Archive for June, 2004

June 30, 2004

Austin – day six

Alright, if it’s still not that obvious enough, I actually went to Johnson Space Center at Houston on day 6. That’s right, I drove 4 fucking hours just to get a feel on how the congested traffic of Houston’s like… and then to visit the ever screwed up Space center.

Johnson Space Center is the place where those Americans launches all those rockets up to space (correct me if I’m wrong) – in case you wonder what the hell is the place all about. American space disaster films always show some hero astronaut chanting the magic words “Houston, we have a problem.” whenever they’re in trouble. This is the ‘Houston’ place.

So, was the place fun? Hell no. It was a big disappointment for me. Well… and my friends too. Even slouches like Cheecheongfun felt that the place sucked big time. Here are the reasons why :

1) the building looked chintzy (like Penang Komtar) from outside. It looked like some kind of factory outlet in some remote part of China that sells fake pearls to rip off tourists. Admission fee is USD22.50 – which is fucking expensive. I could have used the money to visit some titty bar (admission only 5 bucks and plus another 5 for a beer)… and yet, have enough money to call for a good lap dance from a busty blond.

2) my expectation was to see some space related items. Maybe a couple of moonrocks or perhaps some sort of weird minerals they found on a foreign piece of rock. But no. The first thing we saw was a commercialized lobby with kids screaming and running all over the place. No it didn’t look like a space center at all. It was more like a cheesy theme park.

3) Theme park it was – that kind of made us readjust our expectations. We hoped that it would be a GOOD theme park. Roller coaster ride on a space shuttle shaped cart or something. But again, hell no. What do they have there then? Some stupid guy boasting stories about their space program with a cheap 3D animated scenes at the background (it was animated using Corel’s Poser program… which, I could model WAY BETTER than them)… and some model interior of the shuttle cockpit. Then they have this stupid mini theater with a malfunctioned audio. Houston… we have a big fucking problem.

4) Alright. That was pretty much about the so called “theme park”. There was this tram ride to the actual Space center research facilities. Cool – we thought. We finally get to see some real spacecraft or maybe some cool exhibits concerning the space program. First, we had to endure the long queue of crowd waiting for the ride – waited for approximately 1.5 hours before we boarded the fucking tram. What took them so long? Well, it appears that the entire space center tram schedule was operated by a bunch of prepubescents aged between 12 and 15 (summer job or something). Hell, they were so screwed up, that it took them 20 minutes just to get a batch of passengers into one ride, because some of them could not figure out the seating position of the passengers. Tonnes of bullshit. It was kinda ironic to know that a supposedly high tech space center is actually operated by a bunch of imbecile kids… how thought provoking.

And then, when we finally got on the tram, guess where did the tram lead us to? To tour the parking lot of a few old and dilapidated buildings. “That’s building one fifty nine… it fucking does this… and that”. And that was basically all about it. No exhibits. Well, there were a few model space shuttle inside a fake hangar for us to photograph on (see previous entry). But those are pretty much plastics and rubber stuffs. They’re not real. What a disappointment.

So, that was how I spent my day in Houston. We drove (I drove) straight home right after the space center visit. The place is a total crap. If you happen to get a chance to visit the space center in Houston? Don’t go. It’s not worth it.

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June 29, 2004

Austin – day six (photo essay)

Went to Houston on Day 6 with a bunch of my Malaysian colleagues and Cheecheongfun. It was located almost 200 miles south east of Austin, and was about 4 hours’ drive. Here are some of the photos for you guys to dig.

Rented a car in Houston. I always preferred a black car, but they ran out of black car that day, so I had no choice but to rent a white one. I tried to bitch but, the car rental codger told me to take it or leave it.

The car rental guy asked if I wanted to upgrade the rental car to turbo – which boasts an extra 20,000 horsepower – for an extra payment of 200 bucks per day. I was like “what!?”. “What” for – what a rip off! I declined the offer.

He then took a second desperate attempt to ask me if I wanted my car to be upgraded to a convertible version for just 50 bucks per day. Well, this time, I just gave him a cold reply – “only if… the car’s black” and walked off.

The white car wasn’t good enough for me. The controls were flimsy and way too complex for me to operate. I had a lot of trouble to even turn on the fucking a/c.

