Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Choice of Life

Lily and I just came back from the local supermarket not far from where we live, to do our weekly groceries. This time, it's a little bit different and I thought it's worth mentioning. No I didn't find a $100 note or spent couple of hundreds in a single receipt.

When I walked into the supermarket, a decent dressed mid twenties female, hair nicely combed, decent make up on her face, approached me. She was holding a deodorant with both her hands at her chest level. I thought she needed some direction as to where the dairy products or deli is located or something. To my surprise, she asked me if I wanted to buy the deodorant she was holding. Her excuse was she no longer needed it.

I could not believe what I was hearing. Why would I want to buy anything that has yet to be paid for from another person? How did I know its not paid? The supermarket's tag was still clearly visible. If she has gone through the check-out counter, the tag would have been removed. She was up to something, for sure. I then politely declined her saying that I simply have no use of the deodorant. Her facial expression changed dramatically and started asking me if I had small change for her to make a phone call. Declined her again for a simple fact that I really didn't have any change with me. She walked away while making some remarks.

It was not clear what her whole remark was, it didn't bother me and I left it as it was. After awhile, I saw her again chatting with a man, poorly dressed, eyes half opened, carrying a bottle of hard liquor. She then started walking out with him, holding each other's hand, just like a young couple still very much in love.

When you put the pieces together, you would have the same thought that I have. I am glad that I didn't fall for her trick and can't help but to feel sorry for both of them. It is not as if they are not getting enough support from the government. They get weekly allowance that should be enough to last them for the whole week if used moderately.

Deep down inside, I feel a little bit cheated. Australia's tax is one of the highest in the world and everyone pays massive amount of tax every month. A portion of it goes to them, to give them food, shelter, warm cloths, development, education, etc. Just not fully appreciated. I guess I'll never understand.

On a more positive note, because of the weekly allowance given to them, they are less likely to be desperate for cash, hence less robbery, less snatch thieves, etc.
It is everyone's choice by the end of the day how to live their life.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

I am an addict!

Yes... I am putting my hands up and admit I am an addict... for all the right reasons. Some are hooked on ciggies, some are hooked on computers, I am hooked on working out at the gym. I've always packed my gym clothings the night before and put it my car so that I can dash off to get some sweat out after spending 8 hours in the office.

Things do not usually go as planned.

Last week, work was abundance, was pressing for time to get work done by the end of each day, weekend came too soon and by the time I decided to call it a day, all I wanted was to get home as quickly as possible, spent some time with my missus and sat in front of our tv with my feets up. I was just too tired for anything else.

No gym on the fist 2 days of the week. By Wednesday, I was starting to feel restless, was getting harder go focus on my work and patience was running lower as well. It felt like something was missing, incomplete. I knew what I had to do but no immediate action was taken. Call me a slacker and I will not challenge you.

It was Saturday arvo that I finally got myself a good round of workout. Because it was Sat, I didn't have anything planned until later in the evening. Went to the gym knowing that I can spend the whole arvo without any disturbance. It was a good workout... satisfied my addiction.

I felt so much better, somewhat happier and increased self-esteem. I never thought of it as a problem until when I was driving home that I started to realize this can be a problem if viewed at a different angle. "I may be a gym addict", I told myself.

I did not want to jump to any conclusion without knowing the exact meaning of "addiction". Was sort of giving myself a false sense of hope... better than no hope at all. Googled it and according to Wikipedia "addiction is a state in which the body relies on a substance for normal functioning and develops physical dependence".

That pretty much sums it up what I went through last week.

As I said earlier on, depends on which angle you look at it, I can gain from it or suffer the effects of it. The fact is that the pros outweights the cons and my addiction is not severe as compared to cigarettes or drugs addiction.

I'll be alright and hopefully it will add more life to my years. :)

Monday, 14 July 2008

Australian Footy

One of my cousins, Wei Jin (WJ) came over to Melbourne for 2 weeks holiday. We met up for number of meals and knowing what a sports fanatic he is, we thought of bringing him for a game of local football, i.e. footy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Before we can even suggest that, he had already asked us if we were interested for a game of footy. It was not hard to decide which game to go for as WJ is a big fan of Hawthorn (not bad for a guy that has only been in Australia for less than 2 weeks) and they were playing at MCG (Melbourne sports icon).

