elb's hovel of thoughts

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Chelsea FC Celebrations 2005/2006

Pictures with captions (some of them anyway) below.

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Policemen watching over the celebrations outside Stamford Bridge.

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More pictures outside Stamford Bridge

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The police starting to move along as the crowd begins to disperse

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Traders cash in. Other items include flags, banners, and helim balloons of the Premiership cup.

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Along New Kings Road, mobs outside pubs halt and slow down the cars passing by and ask them to honk in support of the Chelsea team, cheering every honk.

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The same is repeated with a bus.

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I spotted a few police vehicles escorting this coach - I have a feeling it is Manchester United's transport.

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A mounted police rides alongside the aforementioned coach.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

African Touts

[Paris entry] The Basilica Sacre Coeur can be accessed from several directions. The most popular entrance is the one which faces the front of the basilica; it also happens to be filled with Africans at the bottom. To get there, you would have to climb up a staircase along the hill, which access depends on a small gate at the bottom of the hill. Crowded around this gate is where you would find the Africans

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The climb to the Basilica Sacre Coeur.

Why are they there, you might ask? I wondered too...

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Some of the Africans.

What were they doing there? Observe the picture below.

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Palm reading? Not quite...

They were holding coloured strings in their hand and beckoning at passers by to stop. Of course anyone would know that it would involve money so they would shrug it off. So anyhow we went past the gate, and the Africans were upon us like a swarm.

I resisted at first, but because I was too tired. Before I knew it, some random Afro had started tying his bands around my wrist. The conversation went something like:

'Hello sir how are you. Are you liking Paris? I'm from Senegal. Here let me do this good luck charm for you.....'

Before I knew it he had tied whatever he had meant to tie.

'Now, close your eyes and make a wish and it would come true....'

Yeah, I wish you and the rest of you lot would just fuck off and leave me and everyone else alone, I thought to myself and nodded.

'Good! Don't forget to come back and give to me several million...'

Do you think all of us are as money minded as you? I thought to myself as I gave a polite grin.

Then, the catch. 'Sir... could I request for some money?'. Oh just get lost. 'Usually the other tourists pay €30' he added helpfully.

No fucking way you're going to get that, I thought to myself as I pulled out my wallet. Fortunately I had the smallest paper denomination - an €5 note. I took it and held it out.

'Please monsieur, do you not have thirty Euroes?'. I'm sorry, but I'm a poor chap, so take it and leave I tried to telepath to him as the joyful mood (on his part) evaporated as I looked at him with indifference.

'Do you not have anything bigger than that at the very least? Ten Euroes?' I shook my head, and reinforced my take-this-or-leave-it-I-will-never-budge look. He relented and took it.

I was never bothered by the other touts the rest of the time because they could clearly see that I had been marked victimized. You have been warned of what to expect should you go there...

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The 'good luck charm'. Hey, I paid €5 for it alright?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Malaysian graduation ceremonies an eyesore

No, I have nothing against the sights of mortarboards and gowns. (Hopefully) the fresh graduates who are wearing them have the brains (and mentality) to match the degrees that they received. Congratulations to those of you who have graduated recently! I'm sure it must be great to finally step out after working hard (ahem) for several years. Graduation ceremonies in my mind, need not necessarily be grand, but it should be tasteful and should not sound patronizing.

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Picture taken from Joan Chew's blog with permission.

Unfortunately the problem is not only limited to local Malaysian education institutions. Degrees from foreign universities (via local programmes) appear to get even shoddier treatment:

Above: The graduation ceremony details printed on what appears to be office paper and mounted on the green velvet (even calling the curtain 'velvet' is dubious). Horrid! Picture taken from World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities

Let's put a different graduation ceremony in comparison. Take mine for example.
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My graduation ceremony (Chancellor's chair prominent).

