Not an April Fools' joke

It is a strange thing to give a boss what is essentially nine months' notice. As BoKo put it on Wednesday night, while we were deliquescing over drinks at Wine Bar, it's time enough to have a baby --- which, let me reassure Nardac, is not part of the plan because that would have negated the necessity to have The Talk in the first place.

But I digress. Back to the Talk.

It wasn't easy getting a foot in the door, as it were. I missed the first window on Thursday because my meeting ran late and by the time I was done, the boss had another meeting going on. I missed the second window because even though I knew the boss was available, I popped into the restroom for a minute to compose myself, and during the two minutes I was in there, someone else beat me to getting facetime with her.

So when the third window presented itself, even though the boss looked (as usual) busy and frazzled with whatever was on her desk, I steeled myself for the worst fate that could possibly await an errant employee and appropriated the chair in front of her desk before she could demur. And we had The Talk.

It went as well as I could've hoped for. My deepest fear: that she would be stung by my decision and wreak frightful vengeance on me for the remaining nine months. The basis for this fear: nothing to do with the boss's actual personality and leadership style, everything to do with my own sense of guilt and uncertainty about walking away from a job where I have such good prospects. The eventual denouément: a mature, professional exchange of opinions and possibilities, interspersed with faint humour (once she got over the initial shock), an abundance of goodwill and, well, the inevitable mild panic. Don't get me wrong, I'm nowhere near being indispensable to this organisation. But given the rarity with which anyone is actually fired from my line of work, I guess people just aren't much used to dealing with exit scenarios.

When I told Wes that night about The Talk, he asked if I felt lighter, more liberated. I averred that I did. "Then you know you did the right thing."

As opposed to what the parentals are likely to say when they found out. (To the brother and all cousins reading this blog: NO telling to my parents or anyone in their generation till I give the go-ahead.)

I don't mean to turn this into an Oscar Acceptance Speech blog and close every other post with a litany of thank-yous, but thank you to everyone who's said encouraging as well as reality-check things in the last few months. Telling the boss was just the first step. The next nine months will be the hard part: getting my shit in shape, figuring out a little more specifically what I'd like to do next, gearing up for the next big thing --- oh, and not spending too much money until I get to it, either.

"It's just a ride..."

Edited to add: I meant this post to be more timely, but what with heaps of work and Blogger conspiring against me by mysteriously tossing up "unexpected errors" every time I did have time to work on this post, it wasn't till today (April 6) that the post's good to go. Hope the suspense didn't kill ya.


It's time

I've told six people that I'm going to have The Talk today. The point of telling people is to force myself to do it, as opposed to procrastinating for weeks on end, which we already know I excel at.

I just found out that I only have a narrow window of roughly 2:30 - 3:45 pm in which to have The Talk. The heat is on.


On the day after my birthday

It's raining so hard, I couldn't listen to my iPod because turning up the volume to drown out the rain would've also blown out my eardrums.

Does it count as my birthday if I only got to celebrate it for five hours (twenty minutes of which was spent asleep on the couch)? Do I get to take a birthday-in-lieu?

Thank you for all the birthday messages and greetings that came in yesterday. In between the hectic-ness that was, it was nice to be reminded of the relationships that are.

The prize for the earliest birthday greeting goes to my friend C in New York, who atoned for last year's sin of sending me a birthday card in October (!!) by sending another in early March this year. Last year's "Hairy Potter" card (which had a picture of exactly what you think it would have) was more amusing, though --- or it could be that I was laughing so hard at the fact that we'd been friends for eleven years and she still got my birthday wrong.

I am happy to report that the view from this side of thirty looks much the same as it did on the other side.

As a birthday present from me to the blog, I now have an image in my profile. The blurry effect was entirely deliberate --- caused by my swift! kungfu! moves! to avoid (almost!) being captured in pixels. It was taken during a Starbucks break at the Glimpses of Light opening, and the photographer --- not the husband, but G.

In the spirit of anantya's advice, I'll continue to celebrate my birthday for another two days. Hurrah!


On the eve of my birthday

Well, at least I know that they aren't going to close schools tomorrow (barring the overnight launch of some kind of airborne Ebola-like virus *touch wood*).

(Flashback to 2003:
Boss: Meeting in my office, right now.
Me: (wailing) It's my birthday today!!
Boss: (in the same tone that you would say, "Whatever") Happy birthday. So now that we've closed schools, we've got to figure out ...
Ah --- fun times.)

This time last year, I would've never imagined that I could complete a 5 km run around Fort Canning Park. But I did, on Saturday morning, managing not to pass out despite a stitch that afflicted my right ribs some time during the third kilometre. Although we didn't have to round down to street level and then back up the hill, the route within the park was still pretty hilly: from Fort Gate and twice around the park's perimeter, affording from-high-up views I'd never known existed of Clemenceau Avenue and River Valley. Just as well Ondine and I did a little training in the Siglap area the last couple of weeks.

