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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Melbourne Photos

I've found a website called Melbourne Photos, which has so many photos of Melbourne taken by members of the website. There's so many great shots of Melbourne. Some locations are familiar to me whilst some aren't. However, just seeing the familiar places from all the different angles makes it look so different to what I usually see. It just shows that we sometimes don't pay close enough attention to things around us.

I absolutely love the panoramic shots, such as this one below.

Go and have a browse and see the beautiful sights around Melbourne.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Movie Review - Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End is the final installment of the successful Pirates franchise, which was apparently all based on a amusement park ride. I really liked Pirates 1, but the two following movies have proven a big disappointment. The first Pirates movie was clever, funny, different and had a good story. All aspects of it was good and it has an ending already. The fact that the movie made money and they decided to cash in on it just ruined the name.

I forgave the second movie since I thought that it was setting up for the third movie. So I sat through the second movie and took in all the crazy storylines. The humour was predictable and the special effects were not amazing anymore. I had seen all of it in the first Pirates movie. Will and Elizabeth were already together and now they needed a story to push them apart again. Depp's great portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow was brilliant in the first film. But now every nuance of Jack's character was just repeatitive without good dialogue and story to help take the character further.

The third movie literally takes off where the second movie left. Everyone is searching for something that all involves the chest with Davey Jones' heart. Will needs it to save his father, Elizabeth needs it to save her father and Will. Jack needs it to save himself. Captain Barbossa needs it to save himself, and Calypso needs it to save herself. Captain Beckett needs it so that he can control the seas and make the East India Trading company stronger. At least that's what I think everyone needs it for. The plot is a tad confusing, with the writers trying to weave so many stories together and including all these double dealings between everyone.

The story went along very slowly in my opinion, despite all the effects and attempts to build drama. I didn't even know who and what cause I should be supporting. The supposed bad guys in Beckett and Davey Jones didn't seem that bad. As if it wasn't bad enough to have so many characters already, we now had even more pirates in the form of Chow Yun Fat's Sao Feng. It's just all a mess.

In the end, I don't know if there was a happy ending or not. The empire and Beckett were destroyed, Calypso got free, Barbossa stayed alive, Jack is alive, Will is alive of sorts and Elizabeth is living on some island? I don't know what happened. It's just all so silly and pointless it seems.

The battle scene between the Black Pearl and the empires ship was pretty good but since I hadn't fully involved myself emotional, it wasn't great. Battle scenes work when the viewer has investment emotional attachment to one side, like the battles in the other great proper trilogies of Lord of the Rings, Matrix and Star Wars.

My final opinion is that everyone will probably watch Pirates 3 just to see the ending and be able to talk to their friends about it. However, the greedy producers should have just left a good thing as it was and finished the Pirates films after the first one.

Overall Rating: **1/2 Effects are good but story is confusing and quite dull.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Distracted Dim Sim Seller

I was just at Dandenong Market delivery stock to some vendors. It was way past lunch time and I hadn't eaten any lunch yet, so felt like eating some dim sims. I saw a sign outside a shop saying $1 per dim sim. I went inside, to discover that it was $1.20 each or 3 for $3. That was ok, since I was going to get 3 anyway.

The good looking blonde girl in front of me asked for 2 dim sims. The teenage boy behind the counter grabbed 3 and chucked them in a bag. She said "I only want two". He replied "It's ok, they're the same price" and gave her a smile. He was totally flirting with her.

I was next so asked for 3 dim sims. He put them in the bag and I gave him $5. He then dropped the change into my hands and I walked out of the shop. When I went to put the money in my wallet, I saw that he had gave me 2 of $2 coins instead of $1 coins. He must still have been distracted and thinking of the girl and hence I got my dim sims for the dirt cheap price of 3 for $1. :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Totally Lacking Motivation

I'm currently going through my lacking motivation phase again where everything seems so pointless. Its been going on for about a couple of weeks. Once again, it seems to have strangely occurred around the time of my birthday just like last year. It also is around the time of our "performance review" at work, which might also have something to do with my current mood.

The symptoms of my current mood is that I haven't slept too well lately. I go through some occasional moody phases where I whinge a bit about how boring everything is and generally don't feel like doing anything and have a foul temper. I'm really restless at work and just want to go home and do nothing all the time.

