30.11.07

How to be a walking Mac cliche

Read Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's autobiography iWoz on the train while carrying a brand-new Macbook and an Epicentre shopping bag.

I didn't plan it, I swear. I started iWoz a few days ago, before I consulted Wahj on the finer points of buying a Macbook and well before Epicentre sent me an email about its SITEX offers. And I only bought the book at the last Kinokuniya sale because I've recently taken a shine to reading biographies and personal histories.

For the record, I haven't started using the Macbook yet. I'm in the midst of crunching text for a Very Important Deadline on Monday and I only get to open the new laptop when that work is done. Yes, yes, I've received many incredulous reactions to this, but just watch me, truly, I will be that disciplined.

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25.11.07

A slow Sunday

Homemade breakfast

cour marly asked why there were no pictures on my previous cooking-related post, and I think this one proves why: I may be getting the hang of very basic cooking, but I am not getting the hang of making my meals look like anything anyone else might want to eat. Nevertheless: very tasty bacon and eggs, prefaced with a Cedele muffin.

Bacon is such a no-brainer to cook and not too expensive in the supermarket either, I fear I might be headed for more bacon in my diet than is healthy. For instance, I'm having bacon for dinner again tonight.

Today was one of those ridiculously sweltering afternoons where the stickiness of the air makes it impossible to concentrate on anything more cerebral than cutting-and-pasting or pressing "play" on the DVD player. Even the cat was cranky and whiny. Sitting in front of the fan helps (I was resisting the urge to switch on the air-conditioning), but I'm just glad my throat's recovered quickly enough from the last few days' wonkiness that I could go back to iced drinks again.

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24.11.07

I knew it!

It took watching 1½ episodes of The Amazing Race with full attention to figure it out, but my instincts weren't wrong: racer Jason (of team Lorena and Jason) is the Jason Widener who played a younger version of Jed Bartlet in The West Wing season 2 season finale, "Two Cathedrals". He sounds exactly the same.

Man, I've watched way too much "Two Cathedrals" than is normal.

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Playtime

At the gift shop at the Chinatown Heritage Centre, $2 buys you this:

Aeroplane chess

I thought anyone who went to primary school in Singapore in the early/mid-1980s would be familiar with it, but apparently ACS boys are not. Good thing the rules are easy to explain.

In the debut game of Wahj vs. Packrat yesterday, both players wound up with three pieces "home" and one piece left to trudge forlornly, perhaps forever, around the board. So they, er, declared it a tie, which I'm fairly certain is not kosher in the rules.

The thing is, I'm fairly certain I played this with someone recently (i.e. maybe the last year or so). I seem to even recall reading the rules printed on a piece of dusty thin paper. Now who was I playing with and whose set was it?

Other retro amusements that have recently entered my possession include a bunch of small toys that came out of a goodie bag assembled for the adults at Nate's birthday party. The capteh (shuttlecock) didn't last long with Ink around.

Ink gets acquainted with his new toy

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21.11.07

As if we needed another reason ...

But the Media Development Authority gave us one anyway.

Reason #1 (yes, #1) the Singapore government's attempts to "nurture" a media industry are doomed to fail: Sing along to the MDA Senior Management Rap.

Beeker warned me that it would be "cringe-worthy". I think he meant to say "revolting, ridiculous and impossible to sit through" --- although I did, to the bitter end, just to see how bad it would get.

As I just said to Adri, it parodies itself.

Now what I want to know is: why are taxpayers' dollars being spent on this??

Edited to add (12:31 am): The video's so popular, the original site takes ages to load --- so naturally, it's been Youtubed.

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Occasionally, I can cook

Nigella's How To Eat taught me how to marinate and pan-fry chicken breast. bowb taught me how to saute mushrooms to perfection (a lot of butter and garlic is involved). I took a risk by tossing some cherry tomatoes into the mix. Less risk was involved with the final sprinkling of oregano and parsley and salt.

And then there was dinner.

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20.11.07

Taking care of business

It was a good thing I chucked my brand-new passport photos into my bag this morning, because I found myself with an unexpected couple of hours free between appointments this afternoon and decided that I'd best betake myself post-haste to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to get my passport renewed. Yes, I've learned my lesson.

At first I was blindly queueing up at the e-services terminal, but then it occurred to me to ask a human being instead --- particularly since the queue to speak to the human being was moving more efficiently than the one for the e-services terminal. As it turns out, to renew one's passport, all one has to do is a) request a form at the general enquiry counter, b) fill it up (the form promises to take no more than 3 minutes, and really, it doesn't), c) slap a passport photo onto it and d) drop it off in one of the many clearly marked deposit boxes for this purpose.

Oh, and you need to have a credit/debit card number that you can put down so that the government can take its $70 fee.

Since this über-efficiency meant that my passport-making errand took a lot less time than I expected, I found myself wandering the SMU campus with time to kill, which took me happily to the exhibition "Education at Large 1945-1965: Student Life and Activities in Singapore". As an interviewee in the exhibition's main film said, students used to get very passionate about ideologies and principles --- not about celebrity idols." (This may not be a verbatim quote, but you get her drift.)

Helpfully for people like me with mediocre Chinese abilities, a full English translation of the exhibition panels is available in a handy brochure. Go see!

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14.11.07

Breaking the bad taste barrier

In the middle of this evening's Ikea research trip, I pointed at a lamp and asked. "Okay, so tell me: is that outrageously ugly or cutting-edge ahead-of-the-curve design?"

"Outrageously ugly --- "

"Thank you. I thought I was the only one who thought so."

" --- Actually, it looks like the opening show at the Biennale last year. Especially the bigger one." And my friend pointed at this version of the lamp in question:

Outrageously ugly

Obviously, my friend shall not be named, or he'll never work in this town again.

