Mid-morning snack

It is a very strange thing to be eating Khong Guan biscuits, while researching the founders of the Khong Guan Company.


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No love

The fallout from leaving my phone at home this morning:
  • 3 missed calls: 2 work-related, 1 from my mother
  • 8 SMSes: 1 voicemail message, 2 work-related, 2 personal, 2 from Terz who messaged me even though he knew that my phone was at home, and 1 from my mother.
No love, guys. This is like the other day when I had no internet access all day, and got home at 6 pm to find that I had only 5 new emails.

The prize for the best SMS of the day goes, clearly, to my mother, for the following cryptic missive:
Smith st hawker ctr, c'town close fr sat. Move 2 outram pk. top up medisave? Get tax relief
Obviously, she knows my love for Chinatown Complex and that I don't read the newspapers.


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An all-points bulletin, of sorts

I forgot to bring my cellphone with me today, and didn't even realise it till I'd walked to the train station, boarded the train to town and then heard someone talking loudly on his cellphone.

Anyway, if you're looking for me, try IM or email.

This should be interesting ...


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The thing about running again after six months away

Ink was very mystified the first couple of times he saw me do my warm-ups. Then he thought it was a new game and tried to jump at my outstretched hands or at my hair whenever I bent over in some kind of stretching exercise. Now he just lies there and ponders how long before I leave and come back all stinky.

Speaking of being all stinky, when I got back tonight, Ink padded over as usual to say hello (i.e. to sniff at or nuzzle my hand or cheek) --- then totally backed off after the initial whiff of me. Huh.

But the most interesting thing is that despite the sweltering heat of the past couple of days, the fact that my iPod's crashed so I was running music-less, and the pint of beer I had with Terz at Brewerkz at 4.30 pm --- I still ran better tonight than all month previously.



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Armed with my camera again

Back in January, my Contax went kaput.

After almost six months away, including a sojourn in Japan by way of Hong Kong (because they don't fix this brand of camera locally), it's finally come home, which means I could finally retrieve the last photograph it took before its little implosion.

Last look

Granted, it's not the best photograph that exists of The UnXpected, but it's not so bad that it should've sent a digital camera into kaleidoscopic convulsions, right?


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Conquering the Vermonster

The Vermonster

20 scoops of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Oodles of syrup and sprinkles and bananas to make it go down smoothly. One big tub.

Oh, and ten erstwhile children who'd always dreamed of spending their hard-earned money on stupid shit like this when they were growing up.

Stacked up

Some of us had dinner before our 9 pm ice cream date; others didn't. Some of us (okay, me) went running first to stave off the guilt from consuming that much sugar in one sitting. All of us garnered quite a bit of attention from other customers or passers-by, I assume due not only to the massive tub on the table but also the fact that there were no children at our table.

Indeed, we were such adults about the matter that we had to swear before eating that none of us had any contagious diseases that we knew of. And then of course, the truly adult thing to do was to lo hei the Vermonster before we dug into it.

Lo hei'ing the Vermonster

Maybe that's why for the rest of the evening, we were eating brown and white gloop of indistinguishable flavours. Would your next scoop yield pure chocolate (highly unlikely), or a piece of chocolate-covered banana (I'd forgotten how much I enjoy those), or something that looked like the promising whiteness of Cherry Garcia but turned out to be a mouthful of mint (ugh!)? You have to ask yourself (insert the Clint Eastwood voice that I can't do): Do you feel lucky?

I never found that coveted scoop of Cherry Garcia ...

By the time the store closed at 10.30, we were well and truly done.

Vermonster vanquished
Taken by askgerard.com

And some of us were already starting to feel a little queasy. It's not so much the quantity of ice cream we ate (20 scoops among ten adults doesn't amount to much), but that it was all stirred up with artificial sweetness layered upon further artificial sweetness, I think.

Of course, some people went on to have bacon-wrapped king prawns at Tango afterwards ...

I'm not eating ice cream for at least a month.


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Going nowhere fast

Chatting online with Ondine tonight, I admitted rather abashedly that I have no real goals in life at the moment. Then I remembered that I cobbled some together for a meme some time back, so perhaps I should revisit them:

1. Write a novel. Any novel. Even if it's chick lit and Stellou never speaks to me again.

Does starting several short stories and toying with the idea of interviewing my grandparents oral-history-style count? Baby steps, man, baby steps ...