I wonder if its about getting another year older and yet feeling like I haven't achieved as much as I've wanted in the past year. Or if it about our coming performance review where I really want and think I deserve a pay rise as I am massively underpaid according to the APESMA Dec 06 Salary Summary Report. That's made me slightly aggrevated and questioning whether I need to change jobs and look for more attractive options. I really am unsure about what to do.

Anyway, I'm not as confused as last year where I really didn't know what life was about at all. I'm still fairly clueless to what our aim in life is, but I'm learning to accept that I will never truly understand and just to make the best of it.

On an aside, I heard about this book called "Stumbling on Happiness", where the author wrote that the book wasn't about how to find happiness but accepting that we are incapable of finding happiness. I guess after reading this, it could make you happier since you know that its not your fault that you can't find happiness? Has anyone read this book and is it worth buying so that I can satisfy my urge to know that I cannot find happiness so hence I should be happy knowing that.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Search For The Next Doll

Last night was the season finale of the show "The Search For The Next Doll". It's a show similar to Australian Idol where they try to find another singer/dancer for the new girl group The Pussycat Dolls. However, The Search For The Next Doll is even more low-brow than Idol and should be classified as a comedy rather than a reality TV show. It was one of the funniest shows I tape and watch each week.

The thing that made the show great was how seriously everyone involved in it was taking it, when it was clearly a fairy floss show with no substance at all. Before the show had even begun, the producer had come out and said that the show was a push for "girlpower and empowering women". Also, the show was helping to drive the feminist movement. Is this guy on drugs or something? For those that haven't watched the show, its young girls dressing up and putting on as much make up as possible to look like a stripper and then do stripper like moves on stage while singing (rather badly) for a chance to join a girl group that also danced like strippers and had only one notable lead singer. Why the group needs a 4th (or is it 5th or 6th, there's so many of them and I don't know any of their names) dance to dance behind lead singer (and only talented one) Nicole is a mystery. But hey, anything nowadays gets made into a reality show.

Each week, the girls are given ass-ignments to do. The first few weeks involved tasks such as "finding your inner sexiness", "finding your personality" and "expressing your own style". This always involved dressing up like strippers and then doing sexy dance moves, which usually involved some ass shaking and a pole. At the end of each week, creator Robin Antin, music exec Ron Fair and acoording to host Mark McGrath, "one of the most successful female artists of all time" (really?, how many Lil Kim songs can you name?) Lil Kim, would rate the girls. One girl would get eliminated and hang up her pink boa.

So this elimination went on for 8 weeks. Each week there were so many catfights and backstabbing and immature tantrum fits, it was like 2 year olds in the playground, minus the backstabbing part. The catfights and backstabbing was as good as any scripted dramas like Melrose Place. There were so many slanging matches from "You dance like a transexual" to "Don't f**ken talk to me you stupid b**ch". Classic. There was also so many tears when the girls would feel they were not getting the dance routine, couldn't sing the song, were getting tired, felt like no one was supporting them, felt like the other girls were attacking them or were feeling fat. The fact that they were all size 6 but still there was quite a few episodes of "I'm feeling so fat". There wasn't much "girlpower" being displayed each week.

The side characters in the show, creator Robin Antin, choreography Mickey Minchin, vocal coach Eric Dawkins and the music producer whose name I can't remember also provided some comedy gold. Robin Antin would act like mother hen sometimes and reassure the girls while other times she would be queen bee and yell at them for not "finding their inner doll". Whatever that means, but that terms came up more times than one could laugh at. Vocal coach Eric provided a few gems too, such as when he compared one of the girls singing to nails on a chalkboard (a fair assessment I thought) but it was Mickey Minchin who would steal the show. He could not be more stereotypically gay. He could turn the gay factor up to 11. He would yell at one particular girl, Chelsea, so often for not getting the dances moves. "You have to bend lower and stick out your ass more. Then you have to pump those fists and snap them down." He would then do an example and show us his best stripper moves. Totally hilarious. So he would totally ridicule the girls all the time. Such great support in your quest to make it into the world of music, or stripping.

