough drive tanks through (or should it be a Devastator?) Like the cube thingy that is supposed to give life to mechanical things kept producing evil beings presumably Decepticons. Is it the default mode? Could this mean that the cube thingy (called Allspark, apparently) was evil by default? Where is the trailer section of Optimus that forms his legs when he transforms to the robot? Starscream got an upgrade from F15 Eagle to F22 Raptor which wasn't entirely a bad thing. And the product placement... I didn't think Lockheed-Martin needed any as they are the only company in the US producing the latest fighter jets... And all the Autobots were GMs... I guess they need all the help they can get to regain that number one spot. Barricade was a Mustang... Mmm love to own that car. Anyway, here's some of highlights in the movie:

Earth 1 Megatron 0 (frozen by the North Pole)
Blackout 1 US Army 0 (Electromagnetic pulse)
US Air Force 1 Scorponok 0 (Avenger)
Bumblebee 1 Barricade 0 (too gruesome to be shown in the movie)
Megatron 1 Jazz 0 (RIPped apart)
US Army 1 Blackout 0 (Grenade in groin)
Optimus 0 Megatron 0 (drew just like in the animated series)
Sam 1 Megatron 0 (Allspark infusion)

All in all, humans didn't do too badly against a mechanical race supposedly far superior to us. But then again, it's only a movie, and just like any movie aiming for franchising, it left enough room for sequels; Decepticon carcasses and debris buried by sea, hoping for water pressure to finish them off... Yeah, sure.

So in the end Sam the main character gets the hot chick and a hot car for all his troubles. Good on him. Section 7 guys lose their jobs. And the life goes on on the Earth. Oh well.

Tetsujin

Whose bright idea was this? Mind you, as a hardcore geek, and since it happened to be in my old hometown, I'd love to go and visit. But... I just wonder who financed it...

Bummer

Auld mug stays in the Europe for the moment. Hopefully not for long. But seriously... Why should a country that doesn't have any coastline be eligible for a ocean yacht race...?