Wednesday, 30 May 2012

RIP: Doc Watson

Doc Watson, who? From the wikipedia: Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson (born 3 Mar 1923, died 29 May 2012) was an American guitar player, songwriter and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues and gospel music. He won seven Grammy awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Watson's flatpicking skills and knowledge of traditional American music were highly regarded.

Just dig that Abe Lincoln beard on Doc Watson's record, Memories:
Side 1: Rambling Hobo, Shady Grove, Wake Up Little Maggie, Peartree, Keep on the Sunny Side, Double File and Salt Creek
Side 2: Curly Headed Baby, Miss the Mississippi and You, Wabash Cannonball, My Rose of Old Kentucky, Blues Stay Away from Me
Side 3: Walking Boss, Make Me a Pallet, In the Jailhouse Now, Steel Guitar Rag, Hang Your Head in Shame, You Don't Know My Mind Blues
Side 4: Moody River, Don't Tell Me Your Troubles, Columbus Stockade, Mama Don't Allow No Music, Thoughts of Never

How to learn more about the history of New Zealand

Located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean near Australia, New Zealand is a small island country that became an independent dominion in 1907. Being a rather isolated country, it can be hard to understand the impact New Zealand has had in the Pacific region. As a country that first started as a colonial power, the emotional impact of social injustice on its indigenous people can also hinder study. However, New Zealand is a fascinating place and learning its history is worth the effort. Here are several ways to start learning about New Zealand's rich past.

Study the Maori People

The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Isolated from the rest of the world, they have a unique culture with their own language, rich mythology, distinctive crafts and performing arts. The arrival of Europeans in the 17th century took a toll on their people and way of life. In recent history, descendents of the Maori fought for their rights and now make up about 15 percent of New Zealand's population. Learning about these indigenous people is a great way to start learning about the history of New Zealand.

Study New Zealand's Holidays and Events

The holidays and events of New Zealand reflect their culture and highlight historical events. Understanding what happened during these events and the reason why New Zealanders celebrate them is a great way to start delving into their history.

Study Online

For those interested in learning about New Zealand's history in a course setting, consider getting information about history classes online here to gain a better understanding.

Check Out New Zealand History Online

New Zealand History Online was initially launched by the Minister of Internal Affairs – the Hon. Jack Elder – in 1999. The site provides information and resources from the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, located in Wellington, New Zealand. Categories include culture and society, politics and government, and war and society. The site also has guides, links to external websites, and material for history students and teachers.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Flying KL-Christchurch: the end of an era

This is truly the end of an era. No more budget flights to New Zealand effective tomorrow. With AirAsia X terminating their flights to Christchurch, all that's left now are the regular flights by Malaysia Airlines, and they are only flying between Kuala Lumpur and Auckland, not Christchurch.

I had suggested to a friend in Christchurch that perhaps the reason for AirAsia X pulling out from this sector was because they weren't making any money. On the contrary, he wrote back. He said he had a friend connected with the aviation industry in New Zealand who insisted that this was the result of the previous shares swap arrangement between AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.

One of the consequences of the shares swap was that there would be a realignment of routes. AirAsia would have to give up something in return for the lucrative routes they were seeking. In the end, Christchurch was affected, leaving Malaysia Airlines as the only Malaysian airline to fly to New Zealand.

Whatever the real reason, let me say that for about one and a half years, Malaysians had the chance to enjoy the pleasures of New Zealand's beautiful South Island. So let me thank you, AirAsia, for making that happen for some of us!

Monday, 28 May 2012

New mobile, the HTC Explorer

I was waylaid at the shopping mall just the other day. There I was, minding my own business while walking through the mall with my son and aunt after a nice hearty meal at one of the eateries when a young lady openly called me over to her. Uh, perish the thought if you thought there was something untoward going on.

No, she was only trying to interest me in one of the mobile phone packages that her company was promoting. "But I already have a package from you," I told her. "And I don't want any new package that would cost me additional money," I added, hoping that she'd leave me alone then.

"But here is an offer of a free phone," she persisted. "If you will allow me to look into your current mobile account, you may actually qualify for it," she continued. And then she shoved a brochure under my eyes. Gently shoved, that is. "If you qualify and if you subscribe to this data plan, you can get the HTC Explorer free."

