Friday, April 27, 2007

Your Friday Moment of Zen: Watching Time Go By - Literally

I've not done one of these in ages, but these really are zen like, and it kindof fits with a current feeling I have that time is slowly slipping by my fingers, PLUS today I found the bizarest site every, called cheddarvision.tv, where you can watch a block of cheddar ripen. In real time. Seriously.

So I started searching for some timelapse videos and these are some very, very cool ones:

This one, a whole year in time lapse, was taken by positioning a camera on a balcony, and taking a picture every five minutes for over a year. Then, selecting the bset 20 per day, the timelapse movie was made. It's really well done:



This one, taken during a thunderstorm, is also very cool. I love the way the clouds roll over the sky.



But this one is my favorite: a time lapse movie of a moon rise, which is just amazing.




Insanely zen like. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Travels in China: The Great Wall


I am still in awe of the Great Wall of China. To be honest, everyday so far I keep thinking I am in awe of something here.

The Great Wall of China, started by the Qin Dynasty, and continued on until the Ming, was one of the largest man made constructions in the world, and frankly, is worth the 9 hour flight from London to see.

What struck me as amazing was just the sheer size of it. As you get up on the wall, you can see it stretching out to the horizon, unfaltering, and amazing. Myself and another guy, Sonny, were the only 2 people to climb the highest point of the wall (admittedly, my competitive streak meant that I practically ran up the wall to get there before anyone else in my tour, because, well, that's the girl that I am). Once up there, I was kindof shocked to see that there was a gift stand, and a monument stating this is the highest point of the wall, and a dude ready to take your picture next to it, obviously for a price. I don't know why I was surprised, since I'd an hour earlier gotten myself a skimmed milk cappuccino from the freakin Starbucks opposite the Great Wall's tourist entry spot.... hmmmm... when the very essence of all things capitalist, like Starbucks, makes it into heartland communist China, I think they might as well sell of all their governmental assets and just proclaim themselves as a capitalist state.

Others might disagree I suppose.

Travels in China: Beijing Day 2: My Idea of Heaven

My second day in Beijing - from the endless posts that I write, but forget to actually, you know, post!


Today we visited Tianamen Square - and in case you're wondering, yes someone in the group (no that wasn't me) asked where precisely the tanks tried to kill the university protester. Our tour guide told us in China they've never seen that footage (not surprisingly) and so she didn't know too much about it.

Visiting the Emporers Forbidden City was pretty amazing. Looking at the private rooms, squares and gardens, it's amazing to imagine that I'm standing in the very same spots as so many emperors who would never have imagined that the China of today would be the China of their future.

My idea of heaven: well that was 3 things:

1) The Summer Palace, where the last Dowager Empress of China spent 10 months of the year. It was so beautiful, that I was completely blown away. I could have spent hours there.

2) We went to dinner at a famous Peking Duck restaurant (we are in Peking after all), and there seemed to be an endless supply of beer, duck, pancakes, and my table was full of middle aged men and women, watching their cholesterol. Hurrah! I'm fully embracing "holiday mode" and normal food intake has been completely suspended until I get back. The fact that I can actually feel the fat starting to join up different parts of my body so that I resemble more of a ball like shape hasn't quite stopped me yet... not quite...

3) The company that my mum has been working with to help organise this tour sent us two ladies to come and give me and my mum massages in our rooms. And no, these were not "ladies" of that sort, just two, very friendly, middle aged women, whose hands were able to relieve tension in my poor old body. I've had loads of massages before, but I've never communicated with any of my masseuses as much as I did with these two women. Neither one spoke much English, so it was all through body language and pigeon English/Mandarin. I had bought a little Mandarin-English phrase book, and the fact that I could work out they were saying "fangsong" (relax), and how to say "we're walking the Great Wall of China tomorrow" more than made up for the 12 Euros I spent on it.

Another fabulous day in China all in all.

Most embarrassing moments: None yet - looking exceedingly chubby in my photos isn't pleasing me.

Best Moment: It's a toss up between standing on the edge of the man made lake, that's shaped like a peach, looking out on to the temples on the other side at the Summer Palace, and at dinner realising with increasing joy that no one else wanted any more duck and it could be mine! All mine!! Tricky.. I'll post some pictures very soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

They should hang their heads in shame

There are many things I'm proud of in Australia. Lamingtons. Anzacs. Winning The Ashes. Stuff.

