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Sydney – Botanical Gardens

September 30, 2014

Working in the heart of Sydney has its many benefits, this week has uncovered a trove more. I am already rewarded with a huge shopping venue situated below my feet, a bustling plaza that attracts an eclectic group of performance artists and the convenience of a public transport system walking distance away. But I am also now privileged to be working so close to the vast areas of preserved greenery situated so peacefully within the bustling city. Across from my place of work is Hyde park that has captivated me for a while now with its Greek Myth inspired fountain and giant trees enveloping the central walk that intersects the park. That much has been known to me for some time now, I even wanted to have my wedding shoot there, until the photographer complained about a lack of parking options.

If you look on Google maps there is a continuous stretch of preserved vegetation that spans from Hyde park, through to the Domain, and transitions to the Botanical Gardens. These Gardens is what I have been frequenting this past week on my hourly breaks.

Much like Hyde park, the Gardens contains many enormous trees that would have seen numerous seasons, fashion trends and technological developments pass over the years.

I took a picture of this tree that shaded everything in its wide-reaching circumference, others of similar stature had people litters underneath them enjoying the warm weather from the safety of the direct sun. Filter using Google photos.

Botanical Gardens - Sydney

One great thing about the Botanical Gardens is that a lot of the plants are labelled so if something catches your eye and perhaps you are considering incorporating it into your own garden a convenient labelling system will be of great help. The place has a good selection of unique trees, flowers, shrubs, palms, ferns etc.

I took a picture of these flowers that had bulb like heads on top on them.Sydney - Botanical Gardens - Flowers

This cool looking greenhouse pyramid sits inside the park. Looks like its not open to the public until 2016…DSC_0246-EFFECTS

Here is me looking back at Centre Point, seeing how far I have travelled.Sydney Botanical Gardens - City View

Hope this has inspired others to go check out more of the city you work and live in, and see those places that you may never have considered checking out before. The warm weather this past week has made the experience so much more enjoyable and it will only keep getting warmer, so go on.

My Movie Watching Habits

August 23, 2014

For a while now I have been tagging all the movies that I recall watching on the IMDB website. The list of movies goes back all the way to when I was a child. For each Movie I provide a rating from 1 to 10, with 10 being the sought after rating by movie producers. IMDB provides a bit of data analysis on my movie habits, which I grabbed and chucked into excel,  so Enjoy.

Total number of movies I have seen (recall seeing) is close to 570. I entered a few more before these graphs which I don’t think IMDB captured. Assuming the average length of a film is 2 hours, that comes to a total viewing time of 1140 hours or 47.5 days or just over 1.5 months, talk about a movie marathon

Most movies fall into several genres. What IMDB does is include each movie into all the respective categories it falls under e.g Shaun of the Dead (2004) being both a comedy and horror. glancing at the data, it looks like a big chunk of my movie watching habits fall under Drama & Comedy. I wonder if that is saying that after watching a depressing drama, with tears in my eyes I hurry to put on a comedy to restore my mood to a happy equilibrium? Maybe, or maybe I just like those two genres more that other films.

Sasha's Movies by Genre 2014

As previously mentioned I rank movies from 1 to 10, here are the aggregate rankings I have given to all my films. It looks like I am quiet generous with a median of 7.2 and a mode of 7.Believe it or not I have not seen a film that I thought was so bad that it was a plague on society and deserved a rating of 1. I think there is some bias in my data, as I try to research what I want to watch and look at IMDB ratings before hand to get a sense of what to expect. I tend to dismiss films with a ranking below 7, unless they fall under a director I like or have been recommended by someone whose opinion I value.

Sasha's Movies by Ratings 2014

Here is an interesting graph. My movies by the year they were made. As expected the older the film is, the less likely that I have watched it. That is mainly for two reasons: 1) there are just less films in those years and 2) the cinematography appeals less to me with older flicks. I can also see that there is a time lag when it comes to most recent films as I don’t see the value of attending cinemas. I have only seen one film dating to 2014, latest thing to come from the director Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel. Something a bit different from the other Hollywood stuff, yet enjoyable. 1999 was big for some reason. Looking at movies I have seen that fall under that year they include: American BeautyThe MatrixBeing John MalkovichElectionStar Wars: Episode I – The Phantom MenaceToy Story 2 etc.

Sasha's Movies by Year 2014

Finally I have already done a post for the IMDB’s top 250 movies, but i am going to revisit it. I tallied up all the films I have seen from the list and those I have not. The count is close to half in favour of those I have not had a chance to experience, but still quiet a valiant effort on my part I must say. How does that compare to last time I looked at this?  It was 96 v 154, somewhat better. Mind you this is a living list, with new movies coming and bumping out other movies that are close to the bottom of the list, so not a true comparison.

Sasha's Movies by Top 250 2014

The Train Shed – Part 2 Video

August 16, 2014

A little video from the Train Shed we went to last week.

https://vimeo.com/103584013

Robin Williams Tribute Post

August 12, 2014

Today we were told of the unfortunate and unexpected passing of Robin Williams. The popularity of the man was evident with the scores of tribute photos and posts that covered my Facebook feed. Most people at least in my generation would have grown-up with films that had Williams as one of the actors. I think nostalgia of youth and the things that brought laughs and entertainment are important aspects to many people’s identities. When someone was instrumental in forming these memories passes, it can be natural to feel a personal loss even though you didn’t have a real life connection to the man.