We did well enough to come in third as a team, although we'd've been first if I'd kept up with her. In the ongoing tradition of winning sunglasses that don't suit my face, one of our prizes was a pair of black-framed, blue-tinted sunglasses by The Edge. They're just a little too big for my face --- anyone want them?

(The last time I won sunglasses-that-don't-fit was when I came in seventh at the school's cross-country run (female teachers' category) last month. Those glasses were even larger, with cool brassy frames, from Bed Head. I'm still holding out for a pair that fits me.)

(This predilection for parenthetical paragraphing is totally Stellou's fault.)

Tomorrow, I will celebrate my birthday by putting in a ten-, maybe eleven-hour day at work. The show must go on, birthday or no. If I ever ran my own business, I'd make it company policy that people could take their birthday off without taking it out of their annual leave. It'd do wonders for staff morale, don't you think?

When I wake up, I won't be able to say I'm thirty anymore.


A hell of a way to wake up

We got up this morning at about 11:30 am, but we're still in bed, surfing the web side-by-side from our laptops.

In the process, I've learned that:
  • Just because I stopped reading Salon for a while doesn't mean that the Republican Congress stopped getting up to its usual self-righteous shenanigans. Their current cause celebré: Terry Schiavo
    (subscription required).
  • The government's senior minister of state for health isn't done scapegoating gay people for the spread of HIV. With the glad assistance of the local media, he would like to now make it a criminal offence for an HIV-positive person to have unprotected sex, or intend to have unprotected sex --- even if the person did not know that he himself/she herself was HIV-positive. (Speech here; pay special attention to the last paragraph.) Never mind the complications of seroconversion. Are we going to make mothers criminals too if they pass on a disease to the babies in their wombs, even though they didn't know they had the disease in the first place? Oh wait, I'd better not sneeze on anyone because who knows, maybe I have the flu and I'll pass it on to someone and he could die from it (in the US, about 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year) and then they'll throw me in jail.
  • By the way, the minister says in the same speech: "Unless we change the law, we cannot change attitudes." So much for promoting a sense of ownership and responsibility about the society we live in. I feel so empowered, knowing that if I were about to get married, maybe, just maybe, for my own good, my government would force my spouse and I to take an Aids test.
As Adri writes,
"It makes me angry that my country is so violently opposed to how I live my life. Even if I am a student just like you, if I live and love just like you, if I love my family just like you, go to church and worship just like you, am as susceptible to pain and heartbreak as you are, sit for the same exams like you do, ask for a phone number and have dinner dates like you do (not jump into bed straight from a club) - we even bleed like everyone does. The people I have elected to love negates all that, and I am automagically transformed into the antithesis of family and values and all things good."
I'm not gay, but I hold many opinions that diverge from the mainstream views of the society where I live. I just can't wait to be criminalised for the lot of them.

I must not be a frog in the well. I must get out.


I'm a bad influence

Apparently, I'm the reason my colleague (who sits in the cubicle beside mine) has bought an iPod. After all the raving and exulting upon its arrival (I had it delivered to my work address) and happy sighs whenever I'm plugged in, he picked one up at the IT show a couple of weekends ago.

So today, we bonded over the iPod packaging and how amazing it is to have filled up only a couple of gigs with the first few lots of CDs and about how we can't live without our iPods even though we've both had it for less than a month.

And then we went back to work, both plugged into the respective soundtracks of our lives.

My SMS review of Bumbu

This one's for Adri.
Thai-Indon place, halal. One outlet at Far East Sq, further down from Carnegie's. Other outlet at Kandahar St. Food is excellent at both, but decor at K St is better, more antique-y and nostalgic. Can eat for $15 per head, a bit more with seafood, desserts and drinks are cheap, $1.50-$3. Will put more details on my blog.
So here's the "more details" bit:
  • Must-try dishes: stuffed chicken wings, stuffed brinjals, century egg salad, beef rendang, seafood curry served in a whole coconut.
  • Favourite drinks: Terz's is lemongrass, while I tend to stick with good ol' lime juice.
  • Favourite dessert: The durian with glutinous rice, of course! Though all the others are very tasty too.
  • Bonus: If you're at the Kandahar Street restaurant, you must visit the restroom, for it not only has an open window that offers a moody view of the neighbourhood, but is also adorned with the poster for the "Stop At Two" population campaign of the 1970s. It seems that one of the owners of the restaurant designed the poster way back when. Now that's retro chic.

Bumbu (pronounced boom-boo)
44 Kandahar Street, 6392-8628
(I can't find an address for the Far East Square one, but I'll be there tomorrow night, so will grab a card.) 31 Pekin Street #01-01 Far East Square, 6536-8636

With apologies to those friends overseas (especially Stellou, whom I introduced to the restaurant last summer) who have just gone apoplectic over the tantalizing hints of regional flavour radiating from this blog entry.

When a ten-year series is not enough

I know Singaporean students take the examinations seriously, but this is ridiculous.