Granted that Malaysia has a lack of cathedrals etc to make a really spectacular graduation ceremony, but quite frankly I can think of several improvements. Like getting rid of the horrible, horrible backdrop. Replace it with some velvet curtains or something! You don't need to announce in huge letters across the stage who is presiding over the ceremony; that's what the ceremony pamphlets are for!

The institution's logo would also look so much better if it is mounted onto a standard and stood discreetly at the side of the stage. Maybe some plants here and there to spruce things up a little. Instead of those horrible styrofoam/ inkjet printed backgrounds. Please lah. Its one of the most significant milestones in life (for most people anyway); don't ruin it with a disastrous backdrop.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mark Gerrish

Feeling rather bored while walking home today, I thought that I would give an old friend of mine a call. I had not talked with him since the last time I dropped by my old place during Christmas.

'Hello G! How are you? This is Patrick here'
'Why hello young man! Its been a bit of time since I've last heard from you!'
'Yup, sorry but I've been really busy. XXXXXXX is a killer place you know...'
'By the way, have you heard the news about Mark?'

Mark & G are friends of mine and the two were best buddies. I didn't know Mark very well, but we always had little conversations whenever I bumped into him.

'Nope I don't think I have! Anything good?'
'Well Mark is dead'

I was almost floored and paused for a second, wondering if I heard correctly. 'Sorry, could you repeat that?'

'Mark's dead now, he got hit and run.' I paused again to digest this bit of unexpected and shocking news.
'Oh my goodness! I'm so sorry!(yes, I really was) When did that happen?'
'It happened around eight weeks ago now. I wondered whether I should have told you about it.'
Of course you should have I thought to myself. Arghhhhh!! But it was not an appropriate time to say anything.

He continued on: 'He was cycling around when a car hit him and ran off. He just got engaged with his girlfriend and were going to shop for an engagement ring in the evening.'

My mouth went dry and I felt really bad that I was outdated on something like this. Such a shame that tragedy had to strike him on what would have otherwise been one of the happiest days of his life. (Even my most eloquent words can't do justice to what I feel so I shan't bother trying, but rest assured that my 'empty' words here are not the case in reality).

RIP Mark Gerrish, old chap. I'm sure that you're up there somewhere.

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p.s. I am extremely appalled that the person (people?) responsible for this crime have still not been brought to justice. Get him and make the nitwit (I refrain from using harsher words from the plethora of foul language at my disposal out of respect to Mark) pay. To say that am I jumping hopping mad is an understatement.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Random rant.


Pardon me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Paris demonstration 1st hand experience

It was a crappy day weather wise when we were loafing around the outsides of the Louvre, contemplating whether the entry fee was worth paying. After deciding that no, it wasn't, we took a seat at the staircase of a hidden corner.

Suddenly J pipped out: Look, I see flags! That's probably where the demonstration* is!

I mean, we had seen several convoys of police cars, jeeps, trucks and buses. Like the one below, taken near Concorde.

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Spirits higher, we walked out of the Louvre to the where the flags were spotted. Nothing. We turned to our right.

Sure enough, we could see some banners in the (near) distance.

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Scattered all around were riot police, with polycarbonate shields on standby

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Initially hesitant to go near (in case there was trouble and we would be rounded up and accused of nefarious activities), we grew bolder and began to move around, prepared to run as fast as possible at the first sign of trouble.

Eventualy we grew bored, entered the Metro and moved on towards our next destination.

*A series of demonstrations (and some which turned into riots) were held at various points from February to April in Paris, notably around Sorbonne, in protest of new employment laws

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Paris part deux

Day three started off at Basilique de Sacre Coeur. Beautiful place.

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Beautiful, yes? But there is a plague about this beautiful place. Post coming soon, so stay tuned.

We got down and walked along Rue de Clichy. We were 'recommended' to take a look, and after a while it became apparent why.

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Note the two figures at the store on the right. Yes this picture was taken at a different time from mentioned.

This was also the area where I got accosted by the lady-pimp when I returned to the area (to buy souvenirs, you pervs).

