Faking it

11 January, 2014

Melbourne on new year’s day is a weird place. All sorts of shops, restaurants and bars are were closed. The entire Royal Arcade was closed for some reason. It’s like Melbourne still wants to believe it’s a quiet country town. Despite the crappy weather, there was plenty of foot traffic in the CBD, so a lot of the places that had the sense to stay open seemed to be doing pretty well. Fortunately the prices are high enough at Passionflower that it wasn’t overcrowded, and we could easily get a table to enjoy some very overpriced, sugar-laden dessert. The Melbourne one (Bourke St) has friendlier staff, better service and gets the nicer presentation of the food than the one at Capitol Square in Sydney — the staff there act like customers are an unwanted nuisance.

Anyway, with my parents in town, my wife and I decided to take advantage of the possibility of free babysitting and go out for dinner. There were limited options, but most of the restaurants in the Crown complex at Southbank were open, so we ended up at Nobu. It’s immediately obvious that the floor staff don’t really speak Japanese. It makes no sense to (poorly) attempt to say “irasshaimase” as you show someone to their table; you should have said that as they approached the door, or the moment they walked in. (Something like “kochira e” works when showing a person to their table.) All the staff were doing this with everyone, which kept my wife giggling. I guess they could claim to provide free entertainment. You might get even more entertainment if you get a seat in the upper bar/lounge area with a view of the riverbank. For example we saw some really weird cougar thing going on. There was this woman of east Asian appearance with a far younger guy who looked like he was part European, part Asian. She had the bag, camera and everything, and was acting like she knew she was in charge. The also seemed to have a bit of trouble walking straight. All in all, they gave off a pretty weird vibe. I really hope it was a cougar thing, because if he was a family member, they were acting downright creepy.

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Welcome to the madhouse

7 May, 2013

I’m having serious doubts about my ability to survive the rest of the month in Hong Kong. The infamous heat and humidity haven’t caused me problems – that doesn’t seem much worse than Sydney in summer. It doesn’t seem to rain too heavily for too long at a time, so that aspect isn’t really any worse than Melbourne. I read online that Sheung Wan smells like fish, but in reality there are just a few shops selling dried fish – not very smelly, and not the whole suburb by any means. When I arrived on a Saturday, Sheung Wan was blanketed in the smog that sometimes blows across from the mainland. People say it can be hard to tell the difference between mist and pollution, but I know the smell of coal furnace exhaust and this was it. I really wasn’t looking forward to breathing this every day. It would just about rule out any chance of getting exercise by walking to our from work, as it would mean that what’s supposed to be good for my heart would just end up being bad for my lungs. Fortunately that cleared up when a storm blew in on the following Monday afternoon and it hasn’t come back yet (fingers crossed); unfortunately it proved to be the least of my issues.

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Taste of a Tiger?

18 October, 2012

There’s this awesome laksa place on Hunter Street in the city, or at least everyone tells me it’s awesome, so I really want to try it. So I walked to Hunter Street last Sunday, keen to try get my Malaysian fix, but when I got there at half past one the place was closed and showed no signs of having been open at all that day. I looked carefully around the door and didn’t see opening hours posted anywhere. At least I got my walk in the sun, I now know they’re not open on Sundays, and I didn’t get a half-arsed weekend effort that isn’t representative of their weekday performance as happens at some eateries. I’ll try again on a Saturday, but failing that, it might have to wait for a day off. Is “laksa craving” as a valid medical condition for a sick leave form?

So having failed to get my laksa fix, I decided to finally have lunch at Tiger Bakers. Just walking in, the place felt far too hipster for me. The guy behind the bar was wearing a singlet, with his facial hair trimmed to look like five days’ growth, and his hair that says “I put a lot of effort into trying to look like I just rolled out of bed”. Oh yes, and it’s a bar – it’s so edgy, serving primarily as a coffee shop and restaurant, but in the form of a bar. The atmosphere is a bit of a let-down, too: if you sit well inside, it’s a bit stuffy and oppressive, but if you sit somewhere with fresh air and sunlight, you’ve got people smoking at that legally-just-outside counter messing with your ability to smell the food and coffee.

