Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I don't seem to have that problem in IE, but Firefox makes it look kinda warped.
Time to upgrade I think.
Update: Upgraded to firefox 1.5 and everything's back to normal. Maybe it was just a fluke.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
AA 7214 and AA 154 which should put me into O'Hare at about 3:30 PM November 30.
It'll feel good to be on US soil again. Unfortunately it won't feel so good being in the US weather. I'm wearing shorts and t-shirts here, but I know in Chicago I would be freezing my butt off in these clothes.
Of course I'll most likely go into work on Thursday and Friday, but that won't be hard work compared to what I've been doing most of these last three weeks. Yes, I know I've been posting non-work related stuff, but really since I left Chicago there have only been about 3 days when I didn't go to work. I got out and enjoyed myself a little on those days. I actually planned to have some more non-work related days, and even went out on little sight-seeing trips only to get back and find out I had to go to work and work late that night.
But that's over for the moment. I'm back to working normal hours for a couple days and then I'll take a nice weekend (maybe a long one) to relax. After that, who knows. At least I've got plenty of days off around Christmas this year.
This is the symbol of Singapore: the lion headed fish. If memory serves, this goes back to the early British explorers who (mistakenly) thought they had seen a lion here. In fact, Singapore, when loosely translated, is called "lion's city." (again, all information is subject to the failure of the author's memory)
The Esplanade Theatre center on the waterfront is a lovely (though certainly not cuddly) looking building. There are frequent performances of various genre's held here. Sadly I couldn't get any tickets to interesting events on short notice.
I wanted to get a few shots that captured the grandeur of the Singapore skyline, but have encountered some difficulties. It's best to be at least 15 stories up (not a problem) have at least a 180 degree view facing towards the business district (not quite as easy) and have a REALLY WIDE ANGLE lens. I couldn't get the last bit of that. So I'm taking the cheater's way out and stealing a picture from elsewhere.
It's pretty incredible.
Monday, November 28, 2005
What really gets me is that I must pay extra for internet access, and it isn't even that fast either. That alone gives your average holiday inn a leg up in my book. I can't even say that I care much for all the ornamentation in the room either. When you're only staying in a place for a few days, it doesn't make a bit of difference if the desktop is real oak or just printed.
Things I have noticed about Singapore:
Every country has some kind of national pass-time. Here, it's shopping. My hotel is on Orchard Avenue which is absolutely lined with shops that are almost identical to any you will find in an upscale neighborhood in America. The prices are at least the same as what you might see in America, in many cases higher. That doesn't seem to stop people from shopping. The streets here are as crowded as Las Vegas here. Walking could be a real competitive sport here, because going "upstream" requires a lot of dodging and weaving or just pushing through people. I'm a pretty big (tall) guy here, and yet walking a straight line on any sidewalk requires bracing one's shoulder against the oncoming traffic.
You can shop for electronics here, but if you pay the sticker price you are getting ripped off. You pretty much have to ask what the price is, say "I'll take it for ___" and then walk away unless you get a counter-offer.
Cars are incredibly expensive here. Not because of the car itself, but because of the licensing. It costs some 60k per year to license a car. Naturally only the rich actually drive cars here, so lots of people are left to find other modes of transportation. The rail and bus systems are very good, and the taxi's are EVERYWHERE!!! At times, you can't wave at someone on the street without flagging one down.
This place is clean, almost unbelievably so. The only exception is Little India. Even that is not dirty so much as un-tidy.
The British split this place up into various communities during the colonial days. They seemed to think that people could not get along. The result is a Chinatown, Little India, and Malaysian region with very different cultural flavors. And of course, on top of it all is the very western looking capitalist segment which seems to control most of the island.
In any American factory, if you say "Finish this slogan '_______ first!'" then the answer would be "Safety." But I just walked into a factory here and one of the first things I saw was "Quality is our first priority." Not to say that there aren't safety measures, it's just clear, from the people and the mottos, that safety takes a back seat to quality and production.
There's a significant division in the labor force here. In the factory where I've been working you have the basic floor workers who are mostly foreign, don't speak much, if any, English and wear blue work shirts all day. The management employees are more likely to speak English, and are easily identified by their white shirts. (some of these have come from the ranks of the floor workers, and they can still hold their own, turning wrenches and running the machines) And then the office staff dresses as casually or formally as they like and sits in the air-con rooms most of the day.
I must admit, I'd prefer the rural atmosphere of Ballarat to this. It seems to be busy here at all hours where in Ballarat I could take a 10PM stroll and just see a few people still in the cafes and shops and some store-keepers locking up. It was quite pleasant really. This is just too busy for my tastes. Good news is, it looks like I'll be back in Ballarat sometime next year (early next year if my guess is right.)
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Australia has more of a European style cafe culture than I'm used to. While I'm out getting breakfast (at an terribly late hour) there are people sitting by themselves, quietly drinking coffee, reading the paper or watching traffic. There's certainly no "hurry up and order and pay your tab so you can get out of here" attitude that you see in most non-college towns in America.