After the sad news broke today I went onto the man’s profile page on IMDB to see the legacy that he left behind. There is just over 100 titles of movies and TV shows that had one of the actors listed as Robin Williams. There were even a few films that have not even been released yet. The prolific acting career of the man was evident just by the list. But astonishingly Robin Williams was not just an actor but a comedian. I recall watching one of his stand-up shows and amazed how he could deliver 90 minute repertoire with a machine-gun like speed.

Here are my favourite Robin William films that I have seen:

Jumanji (1995) – Loved this movie growing up. The computer effects were top notch for the time. Watching grown-up Williams, his female childhood friend and two kids playing a game that absolutely pummels them with every roll was somehow very appealing to the young me. Oh what’s that you rolled a 7 here take a plague of monkeys!

movie jumanji Robin Williams

Aladdin (1992) Robin Williams playing the voice of Genie without a doubt makes this Disney animations a classic in most peoples eye. Genies over-the-top magic, hilarious eclectic dialogue and constant anachronistic references made the already great cartoon even better.

Aladdin genie

The Birdcage (1996) the premise is this; a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion have a son who is engaged to a girl. It is time for both parents to meet for the first time; problem is that her parents are overly conservative and moralistic. This complete mis-match is a recipe for a disaster in anyone’s books, but with Williams on board the situation becomes a laugh out loud comedy.

Bird Cage Williams

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) Looking at the year of all these movies it looks like the golden age of Robin Williams films were the 90’s. Mrs Doubtfire delivers another dose of Robin this time in a costume of an old female baby-sitter. The movie does have some adult themes of family separation that made this movie a part drama, but there was enough humour to make this another one of my Williams favourites.

Mrs Doubtfire

Hook (1991) Man I was hooked on this film (see what I did there). Just a fantastic kids movie doing a retake of the old Peter Pan story. In it Williams plays a grown-up Pan trying to retake his youth. I remember at the time thinking why would the character want to stay a kid forever, but now all grown up I can see the appeal. Apparently the early reception of the film wasn’t that great, but eventually it develops into a cult-classic.

Hook movie robin williams

 

 

- Other notable movies are

- Good Will hunting (1997)

- Patch Adams (1998)

and

- One Hour Photo (2002)

 

I made it my mission to watch some of the other movies that Williams is famous for. On top of my list are:

- Good morning, Vietnam (1987)

- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

- A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

and

- Dead Poets Society (1989)

 

If you can recommend anything else i would love to hear it.

The Train Shed – Our Experience

August 2, 2014

As prices of land and the multiplying population stretches the waist of our great city, it forces the belly to bulge perpetually further west expanding urbanisation . Having said that I am constantly amazed that the 40-60 minute commute from the epicentre of this great metropolis is still so close to the rural rustic life. Today we drove South-West to the much discussed location of the second airport. We were not there to say our goodbyes to the cow paddocks or the old rusty fences that stretch the roads leading to the proposed location of the Badgery’s Creek airport, rather we were there to visit a place that is directly affected by the recent government green-lighting of the project.
Charmaine first heard of the place through one of those deals websites that offers tickets at a much reduced price. The place is called ‘The Train Shed’ and the description told of the inevitable requirement to close their doors due to the new zoning regulations.

So before the doors shut completely we decided to take Levi and see what the place was all about. The Train Shed is a miniature train track that brings to life children’s favourite characters from the popular TV show Thomas the Tank Engine. Mind you Levi hasn’t yet caught the Thomas bug and probably can’t differentiate between all the types of trains featured in the show (I can’t blame him last time I checked there were 3 or 4 trains that has the exact same paint-job as Thomas himself, talk about lack of imagination from the producers).

Thomas the Tank Engine - The Train shed

The trains are miniature in size but still large enough to seat comfortably a row of kids and their parents in the cushioned carriages provided. Straddled and controlled by one of the employees (to my amusement usually a 30-40 year old guy with a stern emotionless physic, who probably is counting the minutes before he can escape to the local pub). These trains take the kids and their parents around a specially build track that bends around passing various farm animals and other little features such as creeks and even a tunnel. All this was meant to give the kids the experience of actually riding on Thomas and his posse, which they did a decent job of.
Charmaine took Levi on the first spin as I was busy with the camera snapping away. To my surprise Levi was unphased by the first 8-10 minute ride, keeping a poker face through the whole trip. Next it was my turn to ride with him. As we lined-up to board another one of Thomas’s friends you could see his anticipation building. It began with a concentrated focus on what is going on over the fence, then progressed to pointing and waiving at the passing trains and people. Perhaps all he needed was some warming up to the experience as the second trip proved to be nothing short of a blast. The whole time it was like we voyages into the great unknown. There was constant pointing, smiling and laughing followed-by him telling me in baby babble everything out there that is a must see! At one point Levi even sprang-up ready to jump head first out of the carriage and head towards whatever piece of landscape that caught his eye. When we pulled back-in his joy quickly soured and tears started forming with the realisation the fun was up and it was time for him to get out.
As mentioned each ride takes about 8-10 minutes, but the pricing is very reasonably. The unlimited pass for the child is $35 dollars otherwise it is $6 for every bum on the seat per ride. If you got a kid check it out before it closes later this year.

