Friday, September 30, 2011

A Bday Present For Myself - Skydiving!

For some quirky reason, half the team was going to take the day off, so I figure, why not me too :) - given I have the best reason (cough... excuse) in the world.

So yesterday at lunch, I wondered, what should I do today. Needed something different... then it clicked. What have I been wanting to do for 2.5 years? Yes - Skydiving!

Quickly checking the weather, it was good. Skydive lesson availability - good. Credit card - good. Booked - good! :)

Skydiving actually seemed pretty safe in hindsight. Though the waiver they make you sign seems pretty scary (see below).

Some interesting tidbits:
1) Looking down with your feet dangling at 13500 ft makes my balls shrink just a tiny bit... hahaha
2) Free falling. You'd think there's that roller coaster feeling... but actually, there was none of that during the free fall (and I think I was falling for quite some time)... see the video below
3) The run felt really short. The movie is a good indicator of how long the run lasted.

Anyhow, alive = me. Back from plunging 13500 ft.

(not quite sure why there's no sound.. oh well)
Let the festivities begin!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Software Entrepreneurship Day 1

u know it's not an engineering building when the lecture room is nicely lit, not in a basement, and the chairs are comfortable...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Past Few Weeks...

Been just mo liu-ing around for the past week or two... it's a pretty nice feeling and all, but at some point I need to start moving again...

Or do I need to? I am enjoying this for the most part, and I am still in my whole simple life mentality mode.

Also learned that supposedly lack of sleep makes hair fall out (though I think it's having an opposite effect on me)... yes very random comment ... but just recalled it.

Or maybe it's time to make a move... I mean, at some point I should come back to reality, or make my dreams (whatever they may be), a reality.

Hakuna Matata...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Volunteering at a school painting away...

Today woke up bright and early (at 9:00am) to go to an elementary school for Seattle Works. Today's task, paint the halls and touch up the painting job at the library.

With the threat of detention, I and child genius got there with 10 minutes to spare, and in the process set a new record for myself as the first one to arrive at a volunteer event for Seattle Works. Previously, I am probably almost the first latest person to arrive - but not today! woohoo!

The painting was interesting... though the part I was most interested with was the principal. He really seemed to care about the school and treated us volunteers pretty well. He had a rough agenda prepared, had the tools ready, and provided us even lunch. That and he stayed in on a Saturday (and likely Sunday), to make the school better. Kudos to him!

Also, eating inside a school cafeteria was pretty nostalgic. Easily been 10+ years now since I've done that... lol.

The other surprising thing was that there were teachers at the school. Given it is a Saturday, I would have never thought they'd need to come in to work. I wonder what they there for.

Friday, September 16, 2011

3 lb. Lobster Dinner

Mmmm.... After seeing this on the menu a couple months back, I have been craving it. Today, with my hard earned points, I finally tried it out.

The lobster itself wasn't as good as the first 3 lb. lobster I had a couple years back when I one-up-ed Anime Buddy, but the company I had mowing down the lobster with was pretty awesome. Heard some interesting stories and was pretty fun times.

Best Friday night since I've been back... well, at least the first part of the night that is... lol

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Can Drink Milk Again?

Even though I haven't been following my grand plan of trying to train my body to be able to drink milk again... the rich hot chocolate I had a month or so ago made me wonder just how much my body could still handle.

So after 2 1L lactose free milk over 2 months... I supplemented that a couple days ago with a small carton of milk, and all was well.

Today at lunch, craving for milk, I tried two small cartons of chocolate milk (yes, not one.. but two). And then... nothing!

Perhaps I can drink milk again.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Pig-a-thon outing...

Met up with a friend for dinner. Funny how everytime we go out for food, we end up ordering half the menu... lol.

It was more than a year (maybe more) since we've talked, but it was good to catch up. Had some pretty intriguing conversations that makes me think quite a bit I have to say.

Some random notes for myself...
Living the life of the non crystal shop merchant, I really should make an effort to do that... .. .

"It's only annoying if the person doesn't want to hear from you, otherwise, it's all good." Hahaha - pretty funny I think, cuz it's true.

"You won't know till you try, but you can't start if you don't know. But at the end of the day, you just know... and really if you don't try, you will never know."