Finally, when it got down to three, we got the season's biggest catfight of all time. The swearing and vengeance that came out of the two girls, Asia and Melissa, was totally unbelievable. They would normally act so nice but man they could swear and be so crude when they wanted. Then the next day they had to perform a song together and were hugging again. Wow women can turn around really quick. So after all their dances and singing, the winner was announced, it was Asia since she really could "express her innner doll" on stage.

And what was Asia's prize for winning, well she got to immediately join The Pussycat Dolls on stage and sing a song. So I was expecting Asia to get to sing lead vocals and be centre stage after she had just won this show. Right? Wrong! Instead, Asia was on the far left stage dancing along with the other 4 (5 or 6) dancers behind Nicole who was the focus of the cameras while she sang the song. What's the point of the supposed "nationwide" search which produced so few actual singers and so much empthasis on dancing for another girl to join the group. How many more people do you need to do no singing and dance behind Nicole. When we listen to a CD, we don't see any of those other group members. And when they do shows, they can hire professional dancers.

Anyway, despite the seemingly pointless nature of the show, it was great TV entertainment, whether they meant it or not. I suspect not. They were really taking it so seriously but the rest of the viewing audience was just laughing at them and not with them. It was pure comedy gold. Bring on the next series.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Case of The Unreturned Money - By Detective Thanh

We all have those friends, you know the ones I'm talking about. They're the friends who borrow or find themselves oweing you money but never quite get round to returning it.

I try to make it a point to note down money that I owe people so that I can continue to borrow money from them when I really find myself without cash temporarily. I tell people to remind me just in case I forget. However, some other people seem to make a habit to forget to return money that they owe me.

I'm not tight with money at all and will happily shout people meals and drinks. But thats of my choosing. I don't like it to be conveniently forced out of me when people say "I'll just borrow a few dollars from you and I'll pay you back later", but never find the time to pay it back. I know its only a few dollars, but it does add up, and also show what type of character they are. I mean we all truly forget things sometimes, but when it happens often, well I can come to two conclusions. The first is that they have an extremely bad memory, in which case they should leave themselves a reminder. The second is that they genuinely do not intend on returning it. These people also tend to be the ones that never shout anyone to anything. Coincidence, I bet not.

Sometimes I don't lend people money as in they ask to borrow some. Its more a situational thing where we might split the bill for a meal and due to not having change, someone else will say "I'll pay you the rest later." But it never eventuates. I don't want to ask for a few dollars back and look like the petty one, but I'll make a mental note that everytime someone doesn't return money, its a little more respect that I lose for them and that I can't trust them entirely with financial matters.

Jogging Part 1

So after telling myself that I needed to get fit, I took the first steps, literally, today. I pulled on my Nike shoes and Adidas shorts and clipped on my ipod and off I went.

I went for a jog around the very scenic man made pond near my house. There were little ducks in the pond, the sun was shining brightly without being too warm or too cold. The reeds in the pond were swaying softly with the wind. Kids were playing and riding their bikes near the playground equipment. It was all perfect, except for the fact that I actually needed to run.

I hate running. I will never understand how some people say that its relaxing and lets them think. Even with the ipod running and my favourite music on, I only occasionally forgot about the fact that I had to run. But the thought of getting fatter and more unfit drove me to put one foot in front of the other.

I managed to jog for 8 minutes continuously around the pond and the nearby sports oval. Then for the remaining 22 minutes I switched between jogging and walking. But I never stopped once, so thats one good thing I did.

Hopefully I will keep going for as long as I still feel guilty about doing nothing and will get a little bit fitter. I'll probably mix it up with some bike riding, which I like, and some walking, which is much more relaxing and I really do think about different things.

Until the next jogging post update, I'm currently sore all over but feeling better in my head that I did some exercise.

Movie Review - Spiderman 3

I had actually watched Spiderman 3 more than a week ago, but its taken me till now to write the review. I guess thats saying something already, that I wasn't that excited about the movie to review it immediately.

