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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Air New Zealand Flight 821 (AKL-ADL)

So for the first time since I came back down to this side of the Earth, I'm visiting my family for the New Year. There are flights between The Land of Sheep and The World's Smallest Continent (or Biggest Island, depending on the view) across the "ditch"; offered mainly by Air NZ, Qantas and Virgin Blue. I've been using Air NZ because of its mileage club.

I've heard that Air NZ has been upgrading its fleet for personal entertainment systems on OZ-NZ routes. And finally! I got to see one.

Not bad. Not bad at all. You can control either using the remote that pops out (below the screen) or use the touch screen. Good selection of entertainment was available. No complaints there.

And this is the brekkie they served. I guess I couldn't complain too much... For a 4.5 hr flight. Would have to pay for it in the US.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Valley Cafe (Newmarket, Auckland)

It was a day before I left for Adelaide... I went in the lab to do a few things like putting on some fish on the nursery, as well as taking fish out of nursery to be put on the mods. And I was getting hungry... 'Tis lunch time. There were couple more guys in the lab, and I managed to get them to come down to Newmarket to have a lunch with me. But where? It's Boxing Day and not a whole lot of shops are open... I decided to give a go at Happy Valley Cafe joint again. I used to come here often when I landed here to have some rice porridge. I was hoping that the standard hasn't changed.

Sadly... No. The place was full, which is always good for the business. Except for the fact that staffs weren't coping too well. They obviously were overwhelmed. When I used to come here, I didn't see this many customers and so I got a better service. Not today I'm afraid. The table was not wiped after previous customers left. I thought that was gross and immediately got put off. Same deal with another couple that sat at next table. A waiter came out to put white paper luncheon mat to cover but I wasn't too impressed. After a couple of repeated request for tea, we got glasses of water which I supposed  would do. Then I ordered a jarjar noodles.

I suppose it was alright; it was edible. It did not cause any problems. But where's my soup that was on the example picture on the menu? But then again, this thing costed only NZD7, and I guess I couldn't complain too hard... I don't think I'll come back here anytime soon though.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Wacom Bamboo

Well. I've had my Wacom Intuos A4 tablet for the last... 9 or 10 years. I thought I would upgrade it not because it's not as functional or broken, but because it's cumbersome. At the time I thought it was a good idea to buy the largest tablet I could afford. Turned out it might not have been such a great idea.

Then I saw... Bamboo. Had to get one.

It turned out better than I thought. At least I can leave it on the desk, not stash away...

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Welland SunBright external HDD enclosure

A couple of HDDs died on me yet again... Or did they? I replaced them with two 750 GB drives just in case they are truly dead, and also got this gadget so that I don't have to keep taking my computer apart just to check the drive.

Basically it's an external USB/SATA enclosure that doesn't really enclose. You just use internal HDDs like little modules. I connected to USB rather than eSATA as I found that it was not as easy to disconnect. It turned out that two "dead" 500 GB disks were not quite dead yet. I wonder what the F is going on... Probably something wrong with onboard SATA controller or something... Damn.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Motuihe Island trip

For our annual Christmas outing from the department... My tech was the rep from our lab in the organizing committee. One day, he jokingly said "We could do a field trip to Motuihe Island and do a BBQ" after a lab meeting. Everyone in the lab liked the idea, and he floated it at the next committee meeting. Apparently everybody else liked the idea too, and so it was decided that we'll go for a field trip instead of having a dinner somewhere.

On the day, I made fruit salad for the lab; 8.5 litres of it. Then I was going to catch a bus from near my house... Got to the bus stop 5 minutes before the bus was supposed to come... Then waited for 10 minutes... It's not coming. We were to meet at the ferry terminal downtown at 1:45PM for a 2PM ferry. It was 1:40PM. Shite. Time to start running, and I did. I didn't think I was going to make it, but I got there in 10 minutes. Should've just walked instead of waiting for a freaking bus, really. After about 20-30 minutes on the water, we got there on the island. After landing, we spread out; I went out for an island walk about 5 km to take some pictures. Others stayed on the beach to swim/construct sand castles.

Some flowers I don't know the name of

Pohutukawa flowers

Fullers Ferry we used to come to the island, Auckland Cityscape in the background

Another pic from the trail on the island

After coming back from walk, I relaxed on the beach. Bbq got cooked up from 4PM, and we had late lunch/early dinner. All labs were encouraged to bring their own stuff, as department provided basic salad and 3 sausages per person. That's why I made the fruit salad, and we brought huge amount of drinks thinking it would be hot (and it was freezing). We also brought extra steak and marinated chicken, and that also got cooked. We hanged around on the island until 7:30PM, then left on the ferry again back to the city. Though it was extremely windy, and very cold even though it is summer, we had a great time. We all agreed that it was much better than going out for a dinner. We are already discussing what we'll do for next year's Christmas. Maybe we'll go to Rangitoto Island next...

