Saturday, July 28, 2007

Greetings from Malaysia

OK, We're here and we're alive. Highlights from the first 1/2 day:

US Airways check-in person can't find us in the computer, even though we've already printed our boarding passes online. Eventually she prints new boarding passes and checks our luggage thru to Kuala Lumpur. We aren't very hopeful that US Airways' computer is going to get our luggage to the right place.

We call Malaysia Airlines from the gate to make sure they have us in their computer. They do. They assign us good seats and we feel a lot better as we fly to Newark.

We check in at Newark. As we pass thru security, Bernie notices that the boarding passes don't have the same seats that we were originally assigned. This means no certainty of an aisle seat. I get angry as we wait for the gate attendant for two hours. When he finally shows up, he tells us that we do have an aisle, but not the cozy aisle-and-window seats we wanted. Grrrr.

Fight to Stockholm is OK. In Stockholm we get off the plane, go thru another security check, walk down a stairway, and check in at the same gate, wait a few minutes, and get back on the plane. What was the point?

I watched 9 episodes of season 3 of House on the next leg of the flight. Since I've never seen the show before, I guess I caught up with it. I like it, though it's hard to suspend disbelief when you watch 9 shows in a row where a patient comes in with one disease and somehow ends up with a completely different life-threatening, rare disease and House diagnoses it without consulting a computer, textbook, or a different doctor.

We landed in Kuala Lumpur, and I had only managed about 2 hours of sleep in 27 hours. The bags made it, believe it or not. Aunt Annie and Bernie's mom met us at the airport and we picked up her dad and we went to get dim sum for breakfast. We checked into our hotel and I caught a 4 hour nap, while Bernie took care of her number one priority - getting her hair straightened at the mall. After that, we got dressed up and went to a birthday party for her Uncle Sam at a fancy club. I would have liked to have partied harder, but honestly, I couldn't keep my eyes open. We got back to the hotel at 11pm and I crashed hard. I didn't dream, wake up, or even turn over until morning.

We had decided to not pay for an extra breakfast buffet at the hotel, so Bernie told me to go try the one we got free with the room. It was totally amazing. They had every breakfast food imaginable, including all the Malaysian ones, of course. Dim Sum, Roti Canai, Roti Telur, Chee Cheong Fun, Curry Laksa, Fried Rice, Rice porridges, Beef bacon, Chicken sausages, Breads, Tropical juices, and Western stuff as well. After I reported back, Bernie decided it's worth paying for.

Today's activities included a quick turn around the mall in the morning. I had to get caffeine, as my addiction is not being fed properly and I'm a bit headachy as a result. We got some Red Bull at the local Jusco. Then we were picked up by Bernie's parents and we got Roti Canai for lunch. I had never tried Murtabak, so they ordered it for me and it was wonderful, but it was way too much food. We went to visit her Grandma next and some of her aunts and uncles were there as well. They had food and tried to feed us again. I'm beginning to suspect that I have a "Feed me" sign around my neck. After a short visit, we went to her Godma's house and got our briefing on Felicia's wedding and our duties. There was food there also, but I knew what we had planned for dinner so I tried to abstain. I can't resist Char Siew Paus, though, so I held myself to only one.

Dinner was an attempt to re-create a wonderful meal that Aunt Annie treated us to three years ago on my very first visit to Malaysia. We went to this restaurant that specializes in crabs. They have 32 different crab dishes to choose, and tonight, we had 30 people to feed. We had crabs in butter sauce, crabs in tomato chili sauce, black pepper crab, crabs steamboat style, and also had mantis prawns fried in cream sauce, La-la, which is clams in chili sauce, beef short ribs, and some sweet and sour prawns. Bernie and I then split a young coconut and drank the water and spooned out the white meat for dessert.

Pictures of the food were taken and I'll post them at my next opportunity, I promise. They tell me that Malaysians only eat one meal a day, but it starts at dawn and ends at bedtime. I can believe it.

Now we're back at the hotel and I'm sleepy again. I guess we'll go to bed early and get a quick start in the morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Big Ol' Jet Airliner...

Tomorrow is the day! This will probably be my last chance to post something before we leave. I think I'll be able to post occasionally while we are in Malaysia for the next two weeks, so keep watching this space.

I'm doing some video conversion to get a couple of movies on my Zen. I lost the program I used to do that with before when I had the computer repaired, so I had to relearn how to do it. I spent the entire evening yesterday processing and re-processing trying to get it in the correct format. Finally I got it right on my last try.

The fridge is clean, there are some workers fixing up our last house punch-list things today, and I just went out to buy another TSA luggage lock. I think we're ready to fly.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Not Spoiled After All!

Hey, the site that I went to with all the spoilers was WRONG!

Funny, they had all the pages photographed from the book, but the synopsis they posted was full of errors.

Anyway, I read 880 pages in one day and finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows around 3:30 this morning. Now I can go back and re-read it carefully.

I'll give the rest of the world a week to catch up and then I'll discuss the book here.

