My very first political rally

And so it was, that at the ripe old age of 32, despite not having the opportunity to vote in this general election, I attended my first political rally tonight. And an Opposition (as characterized in popular discourse, though all that means is that they're not the dominant party) political rally at that. More precisely: the Workers' Party rally at Hougang Central.

Because it was my very first political rally, I didn't have all the survival tips down pat. I knew from Yawning Bread's accounts of two recent rallies that the setup would likely be spartan and no-frills, i.e. bare grass patch, potentially muddy in the event of rain, packed with enthusiastic supporters. So BoKo and I were prepared to sweat it out if the crowd got too tight and armed with an umbrella if the weather turned.

What I didn't know was that it would be smart, if one were planning to listen to the entire rally, to bring one's own chairs and refreshments.

Don't forget to bring your own chairs

Ever the enterprising

No wonder the vendors selling cold drinks, ice creams, fried fish balls and other snacks seemed to be doing a decent business even before the rally began.

I didn't really have any expectations about what a rally would be like. I supposed there would be loud cheering from supporters (check), loud exhortations from candidates (check) and silent stares from the policemen on duty (check).

What I didn't expect was the variety of languages that the candidates took turns to speak in (English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Tamil) and the rousing response to the speeches made in Hokkien and Mandarin. I have never felt like more of a monolingual minority: even though I could grasp the odd thread of what was spoken in Mandarin, I had to keep turning to BoKo for a more thorough translation. And I certainly didn't get any of the Hokkien slang or jokes that were keeping the crowd engaged.

The other thing I didn't expect was the size of the crowd --- oh lord, the crowd. It was already decent-sized at 7 pm when we got there --- 4,000 or 5,000, we estimated --- but it swelled to fill almost the entire field (hemmed in by Hougang Central, Hougang Avenue 4 and Upper Serangoon Road, Jalan Naung and block 837). Our layman estimates: 10,000-20,000, all told. And they stayed, standing, even though most of them were unable to see the speakers and could only hear their speeches through the PA system, until the very last speech wrapped dutifully, in accordance with police regulations, at about 10 pm.

Who's on first?

(Some of) the crowd at 7:30 pm

(Some of) the crowd at 9:45 pm

(In the middle image, you'll see the stage where the Workers' Party candidates spoke from, completely exposed to the elements, as opposed to the covered stage setup where the police could videotape the proceedings and the crowd, high and dry no matter the weather.)

What did they speak about? Healthcare costs, predominantly (which I thought was a bold choice since it's a highly unsexy political issue), but also foreign talent, flat upgrading programmes and municipal issues like Deepavali celebrations and attempts by the People's Action Party to woo constituencies controlled by the Opposition, like Hougang, back to its fold. (Apparently, the People's Action Party offers Hougang residents free breakfast, coffee and two slices of bread, every Friday. Bread and butter issues, huh?)

But I think the money quote came from Workers' Party candidate Perry Tong when he pointed out that his party's manifesto spent four pages and 800 words dealing with healthcare issues and outlining specific policies, while the People's Action Party's manifesto had just forty sixty words to say about it. I haven't yet compared the manifestos to verify this, but that's on my to-do list for tomorrow for sure.

So that was my first rally: Huge crowds, fervent (though not quite roaring) support for the party. Old men who look like they might've attended their first political rally back in the '50s, standing alongside families with fidgeting teenaged children, standing alongside couples younger than me who have yet to start a family, standing alongside even younger people who are probably just old enough to vote this time around. Surprisingly few smokers, for a crowd this size. Residents watching and listening from the adjacent apartment buildings, the staircase landing on every floor dotted with their silhouettes. Young people carrying a "We love Sylvia" placard, that when flipped around read, "We love life, we love freedom".

I can't wait for the next one.

Whether or not you get to vote, whether or not you make it to a rally in the next week, find out a little more about what's what this election. All the political parties have published their manifestos on the web: the People's Action Party (PDF), the Singapore Democratic Alliance, the Singapore Democratic Party and the Workers' Party (links via a gecko's tale).

Read. Think. Question. Debate. And --- if you get to --- vote.

Parallel accounts:

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Do you get to vote?

Which constituency is this again?

I don't. Yeah, I'm still pissed about that.