This however, is not one of them.

A show in Oz, called The Chaser, did an experiment to see what happens if you try to video the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a nuclear reactor that produces medical isotopes. If you're dressed like a clich├ęd Arab, you get the federal cops on you. If you're dressed like an American tourist, they give you instructions on how to get in the nuclear facility.

This is definitely not something I'm proud of. Racial profiling really does suck.



Sorry, I'm in a filthy mood today. All day I've been picked on, and listening to Amelie doesn't help. Hmmm.

Friday, April 20, 2007

China - First days in Beijing

From the backlog of posts that I write up, but forget to post: My first few days in Beijing

Yesterday, I arrived for the first time to the People's Republic of China. My folks are travel agents, so my mum, all on her own, organised an 11 day tour of China, taking in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. I'm so amazingly proud of her, because she's at an age where she should seriously be retiring, and spending her time growing orchids, travelling, flitting away all of my inheritance and basically enjoying herself. Instead, she's still finding time to organise whole new ventures, like tours in China - working out where to go, deciding on the hotels, and doing everything you need to do to make sure people enjoy themselves on tour. I dunno, I guess I was just really proud of her.

We arrived yesterday, a day ahead of everyone else in the tour, and were taken around by the travel agency that working with my mum. Our first meal was hosted by the head of the company, and we had possibly one of the best chinese meals I've had in my life. It was what amazing - like nothing I've had before... One of the travel agents who joined us was this stick thin girl who barely ate anything. She'd just watch everyone eat, pick a tiny piece of vegetable or fish, leave it on her bowl, move it around a bit, and finally, after she'd was absolutely sure she'd used up the same amount of calories that tiny piece of lettuce would be poisoning her body with, she'd eat it. GRRR! This annoyed me no end, because here she sat infront me me - she was a living, breating reminder that just because I was on holiday, it did not mean that normal service should be suspended, and it did not entitle me to put whatever food or drink that passed in front of me straight into in my gob. Thankfully, my better senses took note of that reminder, and promptly chucked it out the window, and I happily and greedily pigged out. Something that would pretty much happen at every meal for the next 11 days!

Things that have surpised me so far:
  1. Capitalism & Modernity: What has really surprised me about Beijing is how modern it is. Literally 5 mins walk from our hotel are loads of shopping malls, selling loads of western brands like Gucci, Prada, Esprit... I'm not sure what I was expecting, but huge shrines to capatalism in a communist country wasn't really it...
  2. Lack of pollution: From what I've been told, I was expecting to be walking around in a constant pea soup thick fog of pollution from the chemical and metal work factories. Surprisingly though, it's been amazingly clear, with some of the blueset skies I've seen. Our tour guide says that the government has been trying to change because of the Olympics, and now soon some unlucky citizens in towns outside of Beijing will be looking after those factories, as well as their pollution..
  3. Cold: Because I was moving house up until the day of my trip to China, I packed in a real half arsed way - just throwing in any old crap, being told that China was ahot and muggy. Hot my arse. I've arrived here to 6 degree weather, and have spent all day freezing my preverbial off. I'm hoping it gets warmer cuase I don't want to be wearing the same black jumper every day of my holiday... and I don't think that the 4 light summer skirts will do me much good...

Our first day in Communist China
Our first full day has been spent looking around the Hu Tong area, which is one of the last old areas of Beijing. Driving around on rickshaws, looking at the buildings which used to belong to Emporers officials, was really cool. Strangely, we ended up going into someone's actual house, so we can see that these buildings, some of which are over 200 hundred years on, passed from generation to generation (well, until the reforms in 1948) are still used today. What really made me smile was the fact that in 180 year old house we went to visit, the son had loads of football posters on the walls - one of which had the beautiful Thierry Henry on it. Again, this is not what I was expecting at all. It was a definite kick to the nuts of my preconception of what modern communist China is. No-one is wearing blue boiler suits. No one was demonstrating, with tanks rolling them over. Very few bicycles. To be honest, it looks just like any other modern capital. Am I disapointed? Well, possibly. But not enough to wish it was anything else but what it is..

