The not-so-cute side of having a cat

Ink just killed and ate a cockroach.

I'm torn between glee and revulsion.


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Here, kinda

Quite the contortionist

Busy. Tired. Somewhat sick. Besides, Ondine's said it all.

Enjoy the gratuitous cuteness that is Ink instead.

As cute as can be


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Argh: the antidote

Cranes in the office
Taken by kk.

Wine: sitting in my wineglass (and some in my stomach) (and the remainder in the fridge, to be drunk once this glass is done).

Cigarette: oh please, I was just expressing the sentiment. No need for the two of you to ask me, all stricken and panicked, if I've taken up smoking. After dating a 2-pack-a-day smoker and now being married to a regular-but-not-excessive one, I'm doing just fine without being up the habit myself.

Additionally, I have six IM conversations going. Procrastination, full steam ahead!

(Yes, I have work I ought to be doing. Hence the continued argh-ness. Poo.)


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I would like a glass of wine and a cigarette right now, please. Thank you.


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Why, why, why?

Questions that have been on my mind this weekend:
  • Why does Israel (for all intents and purposes, a sovereign country) get to shell Lebanon (another sovereign country, last I checked) when its quarrel is with the Hezbollah (not a sovereign country, though it has camps and munitions in Lebanon, but it's not a state-led or -funded apparatus, right?)?
  • Why is it that no one else in the international media seems to be asking this question?
  • As Maia writes, why is all the attention on the people from Western countries who are trying to get out of Lebanon, rather than on the Lebanese people who are stuck there and/or frantically fleeing their preciously rebuilt homeland?
Suggestions and enlightenment welcome.


The most inane meme ever

This is what comes of chatting online with Cowboy:
Let's all play a new meme I've invented that tells people what kind of preferences you have in various topics. It's also a way to show how clever you are by inventing little snippets of useless information that convey little information.
And then he tags me to do it. My first thought was: Cheebye. Then I thought I would humour him, since I hardly ever see him anymore these days.
  1. I'd rather be Wonder Woman than Supergirl (classic comic book heroines).
  2. I'd rather be black coffee than Coke Light (beverages).
  3. I'd rather be Canada than the United States (countries and their dominant cultures).
  4. I'd rather be a hummingbird than an eagle (birds).
  5. I'd rather be Anthony Bourdain than Kylie Kwong (celebrity cook types).
Tag! You guys go figure out your own categories:
  1. Terz
  2. Yuhui
  3. Nardac
  4. cour marly
  5. trisha

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Into the light

It is always surreal to learn of a friend's passing, but that takes on a whole new dimension when the news comes via a blog and the friend in question is someone I've never met in person (and never will, now).

Whenever I encounter the death of someone I know, I always end up thinking, "I really don't know what to say." And I really don't here. I just sort of sit and think about the life that emanated through his words and the quiet encouragement he gave to others who were setting out on various journeys of their own. I think about Snoopy. I'll miss Snoopy.

In the last email we exchanged, he wrote:
I reckon I will make hay while the sun shines at least for this summer. God knows work will be hard enough to come by in winter, and there should be plenty of time to sit around the heater or in a heater car and drink hot chocolate and watch DVDs or the sunsets over the ocean.
Wherever you are, Knight of Pentacles, I hope you're having that hot chocolate and enjoying those endless sunsets.




Singapore, vividly yours

Unphotographable, by Tay Kay Chin Unphotographable, by Tay Kay Chin Unphotographable, by Tay Kay Chin

Tay Kay Chin
Esplanade Tunnel
July 21 - August 27, 2006


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Flogging (or not)

While this blog has not metamorphosed entirely into a food blog, I've noticed that people are starting to come up to me and say, "So what's a good place for _____ food/for _____ occasion?"

I don't even know why I blog about food so much these days. Am I just giving in to my inner Singaporean? Is it because Singapore culture has, over the years, become somewhat inimical to the discussion of anything real or thoughtful, so the only thing we can talk about is food? Or is it that now I have the income and autonomy and free time to hunt down more interesting places to eat (and then blog about it)?

It's true that there are more Nice Places to eat in Singapore. The funny thing is that the more you go to these Nice Places, the more they all start to look and feel like each other --- even while some nevertheless serve Extremely Nice Food.

And then I came across this Anthony Bourdain quote in The Tyee's report on the launch of Bourdain's new book:
Food is the new porn. People go to restaurants the way they used to go to movies. And they go to one restaurant and talk about the last one they were at. Restaurants are also about a nesting instinct. People associate food with home and want that feeling. Then there's the fact that watching people cook on TV is satisfying. And through all of that, people are getting more sophisticated about food.
Let's see how my experience checks out against that quote:

Food is the new porn.
Uhhh ... I guess for some people ...

