26.6.07

And then there were two ...

I'd never carried a newborn before. Usually I don't even visit babies when they're at the newborn stage; on the previous two occasions that I have, I peered appreciatively at the child and even babysat one briefly while his mom went to the bathroom (alas, he gave himself up to bawling within seconds), but always declined to actually carry the child lest I drop it on its head. Newborns are so, well, small. They fit within the crook of even my arm and while I love how soft their skin is, that also always reminds me of how fragile they are.

Yesterday, I carried a newborn for the first time. Two newborns, actually. First there was Jordan, who frowned and gave a small yawp when she was moved from the new dad Packrat's arms to mine, but quickly settled down and snoozed on. I whispered, "Be vewy, vewy quiet. Hello, Ah Hui."

("Hui" really is a part of her Chinese name, but since "Ah Hui" is a homophone for "ah huey" which is a none-too-complimentary Singlish reference to a woman with dubious fashion sense, I'm pretty sure new mom Ondine doesn't want me calling her that too often.)

Then there was Evan, who seemed a little more sanguine about being handed around. He has very "boy" features with a certain Zen-like cast. I didn't whisper anything to him besides his name because nothing clever came to mind.

I'm still surprised that they a) fit within the crook of my arm (yes, it bears repeating) and b) are lighter than my cat.

I'll leave it to the parents to tell you the story of how Jordan and Evan got here, but meanwhile there are (Family-only) photos on Flickr and, of course, the inevitable quote from The West Wing --- not just because it's about babies but because it's about twins and there was talk about using a "Huck and Molly" codename at one point:
Toby: I didn't realise babies come with hats. You guys crack me up. You don't have jobs. You can't walk or speak the language. You don't have a dollar in your pockets, but you got yourselves a hat. So, everything's fine. I don't wanna alarm you or anything but I'm dad. And for you, son, for you, this'll be the last time I pass the buck, but I think it should be clear from the get-go that it was Mom who named you Huckleberry. I guess she was feeling like life doesn't present enough challenges to overcome on its own. And, honey, you've got a name now too. Your mom and I named you after an incredibly brave, uh, an incredibly brave woman, really not all that much older than you. Your name is Molly. Huck and Molly. So, what do I do? Well, you're gonna need food and clothes and doctors and dentists, and there's that. And, should you have any questions along the way, I'm gonna be doin' stuff like this (grabs a tissue and wipes Huck's mouth), Huck, because you're leaking a little bit out of your mouth there. You're holding my finger, son? Hey, Molly. Your brother's holding my hand. Do you wanna hold my hand?
--- "25", The West Wing
Plenty of time for hand-holding as we go along.

Edited to add (Thu, 12:48 am): Packrat's posted snapshots of the twins on their first day of, well, life.

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Prices going up, cigarettes going out

Bogged down as I have been in work, I only recently came to the realisation that we're four days away from July 1, when:
  • Singapore's goods and services tax (GST) will go up from 5% to 7% --- thank you, Apple Centre at Wheelock Place, for dutifully informing me of all the stuff I might wish to buy before the GST increase; and
I've sounded off on the GST hike before, and I maintain that retailers need to start distinguishing on their price tags between how much of the price is the actual cost-to-the-consumer-and-pocketed-by-the-retailer and how much of it is the GST-given-to-the-government. But of course, Singapore isn't exactly known for a healthy culture of consumer protection: Channel NewsAsia today reported that the Competition Commission of Singapore doesn't see anything awry with NETS' fee hike. Interestingly enough, the NETS fee hike (from 0.55% or less of a transaction to 1.5-1.8%, i.e. close to what credit card companies charge) also kicks in on July 1.

So from July 1, we can expect prices in Singapore to unilaterally rise by up to 4% (2% additional GST + up to 1.8% to cover the increased NETS fees) --- which is, by the way, more than the putative 3% rate of inflation that gets bandied about. Up with progress indeed.