But I'm smiling, at least on the inside, that 1.2 million (1,222,884, to be precise) Singaporeans, or 56.65% of electors, will --- which is a darned sight more than the 675,306 or 33.15% that got to vote in the last General Elections in 2001. (Numbers crunched based on data available at the Elections Department website.)

If you are one of those 1.2 million who get to exercise your vote, please do the very least and find out a little about whoever's running in your constituency, and make an informed choice come Polling Day (6 May or next Saturday, if you missed the memo on that).

And read the instructions on your voting form so that you don't accidentally spoil your vote.

And don't you dare complain that you have to vote or that you have to do elections duty if you're an elections officer. Take responsibility for the kind of society that you want Singapore to be and do right by it. The remaining 935,820 of us in uncontested constituencies are watching you, enviously.


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Where life takes us

Every meal should end like this

Some days, having lunch with an old friend means that in the afternoon, you spend the spare part of your brain thinking about all the other old friends you've fallen out of touch with, and because this is the internet age, you end up Googling those of them that have names unusual enough that you won't end up with thousands of results.

So it turns out that the very cute boy from senior year who didn't go to my college just might be some kind of diving slash spearfishing extraordinaire, with a concomitant interest in preserving the environment he enjoys diving in.

And that the even cuter friend of mine that he was interested in is now a high school counsellor in her hometown.

And that my superheroine roommate, also from senior year, is now director of development at a nonprofit healthcare organisation focused on the Hispanic-American community in the city she grew up in and still lives in. Which is more or less exactly where I would expect her to be.

And that the Primary Six classmate who always said outrageous "liberal" things that we chalked up to her American mother is now an artist working in various media in the US and being exhibited in all the big cities.

And that the classmate I had a crush on in primary school might have been dealing drugs some years ago.

On that note, I'm going to stop Googling now.


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Reader Request Week: Food, food and more (about) food

TaLieSin and Chandler want me to write something on good food places in Singapore, while limegreenspyda suggests I write about my favourite food. As if I didn't have enough trouble picking my favourite place in the world.

Actually, I do have a favourite Singapore food: char siew wanton mee. Easy-peasy! But rather than write about that alone, here's a list of my personal favourite places for all kinds of local (and some not-so-local) food.

Chicken rice --- Margaret Drive hawker centre, second floor.
I don't know the name of this stall, but the second floor of this once thriving hawker centre's now practically vacant, so just look for the only stall that looks busy. It's a white chicken rice place; you'lll have to look elsewhere for your roasted chicken variety. I prefer white, anyway, especially when it's unabashedly oily and just a touch bloody like they make it here. I've been eating at this place since I was a kid and I doubt the hawker centre building will be upgraded anytime soon, so there's a decent nostalgia factor too.

Char siew wanton mee --- Alex's along Beach Road, opposite Shaw Tower.
A recent discovery (last year), courtesy of Terz. The char siew (roast pork) is actually a little fattier than one should consume on a regular basis, but what I really like area the noodles. A lot of places serve mediocre noodles --- not the right thickness or consistency or elasticity or flavour. This place has good noodles and good chilli sauce and fatty meat and juicy wantons. It all comes together.

Popiah --- No favourite place, and I'll tell you why.
I enjoy popiah but I'm not very discriminating when it comes to popiah. As long as it's got the canonical ingredients and the stallholder doesn't try to stiff me for more than $1.50 per roll, I'm pretty much sold. Nevertheless, among the decent places that I've sampled are the stall at East Coast Park lagoon hawker centre (along the same row as the "famous" char siew mee that I don't find particularly satisfying) and a stall at Bedok North hawker centre.

Beef hor fun (wet style) --- the coffeeshop with white tiles along Keong Saik Road, opposite the nasi padang place.
Nice thick gravy that isn't too soupy, and tender beef slices. Most importantly, they serve it with the right kind of chilli slices (red, not green). The place also seems to do a roaring cze char business at night.

Beef kway teow soup --- #01-33 East Coast Park Lagoon hawker centre.
Rich, fragrant, flavourful. The only problem is the long queues generated by the fact that the old man who runs the stall makes each bowl of noodles not only individually but at a very leisurely pace.