People go to restaurants the way they used to go to movies. And they go to one restaurant and talk about the last one they were at.
I definitely go to fewer movies than restaurants and I'd have to say, choosing between having a Nice Meal in a Nice Place with friends and/or family, versus going to a Nice Cinema to watch a Nice Movie with them, I'd probably choose the meal.

And yes, the more restaurants one goes to, the more likely it is that one will be forking into one's pretty appetizer while saying, "Oh, but have you tried the absolutely delectable _____ over at ____?" Though I generally try not to do this because it's potentially bad form plus I'd rather enjoy the meal that I'm having rather than to reminisce (or complain) about meals long digested and expurgated from my alimentary system.

There is a really good reason to talk restaurants in Singapore, though: The turnover rate in the food & beverage business is, as I imagine it is in any other major city, extremely high, so it's helpful to trade tips about which places aren't open anymore or maybe have lost their sparkle, or which new restaurant really is worth trying out. This also applies to hawker food stalls, which may fall victim to not only the whims of its clientele (or lack thereof) but also arbitrary decisions from on high to move out because the space (rather than the food) has outlived its usefulness.

Restaurants are also about a nesting instinct. People associate food with home and want that feeling.
Certainly. As a bad cook whose mother is a good one, I'd be the first to admit that sometimes at the economy rice stall, all I'm trying to do is assemble a meal that reminds me, however faintly, of Mom's cooking.

The kind of TLC that goes into the preparation of Nice Meals in Nice Places, however, is a completely different flavour's than Mom's. It's more clinical, somehow, and certainly more deliberate.

Crab starter at Majestic Restaurant
Taken and uploaded by Ms. Marly

I ain't complaining about it. It's just not quite what I'd associate with "the nesting instinct" or the feeling of being at home.

Then there's the fact that watching people cook on TV is satisfying.
Well, up to the point when I feel really inept. For instance, I enjoyed Jamie Oliver more when he was trying to reform school lunches in the UK than when he's pottering around his kitchen at home.

And through all of that, people are getting more sophisticated about food.
Perhaps. I know that it makes me more fussy about food. I know that I refuse to eat conveyor belt sushi anymore (unless it's 100 yen a plate, like the neat place where Terz and I had a late-night meal in Kyoto) and I'm extremely particular about which Japanese restaurant I eat in Singapore. Ditto Middle Eastern food (just 'cause good Middle Eastern is so hard to find here). And Italian. And good salads. And ... er, it's a wonder I find anything worth paying more than $5 for anymore.

Anyway, all this is by way of working off my angst from thinking that I might have to attend a restaurant opening tonight all by myself. Restaurant openings can be fun --- hello, free food and wine --- but nosso much when one is flying solo. Fortunately, I remembered at the last minute that a colleague is friends with the restaurant owner, so I cajoled her into going with me, which meant that I got introduced to the owner, soaked up some mellifluous Italian being spoken all around me in between introductions (the colleague is Italian) and enjoyed some all too delectable food and wine.

So now the angst is well gone, and I am way looking forward to trying the restaurant's menu proper (tonight was an official launch, which means they served largely canapes and finger foods) --- not to mention that I had the opportunity to properly chat with the Italian colleague for the first time in the four months I've been on this job and she gave me the dirt on all the real Italian places to eat in town.

This blog is not becoming a food blog. Really.


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I am a Hobbit, redux

Breakfast, 8:30 am: 1 glass of soya milk.

Second breakfast, 10:45 am: 1 glass of barley and 2 slices of kaya toast.

Lunch, 1:30 pm: Rice with chicken, tofu and veggies in a delicious brown sauce.

Tea, 2 pm: Teh halia (ginger tea with condensed milk and ginger essence).

And it's only 2:30 pm...


Related post: I am a Hobbit


Doing the chores

A slight breather in my workload these couple of days, which gives us the time to spend our evenings on household chores like laundering our bedsheets (we really should do it more often), bathing our cat and, er, taking gratuitous pictures of the cat.

Caught in light

I'm not complaining that I don't have enough work to do, but it's strange to be at so much of a loose end. I even had time on Sunday to see Thank You For Smoking, which not enough people in the audience seemed to laugh along with, but I personally chalk that up to a gross lack of a sense of irony in our national culture.

