Jul 16, 2012

What the Tour Guide said about Vaucluse House

What follows will be a word dump of everything I remember of what the tour guide said and what I thought was interesting. This is more for my benefit than anyone else's, this is so interesting to me and I don't want to forget it. I wished I'd done something like this after I went to the Sydney Jewsish Museum in year 8 or 9.

I consulted the site of the Historical Houses Trust and Wikipedia during the writing of this to jog my memory and to get the upstairs rooms right, the upstairs area of the house is fairly twisty and confusing and I'm no good with building a mental picture of it when it's not really regular. When I quote the guide, that's from my memory, and it is fallible. The information I've got here may not be absolutely factual depending on my memory and the accuracy of what the guide told me.

Don't read this if you're not interested in the customs and houses of rich early colonial families. You have been warned.

Jul 11, 2012

Watson Bay, Vaucluse House, Double Bay ice cream

We had another one of those almost obligatory holiday family outing last Friday (6th July), and it's not the Fish Markets this time! Mum was really prepared this time, she had this old tourist book that the government prints, you know the ones that you get at the airport? She looked through one of those and she had been talking about all these locations for ages before this.

First stop: Watson Bay. Mum wanted to see The Gap, which is these two stone cliffs that you can go on and look out at sea. According to her convicts used to go and stand on those, and looking out at the ocean, it would really hit them that it's next to impossible to escape, so (you guessed it) they would commit suicide by jumping into the ocean. Apparently it still is a prime spot for people looking to commit suicide, because there's a couple of signs telling you there's hope and there's help, and there's a telephone booth with two buttons: one for emergency services, one for Lifeline.

It really is a beautiful place and my descriptions does it no justice at all.

Jul 10, 2012

Stumbled on a new radio station

I've just recently (by which I mean the day before yesterday) thought of using an Internet radio app with my iPod amplifiers to replace my actual, old and broken as anything radio. I like the smaller radio stations rather than the large commercial ones because there's literally no ads or segments other than music except the occasional reminder of the name of the station you're listening to.

Right now I'm listening to Light Digital, Melbourne's digital Christian station. Which, obviously, plays Christina themed songs. It's what I think is called religious pop or Christian pop or something, it's like regular pop songs, but they all have lyrics about Christianity. I really really like them. The melodies all fall squarely inside my most comfortable and familiar and most loved sort of music listening area (is there a word for this? they really fit my music tastes?) I like them much better than what most of the other stations are playing, I don't like rapping or really loud music with little to no melody. The music Light Digital is playing just sound really comfortable for me. Listening to radio is always hit and miss, but in the past hour I've only heard one song that I didn't care for (it got a bit too rock and roll with repetitive melody). That's pretty good for me, usually I don't really like one in three songs.

Some of the lyrics of the songs that the guys sing sounds like they're singing about relationships before you find out in the next verse that it's about Jesus. This says something about contemporary love songs with all their hyperbolic cliches like "eternal love" and everything. At least with the Christian songs they actually mean eternal love.

Jun 9, 2012

Trivia learnt in Chemistry tutoring

Learnt some fun trivia in Chemistry tutoring today:

People in poorer countries didn't jump on Coke as much as people in richer countries because they were taught to not drink anything that's not colourless. Coke, being brown, must have seemed a little suspicious. So they drink a lot of sprite and lemonade instead.

The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland was a parody of people who suffered from mercury poisoning from the mercury used to soften beaver furs used to make felt hats, which made people go sort of loopy.

That's all folks, I will try to go to sleep now.

Jun 8, 2012

Exam was not as stressful as I thought

This is what I did with my time on the train. Very rough, it started with swirly patterns and turned into this. I love the thing on Sketchbook Express on the iPad where you can turn and resize the layer with two fingers.

This exam period wasn't as stressful as I expected, maybe because Chemistry and Physics were both pracs, and now I'm hoping I didn't jinx it. One more exam left, and three days (really only two, but) to study for it. I'll be doing all the past papers for maths extension 1. Then I'll be doing an essay and two assignments for English, fun!

