It's National Geek Day!

So sayeth Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon (link via rosmar).

Why isn't Serenity opening in Singapore today?? Nor Mirrormask either. I'm feeling the geek love all over the internet and feel distinctly left out (and put out).

I never thought I'd say this, but I guess I'll settle for Time Burton's The Corpse Bride instead.


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I am such a blogger

At about 9 pm, I declared, "I'm going to bed around 10 pm. Feel really crap."

At about 10pm, I told myself I would just read the usual gaggle of Singapore bloggers, then upload my photos for today, blog really quickly, and go to bed.

At about 10:30 pm, I started tweaking my photos and uploading them.

Two blog posts later, now I go to bed.


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My turn

Not that I've been gloating that I hadn't caught Terz's cough/cold/fever bug, but it's come after me with a belated vengeance anyway. I guess it wasn't fair that he got all the attention for so long.

Just my luck that the incipient illness has struck on the very first day that I resume teaching after the examinations. As Ondine was saying today, because we both teach graduating classes who have their eyes desperately fixed on November's 'A' Level examinations, we really can't afford to take any sick days in the next few weeks, unless *touch wood* we come down with something on the scale of dengue fever. I've also got to cover classes for a colleague, which means a heavier teaching (and talking) load for the next couple of weeks, which makes this sore throat really inconvenient.

(Tangent: What with all the dengue fever news we've been inundated with for the past few weeks, it's gotten so I can't go past a neighbourhood for Dengfu Ville without my brain immediately registering "Dengue Ville" instead. I wonder if I'm the only one... )

At any rate, I've medicated up:

Originally uploaded by Tym.

Germs, beware!!


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Domestic triumphs and tribulations

The miracle of the week is that a combination of grocery shopping with Ondine on Saturday night, eating almost every night at our coffeeshop downstairs and Agagooga's nagging impelled me to resume real grocery shopping (i.e. not chocolate or pre-packaged salads), so that we could cook again.

I should point out that prior to Sunday, we had not cooked anything --- not even instant noodles --- in our kitchen for something on the order of six months.

(There are no typos in the previous paragraph.)

I should also remind everyone that I'm not a very good cook. My contributions this week have included:
  • Monday: Slightly burning the spaghetti sauce (using phylsfrill's recipe, found via a Google Blog Search for "spaghetti recipe" --- yes, I am the kind of feeble cook that needs to Google something as basic as a spaghetti recipe).
  • Tuesday: Slightly undercooking the rice.
  • Thursday: Burning the rice. Behold what happens when you don't use enough water to cook rice in the microwave:

    Originally uploaded by Tym.
Fortunately for us, Terz is a fine, fine cook, not to mention a natural-born concocter of wizard, no-recipe-required, what's-in-the-fridge-that'll-do meals. His contributions this week:
  • Sunday: Fettucine tossed in olive oil with preserved olive leaves
  • Tuesday: Stir-fried chicken and fried bean sprouts
  • Wednesday: Chinese-style chicken macaroni
  • Thursday: Stir-fried pork and sauted dou miao

    Dinner for two
    Originally uploaded by Tym.
I am a lucky woman. Now if we get the house cleaned up, maybe we'll even graduate to having people over for dinner some time...


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Giving blogging a bad name

"I'll tell you what's walking Salem --- vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!"
--- Arthur Miller, The Crucible
It doesn't take a genius to figure out The Straits Times's latest anti-blogging agenda. One might argue that it dates back to the declaration that the first Singapore bloggers conference was "One big YAWN", although it seemed to vacillate for several months, featuring a sprinkling of local bloggers in its weekly Digital Life supplement and running the usual public relations-friendly reports on the interschool blogging competition. (Admittedly, it also gave airtime to Sunday columnist Sumiko Tan's exhortation, "See no evil, blog no evil" (July 31).)

Since the results of the interschool blogging competition were announced to polite applause on September 9, the headlines have taken a far more tumultuous turn. To wit:
  • "2 charged with making racist remarks on Net" by Chong Chee Kin (September 13)
  • "Third person accused of racist comments on Net" by Chong Chee Kin (September 17)
  • "Online activism? Root out those spewing intolerance" by Paul Jacob (September 17)
  • "Blogging's catching on, but beware of the pitfalls" by Andy Ho (September 19)
  • "Court date looms for charged bloggers"(September 22)
  • "Schools need balanced view on student blogs", a reader's letter by Jonathan Au Yong Kok Kong (September 26), which on hindsight seems to have merely been preparing the ground for ---
  • "Schools act against students for 'flaming' teachers on blogs", by Sandra Davie and Liaw Wy-Cin (September 27)
  • And today's latest gem, "Porn? No, blogs bug me more" by Carl Skadian (September 28).
The first two headlines were arguably tagged to reports of a more factual nature, informing the public --- as is this national broadsheet's arrogated responsibility --- of an historic invocation of a Sedition Act that had not been dusted off in at least ten years. But the subsequent headlines served only to fan public paranoia about blogging and spook the average non-blog-reading Singaporean about blogs. Bloggers are being systematically demonized as subversive, incendiary and irresponsible, rebels without a cause or a conscience.

I don't mind being characterised as subversive --- I am a teacher, after all, and education at heart ought to be subversive --- but most blogs are too solipsistic to be incendiary, at least, not on the level that, say, a national publication with a daily circulation of almost 400,000 could command attention and drive public opinion. As for irresponsible, anyone who's had their blog discovered, quoted or linked without their explicit permission knows just how much weight a blogged opinion can carry and how far it can travel on its own wings. Any blogger with a maturity level exceeding a five-year-old playground bully knows very damn well how responsible s/he is for anything published or circulated on the web --- not just blogs, but comments on others' blogs, emails, forum postings and so on.

Indeed, I don't care about being demonized at a personal level because I know why I blog and why I read blogs, and my blog speaks for itself. What incenses me is that the current wave of negative publicity could lead to two equally ominous outcomes.

The first possibility: a witchhunt that mindlessly seeks signs of the devil in the sinner, i.e. any affiliation or interest in blogs, regardless of the quality of the particular blogs themselves. Some bloggers --- innocent though they are of sedition, subversiveness, incendiarism or irresponsible comments --- may find this threatening because it presumes some measure of deviancy in a person, merely by the fact of some association with blogging and/or bloggers. We are all tarred with the same brush, even though I am as different from Rockson who is as different from jseng who is as different from raining-noodles. Stereotyping, as we all know, is bad.

But stereotyping founded on pure ignorance is even worse. And that's why it's the second possibility that I find more disturbing: the proliferation of an irrational (in the sense of not being founded on anything personally experienced) antipathy for blogs and any other internet innovations. Is anyone who reads The Straits Times but doesn't read blogs likely to ever try the latter, based on the current trajectory of Straits Times editorializing? I don't think they would be, and their lives would be the poorer for it.