Seen in a classroom today:
  • Chemistry examinations at A Level, 1983-2001
  • Mathematics examinations at A Level, 1982-2003
  • Biology examinations at A Level, 1993-2003

Notice that only the last one fulfils the dictionary definition of the "ten-year series" of examination papers. (The "ten-year series" is a phrase used in local parlance to denote assessment books collating Cambridge examinations from previous years. Students use the ten-year series as practice exams for the real thing.) Two of these books are, in fact, twenty-year series --- which means that the seventeen-/eighteen-year-old students who use these books are doing practice exams that were set before they were even born.

Oy vey.


Reading (or the lack thereof)

There's nothing like Googling oneself to throw up stuff I'd forgotten I'd written, like this review of The Blind Assassin:
The Blind Assassin begins boldly, introducing three interwoven narratives: the narrator's present life interspersed with memories of her once wealthy family, alternating with excerpts from her sister's science fiction-inspired romance novel, both tied loosely together by newspaper clippings. The heart of these stories is Laura --- living in this world yet not of it, with her ingenuous disregard of reality, who "had the attitude of listening ... but you could never tell what she was listening to". It is no wonder that the novel opens with Laura's death: she haunts the narrator's memories. Atwood's deftness balances the reader evenly between present and past, fact and fiction, Iris and Laura --- but ultimately her management is too careful, too cultivated. Though this novel succeeds stylistically, it leaves the reader wondering how Iris was so neatly obliterated --- or perhaps, that was the point.
(The requirement was to keep the review to 150 words, which I did so religiously.)

Now if only I had the time to read again ... My previous 45-minute train commute to work has been replaced with a 12-minute walk/5-minute bus ride/10-minute walk routine, and so I hardly ever read at all. In comparison to the books I breezed through the past two years, all I've done so far in the first quarter of the year is a rereading of the first five chapters of Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty.

Yes, a rereading, because I started it last year, failed to finish it due to end-of-year laziness and holiday festivities, and now I have to go back to the start again to give the book a fair chance. Meanwhile, Julian Barnes's The Lemon Table, Elaine Showalter's Inventing Herself and another nonfiction book that I can't remember the title of right now are waiting in the wings.

I need a vacation.

They won't throw me in jail for my birthday

I realised over the weekend that there's exactly one more week during which I can honestly profess to being thirty years old, and hence, one more week before it becomes an offence for me not to have re-registered my NRIC. Being the dutiful citizen that I am, I betook myself to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Building today and lo! a modern miracle presented itself:

My entire visit, including the time taken to go up and down the escalators between the ground and the third floor, took a grand total of thirty-five minutes.

(I know at least of one person in Paris who is gnashing her teeth at the thought that such government competency is possible.)

The thirty-five minutes included going up the aforementioned escalators, waiting in line for photo-taking, waiting in another line to be redirected to the right counter for re-registration, being re-registered, waiting for them to print (or whatever the hell it is they do) the new identity card, and then taking the escalators down again. Oh, and it includes the two minutes that I paused in front of an aerial photograph of downtown Singapore, circa 1965 (more about that later).

Say what you will about our government, you can't say they're not efficient when they want to be.

On the other hand, we did try to go through the re-registration process online, but the irony of being married to a photographer is that the pictures he took, it seems, were too high-resolution for the online process. The image requirements for online re-registration: each image had to be in JPEG format with a file size of 60kb max. No matter how Terz tweaked his images, the smallest he could get them down to was 96kb each. And ICA has trained their servers well, for they refused to accept our files.

Naturally, Terz sent them an email with his "feedback". He got a phone call today and did his citizen's best to educate the ICA about why it's impossible for a 60kb file to retain the kind of definition needed for an identity card, and in particular, why the preponderance of digital cameras with at least 4.0 megapixels in the consumer market makes it even less likely that your common citizen --- to say nothing of a professional photographer with a camera that's heavy enough to club someone on the head with --- would have a camera that could execute such a ridiculously low-res image.

The response: "We've taken note of your feedback. We'll let our engineers know."

So I had to go down in person to rectify the situation before I got, y'know, slapped with a "composite fine" or worse. At least I spent only thirty-five minutes there.

On my way out, on the second floor, I grooved past a black and white photograph, then backpedalled and took a closer look. It was dated 1965 and presented an aerial view of downtown Singapore: the open fields of the former Raffles Institution, where Raffles City now stands; shophouses cloistered along all the streets running west of St. Andrew's Cathedral, snugly filling the land where the Adelphi, the new (gak) Supreme Court building, Peninsula Plaza/Hotel and Funan Centre now rise; the river packed with bumboats, and I don't just mean the kind that brings tourists on faux river tours; near the horizon, the sea was dotted with container ships and other symptoms of a busy port. The tallest buildings in the photograph: St. Andrew's Cathedral, and the few buildings clustered around the Fullerton Building.

I looked at the photograph, seeing in my mind's eye the present superimposed on the past. Standing in a government building, contemplating this unexpected ghost of the past, I wondered if I was supposed to feel pride at how far we'd come, how much we've built, how vividly our sparkling skyscrapers announce to the world that we have arrived.

