New blog!

It was supposed to be a cat-blog, but now it's a computer-blog. Stay tuned for future developments.

Welcome to the blogosphere, K!

Points (ha!) to ponder

Courtesy of Rosmar, "Does Powerpoint make us stupid?", which references Edward Tufte's "PowerPoint is Evil" and The Gettysburg Address Powerpoint Presentation.


Counting off

No. of days since I was in the office: 4.
No. of work assignments awaiting me upon my return to the office tomorrow: Unimaginable. (The horror!)

No. of dresses I bought today, ostensibly for my cousin's wedding dinner next weekend: 1.
No. of dresses I've bought this year, ostensibly for one cousin's wedding or another: 4.
No. of dresses I'll be buying for any reason next year: 0 (I promise!!).

No. of honey-baked ham sandwiches eaten today: .
No. of slices of ham left in the fridge: At least 6.

No. of ex-students I ran into while in town: 1 (plus her mother).
No. of ex-students studying overseas who seem to be home for the holidays (based on web sources and hearsay): Too many. (It's depressing, you know. Makes me nostalgic for my own fleeting time overseas.)
No. of ex-students I know of counting down the days till the end of their National Service: At least 3.

No. of days left this year: 3. Yikes!!

Eddying around

The neat thing about the Internet is that as long as you maintain a link to relatively the same web networks that you at some point gave a damn about, the people who drifted out of your list of regular reading eventually drift right back in.

Today, I've relocated Rosmar (by way of Yuhri) and Eat Me Just Eat Me (by way of Popagandhi). Huzzah!

In the bitter watches of the night

Last night, I had a vague, unremembered dream that nevertheless succeeded in creeping me out the instant I jerked awake. So I crawled out of bed, padded outside where T was still engrossed in Championship Manager 4 and pleaded with him to come to bed. I was sufficiently creeped out that I didn't want to talk about the dream until this morning.

Naturally, the first thing he asked about when we got up today was the dream. I couldn't remember most of it, and what I did remember sounded uber-lame ("there were these people, I don't know who they were, but they were familiar, and we were waiting for something supernatural to happen, like weird noises or footprints to appear or something..."). So he laughed and laughed and laughed. So I poked him.

Ah, marriage.


Tea time!

Tea I
The thing about the Chinese wedding tea ceremony in Singapore, is that it happens so infrequently in most families that once someone indicates that it's about to start, everyone gets very solemn and shuffles around the room intently, creating the air of a religious observance, when really, it's all about welcoming new blood into the family (Hi, Pete!).

Today's tea ceremony was distinctive in that the bride and groom had no qualms about wearing black and white (the most funerary colours in the Chinese palette, don't you know), and also the bride's family was sufficiently laidback to let the bride's brother skip the ceremony in favour of playing basketball. To be fair to him, he thought the tea ceremony was going to start after lunch and he got home from the game in time for lunch, so... But my aunt and uncle were also truly unfazed by his absence.

Lunch was deceptively "light-lunch-looking" bento sets. Dessert was solid chocolate masquerading as wedding cake (airflown from the wedding last week in New Zealand) --- homemade kueh lapis, by the aunt who graciously chose to exercise her well-honed but rarely used kueh lapis baking skills for this special occasion --- and then an orange chiffon cake that appeared out of nowhere. They should've started with the chiffon because it was clearly the lightest choice; alas, poor chiffon, by the time you were trotted out, most of us already had chocolate weighing down on our Japanese bento lunches and our stomaches had no room for more.

However, the bride assured me there would be no wedding cake at the wedding dinner next week. I'm happy that I won't be overeating on that occasion, but my sweet tooth is a little disappointed.

(Note for Sterrah: This is not turning into a food blog like yours. But I was quite overwhelmed by the triple dessert.)

(Note to self: Use italics more sparingly, dammit!)

Tea [for] II
Speaking of Sterrah, that's who I had tea with, following the Chinese tea ceremony (at which I did not in fact drink any tea, since in most Chinese traditions, the bridal couple does not offer tea of the marrying variety to a fellow cousin). Although downtown was still in the throes of post-Xmas shopping madness (a darker, deadlier variety of the pre-Xmas kind), Seah Street Deli was mercifully empty and quiet, and we had a deeelightful conversation. about blogs and boys and books. We also had a weird waitress who couldn't recommend a dessert and asked us to pay the bill like an hour before we were ready to leave, not that it made us leave till we were ready to.

Dinner didn't specifically involve tea for me, just for T and the friends we were dinnering with. We had unspectacular ramen at Ajisen, followed by drinks at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I returned to tea-drinking (okay, chai), while we four discussed the pet peeves you learn about your spouse after marriage (T: I flail around and box him in my sleep. Me: He leaves clothes all over the place.).

Epilogue (tea-free)
I'm actually drinking water right now, to make up for all the non-water-drinking I did today, and caught up, post-dinner, with three folks I rarely speak to:

(i) One of the first Singaporean friends I made on the Internet, who, unlike what conventional "wisdom" would predict, turned out to be completely a non-stalker. We fell out of touch round about the time I got married, but I ran into him at the show we saw last week and I emailed him tonight. The thing is, I had to actually think (yes, think, perish the thought!) to come up with a subject line that I hope won't get intercepted by spam filters. I ended up with the highly original, and not very spam-filter-proof, "Hi from ".

(ii) An old church friend, back from when I, erm, used to go to church. She's now married with a kid. I sent her an Xmas card in a burst of nostalgia last weekend and she called me right back tonight. We still don't have very much to say to each other --- mostly because religiously and familially and philosophically our lives have diverged in paths that will probably never cross again --- but it was such a neat surprise to get a call from her.

