Off to see the wizard

I'll be away for a bit, leaving behind half a dozen incomplete blog posts in disarray and Xmas decor not yet put up (or, in the case of an Xmas tree, not yet purchased, although this will be our sixth Xmas in this apartment).

On the flip side, the iBook and iPod are making their first overseas trip!

Is it a bad sign that I've packed my wheelie almost to the brim for a six-day trip --- but I haven't yet squeezed in my toiletries?

Internet access may be dicey where I'll be, so mayhaps this blog will only be updated on 1 Dec. Be nice to Terz and feed him while I'm gone, eh?


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I have a new printer. Specifically, this one.

When I try to run a test print, it repeatedly spits out blank sheets of paper that haven't been printed on at all, even though I can hear the printhead chugging down its guide and the ink cartridges are all installed properly. It's done this four times now.

What am I doing wrong?




Plugging the gap

On Wednesday night, I got home at 11 pm, got into bed and read myself to sleep with a little The Fellowship of the Ring. That's life as it should be, which it hasn't been for a while now.

So what have I been busy with? It's hard to say. Random things: wrapping up work at the existing job, looking for the next one, birthday parties (four good friends have their birthdays in the same week in November, although, er, that only accounts for two parties), other parties. Even a simple satay dinner with Cowboy on Tuesday night segued into ice cream at Gelare which then led to Heinekens at Blooie's, and it was close to 1 am by the time we got home.

Actually, "looking for the next job" covers a lot of what I've been doing, but without much of the time being spent on job applications or interviews per se. There's a lot more than goes into the job-hunting process , and as a newbie who's doing the great job hunt for the first time in her life (how precious of me, I know), it's hard that I've made a decision not to blog about it. The blogger in me has so many stories I want to tell, but the part of me that would like a steady income next year, thankyouverymuch, keeps reminding me to be professional and get over it.

Random snippets from the unchronicled days, then, without details of the job hunt:

I wasn't sure whether or not to be embarrassed when at the department farewell lunch last Wednesday, the other colleague who's leaving (she's just a couple of years older and married with two kids) was given two beautiful coffeetable books on jaxx music, which she loves --- and I, I got the Zouk Book.

I really, really didn't like the new Harry Potter movie. Talk about hacking up the story to fit 156 minutes without caring too much about trivialities like, y'know, the basic principles of how to tell a story.

This next almost goes without saying, but I really, really, really liked Serenity.

But. I'm really unimpressed with United International Pictures' complete lack of interest in marketing the movie. If you're going to bring a movie in for an "exclusive one-time screening", shouldn't you a) advertise the screening a little, and b) not close online ticket sales after selling only 289 tickets (and really, it didn't seem like more than 100 people were in the theatre on Monday night), because that gives people the impression that it's sold out when tickets were still on sale at the door?

I overslept for work one day last week and was late by an hour. Needless to say, the word "shit" was the first word out of my mouth that morning, and was steadily repeated thereafter until I finally got myself to work.

On the other hand, despite going to bed at past 3 am last Friday night, Terz and I were up and on time the next morning for a 9:30 am wedding --- and we were the first on my side of the family to show up, even though I'm sure the rest of them went to bed the night before well before we did. Hmph.

Anyway, it seems that the family dress code for the wedding was primary colours.

Primary colours

Some launch events serve you crisp, clear white wine. Others charge you $15 a glass for something that looks like iced tea and tastes worse than pi pa gao.

It's very surreal to be at a party where everyone was drinking either Coke out of a can or Heineken out of a bottle. It was like being on the set of some kind of cross-branding TV commercial.

Boys on breakups enjoy a good dollop of ice cream too.

Most people who didn't already know I was quitting my job have responded, "Wah, so brave." I think my parents (whom I haven't told yet) will have a slightly different take on it.

In Singapore blogosphere-related news, there is a new baby brown, Mr Miyagi is not in jail and Mr Gorgeous is really very gorgeous.


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Bring out the jackets

Ondine informs me that it is officially 24 degrees Celsius in Singapore today.