We managed to get our tickets but we had no idea how far our seatings were. When we went there this morning, we were pleasantly surprised that it’s a reasonable distance from the arena. The price weren’t too bad as well, approximately $34 per adult.

I think the last time we went for a game was when we were doing our degree back in 2001. I am not a fan of footy and Stephen does not enjoy watching it as much as European soccer. If we are in UK, Spain or Italy, we would be just like the locals, going for every match when his beloved team plays.

Overall, I think the game was pretty exciting, very fast paced and truly very different from the many soccer matches I have watched with Stephen. I remember reading the size of the footy arena being twice as big as a soccer field. TWICE! OMG!! There were a number of times where I had lost track of the ball… a tiny red ball in a huge arena with each team fielding 18 players, surely I am not the only one!

I didn’t really understand the rules of the game (or I am just not putting enough effort?? ), how penalty is given, how passing is made, etc. All I know is when the ball goes through the two highest polls, it is a 6 points goal. When the ball goes through the lower side polls or even hits any of the poll, it’s a 1 point goal. I still don’t understand why only 1 point is awarded when the ball struck the poll. I believe it should be a 10 points goal or something. What are the chances of hitting the poll given such a wide space and with such a great accuracy, surely one would deserve more points, i.e. bullseye. Hey, what do I know about footy??

A game consists of four quarters. The length of the quarters can vary from 15 to 25 minutes in different leagues. In the AFL, quarters are 20 minutes, but the clock is stopped when the ball is out of play, meaning that an average quarter could last for 27 to 31 minutes. At the end of each quarter, teams change their scoring end.

The first goal of the game was scored by Hawthorn (yellow and brown stripes), which are supported by my cousin and Jessica. Also Stephen’s as he heard that they are the stronger team. (Knowing him, he always supports the winning team).

When the goal is scored, the Goal Umpire signals a goal with two hands raised at elbow height, a behind with one hand, and then confirms the signal with the other goal umpire by waving flags above his head.

From the photos, it look like the weather was warm with the sun was out at the background. It was actually 12 degrees maximum. When the wind was blowing, it was freeeezing!!! That’s why we were all wrapped up nice and warm.

New responsibilities

Every week, I have a 30 minutes session catch up with my manager where we can talk about anything… being work related or non-work related. Most of the time we were just having a casual chat and gives us an excuse to stay away from work. Back in March 08, she surprised me when she mentioned if I was interested in a vacant Sarbanes Oxley Leader (SOx) role within my department. I have done some SOx work when I was in chartered accounting firm, as a third party and would not mind doing it again.

It didn’t take me too long to accept the role. One, it will keep me busy for the second half of the year. Two, you can only gain valuable experience from managing a team of 20 experienced colleagues. Three, it will look darn good in my resume. :D

My senior management agreed in my appointment. “Great!” said to myself. I acknowledged that it’s going to be a steep learning curve, technical and especially management aspect. I have done some management when I was a senior auditor in chartered accounting firms. This time around will not be the same. What’s so different is that I’ll be managing a team that has done SOx in my company before. What do I know that they don’t?

I was introduced in the SOx kick-off meeting and explained a little on my role and where do I fit into the whole picture. I noticed that some eyebrows were raised and I totally understand that. I would probably done the same thing if I were to be in their shoes. I am just a new kid in my company, in my department. I would be na├»ve if I don’t understand that.

I have started doing SOx and so far, I have not encounter any major setbacks. Fingers crossed! The support from my senior management is tremendous and it sort of lightens my burden as well knowing that assistance is readily available. Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, assistance is just a phone call away.

Pressure is mounting… having to deliver the results, meeting the expectations of my senior management and shine in the end, it’s not an easy task but I a already loving every bits of it. Call me crazy, call me nuts, this is who I am.