I'm not sanctifying blogs as discourse par excellence, but it's indisputable that the beauty of blogging lies in its democratizing of opinions and information. Anyone can, with little technical knowledge or expense, easily set up and maintain a blog, disseminating their views and ideas to a theoretically unlimited audience. It's not just big corporations like Singapore Press Holdings (parent company of The Straits Times) that have a direct line to the public. Anyone does, with the right tools and tricks, and our world is the richer for it.

When I first ventured onto the internet just as HTML was taking root, the internet blew my mind. More than ten years on, it still blows my mind, what I can find on the internet --- the good, the bad and the ugly. In the movie Contact, an alien character observes of humankind, "You're capable of such beautiful dreams ... and such horrible nightmares." We can't obliterate the ugliness and the nightmares --- if we were to try, one of the first things we'd have to go after are our local afternoon tabloids --- but we can create room for dreams and beauty to blossom, and for people to find their voice.

Of course, this being Singapore, not everyone is interested in expanding that space for public discussion and robust exchange. I can only imagine what excoriating headline will greet me in The Straits Times tomorrow, now that the first two individuals charged under the Sedition Act have submitted guilty pleas to the court. But bloggers have the advantage over other demonized groups in that they can write back (and have, see "Recommended reading" below). Some write well, others less so, but all are in the process of articulating an opinion and engaging in a written jab-and-thrust, dodge-and-parry that few other environments truly offer.

And if that makes demons and witches of us all, so be it.

With thanks to From A Singapore Angle, e pur si muove, But Why Did Mr Wang Say So? and Tomorrow for their archives on Straits Times coverage.

Edited (7:23 am) to change the blog post title because I wasn't entirely happy with the original ("The Straits Times just doesn't get it"). Who says bloggers don't edit and further ruminate on their writing even after it's been published?

Recommended reading:

Responses to Carl Skadian's piece today


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Shopping at ampulets supplies

ampulets supplies
Originally uploaded by Tym.

It's easy to shop at ampulets supplies --- just pop over to their webpage and have a look at their latest designs. What do you get for your troubles?
  • A nifty black-and-gold "Singapore" plastic bag, which immediately made me think of those old CYC tailor shopping bags,
  • Brown paper packaging, unpretentious and probably environmentally friendly --- perhaps the only disappointment is that it does not contain nasi lemak,
  • A T-shirt of your choice! With a pink timesheet card hung on a jaunty twist of rough twine that tops off that whole nostalgic air.
I can't wait to wear my new T-shirt. Limited edition some more!


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It seems like Giant supermarkets are always busy. Even in the middle of the afternoon, there are lines at the check-out counters and the stockmen are frantically refilling the fruit and vegetable bins. Me, I was picking up a couple of things for dinner and also looking for funny signs that I could take a picture of, like the "giant chix" one I snapped last week.

But this particular Giant outlet got especially busy today when, without warning, a swarm of primary school children blitzed the aisles as if they'd just been released from school for the year.


When I was a kid (oh god, how often I say that these days), our fieldtrips were to mushroom farms and water purification plants --- places that our parents couldn't, or weren't likely to, bring us. It seems that a supermarket falls into that category these days, or maybe the definition of fieldtrip has expanded to include our national pastime, shopping. Regardless, I never thought kids would be that excited while perusing dairy products.

Loose among the shelves
Originally uploaded by Tym.


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Setting a bear-d example for all of us

A couple of days ago, Ondine asked in the comments about the "cute little toy" in the background of my red eye picture. Voilà:

The bear next door
Originally uploaded by Tym.

It was a Teacher's Day gift from students to the colleague who sits next to me, which sounds innocuous enough until you hear it snarl, "Scra-amm! Giddouttahere!"

Other choice phrases:
  • "You are UGLY! U-G-L-Y ugg-leeeeeee!"
  • "Quit buggin' me! Do I look like a playful teddy to you?!"
All in the same pseudo-Goodfellas fuhgeddaboutit tone that's funny the first time, a little painful the second time, and downright pain-inducing when it's triggered too often in a row. Yes, triggered --- it's got a built-in sensor on its tummy that triggers the pre-programmed wisecracks. I happened to trigger it a lot the first few days after it was installed, because I always duck really close to that corner of the cubicle when I'm scuttling from my cubicle to the printer or the pantry. But what I hear is that switching off the lights triggers it too, which can make things a little creepy for the last person to go home for the evening who thinks he's alone, only to be crudely squawked at from an empty cubicle.

No one's swatted the little bugger yet, even though sometimes the urge is strong because its tone is just so abrasive. A miracle of modern engineering? I know my mother would disapprove.


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The Power of Seven

First, I got tagged by tscd and started on this meme. Then I got distracted playing Typer Shark (the reason I was playing it will become evident if you read this list). Then it got actually hard to finish this list. Then I felt pressured to finish it, because wahj finished it and he was tagged at the same time I was. Then ampulets, who got tagged by wahj, tagged Terz and Terz finished it while I was still, uh, mulling over the finer points of my list. Bah.

So here's my edition of the 7-meme that's making the rounds. Those of you who were wondering where the "dead plants" post was, scroll on down to see where it fits into the grand scheme of things.

7 things that scare me:
1. Snakes.
2. Large spiders, especially those with furry legs.
3. The thought of my loved ones dying, even though part of me is aware that it's an inevitable element of life.
4. Losing all my stuff in a fire.
5. Having to go through a nuclear winter (yes, I am a child of the '80s).
6. The idea of the US sinking further into a tailspin of blight conservatism, because it could, unfortunately, take the whole world along with it.
7. Being attacked on the street.

7 things that I like the most:
(Note: things, not people)
1. Chocolate anything! (but not white chocolate)
2. Just about anything that Joss Whedon's had a finger in.
3. Our apartment.
4. Good writing, in any genre.
5. Good food, of any cuisine except Mexican, which I've tried several times over in North America and just never developed a taste for.
6. #5 notwithstanding, ice-cold Coca-Cola, in all its sugared glory.
7. Sitting on a beach far from the city lights and watching the night sky, all night long.

7 important things in my room:
(This is a difficult question for me because we don't have a lot of stuff in our room that isn't functional --- you know, wardrobe, clothes, etc. And unlike Terz, I didn't reinterpret the word "room" to mean "our entire apartment".)
1. Bobo (both of them).
2. The iBook, when it's there.
3. The cellphone, when it's there to serve as my alarm clock.
4. My passport --- don't leave Singapore without it!
5. Our goofy wedding picture that's been sitting on the floor since we moved in.
6. The battered, xeroxed copy of Robert Lowell's Selected Poetry, slathered with my 'A' Level notes in miniscule handwriting --- good poetry, good memories.
7. Earrings that are of sentimental value.