(iii) An ex-student, with whom I gushed over ICQ on the relative cuteness of the Lord of the Rings actors. Behold, an extract:
Ex-student: Ahahahaha. How about Aragorn!!! The...dangerous scruffy look haha. It was a funny article, they were asked "do you think the hobbits are sexy" and one said "yeah we're as sexy as Orlando" and another said "no the hobbits are meant to be young and child-like, they're only sexy if you're a pedophile".
Me: Oh, I totally go for Aragorn. He is the hottest guy in the whole series (in the book and also in the person of Viggo Mortensen). And OMG Viggo Mortensen? Such a Renaissance man. My head and heart are equally in lust :)
Ex-student: But Viggo Mortensen in real life just doesn't do it for me without the shaggy hair and all!!
Me: I also say. That's why I never noticed him before. So I would like to place an order for one Viggo Mortensen, in permanent Aragorn costume (dirt and all), with permanent Viggo artistic sensibilities, please, thankyouverymuch.

On that note, I realise I've dithered 1½ hours over this post, so mayhaps it is time to actually post it. Goodnight!


Poor Boxing Day

It just never has the chance to be as anticipated and fun-filled as Xmas, you know? I mean, most people have hit their quota of carols, turkey, gifts, alcohol and goodwill-to-men by the time Xmas night is over. What chance does Boxing Day have, except to give people a chance to recover from Xmas before they return to work? (And then, only in the UK since most countries, including Singapore, don't even pay Boxing Day the respect of being a public holiday.)

On the other hand, that also means it's pretty hard for Boxing Day to be a letdown --- whereas, we humans being insatiable, rabid creatures, Xmas, like one's birthday, always runs the risk of enjoying too much buildup and therefore rarely meets the anticipated high.

Having said that, my Boxing Day was a comfortable, indolent middle-ground to walk between Xmas and the many festivities we have lined up tomorrow. I stayed in my sleeping clothes all day, a triumph in itself since I honestly can't remember the last time I did that. I painted my nails for tomorrow's festivities while watching the cast commentary on the first two extended LotR movies, the only downside being that I realised I had no nail polish of reddish hues left, only variations on an earthy theme, none of which are quite as festive as I'd like for the next week or so. Lunch was, predictably, leftovers from Xmas lunch yesterday, and I haven't had dinner yet because I'm, duh, not hungry, and I don't think I really need to eat since lying on the couch, soaking my feet, painting my nails and staring at the TV set for almost seven hours straight didn't really expend all that much energy.

Having typed that, I now have a hankering for a honey-baked ham sandwich...

Last night, we discovered that the LotR Trivia Pursuit set is really an excellent game with the One Ring and Ringwraith in play. We only let the G-man win at the end because it was 2 am and we all needed to get some sleep. The million-dollar question: "Which one of the Fellowship trackers first enters Fangorn Forest?" It's not as easy as it looks.

Off to get my sandwich!

Edited to add:
After watching several hours of LotR, to switch to Alias means that you spend most of the episode puzzling over whether Jennifer Garner is an Elf (I mean, look at those ears), despite her black suits, especially since it was one of those episodes where she speaks relatively slowly and laconically, and doesn't do any kick-ass fighting at all.


An Xmas good morning

While I did not faint at X's Xmas party last night, I did have 3½ glasses of a 2001 Bordeaux that no doubt caused me to wake up sharply this morning at 7:30 am, after only about five hours of sleep. I I tossed fitfully for a couple more hours, then gave up around 10ish. I hope I can squeeze in time for an afternoon nap today.

T just rustled himself out of bed. He has to start cooking soon, lest either we'll not have pasta at the family Xmas lunch or we'll be dreadfully late for said lunch. (And my mom is a stickler for punctuality.) Meanwhile, I'll wrap the presents for the gift exchange.

In closing, I leave you with a (serious) article on whether we can make do with less, buoyed by less ponderous thoughts from the latest entries of two blogs I regularly read:

From Le Monde Diplomatique: "The world downscaled --- would the West [and Singapore] actually be happier with less?"

From Dr Scott of Medea Sin: Baby laughing is the happiest music.

And from Covielle, one of the most creative writers I know: Enjoy the season of light returned to earth.

Merry Christmas,
a belated Happy Festivus
And Happy Holidays to one and all!


Lawyers of the Rings

One more reason to go to law school: so that I'll be able to parse the contractual and international legal implications surrounding the One Ring a little better. (Linked via By The Way.)

Read the comments too; it's quite an active discussion, though I confess to not understanding the half of it. If you scroll down far enough, there's "Some background history" that gives you a Cliff's Notes version of the history of Middle-Earth, for which Tolkien novices like me who may never read The Silmarillon are grateful.

Sleep denied

I've been awake since 5:30 am, when I sorta started awake for no good reason, and I haven't been able to go back to sleep since. I thought about blogging about it, then of course, I was like, duh, getting proper sleep until the alarm rings at 7:15 am is definitely a better idea --- but sleep would not come. I don't know if it's remainder adrenaline from yesterday's 8 am - 9:30 pm marathon at work, or if my brain is subliminally excited because it's Xmas Eve (even though we have no real Xmas-y plans except for a party tonight), or if it's the teh tarik* I had with my 10 pm dinner last night.

Regardless, I'm up, I'm on the Internet and I'm just glad today's an official half-day at work so I can take what will surely be a much-needed nap come afternoon.

*Teh tarik: Tea with frothy condensed milk, kinda like a cappucino version of a tea, only it's much cheaper and is made by the graceful arcing of milk from one large mug held outstretched arm-high to another held correspondingly around waist-level, rather than the efficient and circuit-driven bubbling of a cappucino machine steamer.


9:17 pm

Okay, so I stayed to clear a few emails. NOW I'm outta here.

8:58 pm

Home free!

8:18 pm

Still here.
Should finish if I actually concentrate on the damn speech instead of being distracted every few seconds (e.g. a search for the correct spelling of Wi-Fi led me to Wired's review of the Return of the King instead).

What's a "social development" and alliterates with Wi-Fi and weblogs?