As for the smoking ban, I take the point that non-smokers want to have their fun and not smell like it too, but already I'm a little nostalgic for the smoke-filled embrace of a crowded bar or dance club. Blame it on the fact that I dated a chain smoker in college. Blame it on the fact that while only 12% of Singaporeans smoke, in my social circle it seems that every other person does. I don't mind people smoking around me and it's a little odd to think that I'm witnessing the end of a cultural era of smoke-filled "entertainment outlets".

Of course, one might argue that my expression of sentimentality's disturbingly akin to, say, a denizen of sixteenth-century England lamenting the fact that women don't wear white lead makeup anymore. But the broader point is this: if the smoking ban is merely a legislative acceleration to make people stop Doing Things That Are Bad For Them, at what point is it acceptable for a government to interfere in a private decision or preference?

For instance, plagued as I am by reams of junk snailmail that gets shoved into my mailbox or wedged into the gate outside the apartment everyday, there are times when I have fascist urges to demand legislation that would outlaw such an egregious waste of paper. Or how about legislating against the consumption of sweetened drinks like Coke (still my favourite drink of all time, by the way) or Mountain Dew or any number of drinks that are of absolutely no nutritional value and arguably contribute to all the wider health problems associated with a diet with an excessive sugar intake?

My point is not that we should introduce more legislation à la the chewing gum ban. My point is at what point do we legislate all manner of human behaviour?

Meanwhile, I guess I'll be hanging out on the pavement a lot more from next week, enjoying the traffic pollution along with my friends' cigarette smoke.

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Related post: Got a light?

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25.6.07

Monday got off to a late start

I was tired. I was sated. The fan was blowing. The night was quiet.

And I could not sleep because every time I thought I'd settled into a comfortable position, before I could actually fall asleep, I would feel my lower legs and arms begin to prickle with a faint pre-pins and needles sensation, and I would have to readjust and resettle myself in a new position, hoping that would improve the blood circulation.

And nothing seemed to improve the blood circulation, which made me extremely crotchety as the night wore on (it felt like it was wearing on, anyway) and sleep eluded me. By the time the alarm rang this morning, I was still tetchy, so I switched off the alarm and slept in for an extra hour and a half.

I mention this only because I have been having the occasional twitch or cramp in my legs or feet, like the muscle's being pulled taut like the string being drawn on a bow Ondine would tell me to eat more bananas, which I'm trying to do, but the muscles still keep acting up. I wonder if this is just one of those downsides to having naturally low blood pressure ...

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24.6.07

I am weak

Scrumptious stewed pears

Even though I had ice cream this afternoon, I capitulated to a further sugar craving and went back to The Garden Slug this evening for their delicately stewed pears in white wine sauce. They were as good as I remembered.

Given this week's track record, however (5 desserts in the past 7 days), I am hereby declaring a moratorium on sweets and desserts for a week. Either that, or I gotta start running again.

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Day of rest III

Okay, I did squeeze in a smidgen of work today, but mostly I took the day off.

Pretty tiles

Finally the east gets its own "we make our own ice cream" joint: Ice Cream Chefs, along East Coast Road at Ocean Park. Unpretentious is the word --- there are only about 10 ice cream flavours and seating at about 5 tables.

Still, that's good enough of a range. I had a Mrs Smith --- green apple with cinammon, very fresh and sorbet-tasting, just what the doctor ordered on a hot, humid afternoon like today's. The friend I was with had a Cuppucino that had real coffee kick (as opposed to the overly sweet taste of most coffee-flavoured desserts). I want to come back for the Nutella Delight (tempted, Dave?) and maybe even the Horlicks for nostalgia's sake.

Ice Cream Chefs' niche --- because whipping up one's own flavours isn't enough these days --- seems to be also that they "mix in", not just sprinkle on top, whatever sweet additions one might desire, from chocolate syrup to Tim Tams to granola. The mixing-in process necessitates a measure of folding the additional ingredients into the ice cream and sort of mashing everything together, while the ice cream retains a fairly solid consistency. For people who have a really sweet tooth, I guess.