7 random facts about me:
1. I have a second earhole in my left ear, which caused no small amount of upset when I came home with it as a teenager, but I haven't worn an earring in it in at least ten years.
2. Some years back, the best friend and I accidentally stalked mr brown.
3. The first real writer I enjoyed, as a child, was Isaac Asimov, and loved to no end the book I, Robot, before Will Smith was even a zygote on the celebrity scene.
4. Whatever's on my plate, I eat the food I like the least or find the least interesting first, while rationing my favourite food so that it's spaced out between bites, with some saved for the very last few mouthfuls.
5. I wear my engagement ring and my wedding ring on the same finger, but the wedding ring (platinum) always winds up in this funny dented shape after a couple months' wearing, whereas the engagement ring (white gold) retains its shape just fine. Go figure.

Originally uploaded by Tym.

6. I have a strange weakness for el cheapo Van Houten chocolates.
7. I spent my freshman year in college living on IRC, to the point where a friend trying to call me had to get the operator to execute an emergency breakthrough on the phone line because it was always tied up by my modem.

7 things I plan to do before I die:
1. Write a novel. Any novel. Even if it's chick lit and Stellou never speaks to me again.
2. Learn to speak another language.
3. Keep a cat or dog. Iguanas need not apply.
4. Attempt another musical instrument (maybe the cello?).
5. Bake a cake or brownies from scratch (i.e. not out of a Betty Crocker box).
6. Live in a place that I can afford to furnish with enough bookshelves for all our books.
7. Finish this damn meme already.

7 things I can do:
1. Type at 110-120 wpm (according to Typer Shark).
2. Procrastinate to the extreme!
3. Speak faster than my mind can keep up.
4. Trip over nothing, and stub my toe while doing it.
5. Forget something within five minutes of hearing about it.
6. Play the piano.
7. SMS without looking at the keypad.

7 things I can't do:
1. Dance. No, really. It's downright embarrassing how little rhythm I've got.
2. Be nasty to someone's face.
3. Quit picking at my fingernails.
4. Take care of a plant without killing it. Witness the latest casualties:

Dead plants
Originally uploaded by Tym.

5. Use corporatespeak while keeping a straight face.
6. Comprehend the appeal of boxing.
7. Carry on a conversation/hold the attention of a child under the age of five. (And I barely even manage with five-year-olds.)

7 things I say the most:
1. Whatever.
2. Dude.
3. No probs.
4. Wah ...
5. Right.
6. Aiya ...
7. No worries.

7 celebrity crushes:
1. Viggo Mortensen in Aragorn mode.
2. Brad Pitt.
3. Gregory Brown.
4. Benjamin McKenzie (yes, it would seem that my tastes run to younger men).
5. Johnny Depp (since his 21 Jump Street days).
6. Michael J. Fox (since Family Ties, of course).
7. Denzel Washington.
(Hm, they're almost all white.)

7 people who could do this:
I think this meme has done enough evil already, so I'm going to skip this question. Besides, almost everyone I would've tagged has been hit already.

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What the rain did


A carpet of pink
A sprig of orange
A mat of green
Shades of black and white




Black white
Originally uploaded by Tym.



Okay, look:

Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing. The two words are not interchangeable.

Empathy is when a person's experienced something and therefore understands how another person going through the same experience is feeling. E.g. I've failed a test before; you've failed your test; ergo, I can feel empathy for you and imagine how you feel.

Sympathy is when you care for another's misfortunes or situation because it evokes your feelings of compassion, pity, etc. E.g. I've never been through a hurricane, but I feel sympathy for what the victims of Katrina are going through; I cannot possibly empathise with them because I haven't been through what they've been through.

Dictionary.com has a useful analysis of the spectrum of related synonyms here (scroll down to about the middle of the page).

Get it right already.


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Why scanning The Straits Times annoys the hell out of me

"Singapore cancer experts to push for tobacco ban" (p4)

Look out for other Singapore medical experts to push for the ban of McDonald's hamburgers, beer, chocolate, mooncakes and coconut milk soon.

Oh, some people say that internet is addictive. Are we banning that next?

"Court date looms for charged bloggers (pH2)

How a report that doesn't say anything new on the subject qualifies as 'news' boggles my mind. It would actually be less shameless to run an in-house advertisement saying, "Special round-the-clock coverage on trial of charged bloggers! Don't forget to pick up your copy of ST on !"


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On the mend

It's a good sign when for the first time since Sunday, Terz nods a mute affirmative to the question, "Are you feeling better?" Because otherwise it's a little worrying that zealous couch/bed rest and the regular doses of Robitussin cough syrup, Panadol concoctions and Febs he's taken since Sunday haven't yet cured his hacking cough. It ain't dengue, but it's not your garden variety cough-and-cold either.

Terz being sick means that we've had no social life this week (sorry, Agagooga!). But that's okay because I've got heaps of examination marking to do. Also, I can do useful things like badly translate Chinese into English:





Here's my feeble English translation:
Courage. Because.

To face many people/things, we need courage.

When you secretly love someone, you need courage to tell him how you feel.

When you are openly in love with someone, you need courage to ask to hold his hand.
When you choose to break up completely with someone, you need even more courage.

Choose to delete X's number
Choose not to see X anymore
Choose not to have anything to do with X anymore
Choose not to be hurt because of X anymore.

Cruz Teng has a lot of courage this weekend. You leh?
Clearly, I should stick to English and shouldn't ever volunteer to teach Chinese. Even if Firefly made it cool.

Ugh. Terz is coughing again.


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Red eye

I had to wear my glasses today instead of contact lenses, thanks to last night's itchy eye that graduated to a watery eye by this morning, and dried (somewhat) into a simply red eye by the time I got to work.

Red eye
Originally uploaded by Tym.

This is only the second time I've ever worn my glasses to work. It provoked the following reactions:

"You look very diligent, like a university sorority girl."

"Out partying, hah?"


I blame the first remark on the fleece jacket I was wearing, to keep my blood circulating in my cubicle's Arctic climate. But that didn't stop me from informing the speaker that the stereotypical sorority girl is not diligent and also, I don't want to be a sorority anything, thankyouverymuch.



Space to work, work to ...

Despite yesterday's surprise battery outage on the new camera, I managed to dash off a few pictures of my cubicle.

I've always regretted not having pictures of my previous two workspaces --- or, for that matter, of the various workspaces I created for myself while living in various accommodations at university. I suppose what they all had in common was that they were messy. I've been a messy-desk person since I had a desk to myself (circa 1989), much to my mother's despair.

The current cubicle is lucky in that respect. I didn't move all my usual teacherly things in because I wanted to keep clutter under control from the start. I've succeeded insofar as there's still a decent empty space where I do most of my work everyday --- though in this picture, that space is occupied by the laptop and the current pile of examination marking.

Originally uploaded by Tym.

For more details, click on the above picture, which will take you to the image on Flickr, duly cluttered with notes.