Yong tau foo --- this place on Syed Alwi Road. Yeah, I'm not being very specific, but I know how to find the place if I have to.
This isn't the deep-fried Ampang variety, which I'm not crazy about, but the healthier and, in my opinion, tastier option. Besides the grand variety of items you can pick and choose from, what's really excellent here is the chilli sauce with bits of dried chilli in oil. I'd eat everything with this chilli sauce if it didn't so readily set my tongue on fire.

Claypot rice --- Chinatown Complex, at the stall run by an old couple to the left of the top of the escalator.
No one really makes claypot rice like my mom, but if I'm out and about and craving some, this is a good place. The price ($5) is slightly higher than average, but it comes with good sauce and a healthy portion of chicken and lap cheong (Chinese sausage).

Chicken or mutton murtabak --- Zam Zam restaurant along North Bridge Road, opposite Sultan Mosque.
Another preference inherited from my parents. The trick, really, is to get the flour layers chewy but not in that been-sitting-on-a-plate-all-day way, and not to overwhelm the meat's flavour with too much onion.

Claypot fish head (the Chinese kind) --- Le Wan Tian, at the corner of Telok Kurau and Changi Roads.
Details here.
Black pepper crab and sambal pomfret --- cze char place along Tyrwhitt Road, at the corner of Plumer Road, I think.
Magnificent, just magnificent. One bite and I was sold. We would bring our parents here all the time, except that such regular doses of the food probably wouldn't be too good for their cholesterol or gout levels.
Indonesian food --- Bumbu, without a doubt.
Details here and here.

Thai food --- Depending on budget: Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen (low), A-Roy Thai (middle) or Sabai (high).
It's hard to cough up plenty money for Thai food here, knowing that Bangkok is just a short budget flight away, where good street food may be had for less than the cost of a fruit juice at Sabai. Which is why I mostly eat at a cheapish place like Tuk Tuk. All three places have really good food nonetheless, though as you'd expect, it's served up with the most finesse at Sabai.

Iced lemon tea --- Epicurious, no contest.
I've said it all. On further consideration, I'd give Toast a close second, but theirs is technically a different concoction where they blend the lemon with the tea. Also zealously refreshing, though.

60-cent black coffee --- the coffeeshop at the corner of Keong Saik and Teck Lim Roads.
You can't go wrong with a cup of thick black coffee at this price, whatever time of day it is. They also serve up kaya toast with heaps of butter and my ex-colleague swears by their sliced fish hor fun, but I'm not so crazy about it.

Chwee kueh --- the popular stall at Ghim Moh market (closer to the block 21 side).
Again, it's about the consistency of the rice cake --- sticky, but not too sticky, with the right level of savouriness for the radish topping. I prefer mine without chilli sauce (yet another holdover from childhood days) and I will always associate this with breakfasts at Whampoa hawker centre in the '80s when my brother and I stayed over at my grandparents'.

Tau huey (soya bean curd) --- the stall at Dover Road market.
The Ang Mo Kio version a friend introduced me to last year was pretty good, but I think Dover Road still has the smoothest bean curd around.

Char siew baos --- Crystal Jade, the winner, hands down.
Moist on the inside, light and fluffy on the outside --- it's not as easy as it sounds.

Salad --- There are many salads available in Singapore, but I'm currently in love with Brewerkz's concoction of fresh fruit, arugula and other greens. I'd go there to eat it just for a pick-me-up. I also enjoy their burgers, though I consider my great hunt for the Good American Burger as still ongoing.

Pies (chicken, steak and mushroom, lamb, whatever) --- Big Ben's, no contest.

Ramen --- Megumi, at Siglap.
The ramen with cod in milk broth is exquisite. The one place I'll actually order ramen and try to wolf it down without waiting for the soup to cool because you just can't, can't wait to get more of it in you. The last time we were there, they also recommended brinjal stuffed with prawn in the agedashi tofu sauce, which was rather incredible.

Sashimi --- Hanabi and I can only speak for the Kings' Arcade restaurant 'cause I haven't eaten at the Odeon one.
One of the first Japanese a la carte buffet places we tried, and still my favourite. Their sashimi's always fresh and tasty. I could just sit there all day eating sashimi.

Yakitori --- Damon, at Katong.
So many choices, so many large prawns, and so many glittering bottles of sake waiting for their owners to come finish them.

Teppanyaki --- Shima, at Goodwood Park Hotel.
Too bad we can't afford to eat there more often.

