Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lazy afternoon watching a wedding DVD

We're finally getting to watch the DVD of my cousin's wedding in July 2008. Its a good keepsake for the couple (even though we had to fast forward through bits of it) and I wish we had a better one of our own wedding.

Back in 2000, we thought it was a waste of money to pay for the professional studio photos and a professional videographer. We put the money into the honeymoon instead. I did end up with some good photos thanks to a friend. And, we have some sort of VCD too but its very very amateur and the sound isn't good at all. Do I regret it? Not really because in the nearly 9 years we've been married, it was only last week that I took out our wedding photos to look at and it was only because we needed to use them for something.

Look what I found...

Anyway, after watching my cousin's DVD, I feel like attending another wedding. Family one of course because we always have so much fun. Nobody leaves disappointed after attending one of our weddings. My cousin and his wife are actually having a 2nd ceremony this year in Beijing for her family (yes, a whole year later) but I'm not sure if we'll be attending. Richard just doesn't have so many days off.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Photostory Friday - Food I Didn't Eat

Chinese New Year didn't turn out exactly as I envisioned it. The day after my last post, I got the most horrible stomach bug that ruined the next few days. Eating is a big part of the festivities but I hardly got to eat anything. I just sat around most of the time, being envious of every one else.

This Photostory is all about the eating I didn't do.

Here's everyone mixing a sort of Chinese New Year salad. The aim is to toss it all as high as you can without spilling it off the plate and it will bring you luck and prosperity throughout the year.

This was at my father's cousin's house. There were several delicious curries here that I didn't get to try. She's a great at making Nyonya dishes.

And here's breakfast with Richard's family at a Dim Sum restaurant.

These are just the formal meals that I didn't gorge myself on. I didn't have the heart to take photos of all the cookies and cakes that I just stared at.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photos from Ipoh

We're 5 days into the 10 day break already. Time really flies when you're doing stuff. Since arriving, we've been getting some of documents in order, doing some banking, and starting the Chinese New Year shopping (foodstuff). (Oh, we also woke up at 1am to watch Obama's inauguration speech.)

Richard and I are only back here once every few months so we're greeted by a huge stack of mail each time. We don't forward the mail to Indonesia because we wouldn't be able to do anything about it there anyway so it just piles up here and when we get back, we need to run all these errands.

In between all that, we've been spending time with my grandparents. I'm glad they are all looking good and seem happy.

Aaron has been having his fill of parks with Richard.

Here are some photos from the trip so far:

These shop houses are very common in the center of the city. Its sad that no restorative works are planned as they add character to an otherwise 'common' looking city.

And here is a strange shop that looks to be recently repainted. I haven't been inside so I don't know if their main product are potties from Chennai.

Remember how I mentioned that traffic will be horrendous during this Chinese New Year Period? Take a look at that blue car in the background. A lady and her two daughters, pulled up, got out, locked it and went inside one of the restaurants. She just left it there in the middle of the corner. Oh yes, take a look at where we're eating. It is very common in Malaysia for restaurants to put tables right on the roads.

Finally, here's a photo of what a daughter would look like if I ever had one. Behind 'her' is the pomelo that our family traditionally gives out to friends and relatives during Chinese New Year.

Thats all for now. I'm going to have some of that pomelo :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We're Off Again

We've been back exactly 3 weeks and we're off again tomorrow. To be honest, I really don't need a break from Palembang yet. We were just getting into the swing of the daily routine and Aaron had finally accepted that there are no beaches or parks here.

However, Chinese New Year is a week away and we're heading back to Ipoh for the annual family reunion. This get-together is extremely important to the older generation. My grandparents will probably understand if I can't make it back but at the same time, I know they will be disappointed. In a way, they rate how much they are loved and respected by how many of their children, grandchildren, extended family and friends show up at their house for the reunion dinner on the eve of the new year. Or maybe, it is the one time in the year that their house is filled with people who are there to pay attention to them. In any case, it is a tradition that I would like to protect.

Ipoh is normally a small city but swells tremendously during Chinese New Year. There aren't too many attractive jobs there so many (if not most) of the younger generation have moved elsewhere, leaving parents and grandparents behind. So guess what?! They'll all be back this coming week and the traffic is going to be horrendous. To give you an idea of the traffic that will be on the roads, last year, when we were leaving Ipoh on the return journey, it took us 5 hrs to get from Ipoh to KL when it normally takes 2.5hrs. There were others that claimed 6 hrs and I believe them!

