elb's hovel of thoughts

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Oreos from Selfridges

Oreos have been very hard to find here. The only place I have seen it being sold is at Selfridges & Co, but unfortunately, it is rather expensive. My cravings for it finally convinced me to shell out over 10 pounds (more likely to be over 11 pounds actually, but I misplaced the receipt, oops).

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The biscuits at left (GBP5.xx), and the cereal with marshmallowy bits, something I don't recall seeing back in Malaysia, at right (GBP6.xx). At conversion rates, that would be approximately RM80. For comparison, a pack of 'normal' biscuits of that size would cost less then GBP3, and
cereal around GBP2.

I just wish they had the version with more cream inside...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jack of all trades...

But! A Master in (EnterRandomDegreeTitle).

Work starts Monday. I now have a rough idea of what I want to do for the future. Whether I will get satisfaction, or even manage to enter that field, remains to be seen. I don't know whether the fact that I'm not required to wear a tie and a suit is a good thing or a bad thing. I'd love to dress up for work (if I'm not too tired) and blend in with the City folk, but ah well. At least I get to save some money buying a second suit.

Need to interpret the word 'casual' in casual Fridays carefully. Can I turn up in sandals, bermudas and a T-shirt? That would be amusing, if not for the fact that its starting to get cold...

(Yes Elaine, I got my Internet connection 48 hours earlier than I thought..)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Chocolate noodles and more (Magyar cuisine)

A big on-going problem right now is the protests taking place in Budapest, Hungary. Shame, because Budapest is a fine city. Not as magnificant as Prague, but there you go. Let me distract you from the troubles there and show you some of the food on offer (a previous post which included the delicious dessert somlo, goose liver and catfish can be found here).

One of the restaurants we went to had the most incredible interior. You would not have believed it to be a restaurant indeed.

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The interior of Restaurant Whachamacallit. I can't remember right now; in fact I got it confused with the Kolkovna Bar & Restaurant in Prague, which serves excellent pub food. Will look it up later.

There was also a section where you could have gypsies play songs for you. So what did we have here?

First up was beef goulash (a thick soup), served with egg pasta.
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We grew tired of this dish after encountering it almost everywhere.

Next was lamb leg with plum sauce and served with polenta and vine leaves. This was simply spectacular.
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Tasted just as delicious as it looks!

We also had even more goose liver topped steak at one of the tourist traps.

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Overpriced, and a tiny portion. Gah.

We also had schitznel.
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Okay so it really is more of Austrian food than Hungarian.

And some grilled pork.
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Yes, that's a huge piece of lard used to decorate the shockingly oily dish. No, I did not eat the fat.

And oh, for those of you who like desserts:
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Chocolate noodles!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

KFC Spicy Chicken @ UK & Coup d'etat

Seeing the advertisements for the Spicy Zinger the past couple of weeks has been making my mouth water. After so long of waiting (okay, I never even thought it would ever come),I was concerned about the potential level of spiciness because something that I would rate as rather mild would be a tastebud minefield for the Brits.

So, I dragged SK along into a KFC.

'Colonel meal, spicy please'

'Umm excuse me, can I have the drumstick and thigh instead?' I ask when the lady picks out the measly bone piece of breast meat. I'd rather have the drumstick over that anyday.

So how was it? Pretty good actually. I could taste some of the spiciness, which is good although it could be better. It was almost exactly as it would be in Malaysia. Ahh :)

Meanwhile, SK was busy on the phone, and she had a troubled expression.

'Hmm?' I gestured at her as she was done.
'There's some problem in Thailand. Something just happened...'
'Oh.. what was it?' My mind thought about the recent incident at Hat Yai.
'Something to do with the Prime Minister. He's in the US now. I don't know what you call it..'
'I think so... the military is also involved.'
'Ahh.. coup d'etat!'
'I heard that the army had blocked the media as well and there is not much information...'