For the record, other food I enjoy that I haven't quite pinned down a favourite place for yet (in alphabetical order, 'cause I'm anal retentive that way):
  • Bak kut teh
  • Buffalo wings
  • Carrot cake
  • Dim sum
  • Fishball noodles
  • Fish head curry
  • Mee siam
  • Nasi padang
  • Olua (oyster omelette)
  • Lasagna
  • Peranakan food --- we loved loved loved Yuen's along Upper East Coast Road, but a change of operators or cooks, not to mention what seemed like perpetual renovations, made me give up on it
  • Pho
  • Steak (obviously there's Gordon Grill, but with its prices, we can't afford to eat there all the time)
  • Teochew moi (porridge), ever since our favourite place at Joo Chiat was inexplicably taken over by an inferior cook
  • Xiao long bao (northern Chinese dumplings, with a squirt of oil and soup inside, different from the southern Cantonese varieties I'm more familiar with)
Suggestions welcome!

Okay, now I'm hungry.


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All walked out

After lunch, I walked from Duxton Plains Park at Kreta Ayer, up Eu Tong Sen Road, then around the side of the Ministry of Manpower, across Merchant Road to Riverside Point where I had to make a pickup, and finally back to the office at UE Square.

Looking down

Looking up

Mid-afternoon, I walked all over the National Museum at Stamford Road --- up and down, in and out, and up and down some more --- then from there over to the Cathay Building and up Handy Road to Plaza Singapura, where I procured for myself a much-needed iced lemon tea from Kentucky Fried Chicken (actual tea, actual lemon slices), before hiking over to Park Mall to pick up a bus back to the office at UE Square. It crossed my mind to walk the rest of the way back to work, perhaps pick up a path on Fort Canning and cut through the park even though it would involve some climbing up the side of the hill, but that was when the first rain droplets began to dot the pavement.

And then I was all walked out.


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On house parties

Some parties are all about home: a couple's new flat in Sengkang, with floors freshly vacuumed, the new dining table gingerly protected by a plastic sheet and mirrors so cleanly sprung from their IKEA cladding that they haven't accrued fingerprints yet. Guests bring their spouses and babies, which is really a strategy to steer the conversation away from work. And all the food's homemade, except for the cake and ice cream, so it's a bit like one of those birthday parties I attended by the dozen as a kid, with easy-to-eat (fried) beehoon, (fried) noodles, curry puffs (extremely spicy!), (fried) fishballs, (fried) chicken wings and kueh galore.

Other parties are all about making home when home is far, far away: cartons and cartons of Moosehead lager, Farmland frozen burgers on the grill beside fresh fish from Tekka market, and a homemade cake that mysteriously vanished into thin air somewhere en route from the host's kitchen to the poolside barbecue. There's stories about how much damage a racoon can do to a car, to say nothing of a morose moose or a daredevil deer, followed by legendary tales of more recent mishap --- dragonboats colliding and rowers and oars going every which way. But the million dollar question is: Can a couple be not "together" if the girl is carrying the guy's swimsuit in her handbag when they leave the party?

The thing about attending parties, though, is that I'm at the age where you always have to bring something to the party, which is fine, but sometimes you're not really sure what to bring because the host was nice and vague about it, yet you know it wouldn't be kosher to show up empty-handed. So between spending about an hour shopping for each party immediately before having to commute to various parts of Singapore for said shindigs, I was pooped by 8 pm and begged off more Moosehead so that I could crawl home and sink my aching head onto the sofa.

Perhaps I'm just getting old.


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Lana cake for lunch

The thing about eating week-old Lana cake straight out of the fridge is that even though it doesn't taste as good as when it's fresh, it's still miles and away better than the chocolate cake you'd get at most cafes in town and there's still tantalizing hints of its buttery goodness in every bite, enough to make you happily recall the taste of fresh cake and all the past experiences of eating it.


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How to beat a rebellious nose into submission

Embarrass it by going public with its recalcitrant behaviour.

Today I'm much better.


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My bloody cold slash stupid nose

At about 3 pm yesterday, my left nostril decided that it would like to enjoy a bout of congestion, never mind the havoc this would wreak on my right nostril, throat and overall wellbeing.