Speaking of cafes, the food here is excellent. Everywhere I go the food is freshly prepared in the kitchen, by a real cook. It's a shame it's so hard to get real food made from scratch in the states, but I guess people are accustomed to frozen, mass produced food and there's little chance of going back.
There's virtually no tipping here. Usually food includes a service fee, and I'm told the minimum wage is typically considered to be adequate. Although it's nice to not bother figuring a tip, I have yet to see any waiters or waitresses really hustle to serve you, but that may just be the result of the more relaxed dining style here.
The hotel has only 5 channels on the TV. I mentioned this to some of the locals and their opinion is that the proliferation of channels in America has lead to hundreds more bad TV shows that get filtered out here since airtime is at a premium. Of course I think it's just nice to just click through 4 or 5 channels and then go outside because there's nothing good on.
Ford sells cars here that have a 4.0 liter STRAIGHT SIX under the hood! I want one of those engines in my car!!! I suppose the EPA might have something to say about me bringing one of them into the country. Darn.
When you're crossing the West Gate Bridge at night you realize, Melbourne is HUGE! The lights stretch on for as far as I can see.
Some highways here have variable speed limits depending upon the traffic (and presumably the conditions) They're marked with LED signs that flash various speeds. People really obey these too, in fact almost nobody speeds here.
I'd like to know how in the heck a pub in Brisbane managed to get ahold of a keg of "Old Speckled Hen" because, I've been told that this (typically unpasturized) beer is only available in a small section of England, and there's no way that an unpasturized beer would be shipped (quite literally) to the other side of the globe and still taste good.
It was a really pretty drive there and back. When you're close to the coast the landscape is rather lush (it gets all the moisture and leaves none for the inland regions) making it look almost tropical. It doesn't look that different than driving down highway 1 in California. The really striking difference is the smell. The ocean smell isn't that strong, but along most of the Great Ocean Road you can roll down the windows and get a lovely dose of eucalyptus scent from all the gum trees. What a marvelous time.
Of course as soon as I was back at the hotel I found out I had to go back to the plant and work for an extra 5 or 6 hours solving problems that cropped up in my absence. Such is life.
Here's one from the machine shop where it looks as though they are restoring (among other things) an old slide valve steam engine.
There were several operational steam engines. This one was running the equipment in the wheel-wright's shop. Unfortunately it wasn't under it's own power (it was probably for maintenance reasons) but was being turned by an electric motor hidden away from the public. Still, it looked nice enough, and if I hadn't noticed the electrical humming and lack of exhaust steam, I might not have cared.
This isn't a bad place, but it's not quite as nice as Ballarat or Melbourne. This has more of a big city feel (less green space) than the other places I have been. It's quite pretty crossing the river at night, but it has almost a Star-Wars feel to it because you're surrounded by such massive amounts of construction (in numbers and size)
More posts this afternoon if I have more time to get to the computer.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Of course there's another sort of risk that comes mostly from other people, it's the "while you're in the neighborhood" effect, or in this case the "while you're in that hemisphere" effect. There's talk of a meeting in Tokyo. If that's combined with the delays I'm expecting in the Singapore segment of the trip, it could be a while before I come back. No worries though! I figure all I have waiting for me in Chicago right now is an empty apartment, and I can't say that I'm too eager to leave. I have yet to meet an ugly woman in Ballarat, so I'd have to be nuts to really want to leave.
Before the trip to Queensland though, maybe I should say another word or three about my time in Ballarat. It's a pleasant place with plenty to do (when you have the time) To get an idea, go to www.ballarat.com and look at all of the attractions, and activities. I've barely scratched the surface of that list and already I'm sold on this town.
Of course one of the big attractions for me was the history of the town. This was originally a boom town of the gold mining era (mid 1800s) and was the center of a significant, albeit brief, revolt against British authority.
To keep this bit of history alive, they've created a living history village (which is quite large) with all sorts of shops, machinery, artifacts from the gold rush era.
This was only one of roughly three main thoroughfares through the living history village. Every building had something and someone on the inside. There were even functional steam engines running shops full of machines using old belt and lineshaft power supplies.
Really quite incredible if you ask me.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
I got a chance to visit a wildlife park (really almost a petting zoo) and while this may seem like an activity for little kids, it was actually a nice chance to become acquainted with Australian wildlife without threat to one's well being.
Ballarat's wildlife park is fairly large with a nice assortment of animals. They have several Koalas which you can pet and cuddle under supervision (they're usually very calm but can hurt you if they're feeling threatened.) They're incredibly soft, giving them the look and feel of some kind of stuffed toy.