Its not only the roads that will be crowded. Many of the families today no longer cook their own meals during these festive times. There are too many people to feed and they have grown used to the convenience of eating out. So, ALL the restaurants will be bursting with people. In the past, the restaurants close for their own family get togethers but these days, there is just too much money to be made.

My mom is already starting to cook and freeze food because she's not one to face the crowds. I'll eat her food for lunch and dinner but I'm prepared to brave the crowds for some of my favourite breakfast foods.

I make it sound like a horrible holiday, don't I? Its not really. When I get back, meeting up with family and friends will undoubtedly erase any of the frustrations I may encounter.

OK. Stay tuned for the occasional post from Ipoh, Malaysia.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photostory Friday - The Painter

We're grudgingly signing the contract to rent this house for another two years tonight. There is nothing else in the area worth moving to and the lease has run out so we'll just have to stay put. The weird thing about Palembang is that you pay your rent for the full two years UP FRONT!

I like the space that this house gives us but like all the other houses in the area, it is old and in need of lots of repairs. The landlord wouldn't do any and even tried to increase the rent! Anyway, I have my own handyman now. He's starting work on painting the gate, windows and even the trees!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - 13 Things That Annoy Me

The day started off all wrong and I found myself easily annoyed. These thirteen are not necessarily from today but just general things that annoy me.

13 Things That Annoy Me

1) People who are habitually late. Its even worse when they don't inform me that they'll be late until the time that they are supposed to meet me.

2) People who try to nudge in at the head of a queue.

3) Whining. Aaron's whining. However, I do have this one under control because I have to face it so frequently.

4) Mistakes that are shoddily covered up. Either cover it up properly so I don't find out or just tell me.

5) Wet toilet seats. Happens often over here because we have one of those wet bathrooms.

6) Wet toilet paper. This usually accompanies the wet toilet seats.

7) People watching me while I try to surf the internet.

8) People who try to finish my sentences for me.

9) People who sing along with the radio/CD a beat to fast. I always get the impression that they are trying to show that they know all the words even before its sung.

10) Kids that greedily run up to me demanding Ang Pows. These are the Red Packets filled with money that married people have to hand out to unmarried people (who are younger than them) during Chinese New Year.

11) Having my books returned to me only to find that they are dog eared and creased all over the place.

12) Noisy Eaters. I'm even more annoyed with this now that I have Aaron around. I don't want him picking that particular habit up.

13) People who answer their cell phones while in the middle of a conversation without excusing themselves first.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What do you do about poverty?

There is poverty on every corner in Palembang. I don't even need to leave the house to see it. I buy eggs from this old lady that lugs a bucket of them around the neighborhood. Her feet are all cracked and her face is like one of those wrinkly ones you see on the cover of National Geographic.

In a way, we have become accustomed to seeing all of this. Its not that we no longer notice the poverty, its just that this really is the norm here. Sometimes I feel that there are so many poor people around that maybe I've got it wrong and those that I see are really the middle income people and the extra extra poor looking ones are the "real" poor of Palembang.

Last year, I made a point to visit some homes for underprivileged children to see if there was any volunteer work that I could do. They don't have such programs and didn't seem to want help. They wanted cash. I don't agree with doing that so we bought rice for these places. My enthusiasm also fizzled out and I didn't go around looking for more places to buy rice for.

Instead, I thought I'd do my bit by helping those that I come in contact with daily. So, we help the driver and the maid with school feels, time off for school and tutoring.

Its a new year again and ever since I saw that little girl on the weekend I've been trying to think of things that I can do, apart from handing out my loose change.

A friend of mine has a clever idea of giving out pencils to the children. I like the idea. Maybe they could be children some of the time instead of weaving through cars begging on behalf of their lazy parents. Maybe it might inspire just one of them to break through this cycle.

I have some new ideas floating about my head but none that I really like at the moment. What I'd really like to do is to buy some of these kids lunch and have a chat with them. I think this is where I'll start.

I'm open to ideas and suggestions so, leave me a comment.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Love and Logic Experiments

I recently read the book "Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood. Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years" by Jim Fay and Charles Fay. Just like any other parenting book, there are concepts and ideas in there that I agree with and those I don't.