Eventually we hit Moulin Rouge, and climbed up into Montmatre.

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Moulin Rouge at night. €95 for a ticket anyone? I have better things to do with my money...

We returned to our apartment to collect our stuff, and made our way to Gare du Nord. I joined my friend (a fashion designer in training, ahem ladies!) there as the rest left back to London.

He stays at Montmatre, near the Basilique du Sacre Coeur, and he took me to look around Rue de Clichy at night. Refer to the previous two pictures for ideas.

The next day we went to explore a flea market for a bit.

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Some of the illegal 'stores' setting up on the road heading to the flea market.

and after that I went back to the Louvre. Being the first Sunday of the month, access was free.

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However the queue was simply too long...

Unfortunately the queue stretched across the length of the courtyard, so I headed to the Opera Garnier, of Phantom of the Opera fame. No visits were allowed at that time because Figaro was about to play.

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The majestic opera house.

From there I randomly walked around and hit the posh area of Paris around the Vendome. Brands like Cartier, Tiffany & Co started showing themselves, but I walked on passing the Concorde.

I dropped by the Invalides, paying homage to the tomb of the great Napoleon Bonaparte and ended back at the independent shops along Rue de Grenelle (as per day 1).

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Napoleon's tomb, Invalides

Day 5 left me tying up loose ends and going shopping. There are some beautiful shops around Montmatre selling fresh cheese, seafood etc. Unfortunately, the shops were closed. Arghh! I bought a couple of souvenirs, walked around Montmatre and headed over to Madeleine.

After lunch I explored the (very expensive) surroundings for a bit and headed down to St Michel, after contemplating whether I should visit the Catacombesde Paris at Denfert-Rochereau but due to lack of time decided to visit the Pantheon instead.

I passed through the Luxembourg Gardens, then visited the Pantheon, where some of the ‘famous’ French people are buried. But to be quite frank, I only recognized Voltaire and Rosseau.

Then it was the bus to the train station (where I almost got fined €55) for the evening Eurostar, and I reached home later that night.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Paris Day 1 & 2 (un/deux)

The following is to summarize my trip with as much detail as possible. Otherwise uhhh, I will never complete it, like I have done with my Bohemian trip previously :P

We met up at Waterloo station at 7am. I left my place at 5.30am having had no sleep the night before because I was busy finishing up my previous assignment; and when I was walking on a lightly lit main road, a taxi driver passed me, giving me the most sinister look on his face as he hoped that I would hail him. Too bad.

Even around 5.35am there were people already going to work on the public transport. Quite a few of them wore suits.

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I reached Waterloo half an hour before the rest, and killed time playing with Sudoku. Due to some hiccups at the baggage X-ray, we had to literally run to board the Eurostar train in time.

We arrived a Paris, and promptly got into trouble with the Metro tickets because we did not know what to get due to our lack of understanding of French. A man tried to sell to us the tickets for the price of €1.40, or the standard price. We found out later that you can buy tickets in a carnet of 10 for €10.50.

Our first stop was to check into our apartment along Rue de Grenelle. We looked around the area to investigate. We walked along the Seine river up towards the Louvre in the depressing drizzle with long convoys of police vehicles passing us every now and then (Paris was in the middle of demonstrations, remember?). In no more mood, we returned for a nap (we didn't sleep the day before, remember?). Food entries are to be done separately. The nap was too long; we woke up late! We headed to the Eiffel Tower for some night shots, and stayed up until dawn (we originally intended to shoot the Eiffel Tower under dawn conditions but no it didn't happen).

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Late morning/ early afternoon on day two was basically spent around Notre Dame and Liege. Late afternoon we walked along Champs de Elysees, and caught the sunset around Arch de Triomphe.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bloody connection

My connection has been severely fucked up the past few days, as those of you who have me on MSN probably have realised by now. Occassionally the network exchange goes down for a couple of hours; really a minor annoyance but nothing fatal.