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Related post: Day of rest II, Day of rest

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22.6.07

Too much mediocre dessert

Working en cafe

One of the projects I'm working on is rushing to print, and since all of us working on it are freelancers, the last two days have been spent living in various downtown cafes, madly checking proofreading changes and making sure that the final text is as clean as it can be without any of us (managing editor, copy editor or publication designer) losing our minds.

Yesterday, we were at Geek Terminal, where there was a dearth of attractive corporate types in swanky Hugo Boss suits, but abundant good service. On the other hand, several things on the menu were inexplicably unavailable, including the brownies I'd been hoping would satiate my sugar craving. I settled for a warmed apple cake instead and thank goodness for the heap of vanilla ice cream that came with it, because the cake was more like a muffin and not particularly tasty.

Today, we were at Dome Cafe at the Singapore Art Museum, which had the same Bjork CD (Homogenic) playing the entire afternoon. Either someone on the staff really loves Bjork or they're impervious to music. Anyways, while Dome's menu has really improved lately (it was quite ho-hum when the chain first launched in Singapore in the late '90s), the carrot cake that I was lusting after (because someone'd had it at a meeting earlier this week at a different Dome) turned out to be a tad dry and not quite as sweet as I like my carrot cake.

On the bright side, we're almost ready to put the publication to bed, so I should soon have the time to return to either The Secret Garden for their incredible apple crumble or The Garden Slug (hm --- there seems to be an unintentional horticultural theme going on here) for some of those stewed pears.

Oh dear. I just realised this means I've had four really sugar-laden desserts in six days.

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Expertise in the Chinese language required

Anyone know what this says?

Mysterious Chinese characters

It's the very large logo on a very cute T-shirt that I received as a gift, but I hesitate to wear the shirt in public until I know exactly what those Chinese characters mean.

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20.6.07

I forgot to pay my bill

First, it was due, but I thought I'd paid it, so I ignored it.

Then I got another bill informing me that payment was now overdue, but I really thought I'd paid it, so I ignored it.

Then I thought I'd better check, so I got in touch with the government agency concerned (after the due date of the second bill). They told me that I hadn't paid it, no sirree. Whoops.

Then I procrastinated.

This morning I tried to pay the bill online, but apparently online payments are not permitted for overdue bills (why the hell not?). The not-so-small print on the bill informs me that "legal proceedings may be initiated to recover the outstanding amount if payment is still not received". Oops.

I've emailed the government agency concerned to ask how I can make payment. Hopefully they won't take that as an invitation to sue the pants off me.

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Related Posts: Procrastination, Chinese New Year-style, Why I should not procrastinate, The afternoon: a chronology, *poof*, They won't throw me in jail for my birthday, I procrastinate, therefore I am

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19.6.07

An afternoon at Geek Terminal

When Adri first told me she wanted to check out Geek Terminal (first seen --- by us, anyway --- at theory.is.the.reason), my initial reaction was: Great concept, but couldn't they have come up a name that was more Wired and less Hackers? Then I said, "Oh, I'm not usually in the Market Street area."

And then at 3 pm today, I found myself at Chulia Street with several hours to kill before meeting Little Miss Drinkalot for dinner. So I ended up at Geek Terminal after all.

An afternoon at Geek Terminal

The verdict:
  • The decor --- Futuristic-ish. A bit too much silver and a few too many plasma screens for my personal liking, which is why I ended up sitting in one of the red chairs and stared at my own laptop screen instead.
  • The coffee --- Illy! I approve.
  • The wireless - Free and fast on my laptop. However, my Nokia N95 didn't get along well enough with the cafe's wireless network to be able to upload an image directly to Flickr. Oddly enough, the usually more patchy [email protected] did the trick instead.
  • The Eubiq power plug system --- Very cute! And idiot-proof.
The only downside is that the table height is a little awkward for short Asian people like me. If I lean back into the (comfy-but-stout) armchairs, I have to raise my arms a little to work at my laptop. I imagine that could get tiring for anyone who needs to do some major typing.

