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Monday, 31 May 2010

Sights of Nottingham: Spring at Wollaton Park

Note: High resolution images of all of the following photos are available. Click on the photos to view their higher resolution images.

[HiRes] Caught in University Park. These yellow flowers were among the first plants to blossom after the frosty winter. Note that the tree was still bare.

We don't get a lot of public holidays in UK, unlike Malaysia, where calendars are sprinkled with colourful boxes here and there. Instead, we get two month-long holidays -- Christmas and Easter Breaks. And of course the penultimate 3-month Summer.

Red Flowers
[HiRes] Along the way to Wollaton Park.

Unlike Christmas, Easter had nice weather and many of my friends went travelling overseas, or at least out of Nottingham. While I didn't, I took the opportunity to visit Wollaton Park.

The pictures I have here aren't great, so I'll save talking about Wollaton Park until I publish better ones.

Spring Blossoms
[HiRes] Flowers, captured in one of the gardens in Wollaton Park.

Country Path
[HiRes] Country road. The sight of things like this sure makes anyone feel closer to nature.

Gate II
[HiRes] Gate to Wollaton Park Golf Course.

Gate I
[HiRes] And another.

Into the Distance
[HiRes] Foursome sitting on a bench in front of Wollaton Hall. My favourite pic of this batch.

More on Wollaton Park to come. I have real awesome pics, I promise.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

What I've Been Eating in UK

One thing about spending so many months away from Malaysia is how much I miss Malaysian cuisine.

Oh Nasi Lemak, how I crave for thy fragrant rice covered with spicy curry...

Nasi Lemak
[HiRes] Nasi Lemak, sold during an event organised by Nottingham Malaysian Society (NMS). Imagine buying Malaysian food in UK price.

One would say it's a good opportunity to start trying some foreign stuff instead. I would totally agree, if not for the ridiculous price of things here. I ended up preparing practically every meal at home after failing to secure a part time job.

I have a feeling this post will answer mum's question of "what has my son been eating for the past 9 months" and save a lot of pointless worrying.

One of the dishes I serve most frequently is the classic fried rice.

Me Cooking
One of my earlier fried rice. Doesn't look too bad, especially when you consider the fact that I've never ever cooked rice before stepping foot in UK.

Notice how the fried rice is in a food container? Well it was obviously one of my lunch packs. To save a few pounds (the currency, not the weight unit), I would wake up before 7am to prepare lunch if my lunch break wasn't long enough for me to travel back to cook. I kept this up for a whole year, which kind of amazed even myself. Perhaps that's why they say money is a good motivator.

Anyway, you can throw anything into fried rice so there's little chance of getting too fed up (pun?) eating the same thing over and over again.

Me Cooking
A more Malay style fried rice, with Ikan Bilis (dried fish) and chilli. That wasn't a bad dish, actually, but I hated spending half my afternoon peeling Ikan Bilis one by one.

Congee (or rice porridge) is the easiest thing to do.

Me Cooking
One of my earlier servings of rice porridge.

I used to hate porridge, but I've been eating it a few times every week for the past few months. It's the best when I'm busy. Just throw everything in and wait for 15 minutes. I don't even have to worry about burning it if I dozed off for a few minutes. And with Marmite (FYI, Marmite is English), it isn't actually that bad.

Me Cooking
Another variant of my earlier porridges. I always use Marmite these few months.

Soup noodles ain't too hard either, but I don't like the idea of consuming artificially seasoned food regularly, and I'm just too lousy to make good soup noodles without seasoning.

Me Cooking

And I've also made sandwiches/burgers!

Nope, not this one. These are from BK's.

Me Cooking
My sandwich. It doesn't look good, but I assure you, its taste is far better than its looks.

Then there's sweet and sour chicken. Yum!

Me Cooking

Learning to cook is perhaps one of the most significant accomplishments since my arrival in UK. The good thing about cooking is I get to control food portions. When my tummy was rumbling I'd probably subconsciously pour more rice into my measuring container. I'm also more confident with my food's hygiene than those prepared by grumpy strangers stuck in oven hot kitchens for hours a day. On average, a cooked-at-home meal costs about £1 to £2, at least twice as cheap as eating out. And most importantly, it's way healthier.

But no, I won't be cooking this regularly in Malaysia. What, haven't you seen a hypocrite before?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Web Gadgets: JavaScript Clock

See the little clock up there? Right above the big red seal? That's a little clock I wrote. Most blogs utilise Flash to implement clocks, but Flash is slow, resource hungry and doesn't work on mobile devices, including iPhones, iPods and iPads.

The clock I wrote, however, is pure JavaScript. Most browsers today have fast JavaScript engines, including mobile browsers, so it's guaranteed to run almost everywhere. It's actually very simple, a few lines of code do the trick.
<span id="clock"></span>
<script type="text/javascript">
function update()
var now=new Date();
function twodigit(ip)
if (ip<10)
return new String("0"+ip);
return ip;
A little example. This example is hosted on a free webhost, so don't be surprised if it doesn't load. The one on top of this page always loads, though.