7:17 pm

One hour later.
Vivaldi plays.
Vanilla Coke simmers.
I'm only on para 5 -- dare I say I'm almost two-thirds done? It is a short speech...
I suppose SMSing the G-man for the past half hour or so didn't help.

6:18 pm

At work.
Struggling with a speech.
Must finish speech in order to be able to take Friday and Saturday off without worrying that the work cellphone will ring and disrupt my weekend.
Really shouldn't be blogging, but it's therapeutic.
Resorting to Vanilla Coke (first Coke in many days) because without the sugar surge, I doubt I'll finish this speech before midnight. (The speech ain't that bad; my mind is.)


What I learned this weekend

That there is nothing better than spending an entire afternoon with your best friend on her first day home after spending most of the year overseas.

That Phuture is having a really excellent sale where items may be had for as low as $5!!!

That the underpasses between Orchard MRT station and Wisma Atria, and between Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City, are so jam-packed during the current Xmas shopping madness that you literally have to shuffle your feet forward as though your feet are tied together. (That was when I decided I'm not going anywhere near Orchard Road again till after Xmas.)

That it's possible to have a beer with a chicken salad for dinner, and be perfectly all right --- but to have a beer four hours later (when the chicken salad is presumably well-digested and one's stomach is effectively empty) leads to a dramatic fainting spell of several seconds.

That T is well-practised at catching me when I warn him, "I feel like I'm going to faint."

That a quick faint is a really cool way to freak all your friends out.

That it's possible to convince a friend to throw a Xmas Eve party, just like that. (Any suggestions on how to make the party for Xmas-y and less, y'know, just about eating and getting sloshed?)

That there's nothing like transferring all your numbers over from the work phone to the new personal cellphone to make you think about all those people you don't call anymore. Writing Xmas cards has the same effect. (They're all done, by the way, but they're going to reach the US people late (sorry!). Now the trick is to actually make it to the post office tomorrow so that I can get stamps and send them all off.)

That another dear friend is back in town for Xmas!!!

That some people have a really good memory --- check out this scene-by-scene recount of Return of the King, written after only one viewing.

Happy Christmukkah, everybody!


LotR tidbits

Random LotR goodness that I found while surfing the web recently:

A very frustrating morning ---

--- one that greatly increases my admiration for Frodo keeping the One Ring safe for some seventeen years, because I could only keep my SIM card for my personal cellphone sfae for less than two years before I took it out --- and promptly lost it.

I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in the apartment still, but it's going to take an excavation of Indiana Jones' proportions to see if I can find it on the dining table.

After I'd given up looking for the SIM card thism orning, I was out the door when I realised I didn't have my work ID pass with me. It's a real hassle, even on a Saturday, without it, so I went back in --- emptied my bag --- checked all the rooms I'd been in that morning (and I know I just had it, when I was packing my bag) --- nothing. It took two more sweeps of the apartment, and a final repacking and re-unpacking of my bag to turn it up --- in my bag. I swear, it wasn't there when I first checked!

Who's the patron saint of lost things? (Not Jude; him I'm familiar with and the missing SIM card isn't a lost cause yet.) Whoever he is, I hope he got some fun out of it, because now I'm grumpy and late for work.


Going out on a limb

One of Singapore's tabloid papers today described Return of the King as "the last appendage in the monumental Lord of the Rings saga".


I don't even want to get started on that.

I'm back --- not really

It's very surreal to wake up, after dreaming indistinctly of hobbits (particularly Samwise) and Aragorn, and to have to drag yourself out of bed to work. Real life tastes very dry after an entire day indulging in Middle-Earth.

The brief skimming through of the Return of the King volume yesterday led to a spur-of-the-moment to skim my way through the first two books as well. I'm only up to Frodo's departure from Bag End so far; miles to go before I sleep.


Dry eyes, wet eyes

It's time for us to print up that T-shirt: The Lord of the Rings trilogy --- December 17, 2003 --- one marathon to watch them all.

It wasn't as hard as I'd feared. The last time I did trilogy screenings, it was the original Star Wars trilogy in the basement of a friend's house in Milwaukee or the A&O Indiana Jones trilogy at university in the Tech auditorium. Those were pretty tiring, mostly because I'd seen all those movies ad nauseam before, still loved them, still wanted to make it through all three at one go --- but eventually the brain gave out and by the third was always begging for mercy and sleep.

Not so for yesterday's marathon.

Reason No. 1 it worked: It was the first time the Extended versions of the first two movies were being shown on the big screen. Even though I've seen them many times on my own loyal TV set, from the moment I sat down and looked up to see Isildur slice off Sauron's finger (ironically, we got to our seats about ten minutes late, even though we'd been the first ones in our group to arrive at the cinema yesterday morning), I knew it would be a whole new experience seeing them in a cinema. So that kept me awake.

Reason No. 2 it worked: Having heard the director/writer/cast commentaries to the first two films, my brain was actively engaged at all times with either (a) the actual plot proceeding onscreen, (b) checking out whether the scene was a "real" New Zealand scene or a miniature or CGI or some combination of the above, (c) admiring camera tricks and special effects to get the Hobbit actors to look small compared to everyone else, and/or (d) snickering at some bit of trivia about a particular scene during the commentaries. For example, when Viggo Mortensen bellowed after kicking a helment by the pile of smoking Orcs, I was thinking, "Yup, sounds like he broke his toe all right." Oh, and spotting Peter Jackson's kids in the movies, including their brief appearance in the third installment.

Reason No. 3 it worked: Well, duh, I hadn't seen The Return of the King before.

Which then brings me to the realization of what was wrong with yesterday's marathon. To put it simply: it is not possible for a non-extended version of a Lord of the Rings movie to match up against the extended versions. And while the extended, big-screen viewings of the first two movies did a hell of a job getting me all stoked up for the final film, they also raised the bar a little too high for their third sibling, a mere commercial/theatrical release, to have any hope of living up to.