I will say that I liked the payoff at the end, but didn't like a lot of the buildup. There's no way they could make a credible movie out of this book, in my opinion. It's just too dense.

Yesterday, Bernie and I accomplished the following in prep for our trip:
1. Mowed the lawn
2. Edged
3. Sprayed weeds
4. Cleaned the house
5. Washed the rugs
6. Shopped
7. Made pork buns
8. Fixed my Dad's internet
9. Ripped my Cantonese lesson CD to MP3s for the flight

There's more to do today, of course.

In another note, I went to my doctor and whined about unsuccessful dieting and she gave me a prescrip for Phentermine, which I tried back during the Fen-Phen craze. This is the half of the cocktail that was determined to be safe and remains on the market today. It's also the half of the cocktail that I felt did me the most good. I started on it yesterday, and just like I remember, not only does it kill my irrational hunger pangs, it makes me feel like a normal human being with normal energy levels. When I'm taking this medicine, I'm not finishing one meal while dreaming of the next one. That's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I couldn't help myself.


The local newspaper's website had the link.

It was just a click away.

I clicked it.

Now I know.


Wish I hadn't.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

T-minus 11 Days and Counting

In 11 days, we'll be on a plane for our two-week Malaysia trip.

Bernie is playing it smart and is taking a year's supply of birthday and Christmas gifts and cards, already wrapped and signed, for her family, which will save us the bother and cost of shipping stuff over there in the near future. This means I get one suitcase for my clothes and stuff, while she gets three pieces of luggage (two will be boxes).

3 to 1 really isn't that bad when you think about it. After what I learned last time, I know that we can get same-day wash and fold service for our clothes for a few bucks, so I'm only taking 7 changes of clothes with me. Plus my suit for the wedding. I should be fine.

I've got 5 books, plus the new Harry Potter on the way. Hopefully, this will get me through two 22-hour long flights. I checked the movie list for the flight over there, and I'm pretty sure I can enjoy 6 or 8 of the movies they've got on demand. They've also got the whole slate of Arrested Development, which I've never seen. Bernie will probably watch the 12 episodes of Grey's Anatomy, I'm sure. Since we're going in July and returning in August, the movie list will be different from the return trip, thank heaven. The first time I flew to Malaysia, I watched Fellowship of the Ring about 6 times after my laptop battery ran out. I think I watched it in Cantonese the last time just for a change.

We're going to try to be much more liberal with taking pictures and movies while we are there, so we should have lots of blog-fodder when we get back. I'm taking the laptop, so we should be able to post some while we're overseas.

I have a shopping list that I want to check out while I'm there. For the most part, I'm just checking prices:
1. Bluetooth earpiece for my cell phone
2. Handheld wi-fi devices
3. Pen-based graphics tablets for the PC
4. Fancy keyboards for the PC
5. GSM cell phone for a friend at work

From my experience last time, I'm going to get lots of massages at the hotel spa. The difference in currency rates makes this one hell of a bargain, and my back and neck need some serious work.

One thing that I really enjoy over there is the fresh-squeezed juices you can get almost anywhere. I'm looking forward to fresh lime juice with sugar cane over ice, and mango lassi, and young coconut water, etc.

Poor Trouble is going to have to be without us for 14 days. We've got pet feeders and visitors lined up so that he doesn't go wild in the house. I hope that's enough.

This should be a fun trip - less tourist-y, but with more time to do what we want to do. I plan on savoring every moment of it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Order of the Phoenix

Bernie and I caught a 6:30 showing of Harry Potter tonight.

I think I enjoyed this movie the most of all of them. If you've read the books, I think you'll agree with me.

I've always been impressed with the adaptations of the books. Condensing an 800-page book to a 2 hour and change movie has got to be a tough job. This one took the cake. Some really nice surgery was done to the story and it was seamless and hit on every important point from the book.

I felt from reading the book that this story was basically only a setup for the next book. The movie did a better job of standing on its own than the book did, and gave us some insight into our main characters that wasn't present in previous movies, while giving us some nice action to whet our appetites for the inevitable big conflict to come.

My impressions from the book were that the combination of a hard life and teenage hormones had finally made Harry crack and unleash his dark side. The movie took that and ran with it. Bravo!

I couldn't help noticing all the jealous looks from Ginny when Harry was entranced with Cho, too. That'll pay off nicely in the next movie. The sneak peeks of Ginny's magical prowess were quite nice as well. My only disappointment was that Sirius didn't get a bigger slice of the action before meeting his demise. No two-way magic mirror in this movie, either, which sinks one of my book 7 theories.

On a technical note, the Thestrals were fantastic, but the giant, Grawp, and the centaurs really sucked from a CGI perspective. They were only on-screen for a short bit, however.