We got ourselves a nice inn with a big parking lot. And boy… the tour buses in Houston are unbelievably huge. I reckon that was probably because a lot of Texans have weight problems.

This was the reception at the one-of-a-kind inn that we lodged. The guy was a friendly lad. Had a strong Texan accent and always make a yo momma joke. “Yo momma’s so ugly that she’s gonna kill all the fishes when she jumps into the ocean”. That wasn’t really funny but, I pretended to laugh anyway.

The inn even had a big indoor playground for fat Texan kids. It’s kinda awesome

The room came with a big closet, which was kinda neat.

Came with a big fridge too. This one, you can stuff approximately 200 mother-in-laws inside and still left you enough space to store 1 year worth of pork chops.

There was this nice little window that overlooks the inn’s park. I sure would have hoped to catch some view of naked chicks getting some tan down there. But there wasn’t any beach near the inn.

Taking a dump was never more comfortable than this. The rim of the toilet seat came padded with a layer of cushion for extra comfort and protection from bacterias that cause zits on your butt cheeks.

The place is safe too. Guests don’t have to worry about electrical short circuits that might pose a fire hazard – that is because they have a really big circuit breaker just outside the room.

I then took a walk around the park and saw the lawnmower guy. I tried to greet but, he was way too busy mowing the lawn with his lawnmower machine.

Saw some exotic Houston aborigine lizard during my walk. According to the locals, this lizard is known to have a weird preference of humping tree trunks at night.

Well, that’s about it. My trip to Houston.

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June 28, 2004

Austin – day five (photos)

Alright, I finally managed to muster some strength to post some pics. Page may load slower due to larger page size. If you have a 56K modem and your speed is crawling, well, that means it’s time for you to get a broadband. My blog is not 56K connection speed friendly…

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June 27, 2004

Austin – day five

*narration mode – too tired to write*

Friday. American takes Friday real seriously. They think it’s serious to take things lightly on Friday. That’s why, those guys decided to bring me (and cheecheongfun) out for a barbecue lunch.

The place was located at the outskirts of Pflugerville (or was it inside Pflugerville ?) which requires approximately, 30 minutes’ drive. There were 7 of us so, we’re divided into 2 vehicles. A group of 3 on Jose’s (one of the lab techs) truck and 4 of us on Keith’s (the 300 pound dude) truck.

Jose was driving a Chevrolet Suburban and Keith’s was a Ford Excursion. Keith’s truck was so big that Roberto Carlos would need a ladder to climb onto his truck. Powered with a V8 turbocharged engine and 400 over horsepower, that thing was nasty.

But it wasn’t for long. After Keith tore up the road for approximately 4 – 5 miles, we began to feel something funny going on. His truck was wobbling a little. Keith then got down and confirmed that it was a puncture. That’s very lucky indeed. He then took out a big crank and attempted to change the tire. But… they don’t fit. Keith kinda like forgotten that he had a set of customized nuts (the nuts on the wheels..) installed the week before (or something) and the crank won’t fit. So, the guys figured that they’re gonna call up somebody for help.

Keith then whipped out his cell phone – but his display was dead (happened on the previous night).. and he couldn’t remember anyone’s phone number either. That was why we got stranded in the middle of a lonely farmland country road with no apparent signs of help. Keith tried desperately dial out through his cellphone without a display… but he kept getting to the wrong person.

It wasn’t looking good for us until help came along. There was a big dude driving by with another truck, and he happened to own a hydraulic jack and a fitting crank. And so, Keith used the guy’s help as we hitched a ride from Jose to the barbecue restaurant. Dave said, if there’s any dude over 300 pounds driving a truck around the area, there’s a high chance that Keith knows the guy. Dave was right.

The barbecue restaurant happened to be an old rundown shack. Apparently, the shack was aged over a decade and looked exactly like a scene in the wild west era. According to the guys, the waitress (which was also the owner’s grand-daughter), was one of the sideline actress in the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre (latest version). Seen the movie but never recalled seeing her before… but, not that it matters anyway.