Anyhow, random jotting notes completed. Mson out.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Playing soccer uninjured...what a great feeling

sunny day, light running, playing to the sunset... life can be very simple and beautiful...

Even though I was pretty sucky, I was easily the best of the worst there... hahaha

Friday, September 09, 2011

It's Been Awhile...

So after a few meetings, then some drinks at the bar, soldier Mson arrives at the hotel.

I've forgotten how nice a 3 star (or 3.5 star) hotel. Nice bed, proper lighting, full toiletries, free internet, air conditioning, nice and quiet... pretty sweet place!

Even has complimentary morning buffet and morning calls!

Good stuff Hotel Avante!

Just Realized...

As I look at the great weather out there today - I realized (well, actually a few days before, but I sorta forgot until today again)... now that my ankle and knee is somewhat healed, there's nothing stopping me from holding back while playing soccer :)


Time to throw in them clothes and shoes into the car, and use what's left of the 'summer' for outdoor goodness!

Self induced soldier trip

Got home at 2am-ish... didn't sleep until almost 3... Waking up 2 hrs later to catch a trip...

To add salt to the wound, if I left an hour earlier I would be up instead of down again :(...

My day will consist of the typical SVC day trip - meetings galore and work in parallel, then perhaps a night outing. Luckily this time I am staying an extra night.

Since my trip back I haven't really had the se discipline and control... gotta get that back for multiple things.

lor lei chin Mson out...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Food Summary

Tried to take a picture of every dish I've eaten in Peru + Brazil... here goes:

Day 0 (8/24): In Transit
On the airplane...
First snack in Peru (Lima airport). Beef heart skewers and this weird looking corn:
Day 1 (8/25): Ollanta
Lunch - Smoked Trout with Pasta with a Drink containing ginger, and papaya.

Dinner - Guinea Pig + Pisco Sour

Day 2 (8/26): Salt Mines and Moray
Lunch - Fresh Strawberry Juice + some bland chicken with potatoes

Snack on Peru Train

Dinner - Lamb Ribs in Aguas Calientes
(No Picture - Pretty standard stuff here)
Day 3 (8/27): Machu Picchu
Lunch - Buffet with poor service and soup, beef, chicken and fish

Dinner back at Ollanta - Some beef dish (forgot the name of it) with a Peruvian Beer:

Day 4 (8/28): Iguassa Falls
Lunch en route to the Falls - Happy Meal! (with the toy)

Dinner - Beef on stone plate with onions and rice on the side and a SKOL beer

Day 5 (8/29): Iguassa Falls
(no pictures taken)
Day 6 (8/30): Iguassa Falls
Lunch - Food court at supermarket

Dinner - Random Food from Grocery Food Store

Day 7 (8/31): Rio
Lunch - A random restaurant led by the tour guide in Santa Theresa. Beans, manioc flour, rice combo

Dinner - Chicken Fried Rice (yes - I had to see what it is like here... very salty...)

Day 8 (9/1): Rio
Lunch - Random restaurant on a side street. Food costs were by the kg...

Snack - Churro stuffed with chocolate.. Mmmm...

Dinner - Brazil Churrascaria ... but not buffet style since we cut a deal to not do all you can eat :P

Day 9 (9/2): Rio
Lunch - Random restaurant on a side street. This one not weighing by the kg

Part of Dinner - 30 cm hotdog with quail egg.. for 4 reais!

Day 10 (9/3): Rio
Snack - Acui in Favela
(Picture not taken... but it's this black goo like thing that is pretty healthy for you supposedly)
Lunch/Dinner - Cooking in Rio. Lots of boozing, banana with fried manioc, shrimp thing, and rice

The guinea pig was interesting (tasted like chicken), but other than that, most of food I had I would say was pretty standard... was expecting some cool food... but I guess it wasn't to be.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back in US of A

Turns out the longest part of the wait/process in LAX, where I had to fill out a new I-94 (first rime that's happened since I've gotten my H1-B), and also extra long custom lines and walking around. Pretty glad I am back in english land, it would be interesting if I had to convey what I had to do and go in spanish/portugese.

Getting a new I-94 also means they stripped my multiple re-entry awesomeness. So I am now officially stuck in the US until the new one comes in (that or I exit and take an extra long vacation lol.