As of this morning, my right nostril decided it might as well join the left in full moistened glory, otherwise known as why let the other guy have all the fun?

And of course, today and tomorrow are the only days this week when I have un-rescheduleable meetings and appointments, not to mention a couple of pressing deadlines for a freelance client.

So I haven't had as much sleep as I'd've liked, and I've had to blow my nose a lot more than I'd care to. Everyone surmises the cold is due to the freaky weather we're having, which consists of typically fierce tropical heat, interrupted every afternoon by atypically low thunderclouds followed by a cloudburst or three. It's like having half a monsoon, out of season.

Whatever the cause, I would like my nose to resume regular transmission, please. Just because the local news networks are in spasms of anticipation at the fact that election day's finally been announced (May 6 if you missed the memo, though you won't know if your constituency's being contested till April 27) doesn't mean my respiratory system has to join in.


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Rules are, apparently, meant to be broken

I popped into the National Library today to use their free wireless access and found myself what looked like a comfortable nook in the basement Central Lending Library section to log in and work for an hour. Notice that I did not say a quiet nook, not because it is self-evident that a library would be quiet, but because as I was heading for my selected seat, a cellphone went off loudly and a woman in business attire at a couch across from me picked up the call. And proceeded to talk for a few minutes. While scribbling in her notebook. And possibly arranging accommodation for some business associate flying into town. You know, as if this was her place of work and she was just doing her job.

I was stunned enough to give her a glance askance, as well as a sotto voce, "Dude" (because when I'm surprised and pissed, my inner surfer comes out). No one else around us seemed to react.

In the ten minutes or so that it took me to settle down, unpack my laptop and figure out how to connect to the library's wireless network, the same woman --- who had classily kicked off her heels and sat with folded bare feet on the couch meant for public use, by the way --- had taken a couple more calls and received a few SMSes, all of which triggered by extremely loud ringtones. The volume at which she conducted her business wasn't exactly discreet, either, except when she answered the calls with, "Hello, this is _____" and her voice mysteriously dropped in pitch when she said her name --- because it would've been too much information if we all knew who she was, I suppose.

Meanwhile, one man beside her furrowed his brow but didn't say a word. I cast the evil eye over the top of my laptop screen, meeting her gaze quite evenly, then went back to my work. No one else said or did anything, even though not everyone was plugged into MP3 players or laptops either.

Then the cellphone on the guy next to me went off, and he took the call as well. Mercifully, whatever he was on about took him out of the library, and off he went, bag and all. But at that point, despite the no-cellphone and no-talking signs posted in the area (next to the no-eating/drinking one and a fourth red circle/slash sign that I can't recall now, maybe no-smoking?), I figured there must be some kind of unspoken rule in this particular zone that made it tacitly acceptable for loud and annoying cellphone use.

Of course, what I should've done, if I'd had the guts and the Arsenal of Witty Sarcastic Comebacks, is the following:
ME: I'm sorry, is this your office?
Woman With No Manners: No, this is the National Library.
ME: Oh, I'm sorry, with the way you were going on and talking to your clients or whatever, I thought I mistakenly wandered into your office. You get paid money for whatever it is you do when you're talking on the phone, right?
Woman With No Manners: Yes, it's my job.
ME: Then why don't you take some of the piles of money you earn and spend it on renting an office where you can talk on your phone loudly? Because here in the library, you're supposed to keep quiet.
I admit that it's not so much the comeback I was lacking, but the guts. No one else was making a scene, so why should I? Even though she was being an asshole and pissing me off.

The thing about being an ex-teacher is that the awesome power to tell a person off for behaving like a dickhead in public is strong in me, but I also keep reminding myself that I'm not a teacher anymore and I don't want to inadvertently transmute into a fascist harridan who goes around telling everyone off because she knows best. So instead I transmute into one of these passive-aggressive non-confrontational the-anger-is-festering-inside "docile" Asians.


And now the nightly news bulletin on Star World is on, and the guest pundit from a Hong Kong university had his cellphone on during his interview and it went off during his spot and the news anchor had to ask him to switch it off.

Obviously, the world is coming to an end.


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Not my cooking, obviously

On Monday after lunch, I walked into the office and was greeted by the scent of gently stewing mushrooms, Chinese herbs and chicken.

What's cooking?

Whipped up by a lovely British colleague.

