Dream For Three

Oct 15 2015

Food Crisis

Filed under: Life As It Happens

Don’t be alarmed by the title – I decided to try out something I saw somewhere else, where the post title is made up of words that the post is about.

Last night I read an article (in a magazine) on mid-life crisis – I have two comments to make about this.  First of all, the choice of format and layout – the page background was supposed to be some sort of mud splatter, I think.  However, between the splotches of brown and the thin light black text, it was quite hard to read.  It was a men’s magazine (the health and mind type, not the other), but it left me wondering whether they really wanted people to read it, or if the magazine was just an excuse to sell advertising space (as I’ve seen with other magazines in the past).

The second comment I have is about the content.  The article talked about whether or not mid-life crisis is real or whether it’s just a reaction to some significant event that takes place in people’s lives.  The suggestion was that if mid-life crisis is a real thing then it appears to happen between 35 and 65 and lasts anywhere from three months to 15 years.  Furthermore, they claimed that the most common age for it to start is 46, which is my age at the moment.  Although I don’t feel like I’m about to enter into a mid-life crisis, I do wonder how real this is and whether it really is just a significant life event that causes people to do things out of character.

On a separate note, I saw in a technical pamphlet that there is now a 3D Food printer – it doesn’t cook the food, but it does “print” or create an edible 3D object.  I don’t know about anyone else, but given the things that are already being pumped into our food (many of which people are unaware or ignorant of), I wonder how long before this becomes a commonplace item and what effect it will have on our health and wellbeing.  Hopefully it’s just a gimmick and I’m definitely not buying into it.


Oct 14 2015

Life as it happens

Filed under: Chess, Life As It Happens, Sport

Today (or, more accurately, tonight) I decided to start a new thread of posts – something that will encourage me to update this site more often.  The primary category for these posts will be “Life As It Happens” and the plan is to take at least one event (from the news or our daily lives) and give my brief thoughts on it.  Keeping the posts short will ensure I am inclined to keep up with them on a regular basis.

Perhaps the first significant event of the day was that I wasn’t feeling as bad as the last two days, where I spent them at home, wrapped up warm and nursing a head ache, sore throat, and various other inconveniences.  Today I felt normal enough to go out and face the world (albeit with a slow start).

Like many New Zealanders I enjoy sport – mostly watching/following, but occasionally participating as well.  I also enjoy the odd bet or two, especially at times like this (ie. World Cup – mostly for Soccer or Rugby).  One of the big news stories this morning (although, in hindsight, it may not have been all that significant) was who would be reffing each of the quarter-final games in the Rugby World Cup next weekend.  I admit that I was very pleased to learn Wayne Barnes would NOT be responsible for the New Zealand vs France match again.  France seem to have been a bogey side for us in all but the finals in past World Cups - so I have deliberately chosen not to place a bet (one way or the other) on that game.

On a completely different note, I have a new IECC Pyramid chess challenge to respond to – I received it yesterday, but haven’t really felt like responding yet.  One of my primary hesitations is that I know I’m about to be really busy again (with work) and correspondence chess tends to get pushed to the back of the priority list, which is generally an inconvenience for my opponent.  Most are understanding, but it does make it hard to stay motivated/interested.

I would like to spend more time improving/honing my chess skills, but I find that I am generally too busy doing everything else.  Correspondence chess is good because I don’t need to dedicate hours to a single game.  On the flip side, I wonder if I should perhaps get more involved in online chess and play some “regular” games for a change.  They tend to be short time limit games, which I am alright at (since I play fast), but there is also the option to play some longer time limit games (if I can find a whole 30-60 minutes to dedicate to a single game).


Jul 15 2015

A Day in LA

Filed under: Uncategorized

Our flight to Auckland was not until 10:30pm, so we had some time to spare in the money.  We started off by taking a taxi to Venice Beach, where we first headed South along the walkway before the shops got further apart and the area got more dodgy (if that’s possible – there were regular “medicinal marijuana” outlets along that walk).  So we headed North and enjoyed that walk a lot more, stopping off on the way to get some t-shirts.  As we walked further along we eventually came to Santa Monica Pier, so we spent some time walking around that, then DW and DD rode the ferris wheel.


We had lunch at a takeaway place just off the pier and then walked to the nearby mall (in order to get out of the sun for a while).  We checked out the mall and, not finding much of interest, we decided to catch a taxi back to the hotel.  We had planned to go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but we were too hot and tired by then.  The trip back to the hotel was long and a little slow (as the highway was slowly turning into a carpark, although we were ahead of that).  With limited time, we checked out of the hotel and took their shuttle to the airport, where we waited patiently for our final flight home.  We had dinner at the airport and just relaxed some more.



