More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Email Rules and Etiquette

Email and the internet has revolutioned our lives. My own opinion on email is that its a good thing in general and I like it. I send out a lot of emails during work and personally. Its a free way to pass information around and stay in touch with people.

One advantages of email is that its text based, so you can take your time and digest it slowly to fully understand it. If you need to pass on information such as an address of a restaurant, telling it to someone will mean they will most likely forget. But emailing it to them means they have a record of it. Another advantage of email is that you can pass on the message to many people all at once. You don't need to call up everyone or send out a million letters, just type the one message and send to everyone.

The disadvantages of email are equally numerous. When you send out an email, there is no way to know that the other person received it. Email is something that, although is describe as instantaneous, it really isn't. Depending on how long it takes your ISP to send it out, and how often people check their email, the turnaround time could be up to a week. So if its important and needs a response immediately, email is not the way to go. Another bad thing about email is that the consequences of making a mistake can be dire. Hitting the Reply To All button rather than the Reply button can have very drastic outcomes, so be careful and double check the recipients.

So here are some rules and etiquette that I personally think you should consider when sending emails.

  • Emails should always have a context. My pet hate is when someone replies to an email without attaching the previous email. Since you might have sent an email to someone else a month ago, its very hard to remember exactly what you wrote in the first place. Their replies will make no sense if they don't attach your email.
  • If you are going to send an extremely large (over 10MB say) attachment to someone, you should send an initial email asking them if they want it even. The worst thing is to waste your time downloading an email with a huge attachment only to find the attachment is rubbish that you don't even want.
  • Sometimes people don't want their emails splashed all over the place. If you intend to forward emails or send to large lists, you may want to use Blind Carbon Copy (bcc), so people's emails will remain secret. Just send the email to yourself and bcc everyone else. This way you won't offend anyone should the people on your sending list not be friends for example and you won't be giving out people's emails for the whole world to see.
  • Emails that require a reply should be given more attention. If someone sends you an invitation, even if you can't come, you should at least reply and let them know that. Its so rude when people don't reply to invitations, just because you can't come doesn't give you the right to be rude. The organiser may be waiting for your response so they can go ahead with certain plans. If you can't reply to the email immediately, you should flag it so that you don't forget to reply to it later.
  • Emails are a great way to pass around viruses. The sender should scan their files before sending them out. The receiver should also scan an email before opening it.
  • Spam is the enemy that can never be defeated. The best and only method is to try and avoid it in the first place. You should just use a fake email such as for sites that require an email but no confirmation. Sites that do require you to click a confirmation link in the email, then you should set up a free email account such as yahoo or hotmail and use that for all registration type things. The most important thing to never do with spam is to reply to them. This alerts the spammer that your account does exist and you can expect 10 times more spam.
  • Emails are generally very informal, which is fine. I myself use a lot of shorthand for words. But that doesn't mean you can just type rubbish all over the place. There should be at least some formatting such as paragraphs to break up huge chunks of text. The grammar should also be fairly good with correct punctuation. A sentence without proper punctuation can mean a totally different thing.

Those are some of the rules and etiqutte that I can think of. If you have any more, just email me :-), I promise to reply.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Knowledge Is Power

I was reminded today of something that I always believe in, that knowledge is power. A friend was telling me how he bought this ADSL telephone filter from his ISP who had recommended it. This filter cost $50 and is specially for cordless phones and has a power supply?? I admit that I don't know everything but I do know a lot about computers and ADSL and as far as I know, just a regular in-line filter costing less than $10 will also work for cordless phones.

Anyway the point of this example was how important knowledge is, and the power it contains. Had this friend known that regular filters work, I don't think he would have bought this "high-tech" miracle filter being sold by the ISP, who are probably making a killing off them to all these unsuspecting people.

Any knowledge that you gain is something that can never be taken from you. Knowledge helps you to make better informed decisions, which in general lead to a better situation for you. The power in knowledge has many degrees, from being able to choose the right piece of equipment to make your job easier to making millions of dollars on the stock market. Obvious knowledge such as what you learn at school and work help to keep you employed and fed. The more you know in this field, the better your chances are of moving "up" in the world and making more money while working less.

However, knowledge that you gain from life, friends, family etc also help to enrich your life, and benefit you physically and psychologically. Simple things such as knowing how to bake a cake will give you pleasure when you eat it. Being able to play an instrument will enrich you. Having expertise in various fields will help you have stimulating conversations that will exercise your mind.