Mmm, a free phone? Now I'm interested. I'll tell you why I'm interested. I'm interested because for the past two months, I've been reduced to using my wife's spare mobile, an ancient clam shell Samsung, while I considered a permanent replacement for that lousy junk of a mobile, the Nokia C6. And I haven't been able to make up my mind at all! My son has been suggesting the HTC One V to me, my daughter asked me to go with the Samsung Note, while a friend had been telling me about the Sony Experia V which, by the way, I can't find in the shops!

So in a sense, walking past by this young lady sort of forced the decision onto me to get the HTC Explorer. All I needed to do was to have her terminate my old data plan and resubscribe to it. Of course, there was a small catch. I had to pay a deposit of RM300 into my mobile account and be tied into a 24-month contract with the mobile phone company. But, the lady beamed at me after having snared a customer, your monthly bills will be offset against this deposit. Frankly, I didn't mind because well, it's still my money in my account.

Now, having played with this new toy for the past few days, I must say that it satisfies all my needs. I don't need one of those high-end, spiffy mobiles that have a fast chip or the latest operating system to go with all the bells and whistles. Many of the features will be lost on me anyway. I'm already quite satisfied if I can now connect occasionally to the Internet through 3G in order to check my emails.

And I certainly don't need a five megapixel or an eight megapixel mobile camera. In my opinion, nothing can outperform a dedicated camera. Having said this, let me say as an aside that I was pleasantly surprised by the results from the HTC Explorer's three megapixel camera. Had used it yesterday as a last resort when I discovered that I had forgotten to bring out a camera when I visited the Nandaka Vihara Buddhist Meditation Centre at the foothills of the Bukit Mertajam Hill at Cherok Tokun. Quality's not that bad, right?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Penang Free School's original crest?

Any Old Free worth his salt will tell you that the present premises of the Penang Free School in Green Lane was occupied only from 1928. Before then, the school was located at its old premises in Farquhar Street.

This old premises was built in two phases. The east wing which was nearer to the Church of St George the Martyr was built during the period when William Hargreaves was the headmaster and it was ready in 1897. The west wing was completed later in 1907 when Ralph Henry Pinhorn had already become the headmaster. After the Penang Free School relocated to Green Lane on 9 Jan 1928 during headmaster DR Swaine's stewardship, the old premises was taken over by its feeder school, the Hutchings School.

Today, the full structure of the magnificent old building can only be gleaned from sources like picture postcards of the early 20th century such as, for example, this one:

This is because the eastern half of the building was destroyed on 1 Feb 1945 during bombing raids. Ironically, it weren't the Japanese that bombed the building but the Allied forces. What's left of the  premises eventually became the Penang State Museum in April 1965.

All visible evidence of the building having been used as the Penang Free School have almost disappeared. However, there are still some marks on the building's exterior that give away its original use.

When I was visiting the museum just last week with Dr Alex Ooi, the president of The Old Frees' Association Singapore, we were staring up at the upper storey of the building and suddenly, it hit us that high above where we stood, decorated on a frieze above one of the arches, was an encircled mark:

The discovery excited us. Was this possibly the Penang Free School's very first crest? A very simple design, no doubt, but a very significant one. We then walked along the main road, still glancing upwards at the building from different angles, and there they were again: the unmistakable marks again at two different spots.

While we could still be wrong, we'd like to believe that yes, this was it: the original crest of the Penang Free School that dated back to at least 1907 when the west wing was completed.

Although it is now impossible to make any physical comparison with the destroyed east wing, the chances are very great that the newer west wing was a mirrored replica of the older east wing. As early architectural designs tend to adopt symmetry along a central dividing line, I am rather inclined to believe that the same PFS marks we saw would have also appeared on the corresponding block on the east wing and if so, that should date the crest even earlier to 1897.

But whatever the case, by the time the school's centenary celebrations had rolled by in 1916, a different crest design had already been adopted.


Friday, 25 May 2012

The haircut

One day a florist went to Fred for a haircut. After the cut he asked about the bill and the barber replied, "I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week." The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop came in for a haircut and when he tried to pay his bill, the barber again replied, "I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week." The cop was happy and left the shop. The next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen doughnuts waiting for the barber at his door.