Pride? No, no. Only dejection and heartbreak at how much has been consigned into the bins of "history" and "heritage". I'm reminded of the photograph of the now-demolished National Library, which is framed on the wall of Dhoby Ghaut MRT station and which I pass every Monday evening on my way home. Every Monday evening, my heart breaks all over again.

It would've hurt too much to look for too long. I stood long enough to capture the image in my own memory --- admittedly ersatz nostalgia, since I wasn't alive in 1965 to witness the scene for myself --- then walked on, and out, back into the busy, bustling afternoon.



There is nothing more fundamentally depressing on a Sunday night than to have to restore the alarm setting on my cellphone to 6:00 am.

Of course, as I sit here typing this blog post in bed, on the shiny new iBook, I'm reminded that were it not for those 6 am mornings, I wouldn't have the privilege of blogging in bed in the first place.

I hate being an adult about it.



If I ever have to explain to any sheltered (no pun intended) Singaporean children what a greenhouse is, I'm going to take them to the Atrium @ Orchard and stick them in the empty space immediately outside where the escalators from the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station come up. I don't know who designed the damn building, but if their objective was to focus all ambient sunshine in the vicinity to a heated pinpoint (à la the Death Star warming up its laser to blast Alderaan out of existence), then they sure as hell succeeded.

Fortunately, the scorching weather to which we're usually subjected on this side of the equator took a breather today, and it was actually raining by mid-afternoon, in time to cool things down for the official opening of Glimpses of Light. Nevertheless, it took two Starbucks iced teas to get Terz through the shindig, and it came as no surprise that the refreshments table rapidly ran out of cold drinks shortly afterwards. Miraculously, he didn't look as dehydrated as he felt during his TV interview (full text reproduced below, if the link's expired) and he got to tell a meaningful story to boot.

Thank you to everyone who came out and supported us. If you couldn't make it today, the exhibition runs till 30 March and there are guided tours by the volunteer photographers in the evenings. You might've seen some of Terz's pics already on his blog, but trust me, it's quite something else to see them on display full-sized and as part of a larger narrative.

Afterwards, we adjourned to Balaclava to rehydrate. Who needs water when there's one-for-one drinks to be had? Not to mention some seriously flavourful lamb pancake-y snacks.

Among the weighty issues we discussed today:
  • Why don't people know how to behave at a photography exhibition? Why do they think they can go right up to a mounted photograph and poke at it with their greasy fingers?!
    Something tells me that even if those morons'd seen how Terz delicately mounted each photograph with a plastic bag over his hand to keep the photograph surface pristine, they'd still go ahead and poke it with impunity.Because it's a public exhibition, y'know, so they think they can do what they like.

  • Why did we decide to go to Balaclava at Suntec City when everybody and their mother was there for the annual Natas travel fair?
    Traffic was a bitch, as mr brown eloquently explains in his recent podcast, and parking was a potential nightmare (although we lucked out on a spot --- must be reverse karma from last weekend, when after the IT show, a certain photographer who shall remain unnamed couldn't remember which level he'd left his vehicle).

  • What's the difference between ginger ale and ginger beer, and what's the point of mixing both together in a Gunner?
    It seems that ginger beer is sweeter than ginger ale, which led to a guessing game about the difference between ale and beer. Terz thought beer has hops while ale doesn't, but a quick Google search today suggests that the difference is in the type of yeast used during the fermentation process. We still don't know why it takes two varieties of ginger-flavoured soda to make a Gunner.

  • (Warning: adult content ahead.) For you heterosexual guys out there: how much would someone have to pay you to give another guy a blowjob?
    A quick poll indicated a range of asking prices from $30,000 to $10m. Of course, he-who-expects-$10m admitted that he might then spend that money paying chicks to return the favour to him.
Thus endeth the lesson.

Full text of the news story featuring Terz's interview:

Title: Mercy Relief holds photo exhibition in memory of tsunami victims
By: Ken Teh, Channel NewsAsia
Date : 19 March 2005 2153 hrs (SST)
URL : http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/138217/1/.html

SINGAPORE : Painful memories of the tsunami disaster and its stories of hope have come to life in a new photo exhibition.

Showcasing over 70 works by Mercy Relief's volunteer photographers, the exhibition at the Atrium at Orchard is open till the end of March.

Powerful images of pain and promise resurrect the horrors and hope of the tsunami disaster.

Taken by photographers who were with relief teams in Sri Lanka, Meulaboh and Aceh, the pictures give a glimpse into the lives of victims and aid workers.

Terence Teo, Mercy Relief Volunteer Photographer, said: "The one that stood out most in my memory is the picture I took of Rosita, it was out last day in Meulaboh.....and we were patting ourselves on our backs, job well done.....and we met her on the beach and she told us how she lost her husband and children.....and at that moment it served as a reminder to us that the work isn't done."

And it's a view that is shared by a fellow volunteer, one of those captured by photographers.