So while the marathon as a whole was fun, and The Return of the King is still an excellent movie, I get the feeling I'm not going to be able to judge this theatrical release too clearly until I see it again, without any extended versions to precede it. And while I woke up with a dull sense of disappointment this morning, I'm also remembering how uncomfortable I felt after watching The Two Towers last year, after having only the extended Fellowship to sustain me in the interim, and I'm thinking: I'm much more a fan of the extended versions' sensibilities than I ever was impressed with the theatrical releases (except maybe for the theatrical release of Fellowship, because that really broke ground and set the bar --- sorry to reuse metaphors --- for all three films), so maybe I'll only feel whole again when the extended Return is out next year.

Here's my wishlist to Peter Jackson: Give us another excellent extended DVD version and get the big cinema guys to hold another trilogy marathon, with all three extended versions.

I'll go send him an email right after this.

To refer back to the title of this post, the dry eyes refer to the inevitable aftereffect of staring at a big screen for 11½ hours, with only brief breaks every 3½ hours or so. The wet eyes refer to all the shamelessly manipulative heartstring-tugging moments in the third film that I totally fell for and loved anyway (I confess to also tearing up during the bit in The Two Towers when Faramir decides to take the two hobbits to Gondor and Sam's begging him not to, while Frodo has a mini-Gollumesque curl-up-into-the-rock moment behind him.)

At least I'm consistent: I tear up when I'm reading the last book, and I teared up at approximately the same moments when I was watching this final film. But it's also more than that. When I got to the end of the book Return of the King last year, I read through the Appendices (because, well, they were there) and got to the end of Appendix B, and I was so sad. Because the thing about reaching the end of a book, is that you know the adventure's over and the heroes have won and gone on to happily ever after --- but you don't think about them growing old and dying, the inevitable end of all mortal protagonists. You don't think about the characters ending. In the Appendices, Tolkien tells you what happened, every last detail till he can wrap up with, "And when that ship passed an end was come to Middle-Earth of the Fellowship of the Ring."

Even looking it up in the book right now makes me sad.

The film doesn't quite go that far. (Color me a Tolkien amateur but it was only upon checking our books when we got home that I realized, and was amazed to discover, that the film stayed almost exactly true to the end of the novels.) But the film didn't have to, either. To quote two movie reviews I read this morning:

"Yes, these movies, like Tolkien's books, will be with us forever -- and the DVD versions may last forever -- but the vast popular audience that has embraced this amazing series will now share that Baggins-like bittersweet sensation of travelers who have ventured to the edge of the world and find themselves with no new lands to conquer. " --- Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com

"Audiences must now learn to cope with not having a LotR film in their future, and learn how to fill the void left by the trilogy's slipstream. When there were Rings movies in our future, we always knew something of quality was coming our way at the end of the year. We can't speak with the same certainty about Star Wars, Star Trek, or James Bond. Being a moviegoer – and how we look at movies – will never be the same." --- Glen Oliver, IGN.com

At the end of reading The Lord of the Rings, I was sad because there were no more adventures of Frodo Baggins and his friends. As the end of the film Return of the King drew nigh yesterday evening, I was sad because this was it. Sure, there'll be an extended DVD next year (and I can't wait), but there won't be the same cast and crew won't be assembled for another such project.

All of which leaves me feeling a bit hungover this morning (but without the alcohol). I think I'll go page through the books again some more ...


The first second time I've been censored (to my knowledge)

Post edited (okay, censored)because I don't want it quoted out of context. Heck, I don't want it to get quoted at all.


Breaking the water barrier

I've done it. 8 glasses of water yesterday, no problem, and 4 today so far --- also, no problem. By "no problem" I mean that I basically do whatever I'm doing while guzzling water every few minutes and the next thing I know, it's time to refill the mug again. And it's quite possible that crisp, cold water has the same psychologically energizing effects as caffeine or sugar or any of my usual stimulants, which means I'm working faster, quicker, lighter than usual (but without the giddy laughter).

Yesterday, I did 8 glasses in 9 hours, which is not bad considering that most of last week, I was still struggling to hit the 5-glass mark everyday.

Let's see if we can keep this up --- though Wednesday notwithstanding, since I don't particularly want to visit the cinema restroom every half hour during the Lord of the Rings marathon.


"I like a bit of hunky dory ... "

T meant to say "blackened dory", which is his fish meal of choice at Blooie's when he's avoiding red meat. "Hunky dory", I suppose would be a whole other kettle of fish (pun intended).

That was the highlight of last night. The Gallery Hotel is funky, but also tries a bit too hard in its funkiness. We really should've just stayed home, especially since the weather prevented me from swimming.

At 9:30 am on a Sunday by the Singapore river, the only people up and about were joggers, tourists, and a grizzled tan Chinese man in his 50s, sharing a cigarette with his bicycle and casting the only monochrome silhouette against a landscape of pastel Mediterranean hues.

At 10 am, in the Orchard MRT environs, stir several bevies of Filipino women into the mix.

At 10:20 am, at the basement food court at Scott, there was also a smattering of local famlies having breakfast, as if it were a neighbourhood coffeeshop in our legendary HDB heartlands, in stead of a cheap eat-and-go place in the heart of the shopping district.

I spent most of the afternoon in the throes of a cleaning frenzy. I've been plotting various stages of this clean-and-tidy operation for several days now, and when I got home today, I knew the moment for execution had come.

First, the simple Xmas decor over the grilled gate went up. No problems there, plus I got compliments from people who dropped by later in the day.

Then there was the cleaning of the roomy but ill-used bookcase in our bedroom. An hour or so later, I'd relocated all drama, poetry, humour and travel books over there, to keep T's collection of men's magazines (of the FHM rather than the metrosexual variety) company warm under the blast of the airconditioner.