Yeah, baby, yeah!




After the weekend

It's very strange to wake up after the word "gewgaw" has been dancing around your mind all night.

Oh, it's a real word, I assure you.




Assuming you love my creative sensibility

If you haven't heard already, there is a one-time screening of Joss Whedon's Serenity in Singapore. Get your tickets before they're all sold out --- but only if this post makes sense to you.

In other news, I'm coming late to the party but I'll Live A Day For You, made by my fine friends Randy Ang and Nicholas Chee and their pal Christina Choo, came up tiptop at the Fly-By-Night Video Challenge. If I've got the music playing on an eternal loop in my head, I don't see why you shouldn't too.

More real blogging, um, later.


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Many partings

There may be only one Ring to rule them all, but there can certainly be more than one LotR movie trilogy viewing to satisfy this fangirl. So it was that I found myself parked on a couch for the better part of twelve hours on Saturday with some colleagues, lapping up the Extended Editions in all their DVD glory.

There comes a point in a fangirl's relationship with the object of her affection, when it becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees. Yes, I'm watching Peter Jackson's interpretation of Tolkien's tale unfold, but I'm also watching the making of the movies all over again, from the moments of digital imaging that transit seamlessly to live action scenes, to the instant when Aragorn kicks a Uruk-hai helmet and Viggo Mortensen howls in pain at the toe he just broke, to the many endings and final goodbyes that conclude the film, including the viewer's inevitable clicking off of the DVD player.

Belatedly, I realised that perhaps the reason I'm so taken by the ending of The Lord of the Rings is because it's a forceful reminder that you can't always go home again. Most heroes' journeys, like Frodo's, begin from a position of obscurity and ignorance, but most heroes go on to fame, fortune and, typically, a crown of some kind: Luke Skywalker grows up to be a Jedi knight, Farmboy Garion of The Belgariad goes on to reclaim the throne of Riva, and kitchen boy Simon of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn goes on to be king of Erkynland.

In The Lord of the Rings, it's Aragorn that gets to live Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. Frodo doesn't get any of that. The ring destroyed, his quest completed, he returns to the Shire to "pick up the pieces of an old life", as he says in the movie, while having been irretrievably transmuted by his experiences.

That's why he has to take ship to the Grey Havens --- and every time he steps onto the ship and turns back for that one last look of renewed hope at his friends, it's heartbreaking because no matter how much home once meant to him, it's not enough to complete him anymore.

And so he goes.


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What are we going to do now?, redux

This is what it comes down to:

Last Day of Service : ________________

Please tick your main reason for resignation:
(*Delete as appropriate.)

___ Better Prospects in Private Sector
___ No-Pay Leave Not Approved*Childcare/Accompany Spouse/PDL/Private Affairs
___ Join Independent School
___ Dissatisfied with Compensation & Benefits
___ Career Change
___ Dissatisfied with *Workload/Scope of Work
___ Lack of Career Development
___ Health reasons
___ Other Reason(s):

I confirm that the information given above for my resignation is correct.

Signature of Officer

Date of Notice of Resignation

Please note that interest will be charged for late settlement of any financial liabilities (eg. overpayment of salaries, liquidated damages, etc).
When I handed it to my boss, she started. "There's a form for it? You don't have to write a letter?"

Guess not.

* * *

I used to think I would write an irate letter when the day finally came: a letter filled with venomous diatribes against the misplaced priorities of the education system, coloured with sarcastic remarks about the empty Newspeak that has come to pass as professional dialogue and education development plans, concluding with self-righteous wounded disappointment at the demise of ideals and hope.

Instead, there's just this form.

What this form doesn't say: I've had a really good year working under someone whom I feel is a good boss. I really have had very little to complain about. I would recommend this place in a heartbeat to anyone that I thought would fit in and have as much fun as I've had. And the fact that this has been a great place to work has only made it harder for me to reach my decision to leave. Over and over this year, I've asked myself, "You sure you're going to quit? But you have it so good here --- good colleagues, the workload, good environment. You sure you want to give it all up?"