Then a Member of Parliament came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week." The politician was very happy and left the shop. The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen other Members of Parliament lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.


If you don't share this with others, you have no sense of humour.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Don't you just love child prodigies?

This is an excerpt from the blog of veteran Malaysian parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang. I just want to bring reader's attention to the part that I've highlighted in red. The antics by the irresponsible UMNO/BN cybertroopers, as LKS describes them, are so thoroughly lame. Says a lot for their intelligence. Just like the army veterans, their brains are located at the wrong end of their bodies. Ha ha...

But what is even more monstrous is the accusation by these UMNO/BN cybertroopers that Lim Guan Eng was also responsible for the May 13 riots of 1969 on the ground that Guan Eng was the DAP Youth leader at the time and was in the forefront of anti-Malay attacks.

This is a triple lie.

Firstly, the DAP was never anti-Malay but was fully committed since our formation in 1966 to be a Malaysian party representing the legitimate rights and interests of all races in the country.

In fact, in 1969 DAP fielded several Malay candidates for parliamentary and state assembly elections and two Malay State Assemblymen were elected on DAP tickets, one in Perak and the other in Negri Sembilan.

Secondly, there was no DAP Youth in l969 as DAPSY (DAP Socialist Youth) was only formed in 1973, and the late P.Patto was the first DAPSY leader.

Thirdly, Guan Eng was only eight years old in May 1969 – and it illustrates how dirty and unprincipled politics has degenerated in Malaysia in the run up to the next general elections that such a despicable and contemptible accusation could be leveled against an eight-year-old child!

Is it any wonder why Bersih’s Demands for clean, free and fair elections, in particular in its Bersih 2.0 Eight Demands to “Stop dirty politics”, “Stop corruption”, “Strengthen public institutions” and “Free and fair access to media” find so little traction with UMNO/BN leaders?

(Speech at the DAP Triang Thousand-People Dinner on the occasion of the official opening of Triang DAP Branch Building on Tuesday, 22nd May 2012)

NZ travelogue: Little Farm Homestay in Oamaru

I didn't expect my wife to catch me having a quiet conversation with our hostess, Julie Barclay, before breakfast at The Little Farm Homestay in Oamaru, New Zealand. We had just returned from watching the penguins at the Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve and we were famished. We arrived back at the house just as Julie was putting the finishing touches on our breakfast and I was curious to see what she had prepared for us.

We were quite surprised by the hearty portions before us. I had thought that our breakfast couldn't be better than the one we ate at the Albatross Inn just the day before but obviously, I was wrong. Delightfully wrong, as it turned out because this breakfast topped everything else that we had.

As can be seen from the picture, there was quite a lot of food on the plate. And as we ate, Julie was always nearby to engage us in conversation about our visit to her country. We shared a lot of information. This is definitely one of the better examples of homestay programmes. My wife wasn't disappointed with the stay here.

All too soon, we had to leave but not before we undertook a quick look around her compound. It is really a place to relax if you have all the time in the world.

And finally, here is Saw See with Julie. Hopefully, our paths may cross again one day.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Morning accident

It may have looked like a casual conversation between these two ladies at the junction of Green Lane and Cheeseman Road yesterday morning but in reality, they had just been involved in a freak motor accident.

Here are the two cars at the accident scene. For one of them to be turned onto its side would suggest that the force of the impact was very great. But surprisingly, there was no visible damage on it. Of course, the bonnet of the other car was wrecked in the collision.

Actually, I missed witnessing the accident by just a minute or so. When I passed by the junction, people were just starting to arrive at the turned car. I told my wife that we should stop and see whether anyone was injured. Luckily, the damages were only to the car. But there was a driver trapped in the overturned vehicle and people were helping the lady to climb out.

What surprised me was that the tow truck runners were very fast on the scene. Barely five minutes after the crash, I noticed a few making their alert calls already. However, I didn't stay to observe how happened next. Already late for my doctor's appointment.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Penang Story lecture on Dr Wu Lien-Teh

By my estimate, there must have been anything between 200 and 300 people at the auditorium of the Wawasan Open University in George Town on Saturday at the Penang Story Committee-organised talk on Dr Wu Lien-Teh.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was at hand to open the occasion. That he was present means that at long last, it is quite possible that our Penang-born Dr Wu Lien-Teh, truly a most illustrious yet unsung hero of Malaysia, may still get his due recognition from at least our Penang government.