I'm a great believer that you should try and learn something everyday. When people tell me about something interesting that I didn't know, I make it a point to try and remember it. If I don't know about something being discussed and its sounds interesting, I'll try to look it up and find out more rather than just forgetting about it. You never know, that knowledge may be vital at another point in life. An extreme example is all those people that know a million pieces of trivia who go on to win quiz shows with large prize pools. One guy, Trevor, went on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and from remembering a news article he heard about when he was 10, ended up using that piece of knowledge to win half a million dollars. Now if only I had remembered that Alexander Fleming had invented penicillin, I may have won $2 million dollars when I was on Deal or No Deal. I definitely won't be forgetting that fact soon. 8-))

P.S The $2 million was in briefcase 7, which I had told my friend (who went with me to play) that I would pick since it was my lucky number. Ah the way things turn out sometimes, I wonder what would happen if only....

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Food Review: Namaskar India

Namaskar India is located on Glenferrie Road in Malvern. The first thing that hits you when you walk in is the strong unmistakable smell of curry. The restaurant looks a little like a cross between a take away shop crossed with a cafe. The interior is nice with a high ceiling and a few decorative touches. The tables are set very nicely with red table cloth, clean cutlery and crisp white plates. The only downfall was the tacky butcher paper lined over the tablecloth so cleaning up was easier and the tablecloth could be reused.

Service was friendly and helpful. They remembered any requests we had and were willing to explain items on the menu to us. The waiters were also dressed in neat black uniforms making them easy to spot and separate from customers. I don't like places where the waiters dress casually as you don't know sometimes who is the waiter or just customers.

My friend Paul had told me that the food at Namaskar is very cheap but also tasted good, as even his Indian friends come and eat there. For entrees, Paul, Serena and I shared the Indian Chilli Chicken and the Gobi Manchurian, marinated cauliflower fried with chilli, onions and spices. These turned out to be the highlight of the food for me. I loved the chicken, it was soft and had strong aromatic spices to it. The capsicum and onions accompanying it helped to break up the flavour. Also surprising, I found the cauliflower to be good too. It really didn't taste a lot like cauliflower and almost had a meat like quality to it.

Main course was Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala. These are well known Indian curry dished and Namaskar does them well. The Butter Chicken was very rich and got a bit much at the end while the Masala was hotter and equally aromatic without the richness of the butter. I had the Roti Plantha (roti stuffed with butter) bread to eat with the curries while Paul had the Plain Naan and Garlic Naan bread. The bread tasted similar to me with the Roti Plantha being a bit more moist and richer due to the butter. Serena had the Murthabak Kambing which is roti stuffed with lamb, onion, chilli, tomato, egg and spices. It tasted a bit like one of those Chinese meat buns.

For dessert we all shared a Roti Tisu, which was just crispy corn bread topped with condensed milk. It wasn't anything too special, just tasted like toast with condensed milk that I eat a lot of anyway.

Overall Namaskar India is a great place for Indian curry. There is a wide choice of foods and all at very affordable prices. You can easily get a meal and dessert for under $10. The atmosphere is nice and relaxing and service is good.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Good food but its the value for money that gets my recommendation.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Comm Games: Jana Pittman, Drama Queen or Queen of Track

I went to the Commonwealth Games on Thursday to watch possibly the race of the Athletics program, the Jana Pittman 400m women's hurdles. After all the media frenzy and attention surrounding the race, what would happen was anyone's guess. Jana Pittman had risen to fame when she famously came from behind to win the world championships. Then she went into the Athens Olympics as one of the favourites, but a knee injury during training would change everything. Her whole dramatic and very public recovery from knee surgery would change the public's view of her. Instead of being the darling of Australian Athletics and being touted as the next Cathy Freeman, people were now calling her a drama queen and attention seeker. She went on to finish 5th at the Olympics, a good result in itself but not what the public had wanted.

In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, she had another very public spat with Tamsyn Lewis, her fellow 400m relay runner. However, most of the blame for the spat was aimed at Jana. There is a couple of reasons for this,
a) As my friend Justin says, people are more sympathetic to a pretty blonde, which Tamsyn definitely is,
b) Australians love to raise their athletes to a high level but when they get too high, the public get tall-poppy syndrome and love to cut them back down,
c) The media focused on Jana because they knew that would sell papers and magazines. Jana is a world class athlete who can win the big events and Aussies always love a winner. Tamsyn on the other hand hasn't even made a major championship final.

As history would show, Jana handled all the pressure and won the Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles in a Games record time. The crowd didn't boo her at all but instead cheered her right from when she entered the stadium to when she finished her victory lap. For about a minute, that whole stadium of 83,000 was united in their support for Jana and concentrated on the race. All other things were forgotten as the deafening support from the crowd was aimed towards Jana. With about 100 metres to go, the sound of the stadium was so loud it sent goosebumps on my skin. This is what sport is about, striving to do your best rather than the media circus surrounding it.

