Tuesday, January 04, 2005

"Delightful stuff", she said without emotion, savouring the melting chocolate in her mouth. Reaching over the low table, she picked another piece from the box that lay open before her, the chocolate nestled among the golden wrapping like brown jewels. She shifted her eyes to the window, seeing the city skyline becoming darker by the minute.

He sat across from her, quiet and drunk. He was always drunk, especially in the evenings. She had fallen in love with him for his looks; he had returned the favor by falling into an endless binge.

"Do you want to go to Marty's tomorrow night?", he said. The smell of alcohol was evident.

Without taking her eyes off the sight outside her window, she replied absent-mindedly,


So much for a conversation.

"If you don't feel up to a conversation, I'll leave" he said, reading her mind.

"It's alright"

She remembered the days gone by. The trip to the beach. The letters. The flowers. Always a kiss. Now it was placid, dead. He had even forgotten her birthday the week before. No sign of remembering it, even now. Why are guys able to forget what they want to forget so easily?, she wondered. She even suspected that the faint foreign perfume was not as innocent as the crowded bus ride that he had mentioned. She was going to break the ice and tell him what it was she had on her mind, that she didn't want to continue this lame relationship, that she was better off without him, that she didn't want his drunken presence in her apartment, when he abruptly stood up. She lost her train of thought. He wiped off the crumbs off his pants, scattering them over the carpet like small animals.

"I gotta head home. I'll take a shower and meet you at the bar at 7, kay?" He smiled slightly.

"Sure", she responded, getting up. Never, she wanted to say. "Thanks for coming." Her fake smile.

She stood at a distance, arms crossed, as he took his leather coat from the hanger in the entrance, fitted his shoes, and opened the multitude of locks that decorated the white frame of the door. Ever since the burglar had broken in, how long ago was it?, she had been paranoid about keeping her door locked. It was only because of him that she refrained from pushing a large wooden wardrobe against the door each night.

"See ya later", he said, looking at her as she stood, shoulder against the wall of her apartment door. He pushed the up and the down elevator button. He would joke that doing that would get both elevators, saving time. Except that there was only one elevator. She preferred to roll her eyes each time he shared the joke. After a small pause, the elevator door opened, and he kept his blue eyes on her as he stepped into the elevator shaft.

She cocked her head slightly to the right, and after a while, smiled to herself and said to the elevator doors that were beginning to close,

"See ya."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The following is a chronicle of the events surrounding my two-week car trip with my family from Paris to Dijon, to Courmayeur, to Bologna, Torino, then back home. They were (somewhat tediously) chronicled on my Palm Vx throughout the trip.

11:03 Dec 21 40km/h snowy
Finally onto a *relatively* good start, an hour late and heading for Versailles (note: destination Dijon). Snowed for the first time in Paris today, which must've been a reason on its own to celebrate. I hate school. That's only because there are vacations. Waah? That's only because I end up missing everyone.. *makes ridiculous awwwww noise* Holiday reading list: Eats, Shoot & Leaves, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass, A Hundred Years of Solitude, A Wrinkle in Time, Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and the (somewhat childish) Lemony Snicket series. All in my Palm. Woot!

14:31 Dec 21 120km/h sunny
Still on the road after 2 road stops and a quick but scrumptious lunch. Dijon 140km away, claims the big blue sign. All around is a white landscape, all the trees and grass covered by a small layer of snow... Good music playin' on the radio makes for some good times.

9:22 Dec 23 50km/h foggy
Heading now towards Geneva (259km to go) after a restful day in Dijon, buying mustard, looking for dragons (smiles) and buying cards (sent one to Séverine, hope she gets it). Finished reading The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom. A good two thumbs up for a story that begins at the end and shows you much about life that you need to know, in a concise and readable, cliff-hanging manner... "all endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time."

"I don't mind standing everday
out in the pouring rain..."

The radio's just playing Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved". Mum turns the radio off... grrr

Everythings all gray and snowy... like as if someone plastered the skies with gray paint...