There are so many different ways that we can honour this man, including a suggestion that either the Penang Free School Foundation or The Old Frees' Association could start a monetary award every year to the best graduate from the Penang Medical College (PMC). But I think the most meaningful way to remember him immediately is to rename the PMC as the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Penang Medical College.

At an informal lunch on Sunday, the topic of recognition was again raised and it was suggested by Anwar Fazal, the chairman of Think City Sdn Bhd, that a bust or statue could be made of Dr Wu and placed at a prominent location in Penang.

Dr Ye Tian of the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University indicated that there was no problem of the Chinese authorities donating a bronze statue of Dr Wu Lien-Teh to Penang. They were ever ready to do that anytime.

However there was a revelation that about four years ago when a documentary on Dr Wu's life was being prepared by Singapore's Media Corp, the former headmaster of the Penang Free School had turned down the opportunity to have the statue erected in the school's premises. I have my own thoughts why he refused the commemoration but I shall leave it to others to form their own opinions.

People may say that the school itself had already honoured Dr Wu in the past by naming a sport house as Wu Lien-Teh House. However, this was done so very long ago. Senior members at The Old Frees' Association told me that when they studied at the Penang Free School in the 1950s, there was already a Wu Lien-Teh House. So the school's recognition was made at a time when he was still alive.

There's also a short private road in a housing area opposite the school that is called Taman Wu Lien Teh. Some old houses lined one side of the road while on the other side was the compound of the Penang state mosque. However, there is nothing exclusive or glamourous about being known as a "private" road. The condition of the road turned out to be rather dilapidated. What a disappointment. And I even doubt whether at all many people are aware of its existence.

In Ipoh where Dr Wu had resumed his private medical practice after returning from China in 1937, there is also a road in a residential area that was named after him.

So let me say that it is time that we give another round of recognition to Dr Wu Lien-Teh for his immense contribution to world health. He was a Penang-born who saved the world. He had the world at his feet but then he chose to return here to private medical practice and live out the rest of his life in relative obscurity. He was a real Anak Pulau Pinang, a real Son of the Penang Free School.

Press conference before the start of the talk. From left: MS Rajendren (president of The Old Frees' Association), Loke Gim Tay (vice-president of the Singapore-China Friendship Association), Dr Alex Ooi (president of The Old Frees' Association Singapore), Datuk Anwar Fazal (chairman of Think City), Ong Lay Hong (speaker and producer of the documentary film “Plague Fighter Dr Wu Lien-Teh”) and Dr Ye Tian (chair of the Division of Cardiology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University)

And then there was one

Of course, I've been expecting this to happen ever since I heard last November that Robin Gibb was seriously ill. Nevertheless, there is always a little sadness when the inevitable does happen.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Red car

I was buying my semi-synthetic motor oil at the Toyota service centre in the Prai industrial estate this morning and saw this strikingly red car sitting pretty there. Naturally, went closer to admire it. Turned out that this was the Prius C, the latest hybrid car from Toyota. Was astounded to learn from the salesman that this car's petrol consumption was reported to be just 3.9 litres per 100 kilometres. Better keep this news away from my wife: she already has a red phone and a red camera. What's next? A ... red car?


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Game 4, world chess championship

The world chess championship title match between defending champion Viswanathan Anand of India and challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel, but previously from the old Soviet Union, is well underway in Moscow.

Yesterday was already the fourth game of the 12-game match. The score stands at two-all with all four games drawn. The only excitement so far was the third game on Monday when there were skirmishes on the chess board. But apart from that, the first, second and fourth games were rather insipid.

Were the players still probing one another? Looked like it. However, the temperature on the chess board should be stoked up soon because the two players are running out of time to show the world that this match won't go down in history as the most boring one on record.

In the meantime, I just want to share this position from the fourth game. I'm sure it wasn't pre-planned or intentional, but the position just happened. It was rather unique that a wall has been erected on the d-file. Every square on this file was occupied by a piece. You don't see that very often!