It's nice to work with people who enjoy cooking (and who cook well). Pity I'd already had lunch by then.

The office was filled with the aroma of stew all afternoon. I'm not sure what some of the other non-Singaporean colleagues made of it, particularly since a couple of them had just arrived from Canada the night before, but for me it brought back memories of my mother's cooking rightaway. Now that's another recipe I'll have to learn off her when I remember ...


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Guten Easteren

One fish two fish red fish ...

It's been one of those hazy weekends when nothing much really happens. Over dim sum, my cousin mentions that she has about two weeks to reduce all her worldly belongings to 20-30 boxes that she'll ship overseas to her new home. Over too much garlic naan, the adults my parents and Packrat's talk politics, while we kids talk about comicbooks-turned-into-movies (Superman Returns --- yay! X-Men 3 --- er ...).

On Saturday morning, I take over for the first time Terz's duty of feeding his parents' fish while they're out of town, and discover that the aquarium they live in is as spartan as the parents' home. Also, because the fish don't recognise me, my trying to peer over the edge of their home sends them on a brief flapping frenzy that's enough to slosh water out of the aquarium.

On Sunday, we snooze on our respective couches for the better part of the afternoon; Ink elects to snooze on the shoe mat by the door. Just slap a "Happy Family" sticker on us and be done with it.



Reader Request Week: My favourite place in the world

dio would like to know my favourite place in the world. Now there's a stumper.

What is a "favourite" place anyway? Is it a place that one finds most reassuring, feels safest in? The place where one has the most fun? Is it a question of beauty, rapture and zeal? Is it a question of home, or adventure? And what about the fact that I've been to only a handful of countries on this wide, wide world, so my decision would be based on a highly self-selected sample of places?

(The handful, for the record, radiating outwards from home: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan (okay, just transiting through the airport at Taipei), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Belgium, England, Holland (again, just the airport), Mexico (well, just Tijuana), Canada and the United States.)

Finally, what is a place? Is it a distinct moment in time, plucked from time's flow, when that place was experienced? Is it something as seemingly unchanging like a mountain range or an impeccably preserved historical monument? Is it a personal space like any number of places that have served as my bedroom over the years, or is it a public space, a public experience that can be replicated by anyone who ventures to that same place?

My favourite place in the world could be a humble white sand beach on a Malaysian island whose name I've long forgotten, over which hangs an undimmed canopy of stars. The waves off the South China Sea decide their own soundtrack, the sand's still warm from the daytime sun and the night seems to unwind into forever.

Or it could be the apartment where we live now, which, in my adult life, has been the place I've felt most permanently comfortable and safe in --- where all my stuff is (more or less) exactly where I want it to be and how I want it to be, where no one hustles me out of bed any earlier than I decide (sorry, Mom!), and where I can curl up and chill out any time I want to.

Or it could be the Charles Bridge at 7:30 am, the summer sunlight fierce on the bridge's wizened statues, the tourists mercifully absent. I take my time moseying --- is there a better summer word? --- from one figure to the next, not that I can remember any of their names now, and except for the odd street cleaner or old uncle out for a morning tipple, I've got the bridge all to myself.

Or it could be the breathless freedom of the mountain peaks just north of Vancouver, visible from just about everywhere in the city. I always say I could sit on a lawn in Vancouver and just watch the mountains, every day.

Or it could be that there could never be just one place for me, because I don't think any place could be everything, always.

Or maybe I'm just fickle that way.


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Technically not a reader request, but ...

So when I said I was making it Reader Request Week, I wasn't thinking of memes. Blame this on Little Miss Drinkalot then.

Seven dreams before death:
(I assume this means seven Really Great Things I'd like to do before I die, as opposed to seven dreams I've had slash hoped to have before I die.)
1. Spend a few months living on the northern Oregon coast.
2. Write one good novel.
3. Write the family story, if only for myself.
4. Run a bookstore-with-a-cafe (Stellou, are you paying attention?) --- nothing too big or pretentious, just a cosy nook with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and tasty coffee.
5. Speak another language with reasonably fluency (French or Japanese seem to be the most likely candidates at the moment).
6. Have a kid who enjoys reading.
7. Perhaps I should aim to do something remarkable that doesn't have anything to do with reading or books ...