13:15 Dec 23 70km/h sunny
Detour to Geneva! A short trip into my native city, adamantly sticking to its use of Swiss francs. Oh, and Michael's there too, although chances are nil to nil that we should come across... Just remembered that apparently it's quite sure that he is leaving EaB in April. Why?! ...a stop at Mikados for some Japanese food....

15:15 Dec 23 80km/h clear
There's only one word to describe the sight before me and unfortunately it's not English. It's yukiguni, Japanese for "snow-country"... Just mere miles from Chamonix and the Mt. Blanc tunnel, all is white, as the road snakes, twists and turns... The trees are shrouded in ghostly white snow, weighed down in its pristine mass. Pedaggio (toll) claims a white sign as we climb ever higher the mountain through which we must pass...

16:16 Dec 24 0km/h clear
Set off to rent skis at around 9 this sunny and beautiful morning, and sped off with dad on the funivie to do some serious ski-filled fun (not fun-filled skiing). 'Twas simply exhilarating, to be able to slide down a snow-covered mountain on two thin planks, as the trees around you sweep by. We also tried some off-piste areas but the snow was thick and I had a hard time trying to keep upright. I guess I gotta sharpen my skills. lol. Playing on the radio...

"Silver bells, silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas day"

It's Christmas tomorrow! Christ is born! Presents!

Finished reading A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. Curiously interesting book to read, somewhat simplistic and detailed at the same time, but good nonetheless. It pursues the adventures of Christopher in his quest to find out who killed a certain dog, which eventually reveals more about his parent's troubled marriage than he could have imagined. One and a half thumbs up for a cherishable novel.

We're at a nice hotel now... Hotel Edelweiss in Courmayeur. Tried looking around for gifts but couldn't find a wolf, a dragon, or a cow (there was one but a bit too expensive). Moo.

16:49 Dec. 25 0km/h snowy
'Tis Christmas! Got a belt, puzzle set and an agenda as gifts (but I still prefer Mizban's gift) *smiles*.

Bit too cloudy and foggy today for good skiing... We were rather limited in the areas where we could go, but it was fun. Relatively colder than yesterday, and it's snowing now! *peers around to look through window*. Am in the lobby of the hotel now, contemplating whether or not to finish some Chem labs or to play some games... parents resting upstairs... will be going to Church later on.

16:51 Dec 26 0km/h snowy
With no camera to snap photos of all that I've seen, words will have to suffice. (And I won't have to fish around in my drawer to show you what I mean). Anyhow since it snowed yesterday, it was a bit hard to ski, with the bumps and molehills and the foggy mist/snow/cloud and all. Skiing today was like trying to swim when your goggles are all scratched. But it was fun anyways, trying to get the fog out of my ski-mask without getting snow in its stead. This marks the end of my skiing trip this year. Tomorrow we're off to Bologna (baloney!), where I'll be able to visit the city and have some more down-to-earth fun. (Yes, skiing makes you feel as though you are flying, only to bring the harsh reality home when you land).

The most memorable scene of today was when we (dad and I; mum doesn't ski) were heading down on the ropeway (téléphérique; cabin that carries skiers up/down mountain). The two thick lines that support the cabins (ours and the one heading in the pposite direction) seemed to disappear into the clouds/fog tat wrapped the village. So you had two black ropes heading downwards, apparently suspended in mid-air, disappearing into the clouds below. Quite enchanting.

It's highly questionable why a small proportion of humans want to wear plastic boots and attach slim metal contraptions to these boots, take little ferries up a snowy mountain, and slide down it (the mountain, not the ferry). It's even more puzzling why people should want to pay for such a hilariously ridiculous luxury. But then again, I'm one of that 'proportion of people', and it would be hypocritical to say otherwise. If only I could share this fun with the people I know who haven't yet experienced it...

8:58 Dec 27 24km/h sunny
Turning our backs to a sunny and clear blue, picturesque sky has probably never seemed so difficult to do as it is today. The jagged peaks are ever sharper, pristine white against the crystal blue of the sky,the mountain snow lit in a rosey, orange hue, its surface decorated by dots of trees topped with a fresh layer of icing.