Jul 14 2015

Sea World to Finish

Filed under: Uncategorized

On our last day in Orlando we visited Sea World.  We arrived before it opened, which gave us a chance to exchange our voucher for the tickets – just as well, because there was a bit of a hiccup and it took them a while to verify the voucher.  We decided against the Quick Queue pass as the park was supposed to be quiet (although, in hindsight, with our limited time due to our flight later that night we probably should have taken them).  We started with the dolphin pool, where we booked a dolphin encounter – the plan was to see the dolphin show first, but I ended up booking the dolphin encounter for the same time as the first show.

We then visited some other parts of the park, including feeding the seals, before returning for our dolphin encounter.  This was well worth the extra investment and we got to pat the dolphins.  From the dolphin encounter we explored more of the park.  We saw our first alligators (while in Orlando) and considered going on the log flume (but decided against it after our experience at Universal Studios the night before). The antarctica exhibit was another popular attraction – the first time we went there the queue time was 10 minutes and we decided against it due to the dolphin experience we had booked; the second time the queue time was 45-60 minutes and we had to skip that due to our limited time.


The next attraction we visited was the 3D turtle show, which was more about conservation and the life of a turtle (from hatching).  The last two shows we went to were the Orcas, which was really well done, and performing seals (which was entertaining but probably better suited for the younger children).  On our way out we went through the Shark Exhibit (much like Kelly Tarlton’s, but possibly not as good) and then some shopping.  We took a taxi back to the hotel, grabbed out bags (which we had packed the night before), checked out, and headed for the airport – on our way to LA.




Jul 13 2015

Venturing into Orlando

Filed under: Uncategorized

On day two of our Universal Studios pass we were going to go to the park in the morning and at night, but explore further during the day.  We woke a little later than planned, so we skipped the parks and went straight to Florida Mall.  Our main goal was to visit Michael’s (a big craft store, similar to Spotlight in NZ), but also to check out some other stores in the mall (such as Pandora).  Michael’s is reasonably close to the mall (and the mall was closed when we arrived there at 9:30am anyway), so we decided to walk there first – we were surprised to find that this was at least 15 minutes.  Another one of our findings in America is that everything is just so big and spread out.

After Michael’s we headed back to the mall, which was now open.  Although I’m sure we visited all of the wings of the mall, including the new food court wing, it still seemed to go on forever.  There were a huge range of stores, including Macy’s, Disney, M&M, and many more.  Around mid-afternoon, with hands full of bags, we took a taxi back to the hotel.  We unloaded ourselves and then DW and I headed back to the parks to check out the side we hadn’t really looked into much.

We headed back to the hotel to collect DD and then spent the rest of the night at the parks.  We finished with a ride on the log flume at Jurassic Park (where we got a little wet) and then a four-person single-seat wide log flume in the new Rip Saw area, where we got drenched from head to toe.  After a brief attempt to dry off, we left the parks and had dinner at an Italian restaurant in City Walk.  We completed the night with a ferry back to the hotel and relaxed in our room.



Jul 12 2015

Universal Studios and Harry Potter World

Filed under: Uncategorized

With two days booked in Universal Studios we planned to spend the first day at Harry Potter World and then visit any other attractions that catch our interest the rest of the time.  Since we had woken early on July 12 (around 3:30am, probably due to being on European time still), we got ready and took the first ferry of the day (6:00am) to City Walk.  Our first task was to have breakfast, but it appears that nothing is open that early in the morning – especially not Cinnabon Bun, which looked very enticing.  We settled on Starbucks and then went to Universal Studios to get our pre-booked two day passes and wait for the earlybird opening (at 7:00am).

The park was opened and (after getting our express pass photos and lanyards) we made a beeline through Dr Seuss and The Mysterious Island to Hogsmeade.  Everything was very well done and we got in early for the Forbidden Journey (a very clever 3D (or 4D?) experience).  When we came out the line was already extremely long, so we were glad to have gone in early.  After perusing the shop (as there is at the end of most rides at Universal Studios) we headed to the Flight of the Hippogriff (a roller coaster designed for younger kids – we’re not really big fans of the big coasters, like the Dragon Challenge).  DD thoroughly enjoyed the Hippogriff and we re-visited it a few times in our two days at the park.


After the Hippogriff we took the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley, which was also very well done.  It was by chance that we actually found the entrance to Diagon Alley (after leaving the train station), but in hindsight it wasn’t that hard to find.  We spent quite a lot of time in Diagon Alley, especially since DD got one of the interactive wands and went around all of the interaction points to see what it could do.  We also had an early lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and sampled butter beer (a butterscotch-like drink with a vanilla soda topping) – an experience well worthwhile.