I got the barbecue lamb sandwich, and it tried pretty hard with crusty “Turkish-style” bread, lots of fancy salad leaves, tender spiced lamb, hummus and tzatziki. Although the hummus taste a bit flat, the everything else in the sandwich was done pretty well. The thing that ruined it was the chips they served with it. They were over-seasoned with that strong, artificial-tasting, MSG-loaded stuff. It conflicted terribly with the wholesome flavours of the sandwich, and it was the flavour that stuck with me after I left. All in all it was a disappointment, especially considering the good things I’ve heard about the place.

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For the Music

26 March, 2012

I had an inadvertent busking experience. I was playing my recorders at the park while the kids enjoyed the playground. It seemed like good use of the time, as it meant fresh air for everyone, exercise for the children, and music practice for me. As we were leaving, some young ladies came up and gave me a few coins as a token of their appreciation for the music. I tried to give the money back, but there was no convincing them. I’d like to think I inspired them to keep up their own music practice or gave them a hint of what’s possible with some effort, but I’ll never know.

After seeing this, my goddaughter begged, “Teach me to play, so I can get money too!” I told her I only teach people if they’re in it for the right reasons (for the music, or the lulz as the case may be). I scared her mum off by telling her the price of a decent solo recorder — over £270 for one of mine. If I tried busking half seriously, I could probably get decent return on the price of the instruments, but it wouldn’t come close to covering the countless hours of spent building and maintaining playing skill.

(I also discovered that one must consider wind direction when playing outdoors. If you try to play a low note while facing into the wind, it behaves as though the bell is stopped. This is clearly not desirable. No-one teaches you important details like that.)

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Linked?

24 January, 2012

So I got this message today:

Hi Vas,
We work closely with company and placed man and woman with you recently. I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
name

I’m like

So you run job ads?
That don’t impress-a-me much —
So you sold us grunts,
But can you find us stars?
Now don’t get me wrong,
Yeah, I think you’re alright
But that won’t make me cash in the economic blight.
That don’t impress-a-me much…

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Banned!

27 December, 2011

My wife has banned me from hiring or buying Ford or Holden cars. Since Hertz gets busy around Christmas, they were booked out of Mercedes, Lexus and even the more interesting Toyotas. From what was left, I decided to hire a Ford G6E (it’s the replacement for the Fairlane, kind of like a luxury Falcon variant). To be honest, I was hoping it would be bad all along — not undriveably bad, but bad enough to complain about for a while. It definitely didn’t disappoint in that regard. It’s like a bogan’s attempt at producing a premium product. It misses the bar so badly it’s not even funny.

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Click that!

24 September, 2011

The threads on 4chan
All looked so lame
He typed the CAPTCHA
To post his flame
The newfags ate it
Replies came in
That OP’s ego
Swelled with the win!

He’s saying I’m on a roll
With all the trolls I know
The copy-pasta
Flies to and fro
He’s saying I’m on a roll
With all the trolls I know
I know you wanna click that
I know you wanna click that, click that!
All the memes are getting old I say
But posts of substance feel like work, not play
That’s the way it
That’s the way /b/ rolls!

The date in marker
Proves she’s for real
She posts the photo
Not much revealed
But this is 4chan
It leads them on
She feels the power
As the luscious femanon!

She’s saying I’m on the run
I’m chasing lulz for fun
The lonely /b/tards
Come begging one by one
She’s saying I’m on the run
I’m chasing lulz for fun
I know you wanna click that
I know you wanna click that, click that!
All the memes are getting old I say
But posts of substance feel like work, not play
That’s the way it
That’s the way /b/ rolls!