I think Jana has proven that she is the Queen of the Track definitively. Whether she is a Drama Queen, only she will truly know. Some like my friend Kin thinks she is a drama queen and do not like her. But we are only judging her by how the media is portraying her. Were all the stories surrounding her of her own make to get more attention or was it the media that came up with it all, only Jana will know. I respect her for being a great world class athlete and hope that she can win gold at Beijing with the full support of the Australian public.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Being Fake Kills You Faster

A personality trait that I dislike in people is fakeness. Now it has been scientifically proven that being fake kills you faster. I forgive workers who are in a situation where they are forced to be fake, like sales assistants. Part of their job is to be nice to the customers and ask polite questions. I was a counter hand at a restaurant during my uni days and I hated having to be artificially nice to some customers. I would make casual conversation with them when both parties knew that it was just another social game that you had to play. After a while, I dropped the casual chat and just got on with the job. This wasn't to say that I was rude to them, I would just say hi, maybe smile and asked them for their orders.

In other situations though, such relationships between work colleagues or casual friends, there isn't a need to be fake. I think people have a good b*llsh*t meter and can spot other people being fake a mile away. Thats why I don't ask people how their day was unless I really meant it and was willing to listen to what they had to say. So in general others would ask me how is it going and I would say good, even if I had a crappy day. I know the people who really mean it and I will tell them the truth but for those that don't really mean it, why bore them with details they don't want to know anyway. It will only make them think that you are egotistical and only want to talk about yourself. I would then not return the question if I had no interest in knowing the answer and would just end the conversation there. To some this may be rudeness, but to me its being truthful. There is already so many social situations where we have to be fake, why add more to it when you don't need to.

I admit that in some circumstances, you are forced to be fake. We all know the rules of the social game and you have to abide to them occasionally. For example, if you went to a job interview, you have to pretend to be interested in the interviewer or the job being advertised. You have to show enthusiasm for a job, so when asked "Why do you want this job", answering honestly "To have money to pay for food" is not the required answer. Though in most cases everyone knows that is the truth. Instead the interviewer will want to hear "Because I want to challenge myself and learn new things". Unfortunately that is the reality and you have to force yourself to be fake if you want to eat. And since I love eating, "I want this job to improve my skills and be challenged with difficult situations. Thanks for the interview, it was really nice to meet you. Hope you have a good day." Hahaha.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Paintball Skirmish

I went to paintball skirmish today. I had never been before but some friends kept saying how much fun it is so I said I definitely had to go soon. Before this year, you had to travel to New South Wales to play paintball because of ridiculous gun laws in Victoria that said you had to have a gun license to play paintball. Finally the Government saw some sense and changed the law.

We went to a place in Coldstream (just after Lilydale) called Paintball Games. We decided to go for the half day package with 300 paint bullets which cost $90. You think 300 bullets sound like a lot, but when you're playing and going a bit gun crazy, you lose track of how many rounds you go through very quickly. A few people ended up using 500 bullets today.

We were split up into two teams and played three different games in total. Most of us were really tired by then or otherwise we could have played a fourth game if we wanted.

The first game was to steal the other teams flag. You start in your own castle and try to make your way across the field and capture their flag. I suggested that our team should give cover fire for each other and then go forward in staggered motions. We implemented this really well and I personally ended up dashing across to the other castle and bringing their flag back to our castle.

The second game was to protect a flag whilst staying in a defined area of space. This task proved too hard for both teams as we both lost the flag when it was our turn to protect it. It was just too hard to cover the whole 360 degrees with limited cover areas. We did end up with 5 team members when we captured their flag while they only had 2 left when they got ours.

The final game was to protect a "President" who had on a vest and if he was shot on that vest then we would lose. This time however, the Presidents team got a really good castle to hide behind and take aim from, making it almost impossible for the other team to shoot the president. Hence both teams protecting the President saved him and won.

Despite being quite expensive, I would say Paintball Skirmish is definitely worth it. I've played laser skirmish type games many times but it just doesn't have the same feel. The outdoor environment, the larger playing area and the reality of the paintball skirmish just makes it such a better game. When you see a bullet whiz past you or hit something right in front of you, you do flinch sometimes and feel that adrenalin rush. When you get hit by a bullet, you definitely know it. The force of the bullets were quite large, I've got about 3 bruises to prove it. The two late hits I took on the neck really stung at the time but now don't hurt. Instead I have a bruise on my upper arm, under a rib and on my thigh that I didn't even feel during the game but feel now.

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate, Yum! Yum! Yum!