Over the past few days however, I noticed my connection would be down for a couple of hours a day. Perhaps the fault has always been there but I would be spending huge chunks of my day out of my room, so I did not notice it.

Anyhow, I lodged a complaint with building management. I was informed that the superior received the complaint, so I figured maybe things would get sorted out quick. Wrong. My line has been down from yesterday afternoon. I would get something like 10 minutes of inactivity followed by a brief window of a single minute to get anything I wanted done. My Internet traffic bar shows no download activity at all. Shit. At first I thought that the problem would last for a couple of hours, but the problem has persisted until at this very moment, 12.45am on Sunday.

I'm not expecting anything to get done until Tuesday at earliest. Its a Bank Holiday weekend ffs!! I feel bad about being pissed off like this (its Resurrection Sunday today!), but I have one more assignment to complete and I need to utilize on-line resources to help with my revision as the exams draw to a start next Monday. Grrrrr.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Toyota Concept Cars

Whilst walking along Champs de Elysees, one cannot help but to notice the showrooms. Featured as follows are two of the Toyota concept cars on display at the Toyota showroom.

First up is the Fine-S

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Front view

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Rear view

The second concept car, the CS&S
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Front view

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Rear view

And upstairs they had a response game.

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Hit as many as you can!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Yaki Maki Restaurant

I went with a couple of friends to this restaurant earlier. One of the first things we saw was a Japanese family eating there, so we felt that we couldn't go very wrong.

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The interior decor with some nice scenery to ogle at.

The menu was pretty good, with plenty of options to choose from especially the maki on offer. Our tea arrived tasting of sesame and was rather weakly brewed. The salad which we served was fantastic on the other hand; and the miso soup was about right.

The starters arrived quickly, which surprised us a little because the restaurant was rather busy. The soft shelled crab was good; the prawn tempura was a delight - light and crisp - however we did not get any grated radish along with it.

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Soft shell crab and probably one of the best tempuras I've had in a long while!

The maki that we ordered were good as well. However we noticed something about the rice used - it tasted more like long grain rice, and it was of a dry consistency rather than the stickiness we would have expected. Never the less it was still good.

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The maki rolls. Eel + avocado + salmon eggs on top of a fried California roll* with fried fish inside (if I remember correctly) at left. On the right is ebi filled California rolls with tuna and salmon on top, along with mock crabsticks and flying fish roe.

After the sumptious starters and maki rolls, we were expecting our main dishes to outshine - salmon teriyaki, beef bulgogi (that's Korean not Japanese) and tofu. We were let down however.

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Bulgogi (left) and Japanese tofu (right)

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The pathetic salmon teriyaki.

*In Malaysia, California rolls refer to what the Brits call a 'hand roll'. California rolls here are what you see in the third picture.

Overall: Only go here for the maki rolls and other dishes besides the main dishes. Stay away from most of the main dishes.

Cost? £75 total.

Yaki Maki can be found at South Wimbledon.
Address: 148 Merton Road, South Wimbledon SW19.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


The oldest encounter I have had with crepes is probably that which I had at Marche, the Curve, KL, Malaysia. Which was not too long ago really, something like last year? And I remember looking at it and asking my friend what was in it. 'Turkey and cheese', the friend went, or something to that effect, as I gave a wtf-is-meat-doing-in-a-pancake look.

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Crepe, Restaurant Marche, The Curve, Malaysia. 2005.

I completely put that episode behind me, until last week during my little excursion to France. I had at least 7 crepes over 5 days, ranging from those filled with Grand Marnier liquor, to those filled with champignon (mushrooms) to oeuf jambon fromage (egg, ham and cheese) crepes.

Not only were the fillings of different varieties, but I also experienced different methods used. Some used premade crepes, while others made them fresh on the spot. The two Grand Marnier crepes that I had were also different; one of them (bought at the flea market) was literally spilling out from the crepe, whereas the other one (somewhere around Montmatre) merely sogged the crepe. No prizes for which was better.

