Archive for November, 2007

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Here’s a picture of the kids who came to Zen’s birthday party at McDonald’s.
Peter Naoko Zen Christmas Tree

Peter, Naoko and Zen on his sixth birthday.
PNZ Birthday

Zen now has three transformers: Barricade (with Frenzy inside) left, Optimus Prime centre, and Bumblebee right.
Robot Transformers and Zen

Optimus Prime, Barricade w. Frenzy, and Bumblebee in their transformed shapes.
car Transformers and Zen

Patrick and Zen in front of the old Armenian Church, built in 1835 and now Singapore’s oldest church.
Pat, Zen, Armenian Church

Zen on the cannon that protects Fort Canning Park from… I don’t know what.
Zen cannon

We also went to the fire engine museum.
PZ fire truck

Peter, Naoko and Zen at the Takashimaya Christmas tree.
PNZ Christmas tree

Yuping, Naoko and Zen.
Yuping and Naoko and Zen

Hallowe’en in Sri Lanka

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Wow, another few weeks have gone by, still crazy with work. Sigh…

On October 29th I got an opportunity to take a business trip to Sri Lanka. Not only was it a business trip, but I got to fly business CLASS as well. Sure it’s nice to be mothered by stewardesses and smiled at constantly, but besides the extra legroom what impressed me were the awesome noise reduction headphones that are standard in Singapore Airlines business class. I got to really listen to a few episodes of the Simpsons, and I got to see the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I had only gotten through half of it on my flight from Amsterdam to Singapore when we landed and the in-flight entertainment cut out. On my way back I used the headphones to listen to the Neil Young Live at Massey Hall CD, which was fantastic, I also listened to the new White Stripes, which wasn’t as fantastic as Neil Young, and downright weird. [I have a theory that if the White Stripes had released this music 30 years ago it would be novelty music, and Dr. Demento would have played them on his radio show.]

The other perk of business class travel is the use of the flight lounge, but I was not so impressed here: I found this quite dark, seedy and inpersonal at 7:00 in the morning. There is a magazine rack, a buffet, lots of seating, a wide-screen TV showing CNBC, low lighting, and computer stations, so I checked my email and had some food. Since it was morning, nobody was hitting the gin and tonics. I guess the mood would have been different if I had been on an evening flight.

The flight left at 7:05, landed at 8:15, so I could get something done that day. Colombo airport was small and functional and we got through it quickly enough. The transportation from the airport was efficient, the scenery not so stunning, and the road was lined with small shops. I spotted a few familiar ads (Food City!), and a few not-so-familiar (Ceylingco). Got to the hotel, the Cinnamon Grand, which is Sri Lankan owned. Nice place, although it’s weird that the elevators to go to the rooms are are the extreme end of the building and nowhere near the check-in counter (to get to my room, I had to go up to the fifth floor and then double back – I was somewhere right above the check-in counter, which added to the feeling I had that I was constantly going in circles in Colombo).

Had an appointment at 1:30, 3:00, 5:00, and at 8:00. The evening thing was a birthday party for the chairman of a large Sri Lankan business group in his house, which was good fun, and it was my first chance to get some real Sri Lankan food. Jiggles of pasta called string hoppers that were delicious, crispy bowl-shaped pancakes (sometimes with an egg in them) called hoppers, and lots of lovely other curry-like things. And the beer and whiskey were good too.

Next day was kind of rough, and I managed to get through four meetintgs, although I was feeling a bit rough. Going from the third meeting to the fourth nearly did me in – there was a road closure, so my 7-minute ride became 90 minutes through heavy traffic with a demented trishaw driver. He used 85 minutes to go in a massive circle, then doubled back and sped along the final five minutes to where I needed to go. In the end I was nearly poisoned by exhaust, and the poor guy only charged me US$3 for his efforts. I felt stupid – had I realized it, I would have just walked, it would have only taken me 10 minutes.

That night I went to sleep at 9:00, woke up at 4:00 the next morning to get some work done. Had four interviews. In the evening I walked to see a temple I was told was only 10 minutes away – more like 20. Walking along the streets of Colombo is safe because there’s so much military security. One guy walked up to me, struck up a conversation, told me he was going to a festival at a temple, I told him I was going to the same temple, he said he worked in the hotel I was staying at and had seen me, then he said “let’s take a trishaw, it’s far,” and I said “see ya.” Another guy came up to me later on and we had a similar conversation. I got the temple and of course there was no festival. But it was a gorgeous temple, with really beautiful art on the walls, and lots of elephant tusks and Buddha statues. One monk tied coloured string around my wrist. The guy who had “guided” me there asked if I wanted to go off to see some jewellery shops. I said “see ya.”

Wednesday was Hallowe’en, but nobody was celebrating it in Sri Lanka, at least not at Cheers where I had a hamburger and some beers for dinner. But Zen dressed up like a vampire again this year, this time with his new Caspar the friendly ghost black t-shirt, and went for a walk around the development with the other Japanese kids. He got a lot of goodies.

Thursday I came back to Singapore, but just as I had won time on Monday going there, I lost time going back and there was nothing that could be salvaged of the day. Oh well. At least I saw the new Singapore Airlines A-380 boarding passengers at Changi Airport. Since it had its maiden flight from Singapore to Sydney on October 28th, it’s been a frequent visitor to Singapore. Went home, saw Naoko and Zen early, did a call in the evening, and went to sleep.

Seems like I was lucky with my timing – the day after I came back, the Sri Lankan military took out the most senior Tamil Tiger figure ever in the 20-year war, and there was heavy security in Colombo all day as there were fears of a retaliation. The 45-minute ride to the airport would have taken several hours with all of the searches and checks. Sheesh… Sri Lanka needs peace.

Friday I went to a fun bank event in the evening. Saturday and Sunday I was pretty busy writing articles, but I did have a nice time spending time with Zen. He’s very nice these days – very attentive, not demanding, and very affectionate. I tried to take him for a ride on his new bike (which is more his size, not like the over-sized one we got him for his birthday last year by mistake), but he wasn’t quite ready for it.

Zen and Akane dressed up for Hallwe’en this year
Zen and Akane on Hallowe'en

The Japanese kids here are really into trick or treating
Japanese ghouls

Colombo train station, non-peak traffic
Colombo train station

View of the Indian Ocean from up high
Indian ocean

more Indian Ocean

One of my trishaw friends

Good ‘ol Airbus A-380