From cute to almost repulsive...The tazmanian devil (largest surviving marsupial) looks to me like some kind of 'possum on steroids. I tried to get a good picture of it, but it wouldn't hold still. It just kept running around looking for food, gobbling, and then retreating to the darkness of it's den. No table manners and certainly not soft and cuddly.
Moving right along, I got a glimpse of some of the longest living creatures on the planet. No petting here, but somehow I'm not too disappointed.
And what else would you see in Australia, but Kangaroos!! They were quite friendly (they should be, they've been fattened up on food from all of the tourists) and they essentially roamed the grounds getting petted and fed by one person after another.
They mostly acted rather lazy, but the ones who were hungry would walk right up to anyone and let you pet them and feed them (mostly grains) without any hesitation.
Pretty fun, and there's more to come!
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Now for the things I hadn’t mentioned earlier. My host, (very nice fellow) took us around Melbourne for a bit before heading on to Ballarat. It was cloudy out, but the tour of the city was still quite pleasant. There’s a large park region in the middle of the city that’s kept to give people some “green space” amid the urban landscape. Of course the city skyline is actually quite pretty by itself.
Before we left, we took a tour of the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. I felt like a bit of a rube as I know practically nothing about playing cricket, but it was fascinating just seeing MCG.
I didn’t get to see it in all of it’s green glory (they were laying a rubber track for games later on) but they will actually be laying grass all the way to the edge of the stadium (even over the track) for certain events.
Then it was off to the hotel for a shower and some dinner.
Boy was I glad to see that bed!
More photos and stories when I get the chance. (and I’ve got some good ones too)
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The trip has gone well except for a delayed flight, a missed connection, an extra connection, and a lost bag (with my clothes). Actually the hotel is quite nice and our host has been very gracious. I've got some photos, but it's almost bedtime here and I MUST get my body adjusted to this time zone.
Friday, November 11, 2005
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
First up, Grainger library where I spent way too much time studying.
Talbot lab, where I took some of my TAM classes.
The Mechanical Engineering Labs where I spent many a happy (and a few unhappy) hours working on projects.
I rather like this shot of the Illini Union. It's always had a rather nice look, and the fall colors really add to it.
The bell tower of Altgelt Hall.
A view of the colors on the quad. The campus sure is sleepy on a Sunday morning.
Looks like the camera works pretty well eh?
Saturday, November 05, 2005
I knew it would happen eventually. They'll put anything into a Swiss Army knife. Now it's an MP3 player!! One of these days they'll probably find a way to fit one of these in there too.
Swissbit shows off its latest creation, the s. beat. Which is basically an army knife with integrated mp3 player. Even though the knife part is a bit lacking with just a blade, scissors, and nail file/screwdriver, you get an mp3 player too so who can complain. The s. beat will come in 1/2/4 GB models and supports MP3/WMA/OGG files. It also features a built-in FM Tuner and high contrast LCD Display.
Moving right along
Carnival of cordite #37 is up and looks really good this week. I'm practically drooling over the Ruger pictures.
I just got this ebay link, and although I don't really care for the car (I like my Rosie too much) It might get a doubletake. Not because it looks nice or practical or any of the reasons I usually like a car, but because it is so unusual.
Here's one that's (mostly) for the guys. If reading about gadgets, cars, knives, and guns doesn't give you a rush then maybe you should check out this hillarious little piece of advertising. I don't put much stock in online quizzes, but my score on this one was about what I expected.
In other news I'm trying out the Canon Powershot A520 right now to see how I like it. It looks good so far and it's cheap enough I won't mind carrying it around overseas. If things work out well there will be photos from this weekend.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
The affordability of hard drive based TV recorders combined with the fact that there's really not much on the TV worth watching makes it rather silly to have a VCR.
James Larsson has an ingenous way of putting that old VCR to a good use. Most pet owners have to take time every day to set out some food, but suppose you could harness the power of the VCR's programming feature schedule your pet's feeding time.
Just remove one of the motors and hook it to the device of your choice and imagine what you could do!! It would be possible to handle lots of different tasks of different lengths. It's only limited by the number of events you can program in and your imagination
Of course if you figure in how hard it is to program the time into a vcr and how cheap an LM555 timer is, it's probably simpler to just build a system like this from scratch, but still, it's pretty neat.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Personally, I think an event known as the "illegal soapbox derby" sounds like a bad idea. But the pictures are pretty neat.
"A proud Bernal Heights neighborhood tradition, the Illegal Soapbox Derby Society enforces only one rule: Every car must have a beer holder."
Like I said, not a good idea, but cool pictures.
I've got to check out their prices, but this looks like a really great way to get custom made parts for my own use.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
I know where to find a couple of copies, but you would need to use some old apple IIe's to play it, so here's the next best thing.
Go to this site and have a blast. (Internet Explorer required)
I can save you a lot of money and just show you the script right here.
Oh no, I'm being shot by fewer weapons than at the end of
Attack of the Clones! Somehow, this overpowers me!
You won't be missing a thing ;-)