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SSLSB and Teen Girl/Grammar Queen!

Because everyone needs a superpower (or two).

(For my non-Singaporean readers, be warned that Singlish abounds. But I think it's still possible to get the gist of things.)
... brown: Self-Styled Leader of the Singapore Blogosphere
brown: will be my new title
Me: Is it time for a new MSN nick? :)
brown: yeah
Me: Whee!
Me: Power.
brown: as if i asked for it
brown: I like powerrrrrr
Me: Yah, you are a power-hungry monster.
Me: Just trying to take over tiny little Singapore with your blog power.
brown: ya
brown: sure there's no money in it
brown: but got POWERRRRRR
brown: laser beams shoot out from my eyes
Me: Guess we found you a superpower ;)
brown: Yeah.
brown: I like laser beams
Me: Hee hee.
Me: I always liked Marvel Girl. Telekinetic! Telepath! Tele-everything! That's my ideal superppower.
brown: Telephone!
Me: Eh.
Me: That is the superpower of ALL teenaged girls.
Me: Nothing speshul.
brown: ah
brown: but can call without handset!
Me: Ha. That is called telepathy already lor.
brown: no lah
brown: telepathy is mind to mind
brown: telephony is mind to phone
brown: different
brown: like Skype for brain
Me: Telepathy more powderful.
Me: Can spook people.
Me: Telephony - aiya, people just think I'm calling.
brown: not everyone has a brain
brown: but everyone has a phone
brown: so Telephony more useful
Me: You are evil.
brown: when I call with Telephony
Me: I should totally log this conversation and put it on my blog. [Ed: Because, you know, we think about blogging ALL the time.]
brown: your caller id says
brown: brown's mind
brown: no number one
Me: Hee hee. What a scary place to be!
brown: ahhh
Me: Sekali people hang up.
brown: haha
brown: then i will get momentary headache
brown: from the hang up
brown: oh dear, another brown silly moment on someone's blog
brown: hahaha
Me: Nah, it's ok.
brown: I dun mind
brown: haha
Me: We shall not embarrass ourselves TOO publicly.
brown: The Return of Teen Girl!
Me: Got reputation to protect, you know. You are self-styled leader whatever.
brown: no need lah
brown: protect what
brown: haha
brown: my name is mud liao
brown: Teen Girl: Telepathic, Telekinetic, and Telephonic!
Me: Mmmmmm ... I like.
Me: Your superpower name is too long, v hard to pronounce when in danger.
Me: "Help me, Teen Girl!" vs "Help me, Self-styled Leader of the Singapore Blogosphere!"
brown: Able to morph into any outfit
brown: SSLSB!
brown: that's me
brown: Blogger Maaaaaan!
Me: Yah, damn acronym.
Me: Truly Singaporean.
brown: ya
brown: Operating from an HDB underground bomb shelter
brown: something like bat cave
brown: but must vacate within 4 hours
Me: Ha ha ha ha ha.
brown: if the gahmen needs to use it
brown: My Blog Mobile no need COE
Me: Terz asks if you are gaming with them, SSLSB. Have you gotten holy permission?
brown: er the Popepess nair say
Me: Popess lah.
Me: Spell wrongly.
brown: orh
Me: Oh, that is my other superpower: Grammar Queen!
brown: Yeah
brown: Teen Girl and Grammar Queen
Me: Two-in-one superheroines.
brown: keeping the world safe from Fashion and Language Faux Pas
Me: Heroine.
Me: Eh, that is a good line! ...
Anyone feel inspired to design our superhero costumes?


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Without fail

The moment it starts to rain hard, internet access at work drops to a woeful snail's pace and I have to refresh practically every window I was previously working in.

Of course, in the old job, it used to be that a good thunderstorm could stall even the accessing of locally hosted email --- which meant that a good thunderstorm was also a golden opportunity to take a short breather from work, till the server caught up with things.


And then there were two

Remember the curse of the pilsener glasses?

I broke another glass tonight. So now we have only two left --- exactly one for Terz and one for me.

Terz used to use this huge Coca-Cola glass, but I broke that too, a couple of months ago. (Profuse apologies were given and received, as well as a pledge to keep an eye out for a replacement glass any time I pass one of those pop culture paraphernalia stores.)

My mother would be so ashamed of me.




Made for blogging

The new camera is all set up, battery charged and ready to go. It has an amazing caboodle of functions, and I'm tickled pink that I managed to figure out how to use most of them, and then remember how to navigate to the appropriate function, within an hour of RTFMing and taking experimental pictures of things about the apartment.

Then I tried to think about what I wanted to take pictures of, for the blog, but wouldn't you know it: now that I have a damn camera --- and a damn good one, I might add --- I couldn't think of anything I wanted to take a picture of right now. I could line up all the shoes I own, like Kay did for the shoe meme, but I didn't want to frighten people, either.

So I settled for the next best thing:

Originally uploaded by Tym.

The pretty nail polish was courtesy of Little Miss Drinkalot's establishment. The varicose veins are courtesy of wearing heels to work. And the funny-shaped little toes are, according to Terz, courtesy of some of the cover-up shoes I wear that don't fit me quite right.

Speaking of the boy:

line of sight
Line of sight
Originally uploaded by Tym.

That's the line of sight from where I'm parked on the floor tonight, blogging and IMing and generally procrastinating on examination marking.

Ye olde Protestant guilt is kicking in. I'm off to go mark a few examination scripts before bed ...


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Buffy DVD alert!

Those of you that don't give a damn about Buffy can stop reading here, but as a loosely Buffy-themed blog that I know is read by more than a handful of Buffy fans, I feel it is incumbent on me to point out that the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series will soon be available in one box set for the not-as-grand-as-I'd-feared price of US$130 (that's Amazon's price, anyway).

Just in time for Xmas.

While Packrat's howl of agony was palpable even over SMS, because he's already invested in every season except the last, I admit I feel somewhat vindicated that I dithered over purchasing seasons 4-7 (purchasing seasons 1-3 was a no-brainer, since they were by far the strongest of the entire series).

Now the question is, will they do something similar for Alias ...


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Terz bought me a Contax!!!



Funny boy. He asked me a few days ago if I wanted one because Harvey Norman was clearing them out. I declined, on the grounds that, er, I'm not a very visual person. Besides, my next cellphone will probably have a built-in camera.

So instead, the wily boy deputizes wahj to swing by Harvey Norman and purchase one for me anyway.


--- In the process of which, wahj takes it into his head to get his wife one and tagger-along BoKo bought himself one. In one fell swoop, the entire stock of Contax cameras at the Harvey Norman outlet at Funan Centre was reduced from four to one; the last one left is the display piece.

There would be a photo of the new camera here, except that the battery's still being charged for the first time er, what I meant to say, instead of betraying what a true ditz I am, is that there's no photograph because Terz's camera isn't around to take a picture of mine --- nothing to do with mine having its battery charged (duh). More to come later. Let the photoblogging begin!