Kim Walker, Mercy Relief Volunteer, said: "I think if we can keep the interest of the Singapore population in the recovery of Meulaboh town and the people who live there, I think this exhibition would have done its job."

The heroes back in Singapore who worked tirelessly sorting and packing supplies were not forgotten either.

Moh Zuraimi Harif, Mercy Relief Volunteer, said: "I feel appreciated and it is good that we can share with the rest of the people what we have. This is the least that we could do and with all this great support, let volunteerism go on and on."

The Education Minister also unveiled the design model of the $700,000 school and orphanage in Meulaboh.

Designed by renowned local architect Tay Kheng Soon, the Muhammadiyah school will be completed in July.

The work is far from over. In fact for many of the relief groups in the affected areas, the reconstruction phase is only just beginning.

But it's smiles like that of eight-year-old Rahmad, an orphan in Banda Aceh that keeps them going.

Mercy Relief is distributing over 20,000 children's play packs in India, Aceh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives over the next three months. - CN


Some things haven't changed

When I was in college, the internet as we know it was just getting off its feet. Websites were still being designed with the <blink> tag, the university modem pool still occasionally connected you at 2400 baud, and Yahoo was everyone's default search engine, not Google.

Even so, the internet posed sufficient distractions to a faux geek like me, that I had to resort to parking myself at Unicorn Cafe (bearing in mind that this was also a pre-wireless era) in order to get any work done. Worse still, I had to handwrite all my essays and assignments because if I tried to work on them at my computer, I'd eventually end up checking email or MOOing instead, and get absolutely nothing accomplished.

It's been almost eight years since my Unicorn Cafe days. Nevertheless, yesterday it was confirmed that it was only by removing myself from an internet connection and parking myself at, say, Book Cafe that I could get any holiday work done. 1 mocha, 1 large breakfast, 1 iced lime green tea and 4 hours later, almost all 30+ essays had been graded. Whoopee! I suppose the iPod helped too, drowning out for instance the animated conversation between three expatriate wives at the next table (must be nice to be able to chat all morning at a cafe).

So the next time you see a woman with a red pen working furiously through a pile of foolscap at Book Cafe, send kind thoughts my way and maybe I won't hand out as many Ds as I did yesterday.

Glimpses of Light
opens today! If you'd like Terz to give you a tour, drop me an email at bubblevicious -at- gmail and I'll hook you up with his schedule.


Breakfast of champions

  • 3 repetitions of the sun salutation
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread with jam
  • 1 banana
  • 1 glass of cold water
  • Half an hour spent with my usual daily blogreads
Now I really should get cracking on work...

Checking in again

I was supposed to go to bed at midnight, once the laundry was done and I could move it to the dryer. But then I got to reading JellyGirl's entire blog --- and where did the time go?

Things I still gotta finish for work this week:
  • Finalise a rough plan for how to teach the new subject I'm in charge of for next year (I know this sentence is a grammatical mess, but it's late and I'm not going to dwell on how to fix it).
  • Grade two classes of literature essays.
  • Grade assorted short writing assignments.
In between all that, I'm going to let my mom raid my wardrobe for winter clothes, celebrate St Patrick's Day at Sod's tomorrow night, attend the opening of the Glimpses of Light exhibition on Saturday, and dedicate at least one afternoon to roam Far East Plaza and/or the Heeren to satiate the shopping urge in me. Oh, and try to maintain my twice-weekly running schedule, so that I don't make a fool of myself on 26 March.

Okay, I should start by going to bed now. Then tomorrow I can review this list and panic further.


Mid-week check-in

So it's the school holidays, which means that even though I have work to do, I should also be getting more sleep and generally feeling more rested and on an even keel, right?


I took it easy on Monday, but yesterday turned out to be an unexpected whirlwind of events. First, there was lunch with Casey, whose birthday it was, and a mutual friend who's being posted overseas. Then there was the usual post-lunch constitutional, i.e. window shopping along Orchard Road. I virtuously forebore and didn't buy anything for myself, but we put Casey's birthday discount at Giordano to good use and got clothes for other people (including new pants for Terz for the exhibition opening this weekend --- more details below).

After that, Terz and I rendezvoused with the friends who moved here recently to show them Paradigm Infinitum. Entering Midpoint Orchard always makes me nostalgic for the days when LeisureCraft used to occupy its basement.

Then it was time to go set up for the exhibition at Atrium @ Orchard. We wound up spending almost six hours there, almost all of it on our feet (I hadn't dressed to help set up an exhibition, so I was in a skirt, which made sitting on the floor to rest impossible). Despite my comfy shoes, my feet hurt like hell by about 10 pm and continued to twitch in protest for the rest of the evening.

Not that I did a lot of work. I've often said that the job I'm really, really good at is filing paperwork. Give me stacks of paper, a system of filing and I'll put everything away for you, easy-peasy. Heck, I'll even originate a system of filing for you, if you ask nicely.

