Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sitting in limbo

Around this time of year, people like to examine their lives and make New Year's resolutions in an attempt to better themselves and their situation. I've long since dropped the habit of making resolutions, but I do think it's an opportune time to reassess where I am and where I want to go from here. Of course, it's a bit difficult to make decisions on where to go when the people on whom you rely for clarity are loathe to share even the tiniest shred of information.

On the way out

There's less than 20 minutes left of 2011 here in the Big Durian. To quote the immortal Sherman T. Potter: "Here's to the New Year -- may she be a damn sight better than the last one."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Sweet

Yes, I'm riffing on a Mannheim Steamroller track. What of it?

The New Zealand photos I promised a while back have been posted on my Facebook page. For those who know how to get to those, tuck in. For those who don't ... oops. You'd have to be a friend anyway, so don't feel too bad.

Christmas was pretty low-key around here -- we already had that Saturday off of work, and we had to be back in the office on Sunday to put out the Monday paper (despite that day being a public holiday). I decided to spend Christmas Eve at the Intercontinental Hotel's dinner that evening, as I had done for the past couple years. Most everyone I asked had other plans, but the nice people pictured below agreed to accompany me.

The food, as usual, was outstanding. Seafood of all shapes and sizes, turkey, ham, steak, yams, other non-yam vegetables, salads and desserts ... man, the desserts. What you see here -- cheesecake, egg nog cheesecake, coconut cake, carrot cake, strawberry mille feuille, rasperry tart, mango mousse, apple crumble and pumpkin pie -- is only a sampling of what was on offer.

I also managed to finally knock out a story that was weighing on my brain during the whole New Zealand trip. Tom Byer, Japan's youth soccer development guru and a fellow American expat, is considering taking on the mess that is Indonesia for his next challenge. Even at 900-plus words, the article itself is a small fraction of the great stuff I got from Tom and Bob Hippy (yes, that is his real name). When Tom said during our talk that I should help him write his book, I'm pretty sure he was only half-kidding.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

All Around Aotearoa

Fish (blue cod) and chips at The Craic in Dunedin. A bit spendy (NZ$20), but a damn fine meal. It would've been silly to go to three cities on the coast and not try some of the seafood. That red orb in the top right contains red sauce, known in the civilized world as "ketchup."

A selection of the various goodies on offer at the local 24-hour convenience store in Dunedin. Yes, I'm well aware Arnott's and Bundaberg are Australian brands, but I've never seen Cheds (cheddar cheese crackers) here and for some reason the ginger beer there tastes better than it does here. L&P is Lemon & Paeroa, a native New Zealand concoction.

The Robert Burns statue in the middle of The Octagon in Dunedin. The city calls itself "The Edinburgh of the South," and it plays its Scottish heritage to the hilt.

Three of the dozens of shots I took during a trip along the Taieri Gorge railway on the South Island. It's not that Wellington and Auckland weren't photogenic, but Dunedin was such a pleasant surprise and had the best weather. It was mostly cool, overcast and breezy during my stay in New Zealand. I was assured multiple times that such weather was not typical for the summer -- a shame, because I was really enjoying it after spending years bathing in the Big Durian's tropical funk.

Scarfing down money

I'm back from New Zealand, somewhat refreshed and definitely refocused. A more detailed summary of the trip will come later, but for now I'll throw up a few photos to tide over folks. One thing I made sure to do was keep up my tradition of taking in a sporting event when I go on vacation -- this time, it was the Wellington Phoenix taking on the Perth Glory in an A-League match at Westpac Stadium in the New Zealand capital.

The Phoenix won 1-0 in a match that was long on aspiration and short on execution, but it was a decent Saturday afternoon otherwise. Ticket: 30 New Zealand dollars (US$23); Pie and a Coke: NZ$8 (US$6); Hyundai A-League (TM) Officially Licensed Wellington Phoenix Supporters Scarf: NZ$35 (US$27). I won't go so far as to say charging damn near $30 for a scarf is definitely part of what's weighing down soccer's development in Australia and New Zealand, but it sure can't help.

Here, then, is my updated scarf collection -- modest but heartfelt.

From top: Wellington Phoenix (New Zealand), Beijing Guo'an (China), Indonesia national team, Kyoto Sanga (Japan), Hiroshima Carp (Japan baseball), Seibu Lions (Japan baseball), Tokyo Verdy (Japan), Urawa Reds (Japan), Kansas City Wizards (MLS), US vs. Poland (friendly at Soldier Field, Chicago), US national team (friendly vs. Honduras at Safeco Field, Seattle). These are grouped in roughly reverse chronological order. I should note that I only buy scarves of teams I've watched in person -- it's just a point of principle for me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Big, black holes

Awwwwwwwww yeahhhhhhhh.
Scientists have found the biggest black holes known to exist — each one 10 billion times the size of our sun.
A team led by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered the two gigantic black holes in clusters of elliptical galaxies more than 300 million light years away. That's relatively close on the galactic scale.
"They are monstrous," Berkeley astrophysicist Chung-Pei Ma told reporters. "We did not expect to find such massive black holes because they are more massive than indicated by their galaxy properties. They're kind of extraordinary."
The previous black hole record-holder is as large as 6 billion suns.
And don't even get me started on Kepler finding a nice, wet body in the sweet spot. I think I need a cold shower.