Apr 19, 2012

Footsteps in the sand

The "I" who stares back at me from further along the road of my life, what do you see? What mistakes will I make? These footsteps in the sand you leave behind, should I fit my shoes into them, or step out a new path?

Apr 18, 2012


Things I like about Pottermore:

  • The art is lovely
  • Attention to detail in the art and animation is fantastic: the car wiper starts when the mouse passes over it, cat tails swing, candles blow out and light when clicked on, the sausage sizzles when clicked on. Really good. My favourite is the scene inside Hogwarts Express: the animation shows the carriage bouncing on the tracks! (but it made the fans on my laptop go crazy)

  • The two layer idea is very clever. Allows for a lot more exploring and story telling, such as in the 4th chapter (I think) in the moment with flying letters where going into the second layer shows you the door nailed shut.
  • The eyes in the wand selection questions is so pretty~~

  • The wand selection quiz is much much better than the random ones you find on the internet and it's much better than I expected. I got Ash with Dragon core, 12 and a half inches, unyielding. I like it!
  • Ditto for the Sorting Hat. Good questions and really well drawn cards. I got sorted into Ravenclaw! I'm with you Helena! I don't really get the Wizard's Duel game though *shrugs* I'll figure it out. I realised after going back and forth a few times that the questions I got were different very time I went back. I got back the question I first had after the third refresh. That's fairly impressive.

Things that annoy me about Pottermore:

  • No real choice of usernames: they give you a list that you can choose from, and there wasn't even a convient refresh button that I could see. And the names sound like they came from a magic themed name generator (you know the ones where you can tell they have a list of words that fit the theme and they choose two at random and put it together? That's exactly what the Pottermore naming system looks like to me) with some ridiculously large number attached to the end. The choices are fairly ... I'll just say not as good as I had hoped (there are gems like MahoganyMidnight, UnicornWil, RoseWild etc.) Those could not have sounded more "My Immortal" style bad fanfic Mary Sue to the extreme if they tried. The lack of choice actually put me off enough that I abandoned the registration at that screen. It was only when Helena said that she'd add me that I went back and continued it and actually got an account. So it's all thanks to Helena, first for reminding me that the website existed so I went on it and encouraging me (though she hadn't realised it) to actually sign on. The option to give your friends a nickname is good because it helps me not lose track of my real life friends in that page.
  • So much clicking around blindly hoping it triggers something, incredibly annoying
  • Opening an account in Gringotts: how was I supposed to know that I'm supposed to dragged the key into the lock when all the controls before then was triggered solely by clicking and using the arrow keys?
  • Our pet will be our avatar? Again, very limited choice, no option to upload our own avatar.
  • Potions is glitchy and fairly hard to control, problems I ran into: you can not see the wand at first glance, or the second, or the third. It's a pale line that's easily mistaken with the other pale lines on the table (the porcupine spikes) and it almost completely obscured by the bags of ingredients. The mortar is hard to use, and I keep picking up the crushed ingredients instead. Turns out you have to click on the pestel (the bat shaped thing) to crush, missing and clicking on the mortar will only pick up the ingredients. The thing is, the pestel bounces, so it moves every time I click on it.
  • Not a lot of interaction possible between users, no chat, only comments and games.
Looking back, the complaints I have about the lack of choice can go both ways. It's annoying to have no control, but at the same time I understand that by not letting users have so much choice they can give a far more uniform and controlled experience. I can imagine all manners of weird and may-be-inappropriate usernames (I think the original purpose of that was to keep young children anonymous? Presumably they may be young enough to think that their real names are a good idea). It will be pretty cool to see all the avatars as strictly Harry Potter themed, which I'm sure wouldn't have been the case if user uploaded avatars were allowed. In the end it comes down to young children may use this and all else falls to second place behind ensuring their online safety.

Looking at the house points, I was thinking, wouldn't the house with the most students be at an unfair advantage? From that I extrapolated to the book, wouldn't that be the same for the real Hogwarts (for a given value of "real")

Apr 13, 2012

So this is from a few days ago

I think her weird mood's blown over now, because she's all friendly and nice to me :)
The proportions are all weird :( But I love the watercolour brush in Paper.