16:22 Dec 28 0km/h cloudy
We're now nicely settled in Bologna, at a rather unique hotel by the name of Hotel Paradise. All around in the hotel, you find quips, qoutes, proverbs, and riddles:

Attached to sack containing one green and one white baloon: Blow here your wishes!
Inside good-night card near bed: Dedicate yourself to your dream and follow it wherever it may lead: it will be a splendid chase.
Inside elevator: Become simple/ Smell the wind/ Know the earth - Ramtha
On breakfast room wall: What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries? (a towel). Maxim/Quote of the day hidden in sugar basket.

Either the hotel proprietors are suspicious, quote-maniac people, or they just like it, but either way suggests something rather unique about this hotel.

Bologna is a very historic city, with Europe's oldest university located right in the middle of the town. There's also the two towers (of which one is leaning at quite an alarming angle) and the church of St. Petronio that's been standing since its construction in the latter part of the 14th century.

I had the opportunity to make my way to an easyInternet cafe for some catching up in terms of the internet world. Not much new going on.

I guess it's time to address the disaster that took place Sunday across south-east Asia: an 8.5-9.0 earthquake that struck just off the northern coast of Sumatra, that triggered a massive tsunami that swept across the Indian ocean and killing, at this point, over 30,000 people from seven different nations. It's a lamentable disaster, not only in its scale, but also in the fact that warning systems against such natural phenomena, such as they are in the Pacific ocean, were nowhere to be found in the areas where this massive tidal wave struck. Nature's power can never be underestimated. Furthermore, because it was a disaster of no-one's fault, it makes it harder to accept that such loss of life could happen.There is no-one to blame. Putting the blame on others can often give a sense of assurance in seeing justice done to whoever was responsible, but this is unfortunately not the case. I can only hope that if there's anything positive that can be obtained from such a horrific experience, that its people be able to realise them and begin to pick up the shattered parts of their lives as quickly as possible...

11:54 Dec 29 0km/h cloudy
Before me are paintings and murals of historic proportions, most of them religious in significance, but dynamic nonetheless, all at the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. There are artifacts dating from the late 14th century, which admittedly makes you think how it is that people today worry about tomorrow, when there are things of much greater importance... In the afternoon I bought a set of postcards with drawings from M.C. Escher, the phenomenal artist capable of drawing images that are bewildering and fascinating at the same time. Also found a dragon. Saw on the TV that 71,000 people have so far perished in the tsunami disaster... will have to come up with a fund-raising thing once school begins to get some money (however inconsequential it may seem) to the Red Cross.

Just finished reading the 10 Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books, which were relatively entertaining but also severely unsatisfying, since you had to follow the unfortunate events that surround Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, orphans who are pursued by a horrible, cunning and thieving personage called Count Olaf. I'm just wondering if the movie (with Jim Carrey playing Count Olaf) is worth watching.

10:45 Dec 30 0km/h sunny
Went with mum and dad to climb one of the two towers of Bologna, the Torre Asinelli, which, by the way, is 97.2 metres high and was built in 1109 (Just imagine! It's been standing for 895 years!). It apparently took 10 years to construct. The wooden stairs that wind up the brick walls of the tower are very harrowing, and it can only accomodate one person (either going up or down). It reminded me of Hitchcock's Vertigo *slaps forehead* Ohhh. Right. Most of you don't watch really really old movies, do you?

The disaster in south-east Asia has come to a point where we can no longer ask ourselves why it happened, or how it could have been prevented, or wondering how many people it is that perished, because now is the moment to ask ourselves what it is that can be done right now to help those who are desperately in need. My parents are of the notion that a small donation to a relief agency (like the Red Cross or Oxfam) is inconsequential, and that it would be much more effective to donate, if it were, in large amounts, like the man who stepped into a CAREUSA office and gave a check for $10,000. I beg to differ. I may be na・e, but my na・et・is not going to prevent me from believing that every small thing counts.