I sincerely urge users of Flash-based clock-gadgets to switch to a JavaScript-based one. Feel free to copy the code above and modify it, if you know basic HTML/JavaScript. Note that Blogspot blocks JavaScript codes unless they're in proper HTML/JavaScript gadgets.

PS: See here for an analogue JavaScript clock.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Sights of Nottingham: Spring is Here

Every year before 2010, I celebrated Chinese New Year in Malaysia (or Singapore), supposedly marking the arrival of Spring.

This year, however, things were different. I didn't get to celebrate Chinese New Year. However, I did manage to witness the arrival of Spring for real.

While I personally enjoyed winter and the many photographic opportunities it has given me, many people don't like the frosty season (save for Christmas).

[HiRes] The gloomy weather of winter.

Daytime was ridiculously short. By 4pm it would be all dark. Like midnight. Even when it wasn't dark, the sky would be blanketed by gray, hazy clouds, making it hard (if possible at all) to locate the sun. The trees were bald, the shrubs had frosty white leaves and the colourful flowers no where to be seen.

[HiRes] Are these pinecones?

Come February, however, things changed. The earth thawed, leaves sprouted out of the bare branches and the grass became nature's colour palette.

Nature's Confetti
[HiRes] Caught right in front of Nightingale Hall, University Park Campus.

It was simply amazing. It's like seeing life coming a full cycle. Heck, it IS life coming a full cycle.

Diamond in the Rough I
[HiRes] Notice how the petals were scattered all over.

Herbs and flowers can now be found practically everwhere.

Under the Tree
[HiRes] Near sunset, University Park campus. The way the light fell gently on the pale pink flowers was just plain magical.

White Blossoms
[HiRes] Caught beside Sherwood Hall, University Park, where I spent my first two nights in Nottingham.

White Blossoms
[HiRes] This is the only photo today not captured in any of the University of Nottingham campuses, I think. Probably the same specie as the one above, but definitely different location.

Even right beside the drain. In Malaysia, plants would rather die than absorb a single drop of liquid from the drains.

Flowers by the Drain II
[HiRes] Even the drains see life flourish. This drain was even visited by the ducks occasionally.

Flowers by the Drain I
[HiRes] One of Jubilee Campus's many Sails reflected on the surface.

Eventually, the bees came out. The bees here are huge. I've seen some bigger than my thumb. And my man-thumb isn't exactly small.

[HiRes] You have no idea how much effort was needed to take two mediocre pictures of the bees using my 5-year-old compact camera.

[HiRes] A bee stained with pollens.

Life. Amazing, isn't it?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sights of London: Transport

Note 1: High resolution images of some of the following photos are available. These photos are marked with [HiRes] tags in their captions. Click on the photos to view their higher resolution images.

Note 2: Various facts obtained from Wikipedia. All external text-links lead to the related Wikipedia articles.

I have previously posted photos on my trip to London before. Two and a half months after my second London post, here's the third one.

London is a huge city, with over 8 million residents in the Greater London Urban Area. This calls for a more-than-just-good transport system.

I went to London Heathrow Airport before, the third busiest airport in the world.

London Heathrow, Terminal 3.

Besides the airport, London is famous for its red post boxes and red telephone booths.

And red double-deckers.

[HiRes] A classic Routemaster in front of a more modern double-decker.

The double-decker on the left is a famous Routemaster. Built in the 1950s and 60s, they have become icons of London. Much like how yellow cabs form the heart and soul of New York.

Routemasters are unique in a way that the entrances are located at the back of the bus, including the stairs to the upper deck.

Rear of Routemaster
[HiRes] Rear of a Routemaster bus.

The front part is also asymmetric.

The Bus Driver
[HiRes] The Bus Driver. I know the bus' registration plate kinda looks like a Malaysian price tag.

But I'm not that much of a big fan of buses. Trains, however, I love. Especially super-long distance, ultra-high speed trains and sparkling-new metros.

London Victoria Station
[HiRes] London Victoria Station, a central railway station. Captured using Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

London served me well for this reason -- London's metro system, the London Underground, or "the Tube", is notable for many achievements. It was the first underground railway system in the world, the first to operate electric trains, second longest metro system with about 400km of tracks, and third busiest metro system in Europe, after Paris and Moscow.

London Underground
[HiRes] The London Underground's "Roundel" logo. All tube stations have their names displayed in the roundel, replacing the "Underground" word.

The London Underground started serving in 1863. Yes, that's almost 150 years ago. In comparison, the first metro system in South East Asia, Manila's LRT System, opened in 1984, less than 30 years ago; Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit in 1987; and the Malaysian KTM Komuter started crawling in 1995.

Out of the Door
[HiRes] Captured using Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

While Malaysian Kelana Jaya Line receives a daily ridership of about 200 000, the London Underground gets about 3 million rides per day. That's right, million, not thousand.

Underground Station
[HiRes] Sunday morning at Earl's Court, Tube station. Captured using Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

Of course, the trains were changed periodically, but the tracks have to be well maintained. And I tell you, rides on the 150-year-old tracks are smoother than the 15-year-old KTM Komuter's bumpy knots of rusted iron.