I was going to watch Spiderman 3 no matter what, since I love science fiction/fantasy films. I also loved Spiderman 1 and 2 and couldn't wait to see the finale. When I read the review in The Age newspaper where they gave it 4.5 stars and ranked it up there in terms of a trilogy with Lord of the Rings (some of my favourite movies of all time), Matrix (Matrix 1 is my favourite favourite movie of all time) and Star Wars (again some of my favourite movies), they had set my expectation levels up to MAX.

Right from the start, the signs were not good. We missed the 9:40pm session as it was full. After waiting an hour for the 10:40pm session, we eagerly sat in our seats ready for the film. About thirty minutes into the film just as we were about to learn about the Sandman, the movie stops. Just suddenly, the screen went blank. An usher went to the front and told us there was a "technical difficulty". After a 15 minute unexpected intermission (I have never been at a movie that actually stopped for more than a few seconds), the film resumed.

Well to the actual film, I thought it was like a two part movie. The first part which I really liked was Peter's struggle with trying to get a grasp of his new fame and how that affected his relationship with Mary Jane, who's fame he had now overshone. Also, Peter's relationship with his best friend, Harry, was being tested due to Harry thinking that Peter killed his father. I think that the whole movie should have been about Peter and Harry resolving their problems, either to be friends again or be eternal enemies. Then when there was a final resolution, that should have been the end.

The black spiderman suit thing could have been weaved in somewhere to show how power can get to you head. However, trying to introduce more villains like Sandman and the photographer Eddie didn't work for me. They seemed to be there just for the sake of effects. I know that the Sandman's story was relevant in that it tied it all back together in terms of him killing Peter's uncle, but it didn't work for me. The photographer Eddie and his competition with Peter professionally was just a silly unnecessary side story.

The effects of the movie are truly stunning and the chase scene at the start between Peter and Harry was breath taking. However, lots of movies have great effects (maybe not as good, but still good) and the days of the blockbuster with no story just won't cut it anymore.

In terms of acting, I really like James Franco's portrayal of Harry. For me, his anger and then ignorance as he had amnesia were great. Tobey McGuire was good as usual but I didn't like Kirsten Dunst's performance that much. I found her character kind of annoying.

So to sum it up, this final movie of the Spiderman triology does not lift it into the upper Echelon of trilogies such as Lord of the Rings, Matrix or Star Wars. It could have been so good had they (in my opinion) focused on the story between Peter and Harry and Peter and Mary Jane, characters that had a long history and who we have gotten to know over the last two films. They already had the perfect villain in Harry and in Peter's internal struggles in coming to terms still of his alter ego. Peter still needed to fully believe that "With great power comes great responsiblity" and a final resolution shown.

Overall Rating: ***
I liked the first half of the movie and the effects.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Time To Get Fit

Question: When do you know it’s time to get fit again?
Answer: When you throw up after the first game of the new indoor soccer season.
For the last three months after the previous indoor soccer season finished, I’ve been very inactive and gluttonous. I hardly do any exercise and have been eating so much unhealthy (but extremely tasty) food and started to develop a liking for wine as well.

All of these bad things have culminated in me putting on 2 kgs. Some of my work pants are getting a bit tight again. I’ve begun to walk around the block at lunch times and even that makes my legs tired.

Well tonight, my fitness would be tested even more and I failed miserably. Tonight was the first game of our new indoor soccer season. Usually in the first game, there is always a casualty of war. Due to too much inactivity in the off season, everyone comes back extremely unfit but enthusiastic to play. This means that we do not pace ourselves during the game and run way too hard for our fitness levels. This results in someone getting a bad headache or worse still, throwing up. In previous seasons, others have had that infamy. Tonight, it was to be my turn.

I did not help my own cause by eating just before the game, but still, it was mainly my own lack of fitness that did it. I managed to get out of the stadium just in time to throw up in the bin. Initially, my friend Justin thought I might have thrown up in the recycling bin. That would have been funny but bad. It turns out it was the regular trash bin. After 5 great vomits that a bulimic would be proud of, I felt so light headed it was worse than having 4 beers. I managed to drive home and then take a quick lie down. I’m feeling slightly worse for wear now and have written this post to remind myself to start eating better and do regular daily exercise. Hopefully in a two months time when the indoor season ends, I will be fit enough to run out a game without throwing up.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Another Mark In The Tree Of Life

"The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you." Bob Harris - Lost In Translation

It's been a year since my last birthday, which would make it my birthday again today. Gee I'm officially starting to feel old now. This past year rolled by so quickly that I really don't know where it went.