The Train Shed - Sydney

Charmaine and Levi on the miniature train

Sasha and Levi on the Train Shed train

Levi found the local farm animals intriguing.

Levi Alexzander fascinated with a bull

Levi 17 Months

June 22, 2014

Charmaine and I finally got around to sorting and bagging all the old clothes that Levi doesn’t fit into anymore. Amazingly we didn’t purchase around 95% of the content in the bags. They were all gifts or hand-me-downs from others who were kind enough to give their no longer required stock. We’ll pass on the favour by giving the clothes to Charmaine’s brother and his soon expecting wife.

Baby Clothes

Folding the clothes into 0000 to 0 sizes has finally brought-out in me that feeling that Levi is growing up much too quickly. Charmaine has been lamenting that fact for months now, but I was always firmly in the camp that was excited to see Levi develop quicker. I am much more reserved now in my excitement in seeing him grow. Don’t get me wrong I am looking forward to many more things he will be able to do as he picks up speech, the ability to reason more complex problems and ask question that would even stump me, but let’s take it slow one day at a time. Makes me want to capture more of him each day.

Levi with Pen 2

Levi doing business.

Levi doing business.

Levi with more layers than a Christopher Nolan film.

Levi with more layers than a Christopher Nolan film.

Levi with Pen

Levi with cheeky smirk

Levi with cheeky smirk

Our Big Weekend Purchase

May 18, 2014

Some weekends come and go, leaving a fleeting memory of the past two days. This weekend was not one of them.

It all started on last week’s Monday morning when I had a quick online scan of properties in our budget, with our requirements in the local area. That Monday I thought I would expand the search area by just a few minutes of driving north. With a click of the search button and a sort of the latest listing there it was a gem amongst rough. A house that ticked all the boxes and then some more, it was perfect for our needs. It is appropriate to mention that at the time our spirits were somewhat dampened from our previous unsuccessful attempts at securing a winning bid. Frantic price wars on other potential properties had made us realise that sometimes it is worth taking a step back from the action. This area was far enough from the hot spots to mean that potentially we can avoid the frenzy.

So come Saturday we rock-up a few minutes before the allotted inspection time. At this point our excitement, anticipation and fear of losing out have been building up inside us like pressure in a Champaign bottle. It needed to be resolved and quickly; will this be our dream home, or has the property photographer worked magic and turned a shack into a palace with mere angles and lighting.

We have all been told not to stereo-type people, but when it comes to inspection days sometimes we cannot help it. As we are getting out of the car, I am checking-out our competition. Let’s see young Asian couple, decent car, a smug look of confidence on their faces, at least no briefcase of cash, hmm this could be trouble. Then there’s that guy, standing all by himself, he looks too cocky for my liking, probably an investor who is dipping into daddy’s deep pockets. Enough already I remind my wondering mind, time to stop assuming and start looking. As long as we play our cards right the property could be ours. Charmaine has a theory that having a kid in our arms makes the agents favour us. I am still not sold on how true that is, but I guess anything to give us an edge will do.

As we step into the house, we approved what we saw. The inside contains a beautiful modern look incorporating whites, greys and browns that work very nicely together. All the rooms have had a facelift and were decorated with the same palate of colours. Sizes of rooms and the house in its entirety can be deal breakers, but this place was roomy. In fact Charmaine’s eyes lit up like a Christmas sparkler when she saw the previously omitted from pictures laundry area that almost doubled the size of the kitchen. Both of us were grinning like a pair kids who were told we can go to Wonderland today.

But without a pen to the paper and a pair of visible signatures the house was still anybody’s trophy. It was time to act; we needed to woo the agent lady with an offer she can’t refuse. We talked amongst ourselves what our limit would be, waited to till the agent lady was on her own and like hungry tigers made our move. At first we threw her a bone with little meat on it, an offer right on the asking price. It was our way to see what the other offers were. In this market the asking price tends to be the starting point with the final offer somewhere higher. She informed us that there was a higher bid but not by much. Fantastic, we still had a chance. We had another quick talk between the two of us and then pitched her an offer a few grand more. Boom we got the result we wanted, she was happy to take that back to her den and go from there.

It would be a few agonising hours until we got in contact with the agency again. To cut the already long winded story short, the agent contacted the vendor who accepted the offer, we were ready to sign.

So there we are 6 pm on a Saturday night sitting at the agent’s office going through all the legal documents that need to disclosed. Finally there it was and just like that with a simple few smudges of ink onto the contract we were signing one of the biggest purchases of our lives.

There is of course the 5+ days cooling off period and the 35 days before the exchange occurs. Oh and the current tenants have just recently signed up to stay there until February 2015, so it will still be some time before we call the place home. But the move has already begun in both of our minds.

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