Apr 9, 2012

Drawing on iPad

So at first I did these really rough sketches in an app called Paper, which is really nice but is definitely not for detailed work:

And then I think after Cinda posted up her pro cloud drawing, I went into Sketchbook Express (which I hadn't explored in depth before) and started drawing with my stylus, and finished drawing one character in two nights while sitting on my bed while everyone else is asleep.

Note that this is not my character, it a simplified version of a character in the manga "Are you Alice?". I used this page as reference. This is pretty much my first time drawing manga characters, so I reckon I should go with copying for a while and figure out my style on the way. I'm still working on (and practising like mad) to draw eyes like that without looking at the reference.

Here's what came out of it:

The lineart took 2 and a half hours - that's the first night

Then the colouring took 4 and a half hours (last night):

Before I cleaned up the mess, it looked like this:

Those are the colours (the colour picker function is so awesome) and the opacities and size brushes I used. Turns out, you can manage pretty well without the blend tool if you use very low opacity and five  different shades of colour. I was also working with only 3 layers, so I had one layer of lineart on top, and then merge the other two layers before going on to another. I imagine that might not work so well for more complicated drawings.

The pupil of her eyes make her look either dead of stoned (maybe some lighter blue on the edges?) and I think I should have done more blending and shadows on the face (it looks too flat), but it's done!

Now I have to work out what to do for the background.

Apr 8, 2012

Photoshop CS6 beta

Helena and Cinda, this may be relevant to your interests. I don't know if you guys know about it (or want to download it, or even able to install it :( ), but the beta version of Photoshop CS6 is available for download free. From what I've gleaned from other places, "the beta will eventually expire, though at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a set date for that to happen". So it's free and it's new, and if you can use it you might want to download and try it (I don't know what your situation is). Just be aware that it is a beta product and it can still be buggy.

Download Photoshop CS6 beta from here.

Apr 7, 2012

The Fiftieth Gate

For English Advanced, I have to read The Fiftieth Gate. It's a book by Mark Raphael Baker and explores his parents' history as Jews that survived the World War. I'm not even half way through it yet (just started yesterday). There are so many gems in the book, sentences and passages that resonate. Some parts outright made me break into goosebumps.

This is a passage that actually made me cry:
They come waving their waving their flags, a contingent of Israeli students bearing the blue and white colours of a prayer shawl, at whose centre lay a Star of David. They observed the boulders from a distance, but do not lose themselves within the maze. They have no single thing to find here, just the whole cursed site. They stand as a group, establishing a new focal point against Warsaw, a unified entity at a distance from the dispersed villages. A girl stepped forward with a flute, and plays for the students who accompany her melody in mournful voices. She plays 'Hatikvah', the Israeli national anthem: 'The Hope'. Then another student stands outside the circle and recites a Hebrew verse: 
here in this carload
i am eve
with abel my son
if you see my other son
cain son of man
tell him that i
 I recognise the poem from Dan Pagis, a Rumanian-born survivor who emigrated to Israel. 'Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car', it is called.
The student completed his recital, and then another voice speaks the same words, each time stopping before the sentence is completed. 'Tell him that i ...' Another plea, then another, until every member of the group proclaims the unfinished message.
When I returned to our hotel in Warsaw, I recited the poem for my parents.
My mother says the train must have arrived.
My father says: 'When I was taken away from my mother she said nothing.'
I wanted to break the silence for him, to force him to look back for his mother, Hinda.
He is crying; I look away.
here in this carload
i am Hinda
tell him that i 
The poem is on the net here.

He establishes an eerie sort of mood and atmosphere that brings together the past and present, the personal and the factual. There's a strong sense of memory, like old books and ancient records and faded photographs.

What it comes down to is that he has a writing style that I personally like, and the subject matter has always been of interest to me. For a compulsory English course book, it could certainly be a lot worse.