So far, I've tried two of the experiments.

Experiment #1:
Aaron sometimes gets so demanding and is testing all limits the limits around here. To deal with the whining, which often escalates to loud crying for whatever it is he wants, I put him in his room and latched the door. Its a screen door so we can see each other. I sat at the computer and read the news while he worked it out. It didn't take long for him to figure out that he needed to be quiet and ask in a "big boy" voice to be let out of the room. I've done this twice and there has been a significant reduction in these power struggles. So, there has been some success here (for now).

Experiment #2:
The second thing I tried was taking the toys that he doesn't pick up and keeping them for a day. In the past, he has been good with picking up his toys but lately, his response time has been incredibly slow. So, as the book suggested, I picked the toys up and kept them away. You can't imagine the noise that followed. I kept wondering if I should put Experiment #1 into action but didn't because that would a 2 for 1 punishment which didn't seem fair. I returned the toys, the following day, just like the book instructed.

I thought Experiment #2 was a fabulous success because for several days afterwards, all I needed to do was reach out my hand towards a toy and he'd come flying in to pick it up. He didn't even want my help!! Fantastic, right?


Today, he was back to ignoring my requests to tidy up. So, I picked them up. And there was a lot today. Almost half the toys he regularly plays with are now on top of the fridge and in the tool cupboard. But guess what? No noise. No tantrums. He just says to me "Mama, you can have them 'till tomorrow". Sheesh!

Its now "You can have them back after a few days of picking your own toys up".

This job sure requires frequent upgrades to the protocols! It's hardly been a week and a new version is already needed. And he's still only two.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Boss Is Always Right

I like to think that I'm the boss of this house. I'm here all day long and I take care of everything. Richard lets me think that I'm boss too. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. It doesn't really matter.....we've been married for 9 years this year and we've got my bossiness sorted out.

Anyway, here in Indonesia, people still tend to believe that the man is the absolute head of the household. Its his permission that you need to get for things. And its him that you answer to if anything is wrong. His instructions are to be followed above everyone else's. And, above all, he's always right.

There have been many instances where my requests have been "downgraded" just because Richard has asked for things done, even after I did. Technically, he should get in line behind me but he's automatically put at the head of the queue because he's the man. Pfft!

I'm referring to how our driver (Iwan) re-arranges his to-do list (he helps us out with other odds and ends) depending on whether or not Richard needs anything. Its annoying but really no big deal. I'm not complaining about this at all, just setting the scene for what happened in the car the other day.

We needed to get some new shelves for Aaron and Richard said we should go to a place near Pasar Buah. When we got into the car, Richard told Iwan to take us to Cinde. I heard this and thought to myself "Hmm....I didn't realise that Cinde was near Pasar Buah" I know now that they are nowhere near each other but at the time, I didn't say anything because I'm still terrible at visualizing where all the different places in Palembang are. I just trusted Richard.

We finally get to Cinde and Richard says "Why did you bring us here? We need to get to Pasar Buah".

Now, I was sitting in front and saw Iwan's face. He had a really worried look and said "Pasar Buah? I thought it was Cinde".

I immediately added that Richard definitely said Cinde. This started a bit of a back and forth between Richard and I about what was instructed. The whole time, Iwan's face became increasingly worried looking. It was almost as if he thought he had made a mistake so serious that Richard would fire him.

Iwan then tries to say it was indeed "Pasar Buah" that Richard had instructed him to take us to and he just made a mistake. I tried to tell Iwan not to worry and that he heard correctly and guess what?

Iwan puts his two hands up at me and with this pleading look on his face, he says "Please Mrs., Mr. told me to go to Pasar Buah!" I was dumbfounded! (Oh and yes, they do call us Mr and Mrs (in Indonesian) with nothing after it.)

The boss is sooooo right no matter how wrong. And it doesn't matter that he had an eye (or ear) witness right there to back him up, Iwan still had to set things straight so that his boss was RIGHT!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dressing up at the lights

My favorite part about watching children is being constantly amazed by the innocence and transparency they exude. They are usually able to make the most of any situation and enjoy simple pleasures most.

