Weddings

I just had the pleasure of attending a high school friend’s wedding last weekend. I always like to attend weddings, it’s such an exciting experience seeing people getting married. You always see the sweetest moments of a couple during their wedding. So much good things are said about each other and so on and so forth. Of course the most enjoyable experience is being able to dress up!There’s a tradition in England that the ladies will wear hats when attending weddings. I think it’s a really delightful tradition. I also love the fact that most British really dress up for weddings and take the ceremony seriously. It shows respect to the wedding couple. On the contrary, it seems that in the Far East, at least from that part of the world that I came from, people don’t really dress up for weddings. I even had guests turning up in jeans and t-shirts at my wedding! Having said that, there seems to be a change in dressing sense at weddings these days. People are becoming wealthier and more exposed to the western culture. What’s more, it’s the perfect excuse to splash on clothes and get pretty.I once thought of becoming a wedding planner. The idea of working with wedding couples at their happiest moments was really attractive until I realised that it was probably also the most stressful moments. You just have to get everything right and perfect from tip to toe. But still, I love weddings, one of my favourite events.:)

Original statue of liberty

Statue of liberty There’s a statue of liberty in New York. We all know that. There’s, however, also a statue of liberty in Paris, albeit 1/4 in size to the one in New York, standing on the Isle de Grenelle (on the River Seine) 1.5km from the Eiffel Tower. When I was in Paris last week, my French colleague pointed out to me that that was the original version of the statue of liberty. I couldn’t comment really, and accepted the answer as final, as I didn’t know it even exists!After some careful trawl on the Internet, it turns out that there’s yet another statue of liberty in Jardin du Luxembourg, claims to be the first model, built in 1870! This really adds to the controversy on which one is the original. But what’s not in question is the statue of liberty in New York was gifted by the French 🙂

Wine drinking

Have been really into the mood of having some wine to go with meals at home lately, particulary Italian dishes that tend to have a lot of cream and cheese. But a bottle between the two of us on a weekday is too much. We only want the wine to accompany the meal, not to get pissed. So it’s always a waste to see a good bottle of wine turns sour after a day and we eventually have to pour down the sink.Recently I came up with a plan, that was to buy a 3-litre box of wine that come with a tap. Apparently the quality of the wine in such box can be maintained for up to 6 weeks. Wonderful, couldn’t believe that I came across this alternative packaging of wine only as recently as 3 months ago, when my brother in Malaysia opened a box gifted by his aussie friend.

But what I hadn’t realised was, I was told by my French colleague that there’s such thing known as a vacuum wine pump and stopper! Like what’s said on the label, you can extracts the air from the opened bottle using the vacuum pump and reseals it with a special reusable rubber stopper. Doing so slows down the oxidation process, allowing you to enjoy the wine for a longer period, up to a week or two. Brilliant isn’t it.So looks like our tolerance of alcohol is not in question. This is further confirmed when I had the dinner of my life, so far, in Paris with my work partners few days ago. There were six of us, three French, and we didn’t even finish 2 bottles of wine. But we did however start with Champagne, and finished off with Armagnac to settle the stomach though 🙂 (Have to admit that the French really do take their food and wine seriously.)

A day out

I had to bring my laptop back to the office today (Saturday) because it is due to be upgraded. Well, it’s a long boring story as to why I couldn’t leave it in the office so I won’t even go down there save for the fact that it had been a messy trouble.Anyway, as I don’t want to be taking the train to my office on a Saturday. I have lured my hubby into cycling to the office with me.:) It is approximately 8 miles from my home to the office. Putting it in context, I think it’s about 20 minutes drive with clear traffic. Well, I must say that my muscle was getting rusty and needed a good workout anyway.Instead of taking the usual scenic cycling path along the river, we have decided to try something different this time. We took the normal tar road which we thought would have been much faster and less bumpy given that I had a laptop to take care of. As it turned out, it was a pretty hairy experience with cars zooming past you by just a few feet away and having to inhale ‘fresh fumes’ from the exhaust pipes. It was of course not very fun as you would have guessed.Anyway, having dumped the ‘jurassic era’ laptop back in the office, we were rather excited of the journey home as we had decided to stick to the cycle path. We stopped by a wine distributor shop just down the road from my office. We were rather cynical that it would be opened on a Saturday but thought we would give a try anyway. To our pleasant surprise, it was open for business.We went in to browse around and eventually succumbed to the temptation. We have been into drinking port lately and decided to try a vintage port. It was a Graham’s 2003 vintage port that was sold at cost price because of the damage to the label. Well, we don’t really care about the label, and thought it was a good bargain anyway. The thing that excites us most is that we can try out the crystal decanter that we bought a few weeks back in our trip to Preston. I would have loved to take a picture to post it here but due to sheer laziness, have called off the idea.I am thinking of inviting one or two friends over to share our latest acquisition and have a fun time. But that will have to be in November at the earliest due to some other commitments and I just can’t wait to open that bottle of port!We had a fun day out overall. We stopped by a pub by the river along the cycling path on our way home and had a belated lunch. It was such a lovely day although we were rather tired by the end of it.

Pawpaw

Bought a papaya in the supermarket yesterday. When the fruit was scanned at the checkout till, a name “paw paw” appeared. At first I thought it was mistake, as coming from a tropical country, I’m very sure that papaya is called “papaya”. And pawpaw sounds like a dog, don’t you think? It just sounds funny. I still couldn’t stop laughing at the thought of this name. Maybe I have had the pronunciation wrong 🙂 Anyway, what a cute name.