Yes. Yes, I am.

The workaday reason is this: I can't do the teaching thing anymore. Resuming the job, this year, something didn't sit right with me. I knew what needed to be done, how to get a class from point A to point B. But I struggled so much trying to think up ways that would engage them and help them to learn, and I wound up falling back on the me-talk-you-listen fashion (aka 'chalk and talk') that I was trying so desperately to avoid. Trying to plan lessons for each week soon hit a magnitude of difficulty on the order of planning a dinner menu with only fruit and salt in the fridge, or designing a wall mural with only white chalk and the ability to draw stick figures.

I suppose it didn't help that all around me I had colleagues with creativity oozing out their ears. I used to be like them; lesson planning used to be a cinch. But I've changed, I guess, and no matter how hard I try to retune my brain, I don't think that way anymore.

Now when you've got a teacher who can't teach and doesn't enjoy putting on the ol' song-and-dance routine in the classroom anymore, well, maybe that teacher shouldn't be teaching then.

* * *

As for the other reason I'm leaving, I can only quote Alfian Sa'at again: "If you care too much about Singapore, first it'll break your spirit, and finally it will break your heart." The casino "debate". The bloggers punished for "sedition". The "relocation" of Hock Kee House residents. The imminent demise of Geylang Serai. And all just this year.

I've been on the inside too. I've seen what I've seen and I've done what I've done. They get the job done, I'll give 'em that, but it's a job I want no part of, here on out. There are plenty of technocrats to take my place anyway. They won't miss me.

My parents have always said, "Change the system from within." I think I believed them, for a while. But I can't change a system when its fundamentals are so alien and divorced from my own. There is no basis for dialogue or discussion. Stay and be co-opted? I don't want that on my gravestone. Life, is elsewhere.

* * *

So here I go, into the blue. No new job yet, though feelers and resumes have been sent out. Friends have been extraordinarily supportive (thank you) and family --- uh, I haven't told my parents yet. I'm hoping to wait till the last possible moment, in the hope that I'll have a job offer by then to allay what I imagine will be their understandable concern about me striking out like this, at the age when they were having their first child (coincidentally, me).

I did blog about this some time ago, in a deliberately vague fashion, because it wasn't exactly public news then and I was in that uniquely bloggery quandary of wanting to blog about something, but not wanting the wrong people (i.e. people I hadn't told myself) to hear about it from my blog somehow. And then it turned out that some students read my blog, so I shied away from the subject altogether, because I didn't want them to think they were the reason I was quitting. (They're not, but a lot of things can be misconstrued over the internet.)

But people know, now. I was even able to coolly discuss it today with a colleague I hardly know, which then elicited, unsolicited, his remark that he would probably leave too, after a couple of years, to go see what else is out there. Other colleagues in the know have been wondering if I was really going to go through with it and I kept making jokes about reminding myself to submit my resignation letter before the end of November. But there's been no doubt in my mind. I'm good to go.

So I handed in my form to the boss today, which I suppose puts paid to any speculation that I might still be around in the new school year, and we had a really good conversation, as we always do. And then I walked out of her office, thinking, "So this is what it feels like to quit your job."

I usually end these self-indulgent maunderings with a Buffy quote:
Wesley: You need a strategy.
Buffy: I have a strategy. You're not in it.
Wesley: This is mutiny.
Buffy: (long pause) I like to think of it as --- graduation.
--- "Graduation Day Part 1", Buffy the Vampire Slayer
That works. But just this once, I'd like to end instead with something that I saw on an ex-student's blog recently:
"tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
That, my friends, is the most precious question of them all.


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A newspaper of their own?

In the special pullout section of today's edition of Today to celebrate its fifth anniversary, they interview their first editor-in-chief P.N. Balji. Among other things, he's reported as saying:
Yes, [I would return to journalism] if I can find an entrepreneur who is prepared to put in money to start a newspaper for women. ... Why a newspaper for women? Slightly more than 50 per cent of the population is women, slightly more than 50 per cent of the working population is women, most of the spending decisions are made by women, and I think women are going to rule. And if you look at the newsroom, most of the journalists are women, but they write for men. So it is a newspaper to say how you would behave on your first date or what kind of perfume to use.
Italics mine. Of course.