Documented below is the crepe making process, bought somewhere around Rue de Grenelle. The crepe in question is of the oeuf jambon fromage variety.

The batter is spread out on the pan using a wooden contraceptive (not shown)

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One side of the crepe starts to cook.

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The cook starts to flip the crepe over

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The reverse side of the crepe. You can see that one side is cooked.

Ham and cheese are added to the crepe. We were engrossed in friendly conversation.

'Where are you from? China?' he asks, a question echoed by the other female customer as I was taking pictures of him.

'London,' I replied. It was probably the first time I never mentioned Malaysia when somebody asked me my origins.

The reply certainly caught them off guard. The ladies' previously friendly facade changed as she mentioned with a bit more frost in her voice, 'I like the Portabello market. Very nice'. The joy of Anglo-French relations. Perhaps I should have just stuck with Malaysia.

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The cook starts to close the crepe, when I realise he forgot my egg!

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The egg is hastily added after I correct him.

The crepe cost €4.50. I mistakenly took out a £5 note. Whoops.

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Burp! Crepe to go! On the other hand, I'm completely sick of crepes now.

Monday, April 03, 2006

English language in Paris

Normally when one travels, one of the handiest phrases would be 'Can you speak ' in the dominant language of the place you travel to. In my case, 'Parlez-vous Anglais?'

However, it seems that the tables were turned on me this time in Paris. A lady, begging for money came up and asked

'Excuse me, can you speak English?'

She walked away. Another one came up a couple of minutes later

'Excuse me, can you speak English?'
'No, I am not able to.'

She left.

One of them approached a friend:

'Excuse me, can you speak English?'
'不会' (Bu hui; Chinese for 'not able to')
And she started: 'I have a child.... we are poor...'

Lesson: Speak English to the beggars so that they can actually understand that you don't want them to bug you

And when walking along Rue de Clichy (aka Paris' red light district), the lady-pimps outside the sex clubs trying to solicit people outside:

'Ni hao (with bad pronunciation). Hello sir, do you speak English?'
'No thanks'
'But sir, this is not a video. It is a live show!' *putting her hand on my arm*
'Not interested thank you'
*Blabber blabbermyearswereshut*

Other cultural mismatches:

Another interesting conversation took place between us and a policeman, as we were hoping to catch some of the demonstrations but did not know where to go..

'Excuse me sir. We were just wondering where the riots were so we can avoid them (reality: we want to take a look)'
*blank look*
'Ah, Notre Dame?' He gestures to us the directions to get there.
'Err.. merci'

Also, a crepe seller noticed my extremely broken French, and he gave me a couple of pointers as his wife was making my Grand Marnier savoury crepe. That took me by surprise and it was very nice of them.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Bonjour de la France

At my friend's place near Basilique du Sacré Cœur,de Montmartre, Paris right now. Nice and cosy, and we have cockroaches for company. Yes, cockroaches... garden ones. Small, tiny and cute ones, apparently a common occurence here and as part of life for the French as dog poop is on the streets.

Nothing much to say except that the weather was as crap as London's on the day that we arrived, and we bumped into several convoys of police. We got to experience a demonstration as well - complete with police in riot gear etc.

Its also probably been the slowest moving holiday I've ever been on - which is really something - we only visited around 6 sights in two days and had long sleep ins, almost being homeless one of the nights! And managing to take a 30 minute detour when our accommodation was merely within sight from one of the attractions.

For tomorrow, its free entry to museums, so I'm off to the Louvre for the second time (hopefully the weather would be excellent for me to take some fantastic shots and I can delete the depressing gray ones), to take a peek at Napoleon's Tomb, visit the Opera Garnier (of Phantom of the Opera fame), and whatever else tickles my fancy. Probably no time to visit Chateau Versailles :(

Early start tomorrow, so signing off now.