we recently came back from New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori) to attend a wedding. no, it wasn’t bloody like the GoT episode – it was just the bride was Vietnamese and her gown was a shade of crimson.

despite also having a tea ceremony after the nuptials, it was not at all stuffy – i found their vows funny and they even had a jumping castle for the adults.

not only did we travel overseas to get there and drive a long way to attend the event but we really wanted to be there on that joyous occasion. unlike some destination weddings it made sense to me. although the groom (who’s my wife’s cousin), the bride’s a Kiwi and most of her relatives are still there. it was at a garden for people to feel more at ease and so that there could be other “fun” activities. it was a balance between fiscally responsibility and meaningfulness – i think most couples spend so much time, money, and effort on just one day instead of being mindful about the remainder of their lives together: there’s even a stat that states the more money that the couple spends on the wedding, the likelier they are to break up.

we also had a little time to do a few “touristy” things. we drove aways for most destinations but being on several OZ road trips the NZ views were much more picturesque. My son took several photos using a proper digital camera of the scenery – to keep the post downloadable, i exported a select few to “smaller” files.

Rotorua – Landscape
Rotorua Nightscape

DISCLAIMER: The copyright of all the pictures is his and these were shared with his permission.

we also saw a geyser:

Rotorua Geyser

while there are kangaroo crossing signs in OZ, NZ have them for cows. i thought the dairy products were already good in OZ, but they were better in NZ as their milk is much creamier (and i could tell as i like my cheese, coffee (although i’m partial to doppio and ristretto, i get lattes in countries that have good milk), and ice cream). That said, vegans close your ears, cows are bred better in OZ for eating.

there were too many photos so in the interest of space and download speed i’ve decided not to share all of them.

we had a chance to witness a Haka performed live – prior to that we’ve only seen it on TV, mostly by the All Blacks prior to a rugby match. we know it was for intimidation and, if possible to avoid conflict. it was also interesting to learn that it is used to “warmup” major muscles so it makes a lot of sense in the sporting context.

because i’ve always been a nerd (it would be a misnomer to call me a John Ronald Reuel Tolkien geek, although both can be socially awkward, because more than just being an enthusiast i can get quite cerebral about the topic. case in point, when Gandalf in the movies (played by Sir Ian McKellen) utters the words: “You shall not pass!’ in the original text it was will not shall – it was a “happy accident” that wasn’t edited out of the film) we also visited Hobbiton.

interestingly, the movie set is in Matamata which translated in Filipino means eye-eye and the whole Fellowship of the Ring was formed partly because of the expanding reach of the Eye of Sauron.

i even tried to read the books (as i was a fan of fantasy novels). alas, i wasn’t able to finish the books (i attempted The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring) as some words were a bit obtuse for me (my excuse was that i was young and English wasn’t my primary language) and the author was a Professor of English Literature at Oxford. i instead settled for the cartoons and movies.

in any case, i want to return for a longer time but their accessibility facilities can still be improved…

system of a down

February 7, 2019

they showed The Godfather series on free-to-air TV (i rewatched the first two instalments but not the third which i don’t really like.  IMHO, the second film is one of those rare gems when the sequel is as good or better than the original).  I felt bad for the character Michael.  Like Abigail in the film The Favourite (side note: the Academy recognised the Aussie screenwriter), (in my experience) it usually doesn’t really matter if you start out as well-meaning but being part of a “corrupt” system changes you accordingly.

As Trevor Noah talks about apartheid, Hannah Gadsby about marginalisation, and Dave Chappelle about #MeToo, they all point out that these issues are systemic and deeply-ingrained.  Good individuals acting independently are insufficient to effect cultural change – it takes targeted actions (sometimes done in concert) for meaningful results.

i know New Amsterdam is just a tv show (mostly involving trite Hollywood pablum) but occasionally Dr. Goodwin showcases important lessons for us all: he may be over-idealistic at times but, essentially, the key is to understand the underlying structure that causes systemic issues.  It is difficult to improve systems but a good understanding is a vital start.

 

there appears to be a tendency of social media to focus solely on the good – there’a a plethora of “humble” brags and “unrealistic” posts.  i’m obviously not a big fan but i can understand why it’s worth it “following” certain people.  Don’t get me wrong – i’m all for democratisation and giving a voice to the traditionally voiceless but a lot of it is to me vacuous and inane palava (or palaver if you prefer) – not to mention the trolling and glaring divide.  i worked in ICT for a number of years prior to my ABI (Acquired Brain Injury):  technology can be a magnifier for “bad” and  not just a multiplier for “good” – in my experience, it’s a double-edged sword.  i believe posts shouldn’t be policed or censored (free speech and all) but people should be better equipped to discern the “wheat from the chaff” – a form of “natural selection” of sorts (if you will).  It would benefit from balance (like most things in life).