Speaking of national culture, did you get your tickets to the Singapore Theatre Festival yet? Faster go and buy!


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I am Singaporean

Blame this one on brown. I wrote it last week, mulled it over some more, got tagged by a gecko's tale, let it sit for a bit longer and finally decided tonight that I'd better publish it before the bandwagon passed. If you didn't know already, this is inspired by Molson beer's "I am Canadian" commercial (see the video on Youtube). Or something.

I look Chinese, like 77% of the population, but I'm actually a quarter Ceylonese and three-quarters Chinese ---which is not a category recognised by the Immigration and Customs Authority.

In school, they told me my Mother Tongue was Mandarin, even though none of my parents or grandparents spoke it. By the way, I think in English.

I speak good Singlish and I'm understood by my fellow Singaporeans. But I don't understand enough Hokkien to appreciate the film Money No Enough.

I speak extremely good English and I'm understood by people from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand --- and Singapore.

I studied hard in school because everyone said I should, but I should've gone out to play more often.

I read.

I have a sense of irony.

I love shopping but it should not be our national pastime.

I love food, but I think it's more important to talk about politics and ideas.

I went to university on a government scholarship. Thank you for paying for my education. But I quit when my scholarship bond ended because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life upholding a hierarchy of self-styled mandarins and demigods.

I proposed marriage to my husband so that we could get an HDB flat, because my parents wouldn't have been crazy about us living together otherwise.

I still live in a HDB flat today because it's more than enough space for the two of us and our cat.

I don't have any children because, well, I just don't. Last time I checked, my womb was my business.

I am not apolitical or apathetic. I’m just confused when the government says that either I am a constructive critic or else I am "a partisan player in politics".

I have never voted, but I would have in the last election if the boundaries of my constituency had not been changed.

I am a blogger. I exercise free speech responsibly and I have the conviction to stand behind any statement I make.

I am not seditious.

I am not a Communist.

I am Singaporean.


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So much for travelling light

The best friend from university aka my helpful MacHead friend is packing to go to a four-day tech conference. His packing list includes:
  • Airport Express
  • Nintendo + charger
  • Camera + charger
  • GPS
  • Headset + charger
  • Phone charger
  • Pager charger
  • Surge strip
This is just a little bit ridiculous, no? I asked him why he needed the Airport Express and he said it's so he can have wireless access in his hotel room.



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Buy local!

I shop. More than I should. On top of that, I also shop online, because the shopping scene in Singapore isn't all that exciting in the first place.

But I've been shopping a little closer to home lately. Today, for instance, I picked up my new pair of earrings from Abigael The Beading Lady ---

Image from Abigael The Beading Lady.

--- who happens to not only be a friend, but also a most excellent bead jewellery designer!

And I meant to blog two weeks ago (yes, procrastinated again) about MAAD, a bazaar-style showcase of local designers' work in the airconditioned comfort of red dot design museum. Besides the usual bits of jewellery and accessories, there was the highly tempting Catmasutra artwork by Paul & Mysh, eeshaun's Gardensilly sketches, customised and extremely stylish bicycles by Shaun and iPod skins from Shuffleart.

My personal favourite, of course, was Baked Ideas' pretty lampshades and journals. Okay, yes, again, she's a friend, but where else can one get such attractive blank books locally?

Clearly, I'm going to do all my gift shopping locally from now onwards.

Edited to add: JellyGirl has good leads for local jewellery designers.


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For all you West Wing fans out there

(Yes, yes, I know that the TV show's been cancelled, but some of us are still working our way through the later seasons on DVD.)

So how much does a White House staffer make? The National Journal will be happy to tell you , at least for Bush's current administration (via By The Way).

It seems that the salaries are "largely controlled at the discretion of the president", which makes me wonder if President Bartlet was as generous, seeing as Josh says his "government salary may not be a lot" (see "Isaac and Ishmael").

Interestingly, the report also says, "The White House is not required by law to make public any complete accounting of staff or individual salaries." Which doesn't quite gel with the season 3 plot point, when it's claimed that the White House has to submit its annual list of assistant salaries to a postal and treasury subcommittee and "it traditionally gets leaked by the opposition party" (see "The Black Vera Wang").

Incidentally, the US President's salary is mandated by law and he makes US$400,000 a year. The Singapore Prime Minister? US$1.1 million (as at July 2000).


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From stereo to mono

So I was using my earphones two days ago, to listen to music on my iBook, when suddenly they decided that they would output music only from the earphone for the right ear and the one for the left ear would, you know, just hang out in my ear and not actually emit any sound.