Flashback malware

I have to face up to the inevitable fact that my MacBook - which, by the way, I use very little nowadays - is now liable to get infected by computer malware if I'm not careful. In particular, the flashback virus has been in the news for several weeks now and users of Apple computers are rushing frantically to get a fix.

Suddenly, Apple users have come to realise that it is not only about flashback but computer viruses in general that can infect their machines. Apple computers are no longer the safe machines once believed.

Apple itself has come out to patch up their most recent operating systems although they were slow, or perhaps reluctant, to respond immediately. As usual, they thought smugly that their operating systems were invincible to attacks. But eventually, they did respond with the patches for their newest OS X operating systems.

Yesterday, I learnt that the company has released an update for their old OS X Leopard. Glad to hear that of course, but nevertheless I'm still disappointed because there was nothing for the OS X Tiger which I'm still using. Tich, I'm way behind in my OS X, aren't I?

Fortunately though, I still hope to be spared from this flashback infection because of a fortuitous decision to instal an anti-virus program on my MacBook. This was done in March 2011 - that's more than a year ago - on the advice of an old school pal who had alerted me from London about the possibility of Apple computers being affected by viruses, not particularly flashback. He had then recommended me using the free Sophos anti-virus program.

I'm still in the process of doing a thorough anti-virus scan of my MacBook's harddisk and at slightly past midnight, it still looks clean. So far, it has been a very slow process, already taken almost two hours and only about 320,000 items on the computer scanned with another 280,000 to go. Whatever, I am rather thankful that I had listened to my old friend. Better be safe than sorry.

Anyhow as an added insurance, I've also disabled Java on both the Firefox and Safari browser programs on the MacBook. Can't be too careful, can I?

UPDATE: Sophos finished scanning my harddisk at about four o'clock in the morning. So it was almost a six-hour job. The program detected three threats which I've now removed from the MacBook. Thankfully, flashback was not among them.

If you are an Apple user, you can download the Sophos Free Antivirus for Mac Home Edition from their website.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Free port status, sure?

One of the news items that I've read in recent days is this one in theSundaily and other newspapers, that quoted the newly-minted Penang Barisan Nasional chairman, Teng Chang Yeow, as saying that his party, if it recaptures the state in the next general elections, will push for Penang to get back its free port status.

Bunkum. Nonsense. What a big load of bullshit. Crap. This is plain old-fashioned dangling of a bait. Why talk in terms of "if it recaptures the state" and not now, as in "immediately?" If this is not dangling a bait, the only other way to describe it is daylight bribery.

The point is, if Teng and gang are serious about giving back the free port status to Penang, which the old Alliance, pre-Barisan Nasional, government took away in 1969, they do not have to wait until the general elections are over. Give it back to us now and prove your sincerity that it is not bribery or an election bait.

We do not mind if you hang up a signboard later on to declare that it is another "Barisan Nasional gift to the people of Penang" just like what you did shamelessly with the new Penang Hill railway station. We can live with the boasts. Just do it with no strings attached and I shall respect you for it, okay? Or else you are no better than your bosses in Putrajaya. Hot air....

Or, by the way, I'm sure that if the Pakatan Rakyat captures Putrajaya next, the free port status for Penang will be in the pipeline too, without the state having to ask too much.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Linda Ronstadt and The Byrds

I brought out some of my old vinyl records after a long time. It's not that I wasn't going to listen to them anymore but rather, I had been too busy with a lot of work. Playing vinyl records is not like playing a compact disc. With a compact disc, you would only need to switch on the CD player and then pop the compact disk into the tray. It's a straight-forward idiot mechanism.

With each of my vinyl records that I haven't played for a long while or which I would have acquired in recent months, I've got to go through the whole process of checking the condition of the playing surface, wet them properly with my potent mixture solution of distilled water, iso-propyl alcohol and surfactant, remove all the dirt that came off with this solution, and then ensure the record surfaces are dry enough before I place it on the turntable.

Of course, I've also to ensure that the stylus was clean without any dirt sticking to it. If it was dirty, I'd need to brush the dust away with my carbonfibre brush and then slowly apply my stylus-cleaning solution to it. So it takes a lot of time to prepare each record for playing. Not to mention too that at the end of playing the record, I've had to replace the inner sleeve if it was dirty from years of neglect. I'd normally do this for the old records anyway. All this work means that at the end of the process, I have an almost pristine album back on my shelf!

