And we're back

The untitled-blog-post thing? Really not my style. It's September and I return you to your originally planned titled programming.

We spent dinner last night in the company of two preschoolers who were, alternately, absolutely darling or utterly devilish. It was an object lesson in the real deal for anyone planning kids: they are the original double-edged sword, capable of inspiring warm fuzzies even as they gouge your heart out with some tic or attitude that, to you, is grossly inappropriate.

Not at work today because of Teachers' Day, even though technically I'm not teaching in my current position of employment. Having today off makes me think we should always have Wednesdays off: then we'd work like crazy Monday-Tuesday, take a mid-week break on Wednesday, resume the work frenzy on Thursday-Friday, and retreat for a well-deserved break on the weekend. Mmmmm ... four-day work week ...


Currently reading Peter Carey's The True History of the Kelly Gang and I'm quite charmed by the artful substitution of "adjectival" in lieu of whatever contemporary curse word Kelly might've used, as in:

"it certainly aint your adjectival home and you can get out before I throw you out."

I've half a mind to start using it here, so I can childproof the blog. Maybe then I can give the address to my parents so they don't have to fear what they might read.

Boil water. Add sesame oil. Slice a hunk of fish into more manageable sizes. Toss into boiling water. Slice half a hunk of silken tofu (doesn't that sound dirty). Toss into boiling water in the hopes that it'll more closely resemble soup instead of just fishy water. Slice veggies. Realise that fishy tofu water is tasteless --- add salt and white pepper. Stir. Toss veggies into soupy mix. Slide remaining tofu so it doesn't feel left out. Repeat taste-test and adding of salt and pepper --- so much that soup becomes a little too tasty. Toss in tofu, then macaroni. Boil, boil, boil while watching the opening sequence to another episode of The West Wing. Scoop out dinner during the credits.

That's how all recipes would sound if I wrote the cookbooks.


The cellphone is back from the shop and appears to be fully functioning once more. On the bright side, all repair fees were waived on account of my warranty. I'm not entirely sure how that works, since technically it was my fault for dropping the phone in the toilet bowl, but anyways. On the dim and dismal side, it means that I have no excuse to get a new phone and will have to cope with the ick factor. Also, I highly doubt if anyone following my little cellphone saga will ever ask to borrow my phone again.

Sprite and I went window-shopping yesterday and were tempted by $98 three-tiered Tefal steamers at Tangs. The only catch is whether it's possible to cook tasty food in a steamer. Googling for "steamer recipes" seems to throw up mostly recipes for vegetarians (which we're not), steamer clams ( which I've not heard of before) and tamales (which I'm not a fan of, since I'm not a fan of Mexican food in general). Clearly, there are also books on steamer recipes out there, but why haven't more recipes made their way onto the net yet?

Dan thinks we should get a real DVD player first. Maybe we'll get both. At any rate, we're far from being all gadgeted out like beeker.

On Friday night, EH, Sprite and I discovered that the rear exit to Borders at Wheelock Place was the karmic centre for pregnant women in Singapore. I felt like I'd walked into a government advertisement to boost population growth, what with all these women in varying stages of gravidity passing us by. Perhaps it was just Borders having a sale on baby books.


I was gonna blog, but then I got sidetracked into catching up with my usual web-reads, and now I need to go get dressed or I'll be late. I leave you with two tidbits from afternoon excursion on the web: How to Write a Bestselling Epic Fantasy Novel (link via By The Way) and, from the same site, and for those of you that know a little something about Aussie drama series: Australian TV Drama for Beginners.


It got very quiet in the office around mid-afternoon, as if it were a Saturday when only half the staff are around, or after hours when most people have trickled home. Maybe it was the cakes that materialised around teatime to celebrate a bosslet's birthday. Rich chocolate proved more popular than airy sponge, and lulled us into quiet diligence for the rest of the workday.

Well, except me --- stirred by Miffy's enthusiasm at lunch, I was checking out vacation possibilities in Bali and the way-over-our-budget Pangkor Laut. If anyone has a favourite beach or hotel to recommend, please do. Right now, Sanur on Bali looks like the best bet, unless we decide to dive headlong into wild, wicked Kuta.


It is damn frustrating that in the precious ten minutes I have before dashing to work, I turn on the computer to blog about the restoration of my phone line (not the phone), only to have to restart the computer thrice and switch off/on the main cable modem connection before I can even get on the bloody Internet. In moments like this, dial-up would've been faster.