Okay, perhaps I should have an intermediate goal, like complete one of those damn short stories by the end of the year.

2. Learn to speak another language.

I think this one will have to wait till I have more dough, or can trade lessons with someone who wants to learn English. If I could, though, I'd take refresher classes for French or start Japanese.

3. Keep a cat or dog. Iguanas need not apply.

Hey, accomplished! And it wasn't even planned that way.

4. Attempt another musical instrument (maybe the cello?).

See #2 above.

5. Bake a cake or brownies from scratch (i.e. not out of a Betty Crocker box).

This might have to wait till we get a real oven, which really isn't a high priority for us right now. Also, till I become accustomed to spending time in the kitchen again.

6. Live in a place that I can afford to furnish with enough bookshelves for all our books.

Heavens, no. Though we keep buying more books! Again, I sense that money will be an issue for this ... Unless I learn to build my own shelves, which doesn't seem likely given the fact that it's usually a struggle for me to assemble Ikea furniture.

7. Finish this damn meme already.

Well, that's done, but it really doesn't count.

I think I need some better life goals.


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As others see us

It's nice when someone says I have "interesting eyes ... lively and luminous". Clearly, the lighting at Wine Bar was kind to me that night because I'm pretty sure they were, in fact, drunk and bloodshot eyes.

On the other hand, I'm not sure it's a compliment when Corporate Overlord is on sick leave, feeling better by 3 pm and looking for lunch company, and he calls me because I don't have a "real job" and would likely be able to nip out for a snack. (I suppose it doesn't help that I somewhat prove him right by taking an extended coffee break with him.)

And I'm really not sure it's a compliment when another friend declares that I look like a Brenda. Unlike most Singaporeans who appear to be Chinese, I don't have an English name (not one that I respond to, anyway), so the friends I was with last night tried to think up one for me. Other suggestions included Louise and Jenny. I suddenly feel like a post-war baby boom British girl.

Finally, over after-work drinks yesterday evening, I order a pint of Hoegaarden, prompting the boss to wonder out loud if I like to drink beer. Before my brain can stop my tongue (or is the other way around), I say, "No, I pretty much drink anything." Fortunately, he's British and doesn't bat an eyelid.


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On the agenda

Today: a full day of work stuff, without internet access to boot.

Tonight: a social thing with colleagues at 5 pm, followed by another Month of Photography opening at 7.30 pm, followed by long overdue graduation drinks with former students.

Tomorrow: pick up Ondine and Packrat at the airport at 6 am, which I am duty-bound to do because they were gracious enough to leave their car with us while they were on vacation. And still be awake enough at 10:30 am to interview a lovely woman for a couple of hours.



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The last word

It's Father's Day today, so I figure I'd quote my dad for a change.
There are only three things you can do where you won't ever be out of a job: an undertaker, a chef or an English teacher.

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Central Park it ain't, but ---

Fort Canning Park has several strikes working against it. For starters, Singapore is a tropical country, which means the idea of rambling in the park doesn't quite carry the same fresh, invigorating feel one might get in Central Park in the spring or St James's Park in the summer. Also, when the weather --- not to mention the humidity --- is largely the same all year round, one is less appreciative of fresh greenery and the insects that come with it. Lastly (though this verges on stating the obvious), because Fort Canning Park resides atop the only remaining hill in downtown Singapore, getting there requires something of an uphill climb, which, together with the aforementioned weather, might put off all but the most spirited or enthusiastic of park ramblers.

I've walked through the park recently, with my boss as we cut from the National Archives back to the office at UE Square. I'd originally suggested a cab but he enjoys walking off his lunch, so off we went.

Yesterday, on my own, I was coming back from Funan Centre and decided that it would be more pleasant to cut through the park than to take my usual route along River Valley Road. Of course, to get to the park, one first has to scale about 100 steep steps (I forgot to count) beside the MICA building.

Coming out of the ground

Other than a man snoozing by the top of the stairs, I didn't see or hear a single other soul as I passed through the park. Yet it's impossible to totally escape the sounds of the city. Muffled but pervasive, they followed me through the park: the thrum of road traffic, the occasional thumping of a horn, the sense that an important busyness was occupying everyone in the city down there, while I, the slacker, wended indulgently down brick paths and chipped concrete stairs.