I watched today as a young child pretended to be in front of a mirror. She put her head to one side and patted her cheek, then she did the same with the other side. Looks like she was putting some blush on. Then, she took a comb out and combed her hair, patted it, combed it some more and took a look at it again in the make believe mirror. All the while, she seemed to be talking to herself. She then strutted off to her mother to show the result. After sitting down next to her mother, the girl went to work on putting some moisturizer on her harms. She was in her own world, completely.

This is where I watched the girl. It took us several changes of the lights to get through. I got my camera out as soon as I saw her take an old and broken comb out but the cars kept getting in my way.

I smiled the whole time I watched the girl. She was so entertaining and acted out every detail of getting ready in front of a mirror. Usually I feel sad thinking of how these children must live but today, the girl exuded so much optimism. Of course, I know she lives in dire poverty and her mom (with the white headgear) certainly did not have any joy on her face but at least this little girl seemed to be having a few minutes of fun.

Some background:
I have seen this mother, carrying a younger sibling, sit on the island in the middle of this road almost every day. The young girl's job is to weave in and out of the cars, when they are stopped at the lights, to bed for money. They are not the only family there.

There is also another family that begs at this intersection. That one consists of a boy no more than 8 years old, carrying his toddler brother in the sling a whole day long. They also have a sister 'working' with them. I'm not sure, but I think their parents are sitting under a tree on the other side of the road.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Photostory Friday - The World On His Head

My biggest complaint about Aaron is that he is a very poor sleeper and has been from the start. Apart from being extremely difficult to put to sleep when he was an infant, he is also an incredibly light sleeper.

Apart from the obvious things like flushing the toilet or making too much noise when closing a door, he has also been woken up by the neighbor sneezing and my father stirring his Milo a little too enthusiastically downstairs.

After two and a half years of practice, he's getting better. There are bad days and good days. On a bad day, he'll wake up if you put the slightest amount of pressure on his mattress. On a good day, amazing things like this happen:

The entire world map had come unstuck and flopped down on him!

He was still in the same position that I left him in. AND, he went on to sleep another hour. I couldn't believe it!!!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - Questions for Iwan

Our driver (Iwan) will be getting married some time in February. He has always appeared stressed by the various burdens in his life but is having an even harder time now. Anyway, here is a compilation of the questions I have asked him over the past week.

Iwan is 31 years old and his fiance is ten years younger than him. He lives with his mother who has been a widow for roughly 25 years. The fiance works in a beauty parlour.

1) How did you meet your fiance?
She "harassed me" (his words, not mine) until I went out with her. It was two years ago and we were both working at a booth selling phone cards.

2) How often do you go on dates?
Not very often. Maybe once in 2 weeks. Its too expensive to take a girl out because you have to pay for petrol, food and maybe even buy some small trinket that she might get captivated by while strolling the shops.

3) You mentioned that you were going to get married in the middle of last year. Why did the wedding get postponed?
My sister thought she would get married last year. In Indonesia, it is customary to only have one wedding per year so, since she is older than me, she had first choice. In the end, she didn't get married but it was too late in the year for me to arrange anything so .. thats why its going to be in February.

4) How did you pick the date?
Both our families got together last week so that we could formally inform everyone of our intention to get married. Our parents then 'negotiated' on some probable dates. My fiance's family was pushing for January but I needed more time to get things together.

5) And, you took a day off yesterday for some preparations. What exactly did you need to do?

Buy the ring, take the wedding photos, go to the bank to borrow the money required to pay for the whole thing.

6) Are there any other ceremonies between now and the actual wedding day?
Yes, there is the formal proposal and confirmation of the wedding date. This usually takes place within two weeks of the proposed wedding date that is discussed between the families.

7) What happens there?
It is where the guy formally asks for permission to marry the girl. He has to bring along a sum of money, toiletries (things like shampoo, soap, toothpaste etc) and some groceries (basics like rice and oil). The girl's family then assesses if this is sufficient before they give their blessing. (I think the process is to show that he will be able to 'look after' their daughter)

8) How much do you think that will cost?

Roughly 2 Million Ruppiahs (US$ 183).

9) What sort of expenses are involved for the actual wedding day?
Of course there is the catering and renting of the tents and chairs. Then I need to hire the traditional wedding furniture. There are lots of other miscellaneous items that are going to really burn a hole in my pocket. Things like make up artists, cameramen, gifts for the guests and all sorts of other small items that my bride will need. I think the whole process of me getting married is going to cost me 10 Million Ruppiahs (USD $915). (This may sound cheap but it is roughly 10 months wages for Iwan.)