Fortunately, SK's family is doing well. They were sleeping and didn't even know what had happened.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Paths to the Future

Every now and then, we have to make major decisions that will almost certainly influence our destinies. The earliest of these decisions are made by our parents: Why don't we have a baby? What school should we send the child to? Shall we get him a sibling?

Then as we start to grow independent and know what we would like to do, we start to have a say: I want to go to this college. I would like to attend this university. I want this person as my other half.

And on the brink of total independence from your parents, the most important question: What do I want to do?

Maybe some of you already know what exactly you want; I congratulate you on that. I really do. It is not easy to make a decision if you have so many options sitting in front of you; so many conflicting interests and different opportunities.

Let me recall two conversations which sum up my dilemma.


'Don't you want to do a PhD?' RS asked me as we were walking to the Underground station the other day. RS is the PhD I am working under. In his late 30s, he looks at least 1/3 younger.

'I don't know, I was thinking about it the other day. Maybe if I can get the funding.'

'You should try University X. They are one of the best in the world in this area of research and have a young, vibrant team. You will enjoy it there. Or you could do research, the stuff which you have been working in is a very hot area right now; and with your experience, you wouldn't have a problem getting a job in that area. Plus Dr. Y, he was very impressed with the quality of your research.'

I shot a thoughtful nod at RS.

‘Don’t you think its exciting? Sure it can be a bit of a pain in the ass sometimes, but the thrill of discovering something new that nobody has ever done before, that makes it worth it’, he grinned at me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve suffered from repetitive strain injuries over the past few months.

‘Yes I do, but I also need to think about my long term future. There is not much future for my area back home, and the equipment and chemicals I use here would probably be too expensive. I need to think about feeding my family one day’

‘I understand. Do you want to go back home to your country?’

‘I would like to, definitely. Maybe early next year. But I’m also considering the possibility of working here for some time to gain some experience. Maybe 2 or 3 years, depending. But I know that if I stay on, I will not stay here longer than it takes for my eldest child to reach secondary school’

‘Ah, same with me! I and my family will return to Israel when my wife finishes her Masters.’ He’s working on a project that will benefit the Middle East; I think that many people have a lot to learn from this Jew.


‘Well, could you tell us a little bit about your area of interest in your degree? Why did you choose to continue pursuing your education in this field? Do you like mathematics?’

The casual ‘interrogation’ at the Mayfair hotel was well under way. Across me was one of the most powerful men in the Middle East investment industry, as he and his associate probed me.

No sweat so far, as I answered in between sips of a giant cup of coffee.

‘Would you be willing to give up your interest to devote yourself entirely to pursuing a financial career?’

‘Yes, I would’, I did my best to answer confidently after a moment of silence, hoping that it would not betray some of the thoughts swirling in my head.

‘Dubai would be a nice place for young people like you.’

Later on, I toyed briefly with the idea of living in Dubai. Expat salary, and most likely to be tax free. All those holiday advertisements I had seen before sounded so tempting. Then again, those are for the wealthy. Me? Not yet. Normal people don’t have that luxury of owning a yacht and sailing in between artificial islands, and staying in a 7 star hotel. My friend from India complains about the searing heat there. Also, services such as YouTube and Flickr are banned there. And who would I date? A lady wearing a burkha? Aiiieeee. Perhaps not Dubai.


So there you go. My options currently are (in no order of preference):
1) Staying on and work in the UK/ Europe either in my field or in finance
2) Returning home
3) Pursue a PhD
4) Work in the Middle East, most likely finance

Urgh. Just too many interests and possibilities! For now at least, I will continue to be where I am.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Five years

Yesterday marked the beginning of my fifth year in a land almost half way around the world from my the place I grew up in. I still remember how afraid yet eager I was, at how excited I was at the thought of what adventures I had ahead of me; as well as at how emotional I was at leaving behind the people who matter the most to me.

Fortunately I found some solace in two kind ladies from Notts (can't believe that I even remember where they were from!) and the chatting helped to ease some of the hurt (when you were young and eighteen, a girlfriend was practically everything, see, and having to leave her, well.).