Most Uncomfortable Moments:
This was going to be a dead cert this afternoon, but now... it's a possible toss up between these two:
  1. My mid 60 year old mum saying to me "gee, there are lots of quite good looking guys around in Beijing aren't there?"
  2. Me turning on the tv this evening, with my mum sitting in the room. In the day time, when the tv gets turned on, it displays a picture of the hotel. In the evening though, that little picture turns into a preview of the hard core porn that you can pay for. And embarrasingly, I couldn't get the remote control to change the channgel, no matter how hard I mashed every button on it. And if you think I'm joking, and was actually wanting to watch the porn, then no - hard core porn + your mum in the room does NOT enduce any good time feelings. Eeek
Mum asking me about hot guys. Mum watching me trying to turn off the porn... hmmm tricky.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Humph

People constantly bring goodies from their holidays into our kitchen at work, for everyone to enjoy, and to show off the fact they've been on holiday, and not in our damned office. Today, someone brought in nougat and biscuits.

When I went this afternoon to try my first bit of nougat, someone walked into the kitchen just as I was about to put a piece in my mouth, and said "You know the first place that's going to don't you? Straight to your hips".

Humph... I know I'm carrying a little bit of holiday weight, but honestly...

I've got curtains!

On the running theme of my house, I've finally got curtains in my living room! (Naturally from ikea) I forgot to bring my camera in today, so I can't post the pictures of my long, flowing, white cotton curtains that are proudly hanging up in my lounge room. I desperatley wanted white indian silk curtains, that will catch the light in a lovely way, but for neither love nor money can I find them. Anywhere. Every other colour or type of silk. Just not the exact one I want. I know, I know - I should only buy something if it's exactly what I want, but I don't want to have an airline blanket hanging from my window in my front room 1000 billion times more than I want my perfect silk curtains, so I've decided to compromise for now. Compromise. That's a concept that's very much against my normal princess nature.

In the last 3 days we've also got all the shelves on my cabinet up, sporting some lovely books and an electric drill, plus a working phone line (yay! I can now get broadband installed. Life without the internet in your own home is a life I don't want to live every again).

3 jobs done, 20,574 more to do.

I'm currently obssessed with the apartment therapy's smallest coolest apartment competition. I love looking at other people's houses and seeing what they've done, especially when those people don't furnish their entire houses with that faux country farm style, so popular in magazines and diy shows. I have so many big ideas for my house, yet when I get home the only energy that I can muster seems to come to me in that perfect 2 hour slot between 10pm and midnight.

Annoyingly, since moving into my new flat, I've found myself obssessed with checking to see if the doors are locked. Usually, just as I'm about to fall asleep, I start to worry that the doors are in fact unlocked, allowing some chav to just walk into my flat, and brain us all with a shovel. Then of course that plays on my mind in my half asleep and dopey state, until I have to get up and check all the doors. And if I've only checked one door, and go back to bed, chances are I will start wondering about the other door has been locked, even though I know I locked it when I came home and no one else has gone through the door. Then up I get again, rapidly becoming more awake, go and check the second door, and trundle back to bed. Every single night I go through this moronic ritual. Every night. I'm hoping that this phase of paranoia is in fact a passing one, and that I won't end up, as I've always worried about, a paralysed-with-fear recluse, who pushes all the heavy furniture up against the doors to feel slightly safe in her own "castle".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Damned House

So, we've moved in. In fact, we've now been living here in my new flat for almost a month now..

So far, it's been going pretty well, except for the fact that we seem to be living in a constant state of "we've just been hit by a junk exploding bomb". I seem to be in a constant state of either: moving stuff, cleaning stuff, buying flat packed furniture to put stuff in, putting together said pieces of furniture, or standing back and watching the never ending circus of people try to fix my washing machine.

Below is the before and after shots of my house: The "before" shots are from the estate agent's brochure. The "after" shots are from last night:

Dining Area Before:



Dining Area After:



Kitchen Before:



Kitchen After:




Desk Area Before:



Desk Area After:




Living Area Before:


Living Area After:


I believe the technical term is "lived in".

