Sunday, December 30, 2012

The FIAT Panda 4x4

I've always been a fan of the FIAT Panda's, especially their 4x4 models.  There are many originals that are still in good working conditions.  These are the work horses of the Italian farmers.  These little cars, like a mountain goat, can go anywhere.  I wanted one then and I wouldn't mind one now.  When the Mark 2's came out in the mid-2000's.  They quickly became popular and well respected.  Here we have 4x4 which can do just about anything and sure it doesn't have all the gadgets and the low ratio box of a Land Rover.  It had a certain class.  Moving on to 2012, the Mark 3 Panda 4x4 makes it;s debut and I have so say, I love it.  I want one, it is a SUV for thinking people.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Three days and three nights in Venice

The European Open went well. Whilst I didn't win any medals. It was nice to know that I can get marks in the 80's. Average scores for hand form, sabre and spear was 85. Not bad and not bad for consistency. It was an improvement over the British Open, where I got 82 for sabre. I'm going to keep this up and don't want to be in the 70's. The day finished and I was tired. I left in the morning. The bus was at 8am. I almost missed it as I can't find the bus stop, was just by me. It was a close call, miss that and the next wont be until 4pm. I needed to get to Venice as soon as possible.

The Italian railway is rather strange. It is great that the stations are manned, even on a Sunday. But the tickets are the size of airline tickets. Then you have to use a machine to validate it for the trip. You do this for the bus too.

Venice
Cold, with the smell of the sea. Not as smelly as people say. Plenty of shops to cater for tourists. The whole city is geared for tourism. There are some very good craft shops, but even more are the shops that sell cheapy tourist tack. Nothing unusual there. There are plenty in London.

My first official day here in Venice. I woke up to a fine sunny morning and a freezing -5. The flood has come and gone. Doing what needs to be done, I went Christmas shopping. There are plenty of fine shops here. They make money as some have been trading for a very long time. I find it strange to ask if something was made in Venice or Italy. I decline to by what are cheaper imports, such as from China. They have no right to be marketed and sold as local goods. Local craftsmens and artist do not profit. Oddly, I'm not hungry during the day and since it is cold, I should be. I really enjoyed walking through the lanes and alleyways, crossing numerous bridge, only to meet a dead end. I learned a lot and amazed how Venetians lived. There's still quotes few places to see. They're really isn't anywhere like it. Yes there are other cities in canals an so forth, none so distinct. It is a learned place. One has to be cultured or adventurous to fully enjoy what Venice has to offer. There is an eeriness in winter. For the most part, the city is relatively quiet. There is no doubt a distinct charm about it. The city has not changed a lot since Canaletto's day. It feels strange that your seeing buildings that you recognise. I came across the Campo San Vidal, which was better known as the location on Canaletto's famous painting, the "The Stonemason's yard". Much has changed since then. Only the well head remains. Yet, I feel the connection.

The second day, I made by way down to St Marks and them walked down to Castello. I rather liked this part of Venice. There is the genuine feel of a village here. It is much unspoilt and not many tourist wonder this far. There are more open spaces and trees line the parks and gardens. The shops are also a bit cheaper. I was in impressed with the Arsenale, not a lot has changed since the height of Venetian power. It stands much the same as in Canaletto's painting. It was a pity you can go inside, as it is under the jurisdiction of the Italian Navy. There are palaces here in Castello as good as any along the Grand Canal. But here in Castello, you have the best of all worlds. If I was to live in Venice, then Castello would be the ideal area. The Italians crave administration. In a city that is home to many trees. The Ministry for forestry has an office in Castello. The Italians are also very keen on policing. On a normal day it is not incommon to see the Polizia di Stato, the Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza walking their separate beats. Yet you will also see the local Polizia Locale and Vigil Urbani from time to time. Yesterday, walking from St Marks and along the waterfront of the Riva Degli Schiavoni. I spotted all three of the former. Yet there were what looked like refugees from Africa selling fake designer handbags. I presume this is illegal, yet the Guardia di Finanza who were nearby did nothing. I thought this was their thing.