Soon it’s no more —
Four-oh-four
Really nothing gained
But why not
Join a raid
And hear the fags complain!
And you won’t stop —
Can’t give up
4chan owns your brain
You close the window
But you’ll be back, /b/ro

You’ll say I’m on a roll
With all the trolls I know
You liek teh mudkipz —
Think we don’t know?
You’re saying I’m on a roll
With all the trolls I know
I know you wanna click that
I know you wanna click that, click that!
All the memes are getting old I say
But posts of substance feel like work, not play
That’s the way it
That’s the way /b/ rolls!

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War on Everything

12 September, 2011

The apparent incompetence of Victorian state governments never ceases to amaze me. The steady war on public transport is a great example. Ted & Co. have now decided that it’s a good idea to drop the Metcard, and also drop the rollout of single-use Myki tickets. Lolwut? You’re trying to tell me that the only way I can ride public transport in Melbourne is to buy a non-refundable $10 card that doesn’t come pre-loaded with any credit, then add credit to it at a railway station? If a family visits Melbourne and wants to catch public transport, they need to buy one of these cards for each and every family member? I can’t actually pay for tram travel on a tram, or at the majority of tram stops? Are you for real, or are you just doing it for the lulz, Ted? I know you inherited the Myki fiasco from Bracks/Brumby, but you’re supposed to be making things better, not worse. The only way I can spin this as a positive is to imagine that it’s an attempt to discourage people from using public transport, combatting the chronic crowding that makes Sydney’s peak hour trains look empty by comparison. I can’t see that being a net improvement, as it will just push more people onto the already congested roads.

I can’t see how anyone could get a smartcard ticketing system so wrong in the first place. Myki cards cost $10 upfront, come with no credit, are non-refundable, and expire after a few years. They also cannot be bought at unstaffed stations (the majority of them). You can’t travel when you run out of credit, but there is no way to add credit on trams, or at most tram stops. It doesn’t automatically promote to a weekly fare if you travel a few times within a week — you need to decide in advance to convert credit to a weekly pass, so you still need to know in advance that you will be travelling several days in the week, and you need to queue up for the ticket machine to get this registered on your card. Didn’t anyone think about what it would be like to actually use the system?

When in Melbourne after the Metcard system is retired, I will resort to hiring cars, walking or fare evading. Myki just doesn’t look to be worth the trouble.

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Proceed

6 September, 2011

You know where Kings Cross becomes Potts Point, there’s a cop shop and a fountain, right? Well, even if you don’t, just try to imagine it, or get a picture from Google Street View. Anyway, as I was walking past this point on my way to the railway station this morning, these two dudes in suits walk up to the traffic lights, push the button, then just walk straight out without looking either way. A taxi was coming, and since it had a green light, wasn’t slowing down. Poor taxi driver slammed on the brakes and stopped just in time. Guy shouldn’t have stopped — he could’ve contributed to a well-deserved Darwin award. I mean the two idiots must have realised that the crossing was arbitrated with traffic lights, because they actually pushed the button, so they had absolutely no excuse. I rant about idiot drivers, but idiot pedestrians are just as bad.

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Don’t be Evil

27 July, 2011

Last night on my way home from work, I found a CommSec debit MasterCard on the ground. It still had over a year before expiry, and there was a four-digit number in small handwriting in the corner of the signature panel. I picked it up, and as soon as I got home, I rang the issuer and got the card cancelled. All they needed from me was the number off the front of the card — they took my claim to have found it at face value, so if you want to play a prank on an ex, or someone whose card you just happened to read the number off… But after I hung up, I had major regrets about what I’d just done. I mean, I didn’t even try to be just a little evil before cancelling the card. The handwritten four-digit number was likely a PIN (yeah, a lot of people keep their PIN with or on their card, hence the warning in the T&C that the bank won’t care about fraudulent withdrawals if you do), and even if it wasn’t, Coles lets you spend up to $30 with no PIN or signature these days. Besides, I picked it up in affluent Rushcutters Bay, and only rich people have CommSec accounts anyway. They wouldn’t miss just a few hundred dollars, right? Damn my honesty!

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