"Pray for the other ones...
It's a world of dread and fear...
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life..."

from the Do They Know It's Christmas? song, playing right now on the radio

Rather sad and ironic that it's the second time that such a popular fund-raising-collaborated-by-popular-singers CD-song comes to signify something more important in light of more recent events. Remember 9/11 changed the meaning of AIDS What's Going On song altogether? Well it's now the Tsunami Disaster and Feed the World's Do They Know It's Christmas?...

8:53 Dec 31 16km/h sunny
Off to Torino now, if we can escape the maze of streets and one-way roads that bring about a sense of despair because you're so close to an exit but so far at the same time. Turn right here, but wait, no, you can't. Now you have to turn left, then right at the next corner... but wait, you can't make a right. After a bit, you're at around the same place where you began. Grrr.

One thing I noticed about Bologna, besides the cobblestone pavement that makes it so hard to type, is the *over*-abundance of banks, which in a sense reflects the richness of the city and its people. When we visited the ex-Bologna university compound 'Palazzo di Archiginasio', we were told that the students who came to study at Europe's oldest university were extremely rich, often arriving with man-servants. There were thousands of plaster shield-shaped placards that bore the names of each student that studied there along with a coat of arms, and it was pleasing to note that there were several students from Helvetia (more commonly referred to as Switzerland). There were quite a number of students from Transylvania too, although whether or not they were vampires (which would explain, somewhat ridiculously, why the university moved out) is an entirely questionable matter.

12:57 Dec 31 96km/h sunny
After dozing in and out for the past hour, it's becoming clearer, with regard to the green signs and the Alps in the distance, that Torino (Turin in distinctly unappreciable American) is close. Why on earth do people have to skew things up? Make Venezia Venice? Firenze Florence? Bologna Baloney!

It just occured to me another interesting and unique aspect of Italian life. The magazines you find in the kiosks (provided they are not the international ones) are all crammed with added toys, mixers (with the Cucina Italiana packet), DVDs (solo €6.99! emblazoned on the cover), tee-shirts, mini books, precious jewels, and more interesting add-ons. In Japanese one would call it furoku, or "added books". It's ironic that it's more like you buy the toy/DVD/tee-shirt and you get the magazine as a furoku. (Of course, in Japan it would be unimaginable to have a furoku that isn't a book).

0:00 January 1, 2005 dark
With a lot of bangs and booms, disastrous, tumultuous, war-wracked, tsunami-swept, tragic yet memorable 2004 gave way to new hopes for 2005... At Torino's Palazzo Reale, my hopes are for this oncoming year to be a more memorable one, marking an important chapter in my life.

8:53 Jan 1 49km/h sunny
Off on a early start back to Dijon and the now-glorious land of the Gauls! (Notice how history has distorted my way of seeing things). I've missed the French language. Time for some predictions for the year ahead:

1) Bush inaugurated under large protests: Kerry-Edwards supporters make Bush's second term inauguration as noisy as possible and demand his resignation in front of Capitol Hill.

2) Hussein put to trial: Saddam Hussein is put to trial before an Iraqi tribunal but no judgement is passed.

3) Space trips reach new heights: as Paul Allen becomes second space tourist.

4) Internet spyware/spam solution proposed: not unlike Lycos Europe's non-DOS-but-relatively-similar screensaver, a solution emerges, its validity questioned, its purpose befuddled.

5) Google Browser hinted at, revealed; Gmail still in Beta:
Gbrowser gossip flares as Mozilla steals more and more IE users into using their browser. Gmail remains in Beta, but not without some nifty updates.

6) Freak weather/ geological phenomena rages across Tropics: El Ni, hurricanes, earthquakes: the earth fights back. Kyoto Protocol initiated without much fanfare, Bush still adamant that US will not adhere.

7) Torino Winter Olympics scare: as structures are barely erected in time. IOC barrages Torino for failure to adhere to 'Olympic virtues'. Terrorist scare jolts peaceful event.