Weird. Is this a normal occurrence in the life cycle of earphones? I've been using them pretty steadily since Xmas, which is not an extraordinarily long time, even in this age when so many electronic items are designed to have short lifespans.


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I don't type good

While I type fast (110-120 wpm as at September 2005, according to Typer Shark), I sure as hell don't claim to type accurately. Here's some typos I've had to teach Microsoft Word to autocorrect:
  • abnout, abonut, abotu, actualyl, againstt he, agian, ahppen, ahve, almsot, alterantive, althoguh, alwasy, amde, amke, antoher, approrpiate, askt he, aws
  • baout, bcause, beacuse, becasue, befoer, beofre, bve, byt he
  • certian, Chiantown, commnunist, commuity, compelx, coudl,, cpoy
  • deatils, develope, dispaly, doign, donig
  • efel, ehr, enw, erally, esle, especialyl, evn, ewre, exchagne, eyt
  • finalyl, fora, foriegn, foudn, frmo, fromt he
  • goign, grwo
  • haev, herat, hismelf, hlep, hteir, htey, htink, hvae
  • idae, ihs, importnat, indenpendence, indepdendence, int hat, int he, inteh, itneresting, iwth
  • jsut
  • konwn
  • leran, liek, loev, lookign
  • maek. marraige, matierals, menat, minsiter, minsitry, mkae, mnuch
  • nad, nbut, nkow, nothign, nver, nwe, nwo
  • oculd, oft, oft he, oging, ohter, omre, ont he, onyl, opf, otehr, owrk, owuld, oyu
  • palce, parenst, parlimanet, perhasp, preisdent, proabbly, propser
  • questoin
  • realyl, recrod, reisdent, religous, respomd, reult, rfom, rpely, rwite
  • saidt he, shoudl, Singaproe. Singpaore, sitll, smae, smoe, sohw, soical, somethign, somewaht. sot hat, soudn, specificalyl, stnad, strentgh, suprise
  • tahn, taht, talkign, tath, teh, tehre, tehy, tgat, tgheir, tghis, thansk, thatt he, them ost, theri, thge, thigsn, thna, thne, thnig, thsi, thsoe, tihs, timne, tkae, tlaking, togehter, tongiht, tot he, towrad
  • udnerstand, understnad, undert he, univeristy, unliek, usch
  • waht, whihc, whta, wiht, witht he, wlel, wnat, wrod, wtih
  • yera, yuo
(For the record, it took about half an hour to manually transfer the above list from Word and format it for Blogger.)

Obviously, without the autocorrect function, I'd spend most of my time backspacing rather than typing ...


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Places to be

It's been a funny sort of week. I've been really swamped with work and working till past midnight almost every night, which may be bad for my sleep and coffee consumption levels, but really isn't all that bad for the languishing bank account.

But a busy week means having no time to write a response to the government's salvo against mr brown. In fact, I didn't even hear the news till cour marly clued me in on MSN late that day, at which point I produced the following gem of an articulate response:
ME: I have one word for the MICA letter
ME: and it is FUCK
ME: Actually a 2nd word springs to mind:
ME: what is the emoticon for speechless?
And finally:
Dear government,
Thank you for proving once again that you have neither a sense of humour nor an understanding of a citizen's duty of participating in politics without joining a political party. I stand vindicated, after all my friends reassured me that Singapore was really opening up and going to be a more inclusive society.
That's not all I want to say on this issue, but it'll have to do for now. I did find the time to write the first draft of my own "I am Singaporean" script, which should make its appearance as a podcast some time before the end of the month...

Anyway, the other thing that's been going on during this stupefyingly hectic week is that Terz and I got around to figuring out whether we qualify to emigrate to Canada. Admittedly, this is based on an online assessment rather than an official evaluation, but the initial prognosis seems to be good.

Additionally, my cousin just Flickr'd recent vacation pictures of Vancouver, which reminded me once more why we need to get there asap and soak up some of that Pacific Northwest beauty (not to mention the West Coast liberal values and social consciousness that are so sorely lacking here). My cousin's pictures are friends-and-family only, but Mussels has some great Vancouver pictures too, if anyone needs convincing.

So in the red corner, we have Singapore, with a government intent on stomping out any political agenda that dares challenge its own.

In the blue corner, we have pretty, blue Vancouver, of which one of its hometown writers has said:
"When you look down through what we so foolishly imagine to be a new place, a young place, there's a lot of interesting things that we discover ... We have consistently erupted in these utopian insanities that have produced a strange and distinctive and vibrant and multicultural and brilliant civilization in what is now known as British Columbia."
Yeah, it's been a funny sort of week.