I was having second thoughts 8 months ago whether moving out from chartered to industry is a right move or whether the timing is right, that my missus and I only came back to Melbourne early last year. Based on where I am at the moment, I could not be happier that I made the move. True, it has been and will be tough but worth every bit of it. The exposure is much better and the recognition both internal and external is definitely there.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Foggy winter

Lily and I came back to Melbourne since January 2007. After leaving Australia for almost 3 years, we thought that we were going to suffer throughout last year's winter. We bought a couple of heaters to make sure we were well equipped to brace the freezing nights.

Winter 07 came and gone... it was not too bad, if my memory serves me right. In fact we did not use the heater as often as we initially thought. Most of the time, it was my missus who switched it on. I am not a big fan of heater. In fact I would rather wear more clothings than to have it on. Reason being that I don't feel comfortable with the room filled with hot dry air and hates it when my throat gets dry as well. I might have spoken too soon.

Now we are in the middle of winter 08. There's not a day that I do not switch on the heater, especially in the morning. Not because it is significantly colder than last year, but from looking out from our apartment window, it sort of give me the impression that its freaking cold. Looking at the photos below, you'll know what I mean. Until I get a better camera, you guys have to rely on these photos courtesy of Herald Sun.

Lily managed to capture some nice shots of winter from our living room.

We have gone through winter a couple of times in Melbourne and both of us reckon it was not as bad as this time around. We still have almost 1.5 months before the first sign of spring come knocking on our door. We are getting there!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Good cardio workout on a chilly winter morning

My alarm rang at 7.45 this morning, yes 7.45am on a Sat morning. Thought that I could get some work done before our 10am weekly dragon boat session. Switched off the alarm, went straight back to bed. It is hard enough to trade your nice warm bed with some shit work on your first day of the weekend. We are in the middle of winter, didn't help at all. I could've done better. Anyway... Lily's alarm rang 8.30am, again... did exactly the same thing, i.e. switched it off and went straight back to bed.

Some joker's vehicle alarm went off that woke me up. I had a glance at my clock and it was showing 9.25am. F*CK! I thought we were going to be late for our dragon boat session. Jumped out of our bed, on the heater, woke Lily up, rah rah rah... by the time we were ready, it was 9.40am. As if dragon boating wasn't enough of a race, we had to race against time before that. Grabbed some pre-packed cheese and biscuits, pressed for the lift and for some reason it took so much longer to reach our floor. Our race against time didn't stop there.

As we were heading down to 2nd floor, the lift stopped at least 5 floors and tenants came into the lift at their leisure time. What are heck were they doing up so early on a Sat morning??? I have to admit, I have never valued every second so preciously as this morning. Our floor finally came, rushed out, got into our car, drove off as quickly as we could, overtook safely slower cars in front of us, made a couple of short cuts and BANG! We were there at 10am sharp. ON THE DOT!

Why did we have to go through so much trouble and stress to make sure we were on time? One, dragon boat is a sport where timing is very important, both before and during the boating and we intend to keep it that way and two, whoever is late, the whole team will be penalized by doing a full 2 minute plank (below) at one go.

Plank might seem easy for some… but when you have done 1.5 hours of intensive dragon boating, it is a killer and 2 minutes feels like forever. I don’t mind doing it but I surely will if we are the cause of the penalty. Lucky for us, no plank this time around.

The temperature was 9 degrees this morning. It was bone chilling, especially when there’s wind blowing. There wasn’t much cloud this morning, clear blue skies, sun was out, enthusiast dragon boaters, I knew from that moment that we were going to have a good session. There were a couple of newbies but majority of us have been doing it for a solid 10 times. Went into the water, arranged our seating based on our weight to stabilize the boat, by 10.10am, we were off.

We were doing more intensive training this time around, as most of us are experienced enough. We did a quick 200m race (actual race distance) to see where we were at. 1:01:28. This is a good timing considering we had some glitches when changing our strokes. I am not going to bore you with all technicalities of dragon boating. The point is, we can still improve our timing and be competitive when it matters. I think the next race is in December 08. I am already looking forward for this race after all the hard work and preparation. I am sure Lily feels just the same.

Some of dragon boating photos:

Friday, 4 July 2008

Morning Dose of Medication

Nothing beats a good cuppa to start your hectic morning...