10) Do people in Indonesia give wedding presents or money (like the Chinese Red Packet)?
They usually give a little money. Nothing substantial though. Most people only give about 20 thousand Ruppiah (US$ 1.83)

11) Personal question, have you got the money saved up? I know that you're pretty tight from month to month.

Definitely not. After paying the loan for my bike and giving some money to my mother, I have very little left each month. My mother has helped me to get a loan from the bank for IDR 6 Million. I'm trying to sell anything that I don't need, like my old cell phone, but its not going to amount to much. I'm considering selling my bike but then I'd have to pay for public transport to get to work. Maybe I'll take on a second job on my day off from driving or at night.

12) Where will you live after you get married?
The first month will be at my fiance's house and then afterwards, I hope to be able to rent a place for ourselves. But, with the debt I've gotten myself in just to pay for the wedding, it is likely that we will live at my mother's place.

13) Ah, so you'll have to be able to manage your wife AND your mother?

Yes. But I am fair. Absolutely fair.

He answers the last question really emphatically. Almost as if he's telling himself that things will probably be hard but he is going to be fair. But then, he adds:
"But, if I really really reeeeealy had to choose, I'm going to pick my mother"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Golf in Palembang

Desperation drives people to do all sorts of things. This year, I'm desperate to get out there and do something. Learn something new. Get outdoors in Palembang more.

I have always declared that the sport that I most hate watching on TV is golf. Obviously, I don't understand the lure of the game. What is so exciting about hitting a tiny white ball with a variety of sticks, walking after it and then finally pushing it into a hole in the ground? If I wanted to sink balls, pool would be my game of choice.

Anyhow, Palembang may not have a single park but it does have a golf course. I think its around US$18.25 for the 18 holes and you don't need to be a member of the club. This is the only outdoor activity that I have identified for now. I'm sure the game is not as slow as it appears to be.

We went there on the weekend to find out about lessons. The pricing seems reasonable. I should have jotted it down but I think lessons are US$9 for an hour. You also pay US$2 for 100 balls at the driving range. And, the teacher also mentioned another US$2 for the caddy. At the driving range??? He said it was for the guy to put the little white ball down for you and to also go pick them all up after the lesson. Small matter, creates employment I suppose.

I have no idea how good or bad the teachers are or what it will mean to my long term technique if I pick up bad habits now. We're still thinking about it. In the mean time, here are some "interesting" photos from around the clubhouse.

Apart from the obvious typos, I found the listing of unacceptable attire amusing....tight and short shorts tee hee hee :)

On the one hand, its not right to laugh since English is not the language used around these parts. But on the other hand, if they insist on putting up English signs (I feel that its to appear posh), they should at least look up the dictionary, double check whatever gets printed or maybe consult an English teacher. Otherwise, they are fair game for the laughs that we had to let out as we walked around.

This one is my favorite...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Don't forget, little kids scare easily!

I was about 8 years old and my brother 6 when our family stayed over at a priest's house. The priest thought he would keep the relatively young kids entertained by putting on "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark". This was on a night where we had to spend the night alone in a strange room in a huge, old, house. The place used to be a seminary so it has LOTS of rooms and dark corridors....basically a scary place when you're under 10. Oh and the other thing, my brother and I were the only ones on the first floor. Our parents got a room downstairs.

Anyway, that movie left us "traumatized" for weeks. I will forever have that image of the guy's face melting and his eyes falling out of their sockets burnt into my brain. My brother has the same scary memories of the time. At the time, the priest obviously didn't realize that it would cause such problems for us.

I found myself making a similar mistake to the priest today.

Aaron and I were watching one of the Thomas and Friends episodes when he suddenly exclaimed that he no longer wanted to watch. It surprised me and I teased him a little. It was at a part where one of the trains needed to cross a "dangerous, rickety, old bridge". I didn't pay any attention at first and the train made it across the first time.

Aaron settled down but then another train had to make the crossing. This time Aaron came to sit on my lap and I had my hand rested on his chest. I noticed that the soundtrack added to some tension build up and the narrator's voice sounded more urgent. All this while, I could feel Aaron's little heartbeat getting faster.

