Packing: Day Whatever

budak asked me what happened to Day Four and Day Five. The answer: I've been busy juggling work and moving-related errands and the last bits of packing, which leaves my mind too scattered to do much of anything else. I did take yesterday evening off to chillax with a McDonald's ice cream cone and PBS's "Growing Up Online", but by the time I got home, I just wanted to sleep.

So I move in 12 hours and about 1/3 of my boxes are still unsealed because I think, "Oh, I'll just leave it open in case I find something small to squeeze in there ..." Then when I was in the shower just now, I realised that I had totally forgotten about one small cupboard space that contains my travel gear (luggage, toiletry bag, etc.). But it's too late and I'm too tired and I do have tomorrow morning to finish up, so that's what I'll do.

Maybe it's because I saw the same episode of American Idol three times this evening, but it's all still a bit of surreal, even as I type this surrounded by heaps of brown cardboard boxes.

PS: The eggs? Still in the fridge.


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Packing: Day Three

Except that I was too tired last night to blog about it.

My mother came over and swept all of the kitchen into boxes. Well, not literally, because that would've meant breaking all the things she so carefully wrapped in newspaper and then even more carefully wedged into boxes. Truly she is the domestic goddess, but I am, er, not.

This reduces me to eating cereal out of a disposable plastic box this morning. There are also two eggs in the fridge, but nothing to cook them in --- unless you count the kettle?


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Packing: Day Two

Among the things I tossed out today:
  • Half my bags: handbags, messenger bags, document bags --- some I'd forgotten I owned, some unfashionable now, some that I got for free when I bought something, some that made me wonder what the hell I was thinking when I used them and some that I simply don't use anymore because of lifestyle changes.
  • More than half my winter clothes, mostly because they're too big on me now.
  • Boxes and manuals for a bewildering number of devices that have passed through this household: an iBook and a Powerbook and a Macbook, four models of Nokia phones, one Palm, one Clie, one Fujifilm camera, a Motorola cable modem, a Linksys router, a Netgear router and one Creative SoundBlaster.
By tossed out, I should clarify that I don't mean all of it went into the trash. Those that can be recycled or reused by someone else, will be.

My new household rule: if something new comes into the house, the corresponding old item has to go out. Or I'm going to be playing this game of clear-up catch-up for the rest of my life.


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Packing: Day One

Ink's idea of packing

The mistake I made today was packing the DVDs first (in order to intersperse them with the books), because that meant that when the TV line-up failed me, I had nothing else to play for white noise. For instance, Veronica Mars would've made a nice antidote to STAR World's obsession with Smallville.

It's amazing how many books I have that I didn't know I had. Most of them went into the boxes; a handful didn't make the cut (chief criterion: is this something I want to pay someone to haul up to a walk-up flat?) and will hopefully find new homes.

Now there are 12 filled boxes (though not yet sealed, I keep tossing small items into the corners), and only the bedroom and kitchen are left to pack. Technically, I also packed away about one-tenth of the bedroom's contents today, so I'm a little ahead of the game.

Which makes me feel somewhat less panicked than I did this afternoon, when I was imagining that between work and packing, I would get no sleep till after I moved (on Thursday).


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There goes the neighbourhood

I woke up this morning to the news that the government is going to build more MRT lines (yay!), including a new Eastern Region Line that will link Marine Parade, Siglap, Bedok South and Upper East Coast, to Marina Bay in the west and Changi in the east.

I've lived within 7 minutes' walk of an MRT station for the last eight years or so, and it's been great in terms of convenience. That said, I'm moving on Thursday to a neighbourhood without an MRT station, which still works out because it's strategically placed along enough bus routes that I'm going to be well-connected to downtown.

I was kind of looking forward to not taking the train so often. There's something a little warmer about the experience of travelling on a bus as opposed to a train, though I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it's because there was no MRT before 1988, plus I never lived near an MRT station till 1999, so I feel somewhat transported back to my younger self whenever I take a long bus ride. Maybe it's because with SBS Transit's iris NextBus service, it's easy to check how much longer the next bus will be, which takes some of the frustration out of the waiting time (yes, it's a psychological palliative, I know).

Anyway, my new neighbourhood is now slated to get the new Eastern Region line. I don't know how I feel about that. On one hand, yay! I'm all for having a more comprehensive MRT network and more comprehensive public transportation routes overall. I'm a city girl at heart and I know that until we all get personal teleportation systems à la Star Trek, cities need good public transport systems to make them liveable.

But there are two things that make me sigh when I think about an imminent Eastern Region Line.

Exhibit A: the construction nightmare that is Holland Village (Flickr throws up some relevant images, though they don't full capture the dust, the mess and the rats). It's been going on for a couple of years but feels much longer, and the first thing that happens when the bulldozers and other arcane construction machinery move in, is that businesses suffer. Residents can or sometimes have to live with the inconvenience, because they can't pack up and move willy-nilly, and maybe they can stick it out. But businesses that get displaced or lose their customer base don't have the wherewithal to hango n and wait for the sparkling new MRT station to be completed.

And the thing is, the kind of businesses you find in offbeat little neighbourhoods like Holland Village or Siglap, are precisely what gives these places their colour and character. They're the reason people want to live and eat and do business there. They matured organically into what they are today without government intervention; no one declared they wanted to create a "Bohemian Hub" in either of these neighbourhoods (plus I don't think the Katong/Siglap stretch is really bohemian).

If you construct a massive rail network in such a way that undermines and destroys the businesses that were there in the first place --- the businesses that were thriving on their own and brought the neighbourhoods together, which is why then the government decided to install a new MRT station there --- then it's kind of ironic, not to mention frightful, isn't it?