part of this is “processing”.  Some of it is “snobbery” (i’m only human after all).  That said, take from it what you will – i’m not narcissistic enough to discount any “unintended interpretations” of my writing.  My only caveat that it is partly out of need (and partly due to therapy) so it might not be most people’s “cup of tea”.

there’s undeniably some “good” occurrences recently.  Firstly, i’m nearly halfway in completing my online certificate in data science.  This will, “hopefully”, help me get into “gainful” employment again after being “sidelined in the wilderness” for over a decade now.  At times, I used to work a part-time job along with a full-time one – so being homebound was a “drastic” change.

over the last two weeks, i’ve been finishing online crosswords daily. It started with 2.5 hours but now i’m down to a little over 50 minutes usually and my best time is approximately 38 minutes.  i’m merely an amateur cruciverbalist who wants to improve and build up to something challenging like the New York Times Sunday crossword.

i’ve had no falls over the last several months despite my last two  SARA (short for the Scale for the Assessment  and Rating of Ataxia) tests showing slight deterioration.    i think this is mainly due to my neuro PTs’ advised interventions added to (or slightly modifying ) my daily exercise routine.  Sure the NDIS (Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme in case you’re not aware) is a source of much consternation and a bugbear to negotiate (even for mundane tasks) but thanks to it i can now afford to go weekly instead of monthly (which used to be the case).  I had several near-misses lately:  the point is I didn’t fall down where a couple of months ago i surely would have.  As in everything there is both good and bad – i’ve heard it referred as a major reform since MediCare:  there are obvious, signficant “teething problems” with its initial rollout but you can’t really fault the intention (it is the implementation where it falls down – pun intended ).

sadly, i’ve been binge watching a lot lately. Whether to “empty out” the numerous recordings on my DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or streaming over the Internet – i’m such a cheapskate that I only use free services (thankfully, Australia is quite “progressive”).  My  current darling is  “You’re the Worst” on SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) On Demand – the “Resume” function makes the bugs bearable.  I watched all episodes of the four seasons available on the web. I find the writing witty and funny (admittedly, i’ve got a “dark” sense of humour i liked the tv show Legit , i found the movie Pulp Fiction hilarious, and mostly laughed throughout the stage show, The Book of Mormon ). I enjoyed Seasons  1-3 ; S4 was ok (my “disappointment” with the new intro notwithstanding) and still will watch the last season (i’m curious how they will wind it down and then end it). i think Ricky Gervais was right to cap the UK  version of The Office after two series.  i use TV to distract from the thinking i do during the day – so “smart” and “subconscious” programming is much appreciated.  The last show made me think of the novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being although watching is supposed to relax me.  i sometimes read (with the aid of a magnifier) during ad breaks (i know this is counter to my intent but i can’t really help doing it).  i find it helps me think more broadly about things and i’m not limited to seeing things only in a certain way.

My Ph.D. has stalled and as of late i rarely write anything – and when i do i only mange a few words.  Maybe i’ve just “hit the wall” and i’m just tired given the number of years (when a lot of things usually pique my interest) and the effort to type compounded by my waning interest.  Maybe it’s not up to scratch given my exacting standards and past performances.  Maybe it’s my growing frustration with the admin required and my over reliance on altruism upon learning the hard way that it’s self-interest that often yields results.  Maybe it’s my substantially increased anxiety due to my health concerns or fast approaching conclusion of my candidature.  i suspect all of these factors play a role.  Thankfully i’ve got a supervisor who believes in me and my abilities – she’s doing what she can to make that path is still available to me.

i was told that walking outside would do some good – not only would it further develop my legs given a functional task but it would also expose me to fresh air and vitamin D.  I’m trying to incorporate this into my routine but admittedly i’m hesitant given my bouts with hay fever and uneven terrain and inclines.  On days when the pollen count is not too high, I go outside the front of our house to gradually acclimatise me to the irritants and eventually build enough strength to confidently tackle going around the block.

My speech difficulties have taught me to listen more to others.  My walking challenges have resulted in me losing weight (as the heavier i am, the harder it is to remain ambulant), made me appreciate more the challenge of getting robots to balance on two legs.  My greatly reduced typing speed has caused me to concentrate more on quality rather than quantity. As has happened in the past with other persons with disabilities, it has ‘forced’ me to adapt and strategise to perform common tasks.

It is easy for me to continue being negative: seeing silver linings does not come natural.  These are the cards i have been dealt and need to make the most out of them.  Admittedly, it still pisses me off when people whinge about what i consider to be “terminally trivial” things but i have to learn to focus instead on the things i need to do and how i can perform them better.  While the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ has been disproven to mean both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ simultaneously, it is still useful to see both the  yin and  yang of things.

nudge, nudge, wink, wink

October 20, 2017

Richard Thaler recently won the Nobel for Economic Sciences for his contributions to the field of Behavioural Economics (an amalgam of Economics and Psychology).   While it was for numerous works, I enjoyed his book on libertarian paternalism more commonly known as nudge theory (Nudge:  Improving Health, Wealth, and Happiness).  Moreover, he had a cameo in the Oscar-nominated film I liked called The Big Short (based also on a book) –  while intellectually I agree with the hot-hand fallacy as a former basketball player I can’t deny the boost of confidence this gave me.