Seven things I can’t do in this lifetime:
1. Draw anything more complicated than a stick figure or a simple map.
2. Figure out complex numbers.
3. Work for the UN.
4. Keep a room or apartment perfectly clean and tidy for more than three days.
5. Live alone.
6. Watch a horror movie.
7. Bungee jump.

Seven things that attract me:
1. The ever-important sense of humour.
2. An healthy sense of irony.
3. An independent spirit.
4. Enough self-esteem not to sweat the small things, but not so much that it becomes overweening arrogance. It's a fine line to walk, people.
5. An open mind.
6. Plain simple kindness and decency.
7. The good sense not to pay too much attention to lists like these because how can you reduce something as complex as attractiveness to just seven things anyway?

Seven things I say:
1. Wah ...
2. Wah lau (which translates literally as "oh, penis" okay, Terz informs me it's really "oh, father", which doesn't seem like a very nice thing to say but colloquially, it really is the most appropriate exclamation of choice most of the time)
3. What's the plan for dinner? (Almost everyday, to Terz)
4. Inky-dinky-poooooooooh (Almost everyday, to Ink)
5. Argh.
6. Can.
7. Very full, very full (typically after any meal)

Seven books that I love:
1. The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy
2. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
3. Emily Climbs, L.M. Montgomery
4. Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood
5. The Lady and the Monk, Pico Iyer
6. Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
7. Down Under, Bill Bryson

Seven movies that I’ve loved:
1. The original Star Wars trilogy
2. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
3. Serenity
4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
5. Roman Holiday
6. The Sound of Music (though I haven't seen it in years)
7. Dogma

Seven tags:
Nah. I'll pass.

Compare my responses to that other 7- meme.


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Why everyone should keep disassembled fans around

So that the cat has a playground to rummage around in.

Why everyone should keep disassembled fans around


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She who walks into walls

Terz says that would be my politically incorrect Native American name, if I had one. He ain't wrong.

I have a mystical talent for being a klutz: tripping over invisible nonexistent cracks on the ground, stubbing my toe on the corner of the bed or a chair, bumping my head on things (or against Terz's head). This past week has turned up a bruise of unknown origins on the side of my leg, which is really nothing remarkable because in any given week, I'll have equally mysterious bruises show up on the side of my knees or on my lower calves. Nothing as dramatic as Ondine's recent dance-induced war injuries, but enough to make me go, "Hmmm ... "

Of course, now that we have Ink, that's even more cause for picking up knocks and bruises. The little guy thinks our every movement is an invitation to play and enjoys nothing more than darting between our legs where possible. If I had a dollar for every time he's come close to tripping me over, I'd have enough money to pay for his monthly food and kitty litter.

Meanwhile, left to my own devices, I'm perfectly capable of, say, swinging the back of my palm into the corner of a plastic table, which doesn't sound very painful, but trust me, it feels as though some implement was stabbed through my palm, and it's been throbbing since for the better part of the day. No visible bruising and only the faintest swelling, which might in fact be perceived only by my pity-seeking imagination, but my hand's not pleased if I try to use it for anything that's more strenuous than typing or writing.

Oh, all right. I'll stop whining and go back to work now.


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This blog needs your help

So this blog has been pretty bland lately.

I don't know what it is. I haven't run out of things to blog about. E.g. Some excerpts from this week's mental notes: Aunt and Annie Leibowitz connection, the pronunciation of "biennale", the cute cat from the coffeeshop at lunch yesterday, the effect of Terz's waking up routine on my routine every Thursday, and so on.

But there's something about getting round to the blogging itself that is eluding me (although taking gratuitous cute pictures of Ink is no problem).

So I'm going to take a leaf out of the Whatever by John Scalzi and run a little thing he calls Reader Request Week: you tell me what you would like to hear me chatter on about, and I'll pick some of them to write about. I'm not going to promise to write about all of them --- hello, I do have a day job and freelance work and a husband and a cat who's currently kissing my face for attention. I will certainly endeavour to write about the more interesting requests and, if time and decency permits, to comment on why I'm not responding to other suggestions.

Leave your requests in the comments or you can email me (see the sidebar on the right for contact details). Requests and comments from anonymous sources will, as always, be looked at somewhat askance, although that is not to say that I will ignore them altogether.