I wasn't at all hungry, so I didn't try the menu. But if the cafe's raison d'etre is to serve neo-nomads like me, it seems to be on the right track. There's even a Nokia Nseries/Eseries display where customers can wander over and fondle new phones.

We'll see what Adri thinks when she gets here.

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18.6.07

I watch too much TV

I saw my first episode of Ugly Betty last night --- or rather, the second half of whatever episode was on Channel 5 that my flatmate was watching. Not that I was providing a running commentary throughout, but the conversation soon pretty much went like this:

"Oh, that's the guy who was on Popular, this teen show about 3 or 4 years ago [Ed: oops, more like circa 1999]. And then he was on this sci-fi Jake 2.0. He's really cute, they make him look a lot older here." --- the highly underrated Christopher Gorham.

"Oh, she was on, what was that '80s show called, with Alyssa Milano and Tony Danza ... "
"Who's The Boss," the flatmate helpfully supplied.
"Yes! The boss, the one who hired Tony Danza." --- Judith Light.

"Oh, her! Have you seen Heroes? She was one of those with powers, but, er, something happened to her. She has a very sweet face." --- Jayman Mays.

"Oh, he was on The O.C., playing the grandfather." --- Alan Dale.

And that excludes Lucy Liu or Rebecca Romijn, who are way too recognisable for anyone to get points for picking them out.

Perhaps Ugly Betty is the new "six degrees of Kevin Bacon".

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17.6.07

My kind of neighbourhood cafe

First domch told me about a party they catered. Then Ondine blogged about it. Then I was in the mood to try someplace new tonight, so I hauled BoKo off to dinner at The Garden Slug.

You choose

Bottled beer only $7 each! Take that, George's & Blooie's.

Attentive owner who knows the menu! Always a bonus.

Stewed pears in white wine and cinammon! I'll come back just for that.

Downsides? My "buttery garlic" pasta could've used more garlic, though the lime leaves added a subtle pizzazz to the mix. And there's no washroom in the cafe, so you have to put your faith in the rather dubious-sounding instructions to "go around the corner and then look under the stairs" (to be fair, it was a perfectly clean washroom).

Like Ondine, I will come back another day (when I'm not recovering from a bad throat) for the 2-brownie popsicle. The all-day breakfast looks tempting too, except that it's paired with yoghurt with muesli and honey, but when I crave a late breakfast, I usually want heaps of grease and bacon. Lots of tasty-looking vegetarian or vegan options on the menu, though.

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My very first Hindu wedding

In which I did not understand a whit of what was going on, because I failed to do a little educational Googling before showing up this morning.

At any rate, it was as colourful as I'd expected, despite the drizzly weather, and the videographer, just like his fictional counterpart in Bend It Like Beckham, firmly instructed the bride as she got out of the car, "Don't smile ah, don't smile." I wanted to chime in with the rest of the line from the movie: "Indian bride never smile! You ruin the bloody video!"

My very first Hindu wedding

No video was harmed in the making of this married couple.

The rites were pretty, the legal solemnisation ceremony that followed banal and flat in comparison. And because I was sitting in the midst of a number of guests who were government employees, I started wondering who were the poor government employees who had to draft and finesse those civil marriage vows in the first place.

In future, I'll remember not to heap my plate so high at the lunch buffet because the stuff I like (potato curry, prawn vadai, papadums) are mostly carbohydrates after all. Good thing I went shopping after that to work it off.

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13.6.07

Things I wanted to Twitter yesterday

... but didn't have the time or internet connection to.

$83.94 for a new remote control for the airconditioner??

Despite all the construction and new traffic, pockets of Portsdown Road are still very pretty.

Nothing like almost choking to breathlessness on a miscplaced gulp of water to add a little perspective to one's day.

People who screw up one's dinner (namely Suzie's) should offer at least a free dessert to atone. (Sun With Moon Cafe, if anyone wants to know. Good food and service, except for the part where they screwed up).