I was going to go on cleaning the bookshelves in the next room, but I thought about all the dust stirred up in the bedroom and the fact that my eyes have been itching for about two weeks now, and I decided to wash the sheets instead. While that was humming along nicely, I rearranged stuff on our bookshelves and finally, properly, unpacked the books, files and notes that I'd brought home 2 years ago when I cleared out my desk at the school I used to teach at. Some books are still on the floor, but that's because we are going to buy new bookcases *squeal* for the living room and once our science fiction/fantasy collections are moved out there, there will be room for all our books on shelves at last, and there will definitely be no books on the floor.

Which should tide us over for about two months before we buy even more books and our floor is overrun again ...

I don't clean up very often, but when I do, it's with a vengeance. Amen.


Getting that Xmas spirit

For the first time since we moved into this apartment in mid-1999, we're getting Xmas decorations. I don't think we're quite ready to invest in a full-on Xmas tree with all the trimmings yet, but we've got a beautiful wreath (the real kind, that requires watering every day or so, and all thanks to the lovely and thoughtful Sprite) and a richly red runner for the wreath to sit on and some tinsel. This is a vast improvement from, well, having nothing.

Unfortunately, the tinsel I bought on Thursday wasn't enough to do justice to the grilled gate that guards our door, so I'll need to get more today. And we really ought to hang up those glass suncatchers, with dried flowers pressed between the glass, that we got from Victoria, Canada 3½ years ago.

Other than home decor, we're also all set on the Xmas card front --- except for the part where we (read: I) need to write the cards and mail them out. I have an Xmas card list of about thirty, and I can usually write only about 5-6 before I need a break, but I don't think I'll have the luxury of doing that this weekend, if the cards are going to reach people in mainland North America before Xmas. Sunday afternoon will hence be dedicated to Xmas card writing. (Note to self: buy stamps by Monday, or the writing will be for nought.)

And then there's Xmas vacation. The best part about December is the fact that just about everybody takes off on vacation. This year has been particularly good. About 99% of the people that I report to in the great government hierarchy are on leave at one period or another this month. Lots of my colleagues (i.e. we lowly grunts) are also taking a couple of days off here and there. All of thishas slowed the pace of work down tremendously. People take it a little easier, say hello and how are you? and have a good weekend! a little more than they usually do. It's nice.

But really, what puts me in the Xmas spirit when I'm in Singapore is the fact that the rain, it raineth every day. We've had sporadic, futile bursts of sunshine, during which I glower at the sky because, hello, monsoon season, didn't you get the memo? Then the artful gray canopy asserts itself and all is right in my world.

Actually, the monsoon weather puts me in mind of Chicago in the fall, which is not quite Xmas season (you have to let the stores at least get over the Thanksgiving milestone before Xmas truly kicks in). However, since I've never spent Xmas itself in Chicago but done plenty of pre-Xmas prep there (mmmmm ... Marshall Field's in the first week of December ... ), the vibe is all right. Rain, red-and-green decor, massive sales, Xmas jingles everywhere you go --- Singapore and Chicago have that in common, the key difference being that in Singapore, I can still wear slippers out in the rain, like I'm doing today, and not worry about my feet freezing off.

There won't be much Xmas shopping for me today, though, besides the tinsel. We've got a room at a hotel with one of those fishbowl swimming pools, so I hope that the rain will pause long enough for me to slip into the pool and see what is feels like to be swimming way up high above street level. What with dinner with T's UBC friends at Lau Pa Sat on Monday, dinner at home with the family on Tuesday (followed by a brief Borders excursion), T having a quick photo shoot with Sprite on Wednesday, the D&D game at Dan's on Thursday, a fabulous Japanese buffet dinner last night and this hotel stay tonight --- *deep breath* --- I've spent hardly any time at home this week. It's very surreal.

* in the sense that you never quite see them coming, you know it's going to rain, but you don't know when, and you think, I have enough time to nip between here and there before it rains, and then of course it rains and you're stuck.


Call me Cirnellë

That's my Elven name, if the Elvish Name Generator is to be believed: Cirnellë Calafalas.

Anyway, It's way better than my Hobbit name, which is Beryl Boffin of Needlehole, which sounds very rotound.


The little things

Happiness is finding just the very desktop wallpaper that you were hoping existed out there, and successfully setting it up on your desktop at work.

I know, the setting-it-as-a-desktop-image part doesn't seem like it should be hard. But when your computer's just been upgraded to the latest version of Windows, which allows a strict enforcement of the no-installation-of-unauthorised-software policy --- well, you're grateful for the little things.

Now to go find a screensaver ...

(Yes, I'm shamelessly killing time till I can slink off at 5:30 pm. It's been one of those weeks.)


Eating with the family

I don't say this very often, but we had dinner at my parents' last night. As I was telling everybody that would listen this past week, I've had a sudden hankering for my mom's cooking, possibly triggered by a conversation over lunch when we came to the conclusion that nothing quite every tastes like your mom's cooking, even if she's a mediocre cook (which, I hasten to add, my mom is not; the genes clearly skipped a generation with me).

Well, the conversation-over-lunch generated enough of a craving that I matched schedules with T, then called rather sheepisly to invite ourselves over to the dinner on Tuesday night. Despite my sudden bout of nostalgia, when Mom asked me what I wanted her to make, the only thing I could come up with (and that I'd mentioned at the conversation-over-lunch) was soya sauce chicken. Sometimes, it's the simple things that matter.

And now I know just how wise (some might say tricksy, but my parents aren't that deliberate) my parents are. They've never mandated regular meals with them, mostly because they harbour some kind of illusion that twentysomething and thirtysomething working adults are kept fanatically busy at work --- which is not too far from the truth some days but on average, it's not like T and I have no life except for work.