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Fruit salad

Made some fruit salad in a 8.5 litre container for a field trip from the department.

It contains following ingredients: half a watermelon, a melon, a pineapple, two Granny Smith apples, a mango, two punnets of strawberries and a bag of seedless grapes. It was all dressed in freshly squeezed cup of orange juice and also in freshly squeezed lime juice. No sugar added.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

KK Malyasian Restaurant (Epsom, Auckland)

My tech was raving about this Malaysian restaurant KK on Manukau Rd. We in the lab were in no mood to work very hard... And we spontaneously decided to give a go at this place for a lunch. He warned us however for the lack of service in exchange for a very good food at a very reasonable cost. We drove there and had to wait for 10 minutes before our table got cleared even though we booked our table beforehand. Apparently there is a rule that you can keep a table only for an hour. Anyway. My tech handled what should be ordered; a chicken curry, a whole fish in curry, pork ribs, Malaysian fried tofu and sambal eggplant. We ordered another dish but it never came out (probably they forgot); good thing for us since we got so full by the time we polished these 5 dishes. That's 5 dish between 8 of us at 15.5 bucks per person. It was pretty reasonable.

Chicken curry and fried tofu

Chicken curry and a whole fish in curry

Pork ribs

Sambal eggplant

I thought we got reasonable service from this place, but maybe because we were sitting right next to the kitchen, and probably easier for the staff to bring out food than the rest of the joint. We came here for good cheap food, and we certainly got that. Next time I'll have to try that bowl of laksa guys next table were eating.
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Ding Hao (No.1) Chinese BBQ Restaurant (Commerce St., Auckland)

I've been to a Ding Hao Chinese Restaurant in Adelaide. Doesn't really look like this place is related in any way.

I was in the city with my tech; he needed to run a few errands and I needed to get a lunch. After his errands were done, we headed down to Commerce Street to try out this place Genta. But... The place was closed. With our hungry stomach, we had to find something quick. Across the street from Genta, we see this place Ding Hao/No.1. My tech has been here before and raved about the quantity of the serving. So I decided to give the place a go. As soon as we were seated, chicken stock/soup came out.

I decided to go for a bbq duck on rice while my tech went for a bbq pork on rice. We swapped some meats when the dishes came out; fair amount of food. Not bad at all for 10 bucks.

We managed to polish our respective dish, but after such a large lunch we both didn't look forward to climb back up the Queen Street to get back to Grafton. It's pretty steep, especially with a full stomach. I suggested we take the Mean Green Machine through Newmarket. My tech had a better idea; take a free City Circuit Bus to Auckland Uni (City Campus) then catch the Mean Green Machine from there heading towards Grafton. This worked out pretty well.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That giant man in red

It's that time of the year again... And this man makes an appearance...

I find him somewhat spooky. With his index finger in pulling motion.

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Ma Po Tofu/Eggplant

I just felt like eating... Tofu and eggplant. So... Just cooked up some Ma Po tofu. Just threw in some eggplant too. Last time I cooked one though I did not crack Szechuan peppercorns and was not very good. Not this time. Got mortar and pestle from the local Warehouse and thoroughly crushed this time.

It was spicy hot, and came out pretty good. Went very well with steamed rice.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas party at the Bosses' place

So it's that time of the year again already... The bosses throw a Christmas party every year at their place. They are such foodies...

I got a lift from my tech to get to their place. We were the first ones to turn up. Drinks etc went around and appetizers came out; nibbles. Lots of them. Sicilian olives, lots of different cheese, stuffed chili and so on. You really need to pace yourself or you will be too full to eat the main... But they were too good!


Then the mains came out; salmon, grilled lamb and chicken sausages. Again, lots of them. Oh and of course vegies and salads too.

As if that's not enough, they brought out 3 Pavlovas, a chocolate platter and berries and cream. Finishing this up with a cup of coffee. Too much of good things is wonderful. Truly.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008


We got a grant... And to celebrate, we went out for a lunch. I wanted to go to somewhere I haven't been to, but we were short of time... And so, we went to the usual Japanese joint. I had an Unadon.