So when he cried out again that he could not watch it anymore, I turned it off. The poor boy was genuinely disturbed by it. I could really feel his heart pounding by then. Shame on me for doubting him in the first place.

Its so easy for adults to overlook these little things that young children may experience. I feel so insensitive for calling Aaron "silly" the first time. Its actually perfectly understandable that he'd find the "suspense" and potential disaster disconcerting since his life so far has been shielded from any sorts of fears and uncertainties.

I guess we both have more to learn here. Aaron will need to deal with these types of emotions eventually. And I should be more sensitive and remember that he's still so little.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I See Loads

Palembang is probably the first place that I've lived where I really enjoy the view from the car. There are always interesting things to look at. Even traffic jams can sometimes be fun (except when Aaron decides he's had enough of the car).

Here are a few pictures from my morning. The types of loads the people here try to haul always amazes me and is definitely the thing that catches my eye most frequently.

The last photo is of a truck collecting used cardboard boxes. People here collect everything from used plastic containers, drink bottles, cans, plastic bags, newspaper, bits of metal, whatever. On a side note, apart from the food scraps, everything in our trash seems to be of use to somebody. We frequently wake up in the morning to find that somebody has gone through our trash in the night, picked out what they wanted and left a big mess in front of the front gate. Its a pain but I guess somebody was really desperate and needs to feed their family!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

407,295 Blog Posts today as of 11.19AM my time

Mike leaves frequent reminders about doing "numbers posts" and I have been meaning to do one for a long time but hadn't come across anything interesting until this morning. Here's a simple website with "real time" world statistics.

Worldometers has a page of simple to read statistics for the worlds population, government and economics, society and media, environment, food, water, energy and health.

The figures are "real time" based on an algorithm that processes the data (available from supposedly "prestigious" sources) and extrapolates the current number based on the time of YOUR computer clock.

In the time that it took me to type the title of this post and the three short paragraphs above, the number of blog posts has already risen to 414,651. Probably more since it took me awhile to type the previous sentence and type that number. That would mean that there were 7356 other people blogging at the same time as me.

Each of the numbers alone don't mean anything because there are no stories to go with this website. However, when you look at just how large some of these numbers are and spend a moment to think of, for example, the 1.3 Billion people in the world with no access to safe drinking water, you find yourself spending a lot more time on this website.

OK, lets have one final check for the number of blog posts as of NOW - 428,475.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Friends, "New" Eyes, New Bulbs but Old Laptop

This new year has been great so far. We have new friends. Here's another one of those great fringe benefits you get from blogging. Apart from real letters and postcards from Bilbo, blogging has actually led me to meeting people in Palembang. This time, its a lovely couple from Singapore with a 9 month old baby. They live only a street away and have been there for almost as long as we've been in Palembang. We've even admired the old VW Ambulance they have on several occasions but would never have gotten to know them if the guy hadn't stumbled upon my blog. Yay!

Before I talk about the light bulbs, I've got to tell you about my "new" eyes. Some time in November, I forgot to put on my glasses when going out. AND, I didn't notice this for nearly 3hrs. My prescription isn't very high but in the past, I've always still needed my glasses if I wanted to avoid a headache. The 3hrs surprised me and I thought maybe there is a chance that things are somehow on the mend. I started doing daily eye exercises and also taking additional vitamins. Guess what?! After about a month, I started going full days without my glasses. No need for lasik!

Since coming back to Palembang, I have felt a little eye strain though. BUT, I'm sure this is because the lights here are much dimmer that I've gotten used to in Australia. When I asked those around me if they thought the lights were ok for them, I got blank stares. I could read their minds "What are you talking about? Its bright!" I don't know if its because people are trying to save on the electricity bill or what but they use really low wattage bulbs. I had the bulbs in our house changed last year but they seemed to have dimmed so I got them changed again yesterday. No more eyestrain. I wasn't just imagining it!

So thats it for the "new" things. Now the old. My laptop. Its going on 5 years OLD this coming March. The hard disk crashed a couple of months ago and we got a new one. Then, since we got back, it only started up when it felt like it. We got the hard disk reformatted yesterday and its back for now I guess. All I want is for it to be able to do very basic things (like allow me to blog) for another couple of years. Do you think laptops make it to 7 years old?