8) American involvement in Iraq harshly questioned: troops head home; or, troops start questioning purpose of their extended deployment as casualties continue to rise.

7:11 Jan 2 55km/h downpour
An early depart from Dijon's Hotel Wilson to escape the embouteillage/congestion/jyutai of the car-driving returning crowd on the highways. How ironic it would be if everyone thought of the same thing and we end up having a massive traffic jam at 9 in the morning... school starts again tomorrow *ack* Let's just make sure I get my homework done by then and I wake up on time (if I sleep at all)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Ceci est pour ma petite soeur qui me manque trop...

It is true there could be no one
I would miss more and want more
Like midday would miss its sun
And as wrong as five after four
Like the hare that cannot run
Nature's apple without the core
Like a party without the fun
A legend that has lost its lore

Bon, ca fait deja longtemps qu'on a dit au revoir mais tu reste dans mon coeur... Je vais partir en Italie mardi mais je vais penser a toi... les montagnes peuvent nous séparer, mais les étoiles, on les voit tous les mêmes... Passez des excellentes vacances, un joyeux Noël, et bonne année!

Feliz navidad!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

I'm currently using w.bloggar, a nifty interface that sits on my desktop between me and my Blogger 'Create new post' link. It certainly faciliates life and prevents the all-too-often occasion when the "Publish post" link becomes "Erase everything I have written for the past hour" button. Anyhow, here's a nice set of lyrics by the Jayhawks in their song, Smile. (In case you didn't know the one thing I love best in other people is their smile).

Wake up, put your shoes on
Take a breath of the northern air
And rub those eyes
Genuflect beneath the starry skies

Before you climb the mountain
First the foothills must appear
Step high and light
And take up your staff and shining armor

(chin up, chin up)
You don't really have a problem
(chin up, chin up)
In your hour of despair

The stars on the horizon
Stretch as far as the eyes can see
They represent the souls of those like you and me

And smile when you're down and out
(find something inside you)
Smile when you're down and out
(find something inside you)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Movie Review for The Incredibles (2004)

Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: (voices) Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson
Rated: PG
Runs: 121 min

Creators of Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc. and Nemo, Pixar Studios has done it again. With vivid and lifelike animations that make it a joy to see, The Incredibles made animation graphics all the more real. Following the demise of the superhero community as a result of several scandals, Mr. Incredibles is forced to take up the secluded life and soul of Bob Parr, an insurance agent. His longing for rescuing and being heroes has never waned, however, and the perfect opportunity is given in a high-paying, thrilling adventure to rescue and to save. What Bob/Mr. Incredible fails to realise, however, is the more sinister side to the adventure, and the consequences it might have on the welfare of his super-hero family... Great storyline, edge-of-your-seat action, amazing graphic rendering. Great for those who've always wanted to be a hero of sorts, or for those who want to spend some time for a good, fun movie. 8 of 10.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Don't know what chicken tikka masala is? Or maybe a friend invited you for a quad biking trip and you had to ask another friend what it meant? No longer, for the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary has considered entering it into its dictionary. Revolutionary, to say the least.

You could say that revolutionary ideas happen also elsewhere in the world, especially when it comes to fraud and scam. Japan has seen recently the rise of "It's me" fraud, when scammers call vulnerable old ladies saying "It's me" and tricking the frail ladies into thinking that it is a relative who is calling and asking for money. Apparently the scammers are becoming more creative by posing as police officers or hospital officials. Crazy.

Talking about crazy and revolutionary, there's an innovative system called SquareSpace that Happy is using now. The limitations include ads and 20MB and small bandwidth, but I guess that can be compromised for its great design and templates. Just as Google is for Microsoft, one might say SquareSpace is for Blogger!

Oh, and did you notice the White House page have begun resorting to patriotic posters in the war against terror?