Anyhow, our family knows of a couple who, after marriage, had dinner with one pair of in-laws three nights of the week and dinner with the other side of the family on three other nights (leaving only one night unspoken for all week). I don't know if they still keep this up, but that sort of regimen is completely alien to me. My mom concurred when we were talking about it. Okay, we agreed that having home-cooked dinners six nights a week was, in and of itself, not a bad idea. But the scheduling of it boggles my mind. I spent enough of my pre-working life being scheduled for school, piano, church and more school. We don't even have a pet now, despite all the cat talk two months ago, because we're not keen to be kept to its schedule.

But back to why my parents are wise. They call us for dinner sometimes, but it's not regular except for birthdays and Xmas. They also make room for our schedule if we've already made plans or have work commitments. In short, they mandate nothing.

All of which led to them last night being able to exult (if they wanted to; I'm not saying that they did) that the child-who-lives-away-from-home had specifically, and entirely of her own volition, required to please come home for dinner because she was dying for some of Mom's food, please.

In all honesty, I don't know that my parents gave that much thought to any strategies (if they even exist) for Building Healthy Relationships With Your Married Children. But I think it worked out pretty keen for them. Doesn't it sound way cooler for a parent to be able to say, "My kid asked to come home for dinner this week", than to acknowledge, "Yeah, we had them over for dinner on Friday, like we do every week"? It's definitely a notch above a certain National Eat Dinner With Your Family Day or whatever they call it.*

I guess I'm learning to be a parent from them after all.

Now that I've made a huge deal about last night's dinner, I've got to mention what Mom cooked: soya sauce chicken, as requested, fried fish, sauted broccoli and carrots, and yong tau foo. That last undermined somewhat the nostalgia of the meal, since Mom never really bought any pre-prepared Chinese foods (except for lap cheong, Chinese sausage) when I was a kid. But that just goes to show you can't go home again.

* I just did a quick search on Google; it's not just Singapore that had that silly Day but also Durham, North Carolina and, apparently, the National Pork Board instituted a National Eat Dinner Together Week.


Last-minute speech. Again.

I understand that sometimes Life Sucks and Bad Things Happen, and thus someone who was supposed to draft a speech can't do it. But shouldn't the draft speech have been completed more than TWO DAYS before the event?

I suppose while the IT guy is upgrading my work computer to XP, I'll be drafting the speech the old-fashioned way --- with pen, paper and plenty of other people's speeches to steal from. I think I still write better longhand. Too many possibilities for irrevocable deletion on the computer, whereas in longhand, you always have decipherable notes, even those with strikethrough lines running through the scribblings.


Teachers and whiners may be offended by this post

"Very different. Your friends are giddy but intelligent. Teachers and whiners at work are generally just giddy."

That was T's verdict after my informal mini junior college class reunion today. He SMSed me, because he had to leave the reunion early to be home in time for his weekly D&D game, and it made me cackle. We're not saying all teachers and all whiners at work are "just giddy", but we've both recently overdosed on inanity from both sources and it was quite nice to be in a different milieu for a few hours.

To wit, there were seven ex-classmates present (not bad out of a class of thirteen): one teacher, one accountant, four lawyers (though only one actually works for a law firm) and me, the civil servant. The conversation tended towards reminiscences along the lines of, "Remember the guy, So-and-so, from that class, who was going out with that girl, and he always ... guess what he's doing now?" Rinse and repeat with either gender for about two hours, with the eventual addition of a class yearbook because we realised that most of us couldn't remember anyone without the aid of a photographic trigger. Gill couldn't even remember that I had been in her secondary school class. Karen's theory is that pregnant women tend to forget stuff. I wonder.

Speaking of spawning, we had two children tumbling around the living room during this little reunion and they were the least offensive children I've spent any considerable amount of time with recently. (Admittedly, I don't spend a lot of time with children. Mostly I shy away from the reckless, screaming ones you tend to encounter in public places.) They got along pretty well, considering that they'd never met each other before and one was about three years older than the other. And twice, they fell off the bicycle they were playing with, and neither broke out into bawling, despite the fact that the adults contributed nothing more than the stunned silence that usually precedes (indeed, triggers?) the aforementioned bawling.

Maybe some children are alright.

One more reason

Upon rereading the last week or so's worth of entries, I realize that I start an ungodly number of paragraphs with "So..."

Grrrrr. Blogging really encourages bad writing habits.

Robert Heinlein's 5 rules for writers ... or Why I'm Not A Writer Yet

Off Wil Wheaton dot Net, and in turn off the blog Writing Fiction, here are Heinlein's 5 rules:

1. Writers write. They don't wait until they "have enough time" or "inspiration strikes."

2. Writers finish what they write. No matter how much they hate the current project, they slog through to the last page.

3. Writers never rewrite except to editorial order. Writing a novel is like building a deck or renovating a bathroom--you don't want to rip everything up and do it all over again. So you plan carefully, do it right the first time, and don't keep fussing with the story.

3a. (Kilian's Exemption) When you're starting out, you need your novel in progress to teach you a lot, so it's OK to go back and revise your ms. on the basis of what you're learning.

4. Writers put their work on the market. They don't just inflict it on friends and family.

5. Writers keep their work on the market until it sells. So the first 15 or 20 rejections don't matter; you send it out again.

Note to self: Write more. Blog less.


So I tried to find a BlogSkin that would give my blog a nifty new look --- but everything was either too bright or too eh or too troublesome to re-tweak to suit my sensibilities.

So I wound up tweaking the existing settings (dates are now in black instead of gray, for instance, which used to really bother me because I myself could never see the dates when I was scrolling through looking for a particular entry) and I think I'll live with the layout for now. I also added comments, courtesy of BlogSpeak, because I've been dying to have them for the longest time. Feel free to use them, as long as you don't write patently stupid things that I'll have to edit out of existence.