Anyway, the cellphone still refuses to wake up and I'm hoping to have enough time to take it in to the shop today. Meanwhile, with impeccable timing Terz got himself a new phone, so I'm using his old one in the meantime. The important thing is: you can call/SMS me on my personal line again. SMSing on the work phone with a 160-character limit is just untenable in this day and age. Bah!


There is no other way to say this, so I'll say it simply: I dropped my cellphone in the toilet and now it refuses to boot up. If you need to reach me, call the work cellphone.

Er ... if you need the work cell number, ask Terz? I could make a witty riddle for deriving it, but alas, I don't have the time to do that right now. Mr B, feel free to step up and compose another poem if the spirit moves you.


Among the many bad things Arnold Schwarzenegger will someday have to account for, not least among them is the fact that when an otherwise regular gentleman speaks to you in English with a German accent, all you can hear is goddamn Arnie and it takes everything within you to be able to look the speaker in the eye and not giggle uncontrollably. Terz thinks the German gentleman in question is built a little like Arnie too, but I blame it entirely on the accent. We'll see if repeated exposure to the accent --- assuming we run into this guy at Sods 2 again --- dulls the Arnie effect.

This morning was spent in a flurry of guilty email correspondence, with missives flying to at least three different continents, though all had in common something to do with my time at Northwestern. I don't email often anymore, not compared to the chitchatty daily bulletins I used to shoot off in university days, back when the Internet was just a toddler --- but when I do, it's one mad rash of typing that sounds, I imagine, like a frantic screenwriter trying to finalise changes before the day's shoot.

We celebrated my grandfather's birthday in advance today (it's not for another week and a half, really) with abundant dim sum at Yum Cha Restaurant in Chinatown. The place was noisier than a Hong Kong dim sum restaurant, with scattered chaos as food-bearing trolleys jostled their way between tables to serve customers, the disorder exacerbated by the fact that like every choice presented to us necessitated at least an awkward ten-second go-around of "Do we want this? --- No? --- What is it? --- Oh, anyone want it? --- Maybe?" before a final nod or shake of the head determined matters. I'm surprised the waitresses just didn't give up on our table entirely and wait for us to beseech them for scraps instead.

While the food wasn't the best I've ever had, Terz and I were relieved that it was decent, hearty and gave us no reason to continue cracking our heads to remember if someone in our acquaintance had warned against Yum Cha's food or if we were just remembering things all wrong. Even the noise was suitably festive and atmospheric; only the parking situation --- as in any Chinatown anywhere in the world, I suppose --- was dreadful.

During our post-lunch shopping excursion to walk off the meal, I purchased another book on Pilates which has inspiring pictures of strong, slender people arching their bodies every which way. Better yet, it turns out that Terz has two mats lying around that can function as exercise mats, so I don't have to spend more money on getting one. Now if I could only find the discipline to do the routines three times a week like I'm supposed to ...


Home. Dinnered. Tired. Ditched a photography show opening at Objectifs to come home and ogle Christopher Gorham. Bed now. Really.


Blog on, blog off --- blog back on.

I'm not sure what caused my website's blip to vanish off the Internet, but despite knowing how fickle technology can be (see Monday's entry for a perfect example), it could've been something as innocent as one of my web host's kids accidentally tugging a wire out of place without him realising it till the next day.

By the way, that IT glitch at work? Still going on. The system came up yesterday, plunged into offline limbo today, and is supposed to be up by tomorrow. I'm not holding my breath.

Courtesy of Agagooga, Louis Menand's review of Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which I read in May and purchased last week. I'm not coherent enough to fully digest the review right now, while part of me is feeling a little defensive about Truss's book and wondering if it's maybe not meant to be taken that seriously. I too spotted some of those very punctuation errors on my first read-through and I still love the book.

No more Scrabble games yet, though Wahj has loaned me Word Freak, Kay would apparently like to play some time and I took two dismal turns apiece at TextTwist and Bookworm last night, which were humiliating enough to send me packing to bed at 11 pm. (This was after I'd had two shots of vodka, which maybe isn't the ideal warm-up for any word games.)


In all the excitement about Moron!, I forgot to record that on Sunday, I played the first proper Scrabble game I've played since, well, since I last wore a school uniform. (Don't get into a kerfuffle. There's nothing kinky in that.) While I didn't win, I held my own rather respectably, I think, next to Terz ("thorax"), Mr B ("qi") and Mrs B ("I have no fucking vowels!"). More importantly, I managed to notch over 100 points on a couple of games, which I suspect is an exponential improvement from the scores I used to rack up as a kid.