The thing that mattered was the food. The barbecue. It was fat, greasy and lots of them. It was fantastic. Served with pickles and jalapeno peppers, it was awesome. Was one of the most memorable lunch I ever had in US.

Dinner time, was invited by Jose to join his family and friends at a new Mexican restaurant in town. Food was mediocre – had plenty of good fajitas. But the most standout thing about this new Mexican restaurant was the free flowing margaritas and also a fantastic band of El Mariachis. Made it back to hotel at about 10pm.

Next plan – to go to Houston on Day Six (Saturday Austin time).

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June 26, 2004

Austin – day four

Everyone in the lab started to feel kinda light today after 4pm. Some even packed their stuffs up and went straight home. That was about the time I made my move – I asked those guys about places that I could get either a really good Mexican, or steaks that would make me squeal “wooooo!”.

Well, my queries kinda psyched the guys up and they recommended so many places… that I had a hard time recording them all. After much contemplation, I made up my mind to dine at a place called Saltgrass. It is located a few miles down the freeway, and according to the guys, the trip should worth every single drop of gas.

But before that, I asked Jase about steaks. Like, what to recommend… (I know nuts when it comes to steaks).. it went like this

Me : “So Jase, which type of steaks do you normally prefer? I’m lost here.”

Jase : “I don’t know man. It depends. But porterhouse is pretty cool.”

Me : “What’s the local favorite then?”

Jase : “Maybe we can ask John for that”.
[John is the lab manager that sits far back at the lab]

Jase : [shouts to the back] “Hey John ! Which steak do you prefer?”

John : [shouts back] “What ?”

Jase : “Which steak do you normally prefer ?”

John : “Texas !”

Jase : “No man… steak … Michael is asking for some suggestion for a good steak”

John : “I thought you said STATE !”

John suggested a T-bone. But I hate T-bone because I don’t like to waste my time with bones.

Anyway, we arrived at Saltgrass early at about 6pm, to avoid the crowds. It was a somewhat famous place, and patrons sometimes have to wait for hours just to get a seat. So, I opted to go there earlier.

I got myself an order but Cheecheongfun had some problem communicating with the waitress, especially when he was asked how he wanted it cooked. He was all puzzled there and was looking at me for help. So, I kinda had to tell him in broken Mandarin that how he’d like his ‘cow’ cooked. He told me he’d like it to be 75% raw, or at least that was what I understand.

So, I told the waitress “My friend here would like his steak Rare”, but that was totally opposite of what Cheecheongfun wanted (he actually meant 75% done)

I did not realize the mistake until sometime through the waiting, when he told me in our casual chat that he do not like his food raw (which he also took the trouble to explain how he hated salad and Japanese food). That was when I went – oh fuck!- realizing that I had ordered the wrong stuff for him.

I then attempted to cajole him into accepting raw food, to mitigate the problem… I kind of told him that nobody eats their steak fully done. I told him that cool people (like me) always eat it at least medium rare… because the steak would be juicier that way (I’m convincing him as if I know a lot about steaks like knowing my own mother). He kinda dug what I said there… and I eventually revealed to him that I purposely ordered a ‘rare’ steak for him – just to let him experience something new. Of course I fucking lied.

Guess what happened? He actually enjoyed it. He told me it was indeed something different and it was good. But I wasn’t sure if he lied because I actually saw him struggling with the blood when he was sawing through that piece of bloody meat… *shrugs*.

Dining with him was never easy. As I have said, this guy eats like a supersonic jet engine… but then, luckily, that place was a noisy place and I enjoyed most of my meal peacefully (despite the disturbing view of seeing Cheecheongfun poking at his blood covered food…).

And when I was driving both of us back, Cheecheongfun bitched about having to pay for the exorbitant sales tax. That was when I got really pissed with him and I lectured him in broken Mandarin that taxes are important for the economy. I told him that the government needs money to build roads, schools and to supply electricity to every home so that we can watch porn at home. They also need money for the army. Weapons, tanks and shits. If there aren’t any tax around, his country would have to go to war by just hurling stones… and that is – if there are soldiers willing to fight at their own expense.

He gave a good thinking about it and finally gave me a nod of approval – which I was kinda surprised that he was actually able to comprehend my really beautiful Mandarin. Signs of improvement.

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