My friend Patrick (below left) and I went to Koko Black to eat dessert (below right) and buy chocolates. Patrick had the Chocolate Platter consisting of chocolate cake, shortbread biscuit, pieces of chocolate, chocolate mousse and chocolate ice cream. Although his platter looks really good, Patrick thought the only nice thing was the shortbread biscuit. I had the Panacotta and Sorbet, with the panacotta made from coconut and passionfruit and the sorbet of lemon and passionfruit with pineapple pieces inside. It was nice without being spectacular. We then bought lots of EXPENSIVE chocolates. Patrick bought almost a kilo for $90, while I was a bit more mindful of my wallet and bought about half a kilo for $48. Now that I have spent all my money on chocolates, I will have to go without lunch for the rest of the week or substitute my lunch with chocolates. :-)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Crouching Thanh, Hidden Kin

After a few drinks at Kin's house, we got a bit silly and since there were some swords lying around (doesn't every Asian house have a few display swords), we acted out some classic fight scenes. Photos were beautifully taken by Jo.

Left click on photos to see the full animated fight sequence in a new window or right click and Save Target As to save file to hard drive.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Intangible Assets

In business we always hear about a company's goodwill being an intangible assest. And then the accountants go and try to put a dollar figure on it :-). What about individuals then. In particular, what are intangible assets such as human emotions worth.

I started to think about this because of something that happened recently. A friend of mine was going to go overseas on holiday. He had asked me to go a long time ago and I just said I don't have the money. As his trip is getting closer, we were talking and he was saying it wouldn't cost a lot since I could stay at his relatives place and how much fun it was going to be. I had a quick think about it over the weekend and had made a decision that I would go given the right conditions, such as the of length the trip, total cost involved, being able to take time off work, etc. So nothing physical had changed, the only thing that had changed is my state of mind, I had decided that I would go and was actually looking forward to going. I knew that there were still a million things to discuss about and that it probably wouldn't happen, but still, in my head I was committed to going.

Well it turns out that he wasn't going to be able to go for longer as he had suggested that he could, so I will not be going on this particular holiday after all. Even though I knew that this trip was highly unlikely, I still felt disappointed at the certainty that it DEFINITELY wasn't going to happen. I would have been just as happy not to go on holidays if he had never asked or made it sound like a possiblity. But since I had mentally decided I wanted to do it, it was a let down to know for sure it wasn't going to happen.

This brings me back to what human emotions are worth. Since society is so used to classifying everything with a dollar value, how would I rate this disappointment or any other emotions. I would say this disappointment would be similar to losing about $30, which buys you a cd or two. Since I'm not so uptight with money, some may think my estimate may be a bit high. It really depends on the person, how they value money and their own emotions. I think losing $30 is bad, but it wouldn't necessarily upset me too much, just see it as an unlucky day.

We all have hopes and aspirations and conversely disappointment and failure. What they are worth will depend on the situation. If you knew you had no hope of getting your dream job that you had been working years towards, I think that would be quite a crushing blow. That would hurt quite a lot and would compare to a huge financial loss, in fact possibly more as hope is one thing that we all need. A life without hope would be very dull and painful I suspect.

So in summary, the next time something happens to you either good or bad, have a think about how much in dollar terms that emotion is worth. Is that happy feeling of doing a good job the same as finding $10? Or does losing an opportunity to do something you want to do feel like $20 slipping out of your hand? This way of measuring things may help you to decide how much effort and committment you should give to that task. If failure of the task will result in an equivalent huge financial loss, you would have to consider it carefully. You wouldn't run a red light if you knew the chances of crashing your car was high, so why do the same with your emotions.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet

As I mentioned in my first ever post on this blog, I went on a diet. Well its been 2 months and I have just finished the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. So far I have lost 4kgs, going from about 68-69 kgs to 64-65 kgs and dropped one pant size. I'm very happy with this as I feel a lot better and have more energy each day despite sleeping less than before.

What the diet boils down to is eating more protein and less carbohydrates, the reasoning being that the body burns carbohydrates first before other things, so if it lacks carbohydrates, then it must burn the protein and fats. Also proteins are suppose to be more filling so you don't want to eat as much.

I found that the first week was the toughest. I did feel hungry quite a lot as I wasn't used to not eating rice. I'm Asian so I love my rice and usually must eat it everyday. Anyway, I slowly adapted to the diet and didn't start to feel hungry anymore. I was eating vegetables, which I never ate in the past. I was even starting to enjoy the vegetables (can't believe I would ever hear myself say that in my lifetime). I used to be a big time meat eater and this diet still allows you to eat meat so I didn't feel deprived of anything.

The book containing the diet doesn't really tell you much. Most of the books is recipes for foods that they allow you to eat. So if you want recipes, then get the book, otherwise if you want to save $30, I have written the daily food allowance below and its all you need to know to start the diet.