So this morning, I brought out two Greatest Hits records to clean and play. The first was by Linda Ronstadt. I had almost forgotten how well she interpreted other people's songs. She never wrote her own material but chose to use other people's. I wonder how much successful she could have been if she wrote herself. The late 1960s and 1970s was a period when singer songwriters had come to the fore, writing and singing their own stuff, and making a success of it.

Side One: You're No Good, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Desperado, Love Is A Rose, That'll Be The Day, long Long Time
Side Two: Different Drum, When Will I Be Loved, Love Has No Pride, Heat Wave, It Doesn't Matter Anymore, Tracks Of My Tears

The second album was from The Byrds. This was from a time when David Crosby was still playing with the group. He later left and had even greater success with Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young. But during the time he was with The Byrds, the group was known for its slick interpretations of Bob Dylan songs. In fact, on some tracks, I would have thought that it was Dylan singing himself!

Side One: Mr Tambourine Man, I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better, The Bells of Rhymney, Turn Turn Turn, All I Really Want To Do, Chimes Of Freedom
Side Two: Eight Miles High, Mr Spaceman, 5D (Fifth Dimension), So You Want To Be A Rock "N" Roll Star, My Back Pages

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Chess match in Shanghai, 1978

I was doing some spring cleaning around the house today and came across these two pictures from 1978. Jolted my memory quite a bit as I had forgotten where I had kept these pictures. I was part of the first Malaysian chess team to ever set foot in China. Quite an historic visit. We played the Chinese in Shanghai, Hangchow, Suchow and Peking.

The first picture was snapped by a Chinese photographer in Shanghai. The Malaysians were facing the camera. I'm the one sitting at the table nearest the cameraman, oblivious to everything else.

At the tables behind me were Abdul Rahman Ahmad, Christi Hon and Tan Bian Huat. The three Malaysian players nearest the long row of tables were Subramaniam Ramiah, Hu Yu Kuang and Chan Swee Loon.

The second picture was taken when we went on a cruise on the West Lake in Hangchow. We seven players all stood around while the four Malaysian officials sat. We were quite diverse, coming from different parts of the peninsula: Bian Huat and I were representing Penang, Abdul Rahman represented Kelantan, Christi and Subramaniam represented Selangor, Swee Loon represented Perak and Yu Kuang represented Johor. Back in 1978, these were the only states that were affiliated to the Malaysian Chess Federation.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Cross-over again? No thanks!

I can't say that I'm very up-to-date with watching the idiot box but I've just finished watching the much-vaunted cross-over episodes in Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS: Los Angeles after a self-imposed delay of 10 days.

What began on "Pa Make Loa" on Hawaii Five-0 (screened on 30 April 2012) ended on the NCIS: Los Angeles episode "Touch of Death" (screened on 1 May 2012). Interestingly, both episode titles mean the same thing.

On "Pa Make Loa", we had these two TV characters from NCIS: Los Angeles, G Callen and Sam Hanna, going to Oahu to investigate a smallpox scare while on "Touch of Death", Hawaii Five-0 TV characters Danny Williams and Chin Ho Kelly flew to LA to finish up on the case.

What's my take on the two shows? Personally, I still prefer watching Hawaii Five-0 for all the action and the unexpected twists and turns in the plots. The NCIS:LA episode was too sanitised for my liking and it was very excruciatingly painful to listen to the slow dialogue on this show. Do the characters talk like this every time? They sounded like they had to weigh the implication of every word before they uttered them. Even the action on this show did not get me exactly glued to my seat. 

So i shall welcome watching the next episode of Hawaii Five-0 when the producers have had enough of this cross-over stuff and bring back the whole gang.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

NZ travelogue: Oamaru's historical precinct

The historic precinct was the original commercial district of Oamaru. The old buildings were built from locally quarried limestone, the Oamaru whitestone. Today, the area is recognised as having New Zealand's most complete collection of Queen Victoria-era buildings. When we arrived at the historic precinct in the morning, there was hardly a handful of people on the streets. We were a bit puzzled; eleven o'clock can't be too early, can it? However, the shops were already open.