However, I'm certainly no Dan Wachtell, whose Slate article "Word Up" records his experiences at the National Scrabble Competition. I'm now torn between allowing myself to be desperately sucked into Scrabble world (I'm already tempted to read the Wachtell-referenced Stefan Fatsis's Word Freak) and tossing out my twenty-year-old set of Travel Scrabble before the addiction can take hold.


I cleared my schedule this afternoon, so that I could sort through some work --- so naturally, the IT system I needed for said work decided it would take a day off and refused to spit me any data. In retaliation, I took a 1½ lunch with Wahj and we tried to find an excuse to buy something from Table Art & Decor, a pretty store on the third floor of Holland Shopping Centre that stocks a surprising range of Unicef items. In further retaliation, work cast a hex over my afternoon and I had much typing to do, till I could flee to a yong tau foo dinner with Terz in a little old corner of Singapore where cyclists are more common than SUV drivers and the burning incense of incipient Seventh Moon festivities choked the air.

Now he's bringing me chocolate ice cream, to be savoured over reruns of Alias on AXN that are the sole reason I'm severely sleep-deprived every Tuesday morning.


At Sods 2 this evening, Mr B observed that I'm fairly non-confrontational. I suppose that's a corollary of usually being the smallest person in the room, not to mention the one with the arms least likely to be able to lift a sack of rice. I've also rationalised it as a general unwillingness to argue with people who aren't worth the time it takes to argue with them. In this, Terz and I differ, as do Mrs B and I, as ably proven by tonight's little near-fracas: While she kept talking to the guy, I sat on the sidelines and suppressed the urge to shout, "Moron!", like the European guy in the Volkswagen ad, at the guy in question.

Eventually, Moron! left, we all had a swig of whiskey to wash away the bad taste, and peace was restored to the land.


Mr B has been unable to access talkingcock.com this whole time (i.e. the lead-up to and follow-up from the political succession/handover business in Singapore). I couldn't today, either. Anyone know if the site is truly down, bona fide, or if it's just those of us in Singapore who can't access it?

That aside, August 12 was significant to me not so much because the country got a new Prime Minister, but because I finally got paid and my bank account is no longer teetering on the edge of bankrupty. Unlike Mr B, I was alas not the victim of bureaucratic incompetence, but of my own spendthriftedness. I resolve to do better this month. (Do not scoff.)

Of course, I might be doing better already if I hadn't agreed to do a girls' night out with Mrs B on Friday, while the boys were having their boys' night out (see Terz's cab-centric and hence rather scanty report of the proceedings). There was plenty of white wine for me, which mayhaps agrees more with my constitution than the traditionally preferred red wine, and abundant Absolut for Mrs B. Former students, who heard me recount on Wednesday night that I have indeed done the drunken descent into puking and sleep (though never both at the same time), may be relieved to know that no puking was involved on Friday, though there was plenty of sleep thereafter.

Lots of sleep last night too, though I suspect that it was residual fatigue from the workweek catching up with me, along with the pleasant gustatory effects of my mother's cooking.

I'm not usually one to post online quizzes, but this is from the The Guardian, so it's not your usual Quizilla annoyance: Gods and monsters quiz, in honour of the Olympics being hosted by Athens, naturally.

You scored 9 out of a possible 10
Gold medal
Either you are the reincarnation of Pelops himself, or you're a eight-year-old who has just finished a project on
Greece at school. Either way, you can expect a hero's reception when you step off the plane.

I knew all those days poring over Greek mythology condensed (and sanitised) into children's books would be good for something.


Just after Singapore's new Prime Minister was sworn in last night, one of my former students boarded a flight for New York, optimistically determined never to come back (unless, as he put it, he's deported for, say, gang violence or simply irritating the living hell out of everybody over there).

Doesn't that sound like the opening to a really good book?


When I spied a big, black ant crawling out of the yellow plastic bag in which our fruit stall vendor had just placed my 1 kg of rambutans, I was creeped out enough to spend a few seconds whacking it off the bag --- much to the vendor's amusement, no doubt --- before I would take my purchase from him. Ants are certainly common in our corner of the tropics, but the gleaming black beady-eyed creature that sought escape was no garden variety house ant. It was large enough that I could see its legs individually wriggling with malicious intent and I was not going to have that thing in my house.