Monday, December 13, 2004

I don't why but I have this unfortunate interest in North Korea. I just wonder how peasants and workers live in such a cocoon, and whether or not there is an underground faction to overthrow Kim Il-sung. It's more an interest in human behaviour and sociology, and what would happen should Kim be overthrown. Would the North Koreans refuse to accept the news should it really happen? What would happen should they find out about the world they were so well shielded from? Would North Koreans come to accept wealth and capitalism? Would they be able to realise that so much happened in their life that they weren't aware of? It would be really interesting to parallel the social aspect of North Koreans with Germans, if there is any parallel to begin with. Andrei Lankov, a historian who spent a year in North Korea as an exchange student, writes in his book From Stalin to Kim Il Sung- The Formation of North Korea 1945-1960:

"The study of the North Korean present has never been easy. Even by the standards of other Communist countries, Pyongyang is notably secretive. All official press is exclusively devoted to intense propaganda, few if any statistical data are allowed to be published, and it is hard to trust publised material anyway... No dissidence, however limited, is tolerated, so the amount of unofficial information about the country is virtually zero. No foreigner is allowed to do independant research in [North] Korean libraries, let alone archives... The official history is regularly and radically rewritten in order to suit the ever-changing political situation and conform to the slogans of the moment."

Oh, and by the way I shall resume my Eclipse of Souls series, but I will refrain from publishing it until it's done and 'shipped' in PDF format.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I've reverted to my old template, having liked the real 'bloggy' layout, which can be now seen correctly under Internet Explorer and Firefox. Oh and isn't it great that Mozilla is cutting into IE's lead with IE users dipping for the first time to under 90% of the Internet browser using community?. It's a bit worrisome that the New York Times full page ad for Firefox isn't ready yet but I guess it takes a while to get things together compared to Mozilla Europe (who by the way posted a full page ad in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung with all the names of those who contributed to the foundation) Oh and did you know that such a full page ad costs about €35,000?

Oh and something cute: Apparently two-thirds of school-age children have an imaginary companion by age 7. I think I had one once. And for those who are still children, wait anxiously for a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which will feature Johnny Depp and Christopher Lee, coming out in July 2005. Remember the days we went to see the movies in 2000 and got the trailer for Pearl Harbor that was to reach the screens a year later? All of us in the theatre laughed then. It's good to know that the fact has been revealed that it wasn't the Japanese diplomats in Washington that were to be blamed for Pearl Harbor, but rather the Japanese military, a fact that was reveled 63 years after the moment that changed history.

Some more interesting stuff, like what Stanford students do in their free time in regards to How to Kill a Mockingbird and a really interesting cartoon of the hierachy of society.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I'm done! No more oral exam! The harrowing moments faced with a microphone standing in a yellow jug between the teacher and I are past, an element of bygone history that should not and will not be repeated. Isnt't history like a tape that can't be rewound and played back? It's like as if when we go foward in time, we notice that a tape recorder is beside us noting everything down, and we take the tape and try to replay it we find that it's been shredded to a million tiny bits and scattered all over the floor. A historian's job is to collect as much as he/she can and piece the puzzle back into a coherent photo; our job is to take the good pieces and glue them together...

Following Rebecca's mention of the 'filter style of weblogging' that was what weblogs were (logging the web with cool and interesting links), I've decided to add a few interesting links I find each day. Certainly Cereality cannot escape my thoughts, for I love cereals, and this cafe offers exactly this banale junk food I love to devour. One reassuring thing is that while I might not be able to visit one of the Cereality cafe's in the states, at least Bush can't run in 2008. Oh, and talking about anti-Bush, view some 150 grea 30 second TV ads that were nominated and voted for by the public here. Oh, and did I mention Bush's administration led to the loss of some 3.3 million jobs?

This site is viewed correctly under Mozilla and Internet Explorer, although I'm sure you'll agree with a lot of people that Mozilla is, quite frankly, better. Any browser size above 800 x 600 satisfies the requirements to viewing this page. Unfortunately, if you are the few people using Netscape, Opera, Safari, or any other browser, this site will most probably not display correctly. This site is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. The author is permanently deranged and has an obsession with small print, cows, and anything that explodes.