Finally - WiFi!

Arriving in 6am-ish Panama City time, finally I find free WiFi!

Though I have to stand in front of a store and look all ghetto to get the signal, I was able to checkin my last flight.

...will be home in another 12 hours.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 10: Part IV - Rio de Janeiro Day 4 - Last Day in Rio

Waking up early today I resume somewhat of more structured approach to touristing - first a favela tour from Marcelo Armstrong, then a cooking class in the afternoon just down 2 blocks from where we are staying.

The favela tour was well worth it. Going with the Marcelo Armstong umbrella, the tour guide gave a very good history of the favela and also saw quite a bit of the areas that I wouldn't have gone on my own. We ended up going to two favelas, Raciona (which was the biggest one in Rio, and this other smaller one). I have to say the Raciona one seemed pretty sketch, but being with a tour guide and minding our own business, it ended up alot safer than them horror stories. The other one we actually walked inside the favela. This one was alot safer relatively, and also had alot of improvements being made to it. Among them was the sewage system and street names. It was a pretty interesting that street names wasn't everywhere and it took effort to get it established. I could go on and on, but the 2 hours were definitely very well spent. Oh, also tried the acui? (some black goo thing) that turned out to be some meal replacement type thing that was really really filling (though refreshing).

After the tour, having some time to kill, took a shower (since it'd be a whole day since I will see it again), had a couple beers by the beach, then headed off to the cooking class. For once the sky cleared up and blue skies were seen - too bad it was the last day :(.

Cooking in Rio. Simone is pretty awesome. Very good experience, felt like just friends chilling and drinking and eating. The food was pretty delicious as well. Heard some funny stories, tried a bunch of different drinks and food, and the other 4 people in the group was British (aka I was listening to British accented english non stop :)) ... needless to say, life was sweet!

Really enjoyed this last day - not too rushed, pretty relaxing and frequent of boozing, my kind of trip :).

Now at airport, got here pretty smoothly, but because I am here too early and no WiFi, I can't checkin so I am stuck outside. Supposedly have to wait till 10pm-ish for COPA to open up... tsk tsk tsk, then begin my elapsed time of 22 hours (various time zone gains/adjustments included) of airport/flights. Hopefully no hyperactive kids or crying babies around (that and I can get on the flight lol)

Anyhow, on the very last leg of the trip, only uncertainty are the 2 flights before I get back into LAX, then back to familiar lands once again and also back to reality.

Next major trip I will probably look at those help build houses or teach for a week or two trips. Seeing sights is nice, but I think it would be that much more rewarding if I made a slight difference while I am there, and traveled at the same time.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 9: Part III - Rio de Janeiro Day 3 - Lapa Night

Nice atmosphere there and was pretty easy to get to given we are now experts at the subway in Rio.

The tour guide mentioned how the streets were closed for pedestrian only, but we didn't find such a place in Lapa on Friday night. We did see a place that looked sort of like a small night market, with food stalls and what not set up. The best one I've to say is the 4 reais 30cm hot dog. Needless to say it was one looong hot dog. Perhaps the even cooler part was that it came with a load of toppings: tomatoes, onions, sauce, corn, quail egg (Yes quail egg). Easily one if the best deals thus far in Rio.

Nothing much else or eventful here - perhaps we were there too early (8 pm-ish) or just not in the right place in Lapa, so we headed back to Copabanca pretty soon after arriving.

All in all, I feel like Rio is very comparable to Toronto. Will wait till tomolo for the final verdict, but it definitely didn't seem too shady a place. Sellers are not haggler like in Egypt, crowded places (downtown and subway) didn't seem all that bad. I am sure there are pockets of shadiness (ie. the favelas), but just as there is Jane and Finch, every city has these areas. Perhaps in preparation for the world cup the place is getting cleaned up alot more in the last couple years?

Oh.. they even had the changing color at night thing like the CN tower for the Metropolitan Cathedral - I think I mapped alot of places in Rio to Toronto actually lol.

Getting back, we go back to hear loud music coming from a rooftop party from 2 blocks across. Here we were, looking for some nightlife, and it was right across from us - yet this was the one place we didn't want to hear it at lol.

