elb's hovel of thoughts

Friday, January 28, 2005

60 years of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Jan 27 1945. One of the more significant dates in the closing stages of World War II, where the biggest death camp of the Third Reich's 'Final Solution' fell to the Soviet Red Army (who were on a massive counter attack after coming perilously close to defeat during almost 4 years of war). The death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau (or Auschwitz for short) was freed from the jaws of death as the Soviet juggernaut was steamrolling its way to Berlin. In that small place, more than one million individuals (out of 6 million, the estimated total Holocaust toll**) were subjected to extermination (primarily via Zyklon B) and medical experiments of a grosteque and barbaric nature

I managed to catch snippets of the commemoration that was carried out at Auschwitz on television while I was at the electronics store checking out some equipment (my television has been put away at a friend's place). Plenty of army veterans and former survivors (the older generation) and heads of state (the younger generation) were present, the older people looking especially frail in the falling snow.

Boring fact of the day: The German president is not to speak at the commemoration (I'm not sure if its limited to delivering a speech or not to speak at all [which seems a bit too much]) in recognition of (Nazi) Germany as the perpetuator of the Holocaust.

It is most relieving to see that the massive genocide has not been forgotten (well, how could they, when plenty of people who went through it are still alive?), despite the attempts of certain quarters that are denying the Holocaust ever took place. I'm just wondering whether by the time of the 100th, or 150th anniversary, whether these atrocities would still be a part of history, or whether it would be removed from the annals of history as effectively as the RCC has removed the barbaric Spanish Inquisition from the minds of people; or the very recent massive 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkans of which I can bet that more than half of you don't even know what the hell I'm talking about.

As part of my commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation, I might be putting up a small set of pictures which I had taken during my visit to the Dachau concentration camp. But only after my exams are done.

Yes I know this post is a few hours late, in case anyone was going to pick on me for that.

** Please note toll does not include deaths as a result of combat, just helpless individuals, out of which the majority were Jews (sympathy out of this is a pivotal reason why the modern state of Israel was allowed to form)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

My current best friend

A student's best friend during exam times/ tight deadlines for major projects:

Friday, January 21, 2005

My gym / Holiday love handles blues

For the past few visits at the gym, I noticed that it was extremely busy, that 90% of the cardio machines would be taken at the usual time I visit, as well as most of the weight resistance machines (there would be usually no more than 15 people in the gym from my observations from October to December).

Quick stats about my gym: They have 7 rowing machines, 16 treadmills, 16 cycling machines in 2 configurations, 16 cross trainers, 2 stepping machines and a hand-driven cycling machine. In addition, there are 2 weight resistance machines for each of the following: Assisted push/ chin ups, leg curl, hip abduction/ abduction, shoulder press, chest press, seated row, leg extension, et cetera. An area for stretching/ tummy based work outs. Plus another area for pumping iron. A picture of the rower machine and stretching area can be seen here. No pictures allowed to be taken without permission, sorry peeps.

I was arranging for my progress assessment with my trainer when I asked him:

'Is it just me, or are there plenty of people who joined the gym all of the sudden?'
'Oh, its just a momentary thing. It happens every January, all of the sudden there would be a huge influx of people that would drop off along the year'
'Ah... people trying to burn off the holiday season fat'
'Yup, and also those who make New Year resolutions'
'It happens in gyms all over the world at this time'

The question is: how many people have the tenacity and perseverance in keeping their New Year's resolution, especially those which need more dedication like working out?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Beware engineering students!

If you are from the UK/ EU, you now need a minimum of MEng / taught MSc to be registered under the Malaysian Board of Engineers. Fucking bullshit, when local Malaysians only need a Bachelors. The difference in degree quality is bad enough, but the level as well? It used to be that you need a UK BEng to be sufficiently qualified.

The excuse? They register engineers in accordance with the standards required to be registered as an engineer at the country where the degree is issued.

Dammit dammit dammit. I need to change my plans now, just when I thought I could wiggle myself out of exams after my January finals (looks like its no longer a finals anymore *eyerolls*). And I'm getting all this when supposed to graduate this July? Hah.

They better pay me like triple what they pay local graduates, with all the time and hard earned money invested and better qualification. Shit.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Growing old

Farewell to my adolescence, hello to my adulthood

Monday, January 17, 2005

Modena 360

Bought a Ferrari (!) for a friend's birthday a few days back. We wanted to allow our dear friend the opportunity to own a Ferrari, but being poor broke students we purchased a die-cast model. Sorry... can't afford a Ferrari for you to sit in, but at least you can sit on it. Hehe... if anyone gets the joke!

Could not find the Enzo/ Scaglietti (Christmas took out all the stock), so I laid my hands on the classic 360 Modena at Hamleys.

Front view

Rear view

Another view

The engine bay

The interior

All I need now is something 18 times the size, looks exactly like it, and actually runs.

Cafe Concerto

Here are a couple of shots that I took at Cafe Concerto, this time of the sandwich and cake displays.

The sandwiches look (and taste!) so much better than supermarket fare, but at twice the price. Never mind, they were well worth it! Note the tiramisu on the bottom right of which a slice I purchased.

The cakes and eclairs screaming out at you 'Buy me! Eat me!'