This was one of more interesting metal sculptures lining Tyne Street, which leads on to Bushy Beach where we had watched the penguins several hours earlier.

This Victorian building is one of many along Tyne Street. Somehow, it reminded me so much of home in George Town, Penang, or maybe I was starting to get a little homesick looking at these buildings.

Awesome-looking vintage car (junk?) on display in the Grainstore Gallery. We entered the building from Tyne Street, walked through its length, and emerged into Harbour Street.

Our next stop was the Harbour Street Market at the Connell & Clowes building. Apart from the vendors, we were the only ones there. We browsed round the stalls and I picked up two second-hand compact discs selling for NZD4 each.

Saw See was bedazzled by the items at the Harbour Street Market but ended up not buying anything. Couldn't make up her mind but actually, they were not very practical.

The Lanes Emulsion building now houses a bakery. We were too full after a hearty breakfast at The Little Farm Homestay and did not try the pork pie here. Heard that it was good. Well, too bad for us...

Only the brave would dare try the unfettered penny farthings at a shop at the other end of Harbour Street. We didn't know about that shop then, so thought that the photo op here was good enough.

And finally, we ended up at the Loan & Merc, a restaurant-cum-pub at the far end of Harbour Street. The establishment occupies the ground floor of the original Loan & Mercantile building, together with some displays of furniture from the Victorian era, while the upper floor of the building features an art gallery.

One last look at the historical precinct before we headed out of Oamaru.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

NZ travelogue: Day 6

The end of the Day 5 of our motor holiday through New Zealand's South Island saw us arriving at Oamaru at 6pm. It was driving in the dark again. This time, our overnight stop would be at The Little Farm Homestay, run by Julie Barclay. When we arrived, we saw the table in the living room all laid out for a family dinner. Her daughter's birthday, she said. We felt a bit intrusive and retreated quickly to the room that she had prepared for us.

With hunger gnawing at us, we soon reappeared in her kitchen and asked for suggestions. Definitely the Portside Restaurant, she recommended. It was a little late already, she added, but if we had come earlier we could have caught the blue penguins coming back to their nests under the cliffs along the town's historic harbour foreshore.

What about other opportunities to watch penguins in this part of the South Island, we persisted. Julie thought about it for the moment and asked if we wanted to wake up at 4.30am to watch these penguins leave for the sea?

Four thirty in the morning? Erm, no thanks. Then perhaps we'd want to go to another part of Oamaru, the Bushy Beach scenic reserve, then to watch the yellow-eyed penguins instead, she suggested. These birds don't leave their nests until very much later.

So having confirmed part of our itinerary for the next morning, we set off for the Portside Restaurant. We arrived there at about seven o'clock and except for a group of people at a distant table, the place was almost bare. But by the time we finally left the place an hour later, the restaurant and especially its bar was already filled out with diners and merry-makers. 

It was still dark when we arrived at the Bushy Beach look-out point the next morning but the day was brightening. As we peered out, there we saw them.

Slowly, the penguins were emerging from the bushes and undergrowth and plodding towards the shoreline. And one by one, as the waves washed up to reach them, they dived in and swam out into the open sea.

Our final stop in Oamaru was at their historic precinct. Largely built during the 1870s to 1890s, the precinct is today New Zealand's most complete Victorian streetscape, having been restored some 120 years later. The large buildings there were constructed using material from the locally quarried limestone.

While the historic area sometimes gives the impression of being deserted, several small businesses operate including a bookbinder, a book shop, an auto collection, antique shops, art galleries and of course, cafes and restaurants. We were lucky, because the Harbour Street Market was open on that day. I indulged myself with two second-hand compact discs and two vinyl records.

We left Oamaru at about one o'clock and started on the last leg of our long drive through the South Island. Our destination would be Christchurch, where we had arrived seven days earlier. The journey was very uneventful and we arrived at the Christchurch Motel in Riccarton at about 4.45pm.

Our only two stops along the way were at Timaru for a quick look around and an equally quick lunch at a Chinese restaurant, and for coffee at a roadside cafe somewhere along the highway. 

Muffin and coffee, our last meal while on the road in the South Island.