Sunday, 14 December 2008

A Pleasing Hum

A hard disk that develops a whine is a disconcerting thing. Mine has progressively been rising up the decibel scale and has reached the stage where the noise had to be interpreted as a plea for renewal.

When I think about it, my trusty Dell has given good service these past four years, despite the rigours of a country relocation and numerous other house shifts around Auckland before that.

It is interesting to reflect how 'state of the art' four years ago is now consigned to the dustbin of history with new computers quadrupling their performance and capacity in the intervening years.

The upshot of all this was a trip yesterday to the Dell shop on the second level of SunTec City shopping mall where a charming sales person relieved me of $S1,700 and promised delivery of my new system within five to seven days.

They are able to meet these deadlines as Dell is manufactured to order in neighbouring Malaysia.

I have chosen a Dell Optiplex 760 Minitower a small business model of PC very similar in specification to that installed at the National University of Singapore during my time there.

Over Xmas I will have the unenviable task of reinstalling all the programmes that I use and hooking back up to Singtel.

Once thing that is obvious at the moment is the probability of striking some very good deals at the moment in Singapore and this I did with my PC purchase. With the economic situation as it is, the retailers are pacing nervously outside of their outlets and with a bit of bargaining it is possible to get more for less.

No doubt had I waited until 2009 to replace the equipment I could have got the computer even cheaper. However this was a case of "needs must" and I could not wait any longer.

I should also mention the beauty of the range of external hard drives now available. I am using one that stores 550 gigabytes of data more than enough to store my entire digital life including an entire music collection and several years worth of photography.

After cementing a beautiful relationship with Dell we walked across the second level foot bridge to Marina Square complex for lunch at The Coffee Club. Here again the crowds such as they were, were window shopping with few couples actually buying.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Singapore - Xmas Activities

" World's Tallest Chocolate sculpture" - Centrepoint Mall

Soft Toy Xmas Tree - Takashamaya

Two weeks out from Xmas day and the Malls are doing their best to attract shoppers, with varying degrees of success.

There are a lot of people out and about but, given the economic times, few of them are clutching shopping bags when they exit the stores.

There has been huge investment made in Orchard Road before the economic bubble burst and it will be interesting to see who survives and who does not when two new malls open at opposite ends of the main shopping thoroughfare in 2009?

Imported festive cheer is very expensive. An an example, a small Xmas cake that we bought in Marks and Spencer in London two weeks ago for a little more than five pound is retailing in Marks & Spencer, Singapore at $45.

Today is a public holiday in Singapore - Hari Raya Haji . It is an important date in the Muslim calendar and is celebrated as such in Singapore by the Malay and sectors of the Indian community.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Cooler Climes & Mushy Peas

It snowed in London. The flakes were not large but they were enough to cover park benches in Russell Square(see photo below).

Having just spent two weeks in the UK the cool climate proved to be a welcome change from the stickiness of Singapore.

The fourteen hour flight from Changi to Manchester airport was long but relatively pleasant as only "cattle class" in a jumbo jet can be.

I confess to some nerves as the BA flight turned out to be a code share arrangement with Qantas who have developed the nasty habit recently of having major maintenance instances enroute. Fortunately this proved not to be the case on our flight.

Being a night flight I popped half a sleeping tablet and slept a good six hours enroute. It is the only time I take such medication but is an old trick learnt from businessman who was a frequent flyer.

I had expected dark satanic mills so it was a pleasant surprise to note that the streets were wide and the environs more modern than my original expectation. Manchester was primarily a business destination for me so I saw little of it, except for a guided tour of the Manchester United facilities at Old Trafford, where my conference was being held.

ManU. is a spartan but impressive set up behind the scenes. One of the more interesting challenges they have is to get the grass to grow.

Large light banks resembling irrigators roll around the pitch on wheels, attached by an umbilical heavy duty power cable. This deployment encourages photosynthesis although the swath still looked patchy to me.

The Macdonald Manchester Hotel has much to commend it with large modern rooms and appointments. It was here that I sampled once again that great British staple, fish and chips with mushy peas. I also renewed my acquaintance with another English breakfast delight - the black pudding. This was not such a pleasurable experience and I only sampled it on one occasion.

After three days in the north of England we flew south to the capital. London was drier and more mild on the day of our arrival. The Grange White Hall Hotel is located in Montague Street, Bloomsbury and is a typical Edwardian styled establishment.

The hotel's web site praises its "sumptuous comfort" but that is stretching credibility. It has great location with a short stroll across Russell Square to the Tube and the No.7 bus from Oxford Circus stopping a few yards down the street.

The rooms are clean but 'compact' as most London hotels of this vintage are. The staff are all of foreign nationality, friendly and helpful.

The exception was the Japanese room cleaner whose poor grasp of English saw her recycling our wet towels back on to the room racks, despite the fact that the written room instructions clearly requested that guests place dirty towels in the bath for collection. She was under the mistaken impression that towels in the bath meant that we did not want to change the linen so she dutifully hung them back up.

Heating was provided by water filled radiators which meant that we slept with the windows ajar to avoid suffocation.

I walked into Trafalgar Square each morning with business colleagues who were staying in our hotel and it was a pleasant experience striding through Convent Garden and weaving our way through small back streets.

As stated above, the weather was variable from milder temperatures to the odd snow flurry but a good coat, scarf and gloves saw us well protected. With the onset of winter is got dark early in the evening but by that time we were safely back in the hotel.

During the weekend I visited the British Museum which backed on to our hotel. This was my second visit and it proved as popular as ever with tourists who crowded around the Rosetta stone and other treasures. Not that one could actually see the Rosetta Stone as a Chinese tour group had surrounded it and were taking turns posing for pictures. Their behaviour was as usual boorish.

The Museum had a series of modern sculptures in it galleries (see image above) and a gilded Kate Moss posed as a contortionist was a crowd favourite. I would like to think that she did not have to pose for the artist in the course of its making.

The other trip highlight was the mulled wine and lunches at nearby The Plough pub, a friendly establishment in Museum Street.

See the photos in this gallery.