This day I walked through four sestieri of Venice. In the afternoon I walked across the Rialto to San Polo. Tuesday was market day, but I was late, the best sights in the market have gone. But as a living, working market goes, I'm impressed. I then made by way to the sestieri of Dorsodoro. There is a different culture here. Not so may tourist here, but you see more of local Venetians going about their daily lives. They are used to tourists. This area is very cultural, with many artists and craftsmen plying their trade. You also have Academia, the intellectual centre of Venice. The closer you get to the old Customs building, the nicer the houses are. I was in awe of Santa Maria della Salute. I've seen in many times in paintings by Canaletto and Guardi, but to see it real life is something else. After Dorsodoro, it was back through to San Polo and then San Croce. The latter I thought was the least impressive of the six sestieri. Then off to the bus station on the Piazza Roma to by a bus ticket for tomorrow's bus journey to the airport. I had a wonderful meal at the restaurant next to the one I visited the previous evening. Octopus with polenta, followed by gnocchi Venetian style. A great meal, the bread was a bit dry, but the food was good.

I got up and made last visit down to St Marks. I had to follow my passion and take some last shots. What can I say, I love Venice.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sixth Tai Chi Chuan & Chinese Internal Arts Competition

The Sixth Tai Chi Chuan & Chinese Internal Arts Competition was hosted by our Italian friends at Lignano-Sabbiadoro in the province of Udine. Lignano-Sabbiadoro is seaside town on the Adriatic coast, that is known for her beaches and resorts, but perhaps not by people in Britain. I can imagine the place to be very lively during summer, but still a pleasant place to be in winter. I like many were wondering how to get there, but it was quite straightforward as public transport in Italy isn't as poor as people suggest. 

The tournament was held in a facility which I could only describe as excellent. The event was organised very professionally and spread over on two days. With forms on Saturday and pushing hands on the Sunday. The timing was pretty spot on, and with an hour for lunch. We had comfortable lodgings next to the sports hall and there were paramedics on hand. Our Italian friends have thought of just about everything. 

This is the first European that I was completed in and to me, the whole experience was both interesting and daunting. I learned and taken away more than I have put in. For me competing here was tough, but watching others helps you see where you are in terms of skill and experience. There were some great performances there and I would have liked to watch them all, but the downside to competing is that you can't let your focus float off somewhere else. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience, made new friends and I look forward to the next European Tournament.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Monochrome is not a mistake

Leica have pushed the boundaries a little this year.  They've brought out a version of their M9 which shoots in monochrome.  A lot of people think this is a step backwards, but it is really how you see it.  A digital camera that shoots in black and white sounds like commercial suicide to a lot of people.  Perhaps it would be for say Casio, Canon et al, but not Leica.  To be fair, the advances in technology mean image quality is getting better all the time, but then why not do something in black and white?  Leica is a serious player in photography and they provide photographers with cameras and lenses they want to use.  People do still want to take pictures in black and white, so why not a camera made just for that.  I can see where the doubters are coming from, but it black and white isn't for you, then you should stop complaining and look elsewhere.

Then we come to the X2, the successor to the X1.  I wouldn't have a problem parting my hard earned cash for one.  But for many, the idea of paying for a camera with a fixed lens, makes no sense at all.  Then again, they ought to consider the fact that, something like this isn't for them.  So go and buy a Panasonic Lumix instead.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My First medal