1) Lean Protein Foods - 3 units
1 unit is equal to 100g of lean meat of fish or 2 eggs.

2) Wholegrain Bread - 2 units
1 unit is equal to 35g slice bread, 1 medium potato, 1/3 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup cooked pasta, 1/3 beans.

3) High Fibre Cereal - 1 unit
1 unit is equal to 40g cereal, 1 slice wholegrain bread.

4) Dairy - 2 units
1 unit is equal to 250ml low fat milk, 200g low fat yoghurt, 25g full fat cheese, 50g reduced fat cheese.

5) Fruit - 2 units
1 unit is equal to 150g fruit

6) Vegetables - 2.5 units.
1 unit is equal to 1 cup of cooked vegetables or salad.

7) Fats and Oils - 3 units
1 unit is equal to 1 teaspoon of any oil or margarine, 60g avocado, 20g nuts.

8) Wine - 2 glasses (300ml) a week
Or 3 standard alcoholic drinks a week or anything that matches about 800 kJ such as 40g chocolate if you don't drink.

You can divide the food in anyway you want when eating them during the day.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Six Degrees Of Separation

There is a well known theory that everyone on Earth is connected to another person through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. This theory is known as Six Degrees Of Separation (I will abbreviate to SDOS), with the actor Kevin Bacon used in a game that requires you to connect any other actor to him using this SDOS.

So why am I writing about this, well I'm starting to believe in this SDOS, it happened to me yesterday night. Yesterday night I went ice skating and then bowling afterwards. Below are some pictures of us bowling. From left to right, top row: Dennis and Kevin bowling, middle row: me (in a not so flattering shot of my backside) and Paul (who didn't wear any socks that night even though he knew we were going ice skating and bowling, activities that are known to give blisters), last row: scoreboards with Dennis scoring 10 in one game and 300 in the next. Hehehe, rigged of course.

I digress, back to the main story. So my friend Harinder had asked me to go ice skating. When I got there I bumped into Britnie, a friend from high school. I had only found out from Harinder last week that we both knew Britnie. Picture below of Britnie and the ice rink.

Ok so thats quite a conincidence already. Then while lining up in the queue to pay, I bump into Nga, a friend from uni. This is again quite a coincidence as I hardly ever go ice skating and to even bump into anyone you know is strange. However, even more weird is that the last time I saw Nga was when I bumped into her while I was in the city learning to take photos with my friend Clayford, who went to uni with Nga and I. Ok the story gets better. So about a month ago, I'm talking to my friend Justin A on MSN and he says that the photo I use for my profile is great. So I tell him that a friend taught me to take it. He asks who it is, and I said "You don't know him", but Justin said "Who is it anyway". I say I was taught by a uni friend called Clayford. Justin then says "Not M******", and I go "How did you know that". He then says "A short Phillipino guy right" and I say "Yeah". Well it turns out that Justin and Clayford went to high school together. Finally to tie it all together, Justin A also plays indoor soccer with me and Harinder.

So to recap

I know Harinder
Harinder knows Britnie from work
I also know Britnie from high school
I bump into Nga at ice skating
Last time I saw Nga was when I bumped into her while taking photos with Clayford in the city
Clayford is friends with Justin A
I am friend with Justin A
Harinder, Justin A and I all play indoor soccer together

Phew that was complex. So I now believe that people are probably separated by SDOS. Also with the internet nowadays, geographical barriers are broken down and there's an even greater chance that everyone in the world knows each other through SDOS.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The First Annual Bloggies

First there was the Oscars, then someone came up with an idea for an anti-Oscars called the Razzies. Next there was the Blooker Prize (a variation on the Booker Prize) for books adapted from blogs. Now I'm introducing The Bloggies, my own award for things related to my blog. The following awards were voted by me and me only and no correspondance will be accepted, my decision is final hehe.

Best Female Fan And the Bloggie for Best Female Fan goes to.... Jessie, she won easily as she visits my blog daily and even clicks ads for me without me having to ask her to do so. My most devoted fan and I thank her with this award.

Best Male Fan And the Bloggie for Best Male Fan goes to.... Its a tie between Afrobev all the way from the UK and Paul from Caulfield. Afrobev (aka James) visits my blog often and even leaves comment (good on ya) so a big thank you to him. Paul reads my blog and we have discussion about the topics I write about so thanks to him too.

Best Female Supporting Fan And the Bloggie for Best Female Supporting Fan goes to.... Tu my sister who visits my blog every couple of days.

Best Male Supporting Fan And the Bloggie for Best Male Supporting Fan goes to.... Tin, who visits my blog apparently because I trick him into it. I send him emails about something interesting and then tell him to click on the following link to find out more from my blog, but he doesn't look at the address and assumes its from a website and then claims I tricked him into it.