This year has been great in a few ways. The jobs getting better. I'm getting more responsiblities and have definitely learnt a lot from my three group members professionally and personally. I've also started a small buiness and I'm still enthusiastic about that. Hopefully it will end up being my way to early retirement.

My life socially has been good too. I have lots of fun going out with friends each week. Still need to do some work on the love life front. Any help in that area from anyone will be appreciated. :-) Where are all the geeky women of the world?

In terms of personal development, I think I've taken huge strides this year. Being out in the work environment and being able to mix with people of different age and experience from myself has allowed me to learn a lot from them, a few in particular who have been so kind to share their thoughts with me. As Bill Murray as Bob said in Lost in Translation, "The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you". I think that knowing what I want more and more has made life so much easier. I now only give my time to people that I care about. I am much more upfront about things and do not entertain people just for the sake of trying to be nice. I've also learnt to control my emotions more and not get upset and take too many things personally. Things still bother me, but I tend to think about it, decided on a resolution (which may be to accept it or just acknowledge something) and then move on. Life is too short to be upset.

I've also learnt to occasionally reflect on my life and things around it. The simple act of thinking about something makes you question things and that can only lead to more understanding.

This blog and my food blog have also been great outlets for my opinions, emotions and just general thoughts that I wish to express. I've also met and gotten to know lots of great people from their blogs and have thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

A Life Too Short

As I had written previously in my post about depression, the state of our minds is so critical to our lives. In some cases, it can be fatal.

I found out this week that a cousin of mine had passed away due to suicide. I've never actually known anyone personally who committed suicide. This was the first and it really shocked me.

I really loved this cousin. She is quite a bit older than me and would look after me when I was young. She would give me lots of toys and play games with me. I had only seen her about a year ago and had even sent her a cd not so long ago. She was always so carefree and relaxed. She didn't seem to have a worry in the world. Thats why the news was so shocking that I couldn't believe it. I thought there must have been a mistake.

It such a tragedy that her life was ended so abruptly. I really wonder what drove her to suicide? She showed no signs of depression as far as I could tell. No one in her family picked it either. If even someone who was so outwardly happy could commit suicide, it really shows how fragile our minds can be. I hope she is resting in peace "up there" and is being joined by her elder sister, whose life was also tragically ended abruptly in a car accident.

Seminar, Sickness and Sleep 2

Something weird happens whenever I attend training for work. I get sick. Like I had written in my previous post Seminar, Sickness and Sleep, again I was sick last week when I had to attend another seminar.

From my training sessions so far this year, I have only felt well at one of them. When I went to the Matlab training, I had a massive headache during the first of two days. At the Project Management training, I had the worse cold and couldn't breathe on the first day so didn't feel like participating. I was also very tired and just wanted to sleep. The second day, I still had the cold but at least a good nights sleep meant my head was clearer. The only training session where I was well was at the Six Hats training, and I slept in and was late to that.

I guess the solution is quite obvious, get a good nights sleep. Somehow though, every time I am supposed to go to training, I don't sleep well. I'm not worried about the actual training, its more the waking up early and having to get to the city on time. It's this worry that actually makes me not sleep well.

This current Matlab seminar was probably the worse. Even before I went into the room, I was already not well. I passed up on Apricot Danishes that were there before the seminar started. I love food, especially sweet stuff so this was amazing. As the seminar started, it just got worse and worse and I had to keep drinking water to stay awake.

At morning tea break, I again passed up on Chocolate Muffins. My goodness I was really unwell. I literally feel asleep on a chair during the break, and my work mate had to wake me up to go back in.

Finally the session finished at lunch and again I passed up on a free lunch. I felt like vomitting and rushed to the toilet just in case. After some dry vomitting, I rushed to the car to drive myself home. I couldn't go back to work as I was really unwell. Four hours of sleep upon arriving home and I was so much better.

I need to trick my mind next time I have training to think that its just a normal day. Otherwise, I think I will be sick again and not have enough concentration to make full use of my training.