While we were in Diagon Alley we went on the Escape From Gringotts ride, which was another good 3D (or 4D?) experience.  Of the two, I think that the Forbidden Journey was better.  Completing our shopping at Diagon Alley, we took the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade (we wanted to see if the experience/show was different, which it was) – the line this time was much longer than when we had arrived; it probably would have been quicker to walk back through the two parks.


We spent the rest of the day visiting other attractions at both parks, as well as doing a lot of shopping.  At the end of the day I decided that we would have dinner at the Hard Rock Café.  It was reasonably full, but there was a table available.  The service and food was very good and our waitress attentive.  However, what we have found is that the servings in America are so much bigger than anywhere else – we struggled to finish all of our dinner.

Taking the ferry back to our hotel, we turned in for the night and crashed out quickly.


Jul 11 2015

Another Long Day

Filed under: Uncategorized

With our early flight on July 11, we were to be picked up at 2:55am from our apartment. I didn’t bother going to sleep, but DW and DD had a few winks. Getting prepared around 2am, I headed downstairs at 2:30am to put some rubbish out and found our driver waiting (he hadn’t been there at 2:15am when I checked how we get out of the door). We were on our way to the airport by 2:45am.

Arriving at the airport, we found several other people who appeared to have camped out there for the night. Even though our flight was at 6:55am, the check-in counters didn’t open until 6am. So we had about two hours of sitting around with no chairs or anything. After checking in (eventually) we then had to head from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 (a good 10+ minute walk) in order to go through bag check and board our plane.

The flight was largely uneventful, followed by a breeze through customs and another five hour wait for our next flight. This flight had been overbooked and they were looking for volunteers to take €600 each passenger and go to Orlando via New York instead. We considered it, but after having such an early start and waiting around for so long, we were less than keen to wait longer. The flight was heavily packed and I ended up changing seats because they had wanted to seat some children from a family together. I was already sitting separately from DW and DD, so it didn’t make any difference.

I watched a lot of movies on the flight, but didn’t sleep much. DW didn’t sleep much either. Arriving in Orlando, it didn’t take too long to go through customs (although we did have to go through the longer line because the fingerprint scanner, for our ESTAs, wasn’t working when we transitted through LA).

We took a taxi to the hotel, checked in, and then rested for the rest of the night – it had been  long day.


Jul 10 2015

Flowers to finish in Rome

Filed under: Uncategorized

July 10 was supposed to be the hop on/off bus in the morning, followed by our Imperial Rome tour in the afternoon. The plan was to walk to Campo di Fiori  (about 15 minutes), do some shopping, return to the apartment to drop off items, then take the bus around Rome until our tour. With the extra rest the night before, we ended up sleeping in and decided to skip the markets, jumping on the bus straight away. Unfortnately the City Sightseeing company had no record of our booking (confirmed after about six of the nine stops). We decided to get off at the Piazza di Venezia, as planned, which was the last of the stops before the place we boarded – so we essentially managed a single loop of Rome.

We climbed Capitoline Hill before heading to Termini (the meeting place for our tour) and hang around there for the rest of the morning. While leaving Capitoline Hill we had some photos taken with Roman gladiators.


After the walk and lunch, we hung around and looked in a few shops (mostly souvenir shops, so nothing exciting).

Our tour was led by a funny old man who walked around with flowers on his cane, which he held up to indicate where he was. As a result, he constantly referred to his group as Flowers. We visited a chapel (from memory) and then the Colloseum (which is actually Flavian Amphitheatre, as it’s an oval with two amphitheatres joined together). This was a very interestng visit and we were able to see much of the innards of the building. It turns out that our guide was the head of the archaeology group who uncovered the last metre of the Colloseum, getting to the orignal floor, about 25 years ago.


Our final stop was Capitoline Hill and a look out over the Roman Forum (this is where milestone zero is, from which all roads out of Rome are measured).


The guide and bus driver dropped people off as close to their final destinations as they could, within reason. We ended up getting off at the Pantheon and headed back to the apartment. On the way we accidentally ended up in Campo di Fiori, so we ticked that off our list of destinations as well.

Jul 09 2015

A Night Off

Filed under: Uncategorized

This morning (9 July) we left early (8am) in order to have time to get to the Vatican Museums entrance (about 20 minutes walk) and have breakfast on the way. We grabbed some rolls and drinks from a shop across the road from the Vatican and sat on the steps (our meeting point) to eat them. It didn’t take long for the place to fill up (which we had been advised about the day before). We saw a young girl (she can’t have been more than 10, if that) going around all the tourists asking for money – they clearly start begging at an early age.