A newspaper for women. Because the real hard news that women want to think and read about revolves around how to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex. Never mind trivial issues like what the government wants me to do with my uterus, the welfare of foreign maids, the sexual exploitation of women and children in Asia, or the constant barrage of public advertising that objectifies and trivialises women. What I really need to complete my hollow existence is advice on how to make a man happy and which consumer item to buy in order to achieve that.

To be fair to Balji, the interview does go on to quote him as saying:
For example, the Prime Minister's press conference with the Foreign Correspondents Association (in October), how did a woman view that press conference? I somehow feel, because I've lived with three of them [women], that it will be different. They will each have a different perspective. And we are not reflecting those different perspectives. You will get the women to read, and I think the man will want to know how the woman thinks.
Yes, women have different perspectives from men, but is there a reason the current agenda of any mainstream media can't be broadened to accommodate those perspectives? Why must women's views and needs be perceived as special, needing a separate outlet, instead of mainstream, part and parcel of the prevailing news of the day? If men truly wanted to know how women think, they (meaning the male-dominated senior editorial staff at any number of local or foreign news publications) could start asking those questions within the pages of the existing press. Now that would be a sincere indication that the woman's perspective is as valid and valued as the man's.

I'm surprised at how the interview turned out --- not that Balji made those comments, because I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow that he may have made other unreported and more interesting comments that would have provided better context for the feeble lines that did make it into print. No, I'm surprised that the newspaper ran the interview the way it did, given that he's their ostensibly esteemed first editor-in-chief and all, because it doesn't make him sound very progressive or astute.

Although ---
So it is a newspaper to say how you would behave on your first date or what kind of perfume to use.
--- I just can't get over that line, or see how any context would rescue it. Why would anyone say that??


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How to get rid of telemarketers

Just before 6 pm today:
Telemarketer: Haaallo? Can I speak to Mdm [my last name], please?
Me (immediately suspicious, because I hardly give out my married name to anyone]: Ye-es?
Telemarketer: Mdm [name], is it? I'm calling from [garbled something-or-other]?
Me (somewhat annoyed): What? Where are you calling from?
Telemarketer: [more garbled mumblings] ... You use any stainless steel?
Me: No.
Telemarketer (puzzled): You don't use any stainless steel?
Me (emphatically): No.
Telemarketetr: Oh, okay. Thank you. [click]
The thing is, I wasn't trying to be difficult by lying about not using stainless steel. The first time she said it, I couldn't hear what she said, figured it was some kind of product, and just said "no" instinctively. Then it became a matter of just sticking to that line.

I suppose it's not too different from my other typical strategy for telemarketers who would sign me up for credit cards, credit lines or condos in neighbouring countries if I let them. My answer's very simple:
Me: I have no money.
Telemarketer: But ma'am, this is a really good deal ...
Me: Do you understand me? I have no money.
Telemarketer (usually attempting to laugh it off): Well, I'm sure you can consider ...
Me: I. Have. No. Money.
The conversation doesn't usually last very long after that.


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Ice Cold Beer


After too many Hoegaardens, this is what my friends start to look like.




My brain is dead

This is what happens when it's thrown into overdrive by a last-minute deadline (emailed last night, read by moi around noon today, due tomorrow), fuelled by coffee for the better part of the afternoon, derailed by a massive seafood dinner and an unexpected infusion of beer, and kicked into final hyperspeed by good old aqua vitae at the end of the evening.

The feeling of soreness in my head may also be attributed to general inactivity and procrastination this past week (I blame it on all the public holidays) and the corresponding consumption of far too much alcohol in that time.

On the bright side, I was working on something that I vaguely enjoyed.

I'm going to sleep now.