Best Guest Appearance And the Bloggie for Best Guest Appearance goes to.... Kevin, whose hand is shown in Food Review: Ocean King Chinese Restaurant modelling the roast duck and also in Mahjong For Beginners discretely advertising a can of Jim Beam Bourbon and Cola.

Best Collaborator And the Bloggie for Best Collaborator goes to... John, who has provided me with quite a lot of material for my posts by making insightful comments about me and human behaviour.

Best Comedy Post And the Bloggie for Best Comedy Post goes to... Death of a Faithful Servant, what I thought was a funny attempt at humour.

Best Dramatic Post And the Bloggie for Best Dramatic Post goes to... Does Being Nice Make You A "Carpet Mat" - Ask Dr Thanh Ph(aic) D(octor). Don't let the humourous title fool you, this post was a very personal post and was full of emotion when I wrote it.

Best Adaptive Post And the Bloggie for Best Adaptive Post goes to... Recipe For Good Friendship adapted from an article by Dyske Suematsu. It uses food as an analogy for human frienship styles.

Best Documentary Post And the Bloggie for Best Documentary Post goes to... Are Asian Women Bad Drivers? documenting how bad some women drivers are. This post attracted the most controversy and reader replies.

Best Art Post And the Bloggie for Best Art Post goes to... Tilt Shift Photograph. I thought my try at tilt shift photography was quite bad but the other two photos are very nice I thought.

And finally the last award of the night is

Best Blogger And the Bloggie for Best Blogger goes to... Thanh, of course I'm giving the award to myself. Did you really think anyone else would win.

Well its been a great post and thank you all for reading. Keep coming back to this blog and supporting it, as my ad revenue can only grow with your support and your fingers clicking on that mouse. Thank you all and see you next year.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lost In The Amazing Race

Thursday is TV night for me. Two of my favourite TV shows are on, Lost followed by The Amazing Race.


Lost, if you haven't seen it before is about a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a remote island. The show is created by J.J Abrams. I loved his other series Alias with the constant twists and turns. I gave up Alias after two seasons when things just got too strange and nothing ever really happened, you don't get that satisfaction of learning more about the conspiracy.

So far, Lost is shaping up the same way. The flashback sequences in the first season was very entertaining as you learnt more about each character, but now they just seem a little annoying. After teasing the audience for a whole season about the "other people" on the island, what lies underneath the island, the monster and all these other secrets, nothing much has been revealed so far. So we know that there are other people on the island who want the little boy Walt for some reason, and we've seen under the island that there is a scientific research centre of some sort. However, so much is still unknown and will probably never be known. I'll still keep watching as it is still interesting but unless they give some answers this season, I may not be watching next season. You can only tease the audience so much before they lose interest.

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is one of the grandfathers of the reality genre. While other reality tv shows have come and gone, only The Amazing Race and Survivor have had enduring power. I've watched The Amazing Race right from the first season when I must have been one of only a few people to watch. I used to tape it at all hours in the night. I even wrote in to Channel 7 to stop moving the show around and put it in a decent time slot, obviously to no avail. Finally Channel 7 realised what a good show it was and from about season 6, started to schedule it in a good time slot. Now, the show is winning its time slot in the ratings.

The Amazing Race is simply a race around the world where each team consists of two people with an existing relationship trying to finish the race first. The part of the show that really appeal to me are the great locations, you see places and things that you may never experience personally. The team dynamics are also important, choosing the right people in any reality show is one of the major key to its success. The Amazing Race always seem to pick very interesting teams. The cocky, arrogant, loud, rude Americans really make the show. I can't see another culture doing this show as well. Like imagine Japanese racers, they would be too polite to push people around or yell at taxi drivers. No, Americans really do loud, rude and arrogant the best. Occasionally the good guys do win, like in season 7 when the nice couple who helped other people won.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Are Asian Women Bad Drivers?

My work friend, Hien, had taken some photos of another work friend, Jessie, and how she had parked her car. As you can see from the photos below, it isn’t the best parking in the world. Some unsuspecting person such as Tin is demonstrating below can walk right into the car and hurt themself. :-)

This has prompted me to write this post about Asian women drivers. To begin with, lets talk about Jessie. She admits that she is a bad driver and knows that when we joke about it we don’t mean anything mean towards her. I’ve only been in Jessie’s car once, and let me tell you, there were some tense moments. A group of us always go out to lunch on Friday and Jessie usually doesn’t want to drive, she has driven only once before according to my memory. However that one time I wasn’t in her car, but another work friend, Jeffrey, had joked the whole time at lunch about how bad she was. I didn’t really believe him as I thought he was just joking.