Mar 31, 2012

iPad! The drawing apps are really good :)

My new iPad's arrived! I would have liked to put up some pictures, but Mum took it from me, and I only just realised when I wanted to take a picture just now. I think she likes it more than me. She's been watching Chinese movies on it using this Chinese app that streams movies and tv series. She's really in love with it, sometimes I want to do something on it and it's just gone from my table because she took it form my desk in a really ninja way.

I'm using SketchBook Express and some other sketching app with a stylus, and it's been really good. It's not really up to the standards of Helena and Cinda and such, but I think I'm using bolder lines on the iPad than I do on paper. I might put some screenshots up. Maybe.

I'll be having a fairly busy holiday, I have to write a Hamlet essay even though we haven't even finished reading it as of now, my year book page has to be done (and what do people put on those anyway?) and I'll be having two maths tutoring lessons per week again. Let's all work hard!

Mar 21, 2012

I'm very influenced by my family's opinion

I'm very influenced by my family's opinion, which I suppose is as it should be. I told them my Maths results (2 unit and Extension 1), they were pretty happy with it because my 3 unit mark had a noticeable improvement on my last one. Same for Physics, and I only lost 3 marks. So I'm sort of living in a little bubble of happiness/contentment right now. I didn't even feel this way when I first got the results!

Note: getting a good tutor is important, they can really help you get better marks.

Mar 17, 2012

Pre-order takes so looooong

The smart cover is here, for the iPad itself I'd have to wait til the 11th of April. 

Feb 6, 2012

I got new icons

My pretty monster icons, let me show you them:

Okay, so it was a huge waste of time to change them, but they look nicer now, and if I enjoy looking at them I might work harder, or something... *kills self*

There are so many different lovely icons out there, I've already collected 383 MB worth of them, this set, Artcore, is by far my favourite. I just found out I can change my icons on Saturday and I went mad with it. I have two apps that makes changing icons a breeze.

This is why I love downloading apps and things to tweek my computer with, it's like shopping, except you don't have to pay for anything but your internet connection if you dig.

Jan 30, 2012

First Day Back

Wasn't as bad as I thought. Lots of people dropped English Extension 1 though. My Chemistry teacher was telling us "If you have 13, or 12 units, do the sane things and drop some of them" but not Chemistry, drop something else.


So, I'm doing After the Bomb in English Extension 1, which is about the period of the Cold War and how the atomic bomb changed people's ways of thinking.

I was googling about "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" because it's a movie I wanted to watch if I have time (I knew about it because Benedict Cumberbatch is in it, you know, the actor that plays Sherlock Holmes in BBC's modern adaption?). I thought I might be able to use it for my English Ext 1 because Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was about the British intelligence services and their agents and they people who controlled them some time in the Cold War period.

The book that the movie was adapted from (also called Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) sounded interesting and the author had some experience in the British intelligence system, which is what the book and movie was about, spies and betrayal and such (not very James Bond, but sounds a lot less glamourous and lot more realistic and gritty).

But clicking through links on the wiki, as you do, I found that the author of the book, John le Carré, is the author of one of the subscribed texts for by Extension course, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold! They're even set in the same universe! I was pretty unenthusiastic about that book before, but now I really can't wait to read it. I don't have the time now though, I'm reading Great Gatsby for English Advanced, and I'm finding that I really do like it, to my surprise. The language and techniques is very good.

p.s. The sentence structures of this whole post is too long and too clumsy and I'm sticking too many clauses together. But it's just a quick post and it's late and I just wrote this because I couldn't get to sleep yet, and I'm not going to go back and edit and rewrite like I usually do in my other posts.

Jan 23, 2012

Nan Tien Temple

This being the first day after Chinese New Year, Mum said we're going to Nan Tien Temple to pray for health, prosperity and help in my studies. I think a lot of Chinese people in Oz has been there before, I think (but am not absolutely sure) that it's the largest of its kind in the Southern hemisphere.

I watched the Chinese New Years gala last night live from start to finish (which means I slept at 3:30 in the morning). Naturally I slept in, and we actually got there at around 1:00 in the afternoon. It was a road trip of a little more than an hour (according to google maps) and there was a stretch of highway 33 km long. The trip itself was actually quite relaxing, and I listened to my iPod all the way.