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11.11.07

Better than the SAT

Via Mr Miyagi, I've found FreeRice, which pledges to donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations World Food Program for every vocabulary word that you define correctly (don't worry, it's multiple-choice). In 10 minutes, I've clicked through 500 grains of rice and my vocabulary level is hovering around 45. I'm particularly stoked that they had "grok" and "reave".

I'm not sayin' that this is the best way to do something for charity. But if you're going to fritter your time away on the internet anyway, and you like word games, this is as good a place as, say, Scrabulous to spend your time on (you know who I'm talking about).

Plus I got to learn what "nictitate" means.

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10.11.07

In which Singapore ranks #77

The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2007 is out, and Singapore ranks 77 out of 128 countries, with a score of 0.6609 (on a scale where 0.00 indicates a measurement of absolute gender inequality and 1.00, gender equality). The top Asian country is the Philippines (ranking: 6; score: 0.7629) and good ol' Switzerland is at no. 40 with a score of 0.6924.

Now I wish I'd paid more attention in statistics classes so that I could actually figure out what the report and those numbers mean ...

(Via Broadsheet.)

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8.11.07

Why I'm not getting any better at this travel thing

So there I am, standing at the check-in counter in the departure lounge of Terminal 1, twiddling my thumbs with glee that Bali is just a few hours away, when the service staff behind the counter says, "Your passport expires on May 4 next year."

"Uh-huh." Still gleeful, still twiddling. Or rather, still chattering to Ondine, who won the free hotel stay in Bali and graciously invited me to go along.

"You need six months' validity on your passport," says the service staff.

"Uh-huh." I nod, I smile, I bob --- and then I think, today is November 4, so ... SHIT.

The service staff is counting off the months on her fingers. December-January-February-March-April-May. Six marks the spot, six marks the fact that my passport would expire six months from my date of departure from Singapore.

"How long are you staying in Bali?" she asks.

"Two days only." I believe I was starting to whine.

Nevertheles, next came the "please wait by the side, ma'am" request while one of her colleagues made a few phone calls. It must have taken less than ten minutes to sort it all out, but it felt like much longer and I felt like the biggest dolt for checking everything, including our dates of departure and return (this has previously been an issue), except the requirement that I know well enough to recite backwards in my sleep in Latin: six months' validity.

"I hope they let me go," I whined some more while Ondine and Packrat, to their credit, did not panic or chastise me.

Then I had a happy thumbs-up signal from the service staff, who said they'd spoken to Indonesian immigration, who'd given the go-ahead. We checked in, we had a quick dinner, we caught our plane --- we were on our way!

Except that at the immigration airport at the Denpasar airport, the immigration officer gave me the old stink-eye. "You need six months' validity."

"I know," I said in what I hoped sounded like a quiet, contrite tone.

He counted off dates on his fingers too. Then he repeated his point in his best officialese tone.

"In Singapore, they called Indonesia to ask if it was okay," I ventured. It was the only card I had to play, other than the US$10 bill in my wallet.

"They called who?" he wanted to know. So young, yet so determined.

"They called Indonesian immigration and they said it was okay," I said haplessly.

He said something in Bahasa to his colleague at the next counter and did some mulling on his own. I quavered where I was standing and wondered what exactly is involved when one is turned back by a country's immigration services.

Maybe I showed enough fear, contrition, general guilelessness or combination of all three, but he said, "You leaving when?"

"In two days," was my prompt response. Did I need to show him my air ticket to prove it?

He flipped open the passport to some random page and proceeded with his stamp-and-scribble routine. "Okay, this time I let you. Next time, six month's validity."

"Yesthankyouokaythankyouthankyou." I took the passport and stepped quickly towards Ondine before he could change his mind.

Ondine's assessment of the affair: "Your mother sure scold you."

*gulp*

Too lazy to go out

Fortunately, I didn't need my passport for anything else during our two-day stay except to get out of the country, so my little gaffe didn't get in the way of our sunbathing, lolling about, and consumption of Greek food, room service and Khong Guan or Marks & Spencer biscuits. The hotel staff were very nice to us even though we were, essentially, freeloaders, and there were a surprising number of cute, cherubic babies around the swimming pool.

Alas, no good male eye candy, and I didn't get as much of a tan as I wanted. For future reference, I'll try to make beach vacations at least a three-day affair.

Thank you, Ondine!

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Related posts: More sleep, less blogging, Getting better at this travel thing

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Rhymin' games

I typed this in an email today: "online moniker Ondine".

Now say it five times fast.

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7.11.07

More sleep, less blogging

I was going to blog about why I'm not getting any better at this travel thing after all, but I've been really beat since I got back so I'm going to go to bed instead.

Yes, go to bed. Before midnight. On the eve of a public holiday.

In lieu of an entertaining yet edifying travel anecdote, have a picture of what I was looking at for the last two evenings.

Bali sky

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On the go

Since 3:30 pm, I have consumed two black coffees, one iced tea (unsweetened) and one ice Milo (very much sweetened and loaded with Milo powder). This is what happens when one is roving between meetings and killing time slash clearing email at any wireless-friendly cafe in town.

I'm also peckish and dinner's not for another hour, so I'm now adding several mouthfuls of kaya toast to the mix. I'm sure I'll start feeling ill any minute now ...

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4.11.07

Getting better at this travel thing

I did not pack at the last minute. I did not pack four pairs of shoes (and certainly not five). Perhaps most importantly, I can lift my baggage without any difficulty.

Okay, so I'm only going to be away for 48 hours.

However, I didn't make it to the money changer because I got complacent after my mom passed me some extra currency. So for my back-up stash, I'll resort for once to the airport's currency counter.

Oops, I should get probably quit chatting with kk and head to the airport now ...

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