So far, my favorite movie of the summer. Now if book 7 would only hurry up and get here!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Week(end) in Review

On Friday, both Bernie and I were under the weather. Both of us were a little sick on Thursday night, and I still had my headache and nausea when I work up on Friday, so I stayed home from work and slept until 2pm without waking up. Groggy but feeling better, I managed to make it through the afternoon and we went to Concord Mills mall at dinnertime and did some shopping. The Black and Decker outlet had some fine deals, and I got the hand-held detail sander I've been wanting as well as a studsensor (yes, it goes off whenever I hold it, ha ha), a hacksaw to replace my broken one, replacement blades for the hacksaw, and an item-to-be-named later because it is intended to be a gift for someone - all for 10 bucks.

We went to Charlotte's newest pride and joy, Panda Express, for dinner and enjoyed it immensely. In my previous job, Panda was my customer and I really like the company and the food they serve. I've been waiting for them to expand to Charlotte for quite some time. If you check out their link, you'll see a company that is running their business the right way.

On Saturday, we rested and spent some time with my Dad, who is alone all week since Mom went to the beach with my sister and her family. I think I got the last bit of the bug that was bothering me out of my system. We got to bed quite late because we were washing the pillowcases and forgot to dry them until bedtime. This needs clarification. We bought a set of 1200 thread count sheets and pillowcases when we got married. They are so wonderful that we refuse to sleep on anything else, and we will wash them and put them right back on the bed. Since we had forgotten to put them in the dryer, we had to wait to go to bed. Logical? Maybe not, but that's us.

Sunday we got up quite late due to the late bedtime. We followed our routine and went out to get a newspaper so that Bernie can clip coupons and look at the ads. On the way, we got lunch at Arby's and took it over to Dad's place since he was home alone again. After our visit, we went back home for a nap, ended up helping the neighbors to lift a big fountain they bought, and by then, it was dinnertime, and Dad called us and invited us to Souper Salad. After that, we came home and both of us worked on a powerpoint that Bernie needs to do for work.

Reading this over, I think this is the most boring thing I've ever posted. Next weekend, I think we'll explore an abandoned gold mine and look for the lost demon city of Azaraoth.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

Today's July 4 cookout was the best ever!

We got ourselves up at 9:30 am and started our food prep for the big party. Bernie had a minor crisis with her ricotta-lemon purses (the fruit roll-up strips that were supposed to be used as a tie for the little crepes started dissolving) and had to change her strategy (she baked them in a muffin pan to make cups instead of purses), but aside from that, everything turned out superb.

Judge for yourselves:

The wieners, sausages, and cheeseburger on a stick

The curry shrimp with pineapple skewers

The veggie kabobs

The Char Siew Pork

The Chicken Satays (with peanut sauce not pictured)

We had about 12 people, including my parents, our neighbors, my sister and her family, and our friends Brian and Sophie and little Elise. Bernie's appetizers, desserts, and decorations got rave reviews as well, so we are quite proud of ourselves this evening. We even got everything cleaned up in an hour after the party was over!

We have lots of leftovers. Is anyone hungry?

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Incidentally, I wrote about Sunday before I had the chance to write about Saturday.

My oldest and dearest friend, Phil and his wife Selena came on down to Stallings to visit us for the weekend. They got here on Saturday for lunch and we brought home some barbeque from E.B's in Indian Trail. My folks came over and we had a long visit. Selena is an excellent tailor (seamstress?) and runs her own business on the side, so a while back I had bought some gorgeous black cloth with gold and blue chinese dragons and had asked her to make me a shirt. She brought the final product with her and it is fabulous. This is THE PERFECT SHIRT. There is no finer. And, even better, she says it was so time-consuming that she wouldn't ever want to do another one. Therefore, I have the last Hanzo sword, so to speak.

We took Phil and Selena out to our favorite Asian buffet, Tin Tin, and gorged ourselves on the saturday night specialities. Bernie loved the lobster salad and the squid, and I introduced Selena to curry laksa, which she loved. I must be getting old, because I really can't do more than two trips to a buffet any more. I got a plate of food and a bowl of laksa, and I was full. So disappointing when I'm surrounded by so much variety of great stuff. Oh well.

Today, we finished our grocery shopping for our July 4 blowout and set all the meat to marinating. (the skewers will have some flavor darn it, because we're marinating them for 36 hours).

It's been a great weekend, but far too short. Thank heaven for the holiday.

I like Ga-Ze-Bo-Ze-Bo

If you've been to Wal-Mart, or Lowe's, or Home Depot recently, and browsed through the garden center, you've probably seen those patio canopies that look a little like Lawrence of Arabia's tent.
Well, I've been coveting one for a while, since our backyard has zero shade, and today the price was right at Value City, where they had a very nice one for 50% off. My mom and dad called me while Bernie and I were taking Phil and Selena to breakfast and told me what was going on, and after Phil and Selena started back home to Raleigh, we met my folks at Value City and I basically got my birthday gift early this year.

After it cooled off a little outdoors, we put it up and it really wasn't difficult. I was prepared to throw some lag bolts into the concrete, but for now we are letting some concrete pavers hold down the legs. I'm going to have to extend the patio just a bit with a couple of those pavers, but I'll have to dig out the grass under the pavers, and there just wasn't time tonight. Overall, I'm very pleased and I'm sure it will be useful on the 4th!

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