I like going to temples, especially temples in Australia, it's always quite peaceful. If you went in China or Hong Kong, it'll be packed and there'll be whole crowds of people squeezing around every body around and holding lit incense over their heads and it'll be so so noisy. But it's quieter in Australia.

Everything was outrageously expensive, a pack of 15 sticks of incense is $10, having a year-long incense lit for you is $60 for one person and $100 for the whole family. My Grandma already lit them for me in China already, so I didn't need to do it here.

When we came back we went to Bankstown RSL for the all you can eat buffet. All the food was nice and I definitely over-ate. I'm still not feeling very comfortable.

So, photos! (photography not allowed inside the temple halls themselves)

 This statue was in the car park

Jan 15, 2012

is this what twitter is like? was that a black cat? will i get bad luck even if i don't know if it was a black cat or not? do you believe in that superstition? what are these really short posts doing here? why are there so many questions? how long can a blog title be? can you tell how hard I'm procrastinating?

A cat crossed my path just then, in the after-sunset light, it looked black. Hm...

(is this what twitter is like? Inane observations of mundane life that has next to zero significance limited to 140 characters? The first sentence in this post has 67 characters, I counted. I might add something like #wasthatablackcat Sigh, can you tell how hard I'm procrastinating?)

Apricot and almond cream cheese on toast

You know what tastes really good? Apricot and almond cream cheese on toast. You know what made me feel slightly sick after eating it? Apricot and almond cream cheese on toast. And I only had less than half a piece, the rest was shared by Mum and Grandma.

But it is yummy, I'm really partial to cheese anyway, and cheese with apricot and almond in it is even better. It's sweet-ish and the almonds are crunchy and the cheese tastes very nicely cheesy.

Now I want dip. My maths teacher bought it to school for the end of the term party, spinach and cheese flavour and capsicum flavour. Mmmm. I think eating too much of that will also make me feel sick. I'm going to buy them and eat them with crackers. Or I might try the healthy option of dipping them with vegetables (I've never tried eating raw celery, or do they cook the celery they use for the dip? It seems to me for a lot of western foods vegetable foods are eaten raw).

Which reminds me that I really want a good salad dressing. A thick and creamy one, not the vinegary ones. And that honey mustard in my Subway the other day was quite nice, and I might want to buy some of that because Grandma likes it.

And I'm still a little queasy from the apricot and almond cream cheese. I'm going for a walk. See ya.

New years resolution? What are those?

So this is something I came across in my wandering of the world wide web: "New Years Resolutions: I do not make them. Setting myself up for failure is NOT something I enjoy so much that I'll actively seek it."

And that applies to me so much. It's only January and I'm failing so miserably at all of them that I want to cry. What's worse is that that's still not enough to make me motivated enough to try and change anything at all.

I really want to delete that post... I feel like my own failure is staring me in the face and laughing.

Jan 13, 2012

What's your opinion?

I just tweaked the appearance of my blog a bit yesterday (fonts and colours, mostly). How does everything look?

There's just some things I need a second opinion on.

1) Is the size of my sidebar and the main post column ok? I want it to be able to fit the x-large pictures.

2) Are the colours of the links on my sidebar too hard to see? I'm especially side-eyeing the more reddish purple.

Jan 12, 2012

100th Post!

This is the 100th post on this blog - my first blog in my whole entire life.

It's been a little more than a year since I first started blogging at the request (and plodding) of Helena and Cinda (to whom I am eternally grateful to for introducing me to this wonderful medium). It's quite a coincidence that when I began this blog I also began my life away from Hurlstone. I didn't even realise that until I went back and looked at some of my earliest posts. Reading through my old posts throughout this year I feel like I've changed, but also like I haven't really grown up at all.

There's a passage in the Bible that goes something like this:
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
I'm not ready to put away my childish things, I'm not ready to grow up and come away from my family's protective wings, I'm not ready to make my own way in the world. But if I never try I'll never be ready, and one day, there will be no one to shelter me from the big bad world out there. But it's not time yet, and I still have a little while to be childish and safe and not have to worry about anything more serious than my school results, and so, let's celebrate my 100th post on this blog!