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Top of the weekend to ya

I am having my first ever cup of decaf instant coffee. It's not as bad as I feared. The fact that Wes served it to me in a pretty-in-its-simplicity white cup and saucer, with a piece of Almond Roca on the side, makes Saturday morning blogrolling just that much more satisfying.

Where not to eat in Singapore: Happy Pay Steamboat

I've never been there, but Packrat pithily sums up why we shouldn't bother: "When was the last time that you went to a steamboat place and was [sic] forced to pay for the soup?!"

As an antidote to the above, here's my nutshell review of a viable steamboat alternative in that same neighbourhood: Last night we ate at the Hainanese place on the ground floor of 7th Storey Hotel, just across the grass from (un)Happy Pay. Our steamboat dinner came to $20 per head for a group of 10, including drinks, a bit of Tiger beer, extra side dishes like Hainanese chicken, Hainanese pork chops and ngoh hiang, and the authenticity of having steamboat heated not by the usual portable gas cooker but by charcoal. Now that's old school.


Related entry: Where not to eat in Singapore: Cafe Cartel

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Happy mooncake season!

I may be coming late to the party on this one, but has the Mid-Autumn Festival always been this widely celebrated in Singapore? I've never had so many mooncakes before. Usually, Terz's mom gets us some from Malaysia, which she did again this year. But that aside, I've been regularly offered mooncakes by friends and colleagues, seen mooncakes on sale everywhere, and even taken another step in the process of growing up by buying mooncakes for my mother, rather than waiting for her to take care of it. Oh, and we have a mooncake party to go to tomorrow night (though I suspect that one will lean more towards the "party" than the "mooncake" side of things.)

It's like Chinese New Year all over again, with a little bit of Xmas spirit thrown in, in that people are giving mooncakes to each other with the same strange mixture of social obligation and genuine generosity with which they tend to exchange Xmas gifts. I've found myself mentally scrolling through all the people I know but don't see as often, wondering if this might not be a timely opportunity to send them a box of mooncakes by way of thank-you or hello.

Of course, right after that, I ponder whether my sickly bank account will survive if I sneak out a little money for another box of those divinely addictive champagne truffle mooncakes from Raffles Hotel.

The big nostalgia moment for me was having a few of the neighbourhood kids run past last night, their lanterns bobbing with every step they took. Call me old school, but it's nice to see that they had some old-fashioned paper or cellophane lanterns with them, not just the stiff plastic ones. I don't think you can get lanterns with candles anymore, though; most varieties seem to contain a battery-operated bulb these days.

I hear that Sunday is the actual Mid -Autumn Festival day. Don't forget to kiss your lover, hang out with your family and ogle the moon.

Oh, and eat some mooncakes.

This blog post was brought to you by the sliver of green tea snowskin twist mooncake with single yolk that I just ate (from the exquisite and impeccable Hua Ting Restaurant at Orchard Hotel, if anyone's taking notes).

Edited to add (Sep 17): Other bloggers reflect on what the Mooncake Festival means to them:

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Just for fun

A sprinkling of random highlights from tonight's blogrolling:
In non-blog news, I've acquired The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Omnibus Volume 11 --- whew, what a mouthful! This volume was brought to me by a Borders book voucher, intense crossword cravings and a serendipitous pitstop at Borders this evening.

Off to play now!


cApS aLeRt

My cellphone is being wonky. Specifically, the # key, which toggles upper/lower case and the T9 dictionary for messaging, is not responding. This means that all SMSes sent henceforth may be improperly punctuated, except for the automatic capitalization of the first letter of each new sentence.

I cannot tell you how much this bothers me at a visceral level. I flinched when I had to send a message to Terz tonight with "Darren" spelled in lower case. Trickier yet will be abbreviations that ought to be in upper case to distinguish them from their lower case counterparts, e.g. "IT" vs. "it". I may actually have to go old-school on this point and punch it in as "I.T.", so that the intervening full-stops prompt the T9 dictionary to capitalize the subsequent alphabetletter.

All told, the cellphone's served me well since December 2003, particularly if you consider the fact that I dropped it into the toilet some time ago. I'll try to hold out as long as I can on getting a new one, since the bank account is highly displeased with me after last month's excesses (too many cab rides did it in, methinks).


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____. Take. Have.

I am really, really craving a good crossword puzzle right now. I firmly blame this on Little Miss Drinkalot's Sudoku obsession. If I recall correctly, the back of her Sudoku book described it as "a crossword puzzle without letters" --- which got me thinking about how long it's been since I did a good crossword... I suspect it was during the flights on last year's vacation.

I have no interest in Sudoku, at least, not at the moment. I like words, and meaning, and word play. It's not about hammering an assortment of alphabets letters into a black-and-white checkerboard; it's about marvelling at the connect/disconnect, and teasing your brain to make sense where, really, there oughn't to be any.

And now I want a crossword very badly --- in particular, a big ol' Sunday crossword --- and all the sites that used to be free are either charging money for their good crosswords (the New York Times) or their archive sites are mysteriously not responding (the LA Times). So I had to bring myself to register for access to the Washington Post, whose crosswords I've never done before but which I expect should be on par with the other two publications', and get myself a couple of printouts.

That's the thing about me and crosswords. Terz does the Yahoo! ones online, but I like pencilling (or rather 'penning') them in. Yes, even though I'm not actually very good at crosswords and constantly make mistakes, I still like using ink and making a big old mess of the grid.

I got a Borders book voucher for Teachers' Day a couple of weeks ago. I think I shall spend mine on a crossword puzzle book.


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The personal is political

When I attended the Singapore Writers' Festival panel on building online communities last weekend, I remember being annoyed at the extent to which questions from the audience focused on whether bloggers were looking over their shoulders to see if the government was watching, whether some blogs might be considered political websites and therefore required to register with the government, how much responsibility bloggers should take for what they publish on the internet, and how much blogging was a true expression of free speech in Singapore.

My gut reaction was: Get over it, people! Stop secondguessing whether the government is going to approve or, rather, disapprove of what you have to say, and get out there and say it! Yes, there is the attendant responsibility, but "with great power comes great responsibility" (brown, you had to say it, didn't you?). Stop asking for permission and/or approbation!

See, the thing is, everything is political. Blog about your job and whether you're being suitably compensated for it? That's a raw comment on the wage and welfare system right there. Got a beef with gender issues (regardless of which gender you are)? That could be grounds for a reexamination of how men and women are treated under the law, in principle or otherwise. Pondering why your kid has so much homework and why you can't understand half of what's in his textbooks? Maybe it's time for a closer look at the education policies that put the textbook in his hand and the teachers in his classroom. Even if all you're interested in is the price of your morning coffee and kaya toast, that's enough for a primer on issues ranging from global politicisation of agriculture to how much it costs to rent an HDB coffeeshop and why.