Yesterday, I discovered the job I'm second-best at: being coffee girl. I didn't purchase any coffee per se for anyone, since it was too hot and late in the day for that, but I made several runs for dinner and drinks, in the process discovering that the 7-Eleven outlet at Plaza Singapura is really pathetic. I mean, what self-respecting 24-hour convenience store in a tropical country runs out of canned iced lemon tea by 9 pm?

Abigael, our delightful exhibition coordinator, has some pictures of the construction process here. That was on Monday; yesterday's setup involved hanging all the pictures on the raw plywood walls. I took some (crappy) pictures, but I haven't had the time to download them from the camera, because we got home after midnight, after a friend mercifully gave us a ride home, and the only things on our mind were: Shower. Sleep. And we did.

Despite almost eight hours of sleep, I still feel like I need to spend another day under the covers. Listening to the Simone Kopmajer album I picked up probably didn't help --- I thought the slow jazz would be soothing,but it can also be sleep-inducing --- so I've switched to my "Energizers" iPod playlist, which is helping a little.

But now I'm late for my lunch appointment.

Anyway, the most important information you must pay attention to (if you haven't clicked on the link to Abigael's blog already):
Glimpses of Light
The Atrium @ Orchard
March 16-30, 2005
Opening ceremony: Saturday, March 19, 3 pm
If you want to avoid speechifying and the media, come a little later. We'll still be around. (And 7-Eleven better have have stocked up on iced lemon tea by then!)

Edited to add: Terz has some pictures of the setup on his blog and Abigael has more. I still haven't uploaded mine.


All that jazz

Prague, 1995
It was the summer of many firsts: six weeks in a country where I didn't speak a word of the language (in any case, in this language "no" means "yes"); tasting real beer and developing quite a devotion to it by summer's end; trying, loving and eating palacinky (dessert crepes) at every opportunity; and savouring live jazz played by extremely young and energetic musicians, everyone still fevered from the Velvet Revolution.

The place I remember clearest --- also the first jazz place I've been to --- was AghaRTA, which has since moved to a different location closer to Stare Mesto aka the Old Town (it used to be in Nove Mesto aka New Town). We got there so early after dinner that we were the only people in the entire club, and snagged a table right up front, right next to the musicians. By the time the set started, though, the place was packed. Two details linger in my memory, ten years on: a young Czech saxophonist who was just amazing, and my friend (whose name memory insists is Marie, even though I think that's not right) nodding eagerly to the beats.

Chicago, 1995
I lived in the city for two years before I made it to a jazz bar, and it was only because Nardac was in town that I made it there at all. Fortunately, we picked a good one: the Green Mill. It was a slow weeknight, if I recall correctly, and quiet enough that Nardac befriended an older business-y type seated at the bar next to us. A couple of martinis later (hers, not mine --- I still don't like the taste of them), she also got him to drive us home. Nice.

Chicago, 2002
Back in the city for a visit, staying with my ex-flatmate D, we ended up at the Green Mill again. This time, it was really grooving and she got to boogie on the dance floor while I nursed my drink. It was only on this visit that I noticed the art deco interior, and soaked up enough rhythm to last me through the long transpacific flight home.

Singapore, 2005
Has it been that long since I heard live jazz? I guess so. Thank goodness Randy clued us in to the Montreux Jazz Club performance, so we got to chill on the Esplanade's rooftop terrace. Even in the Theatre Studio, it wasn't too crowded; maybe not that many other people knew about the event. The jam session later saw some really talented pianists from the audience take centrestage, including Aya who regularly plays at Jazz @ South Bridge, which I really should check out the next time I think I've got nothing to do.

I murmured to Terz last night that the thing about me and jazz is that sometimes I'm not sure what I'm listening to, whether it's good jazz or not, whether I'm appreciating it or not. He said you just have to lose yourself in the music.

Note to self: the next time I listen to jazz, remember to stomp all over the classically trained Singaporean pianist in me and just let it go.

Shameless plugs

1) If you're female and enjoy a good run, sign up for the Women Make A Difference 5 km run at Fort Canning on Saturday, 26 March. Proceeds benefit Shared Hope International, a non-profit organisation that aids women and children in crisis. Ondine and I are gonna run; any 8 other chicas want to join us?

2) Come by the Atrium @ Orchard next Wednesday, 16 March Saturday, 19 March for the official launch of Mercy Relief's Glimpses of Light photography exhibition. Terz's pics from his Meulaboh trip will be up, together with four other photographers' (Ernest Goh, Darren Soh, Ming and Tay Kay Chin (Kay Chin directed the entire exhibition, but he's not showing his work)) work documenting relief efforts to tsunami-hit areas. We don't know what time the launch will be yet; watch this blog for more details. Update here.

3) Meanwhile, go see a photography exhibition now. Kheng-Li Wee's "On the Silk Road" series is showing at Art Forum at Cairnhill Road. The fact that the photographs are silver gelatin prints made by hand notwithstanding, it's an excellent opportunity to see facets of Silk Road life that are fast passing into history. I can't afford to buy one for myself, but if I could, "Flooded Glade" would be mine.