14th century walk in 21st century Singapore My very first unripe durian

But lo, I wasn't the only one. At the Clemenceau Avenue side of the park, two blonde, bikini-ed women sprawled on a mat, lapping up the late afternoon sun as if it was Sheep Meadow in the summer. I thought about taking a picture, but then I thought it might also be rude, even though I was out of their sight. I'm guessing this was their car, though, because the only other car was a sensible Toyota Corolla or some such sedan, and it had a driver reading the newspaper in it.

Yesterday's car, today's parking charges

Then it was back to the office, and back to work.


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Why Gmail is a handy-dandy application

Because if you have your mailbox set to show snippets, you can scan the first line of an email from a potential client that reads, "Thanks for your interest in the project ..." and know that it's a rejection email even before you click on it.

I'm sure this applies to many other forms of bad news sent via email.


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"Wacko the ducks"

So here I sit, reading the transcripts of David Marshall's oral history interview from the National Archives of Singapore, and I can't help noticing that he has something of an affection for the phrase, "Wacko the ducks". He seems to use it in the way one would react with great surprise or shock, sorta like "Get outta here!" (if you're American) or "No way!" (if you're a teenager) or "Well, slap me around and call me Suzy!" (if you're just colourful that way).

"Wacko the ducks," he recalls saying on more than one occasion, including when he was offered the position of French ambassador.

I have no idea where this phrase originates, as even Google helpfully informs me that "Your search - "wacko the ducks" - did not match any documents."

Wacko the ducks!


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Sexism Watch #1: The bank says women still need men to buy them stuff

I'm tired of spotting blatantly sexist ideas and advertising perpetuated all around me, and having to put up with people (men and women) telling me that it's nothing to be concerned about and/or that I should be glad that I have it so good as a woman in Singapore. So I bring to you Sexism Watch --- to highlight all those pesky little gender-based assumptions that insidiously plague our modern existence because it's easier to ignore or even indulge in them, than to challenge them.

Because women still need men to buy them stuff

Our first edition of Sexism Watch is brought to you courtesy of United Overseas Bank (UOB). I received a promotional pamphlet today that carried the above image on the cover (image taken from the bank's website). It advertises the UOB Personalised Supplementary Card, with the slogan, "With Love. From You." In the image above, the black credit card in the woman's hand carries, beside the bank logo, the words in cursive pseudo-handwriting script, "With Love. Jonathan".

So in attempting to encourage people to sign up for these personalised supplementary credit cards, the bank is appealing to men to give women the card --- because in this day and age, when 94.93% of women in Singapore work and women make up 44.54% of the active workforce (source: Statistics Singapore data as at June 2005 (PDF)), women still need men to extend to them the credit line that, it's implied, they couldn't otherwise have, in order to buy stuff.

Oh, and given the art direction for the photograph above, clearly we are also meant to think that love = giving your lover the ability to consume more. Disturbing on so many levels.

Granted, inside the pamphlet, the copy clarifies that the card can be for anyone who matter: "be it your parents, siblings or spouse". But a picture's worth a thousand words, right? Not to mention the fact that in terms of parcelling out its advertising budget, the bank chose to invest its money in the image above rather than to highlight any other relationship with a loved one.

As someone who's always made a decent income comparable to my husband's (and it would have been on par with his if not for certain sexist practices in government payroll principles), I'm mortally insulted by the advertising's inherent assumption that I can't afford to have my own credit card and/or be trusted with a credit line to buy my own stuff. (All this, of course, assuming I want to buy more stuff and consume more in the first place.) I work hard for the money, okay, and I like being financially independent. Stop telling women that they ought to desire a man who'd give them a credit card "with love". Thank you.


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One of those days


And then, we hit seven.

(Okay, technically not till almost 7 pm later today. But still.)

(Ironically, I also changed my MSN nick today to 'World Cup Widow'. Ahem.)




An evening of ROJAK (not the comestible kind)

Inside Golden Mile complex, lurks an event hall

I've actually spent more time than you'd imagine in the Golden Mile area, not because I'm in the habit of catching the express buses to Malaysia or hunting down cheap Thai food, but because the optician that my family went to was, for many many years, housed in the basement of Golden Mile Tower. Seeing as everyone in the family wears glasses, we spent many Sunday afternoons of quality family time in that place. If we weren't visiting the optician, we were enjoying a splendid repast at Thien Kee, the steamboat restaurant; frequently, we combined both on the same visit.