I remember meeting other Malaysians and finding out about each other. Some went to Scotland, some were bound for the Midlands, London, well, all over. I remember calling my parents to let them know that I reached Heathrow safely. A couple of hours later I reached university, collected my keys, and moved into the brand new university accommodation (you could still smell the paint). The rest of the day passed as a blur.

Three years later, I was no longer the nervous one. I was composed and made friends with the nervous in-coming students on one of the flights and dispensing advise, knowing full well what a wreck a clueless student can be and wanting to help them be more aware of what to expect.

Four years later, I am on the verge of completing my second degree, moving house for the third time in a year (*@^$(@!$&), and about to start immersing myself in the corporate world. I believe that I have come far from my days of immaturity (I'll be telling myself in 5 years time how bloody immature I was 5 years ago!) and dependency, and naiveness and whatever.

So, how did I celebrate?

Why, by working on my thesis of course. Or sort of. And by taking QJ out to celebrate her 22nd birthday since everyone else was too busy with their thesis, and her boyfriend wasn't around. We both needed a break, too.

'哈哈! 你已经老了!’(Haha! You're old already!)
'你也是。你更老啦!’(You too! You are older than me!)
‘但我是男人。。’(But I am a guy...)

Anyway, I thought of uploading a picture of the present me and SK bought for her, but it appears that my desktop doesn't have the drivers and programs to do the job. Plus my laptop is in my bag and I can't be arsed to set it up. So I'll do it later.

Till then.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sticky Tape

Just a reminder for myself (Oh, I realise that my entries are getting pinged automatically to Sarawho. I have no idea how on earth this happens and if someone knows how on earth I can remove this, let me know.) of how organized I need to be over the next few days to cope with the madness.

1) Finish first draft of thesis. Completed and handed in

2) Sort out packing stuff to move on Thursday. Haven't started yet because I only received delivery of packing stuff earlier today. I have so much rubbish to pack. Yay delayed for a week, giving me more time to pack!

3) Sort out bloody visa extension. $(*^"$_(*$^ red tape and delays at every corner.

4) Meet up with the staff at my workplace to find out my desk, collect pass card and all that Postponed

5) To find the time from the business of packing and moving, thesis write up, and experiments to meet up with a senior official from another country. Don't even know what time it would be, except that its Wednesday or Thursday. Tasks 2, 3, 4 and 5 are expected to be completed by Thursday as well.

6) To buy working clothes and a new pair of shoes. I need more working shirts, I need a second pair of formal pants, I need a new suit cause the old one has a hole which can only be mended invisibly, I need a new pair of shoes because my current formals hurt like a bitch. Need to find £400 some how and raid Jermyn Street.

7) Bind the thesis! It will cost up to £100 to bind all the bloody copies. Why can't the university pay for this?! Ridiculous considering my university is supposed to be one of the wealthiest in the world.

7) Should go up to North England during my one week break to visit an old friend of mine. Said friend is not free


Politics are a bitch. I will never forget that incident for a very long time. Over one tiny drop of reagent! Fucking hell. What an insult you are to yourself. I am ashamed to even share 1/16th of my racial background with you.

Okay I realised that I've posted wayyy too much than what I intended. Until next time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Capitalism: Gloom? Saviour?

'Shame I didn't bring my camera.'

'Well... there's nothing much to photograph anyway, the weather is overcast'

'How about 'The Gloom of Capitalism'?

He shot me a weird look. 'Well... aren't you trying to find a job in one of those buildings?' He was, at any rate.

'But art is art,' I said. We continued to trudge on in our suits, closer and closer to the small microcosm of skyscrapers of Canary Wharf in the distance.

Stop press.

What is capitalism to you?

Is it

a) Gloomy?

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Lifeless, ghostly buildings with no soul

b) A beacon of light?

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Sunset at Canary Wharf