Little did I know that my bag of rambutans was veritably infested with 20-30 of that ant's comrades --- all extremely feisty and tenacious, all extremely itch-creating and all irrefutably evil. I didn't discover this till a couple of hours later, when I encountered a couple more as I was peeling the rambutans. I promptly took myself back into the kitchen, where rambutans were hurled into the sink, in the vain hope that I could wash the pernicious vermin down the drain. But no, they have Spidey-webbing, those pesky ants, because under the harsh dousing from the tap, they clung steadfastly to the plastic container and would not be moved. I had to squish several that attempted to dart up my arm!

All in all, more icky of an experience than I was bargaining for when I stopped by the fruit stall on the way home. Last week's rambutan purchase was ant-free, so I had nothing to prepare me for this. I was still feeling creepy-crawlied when I got into bed last night.


There is nothing more worrying than having money missing from one's bank account. Because staring at the figures and reentering formulas doesn't seem to balance things out, I'm going to give my bank a break and assume because it did some major maintenance earlier today, that there might be some deductions missing in the rollover and all will be well in the morning --- or at least by Tuesday morning, when the bank's open again and I can go yell at them if things ain't right.

Apparently, for our local broadcaster, the best movie to show the night before the climax of the annual lovefest that is National Day, is City of Angels. Because nothing gets people gussied up for a national holiday like a love story of doom.

* * *

Does anyone else think that the girl on the front page of Yahoo! Mail looks a lot like Kate Beckinsdale?

* * *

The only problem with The West Wing DVDs is the commentaries. No one seems to know what they're supposed to say and it's only about ten minutes into the episode, just about when we hit the credits, that they start ease into chat mode. Even then, they don't tell enough juicy stories or recall off-screen anecdotes with enough relish to make it feel like a behind-the-scenes commentary. For a show that often seems to run at two hundred spoken words per minute, it's a letdown. They should take a leaf from The Lord of the Rings Extended DVD team --- now those are some classic commentaries.

* * *

Things I did not do today, though I could've:
  • Go for my weekend run.
  • Write anything that wasn't an email or a blog post.
  • Clear the dining room table.
Instead, I napped, watched TV and did my nails. No wonder Zach Braff's got a career and I don't.


Unbelievable. I just found that Zach Braff graduated Northwestern the same year I did. And I thought knowing Kimberly Williams's brother (whose name I can't remember now) was a close enough brush with fame. Clearly, I should've been hanging out with more RTVF students.

Nevertheless, there is nothing like knowing someone from the same year as me now has a commercially and critically successful film and a hit TV series that's already out on DVD, to make me feel, y'know, really accomplished.

Low morale?

"LOW MORALE is a series of animations portraying one mans [sic] struggle to cope with the soul-sapping, will-to-live draining, life-force mugging, morale crushing experiences of work."

(Link via Beyond Magazine.)

Just what the doctor ordered for the start of a 3-day weekend.

The walk to the train station was so deserted this morning, I felt like I was one of what must be only ten percent of the country's population that hasn't left town for the extended National Day weekend.

This, by the way, doesn't mean that National Day is always a long weekend for us, like Memorial Day or Labor Day is for the Americans. Our crazy Asian work ethic means that while we get the day off to celebrate the Nation's independence day, perish the thought that we'd be able to get away with an annual long weekend as well. No, no --- we work over in this part of the world, lest our economic growth fall into the unfavourables and then we'd have to start restructuring the economy and retrenching workers. Oh wait, we're already doing that.

It occurs to me that I am a total Grinch about National Day. Perhaps I went to too many National Day Parades as a child (back when they were actual parades and not confined to the National Stadium) ...


For all that I gripe about work on this blog, there are days when work is nice, amidst all the messiness and busyness flying around me.

Today, for instance, the boss spontaneously bought us lunch. Sitting there, with my nasi padang, flanked by the boss and a mentee, surrounded by colleagues --- this is what I'll miss: the camaraderie, the solidarity, the mutual respect. The work? Not so much. But the work builds the camaraderie, etc. Tricksy little bugger, work.

Nevertheless, I am suffused with warm, fuzzy feelings about work, possible instigated also by the fact that The Song That Shall Not Be Named keeps possessing my brain with its muzak rhythm and odes to Shirley.