Garden birds

blue tit Looks like the birds are back to my little garden looking for food now that the summer is over and that natural food is becoming scarce. Once I hung a suet ball in the summer and it wasn’t until months later before it was eaten. I was hoping to see how the bird can acrobatically eat that ball, but it was eaten while we were away recently to Lake District!For the past few days I’ve been spreading bird seeds in my garden, and they have been consistenly cleared up. Apparently many birds are creatures of habit and will probably make a special visit to my garden once they learn there is food there. Which means that once I start feeding, I should continue through the winter. This is because seeds, fruits and insects become harder to find as the winter progresses, and so the food I put out becomes steadily more important. Especially when the weather is bad, a wasted journey can potentially make life even harder for them!

HSBC security device

HSBC Security Device This security device has been given to HSBC customers in the far east (at least Hong Kong and Malaysia) for a while now, at least a year, for more secure online banking. Yet, in a lunch time conversation with my colleagues when we so happened to chat about the different authentication methods used by the banks, none of them are aware of such security system. In fact, HSBC are already rolling out this in the UK, but only to business customers. I know because I’ve just opened a business account with them recently. The way you use this device is everytime you want to log in to your Internet bank account, you need a username, a password and a 6-digit number from the device, which you will get everytime you press the button on the device. That number is time-sensitive, as in it only lasts for a few seconds, after which you will be given a different number when the button is pressed. Presumably the sequence of numbers, which is unique to the device, need to match the same sequence stored in the HSBC authentication server in time. But how this device can be time synchronised to the server is rather intriguing. My initial guess was it must have a very stable clock that drift very little, hence allowing it to remain closely matched to the server’s clock for a long time. But after experimenting a few times, I have to say that this little device is not as sophisticated as I first thought. Although the numbers on the device keep changing every few seconds, it does not mean that the old number are no longer valid for logging in. I would say the number has a useful timeframe of about at least half a minute, althought I haven’t really stretch-test it :).To sum up, rather than relying on customers to change one set of their passwords every so often, this device changes for them periodically, which is certainly a step forward in terms of securing their login details. But I won’t say I’m overwhelmed by this gizmo.

Inheritance tax

I have never heard of inheritance tax until I came to England. To my horror, this is apparently rather common in Europe countries. It was not till I work in the tax industry that I feel so outraged about the whole tax regime revolving inheritance tax. Honestly, why should someone be made to pay tax just because they have been left some hard-earned wealth by their parents? To make matters worse, the tax rate is at a whopping 40%! To put things in context, if you inherit a house from your parents after they passed away and don’t have the money to pay the tax, you are likely to end up selling the house to pay the inland revenue!There is no inheritance tax at my home country and I really hope that it remains so. It’s bad enough that you have to make arrangements for your death when you grow old. Imagine having to make tax planning at the age of 60 to make sure that your children don’t suffer a huge amount of tax. With the house prices surging and showing no signs of lethargy, it is likely that more than half the people who inherit a property will have to pay inheritance tax. The current nil band rate at a meagre £275,000 is unlikely to be sufficient to exempt inheritance tax for most households without adequate tax planning.Sometimes, I am not entirely sure if I am in favour of a welfare state. True that you get certain service for free, for example the healthcare. But it’s not really ‘free’ as you still need to pay sky-high fees to have your annual body check for example or even getting a test on cholesterol can be pricey. Anyway, that’s just a little whine based on my tax knowledge.

The big investigation

It’s getting really annoying now. There’s been holes consistenly appearing in my herb pots and flower pots everyday for the past one week, dug up by a mystery creature which we still have no clue what it is. Initially we suspected that it is a naughty bird, but a bird probably is not strong enough to topple our rectangular shape herb pot. My colleague suggested that it could be a cat, as this kind of incidence happened to him before. I have toyed with the idea of setting up a surveillance camera using a webcam and remotely monitor it over the Internet while I’m away at work. But monitoring live video is too involving while storing half a day’s worth of pictures is going to take too much hard disk space, and requiring me to scan through the pictures. My colleague came up with a yet better idea, that is to use motion dection software to only snap up pictures when motion is detected. This is brilliant, the mystery creature will unveil itself in no time! But, before getting all too excited, I need to first get myself a webcam, ‘doh!

Doctor and Mister

Dr EvilUNITED NATIONS SECRETARY: Gentlemen, silence! (to Dr. Evil) NOW, MR. EVILDR. EVIL: (angry) Doctor Evil! I didn’t spend six years in evil medical school to be called ‘mister’.Interesting isn’t it, in the United Kingdom, surgeons are distinguished from physicians by being referred to as “Mister”. This tradition has its origins in the 18th century, when surgeons were barber-surgeons and did not have a degree (or indeed any formal qualification), unlike physicians, who were doctors with a university medical degree. By the beginning of the 19th century, surgeons had obtained high status, and in 1800, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in London began to offer surgeons a formal status via RCS membership. The title Mister became a badge of honour, and today only surgeons who hold the Membership or Fellowship of one of the Royal Surgical Colleges are entitled to call themselves Mister, Miss, Mrs or Ms. [Development of modern surgery]