Singapore

In the late summer of 2019, we had the opportunity to spend a few days in Singapore. It’s an amazing place aiming to overload your senses. The food is awesome, whether it’s from a lunch time no-frills market, or if it’s a dinner from an upmarket restaurant. The cocktail bars all have wonderful concoctions. There is amazing art in the central galleries and museums. The experiences in the gardens, the views from the hotels, the time spent walking down side streets, the over-the-top shopping malls, all aim to bombard you with a microcosm of Asia in a very unique way. It’s a blend of Malaysia, India and China with bits of Japan thrown in along the way. It’s a fantastic place to visit.

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Visiting Hawaii

I’d always wanted to visit Hawaii. My Pinterest “Places to Visit” folder is full of pictures of Hawaii. I was hoping to go last year, but the practicality of finances meant we couldn’t make it then. This time we saved throughout the year to be able to go ahead with a truly awesome experience. Here’s a brief writeup of the best parts. The list of our major activities, in order of which ones I’d recommend most is:

  1. Sunrise from Haleakala, Maui.
  2. Stargazing and hiking to Lake Waiau on Mauna Kea, Big Island.
  3. Snorkeling with manta rays, Big Island.
  4. Huka snorkeling/scuba at Molokini, Maui.
  5. Sailing the Na Pali coast, Kauai.
  6. Helicopter Ride over Kauai.
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Stargazing at Mauna Kea

During our recent trip to Hawaii, we decided to do a trip up the mountain of Mauna Kea to do some stargazing and a small hike over to Lake Waiau. Mauna Kea is where some of the best observatories in the world are located because of the fantastic conditions. Up at the top, you’re looking at 13,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level. That’s way above the clouds and perfect for stargazing with zero light pollution. Lake Waiau is up near the top at 13,500 feet. It’s a small lake that presents an Arctic micro-climate to people deciding to visit. When we arrived in Hawaii, we were shown a photo from one of the staff (Nick) at the Four Seasons resort that epitomized the beauty of the place – a perfect shot of the Milky Way and the stars in the sky, reflected in a still and tranquil Lake Waiau. We wanted to see that! And so our adventure began. We hadn’t planned our hike or stargazing in advance. It was spur of the moment, and so all of the pre-made tours for stargazing were already fully booked. But we had a car. How hard could it be?

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Network Booting Raspberry Pi from OSX

The Magic Mirror that I’ve got has failed a bunch of times. Each time, the SD card has become corrupt and the mirror then hangs accusingly on the wall waiting for me to repair it. I’ve hidden away the keyboard. I need to unhang the mirror to access the SD card, and each time the wonderful mounting (a.k.a. masking tape) that holds the pi perfectly in place all needs to be redone. This is a pain. I finally decided to sit down and work out a way of managing the pi remotely – to complete ditch these pesky SD cards.

The end result? My mirror now has a raspberry PI v3, running without SD card, completely running from the network. To mess with the boot settings or the filesystem, I can completely do this from my comfortable workstation, remotely reboot the pi and it’s been pretty reliable (not perfect). The network service is all provided by my iMac, all via OSX without any software other than what’s built-in, or reputable open-source software. This setup is so much more comfortable to use.

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Japan, 2013

Our room in Crazy Bear Hotel, Beaconsfield

Our room in Crazy Bear Hotel, Beaconsfield

A couple of years on from our last trip, we took advantage of Claire staying in Osaka to make another visit. This time around, we had a real two week visit, arriving on Joey’s birthday. We made even the getting there part of the holiday: we went Virgin upper class for the flights to use up all of our about-to-expire airmiles and we spent the night before the flight at Crazy Bear hotel in Beaconsfield.  The hotel stay was as decadent as we expected. We had a great night sampling gin and cocktails. The bartender introduced us to a great gin from Tanqueray called Malacca gin – limited numbers of really special gin that is worth sipping neat. I’ve yet to find out where to buy it from though – next time I’m downtown I’m on a mission!

We arrived into Tokyo on Joey’s birthday and with the plan that we’d meet up with our friends in the evening for a night of food and crazy. However it was serendipity that we literally bumped into Claire on the Tokyo subway while we were touristing around town. For a city that busy and that large, to simply bump into your friend on the subway is really weird. “It’s a small world after all…” starts tripping through my head. Anyhow, food and entertainment were organised by Richard and Chihiro, with Claire, Nick and Tom all joining in.  We had a superb time munching through various things-on-a-stick, complete with Birthday dessert for Joey. The Gang at Joeys Birthday 3And that wasn’t even the highlight. For extra giggles we spent the latter part of the evening at a show in Robot Restaurant in one of the odder experiences of my life. Theoretically there’s food involved, but we’d heard bad reviews of that before and so we’d laden up beforehand at the really good restaurant: we were just there for the show, and what a show it was.

Robot Restaurant

Robot Restaurant

It’s basically a combination of pole dancers, robots, music, pandas, dinosaurs and tanks. With lots of neon. After every act, we were turning to each saying “that was fantastic! But what the f…?”.  Especially when the panda-on-a-cow saved the day from the teenage mutant ninja turtle man. Or something like that. I’m not really sure what happened. My eyes hurt!

 

 

Part 2 of this to come later…