Older pics taken at an earlier visit; the ice cream is only available from March till September (or October?):

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Forman smoked salmon

While I was browsing through the foodhalls of Selfridges, an old lady suddenly asked me:
"Do you like smoked salmon?"
*cue befuddled look* "Ummm..."
*lifts up packet of smoked salmon* "They're going for only 5GBP a packet now... over there *points to counter*"
"Oh... thanks for telling me!"

I helped myself to a packet of the hot smoked salmon:

A closer look at the otherwise shocking price tag:

Me and my housemates finished all of it later that night (we had to, there was a reason it was discounted so heavily!). It was delicious, as expected from smoked salmon that is frequently served to customers at 3-star Michelin restaurants. I just wish that it was cold smoked salmon instead :(

Added: The packet weighed 400g. Price comparisons might be made later.

The over enthusiastic Italian

Another stop was made at another clothes store along Oxford Street. Here I was assisted by a very quirky and enthusiastic Italian chap by the name of Mario. Mario had named amongst his credentials as working for Dolce & Gabbana before in Milano (Italian 101: Milano is Italian for Milan), although I didn't bother to enquire much about what exactly he did there.

Never the less his enthusiasm for dressing people up nicely went a bit too far when he knocked on the cubicle I was in, asked 'Are you okay?' and proceeded to open the door when my pants were halfway down.

I suppose it wasn't as bad as the poor Japanese girl in another cubicle nearby when he was knocking on her door and asking 'Are you alright? Can I take a look? I can advise you'. The poor girl must have been feeling terrified, especially when his next comments included 'It is alright, don't worry, we have no hidden camera.' I promptly whispered to him some words of advise on Asian etiquette when I was out of the cubicle. Turned out he didn't realize that Asians (especially the women!) weren't as open-minded as Europeans when it came to these matters. Poor chap, he was only trying to help.

But he was good alright, he picked out for me a long sleeved shirt which I liked so much that I decided to buy it right away, and a pair of black pants which I think I will return (I'm in more urgent need of a pair of blue denims). Sucky thing was that the shirt did more damage than expected due to pranksters playing around with the price tags. But I look good in it, so ya.

Attempted rip-off!

One of the things I did when I was in London was to take advantage of the January sales (what else!). Didn't have much of a choice because I had to wait a few hours between the end of my GRE and to catch the train back (due to peak train hours).

I stopped by at Selfridges to take a look around. I saw t-shirts for a certain brand going quite cheap, so I tried on one and decided to grab it. The price tags were going for 27GBP, but the way the staff had written the GBP sign was rather dodgy, as I found out later when I paid for it at the sports apparel section:

"That would be one hundred and twenty seven pounds please."
"Excuse me? But I believe that reads twenty seven"
"You'd better take it back to Brand X"

So back to Brand X, where the staff agreed with me that the tags should read 27 and not 127, and I proceeded to pay for my item there.

The misleading pricetag:

London Jan '05

When I was in London a few days ago after sitting for my GRE (which I might say was a total disaster that showed how limited my vocabulary really is), I took the opportunity to look around and see if I could find anything interesting.

Amongst the few things I did were to grab myself a wonderful ciabatta toast courtesy of Cafe Concerto (which incidentally is that same shop that serves the wonderful ice cream from March till October), and dropped by Hamleys just across from Cafe Concerto.

Nothing else much, just did plenty of walking up and down Oxford and Regent Street. Grabbed another foccacia from Cafe Concerto and took away a slice of the tiramisu, which I must certainly say is magnifique.

No more Haloscan

I have removed Haloscan, in case some of you are wondering why the later comments have disappeared. Sorry! You might find the new system implemented more handy in the long run

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Premium chicken

For me, chicken breast isn't exactly my favourite part of a chicken. Its tough and all, eventhough its supposed to be all nice and healthy for you. To top it off, its expensive here, which is why I hardly ever buy it.

My perception has changed however. A few days before Christmas, I was stocking up Christmas food supplies when I chanced across their chicken breast, sold at a discount. I decided, what the heck, I'll have one. It had 4 pieces of chicken breast which weighed around 500g and cost me 4.00 GBP (discounted from 6.50) , which is around the normal price for normal chicken breasts at the normal supermarkets

I had one piece diced and cooked with my noodles a few days later (I froze it in the meantime, mind you) and when I bit into a cube, I was surpised. The meat just came part so easily. It was easily as enjoyable as eating a drumstick. I thought that it was a fluke until I had a stir fry the other day with another piece. The meat again was so tender that it was as if a warm knife was tearing through butter when I bit into it.

Now I know why places like Waitrose and M&S sell their chicken breast at a premium.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

God's fault?

I'll wager that when ever a disaster strikes, the first thing on most people's minds would be: 'Oh my God. Why did you allow that to happen? Why are you being so cruel?'

Too often people get caught up in the heat, the emotions that flow for that moment, like if they know that their loved ones are in the region and especially if they have been affected. Or maybe merely the thought that God could have allowed tragedy to strike. Is this fair at all? Maybe not.

Until you think about the fact that the most of the world has no longer made God welcome anymore. People are driving out God from their lives, from their homes. A Christmas programme was aired here on Christmas Eve debunking Christmas. If the same were done in Malaysia (or any Muslim country) debunking Ramadan, woe betide.

Until you think about the fact that people tell God 'We don't want you. We don't need your blessing. We can do everything ourselves. You're no longer needed.' Or to quote a scientist: 'We should not let a divine footprint beyond our doors'

Simply put, if you make God absolutely unwelcome, then don't blame God if any disaster hits you, or anyone for that matter.