Bar 84

Bar 84 Bar 84 Bar 84

For $10 per person, we got to unfold in a quiet, Tokyo-esque bar where the conversations with the bartender in Japanese tinkled as brightly as the solid ice cube that dominated each glass.

Bar 84

For $10 per person, we got a warm towel faultlessly presented by one waitress, drinks impeccably refreshed by another, and peanuts constantly refilled by both. Us plebians left the used towels lying dishevelled on the table's edge, which one of the waitresses quietly retrieved, folded into a snug roll and replaced in alignment with the table setting without a twitch of rebuke.

The $10 cover didn't include any of our drinks or snacks. But it was well worth the hour of peace and dignity.


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A slave to my blog

For dinner tonight, my friend has suggested a particular restaurant that I hate with a vengeance. Nevertheless, I am considering having dinner there anyway, just so that I can have a new entry for my sporadic Where not to eat in Singapore series.

I also feel that this blog might be feeling a little unloved because it hasn't had much attention this week, despite all the festive holidays. Little Miss Drinkalot should really be renamed Little Miss Drinkalot And Blogalot, because for all that she drinks, she's been able to keep up a running commentary through the week. Whereas I just drink a lot, sleep a lot and recuperate in time to blog drink more again.

Dinner has been appointed at the aforementioned establishment. We shall see what we shall see.





I dreamed that I was taking pictures of a building that towered over me, Lego colours bright in the sunlight --- except that we were also in outer space, friends gathered round a long table, and my camera battery had dropped to the last bar.


I need more single female friends

I am trying to get people together for Mambo at Zouk tonight.

So far, the gender ratio (of single people) stands at something like 10 guys, 5 girls.

Clearly, I need more single female friends.


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The Great Hari Raya Puasa Walkabout

When I told friends I was going to check out the annual Geylang Serai Hari Raya Puasa pasar malam (night market) tonight, they thought I was crazy. Hari Raya Puasa's on Thursday (yes, I've figured that out), which means the pasar malam would likely be swarming with last-minute festive shoppers.

I shrugged and blamed Ondine, whose idea this was. Plus I'd bailed on her a couple of weeks ago, so I couldn't do it again tonight, no matter how humid and sticky the air was at dinnertime. And besides, I was a veteran of the Great Chinatown Walkabout.

As it turned out, the Geylang Serai pasar malam was crowded tonight, but not as ferociously impassable as Chinatown had been. Maybe it helped that we started our foray with ice cream sandwiches, Singapore-style.

Ice cream sandwich Nostalgia in a bottle

And then there was lots of walking, past stalls selling rich cushion fabrics, intricate embroidered sarong kebayas, leather sandals dyed every colour of the desert, for $10 a songkok or three huge bags of prawn crackers, for $1 a honey-grilled chicken wing or four pieces of goreng pisang (deep-fried banana), T-shirts that screamed "Leave ME Alone!" and "AC Milan", henna hand(i)work and colours, colours colours ...

Festive sparklers Colours in the wind


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Smell the coffee?


For the first time in months, we have exercised our coffeemaker.

We used to make coffee every morning without fail. Back when Terz was also teaching, he would wake up before I did, so he got the coffee going first thing. In June 2003, I stopped drinking coffee everyday: we were on vacation in Kyoto then, and for some reason, I went off the coffee and, miraculously, did not suffer any withdrawal headaches. Since it seemed exactly that easy to break the caffeine habit, I did.

Lately, I've been having a lot of coffee. I blame this firmly on my colleague James, who has devious plans to make me drink as much coffee as he does. The difference between James and me is that he drinks it for its narcotic function, while I'm all about the aesthetics --- fragrance, flavour and fluidity. If anything, I'm more likely these days to drink it when I'm already feeling awake, not in order to stay awake.

Which is why it wasn't till 1 pm today that I cleaned out the coffeemaker and revved it up for a first brew.

By the way, if anyone has suggestions as to where I can purchase socially responsible coffee grounds, let me know. The giant mall that is Singapore isn't exactly a fertile environment for independent coffee sellers to set up shop.

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