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10.6.07

Home fixin'

While I was assembling the fan

The nice thing about recovering from the cold is getting these short spurts of energy. So I mustered some of it into buying and assembling a new fan this week, which was something I hadn't had the time to do for about two weeks. Ink's contribution was to investigate all the plastic bags that the fan parts came in, which is why he's not left unsupervised with such bags lest he gets trapped in one of them.

I'm very pleased with having put the fan together myself. Previous attempts at any home assembly kits usually ended with me shrieking hysterically at an incomprehensible assembly manual and the item-to-be-assembled left halfway done/put together crooked/missing an essential screw. This fan stands sturdily, spins reassuringly and didn't take more than half an hour of my life to put together.

Next week, we'll tackle getting the airconditioning serviced. It's getting too hot to function without it.

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7.6.07

Still in bed

Things that are impossible to do when one is beset by a cold and fatigue:
  • Copyedit text.
  • Proofread emails to see if anyone's been left out of the list.
  • Make sense of emails in general.
  • Tick off people who cut in front of me in the cab line or ATM queue.
  • Chase the cat down from the top of the blinds where he's taken to hanging out (and scraping plaster off the ceiling).
  • Eat.
For the record, I am eating. It's just that everything seems to have lost its flavour.

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6.6.07

To bed, to bed

Ondine says that the last few blog entries make me sound like an alcoholic, so I should qualify them by enumerating what I had to drink today:
  • Warm honey in water
  • Warm water
  • Vitagen (peach flavour)
  • Honey dew juice (I wanted a green apple juice, but the stallholder heard me wrong)
  • Warm water
  • Beer (oops)
  • Warm water
The beer was not precisely my idea, but I figured it would help me sleep. And I need to sleep because my throat hurts and my body is slowing down and I can barely concentrate on the work that needs to be delivered by tomorrow. Not having a fever yet, but I'm sure it's just waiting in the wings to assault me once my scratchy throat succumbs to the inevitable cough.

Wah, so much verbal diarrhoea. I need to go to bed.

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3.6.07

Not quite the weekend off

The apple martinis at Winebar are too sweet. Plus when combined with a generous dose of champagne (at a party in mock celebration of an "en bloc" eviction, no less), it meant that I popped awake this morning after only five paltry hours of sleep.

Although perhaps it's just as well, since I have a deadline looming tomorrow and the work is barely halfway done.

*gulp*
*panic*
*[insert other "virtual" fretting-type gesture]*

The next time someone tells me that editing and/or typesetting for publication is easy-peasy and shouldn't require such high fees, I am going to whack them over the head with a mallet the size of my accummulated eye strain over the last two days.

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2.6.07

Moving day

1 hour.
10 boxes.
2 friends and a hired mover.
A bow, a bicycle, a motorcycle helmet, a bedroll.

More than 8 years together.

Goodbye.

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1.6.07

TGIF

At dinner at the Cedele restaurant at Wheelock Place tonight, Suzie's wine tasted like crap while mine tasted perfectly fine for a cheap sauvignon blanc --- even though the waitstaff claimed that both glasses were filled from the same wine bottle. Very mysterious.

To their credit, though, the waitstaff did the right thing by immediately offering us fresh glasses of wine, even though I told them that mine was fine and didn't need to be changed. And the food was impeccable. I have no idea what exactly goes into the oil dressing they drizzle over all their salads, but it was mighty tasty and not just your usual balsamic vinaigrette concoction. The only downside was that my chocolate hazelnut cake turned out to be more of a chocolate-with-no-hazelnut-flavour-and-with-white-chocolate-icing-and-ONE-hazelnut cake. I don't even like white chocolate.

Down in Borders later, I finally landed a paperback copy of John Scalzi's Old Man War. I don't ordinarily pick up novels in which the protagonists are seventy-five year old men unless the novels are written by Philip Roth, but Old Man's War gets an exemption since I've been reading (and loving) Scalzi's blog for so long.

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