The saga of the lock

So we didn't get around to getting a new padlock till today, and naturally, we managed to buy a padlock that doesn't fit our gate. Fortunately, it was a two-for-one package, and the second padlock that came with it (of a less user-friendly variety) does fit. I then set about trying to find out if we could somehow exchange the two-for-one package for a cheaper just-one-lock-that-fits deal. But no, it's clearly printed on our receipt: "No refund." Exchanges are permitted within a 7-day period, but that still means we'd have to buy about another $70-80 worth of hardware store stuff to make up the difference.

So we now have a new padlock, new keys and an extra padlock. We can't sell or give the extra padlock away because it shares the same keys as the one we're using. It sounded convenient when we bought it, but now I suspect the extra padlock will be one of those things we pick up five years from now, when we're moving out of the apartment or something, and go, "Why the hell do we have an extra lock?"

(This is why blogging is useful. So that after your Swiss cheese memory totally disintegrates, you can do a quick search for "lock" and see if anything turns up.)

Now that we have a new lock, we're not getting a new door. We toyed with the idea on Thursday after T lost his keys, since when we renovated the apartment, we redid everything except the front door, but I quite like having an old, worn, original HDB door, that sits completely at odds with the rest of our relatively modern-decor apartment. It looks even more desperately in need of a coat of paint now that they've given our entire block a whitewashing. The staircase banisters are powder blue instead of the old, dirty beige and the void deck pillars are two-toned white and orange. Everything looks sparkling white and pristine, which I know won't last long, but hey, I'll enjoy it while it does. It's the closest thing to whiteness I'll get this Xmas.


I just learned about the Asia Weblog Awards 2003. What surprised me was that the awards are broken down by country. Most Internet awards I've seen are, well, not broken down by anything. Pretty much if you're on the net, you qualify. It's a little odd to revert to the mindset of traditional geographic boundaries because that seems to run counter to the spirit of what the Internet is about in the first place (or should be about, I should add, since I just read something on Singapore nominee Peking Duck's blog about how China's controlling Internet usage.

Anyway, I'm running through the list of Singapore nominees, and so far they seem mostly divided into two categories: 18, articulate and angsty; or close to 30, articulate, and not-so-angsty. There are a couple of exceptions (Peking Duck's being one of them), but mostly that's the order of the day. Of course, in this I believe Singapore bloggers are no different from bloggers around the world. 18-year-olds and under, if they're on the net, are comfortable enough with technology and have enough free time to be avid bloggers. 30-ishes like me were some of the first people on the net when it took off in the early/mid-'90s, and we like to think we're old enough now that our blogging doesn't completely read like a script off Dawson's Creek.

Personally, I'm inclined towards something a little more structured like The Diarist Awards. I'm not saying it's perfect, but there's a system and it's open for participation --- as opposed to a complete lack of a system (other than a straightforward clicking ad nauseam of the "Vote" or "New nomination and vote" button).


Lost in time

The office clock near my cubicle stopped working at about 9:45 am today. It didn't take more than a few minutes for a couple of guys to come in with a new battery and get it going again, but since we are efficient civil servants, none of us actually got round to reporting the clock's stoppedness till, oh, close to 5 pm.

So we only just got a working clock. Because it's much more fun to spend your entire day getting confused and bitching about the fact that the clock isn't working.

I confess that I got up at one point before lunch to go over to tell someone about the non-working clock, but before I got to that person's cubicle, another thought/errand had hijacked me and I never made it there. Such is the nature of my work environment. Any time when you leave your desk is a perilous opportunity for new thoughts, new ideas, forgotten work and equally disoriented colleagues to waylay you and dragoon you into five new tasks before you remember the original one that you started out with. Some days I get up to go to the washroom and return to my cubicle having not gone --- and not remembering till several minutes later (when the body's alarm system kicks in) that, um, dude, I need to go.

A lapsarian, I

The alarm rang at 6 am. I was supposed to go running. I made it out of bed, but only long enough to turn on the light, reset the alarm to 7 am, and crawl back under the covers.

Meanwhile, Sprite is up and running several times a week and participating in a quarter-marathon this weekend. I don't think I've ever even run the distance of a quarter-marathon in my life!

I'm currently reading Hamlet on my train rides to and from work. This quote, my friends, is the story of my life:

"Thus, conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus, the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action."
Hamlet's a lot more depressing at my age than it was when I was an angsty teenager.


What was lost has now been found

The neighbourhood cops returned T's keys this afternoon!!

Apparently, some unidentified soul dropped them off at the neighbourhood police post yesterday evening (while we were still having dinner). So we don't think anyone duplicated them. Even so, I'm off to get a new padlock before I go home tonight.

Why losing your house keys ain't worth it

T lost his keys last night. We were coming up from the coffeeshop after dinner and he realised he didn't have them with him. He had the mail, though, so he went back down to check the mailbox (he's left them there before) --- no keys. Coffeeshop --- no keys. He came up and got the spare mailbox key to see if someone had dropped the keys into the mailbox --- no dice.

We're getting the locks changed today.

Last night was jittery. Well, it was mostly okay because we were awake and watching TV, so it's not like we wouldn't've noticed if someone tried to unlock the front door while we were sitting right there. I kept hoping some kind neighbour would drop by and say, hey, look what I found, your keys? But by the time I went to bed at 10:45 pm, after a failed experiment to lock our gate without using the padlock (and I remembered why we don't lock it, because the lock's all stick after it was painted over before we moved into the apartment), we still had only one set of keys in the house --- mine. I'll confess I harboured thoughts of barricading the front area with chairs or other things that would make a clatter if someone tried to enter.

Sleeping was okay because T was up watching TV. Then I woke up at 5-something and could not go back to sleep. I kept hearing things and I checked the door once, even though it was latched from the inside, so even someone with keys couldn't get in without, say, a chainsaw). Eventually I dropped back to sleep --- only it was uneasy sleep so I felt even more tired when I woke up for work.