4) If you own a 12" Powerbook and would like to keep your trackpad clean, buy a Touchpad Savior off me. It's brand-new and $21 (cost price from Apple Centre) --- yeah, I bought the wrong one. That's what comes of skimming and not actually reading the small print.


It's out!

Remember that project I was slaving over at the end of last year?

It's finally out! Anything you need to know about the national school system in Singapore, just ask the MOE information booklet. The web version (primary education, secondary education, pre-university education) isn't too attractive (no fault of the people doing it, but it looks like someone somewhere decided it would be a good idea to mash the design on top of the existing corporate template, with potentially blinding results). The booklet itself was my baby (PDF here), sans cover and index. For the actual thing, ask any schoolgoing kid or teacher --- they all got copies about two weeks ago.

I believe I can still recite parts of it from memory, thanks to all the nights spent copyediting and proofreading.

Edited to add: While I did work on all copy of the booklet (excluding the introduction), I should clarify that I didn't come up with the design and layout. I gave the go-ahead for the creative approach, but that's about all I can take credit for in that area.

The state of things

Sometimes, there's nothing better than a good half-litre of Coke to power my way through a last-minute pile of marking that needs to get done tonight.

I've been feeling wiped out all week. I thought it was kickfit that did me in on Monday, then I blamed it on the soreness in my right foot that might have been caused by an overly ambitious yoga move (also on Monday), but now I'm going to chalk it up to end-of-term fatigue. I'm just grateful I coasted through the usual mid-term fatigue --- saved by the respite of the Chinese New Year holidays.

And I was just congratulating myself last week on being able to work hard by day, maintain an active social life on par with pre-teaching days by night, and still get myself out of bed every morning at 6 to be awake! alert! present, yes, ma'am! in school.

(Just to clarify, I don't actually have to answer "present, yes, ma'am!" to anyone. Schools can be fascist, but not where I'm at.)

Next week is the one-week vacation, during which I shall be a good girl and do all the work I've procrastinated on this term. The plan is to get things done by Wednesday, so that I can at least play the rest of the week.

It doesn't help that I've calculated that if I'm to draw an absolute parallel between my current working terms and conditions and last year's: to enjoy the same 21 days of leave per year, I ought to be working like a dog all through term and through all vacations and taking only the month of December (okay, and maybe the last week of November) off. And probably none of this going jogging or slipping off for a yoga class before 5 pm on work days either.

Er ... don't tell anybody I said that.



I was going to write a proper blog entry, but tonight's kickfit class really whupped my ass, so now that my hair's dry, I'm going to bed. Content yourself with the following for now:

In the grand tradition of random LotR links, I present to you LotR: TTT - in leet (link via Cowboy Caleb).


Hope! for English teachers everywhere

Instant messaging is surprisingly formal :-)

(link via By The Way)

So maybe not all the kids we teach talk-type like dis *lol*

While you're there, check out the uses of the word 'dude'.

How we watch the 9:30 pm news

9:29 pm
At the conclusion of the Miss Singapore Universe Prelude 2005
(aka just another excuse for MediaCorp and SingTel to make money off an SMS voting "event")
Me: And now, we return you to your originally scheduled programming. In the news tonight: absolutely nothing happened in Singapore. Again.

9:32 pm
During a news story about making blue-collar jobs more attractive, with an interview with an elderly woman who cleans tables at a coffeeshop
Friend: "And now, instead of $500 a month, I make $550 a month!"
Terz: And no one thinks to ask why someone her age still has to work instead of enjoying life...
Friend: This is Singapore. You have to work till you die.
Terz: You retire, collect your CPF. Then two years later, you go back to work again.
Me: Till you die.

9:37 pm
The headline reads "Phase out retrenchment" while the newscaster recites something about a union encouraging Maxtor to retrench its workers gradually rather than all at once
Friend: You'd think with a headline like "Phase out retrenchment", it'd be about how they're going to stop retrenching people. Who writes these stupid headlines anyway?

9:43 pm
The latest in possible anti-terrorism efforts: requiring registration for purchases of pre-paid phone cards
Me: How Orwellian of them. Because if I'm a terrorist, I'm going to let something like registering for a pre-paid phone card stop me from executing my evil terrorist plot.

9:46 pm
The demonstration of a colorectal cancer home test kit, involving sticking the needle into 6 different points in one's stool
All: EWWWWWWW!!!!!
Friend: It's ... it's ... Mr Hanky the Christmas Pooh!

9:52 pm
Ferrari launches its new line of Ferrari Fashion
Friend: Who the heck is going to wear Ferrari clothes?
Me: The same people who wear all those sports jerseys and F1 T-shirts. Don't worry --- they'll make lots of money.


I procrastinate, therefore I am

KK and I wanted to form a procrastination club in college, but we never got around to it.

Many years later, here's documentary proof of how much I now excel at procrastination:
Dear [Tym],

Re-Registration of NRIC* at the age of 30

I refer to our first notification and subsequent reminders on the above matter. We note that you have yet to re-register your NRIC. You are kindly advised to call in person at our office to complete the re-registration before your 31st birthday.