Anyway Jessie is a very tense driver. She sits bolt upright in the car and all her attention is fixed on the road. She has to know where she is going so can change to that lane well in advance. As she says herself, she only drives from her house to work and back, that’s it. This is not dissimilar to my aunties, who only drive to the shops to do their grocery shopping and to each other’s houses. This is probably a good thing for the rest of us seeing as they bought their licenses. More on that later.

I don't think I'm stereotyping when I say a majority of older Asian female drivers are pretty bad drivers. I should know, I live in Springvale where most of Victoria’s older Asian female drivers come each week to buy their Chinese groceries and I see first hand how they drive. I have seen so many accidents and near accidents in Springvale due to these ladies not knowing the road rules. The problem is that most of them have poor English so to be able to get a license, they have to pay for it. I know of two aunties who bought their licenses. You give the “instructor” about $2000 and he gives you the answers in the written test. Then he arranges it so that you are given the driving test by someone they know or even themself and will pass you regardless of how you really drive. This means there are lot of people driving on the streets that don’t know the rules fully. They continue to drive that way thinking it is correct, causing lots of accidents because other people expect them to do something else. I was at a round about and expected the lady on my left to give way to me so I continued on only for her to also keep going. Luckily I braked really hard just in time to avoid an accident. She then drove away happily not even knowing that she nearly caused an accident.

So you might be asking, why aren’t men from similar backgrounds just as bad. Well they probably are at the beginning. Older men though still seem to have better reaction times than older women so can sometimes avoid accidents due to reacting to it faster. Also, since the male is usually the main driver in a household (in Asian families anyway), they quickly learn from their mistakes in many varied driving situations. After a couple of crashes or close calls they will learn to try and understand the road rules better. Since the females only drive in limited situations, they may be lucky and not have any accidents or major accidents. And since they think that they will only continue to drive in limited situations, usually they don’t bother trying to learn the rules even after an accident.

What are you opinions on this topic, are stereotypes of Asian women as bad drivers correct or just another urban myth? Feel free to leave comments.

Edit: As a follow up to this story, about 8 months after I wrote this post, my friend and I got into a real accident involving an Asian woman driver who had no clue how to drive at all. You can read the post here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Recipe for Good Friendship

I read a great article called Recipe for Good Friendship by Dyske Suematsu. This article incorporates two things that I love, food and analysis of people. The article uses food as a comparison tool for friendships.

I acutally had a conversation along the same lines with my work mate, who has also become my good friend of late, John. We were discussing similar issues about why people choose certain friends and what the purposes of those friends were. The simple conclusion is that friends fill specific purposes in our lives, you have your drinking buddies, your sports friends, friends that you can rely on for help etc.

Suematsu makes a great observation that "our relationships to each other are quite similar to our relationships to food. There are friends or families whom we see every day, just as there are food items we eat almost every day, like bread. For us to be able to consume them every day, they must have certain qualities that make them suitable for daily consumption. This quality is independent of value. Just because something or someone can be consumed every day, does not mean that it is better, deeper, or more meaningful than any other food items or people."

I definitely agree with his statements. Friends that you may or may not see often can be better friends that ones that you associate with all the time. Circumstances such as where you live or your lifestyle may mean that you associate with some people more often than others. A general rule for how people judge the strength of their relationships is how much others can help us. Suematsu states that "help is only one of many criteria by which one could value friendships, but it happens to be the most common standard by which people value personal relationships." I think this comes from our own selfish natures because when it comes down to it, its survival of the fittest and you must look out for yourself first, so why not choose friends that can help you.

However, in most peoples lives, it doesn't quite come down to life or death so we tend to judge our friends on other criterias as well. Once again Suematsu says that "I have some friends who are entertaining, intriguing, thought-provoking, and/or inspirational, but I can get sick of them if I am exposed to them too much. If you eat caviar every day, you will be sick of it, no matter how good it is. Just as certain types of food are appropriate for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there are certain types of people that are only appropriate for certain situations. Trying to force them out of these natural boundaries will only cause conflicts." I think I am starting to learn this valuable rule. When you're young, you tend to choose friends who have attributes that you may desire but also have negative aspects which you may try to change. Trying to change this attributes will normally result in conflict. As I've gotten older, I've come to realise you can benefit from the positives of friends but negatives that you perceive in them should be left alone as they may not see it as a negative.