I hear Thien Kee is still in that basement, although our optician moved out some years ago to Keypoint down the road. His reason for moving: the Golden Mile area was getting seedier and seedier, which was becoming a turn-off even for his most loyal customers.

(Tangent (TM Stellou): Ironically, I stopped getting my glasses at his shop after he moved, --- but that was because the timing of his move coincided with my getting married and moving away from the parentals, and it became just more convenient to go to Terz's optician which is nearer to where we live.)

All of which is a belaboured introduction to the fact that even though I've watched ROJAK draw a larger and larger following over the past few sessions, I wasn't sure that many people would turn up last night because a) England was playing Paraguay in the World Cup at 9 pm Singapore time, exactly when ROJAK #5 was slated to start (no prizes for guessing where Terz was), and b) the organisers, in line with their objective of focusing more attention to unsung and unloved yet architecturally iconic and culturally resonant modern buildings in Singapore, had decided to hold the session at Golden Mile Complex.

If you haven't figured it out already, Golden Mile, despite its name, ain't exactly the swankiest part of town. Over the years, it's become the haunt of Thais working in Singapore, which means that xenophobic-but-I-won't-admit-it Singaporeans give the place a wide berth, lest they feel like they've wandered into a foreign country (and what is so wrong with finding a "foreign country" in the midst of home, anyway, if we truly pride ourselves on being multiracial and multiculture? But I digress ... ). All the guys know the military supply stores above Beach Road hawker centre across the road, but the Golden Mile side of things has become gradually ghettoized --- although judging from the construction hoardings around Golden Mile Tower that I spotted last night, it looks as if that building's trying to revitalise itself by slapping a new "modern" glass and steel facade on its front.

Let me put it this way: It's the kind of place where, after the event's over and people are trickling off, I say goodbye to a friend and he tells me not to walk out on my own, even though almost all the shops in the building are closed, the place is brightly lit and there are plenty of cabs waiting right in front of the building. I did end up walking out with some people, but I'm not certain that I wouldn't've been just as all right on my own.

Anyhow, surprise, surprise, Golden Mile's reputation and the somewhat cryptic instructions for getting there ("come up by the central escalators and then at the third floor, transfer to a flight of staircase [sic] with a roundtop door") didn't stand in the way of a healthy turnout for ROJAK, including a couple of older (read: in their 50s) people who seemed surprised to find themselves surrounded by twentysomethings.


For future reference, here are some handy pointers for those who might want to speak at future ROJAK sessions (disclaimer: even though I know the organisers, the observations here are my own and have absolutely nothing to do with them):
  • Know your audience --- Most people are from the "creative" sectors or have a strong interest in those fields. Many are designers or architects, others are artists, photographers, filmmakers and musicians; as a writer, I'm definitely in the minority. Many work and experiment in more than one field of "creative" expression. Most, if not all, have strong opinions about creative techniques and endeavours. Most, if not all, really really love what they do, regardless of, thank god, what the Powers That Be decree. Oh, and a number of them are gay, if not pro-gay. In case you were wondering.
  • Talk about the why, not the what --- The ten slides and ten minutes rationed out to each presenter are precious. Let the slides show the work that you've done; use your voice to tell us what couldn't possibly be expressed in a slide, like the creative impetus or spark behind it, the unquantifiable obstacles or inexpressible moments of serendipity that you experienced in the course of your work, the heart, the spirit, the passion. Don't describe what we see; tell us the story behind it.
  • Be appropriately humble --- Yeah, maybe you've done some good stuff that you want to shout about, but in a roomful of egos this size, don't expect to crow about yourself --- even in a "joking", offhand manner --- and get away with it. Play nice. There's always someone out there, smarter, better, or if nothing else, crueller than you.
Having said all that, the reason I love ROJAK is that even though it's a hit-or-miss situation, the hits are such good hits that they make the misses worth it. Like, for instance, The Changi Murals, a yet-to-be-released short film that clearly needs to make it into a cinema, stat. (More disclaimers: I know the filmmaker, but not well enough that I knew about the film before last night or that I'd be endorsing him just for the hell of it.)