Everything is political, not just what the government does to us, in its creation of the space in which we live, but also what we do to others. I choose to buy a Tungsten E2 instead of backsliding to use a hardcopy diary --- that has political implications on how technology is and will be used, and for that matter, on how much paper our world consumes. I fall in love with Firefly and start talkin' like it's all that matters --- that has implications on the promulgation of certain cultural and aesthetic qualities, including values that may not sit well in the current political climate (The noble captain harbours fugitives from the all-knowing, all-goodly Alliance? Tut tut, we can't have that in our neat and tidy society.) I'm a married university graduate who doesn't have any children --- you bet your ass that has political implications in this town.

Embrace the political, if you are a citizen who's going to be engaged and involved in this society. And remember: the political is not the seditious.
3. ---(1) A seditious tendency is a tendency ---

(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;
(b) to excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency ---

(a) to show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures;
(b) to point out errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects;
(c) to persuade the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Singapore; or
(d) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore,

if such act, speech, words, publication or other thing has not otherwise in fact a seditious tendency.
from the Sedition Act
What isn't seditious? Subsection 2(a) would seem to exempt any opinions that "show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures" --- I believe that's what the whole casino debate was about.

What is seditious? Ay, there's the rub. As I commented over at My Very Own Glob earlier today:
Am I the only one who, after reading and rereading the Act, still doesn’t really get what a "seditious tendency" is? If it's anything that raises discontent or disaffection among citizens, or promotes feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes, how does that differ from any number of casual remarks made by a person --- whether it's Joe HDB or an esteemed Minister --- in the course of a given day?
Pop quiz: Are the following examples of an "act, speech, words, publication or other thing" with a seditious tendency?
  • Someone decides to increase public transport fares. People who earn less money (i.e. in a different class) feel ill-will towards the government.
  • Someone brings a dog to a coffeeshop which has Muslim stalls and Muslim customers. Muslims feel ill-will towards the non-Muslim dog owner.
  • Society has a grand debate about whether to allow casinos in Singapore. Despite protests from a vocal group of citizens, the decision to build the casinos goes ahead. The vocal group in society feels discontented.
Oh, damn. By posing these questions, am I guilty of sedition?

If anyone can enlighten me, I would be very, very happy, and also feel more knowledgeable --- if not necessarily comfortable --- about my rights as a citizen.

(Oh, don't snicker. I wrote that with a straight face and no sarcasm whatsoever.)

You see, without knowing where I stand as a citizen, I really wouldn't dare dream of discussing subsections 1(a)-(c). And all those people that we hear about --- secondhand, no, thirdhand info, really, or actually, it's urban legend --- we heard that these people say things like, "I hate the government!" and "The judge doesn't know what s/he is doing!" These people clearly should be removed. (Whew, exempted myself by dint of subsection 2(a) --- or so I hope.)

Fuck that. See how lame that paragraph was?

Be personal, be political, certainly be responsible, and pray very hard that no one finds you seditious. Be aware that you can't just say anything, but don't let it stop you from saying the things that need to be said. Be a good citizen. Be engaged. Love your country.

Don't scared.


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Onward ho!

The title of the previous blog post sounded rather ho-hum, so I thought this one should at least benefit from the energy of an exclamation mark.

The new PDA is up and running. I had to beam information over from the Clie, which got a little tedious with the datebook entries, so I've only updated datebook entries from today onwards. Depending on how much free time I have this week, I'll see how much old datebook information I want to bring over. After all, you never know when an officer of the law will ask you where you were at such-and-such-a-time on such-and-such-a-date, and with my Swiss cheese memory, it's only with the help of my PDA that I could contrive the semblance of an honest answer.

For the record, this is my fourth PDA. The genealogy runs as follows: Palm Pilot ---> Palm Vx ---> Sony Clie T665 ---> Palm Tungsten E2. I can no longer live with out a 'find' or 'repeat' function.

The other thing I bought today --- totally unrelated to the PDA --- is a new backpack. Hauling the iBook around in a sturdy messenger bag got wearying on one shoulder. I felt very much like a kid hunting for school supplies as I zipped and unzipped my way through a number of bags at sports and outdoors shops this past week, except that now I had the added consultative power of Terz, Packrat and wahj. As I told wahj over SMS a couple of days ago, I was looking for the grad-student-with-style urban-warrior-goddess look. On hindsight, I'm not sure what that is (I suspect the co-opting of 'warrior goddess' into my vocabulary might also be blamed on too much Firefly), but my new purple backpack with oodles of side pockets makes me very happy indeed.

On that note, I need to stop gushing about consumerist experiences and/or Firefly and go to bed, for tomorrow is the first day of the last school term of the year.



Moving on

Ain't nothin' like having a colleague drop his PDA in Zouk and immediately losin' all his information --- and he didn't get round to backing it up on his laptop in near six months! --- done made me high-tail it to Funan Centre and immediately procure me a new PDA.

Wow, I am watching too much Firefly. Back to English.

While my current PDA (a Sony Clie T665 in a very nice bright orange) is still serving me well, the battery's near the end of its lifespan and a full charge lasts barely two days, even with my brand of minimal usage: calendaring, keeping track of daily expenses, checking phone numbers and occasionally updating address book data, editing a memo or two or using the calculator. Far more disturbing is the fact that the hold button is either loose or faulty, because there have been too many occasions when I flick the device on, only to find that the battery's somehow drained itself dry and I have to rush the Clie back home to recharge it before all the information is lost.

Of course, losing information wouldn't be such a critical fear if I backed it up regularly, which I used to do when I was using a PC. Since I switched to the iBook, though, here lies the conundrum: Palm no longer has desktop software that's compatible with my two-year-old Clie, and the software that came packaged with the Clie was for the Windows platform only. And my old PC died within a month after I acquired the iBook, so I couldn't've used it purely as a backup device, even if I'd wanted to.

Needless to say, for the last six months or more, I've been taking extremely good care of my Clie since I have no way of backing up its data. Other interim measures: charging the Clie every other day, manually entering some address book entries from the Clie into the iBook, and keeping an eye on the local Palm website for new products and deals.

Ultimately, it took the little calamity at Zouk to move me to action. No point dwelling on the fact that I'd just missed all the deals that were fit to offer at Comex. I marched right down to Funan Centre today and picked up a Tungsten E2, bundled with a case, screen protector and 256MB SD card.

