It has taken me quite a while to get this blog started. At first we were staying in the hotel. Then we moved into the apartment, but didn't have things like internet connections or furniture to set computers on. But even after that, I was really busy trying to get the "essentials" into place. That took a good two weeks - by my definition. It took three weeks by Sandy's. Then there were some really nasty network and computer problems. I'll try to go into those later. But right now we are settled in pretty well.

I will do some "retro" sessions to fill in what happened during the first month. I will also improve the overall look and layout of this part of the site. But to get started, I am just going to jump in.

Sandy's first business trip

This week Sandy has taken her first business trip. She was lucky that she could stay here while we were getting settled. She knew when she took the job that she would have to travel on a regular basis. The people in her group are in three cities: Singapore, Bangalore and Shanghai. She figures that she will have to go to each of the remote locations every month. That is one of the reasons we agreed that I wouldn't be looking for any work right away when we got here.

Last night (Sunday) she left for Bangalore. Flying there is a couple of hours. Coming back is the tough part - for some reason all the flights seem to fly at night. So she will be there for three days and then fly back overnight on Wednesday night getting in at about 6am on Thursday morning. She is planning to come home and sleep - makes sense to me - although she has to be back at hp in the middle of the afternoon. The trips to Bangalore will be quite draining.

Breaking news. Sandy called today and said that there is some sort of big political decision over water rights. They expect that when the ruling comes out there could be riots. There were fifteen years ago when the water dispute last came up. Schools and some businesses closed early in case there was trouble. Well, she may be home early.

Dumb question of the day. Sandy said that during her meeting today, someone asked that since most of the people in the hub (group Sandy manages) are in Bangalore, why does she live in Singapore?

Big screen tv

After two weeks in the apartment I thought that we had most of the essentials in place and could start to relax and improve the place more slowly. I got outvoted. We needed a tv. The first week we were here we had signed up for cable tv in a flurry of activity that got all of the utilities in place for the apartment. But we didn't have anything to watch tv on. (For those who don't know - there are multiple tv broadcast standards. North America uses the oldest, known as NTSC. This part of Asia uses a format known as PAL, which is used in the UK. So US tv's do not work here. Hence we left all our tv's back in Boise and planned to buy new ones here). I tried a quick fix by getting a USB tv box to hook to Shannon's computer, but I couldn't get it to work. So the public demanded that we get a tv.

Steve and Shannon explore Holland Village

This was a big project. I spent several nights cruising the electronics stores here (and there are a lot of them!). Then I did a lot of web research to learn all of the background. Is plasma or LCD better? What sources are in what resolutions? When is HD coming to Singapore? What about HD DVD? HD camcorders? There was a lot to figure out. Plus a lot of manufacturers have put their spin on 1080p, 1080i, 720p etc. so you really have to read the specs carefully to know what you are going to get. Then don't even get me started on the difference in model numbers between North America (where most of the reviews on the web are written) and Asia (where we are actually buying the thing). Plus throw in trying to plan for taking it back to the US eventually, so worry about dual voltage, modular power cords, etc. It took me a week of pretty intense effort to figure everything out. But I had it narrowed down to one LCD tv (a Sony X series) or a plasma (a Pioneer 507XG).

I had pretty good advice that once you knew what you wanted, the best place to get it was a small electronics shop named PariSilk in Holland Village. The name of the shop actually comes from Paris Silk. It used to be a fabric store, but switched to electronics over twenty years ago and never changed their name (so much for rebranding). We had heard a lot about Holland Village. It is a little ways from downtown, and was supposed to have cool shops and restaraunts. So last Saturday I took the MRT (subway) to Holland Village. I found the Electronics Store - and their prices were 15% lower than anyone else. That's a big deal on a purchase like this. I also scouted out the area and thought there were a lot of cool restaraunts.

TV nirvana - the big screen plasma tv

Sunday all three of us went down to Holland Village. We had a big decision to make. The LCD tv, with true 1920x1080 resolution was our first pick. But it was for lots of other people. None were in the warehouse. The guy estimated maybe two weeks to get one. Sandy was suspicious. We went with the Pioneer plasma. I feel a little badly, since I just convinced Lorri to go with a 1080 LCD, but they are behind on HD tv here. Anyways, it arrived two days later and it looks great (both the picture and the tv in our living room).

After we ordered our tv, we wandered around Holland Village for a while. We had lunch at a Mexican restaraunt named "ChaChaCha". This was a good find. Although common in North America, Mexican restaraunts are actually quite rare in the rest of the world. And it was really good too. A little variation they had was nice - they brought you the fixins for your taco and let you put it together yourself. Good. I did feel badly that I had a Heiniken and not a Dos Equis, but that was what they had. Hey, it tasted great!

Eating Mexican in Asia

We did spend some time after lunch looking around at the shops, although Holland Village isn't really the best place for shopping. Better for restaraunts. We were trying to find a place that did uniforms for Shannon's school. That was a bust, but we did find a little shop that had all kinds of stuff. Some really beautiful Asian elephant statues caught Shannon's eyes. We spent quite a bit of time talking to Ravi, the shop owner. By the time we left, we had bought two elephant statues, an elephant bowl, a carpet, I lost track at that point. The shopkeeper was an interesting fellow. Quite the salesman. By the time we left, we had heard his whole life story and knew all about him and his family.

One point did really strike me. He had moved from India and become a Singapore citizen. This is how he explained it. "I moved to Singapore for my children. In India there are good schools. If you are rich, you can go to the good schools. In Singapore, you can go to the good schools if you are good." Sounds like the secret to success right there. I wonder what we should say about the US?