So the Golden Mile experiment worked well enough. Let's see where the next ROJAK session'll take us.

Edited to add (12 June): See also ampulets' experience of ROJAK and, more importantly, the poetry of Golden Mile Complex.

Editor's note: I'm aware that this blog post is full of way-too-long sentences. I blame it on the lazy grey pre-thunderstorm weather we're having this afternoon.


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Names we call our cat

Technically, his name is Ink, for his slender black tail and the three four (yes, I cannot count) black spots on his otherwise perfectly white body.

Ink in shadow

But we also call him:
  • INK!!!
  • Iiiiiiink-ky
  • Inky-dinky-pooh
  • Inky-du (a bastardisation of Enkidu, I suppose)
  • Ankle-biter
  • Crouching tiger, hidden ferret
  • The-cat-who-spent-his-whole-life-in-the-toilet (that's Terz's favourite threat, not that Ink gets it, we know)
No swear words, though.


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When a good friend is the curator of Singapore's Month of Photography, many exhibition openings we will attend in as many nights. And very little actual blogging I will do.

If you didn't know already, Mr Sanguine's pictures of Calcutta Rescue are the first in the Out of Focus series at the spanking new exhibition space, City Room @ Basheer (fourth floor, Bras Basah Complex). Check it out.


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Things that don't happen everyday

I have to call my mother to find out how much 白金 ("white gold", the money given to a bereaved family) to give at a funeral wake. Growing up in these parts isn't just about knowing how much ang pow is appropriate.

I pick up a wireless signal while waiting for my lunch at the Victoria Street food court, which meant I could spend the fifteen minutes I waited for my claypot chicken rice (it's worth every minute of the wait) chatting with kk instead of doing work. Free wireless, in a humble food court, enabling an IM conversation with Tokyo --- how surreal is that?

Online, outside, in the unlikeliest of places

I place my hand on a metal railing at an MRT station and come away with an unidentifiable (or maybe I just don't want to identify it) gooey substance of indeterminate (or maybe I just don't want to determine it) origin. Surprisingly, instead of freaking out like a normal human being, I struggle to pull out a wet tissue to get the crap off me, then make a quiet but determined beeline for the washroom at the station, where I scrub my hand with much soap. Boys and girls, this is what your moms were warning you about when they say don't lean against the wall in public places, don't touch the banisters and check the doorknobs before you touch them. *shudder*

I discover that the lobby to the Apple service centre is decorated in the same clean white you'd expect at the Apple Store, which makes one feel immediately more optimistic about the chances of getting the keyboard fixed. And it is, for $10 and a little banter with the guys at the front desk. Thanks, sarah!

I spend enough time on the MRT train to finish reading the first 140 pages of Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides.


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Why you shouldn't let the cat too near the keyboard

Why you shouldn't let the cat too near the keyboard

Because he gets excited watching the mouse symbol skid across the screen, and in his enthusiasm to pounce on it, ends up pulling the 'L' key right off.

Oh well --- my fault, not his, for trying to introduce him to the computer age.

Now to find out how much it will cost to replace the keyboard, not to mention the downtime involved, and to see if it's worth it or if if I should struggle on for a bit with having to poke just that particular spot without the aid of a key.

Edited to add (6 June): My helpful MacHead friend sends me this link of a kitten vs. Frontrow, which aside from being all cuteness and entertainment, makes me wonder what kind of person would let their pet unsupervised near a brand new MacBook Pro in the first place??


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*burp* says my fridge. Or maybe *vomit*

This one's for kk.

I have just thrown out the char siew baos from our Crystal Jade feast way back when.



Related Posts: The kind of kitchen I keep, I am not a housewife, My fridge is 80% chocolate

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The kind of afternoon it is

Where after Daryl walks over to our neighbourhood coffeeshop for lunch, he needs not just one but two Cokes to restore him. And possibly a third ice-cold drink to carry him home after we visit the neighbourhood ATM later.

Where I wish I was on a beach in Bali with a fruity drink (maybe the concoction loof Life from Loof) in my hand.

Where the smart thing to do is to make like Ink and curl up on the bed for a comfortable nap.