Suematsu's final analogy on food is that "those who are nationalistic tend to be also nationalistic in the types of cuisine they eat. The gourmets who love eating a variety of food tend to be very social, whereas those who eat only within a very limited set of recipes tend to be reclusive." I think I would definitely class myself as a gourmet and I do tend to socialise with quite a variety of people. My friend, John, who is the total opposite is much more reclusive and selective with his friendships. Initially I tried to tell him that he needs to change and try and mould him more like myself. But as I said earlier, this usually ends in conflict that did occur between us so is not a good idea. We have had talks about this and as he pointed out, he provides certain aspects of friendship that I enjoy and that I should seek other aspects from other people. Now that I understand him more, I do see that he does provide a different type of frienship to most of my other friends. We tend to have more philosophical discussions that I would never have with most of my high school and uni friends. I guess that is the beauty of work, you meet a variety of people who tend to be different in age to yourself. In school where most people are the same age, we tend to go through the same experiences and hence have limited differences in how we see life.

To sum up, I think Suematsu says it best that "as you get older and wiser, your relationship to food or to people becomes more natural, i.e., as opposed to artificial, or symbolic. Enjoy the company of others for what it is. Don't use it as something else. Don't try to make it do what it is not meant to do. Don't force yourself to enjoy it. The more you know yourself, the less it matters who you associate yourself with, and the more enjoyable people will become."

Food Review: La Paella

I went to La Paella Spanish/Moroccan Restaurant with 3 friends on Saturday. The restaurant is located on Sydney Road in Brunswick. This restuarant is one of few restaurants that actually have a webpage. Just having a good webpage scores them points with me already. You can get a feel of what the food is like through the menu and also the costs involved.

The atomsphere inside is comfortable with Moroccan pottery lining the walls and lots of other trinkets on sale littered around the restaurant, including the famous tagines, conical clay pots. You can see the pottery in the picture on the left behind Harinder (in his very cool Indian shirt) and the booth seating with these colourful cushions. There is soft percussive music played in the background and the constant clack clack of the ceiling fans actually sound like those wood clapping things that Flamenco dancers use.

The service is efficient and straight forward. We were given adequate time to order and were looked after with the waitress' attention easily caught to get a glass changed. The waitress made a polite enquiry about the food at the start, which was good in case there was anything wrong.

The food, which is what you come for at La Paella was extremely good. We wanted to order their famous Seafood Paella but seeing how it would take 45 minutes, we decided maybe we will try that next time when we went a bit earlier. So we settled for entrees of Chicken Shasliks (chicken skewers) and Chickpea Salad, and mains of Beef Tagine, Chicken Irfan and Lamb Shanks.

The Shasliks weren't that good, with the chicken being a bit dry and lacking flavour. Surprisingly the Chickpea salad was liked by all, including me. The salad had a nice flavour to it and was fresh and light, with the chickpeas cooked sufficiently so that they were soft.

The Lamb Shanks was nice and hearty with the shanks extremely soft and the meat falling off the bone. It was served with vegetables and and a bed of mash. The Chicken Irfan was very interesting, with grilled banana and pineapple used in the dish. I liked the banana but I have a thing about pineapple in savoury food, I don't mind if it accompanies the food to add flavour but I won't eat it. This is not to say I don't like pineapple, far from it, I love pineapple on its own with some salt and chilli sprinkled on it, I just don't like eating pineapple in savoury food. The chicken itself was a little dry but eaten together with the onions and banana, it worked very nicely. My favourite dish was the Beef Tagine. The beef was moist and soft and the prunes, onions, almonds all made for a very interesting flavour.

For dessert, they only had one item that night, which was the Spanish Flan, so we all got that (it was an easy decision between ice cream or cream with everyone opting for ice cream). The flan was sort of like a creme caramel/custard without the caramel sauce. Instead it had an orange sauce at the bottom and was served with orange slices sprinkled with icing sugar and the ice cream. The orange flavours worked well and it wasn't too sweet.

Overall, La Paella is great food that is different and worth eating once in a while. The atmosphere is good without being too noisy and service is efficient. The prices of the food is quite fare I thought, with the dishes being very substantial in size and quality.

Overall Rating: 16/20, Great food that blends many different flavours.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Tilt Shift Photography

I read about Tilt Photography in the Whirlpool Forums and found it very interesting so gave it a try. Tilt Photograph is about distorting an image so that everything looks like a tiny miniature. It can be done with expensive lens or using Photoshop. Obviously the Photoshop ones don't look as good, but are still quite amazing.

My try at a miniature picture (above) isn't that great because there was a tutorial on how to use Photoshop to do it but since I don't have Photoshop, I tried using Paint Shop Pro but couldn't find all the same functions.

If the pictures are done properly, they should look more like something below.

Two good websites for seeing more of these types of photos are MetropolisMag and The Bitter Girls blog, which also has lots of other great photos. The blog is in Japanese so you wont understand any of it but the pictures are very good.