Grammar geekout

I've been happily overdosing on Season One episodes of The West Wing since I got back, including the following gem from the card game in "Mr Willis of Ohio":
BARTLET: There are fourteen punctuation marks in Standard English grammar. Can anyone name them, please? [Ed: I admit that at this point I paused the DVD to count them off myself.]
C.J.: Period.
JOSH: Comma.
MANDY: Colon.
SAM: Semi-colon.
JOSH: Dash.
SAM: Hyphen.
LEO: Ah... apostrophe.
BARTLET: That's only seven. There are seven more.
TOBY: Question mark, exclamation point, quotation marks, brackets, parentheses, braces
and ellipses.
C.J.: Ooh.
JOSH: Wow!
TOBY: Do you call the raise sir?
BARTLET: There are three words, and three words only in the English language that begin with the letters DW.
JOSH: This is a pretty good illustration of why we get nothing done.
BARTLET: Can anyone name them for me please?
SAM: Three words that begin with DW?
SAM: Dwindle.
TOBY: Dwarf.
TOBY [to Sam]: C'mon Princeton. We've got dwindle, we've got dwarf.
BARTLET: I see you five and raise you five by the way.
TOBY: Dwarf... dwindle.
LEO: Fold.
JOSH: Fold.
C.J.: Last card down.
BARTLET: "Witches brew a magic spell, in an enchanted forest where fairies..."
TOBY: Dwell! Dwell, dwell! Dwindle, dwarf and dwell!
BARTLET: Well, the answer's correct but let's check with our judges and -- oh no, I'm sorry, time's expired.
In the spirit of this, and for those of you that are as bored at work as I am, here's a little English Language trivia, linked off About Last Night, to help you while the evening away.


Mac lust

Nothing like reading Popagandhi's heartfelt exultation in the switch from PC to Mac to make me wish I'd said screw the budget and taken advantage of our local Apple Store's birthday promotions (which ended yesterday) to buy me some Powerbook.

However, a quick glance at the Excel spreadsheet documenting the vacation bills, plus the little, ah, shopping spree I went on yesterday to celebrate having paid off the renovation loan (yes, I do appreciate the irony in that) means that I should really be good and plod along with my PC till year-end, at least.

I suppose there's nothing like a little game of hard-to-get to make the wait worthwhile...

"Mountains, Gandalf!"

Without further ado, I present to you my stream-of-consciousness, scribbled-in-a-notebook-while-en-route-to-work recap of our recent vacation:

Mmmmm --- mountains ... the supermarket that sent Dan into raptures, despite his jetlag ... the best Vietnamese beef soup in the world ... a place where they leave keys out in an envelope with the guest's name on it ... unsweetened iced tea south of the border, the sweetened variety north of it ...one entire carton of diet root beer ... enough Sun Chips and corn chips to feed a little kid's birthday party ... beaches and sea, the sun out, yet strangely not hot at all, even for us jeans-clad tourists ... the multicultural hordes (locals and tourists alike) at Stanley Park on a Sunday ... days stretching languorously into quiet nights; no sense at all that "time flies" ... free turns on red!! ... our whale of a Ford Taurus, that gradually turned into a nest in the back seat as the weather blew hot-cold and we kept buying junk food (low-carb bread exempted) ... low-carb everything, including a billboard advertisement for Bud Lite, announcing that it had fewer carbs than Miller Lite ... salads in Wendy's and Burger King ... almost running into (and instead, running past) someone from work who materialised evilly at Whistler ... Chinese-Canadian bengs in their full-body-kitted Honda Civics and Acuras ... "Ducks." "You mean, geese." ... too much tax north of the border, no GST refunds south of it ... little kids running amok in the Museum of Anthropolgy, next to iMacs, next to centuries-old First Nations tapestries ... mountains, mountains, everywhere we turned, till we headed south of the border ... nobody said we had to pay for I-94s to enter the US --- good thing the border control office could break a $100 bill ... traffic at every major city, while going south on the I-5 ... the best radio station in Seattle, with all the good music they don't play in Singapore anymore ... I ate half a bag of strawberry Twizzlers on the drive south and not another one for the rest of the trip ... miles to go before we slept ... who knew that the speed limit on Highway 101 dropped to 20-30 mph every time it entered a town or hamflet, of which there seemed to be one every 15 miles or so? ... time of arrival, Newport: 11 pm; time of arrival, Portland (having learned our lesson): 6 pm ... driving through rain, down what was essentially a paved country road, with no street lights or, indeed, much of a map --- those highway miles ticked by slower than the twelve-hour plane ride from Hong Kong ... storm-beaten windswept coasts, to the edge of which the highway curved perilously near sometimes; no wonder Spielberg set The Goonies here [Ed: Well-trained typing fingers automatically want to type "Goodnies" instead of "Goonies".] ... where the locals don't really even know the driving time or distance between towns ... everyone seemed to go to bed or head indoors, even in late spring, by 9 pm ... seals sunning themselves on a rock the next day ... now I know what brine is, because we saw so much of it from Yaquina Point ... now I know what really cheap factory outlets are, too --- and no sales tax in Oregon! ... Portland seemed to be all steel and industry till we hit downtown, where it became a remarkably pedestrian- and bike-friendly milieu --- though the tall buildings made me feel as if I were ploding along at the base of enormous canyons ... the mildew from the duvet cover at the Travelodge decided it liked me enough to relocate a few of its offspring to my left cheek for a few days; we can safely say we've had the quintessential motel experience ... the best Italian food in the world (and value for money) is at Romano's Macaroni Grill, which doesn't serve macaroni at all but has the friendliest waiters and the most exquisite food (without equally exquisite prices), including lasagna that restored my faith in the human ability to get lasagna right, not to mention an honour system for the consumption of house wine ... a riverfront patrolled by Coast Guard boats with a man at the machine gun, because the US Navy was in town ... the biggest and bestest bookstore in the world! Now I know why Montykins always finds random and quirky stuff in there, though my purchases were more restrained, since I actually have a baggage allowance imposed on me ... Hare Hare Hare Krishna, Hare how are you come read my books oh Hare Krishna ... heaps of sushi at Todai ... heaps of digestive juices grinding overtime as we headed north to the land of Microsoft --- and our friends the Byrds ... the Byrds' new house! Which lacks an actual birdcage but does, at last viewing, have a bird-feeder and a bird feather, the latter courtesy of one of the three resident cats ... "Happy anniversary." ... six-layer chocolate cake! Eat your heart out, Seah Street Deli! ... modern-day ersatz Vikings on Bainbridge Island ... the best luck ever in arriving at the car ferries just in time (twice!) to immediately roll on up into the boat [Ed: Could there be more prepositions in that phrase?] ... Coast Guard escorts (but were they armed?) all the way to Bainbridge Island, but no escort back to show off S-curves in the water ... the strongest wind in the world whips up at the front of the ferry on the way back; go forth with un-ponytailed hair at your own peril ... a Pike's Place market lovely offers T a food sample and gets her picture taken in return ... the Microsoft 'campus', where people were at work even on Friday night ... the Redmond brewery 'tour' that never left the room where the taps were ... Dan, Twinkie virgin no more ... more shrimp than six people could eat ... Before Sunrise, on DVD! ... cats, in our room: wilful Chance, fat Ash and skittish Sammy ... too much cat fur makes Dan's throat all rough and coughy ... Hot Mama: How To Have A Babe and Be A Babe ... 98°F water: " ... not recommended to remain in the pool for more then 10 minutes" --- though we did ... kids of all colours ignoring the "No Diving" signs ... a really big rock on a girl's finger, blinding Sprite as she tried to snoop closer to investigate its carat size ... the chear Harrison and murkey Fraser ... "Ducks." "Geese." ... old people dancing in the Copper Room and celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, while we wondered when we had time-warped back to 1956 ... DVDs at HMV; DVDs at Future Shop; more DVDs at HMV; even a quick scan at London Drugs for DVDs ... Bread Garden serves beer? ... el cheapo (and, as it turns out, el yummy-o) maple creme cookies ... the Suzy Shier store at Pacific Centre mall that would not be found ... Japanese tourists, hackeysack and chess outside the Vancouver Art Gallery ... the best Horatio Crane, aside from Horatio Crane himself ... sunset, waterfront, cool conversation, fresh seafood ... Pho Viet, for the third and last time, because it's just that good ... The good thing about arriving and leaving Vancouver in daytime is being able to say hi and bye (sigh) to the mountains ... Hong Kong: hot, crowded, but thanks goodness for modern decor, power airconditioning and internet access ... a tantalizing opportunity to stay an extra night, thanks to an overbooked flight, if only other accommodating people hadn't elected to switch to a United Airlines ... run, run, run all the way to Gate 62, but we weren't the last to board after all ... Singlish ... home.



My colleague has a blog! Or at least, she uses the Blogger interface, so there is some blog-like activity going on somewhere. However, to ask her for her blog address would require me to yield my own dirty little secret, so mum's the word for now.

What Blogger needs to do is to create a work desktop-like interface skin, so that I can look like I'm plugging away at a document of some sort, when in fact I'm blogging.

News from the work front

So it turns out that my work phone line was magically disconnected when they did some moving around the office on Wednesday, and while people who call me hear the phone ringing, I hear blissfully nothing. Either the ringer is broke or I'm not plugged into my work line anymore. I can dial out, though --- which is all that matters, right?

My time of departure from work this week has been irrationally punctual. However, today I'll pay the full price for that luxury: I have a meeting that starts at 5 pm and is likely to go on for --- well, let's just say that I told T not to wait for me to order the pizza we're having tonight.