[Finicky re-registration details snipped]

Please note that under the National Registration Act; registrants who fail to re-register their NRIC once they reach 31 years of age shall be guilty of an offence. You will have to pay a composition fine in addition to the re-registration fee.

Your friendly neighbourhood Citizen Services Centre
I can't believe I've spent almost a year cracking jokes about how if I didn't get around to re-registering soon --- after the first reminder, and the second, and I think there was a third --- that they would throw me in jail or something. Now I'm facing a composition fine if I don't get my sad act together.

Really, all I had to do was get Terz to take a picture of me, so that I could upload it at the re-registration website. But eleven months have waffled by, Terz's photography skills and exposure are growing by leaps and bounds --- and I still haven't checked what the image requirements are.

If I skip out on the composition fine, do they throw me in jail then?

* For my dear friends who are mercifully ignorant of the term "NRIC", it stands for (I think) National Registration Identity Card, aka our national identification card in a puny shade of pink. All citizens get one at the age of twelve, then you have to update it with a new photograph at nineteen. Apparently thirty is the next point at which the government suspects you might not look like your nineteen-year-old self anymore, especially in this age of heightened suspicion about anyone who might not resemble their 'official' image.

This week's Mastercard ad and foodie post

Getting a table at Beach Road hawker centre: $0
Cab fare for some of us to get there and back: $25
Splendid hawker centre repast for five adults and one teenager: $45
Drinks afterwards at a shishka place along Arab Street: $18
Having said teenager look disturbed because he overheard "I prefer to pee in the cubicle instead of in the urinal" as "I prefer to pee in the cubicle instead of in your anus": priceless

For the record, the splendid hawker centre repast consisted of:
  • yong tau foo (fish cake and other seafood-vegetable-flour concoctions served up with noodles or vermicelli)
  • char kway teow (fried wide noodles)
  • noodles with beef slices and beef balls in soup
  • hor fun (more fried wide noodles, but in a seafood gravy), fried oysters, proper olua (oyster omelette, not the same thing as fried oysters)
  • rojak (sometimes known as a salad, but far from any Western conception of salad: vegetables and deep-fried dough fritters in a sweet prawn paste sauce, with a liberal sprinkling of ground peanuts)
  • carrot cake (the Chinese "black" kind)
  • goreng pisang (deep-fried bananas) and similarly deep-fried slices of sweet potato.

Apologies to anyone familiar with Singaporean hawker fare but living overseas, whom I may have just made ravenous with hunger and homesickness with my litany above. We were trying to introduce typical local food to friends from overseas.

Surprisingly, olua was a big hit; we always thought of it as more of an acquired taste. Next food stop: satay at East Coast Park Lagoon hawker centre.

The thing about me and food is that I like it, I'll eat it and I'll compare where's a good place to get it. Terz, on the other hand, actually knows most of the ingredients in local dishes and can explain how some of them got to be that way. So he could explain that carrot cake has no carrots in it and is in fact radish cake, and that the misnomer arose from an inaccurate translation of a common Chinese term for "carrot" and "radish" into the English word "carrot". The things you learn about your own country when you're taking people around...

And now I've been outed

One of my colleagues has pegged me to this blog. I wasn't that surprised, given that yesterday he asked me if my husband was, indeed, also known as Terz.

Of course, I could've lied to the colleague and said, "Blog? Me? Where got time?" But if you didn't know already, I am a woefully inept poker player, because this face, my face, it cannae tell a lie. So I capitulated immediately, and then told him not to tell anyone.

Fat lot of good that'll do, though. A former student, absolutely beside himself at having found my blog, left me an enthusiastic comment that also unwittingly included my real name. I suppose I could go delete the comment, but it's so much more fun to torment him long-distance by leaving it there in all its accusatory glory. Yeah, I'm a teacher at heart all right...


I've been Skyped!

I had my very first Skype conversation last night with Nardac. It was very cool to enjoy an almost-hour-long international kibbitz, knowing all the while that it didn't cost me a cent and so we could giggle as much as we liked.

In other domestic triumphs, we have finished the last of the mandarin oranges left over from Chinese New Year. They go pretty fast when we share three together every night. Don't write me comments about whether they're heaty or cooling; I'll eat them all up as long as they're sweet and not, say, spotted with the beginnings of fungus like the oranges I found at my colleague's desk today. Those went straight into the trash bin.

But the really great news is that we discovered an unopened box of red bean rolls! I thought we'd eaten them all and that these were shrimp rolls (which I'm not as crazy about). Fortunately, an eager taste test proved that they were, indeed, the much-vaunted red bean rolls, perfectly sweet within their savoury and still-crispy pastry. We won't have any trouble finishing these, although the consumption of other Chinese New Year leftovers is proceeding at a more cautious pace. For instance, I have yet to break the seal on the last box of love letters, because opening them means confronting the fact that there are just that many more to eat our way through. Oy vey.