I think everyone running for public life (or already in it) will be well-served to read it.  Hopefully, I can apply some of the teachings to my own life.

Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz were previously nominated by the committee for economics.  I wonder which author I read will be next?

fully sic(k)

August 14, 2017

i enjoyed the film “The Big Sick” but wasn’t really surprised that the cinema was practically empty.  I’m no marketing guru but I think the title (although understandable) could have used some tweaking. Despite receiving a rating of 98% in Rotten Tomatoes and grossing a lot in the US, the film didn’t seem to do well in OZ.  Some might find “sick” in the title; or the plot revolving around a coma; or it being primarily set in a hospital to be off-putting to some movie patrons.  My dark humour aside, my wife & I have firsthand experience with illness so we never really felt confronted.

In a way, this kind of reminded me of the movie The Shawshank Redemption (based on the novella Rita Hayworth and  The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King in the book Different Seasons. Three of the four stories – corresponding to a particular season.  Of note is the tale of The Body or what most know as Stand By Me but that’s another story).  A lot of people have watched the film but it didn’t fare well in the cinema.  That’s because most movies rely on word of mouth but the title was too hard to recall for most viewers (sad to say that this may have been an instance where a focus group may have been helpful).

The movie may not have been advertised enough; or most Aussies may not be familiar with the work of Kumail Nanjani because the television show Silicon Valley isn’t really big here.   Regardless, go out and watch The Big Sick.

strange bedfellows

March 20, 2017

they recently showed the Theory of Everything on free-to-air tv.  While Stephen Hawking is an inspirational figure, he’s not necessarily aspirational for me.  I’m nowhere near as smart.  We need people we can relate to.  I accomplish things because I’m not dumb and work really hard.

I know Dr. Stephen Strange is fictional but I could weirdly relate more to the film Doctor Strange.  I’m not a surgeon but I guess it had to do with embracing the unexplainable despite bring logical.

Strangely enough in the movie Logan, I could relate to both Professor X and Wolverine –   this was the first time I saw myself in two characters.  Maybe it was their “fall from grace” so atypical of a superhero flick or maybe it’s because I’m such a comic book nerd.

Regardless, we’re all different, relate to certain things, and process things at our own pace.  Despite people’s insistence, a single, magic, silver bullet  “solution” doesn’t always exist.  Some issues are divergent or require multiple things acting in harmony.  Narrowing it to one thing would be great but that isn’t always possible.

rogue’s gallery

December 23, 2016

I finally saw Rogue One earlier today.   This is a spoiler for some so I suggest those that haven’t seen it yet stop reading now.

I understand why they had to call it “A Star Wars Story” and they did not have the usual scrolling introduction as it happened between Episodes III and IV.  It was a much needed explanation and closed the loop as how the Rebel Alliance acquired the schematics (and more importantly the in-built and purposely engineered flaw) of the Death Star.

Chirrut is more than a token character with a disability (which is an indicator of how far society has come – there’s still a way to go but the “representation” may have not been that welcome a few years ago).  It isn’t surprising that he was blind (echoing the parallel when Luke was training to use a light saber onboard the Millennium Falcon).  It reminds me of Erannon of the Blade, a character I concocted back in college for an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign after reading the Rogue’s Handbook. I even wrote a monologue for him – sheesh!

Rogue One as a title seemed arbitrary to me – it’s just anything penciled in by the writer in the script could have been used.  I was just hoping it was more meaningful (and not as serendipitous as it seemed).

Star Wars is ostensibly a space opera (as previously described).  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (oh, the sacrilege!).  It personally means something to me (as I suspect it’s held deeply by others) but I know enough that it holds no significance for others (no matter how hard you try to convince them).  IMHO, it’s a binary fight between good and evil – just like The Lord of the Rings series – so I understand why it doesn’t appeal to some.  Ever notice Sci-Fi does have penchant for dystopian futures (a lesson that we have the power to choose to avoid this bleakness)? Star Trek seems more hopeful to me – I don’t mind it but I prefer Star Wars (does it surprise anyone that Episode V:  The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite one?). And I always felt there was an “artificial” dichotomy but I digress…

The “main” characters had to perish because they aren’t part of the storyline.  It was finally good to see some diversity on screen but I’m not a real PC stickler – with the changing demographic in America it’s no real surprise although women seem to be visibly underrepresented.  In any case, does it advance or is necessary in the grand scheme of things?  In my mind, it may have not been the greatest Star Wars film (it was certainly better than all of the prequels) but it’s a story which definitely needed to be told.  This isn’t really a review but just a few of my thoughts.