Not too bad for 12 bucks.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hansan Vietnamese Restaurant (Newmarket, Auckland)

Bunch of us went out to Newmarket for a dinner, and this time the grad student was not allowed to choose the eatery because of the fiasco he caused when he chose one last time.

I suggested that we go to this Hansen Vietnamese Restaurant on Nuffield Street, based on reviews on the web. When I was in the US, I used to go out for Vietnamese noodles quite often with my friends; either out in Wheaton or up in Rockville. I haven't been able to find a good one here, and I was dying for a proper Pho. The joint looked quite flashy. The service was pretty quick but they never brought us the second pot of tea. Anyway.

I had a glass of mango shake just in case it's too hot.

Mango shake

I was pretty hungry, so I had some fresh spring rolls as an entree. It was okay I guess.

Fresh spring rolls

Then the main event for the evening made the appearance. The Pho.

Raw beef rice noodle soup

It was better than the ones I had in this country. To be honest though... It was not as good as the ones I've had in the US. The noodle was overcooked and very soft. No Thai basil nor coriander leaves in the condiment. It was at least filling, and relatively cheap. 

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nando's (Newmarket, Auckland)

My first Nando's experience. Well. I remember when I first saw an ad for this chain of joints back when I was a grad student. It was on telly late night in Canberra, and they were running this ad that dressed up a whole fried chicken in racy undies with a 1-900 number on the screen; imitating phone sex ad... Except insinuating it will be chicken. We couldn't tell if it really was for a fried chicken joint or some dodgey phone sex place. The next ad I remember was that this fella who ate chicken burnt the bottom of his jeans off; after muttering something about eating the hottest chicken then turned around to show his naked butt to say this happened or something like that. Anyway. I had a "hot" chicken, and it was hot enough to make me sweat, but not exceedingly so to make me uncomfortable.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

El Nino Bar and Grill (Newmarket, Auckland)

A bunch of us went out to see the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace. But... As usual... Had to get something to eat before the movie. A grad student from my lab had an eye on this place El Nino Bar and Grill. We were tossing up whether to try this place or the one next. The one next to it had a pricier menu... So we settled on this place. Supposedly this place has specialty; a stone grill. Sure. Whatever. I didn't think it was worth paying over 25 bucks for a few hundred grams of meat, and so I settled for a regular pub fare of chicken schnitzel.

Can't be that bad, can it? Well. It turned out to be a big mistake. A quarter of plate was occupied by the schnitzel that tasted... Funny. Can't really place exactly what, but it just didn't taste right. Kinda off, maybe? Shoestring potatoes were in a sorry state too; overcooked and solid as a nail, you could build a house using them. It's pretty sad when local Macca's chips are better. Mushroom sauce on that schnitzel helped softening the chips so that they don't break my teeth. It's been a long time since I couldn't finish a plate of food in a restaurant not because I was full but because it was... Terrible.

Anyway. Unlike the dinner, I enjoyed the movie; very gritty, not too much of sleeping around sort of Bond. Lack of Q and his gadgets bothered me a little. Also shitloads of product placement were present; like some fashion magazines. Never thought Bond would be driving Range Rovers; I didn't think SUV suited his style nor line of work very much. Anyway. I avoided Casino Royale but probably I should go watch that one...

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Senso-ji (Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan)

And another place we visited was this Senso-ji temple in Asakusa.

This day was full of activities, and I got pretty hungry. Got to grab something to eat before I fade out... Before visiting the temple. So we just ducked in this Sansada joint offering tempuras just next to Kaminari-mon. Just had a Tendon (no, not this kind) there. It was pretty good.


Then the temple time. You walk through this gate to enter the grounds. Then...

To get to the temple proper, you walk through this Nakamise-Dori arcade.

When we were walking down the Nakamise-Dori, a pollie was campaigning for something. He was doing the usual pollie thing; walking in the stalls and pressing fresh. I later learnt that it was one of the candidates running for the LDP prez position (and hence the PM). Ultimately it was an unsuccessful attempt for this fella. We just bought some Ningyo-yaki here.

And here it is. The main building of the temple. Bought an omikuji, got a dai-kichi and got stoked. Rubbed smokes off incense all over for good luck and stuff. Washed off bad luck and evil off the body by washing hands and rinsing mouth. Dunno if all this mumbo-jumbo worked out considering some rotten luck I had since then but.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ueno (Tokyo, Japan)

Dropped by Ueno also when I went to Japan. Just to get some taste of it. We went to Ame-yoko (full of goodies, couldn't get any stuff though) then walked around the area for landmarks.

Walked to Shinobazu-ike, and found that it was covered by shitloads of lotus...

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