The bosses are slowly recalling that I am back at work and ready to be utilised to the max. Fortunately, nothing truly egregious has fallen into my lap as yet. (I know I just jinxed it by blogging this, but what the hell --- it was going to happen anyway.)

Meanwhile, at lunch, I ate double what Wahj ate, which makes me wonder how long it'll take for my appetite to settle back into non-North American-oversized portions.


Everyone wish Sprite a happy birthday! (I'm not saying how old she is; she does it well enough.)


Marriage in the modern age

I don't know what time T wakes up, but I know when I can SMS him and expect a reply, because his latest blog post proves that he's awake and functioning already.

After which, he calls to get the number of my hairdresser, and goes off to a hair appointment while I'm stuck at work. There is something very wrong with this scenario...



It is a dreadful thing to return from vacation and find that the maple creme cookies that you bought are such a hit at the office, and indeed so desperately addictive to you, that you wished you had bought ten boxes instead of three. Maybe that's what I'll ask M to bring us if she makes her foray out to Asia this year.

Half-composed a dreadfully precious and self-indulgent paean to the Pacific Northwest, accompanied by rich jeremiad against current place of residence --- but wisely decided to confine both to handwritten and top secret journal, rather than to publish them here and invite relentless cackling from friends and anonymous readers alike.

But I am, home.


The power of a shower

Having a shower before taking a flight is not just about trying to be as clean as possible when you disembark. It's also excellent for waking the mind and body when it's had only 2½ hours' rest, but you need to be reasonably functional before you can actually get on the damn flight and pass out already.

Mmmmm ... shower ...

'Kay, bye!


I feel like I should post something tonight, because I'm actually up past 3:30 am --- I can't remember the last time that happened, being the old lady that I am --- and I have a sneaky feeling that though falling asleep would be as easy as laying my head down on the couch, I will probably stay up through till we catch our flight in the morning. It isn't quite what I'd planned, since I usually feel utterly like crap if I stay up through the night, but T thinks this will stave off the jet lag. His theory is we can sleep through the flights during Asian daytime/American nighttime, and arrive (relatively) awake and refreshed.

Which means I've maybe just printed out 15 crossword puzzles for nothing --- but I feel more secure boarding a flight armed with a book and crossword puzzles. I've also got too much crap in my check-in bag, as usual. The packing list, and then some.

Hm. My eyes are now itchy. That's a sure sign of fatigue. Or maybe just too many special effects flying off the screen at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban just now.

Everyone at work has been nice about me taking off, even though I'm the only exception to the bosses' moratorium on leave-taking this month. I'd gotten my leave approved and bought air tickets way back in March, so they couldn't really not let me go (not without incurring major bad blood and a total lack of anything resembling competent work for the rest of my stint here). My eyes will enjoy the great relief of not having any contact with a Lotus Notes screen for a while, while my mind retreats evermore from the slightest tidbit of Singapore news.

I'm really blathering now, which underscores why I don't usually try to do anything constructive in the dead of the night. Time-out.


Pottering, planning, panicking

Surprisingly, despite today being a public holiday, my working till 9.30 pm yesterday and our staying out till almost 2 am last night, we both managed to get up, get showered and get organised to go run vacation-related errands before noon today. I guess that Confucian work ethic is pretty damn hard to squelch, even on Buddha's birthday.

So: gift for new baby --- bought; foreign currency --- exchanged; Hong Kong MTR cards --- obtained from the aunt; laundry --- crackling in the dryer as I type. My packing's about one-third done (waiting for laundry). I opened the cupboard to find that my wheelie wasn't where it was supposed to be; it was in fact in the living room, parked in a corner, where it's been since we got back from Vietnam/Thailand in January. It still had some things I bought for friends that I haven't, er, passed to them yet.

Sprite informed me that the weather in Vancouver looks a wee bit chilly, so that gives me carte blanche to bring my delightful (and sadly underused and neglected) leather jacket. Blame it on Serendipity. The one Kate Beckinsdale wears in New York is most excellent.

Been trying to stuff myself with local food before I go, rather than eating food that's available in the Pacific Northwest of much better quality and value. T isn't quite down with this epicurean philosophy, though, so we had teppanyaki for lunch. Last night, there was olua (oyster omelette) and popiah (non-fried spring roll-kind of wrap) at Newton Hawker Centre. It was the first time I'd been to Newton in several years, so I was surprised to find that the car park layout had completely changed, forcing the cab to drop me along the main road, and that just about every other food stall was selling grilled seafood. If not for the fact that I was having dinner at 10 pm and couldn't quite afford hotel prices for late-night food, I'd've suggested going somewhere else.

Tonight, there's apparently going to be an excess of abalone, courtesy of T's parents. We're not sure how that's going to play out, since neither of us are particular abalone aficionados.