In the Train
[HiRes] The inside of a London Underground train. Captured using Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

So you think Kuala Lumpur is a big city? Think again.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Scarf Mum Made Me

Note: High resolution image of the following photo is available. Click on the photo to view the higher resolution image.

Last year, when I decided to take the offer for a year-long exchange programme in UK, mum made me this.

The Scarf Mum Made Me

It's a scarf.

You surely wouldn't want it even if I were to give it to you. The truth is, it's not the best scarf around.

It's not nearly long enough for certain (cool) ways of tying it. Stray fibres stick out from every square millimetre of it on both sides (that's the consequences of using some kind of Japanese yarn). Having it in direct contact to your skin really itches. What made things worse was its colour -- the shade of unhealthy green poo.

We mortals are always easily dissatisfied. I have a functioning camera which produced countless great photos, yet I can't conceal my desire for an SLR. I love my phone, but seeing newer models released every month just makes me drool. My home is great, but sometimes, when I see a nice house, I just can't help but think, wow, wouldn't it be great to live in a place like this.

But then again, however unsightly our homes may be, it is still the warmest and best place in the world. Perhaps we have grown attachments to our homes, for they have provided us shelter from the rain and sun for the many years. Perhaps the locked doors gave us a sense of security. Perhaps staying with our family makes us feel safe and loved. Or maybe it is just because of all the memories we've made in our homes. Either way, I would easily prefer two nights in my own messy bed to three weeks in a grand four-poster in a five star suite.

Looking back at the green scarf, I realised how the same principle can be applied to that simple piece of fabric. I can easily adapt to its many short-comings. After wearing it for a few times, I got used to it and it itched less; I simply draped it around my neck twice instead of attempting some fancy knots; I could've easily hidden it underneath my jacket if its colour clashed with my other garments.

That, however, wasn't the real reason I put off the idea of getting a new factory-made scarf. Mum spent weeks knitting the scarf for me, all her precious time, effort and passion woven carefully into the simple piece of fabric, flick by flick, under the gentle guidance of her warm hands. Simple was her sole desire: to equip me with a cover from the snow and a shield from the cold.

I was heavily reminded of an ancient Chinese poem, one which tells the story of a loving mother, hastily sewing a shirt for her far-travelling son, all while hoping he doesn't take too long to return home.

When the winter reached its peak and the winds were strong, I would whip the scarf out of my bag and wrap it around my neck. Knowing that it was made by my mother's own fingers only made wearing it doubly warm.

And no, I don't usually hide it from view, for it makes me feel absolutely certain that no one else in this world could possibly be as lucky as I am.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

6th May 2010: Polling Day

... for UK.

Some time in March I received this letter from the Conservatives.

[HiRes] The letter, front and back.

It came with an extra envelope, addressed to the Conservatives' Nottingham branch office.

Back then, I had no idea what was going on. Sure I knew an election was coming up, but the parliament was not dissolved yet and the election day was not set.

The worse thing is that I knew nothing about British politics. Not that I know a lot now, mind you, but back then I didn't even know who (or what) the Conservatives were. It could be their tree logo and party name, or my slight enthusiasm for eco-friendliness, but when I first saw the letter I thought some environmental society was asking me for participation.

The Conservative Party's official logo. Seriously, it's misleading.

No kidding.

Anyway, it goes without saying I totally ignored the survey. It was probably a mistake, I thought. I'm a 20-year-old visitor to the UK, do I get a say on how things go? (Apparently I do, and I kind of regret ignoring the survey.)

Anyway, fast forward a few weeks, and I started to receive more election, er, goodies. The first to come was this.

In the middle of the Easter break, I woke up around er, noon, and picked up a small stack of identical white cards, each of them addressed to each of my (local) house mates. I flicked through them, going through the names and imagine my surprise when I saw mine.

I scratched my head. Why do I get to vote? A quick check to Wikipedia answered my question.
"Anyone who is a citizen of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, or of a Commonwealth country, who is legally resident in the UK, and who is 18 or over on the date of the election is eligible to vote..."
Elections in the United Kingdom. (2010, May 5).
In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:24, May 6, 2010,
18? Oh wow, that's awesome. I get to vote!

The next few weeks saw leaflets and flyers delivered to my place, all aiming to, er, to put it delicately, help me make up my mind on who to vote for.

We got more from the Conservatives.

And Labour Party, the winning party for the last election which brought Gordon Brown to power.

Liberal-Democrats, or Lib-Dems.

And BNP, the British National Party.

And today, May 6th, the polling day, arrived. I cast my vote in the Lenton/Radford Library. The process took much shorter time than I expected. I swear it could've taken less than 1 minute (including waiting, how about that) if nothing goes wrong.

It was nothing much to brag about, but I just have to boast about one thing. My first participation in a general election is in UK, and that happened before I reached the age of 21 (one month shy, hint, hint!), the legal voting age for Malaysian. That, my dear friends, is epic.

And who will lead UK this time? Is my vote working its magic? We'll have to wait and see.