I entered this year's British Open Championship with the aim of doing just a bit better than last year.  Last year I entered in for different categories and came home with nothing.  My marks were mid-table at best.  I was not happy, but I have to take responsibility over the fact that I was not good enough.  This year, I began training a bit earlier and put in more effort in all areas.  At some stage, there was a down point, but I took the bitter lesson and turned it around.  This year, the awarding of marks was tougher.  My hand form was perhaps not so strong after all, but in practice, it was much better than last year.  My spear form was the strongest, but there was faults with both attempts and that's just hard luck.  I thought my sabre was not very strong, but somehow, it was the best and I came home with a silver medal.  At least I know I am now up there with the best.  There is still much to do, but at least I'm not bitter.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Leica Vs Panasonic

I am seriously looking at a new camera to take me to the next level.  I want to do more and do better.  Some of the cameras I'm looking at are Canon's GX1, Sony NEX5N and Leica V-LUX3.  I'm looking at something that is beyond pocket point and shoot, but not quite DSLR.  There's a lot of choice out there.  I like the Canon GX1, I'm currently using the Canon S90, which would be more like natural progression.  I'm still keep the S90, its great for street photography and its still a great camera.  The Sony NEX is an interesting concept and I love the fact that it can rival the DSLR's in some ways, but as good as the micro three thirds.  Leica is an interesting choice.  They're expensive for what they are and more so when you consider how much their Panasonic brethren cost.  But Leica are special, not just because of their history, but because of their quality.

I've noticed a fair bit of criticism from the love Panasonic, but hate Leica crowd.  They love to nitpick and winge about why people would pay more for a Leica.  Well why not?  They might share certain parts, but they are also quite different.  The image quality isn't inferior in a Panasonic, but Leica are made to produce images to a certain quality.  It's not about brand snobbery and if you like the Leica look, why not.  People are entitled to their opinions, but they should get their facts right.  Why would a brand simply offer a product which is the same as another, but with a different badge.  And ruin their reputation in the process.  So it isn't exactly badge engineering at all.

At the end of the day, its not how expensive your camera is, but what you do with it that counts.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Iceland - My thoughts

This blog is a bit late.  I've been busy over the last few months.  I've come to reflect that I really loved my time in Iceland.  Yes it was only two full days there, but considering that, I did a lot.  I've been curious about Iceland for a long time.  It is the kind of place one would go if you enjoy the outdoors.  The landscape is stunning and the people, like Nordic people in general, tend to be pleasant.

I guess that I had too much leave left and the experiences of Hong Kong meant I needed another holiday.  Iceland was ideal, in that it was not too far and not too near.  I've always wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon and bathe in the health giving waters.  I had to do it.  Price was it was not too bad.  The Icelandic Krona might have gone down in value against the Pound, but it wasn't as cheap as people say.  The Crisis of 2008 meant the value of the ISK went down, but to people in Iceland, it didn't make much difference.  Things are still expensive, just cheaper to outsiders.  People say London is expensive, but that isn't exactly true.  Like anywhere else, you just need to know where to get a good deal.

Icelandic Air is not a bad airline.  The checking in experience is normal, the management of the gates was dreadful.  I liked the touch screen VOD, but disliked the idea of busy food onboard the flight, to make it worst, it had to be done by credit card and it was so slow.  I wouldn't have bothered paying extra for premium economy for a hot meal either.  The food didn't appeal.

It was mid-December, it doesn't get light until 11am and then it gets dark by 4pm.  There was snow, but unlike Britain, the roads are well managed and there are always gritters.  I was prepared for the weather, but I can see that there were many tourists who weren't .  Icelandic people are very friendly and there is much care for the environment.  Icelandic society is very progressive, yet people are very proud of their cultural identity.  There are many things the Chinese can learn about Iceland.  Yes, nothing is perfect, timekeeping isn't great, the food takes time getting used to.  Reykjavik is actually quite a small city and there are many things you find in the capitals of most European countries that you wouldn't find here.  There are no trains, tubes, no grand museums, but then again, there isn't a great sense of urgency.  I guess being from HK and living near London, I know all about the rush and the bother.  Iceland is ideal for me, as I can really get away from it all.  I love the quality of life and there is so much on offer.  I want to go back one day.