I was gonna post last night about my first week of wireless broadband surfing --- but it was precisely after I clicked 'Create a new post' that my broadband connection decided it was not going to play nice with my desktop. Half an hour on the phone with Starhub yielded no tech support, since the "customer care consultant" who picked up my call turned out to have zero experience with wireless networks and promised that someone would call me back right away if possible. If she didn't have a nicer voice, and I hadn't been wearied by a half hour of waiting on hold, I'm pretty sure I would've yelled at her rather than meekly accepting my situation as it was (I'm such a Singaporean sometimes). As it is, they owe me a reply to a less urgent query that I emailed them Sunday night, but about which I haven't heard beyond an autoreply acknowledgement yet.

This is turning strangely ranty, though I don't actually feel pissed off.

Neways, Terz gets home, pops open his Powerbook and voilà! He's got the Internet. My desktop --- still no Internet. Even when I'd used an Ethernet cable to plug in the work laptop earlier --- no signal. (Modem & router working, Internet apparently working, just that these computers seemed unable to find it after connecting to the router.) Terz finishes checking his email and insists I try again. So I do.

And there it is in all its glory: the damn Internet my computer'd been hunting for since 9:45 pm.

It was almost midnight then, I'd overdosed on Alias, and I didn't want to get sucked into a late night of blogging and web surfing, since I actually have, like, y'know, work to do first thing at work today. I also decided not to antagonize the connection by bragging about it right away.

This morning, it seems to be behaving. Just to be on the same side, I'll shelve my "first week of wireless" post to next week. We'll call it a two-week anniversary. Check back then.


I'm weeding through my old Internet provider email account --- in preparation for discontinuing it altogether when I cancel my dial-up access --- and it turns out that since March, I've been getting emails from local nightspot China Jump, enticing me with all sorts of drink promotions and good service. Correction: I've been getting spam from them. They're not the only spammers --- there was 6.33 MB worth of spam in my account when I logged on for the first time this year, most of it Singapore-oriented --- but they're the most visible ones because it's a fairly prominent establishment and, more critically, I've never been there and certainly never given them my email address, so the facts are pretty damning.

I can't say I'm going to boycott China Jump, since I've yet to set foot in the place. However, if I ever get dragooned into the place, I will ask to see the manager and inquire as to how my email address wound up on his establishment's mailing list, and how many free drinks he's going to offer me for my inconvenience.

I was gonna try and figure out a way to add images to my blog, but Flickr doesn't allow you to simultaneously post multiple images in one blog post, so I think I'm going to stick with the old-fashioned way of describing the ideas in words.

To wit, upon reordering our fiction yesterday, I found that we have:
  • Many Austens: all six novels, in fact (excluding the juvenilia);
  • Many Brontes: 5 Jane Eyres and 2 Wuthering Heightses;
  • And way too many Thomas Hardys: 2 Far From the Madding Crowds, 2 Return of the Natives, 2 The Mayor of Casterbridges, and 3 Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
See what happens when two lit majors/lit teachers get married? Although I think I'm singlehandedly responsible for the Austens, since I took a class on her. We also have double or triple copies of other books, but the three categories above were the ones that made me tear my hair out --- because really, if only we cut out the extra copies, we would have actual free space on our shelves for all the other books we want to buy.

But the other thing about two lit majors/lit teachers who get married, is that we cannot bear to part with any books that have resided with us for more than a week, even if we've never read them. (For the record, I have read all of the abovementioned titles.)

In other bookshelf news, I've found our copy of Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda, which I've been meaning to read for eons. Interestingly, Colin Cheong's Seventeen is now sandwiched between Carey and Kate Chopin, Claire Tham's Swimming continues to snuggle between Tarantino and Thackeray, and Judy Blume is squished between Julian Barnes and a novel I've never seen before by Edna Brodber. None of this beats the time I saw our friend X's novel at MPH, filed under his last name beginning with K, right next to the likes of Milan Kundera, no less.

Edited to add: The above isn't meant to impugn Flickr's user-friendliness. While I sorely wish it had the ablity to post multiple images in one blog post, Flickr overall is one nifty tool and user-friendly in a way that most web applications aren't. If you happen to run through the registration process, take a closer look at how they phrase some of the usual questions and requirements. Very, very friendly and straight-talking, without condescending to users. Maybe that comes from being Canadian.

I thought Singaporeans were pretty lousy drivers, a problem only exacerbated by our cellphone-using proclivities, but it turns out this guy ran a double yellow line and killed two people because he might have been watching a DVD on his dashboard DVD player. I'm not sure which is more disturbing: the possible cause of the accident, or the fact that the defendant's attorney described the incident as "a tragic accident that happens all the time on our highways."

Meanwhile, our local media company wants to put TVMobile in passenger cars. Ye gods.