Dance! Dance! Dance!
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     _| / \/  )  ) \/,--
 _\\\__/   )  **/ \  |
          /__/-/   \/
         /     |
        /     /\
        \       \
          \   |  \
           \  |\  )
            \ )/ /
            / | /
            S S
           |, \.     b'ger

I'm also trying out blogger's scheduling function, fingers crossed it'll work.

Jan 11, 2012

how did yearbook bring out so much other stuff

Day 235/365 ~ Years Go By and Time Just Seems to Fly but the Memories Remain

Helena and Cinda are both having to fill out surveys for their yearbook. Doesn't that just hit home the fact that there's really not long at all until this stage of our lives are over? Looking at Cinda's answers, I remembered that she was in the same class as me in year 7 and 8. I don't really remember talking to you much during that time, Cinda. Do you? But I still talk to you while I'm not really talking to the people I was talking to in year 7 and 8. Is it a sign of my advanced years that I get so nostalgic at a drop of a hat or a sign that I'm just a person that always thinks too much? No matter which one it is, it's led to this long introspective piece of rambling after the cut that you are under no obligation to read.

Jan 7, 2012

Another Version of Helena's Picture

I can't believe I stayed up so late to do this, and I'm not even finished.

Ok, taking in account all advice given, here's a more solid-coloured version. But it takes a lot longer, so it's missing a lot of things, most notably the eyes. What do I do about the eyes? How do I colour it? It looks too complicated and I't bound to loss detail by covering the pencil lines.

I did my best with shading, but I think the clothing is too transparent again. It has a very different feel. Still not the same as Helena's style though... And the program I'm using only lets me use 5 layers. I'll be looking into GIMP for sure.

Jan 6, 2012

Coloured version of Helena's picture

I tried to colour a picture Helena drew, just playing around and trying to get it to work better. Note that I'm not using photoshop elements, but a program called SketchBookExpress, which does not have layers in its free version (which I'm using).

Ok, here's the latest version, where I'm trying to make the colours more solid and trying to give it some shadows and highlights. And I gave her a nose, if you came tell from the random dab of colour in the middle of her face. Please ignore the see through wall. It's definitely still not done, and the colours are probably all wrong. TT_TT Please don't kill me for ruining your beautiful picture!

Jan 4, 2012

2012 New Year's Resolutions

Ok, as per Helena's suggestion, I'm going to try and make some New Year's resolutions (if slightly late). These will be my goals for the year 2012, and this is my letter to myself:

  1. Stop procrastinating. This one is huge. I know I could be so much less stress and do so much better if I hadn't left work to the last minute because I keep putting them off.
  2. Have better time management. This is related to the above point. Don't put too much time into projects/assessments/subjects that don't deserve the effort. Be clever with time and effort put in. Don't spend time doing an assignment that doesn't count for HSC marks when you could be studying for that exam that's weighted at 25%.
  3. Wean off fanfiction. It's too good a time waster. It's a black hole. Don't get tempted, don't get distracted. There will be time for that later, after the HSC. This exam is important if you want to get into a good course.
  4. Don't stress. If you don't get a good ATAR, it's not the end of the world. There are other ways to get to where you want to be in life. If it's almost time for exams and you have to cram, it's already too late. You're better off getting a good night's sleep. Sleeping works. Remember it.
  5. Try to work out where you want to go after high school. Try and find a goal, something to work towards. What's a good career? What are you interested in? Even a vague direction is fine. Ask people if you have no idea.
  6. Be more active in interact with other people. Not just friends, but strangers too. Don't be scared of making that phone call to ask for more information or change that appointment. It's better to do that than to have events/meetings not work out and have no way of fixing it, and having to make that phone call/ask them anyway.
Next year I'll do a review and see how much I've achieved in terms of these resolutions. Hopefully I'll have at least improved in some aspects.

p.s. According to my English teacher, putting up a big poster with the mark you want in your study space helps you get that mark. It's testified to work by some of her students last year. Shall I try it?