I feel so embarrased having people round. On Sunday, Dr D and Calv brought our friend D around. I kept seeing their eyes look at all the piles of books, and crap, and clothes (all for good will, not just in a pile cause I feel like it), and I just felt, well, ashamed. At the time, pieces of an ikea cabinet where on the floor, which was taking C and I about 2 hours to assemble (when did Ikea furniture turn from flat packed easiness to requiring Jesus like carpentry skills?).

Brochure Version:
Our Version:
Speaking of Ikea, I also feel kindof ashamed that so much of my furniture seems to have come from there... I mean, it's not a like page 7 of the Ikea magazine or anything. For example, there aren't any fresh faced young couples, looking lovingly at their well behaved toddlers, playing on the floor, with their billy cabinets, in beech of course, proudly displaying pictures of them fishing, and 18 volumes of Tolstoy on the shelves. But I do seem to have aquired, over the years, and awful lot of Swedish furniture. Which is another cause of shame in my eyes... A friend of mine will wait until he's got exactly what he wants, spending weeks going from designer boutique to designer boutique, looking for one offs, like proper grown ups wanting to make their house look stylish and beautiful. I want my house to be beautiful too, but I don't fancy waiting for years to get there. Clearly I've been fully indoctrinated in the "instant satisfaction" society we live in. But still... I'd love to spend years scouring flee markets and tiny shops for the exact right one off pieces of furniture. Or at the very least, I'd like to buy stuff from Habitat. If only I could afford it.

So that's where my house is at the moment. My bedroom is sporting a very minimal, almost, japanese in nature look, with very little furniture in it. Well, what it lacks in furniture, it more than makes up for in big black garbage bags full of linen and clothes, piled on top of each other on the floor because I have no where to put them yet... The living room has a half built cabinet, and books, dvds, cds, and general junk, all around the floor in piles (organised piles darling, we aren't complete animals yet). The bathroom doesn't as of yet have a toilet roll holder, and the little nook where a desk will one day reside, is currently diplaying a lovely post modern installation, which I like to call "crap load of boxes, waiting to be recyled".

Home owner bliss/Home owner hell. Not sure which yet.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Egg-tastic

Li, from veganstore.co.uk fame (ethical food at very reasonable prices, shipped all over the world, for your guilt free pleasure), very kindly donated to our poor IT firm 13 delicious organic Green & Blacks easter eggs today! The squeel of delight that came out of us when we opened the box was deafening, and as you can see from these pics, that's alot of chocolate to get through.

Funnily though, of the 13 boxes that arrived 4 hours ago, only 5 seem to be left, meaning that there are going to be many people in our office who are about to contract type 2 diabetes.

Despite the amount of chub I've put on in China, that hasn't seemed to deter me from stuffing my face with chocolate today (not 8 boxes worth of chocolate mind you, I'm not an animal).

Obviously the empty boxes will soon join the "wall" between Dr D's desk and myself, to help keep the peace in the office...

Thanks Li! You truly are a superstar.

Back from everywhere


Holy crap. It's been ages since I've updated this blog.

In the last month the following has happened:
  • FOP week came
  • FOP week went - some brilliant meals, and more booze than I like to care to remember.... including 1/2 a bottle of some random italian liquer that Li and I polished off, after a night of wine, cocktails and dancing....
  • I completed on my flat
  • I moved into my flat, a week earlier than anticipated because I was too hungover from the Italian liquer FOP night to argue with everyone. To be fair, it was the best thing I could have done because the brilliant friends all pitched in and helped, like the fabulous people they are.
  • The Flatmate fucked off back to oz.
  • Any sadness I might have felt for his leaving, quickly disappeared when I realise how much crap he left in the flat for me to sort out!
  • I went on an 11 day holiday in China. I would have blogged whilst away but had no internet access. I ate myself stupid, which has led to comments when I got back like "Well, there's something on the back of your coat, but you won't be able to see it because you're arse is so big now" - quote Dr D, 2007.
  • C moved into my flat, and now we are living in domestic harmony. We've had our first, very domestic phone call where I asked her what time she was home, and what she wanted for dinner.
I've got entries for all these random events, which I will sort out over the weekend, and post next week. Watch this space.