Thinking back, it's hard to determine which stay was the vest on this trip - all the places I stayed at has its good and detrimental bad. I think actually surprising as it sounds, I enjoyed the hostels in Ollanta the most. With free WiFi, quietness almost all the time I was there, hot shower (once they turn it on), ease of access to places - while it did not have air conditioning, the weather at night cooled down enough to not require it. Which makes is alot better than loud parties or chatty neighbors who had hyena laughs (At least in my priority list).

Anyhow, sleeping now to loud clubbing music and a thumping bass. Bon nuit?

PS. Zero free WiFi access since I got into Rio. You'd think if IguaƧu and Ollanta had it, Rio would... nope.

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 9: Part III - Rio de Janeiro Day 3 - Lazy Morning

Drastically slower our pace... by 1:30, we have been in the hotel still. Did attempt to hit the beaches, but it was pretty windy. The wind and waves were refreshing though - I actually stayed outside for a couple hours just staring out while the rest took a morning nap. Not much activity or things going on - guess with it being winter and all and workday, that was expected.

Guess there is not much in Rio to see or do :(. Going to check out Lapa tonight, then 2 quick excursions tomolo and the trip will have reached its end.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 8: Rio de Janeiro Day 2

Woke up late today, and basically had a pretty chill day walking around Rio downtown. Taking the subway there (of which I was a bit hesitant at first given the stories of Rio), but it turned out to be pretty safe and it was just like subway in Toronto. As a matter of fact, Rio is much like downtown Toronto for the most part - didn't really see any crazy hustling or haggling this afternoon. One subtle difference is that there were these street market type things that I guess looked sorta like Kensington market, but quite a few. Overall though, still pretty much seemed like it is just a big city afterall - at least during the day.

Also hit up the MoMA here, saw some nice photographs but having said that, the museum wasn't all that big. Did see a pretty insightful quote though about the collector vs. an artist, where both require patience, being sensible and rational, and something else that I quite can't remember lol. Anyhow, I thought the quote applies to quite many things. Sat there for quite a bit pondering this.

I guess that's the nice thing about this trip. It's given me a little time to think about anything and everything - and it has helped me make some progress in thoughts that I have been pigeon-holing in. Though who knows what might happen when I return to my reality, but at least right now I feel a bit less bothered by various issues that have been lingering for awhile now, since there are tasks for me that I think I can do to not stay stuck, even if it's only a little bit. So for better or worse, Mson will march forward.

Simple thoughts, simple life, simple happiness... simple.

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 7: Part II - Rio de Janeiro - Football, ole ole ole!

With the entire party dead exhausted (since they did wake up early the day before to see the falls from Argentina while I slept until 3, they were easily passed our till 6pm. Waking up, we strolled down to find a Chinese restaurant... so I couldn't resist trying their chicken fried rice. It actually smelled pretty good, and I would say almost at Regent quality - though as with all Brazilian dishes, it tasted more salty than I would prefer. The price was also pretty steep, at 18 reais for basically the amount of rice for combo #1 at MS.

So after finishing eating the takeout fried rice to the sounds of portugese pokemon, we strolled down to the lobby to wait for the pickup. It was a tad late, and was actually a slightly longer ride than I liked.

The football match experience was pretty good. Though the stadium wasn't packed, our side was pretty loud and non stop cheers all through the game. The huge flags are also pretty awesome - first them ever seeing them in real life completely trumps seeing them on tv.

The game itself - well, Botafango won 3-0, completely dominating from the start until end. Haven't seen such a lop sided match in years (except when I am playing indoor on my team lol). I personally was expecting more flair from the players (saw very little in my opinion), but I guess it's understandable given it was a wet pitch and non of the players (except maybe 2?) are on the national squad. The experience was good nevertheless, really wished I could watch Flamengo or St. Paulo play though, ahhh that would have been awesome.

Also, food here was actually reasonably priced. A hotdog was only 5 reais, this carnes in bread dough thing was only 11. I so wished I didn't get the chicken fried rice and instead got stadium food(which would be cheaper and more interesting).

The stadium actually had free WiFi - but it wasn't strong enough from where I was fir me to make good use of it. So the hunt continues...

Returning to the hotel after midnight 1am to be exact, tired Mson out.