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That uneasy feeling

It is very stressful to be late for an appointment.

It is very stressful to be late for an appointment that greatly inconveniences a friend.

It is very stressful to thereafter be late meeting Terz and Olorin for drinks.

And oh god, it is very stressful, after a pretty pedicure, to take the train home when it's crowded.

I have, obviously, lost all privileges to be snotty about people who are not punctual.


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I like my ice cream

In the process of clearing my email, I came across strangemessages's comment from a month ago that I meant to reply to:
While we're at, uhm, food,
Haagen Dazs, or Ben & Jerry's?
And which flavours do you love/hate?
Maybe that should be a reader request from me, haha.
Indeed it should, for my reply ran a little long. So I thought I might as well make it today's blog post, since I'm not sure that I'll have time to blog later.

Between the two ice cream brands, I'd have to say Ben & Jerry's. Not because of the Vermonster , but because they have nifty flavours arising from unusual but tasty concoctions. I'll pick Haagen Dazs if I want the vanilla, chocolate and strawberry staples, but executed with a little more finesse than local (or is it Malaysian?) brands like Kings or Magnolia.

Not that I'm saying I wouldn't eat Kings or Magnolia. Sometimes I'm in the mood for less milky ice cream, and those are the best (also, miles cheaper than Ben & Jerry's or Haagen Dazs). Also, there's the sentimental value of having grown up with these flavours, and sometimes wanting a Walls ice cream cone to crunch into, nuts and really chemical-flavoured chocolate and all.

Favourite flavour: chocolate, no contest. But sometimes I also find myself in the mood for vanilla (you know, it goes well with everything). Rarely the -berry flavours, although as a child I went through a raspberry ripple phase (but that's sorta a vanilla spinoff).

Where Ben & Jerry's proprietary flavours are concerned, I'm all about the Cherry Garcia. I find their chocolate mixes a little too sweet, most of the time.

Verboten ingredients in my ice cream: mint, and I'm not crazy about nuts, either, although pistachio or hazelnut ice cream is just fine.

Lately, I mostly eat gelato from the (local?) Bravissimo chain or one of its ilk, and usually a chocolate-related flavour with a fancypants Italian name like tartufo.

But I dream of La Casa in Vancouver. 200 flavours and counting, baby!


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Atypical day

Until I got home at 9.30 pm tonight,
  • I had not had a drop of water today, whereas typically I drink 2-3 litres of water per day. I did, however, have a glass of unsugared soya milk, a black coffee, a Milo-O kosong (i.e. without milk or sugar), a teh halia (tea with ginger essence), and an overly sweet lemonade. No wonder I felt so ill on the way home.
  • I had not been online for more than two hours in total. That's something of a record for a work day.
  • I had used my cellphone only to make only work-related phone calls or send work-related SMSes. Where's the love, people?
And now on to work ...


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Weather report

You know it's fricking hot when even lazy old "I'll just tolerate it" me is motivated to take three showers within the span of 24 hours. And two of them are cold showers. And what I really want to do is sit under a cold shower all day because the weather it just Too.




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Wake-up call

It is quite sobering to wake up, do the maths for the previous month, and find out that one is in fact spending more than one earns.

And that one should be earning last year's income in order to have any savings at all.

Which I really am not, this year.


(Or, as kk and I have been saying lately: Poo.)

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Some nights are all about chilling out, particular when the preceding evenings have been spent hammering on the keyboard till midnight or thereabouts.

Le Carillon

Tonight, Casey suggested we check out Le Carillon on Ann Siang Hill, which turned out to be an excellent suggestion because it offered a relatively quiet nook for conversation, a wide range of inexpensive drinks and comfy couches for all corporate-weary souls (myself excluded, of course) to sink into.

So for a little while, I could trade in my iPod anxieties (it has crashed, irrevocably, and I am torn between the consumeristic impulse to buy a new one right away and the sensible impulse to live without one, dagnabbit --- a Manichean tussle which fuelled no less than 20 SMS exchanges with various friends today) and listen to former colleagues' work-related gossip, which reminded me once more why I'm glad to no longer be in certain public sector employment.

The best thing about the place, of course, was that in this World Cup season, it's one of two places I know for sure in Singapore that hasn't invested in mammoth TV screens for broadcasting live soccer matches. Hurrah for peace and quiet that allows for civilised discourse

Le Carillon

Le Carillon

Le Carillon


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