By the way, it's not that we live in a particularly dangerous neighbourhood or anything. However, the facts are:
- last year, there was an attempted break-in at the apartment next door.
- as of right now, someone has our apartment keys and knows which apartment they belong to because they were probably sticking out of our mailbox.

On the bright side, at least T doesn't have to go to work, so someone can stay home and guard the apartment. He just reported that he can't find the right kind of padlock at our neighbourhood provision shop, so I'm going to have to look for one after work.

No lunch break for me today. Much meetings instead: 8:30 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.


Dizziness update 2

Made it to and from lunch without incident. Spazzed by an acute wave of dizziness as I entered the restroom after lunch. Perhaps the planets are out of alignment and my brain is hence on the fritz.

Edited to add:
Just scanned ye olde blog to see when it was that I was home sick because of nausea (October 28). This now has me thinking it might have something to do with the time of the month.

I hope not. I haven't had any PMS symptoms since I was in secondary school. It would be thoroughly inconvenient to be thusly afflicted as an adult (though I wouldn't mind taking a day off every month, on account of not being able to walk straight). Or maybe it's PMS rearing its head since I'm coming on my thirtieth birthday...

Dizziness update

Okay, head now spinning even when sitting down. Maybe the SMSing had something to do with it. Very surreal.


Every time I stand up from my desk at work this morning, the world starts to spin. It's pretty funny --- walking down the narrow corridor space between my cubicle and the washroom, I kinda listed to one side and had to straighten my trajectory so that I wouldn't walk into the filing cabinets.

Maybe my ears are imbalanced after yesterday's ear candling. I'm pretty sure they're clean, but they also still feel blocked (as in, my hearing's still diminished), so maybe something's loose inside.

On the other hand, I was fine all the way to work. So maybe it's got something to do with being at work (ha!).

Lunch should be interesting...


Turning into a tai-tai*

Nothing like a relaxing 1¾ hours on a massage and ear candling to make me come home and surf the web for local spa packages.

Of course, spas being what they are and my measly non-five-figure-salary-a-month self being not exactly their prime target audience, I found very little useful information. So far:

  • Spa Esprit has the best website;

  • Earth Sanctuary sounds neat, because of its Club Street location, and expensive, because of its website and aforementioned location;

  • Along the way, I got sidetracked into seeing what nail salons had websites, and found only one, Daisy's Nails, which strikes me as a particularly bad example of marketing hype gone way, way overboard. I mean, when you're trying to convince a bride that on her wedding day, her nails are the most important thing everyone's going to look at, you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel (ha ha, pun not intended, but now I'll just leave it there).

None of these websites actually tell you how much anything costs, unless they have "current" promotions advertised, which give you an inkling of what their real prices are (and I say "current" because a certain nail salon website hadn't been updated since at least October). Not that I'm about to sign up online for a spa package or whatever, but shouldn't websites at least provide enough information to get someone out of their ergonomically incorrect chair in front of the computer and over to the spa location?

Clearly, the age of the internet still has some ways to go.

Water consumption update: Absymal. Not a drop since the morning's intake of 700 ml. Had Coke over lunch, plenty of tea at the spa, and I'm having more tea now in front of the computer.

* A tai-tai is a local colloquialism (originating from Cantonese, I believe) that refers to an ostentatious woman, usually Chinese and Chinese-speaking, who doesn't work, spends her massive free time living it up on her husband's income, and wears lots of gold jewellery. Also has extra-long fingernails, well-honed mahjong skills, and can tell you all about the best spas and high teas in town. Oddly enough, a definition of this term is missing from Talking Cock's otherwise excellent Coxford Singlish Dictionary.

It's almost half-past ten and I've had 700 ml of water. Let's see if I can hit 2 litres today, then.


So among the many thoughts that floated past my mind as I dozed in bed this morning, I was thinking about whether we should take up yoga lessons, and then I thought that could effect quite a drastic change in our lifestyle, and maybe I wouldn't spend so much time at work, like one of my colleagues who now tends to pop off earlier than he used to because he's got a girlfriend, and then I thought maybe we work too hard, and you know, who's the better fictional stereotype of working too hard than certain West Wing employees (specifically, Sam Seaborn came to mind) --- and then my eyes darted open in shock:

I forgot to tape The West Wing last night!

Which just goes to show that if you know you'll be celebrating your spouse's birthday with too much food and plenty wine and certainly lots of good company and fun, then you really should set the VCR for your favouritest programme in the world before you go out for the day, and not rely on your wine-addled brain to remember such vital details when you get home just before midnight.

Edited to add:
I'm not working today!!!


The water test

I wonder if I'm feeling colder at work these few days because I've been drinking cold water instead of the mix of hot-cold that I used to fill up on. The thing with hot (boiled) water is that it has this taste that brings me right back to the room temperature water I used to get at my grandparents' place. It's still water, but it's not crisp and refreshing like ice-cold water. So maybe I used to feel more sleepy at work, but now I just get chilled to the bone and type faster, more furiously, to try to keep the circulation going.

When I moved back from the US six years ago, all I drank was ice-cold water (with ice cubes) and iced Milo and iced coffee and iced everything. When Starbucks and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf first opened here that year, all I had were their iced coffees, even though they cost more and didn't taste as good as their hot ones. It was a good few months (at least six?) before hot drinks and hot soup made their way back into my regular diet. My mom thought I was faintly insane, but she didn't mind as long as I refilled the ice cube trays.

The strange thing is that no matter how faithfully I fill my mug and drink water all day at work and at home, I still never quite come close to the 2 litres/8 glasses a day that an adult is supposed to have. Maybe I should down like half a litre at home before I leave for work; that'll make up what I'm missing.

You know your office is too cold when...

You take an apple from the fridge, eat it within 5 minutes, yet your hand is icy cold as if it's been immersed in Arctic waters, and even after you've tossed the apple core and tried to resume work, you have hardly any feeling in your fingers and mere typing or SMSing becomes nigh impossible.