Once the 8:45am group had cleared, we started to get into our group – there must have been at least 100 people for the 9am tour, split into groups of about 20. Our guide was very good and provided a lot of background information. However, I noticed that she very much kept in line with the Christian stories, unlike our Crypts and Catacombs guide earlier in the week (even though it was the same company).

We were led through a lot of the Vatican Museums, but with such an extensive area, it’s not possible to cover evrything in a guided tour.


Towards the end of the tour we went through the Sistine Chapel, where everybody was supposed to be silent. As the noise built up, a voice over the loudspeaker regularly (every few minutes) reminded everyone to be quiet – damn tourists!

After the tour was completed, we took a few more shots and then head back to the apartment for a rest. I picked up some lunch from a cafe next door and we ate in our room. We had planned to visit Capitoline Hill and the Hendrik Christian Andersen museum but, with the heat and endless walking for the last three weeks, we decided to give ourselves a break. So we stayed indoors, watched TV, and had some well earned sleep.

Jul 08 2015

Dem bones

Filed under: Uncategorized

Today started with a short walk to Castel Saint Angelo, where we made our way through the museum/castle to the top and then stopped in the cafe (4th floor, out of five) on the way down for breakfast. There were more great views of Rome from the top and I think it was worth the 10.50€ per adult (18+) for entry.

Leaving the castle we walked to Piazza Navona, where they reportedly have some great markets. However, all we really found there were mostly just more street vendors. The main difference was that there were more artists and more police. The three fountains were pleasant enough to look at.

From there it was on to the Pantheon. Here it was free to enter, so we went in, looked at all walls (in the round building), looked at the ceiling, took photos, then left again. This time we were heading for Trevi Fountain (which we knew is under repair/rennovation until at least January 2016). Therefore that only required a brief stop and we were off again.


Our last stop, before heading to Piazza Barberini for lunch and our afternoon tour, was the Spanish Steps. This is another area known for pickpockets, but DW and I decided to head up anyway – DD has developed an aversion to steps. At the top a street vendor handed DW some roses “for free” and then took our picture for us – I was dubious handing him my phone. He then asked for payment so, saying I only had coins, I pulled a few out and gave him 4€, to which he indicated he wanted more – in fact, he wanted all of the money in my hand. It was only about 8€ total (including what I had given him) and I didn’t want to risk any consequences. My advice to anyone visiting any of these (and other) tourist places where street vendors are prolific, just keep saying no to them and move on. In fact, if possible, don’t even engage in any sort of conversation – that’s where we got caught out this time, because he wasn’t trying to push selfie sticks, water, or anything like that.


At the bottom of the steps again we collected DD and headed to Piazza Barberini. Again, not much in the way of shops, but definitely lots of places to eat. We had lunch at a restaurant and then waited in the shade for our Crypts and Catacombs tour.

The first stop on the tour was just off the Square and we got to see temples and shrines, for lack of a better term, made out of human bones. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside any of the stops, so we got some postcards instead. The second stop was outside the city walls, where they used to bury the dead – and there’s a long history about that. The interesting thing here is that it’s 14km of graves underground, and the oldest ones are on top. As time went on, they would dig deeper (under the first graves) for the second set, and so on. These aren’t just graves as we know them, they are burial chambers where there might be a whole family in one room. This isn’t the only place these graves exist – I think they said there are over 60 of them all around the country, but these are the largest.

The last site was a church, which truly shows the lasagne layout of Rome. The top level was built in the 12th century. Beneath that, we went into an area from the fourth century, then below that to one from the second century, and finally to one from the first century (about 64AD). This is typical of Rome (and Italy, I think) where they just keep building on top of what’s there. For example, where the Colloseum once stood on a hill above all of Rome, the top is now only a floor or two above street level.

After the tour we took the subway from Barberini to Ottavia. Since there are only two lines it was easy to work out, but the train was packed. They are working on the third line, but it’s taking a long time because every time they open a new archaeological area, work has to stop again while it’s dug out.

At one of the stops before ours (there were only three others) there was a bit of a commotion as people got off the train. It appears that a lady had noticed a pickpocket trying to steal from her and then he pushed her to the ground and took off with her bag. I was happy to be getting off soon after that. They don’t check tickets on exit, as in the UK, you just walk through the turnstiles. At this point it seems like you pay to ride anywhere on the subway, but either as a 100 minute window, or on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Out of the subway, we made our way back to the area of our apartment (about 10-20 minutes) and stopped for dinner on the way. Just light meals this time, because we had had a big lunch. It was a short (2-3 minutes) walk back to the apartment, with plenty of time to rest and update the blog.