Everyone should shop at Edpol Systems (#04-23) because the guy running the store is friendly, helpful, chatty and totally doesn't pressure a customer into buying anything. He's also honed the application of a screen protector down to a fine art and helpfully made me a copy of Palm Desktop software for the Mac because that (still) doesn't come prepackaged with the PDA. He even told me to bring my Clie in with the new E2 if I have any trouble transferring the data over, and said he'd take care of it. Of course, the paranoid corner of my brain immediately retorted, "A-ha! But he might copy your data and use it for all sorts of foul deeds, and next thing you know, you'll be hauled up for crimes you did not commit!" But I think that's just the science fiction talking.

Speaking of transferring data, it's been about the requisite three hours since the E2 started charging, so it should be fully charged now and ready for action. Here goes...


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Gorram it, it took a fricking Josh Whedon TV series to make Chinese sound cool. I have never listened so closely to the dialogue on a TV series to figure out if the characters were saying 混蛋 ('bastard') or 王八蛋 (another variation of 'bastard'), and feeling positively tickled with myself when I identified a 管你自己的事 ('mind your own business').

But trying to decipher the actors' crazy Chinese pronunciation --- they'd never spoken Chinese before they joined the show --- is just half the fun. Mispronunciations or not, cussing in Chinese never sounded so good as when it's at home with American-accented English. Our local TV network needs to import this show stat, so that all the kids who appreciate fiction that rises above meaningless melodrama will also be subliminally motivated to work harder at their Chinese. Just look at me: watching Firefly made me wonder how the title would be rendered in Chinese, and now I know, thanks to Terz, and will forever remember, that it as 飞火虫. I'm not sure if it's the official Chinese translation for the TV series title, but it sounds cute, don't it?

Also, everyone needs to go see Serenity (宁静) when it opens in Singapore --- and I'm hoping that ain't too long after it done open in the US on September 30. Shiny!


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Only in Singapore

Only in Singapore are two units of the anti-riot police dispatched to the scene to ensure that curious onlookers do not disrupt ongoing police investigations at a downtown crime scene.
Woman's head, limbs found in bag near Orchard MRT station
By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : A woman's severed head and limbs were found next to Orchard MRT Station on Friday.

The victim's torso is still missing but police have discovered a black canvas bag in a carpark off Lornie Road near MacRitchie Reservoir.

It is not yet known if the contents are related to the case.

The body parts were stashed in a blue sports bag on the grounds near Orchard MRT Station.

The woman's head was wrapped in a red plastic bag, the arms and legs in two black trash bags.

A cleaner found the unattended sports bag behind the MRT station, between the mosaic wall and the park.

ASP Siow Cheng Cheng, Police Spokesman, said: "Police immediately cordoned off the surrounding area and conducted a search. We are presently working towards establishing the identity of the victim. The search for further remains and evidence is on-going."

The gruesome find drew a large crowd of on-lookers.

Two anti-riot police units were called in to ensure CID officers could carry out their work.

After five hours of investigations, the victim's head and limbs were removed.

One youth said: "The fact that there is a dead body on Orchard Road really freaks me out because I pass here every day to go to the cinema or go to eat."

One woman said: "It reminds us of the Huang Na incident and the previous Chinese girl incident."

This is the second body parts case in less than three months - a grim reminder of the June 16 case where the body parts of Chinese national Liu Hong Mei were found in the Kallang River.
Of course, this is also the country where last month, "40 police officers with 10 or 12 in riot gear" were dispatched to contend with four unarmed, peaceful protestors from the Singapore Democratic Party at a downtown quasi-government building. (See Singabloodypore for more information, if you didn't know about that incident already.)

The anti-riot police units are getting quite a workout this year.


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September vacation update

This isn't a vacation vacation like the last time, but a break-from-school vacation.

No. of exam scripts I want to finish grading by Monday, 12 September: 4 classes' worth.
No. of exam scripts I've finished as of right now: 1½ (ack!).

No. of leads I'd planned to follow up on after 1 September: 3.
No. of leads I've followed up on as of right now: 4 (yay me!).

Amount of money I'd planned to spend this week before payday (Monday, 12 September): Not that much, so I could offset the cost of the real vacation.
Amount of money I've spent this week as of right now: Oh boy. Let's just say that there is going to be no offsetting of the vacation, and it's possible that savings may be dipped into to offset the regular monthly expenditure.

No. of mornings I wanted to sleep in: All 9 of them, of course!
No. of mornings I've managed to sleep in: 4 out of 6 so far ain't bad, I s'pose.

No. of pimples I'd planned to cultivate: Zero, duh.
No. of pimples I have right now: Only one, but it's right in the middle of my face!




Po-mo partying

It's wildly appropriate that after spending the afternoon surveying cultural theories of mass culture (as Packrat put it, it feels as if someone took a crowbar to his head), I am off to partake in an evening of consumerist, commodified, co-opted nostalgia-remixed-as-novelty at Zouk's weekly Mambo Night. There will be teenagers (born in the '80s), bopping to music from the '80s (that's in turn a cover of something from the '50s), wearing clothes that were also fashionable in the '70s. There will be a good bit of preening and posturing, where being seen at the venue means more than the venue itself. There will be drinks (produced by the Establishment) and music (manufactured by the Establishment) for all the anti-Establishment rebels partying on a weeknight.

All that's missing, really, is a healthy dose of irony --- which is what I'll be there for. Let the fun and games begin.


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Saturated, soggy

It started raining as we arrived at the coffeeshop downstairs for lunch. By the time we were done eating, half an hour later, the winds were whipping madly through the neighbourhood, rattling the awning over the al fresco seating area of the coffeeshop and scattering bits of stray litter and ashes from yesterday's Seventh Moon burning of offerings. Customers exclaimed, stallholders cursed as untethered items went flying; something crashed loudly off a shelf.

I wonder if this was what it was like, just before the hurricane first hit ground at Louisiana.

One side-effect of deliberately not reading or watching the news, is not knowing about big things that happen. It wasn't till I saw my brother's entry yesterday that I got to digging at websites to find out what the hell was going on.

Hell, indeed.

Some points to ponder:
  • Christastrophe's "The situation as it stands":
    It would be one thing if the reaction were coordinated and if there had not been budgetary cuts to these programs. Then we should hang our heads and say, "What can we do in the face of the power of nature? We have done ALL THAT WE COULD DO. But that's not the case.
  • Cherie Priest's "Disjointed thoughts on the socio-economics of disaster":
    They stayed because they could not run, and now they might die because they cannot swim.
  • John Scalzi's "Being Poor":
    Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.
  • Rogue Slayer Law Student's "The Presidential Tour":
    Speak true, Mr. President. Drop the spin and we might start believing you.
  • Salon's "The culture war over Katrina" (subscription or clicking through ads may be required):
    Right-wingers point to blacks looting and see a Hobbesian war of all against all. Liberals see a failure of civilization to help the poorest among us.
  • Edited to add (Sep 5): IZ Reloaded's "Katrina survivor speaks", an interview with his friend, who was on holiday in New Orleans when the hurricane hit:
    We come to the Superdome to seek refuge but all we get is hell.
  • Edited to add (Sep 8): Alternet Blogs has an extremely informative interactive timeline on the buildup to the tragedy.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light is also chock-full of information (which is where I found the link to Cherie Priest's piece).