In parting, here's a little motivation for you (plus I get to scratch at least one item off the aforementioned mental notes):

Snoozing cat


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"... and progress for our nation"

Sashimi heaven

Over dinner with the parentals, I learned that, despite having picked up a new full-time job post-retirement, my father has nonetheless joined the ranks of retirees who write outraged letters to the Straits Times forum pages. Meanwhile my mother had several choice phrases of outrage herself about whoever seeded the idea in our society that Singapore women should have children and then hire a typically unskilled person at a pittance from a less developed neighbouring country to look after said children.

I think a sign that one is growing old up is when one catches oneself making utterances in the same outraged tone as the parentals.

Like all good Singaporeans, we also compared how much we had each received for our Progress Package, which disbursement, as all good Singaporeans know, has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming general election. I thought the amounts we received would be commensurate with our age, since the dividends are purportedly to "share the fruits of growth with all Singaporeans", and haven't my parents contributed a lot more towards the country's growth than we young 'uns? But no, it seems it has more to do with one's housing type (public or private, and the value thereof, it seems safe to assume).

Anyway, since the Progress Package has, I repeat like a good Singaporean, nothing to do with the upcoming general election, and all the news headlines suggest that Singapore's economy is doing better than ever this year, I look forward to receiving next year's Even More Progress Package as well.


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I'm too old for hangovers

Stairway to ...

It's nice to start the weekend with some wine.

It's not so nice to have too much wine because then there's the throwing up (sorry, Makanguru!) and the feeling dehydrated the next morning and the general disorientation that's aggravated by not enough sleep. Which then heightens the confusion when the vet tells me that Ink has something weird going on with his liver, so he can't go under general anaesthesia and hence can't be sterilized as planned, which is fine except for the part where no one seems to know what's really caused the weird liver symptom in the first place.

Anyway. If any of you reading this are ever out with me and see me attempting more than two glasses of wine in one night, please bash me over the head with your shoe. Thank you.


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Hands on mousepad
Taken by Terz.

Some days, work takes me everywhere but the office.

There's the National Archives, where the staff already recognise me well enough that it doesn't matter that I've forgotten to bring my reader's pass, and where former students writing their postgraduate theses lurk, as earnest and cheerful as they were way back when.

There's the school where Ondine teaches, where students wait to be terrorized. Oh all right, I wasn't that bad, maybe because I forgot to wear the "Let me eat your children" T-shirt that she bought me.

And there's the friend's office where he's conducting job interviews, but in a blink of an eye it turns into the neighbourhood drop-in for all our friends instead, and I pity the prospective employees who stick their head warily in the door --- "I'm here for an interview?" --- only to be challenged by us for non-existent passwords and jaunty repartee.

Not every day is like this. But these days are nice.


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When the cellphone beeps

It's not every day you get a cheery text message from one of the cousins, saying:
Hi, my husband and I are migrating to the US next month. Let's catch up over a meal when you're free.
To be fair, we've expected this for some time, since her husband's American. Nevertheless: queen of the understatement is she.


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Some days, my Flickr contacts page is a veritable snapshot of everything that's going on right now.

My Flickr contacts page

Babies being hatched left and right, tech toys galore, beer and good music, art and creative expression and ways of seeing, colours of Singapore (past and present), glimpses of Vancouver, passion, meditativeness, heart.

What does your Flickr contacts page say about you?


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Catblogging without cute cat pictures

How deep is your flood?

Ink has been with us for three weeks, and every week we've had to pop into a pet store to pick up supplies. First it was to get all the basics: kitty litter and tray, scratching post, bowls for food and water. Then, it was to buy toys, because he was getting bored out of his skull and beginning to investigate all the corners of the apartment that we didn't want him in.

Yesterday, it was to pick up more cat food (he's almost through his first five-pound bag), a basket for him to sleep in and, well, toys. So far, he hasn't shown much interest in the basket, but he did destroy one toy within a couple of hours by yanking it off its string. He also really likes scaling the window grilles. I just hope he doesn't bring the timber blinds down one of these days ...

At my planned-at-short-notice birthday non-party at Cafe Cosmo on Tuesday night, a friend remarked that my blog, of late, is always either about work or food. Now I suppose you can add Ink to that list.

After all, what am I gonna blog about --- politics?


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