Ink in blue 2

Unfortunately, I have scads of work to do and Ink has now usurped the couch, right in front of the fan.


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Free wireless hotspots in Singapore

I have yet to find a definitive online list of free wireless hotspots in Singapore --- other than this helpful, if now extremely long, thread over at SPUG Forums --- so I thought I would start my own list. It's mostly for my own reference, since I'm frequently out of the office and in need of a place where I can check my email without having to pay for it.

Places where I've successfully connected to a free wifi network
1. National Library
2. Funan Centre (caveat: it worked in March, but not in April)
3. Brewerkz, Riverside Point
4. Mamma Lucia's, Robertson Walk
5. Book Cafe, Mohamed Sultan Road
6. NYDC, Holland Village (I haven't checked the downtown NYDC locations to see if they have free wireless)

Places I haven't tried, but I hear they have free wifi
1. McDonald's outlets
2. Changi Airport
3. Day Bed Bar, Mohamed Sultan

Any other suggestions? Please leave a comment. The only criterion is that the network must be a free one.


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Reader Request Week: Life after teaching

Yes, yes, it's definitely been more than a week since I solicited requests from readers about what they'd like to hear me prattle on about. And in fact, this entry is not in response to any of those requests (some of which are still outstanding, sorry!) but to a comment that came in several weeks later from (an) Anonymous:
... Am in the same industry as you before you quit and will probably follow your footsteps in leaving the service by the end of the year. Its been a few months since you left your previous job now and I can also see that you are still working as hard. But on hindsight, what are some of the special moments whereby you know you made the right decision? Do you get flashbacks and then realize that you are glad you left?
I don't know that there've been any "special moments" this year, when it's hit me with a flash of light, à la Saul en route to Damascus, that my decision to quit teaching last year was "the right decision". For one thing, I've never had any doubts about quitting, once I acknowledged to myself early last year that it was a viable --- if potentially terrifying --- choice. Even before I left, but after I'd started to leave warning signs, it was the only path that I felt at peace about and that kept me from going completely out of my mind during the last few months on the job.

There have certainly been moments since I left when I'm reminded why it is that I left teaching, and I'm the gladder for it. Something as simple as not having to wake up everyday before dawn is a special moment. Ditto having shrugged off the dry routine of morning assemblies and the staid pace of having one's day dictated by the school bell. I'm unreservedly glad that I will never have to mark another examination script or class assignment again, or tear my hair out over the egregious misuse slash abuse of "whereby" or "economical" (instead of "economic"). And I'm thrilled, thrilled, to leave behind the meaningless corporate doublespeak from Ministry bureaucrats and school administrators that filters its way insidiously down to the lowest levels (even though I still deal with it in other forms).

Pretty in pink

Instead of all that, I take regular two-hour lunches (even though a number of them are working lunches with the boss), and meet and work with people from a wider variety of backgrounds. Most days I dress like a graduate student --- or an undergraduate, depending on how sloppy slash uninspired I feel. If a job goes badly, I can only blame myself, not some amorphous bosslet or organisation. And if I don't work, I don't eat (so to speak).

And lest I be accused of painting far too rose-tinted a view of life-after-teaching, I should point out that I also make less money now --- and that's without medical and leave benefits.

Nevertheless, to every person who's asked over the last few months if I've had any regrets in leaving teaching, my unequivocal answer has been: none whatsoever. There are many things I could be doing this year, but teaching is absolutely not one of them.

None of which is to say that teaching is an irredeemably crappy job that everyone should flee screaming from. I know people who teach and love it, despite the usual grouses --- yay for them! But I was done with the job and all it entails. It's not the job for me, not right now. Of that, I'm absolutely certain.

Onward ho, then. What's next?


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Why I should not procrastinate

Because then when my iPod decides to crash, I won't panic about the recorded interviews that I should have transferred to my hard disk last week, instead of waiting till --- well, till the iPod crashed.

Yeah, I said "fuck" a lot when this happened yesterday (and right before I had to dash out for another work thing too).

On the bright side, being the kiasu person that I am, I did take handwritten notes that I can use to adequately write up the interviews.

But still.

Note to self: stop procrastinating already.

And now, I should get back to work.


Related Posts: The afternoon: a chronology, *poof*, They won't throw me in jail for my birthday, I procrastinate, therefore I am

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