Read. Learn. Be grateful. And help.


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I would like to think that I'm not a fascist

But when you are a mother of two,

Who allows her two children (aged approximately six and four),

To run willy-nilly up and down a public bus that is in motion and subject to the vagaries of rush-hour traffic,

Even when there are two other adult relatives present to help you keep your monster kids in order,

Not to mention a polite bus driver who doesn't tell you off at first opportunity, but in fact waits till your boisterous four-year-old poses an actual threat to his own safety and that of other passengers by clambering all over little nooks and corners at the front of the bus that were not designed as an ersatz jungle gym, and then the bus driver tells you off twice within a fifteen-minute interval, to which you only make the lame and insincere response, "Sorry for the inconvenience (不好意思)" and do not, in fact, restrain your out-of-control child from further endangering himself, the bus or the other passengers,

Then you are a moron who clearly should not be allowed to reproduce,

And I should not have to stifle the instinctive urge to trip your children as they flutter up and down the aisles, or to club them on the head with my umbrella,

And I should not be mired in a bad mood because the tomfoolery of rush-hour traffic exacerbated by unseasonal monsoon-esque rains means that we are all trapped on the bus together for longer than we ought to be.

But life is unfair. The children continued to run free through the bus, their mother continued to act (or perhaps she truly was, frightening thought) oblivious, I continued to glower at them. Perhaps I should have spoken up, but with my mediocre Mandarin --- and it was clear from the bus driver's exchange with her that the family was only Mandarin-speaking --- I'm not sure I could've said anything besides, "Tell your children to stop playing here! This is not a --- " But even then, language fails me and I can't muster the translation for "playground".

So I sat, and stewed, and rehearsed my testimony should an accident befall the bus and I be called upon to testify that the bus driver took utmost care in conveying us to our destination, including warning the mother of the children of their inappropriate and dangerous behaviour, and that any harm that accrued to them was completely the fault of the indulgent and irresponsible mother.

Again I say: people like that are allowed to reproduce?

Fortunately, an hour of Pilates and several glasses of white wine afterwards dispelled the bad mood. Perhaps that is the secret to coming to terms with living in a (relatively) free society.

(I am not a fascist. But I loathe situations that tempt me to the Dark Side.)


Teachers' Day, redux

Nothing reminds you about the relentless penetration of new technology than receiving more Teachers' Day greetings via SMS than in person or handwritten missives, as was the abolute norm four years ago. Even more interesting was that I received numerous Teachers' Day greetings from non-students, including mother, aunts, friends and vendors. Has the holiday so penetrated the wider market that it's become, like Mother's or Father's Days, an occasion for automatic salutations-of-the-day to anyone you know who happens to fall into the category of what the Day is for?

Then I learned from First Aunt that her granddaughter's preschool instructed all the children to bring gifts for their teachers for Teachers' Day. Somewhere between my jaw dropping open in a rictus of astonishment and then freeing itself to yammer any number of outraged protestations, I remembered what Keat commented over at Top of Mind about "tacky plastic ornamental doodads" labelled for sale as Teachers' Day presents and decided that, clearly, the end is nigh because even Teachers' Day --- I mean, think about it, doesn't it sound vaguely Confucian-socialist, something no other developed nation would celebrate as a school holiday? --- has succumbed to the scourge of commercialisation.

tscd asked me in my previous post what my students gave me this year. To be honest, in composing that post, I was torn between publishing an inventory of loot and ignoring the situation altogether --- the former seemed tastelessly narcissistic while the latter might smell vaguely of premeditated false humility. Then, of course, there was the consideration that I didn't actually collect very much loot this year, so a short list could then leave the bitter aftertaste of the blatant clamouring for extravagant displays of affection or, conversely, the self-pitying blubbering of an inadequate mind clearly unsuited to the travails of teaching. And unlike trisha, I don't have the dignified modesty to reflect, "There's something worse than not getting any gift, it is getting something you don't think you deserve."

I have too many thoughts, I know.

Okay, here's the list, to satisfy curious readers. In publishing it, I hereby declare that I am not fishing for more pressies, I certainly don't need or want more stuff, and I'm certainly not trying to guilt anyone into wishing me happy T-day either. If you've said it, thanks! If you haven't, no hard feelings! Let's all get on with our lives already!

This year's loot from students:
  • Two handwritten thank-you notes, both of which referenced my abhorrence of the adjectives "unique" and "unusual" in describing literary style --- hurrah for students who paid attention last week!
  • A block of homemade cake that now sits in the fridge (too full from today's buffet to break into it yet).
  • A poem (not written for me, but written by the student).
  • Various SMSes received since Tuesday evening.
Thank you all.

What happens when two teachers and my grammatically strict mother go shopping? We talk about all the words that get mispronounced and mangled in Singapore. Pop quiz:
  • How do you pronounce "their"?
  • How do you pronounce the letter "H"?
  • How do you pronounce "student"?
  • How do you pronounce "resources"?
  • How do you pronounce "mood" (not a trick question)?
  • How do you pronounce "patronage"?
  • "their" --- it's "there", not "they're".
  • the letter "H" --- it's "aitch", not "haitch".
  • "student" --- it's "STEW-dent", not "STU-dent".
  • "resources" --- try "re-ZAW-ces", not "re-SAW-ces".
  • "mood" --- it's "mood", not "mode".
  • "patronage" --- if you're British, it's "PAIR-tronage"; if you're American, it's "PAY-tronage"; either way, the last syllable should take a "niche" sound, i.e. "PAIR-tron-niche", not "PAIR-tron-nayge" (if you're British).
Thus endeth the lesson.

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Teachers' Day

At some point after dawn, Terz turns to me and goes, "Don't you have to get up for school?" To which I happily (yes, even in my sleepiness) reply, "No, it's Teachers' Day." And then we go right back to sleep again.

At 9:45 am, I got up. A short while later, over blogs and email, we had champagne truffle mooncakes. Absolutely divine, absolutely decadent.

While the mooncakes were not a gift from my students, this is an appropriate moment to point out that the best gifts you can give your teacher are a personalised message --- be it in the form of an SMS, card, handwritten note or email --- and edible goods. Forget the stuffed toys, mugs, doodads and knick-knacks; don't wrack your head over what your teacher would like unless you know his/her taste well (e.g. the class that got me nothing but Buffy and Powerpuff Girls swag a few years ago scored rather highly in that respect). We don't need stuff, but a sincere thank-you is always welcome and, oh, if you insist, a little tasty treat won't be out of place either.

And speaking of tasty treats, I'm now off to lunch, since my grandfather's birthday is also 1 September and there will be some buffet delights in his honour.


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