Other related examples of death-by-government-intervention in Singapore: Dempsey Road (though that's not a residential area), Chinatown (the area's been screwed with for decades) and Geylang Serai, which lost its landmark 42-year-old market a couple of years ago.

The other reason I'm diffident about the Eastern Region Line is that there's something to be said for a place not being that easy to get to. Not that every place needs to be as isolated as Charlie's or the old Buckaroo's, either --- but there's a certain tipping point, so to speak, after which a neighbourhood becomes too popular, too crowded and pretty much goes to hell. Some people already think Holland Village has jumped the shark, Dempsey Road certainly seems headed that way (I mean, it's got a Long Beach Seafood Restaurant, for heaven's sake) and Little India would've been a casualty long ago if it wasn't so completely colonised by migrant workers from the subcontinent.

As I said, I'm torn. I want better public transport options, but the government's existing track record isn't exactly stellar. For every Chinatown that been stabbed through the heart, it's only created the likes of HDB Hub, AMK Hub and Tampines Mall instead.

Just as well I'm moving to Siglap, I guess. At least I'll have the chance to enjoy it before, well, whatever happens next.


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A boy after my own heart

Boy likes reading. Boy reads quite a bit. Boy wants to set up a website to tell other kids about the books he reads because "there might be lots of kids out there who are wondering what are some good books to read. I can help with that."

Boy gets interactive-designer dad to build him his own book-review website.

Boy, for the record, is ten years old.


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One year

What a year.

Sometimes, no other words are needed.




Late-night non-shopping

Mustafa's own Black Eye Peas

There are many marvellous things at Mustafa. Food, of course, but I still have some ready-to-eat packs on the kitchen shelf from my last trip there, er, several months ago, so I forbore from purchasing more. But they also have electronic accessories from brands I've usually not heard of before, sometimes with instructions in fragmented English that don't quite explain what they're to be used for.

So it's surprising that I could Google the very cool toaster that I almost bought just for the hell of it: the Memphis red 2-slice toaster from Morphy Richards. It makes me think of the aesthetic of KitchenAid mixers, but at a fraction of the cost, of course --- this was Mustafa, after all.

I'm trying not to accumulate stuff before I move, so I applied my usual "rule" to counter impulse buys: if it's there when I go back, I'll get it. The other caveat is that the kitchen in the new place has to have counter space for it, which is not at all a given.


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This never rarely happens

And lo it was, that before 4 pm in the middle of the workweek, I found myself having finished all the work I'd scheduled to do for the day

I'd felt myself inching towards this achievement around 3 pm, when I realised I had two more paragraphs to write, max, before I could shoot the document off to the client and mark the task with a triumphant "done!". And then I actually did finish, despite taking time to play with the cat instead of ignoring him like I'd been doing all day.

Which is bloggable only because I usually whine about long work days, so let's give the short ones their credit where credit is due.

Not that I'm about to go goof off for the rest of the day; there's still odds and ends of administrivia to wind up. But no more paid writing for today, and I'm taking tomorrow off to settle some moving-house matters, so let's just say I'm taking my weekend early.

On a related note, my cousin updated his Facebook status yesterday to say he was "amazed how many S'pore friends mention 'work' in their status updates!" And he works in DC, so it's not like he's slacking off somewhere on a desert island. Separately, I once had two phone calls with friends who were still working after 8 pm on a Monday night --- to which James, the friend I was with, asked incredulously, "Are all your friends workaholics?

Er ... no comment.


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The perils of living with an animal

Alternative titles for this blog post: "Why I didn't sell my old iBook after getting a new Macbook" or "Why my cat is in the doghouse".

Under the table

I thought it was going to be a nice, quiet, productive morning: wake up at 7 am, put in a couple of hours' work, then head out at 9ish for an appointment.

Except that first, I overslept by an hour. That severely curtailed the amount of time I had to do work. Then the new coffee tasted not-as-nice as I'd hoped. But hey, the cereal looked pretty good when I laid it out on the table beside the coffee and the Macbook.

Except that the cat, in the middle of one of his bouts of madcap streaking from room to room, abruptly leapt up onto the table ---

Upsetting the coffee ---

A quarter of which spilled all over the left side of the Macbook keyboard.

So then there was shrieking (me) and fleeing (him), and I was so discombobulated it took me a few seconds to figure out that I should start mopping up the coffee that was on the laptop (instinct drove me at first to the spillage on the table). And even though I managed to continue clearing email and surfing for a bit, within half hour the keyboard decided it'd much rather switch to special character input instead. So my emails started to look like this:
... this week is already jam-packed for me, and this morning my cat made things worse by spilling coffee all over my new laptop! I'm going to have to bring it in to be serviced as the keyboaå®∂æß∫∫≥ç≈πΩøçΩ≈π纖∆£∑´…®µçµ
So I had to forgo work for the entire morning and drop off the Macbook at the service centre. Thank goodness the old iBook's still serviceable and I didn't yield to the temptation of selling it for a few hundred bucks. Also, it's a good thing the cat is still awfully cute, or he'd be out on the street.

To top it all off, the button on my favourite (and only) pair of jeans has come off, leaving me wondering what I'm going to wear for the rest of the week whenever the weather gets cold (the monsoon's still in town).

Ironically, of course, all this happened less than 24 hours before Steve Jobs is due to announce the latest in Macbooks ...


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Prepping to move (or not)

Things I have done in preparation for moving to the new apartment:
  • Getting off the elevator at an earlier floor and walking six floors up to get home.
    I only need to walk up four floors at the new place, but the elevator doesn't stop at every floor in the current building and I figure climbing the extra two floors is useful training.
  • Washing dishes in only one sink, instead of exploiting both.
  • Stopped buying books and asking friends who have loaned my books to return them only after I move.
  • Become a daily reader of Apartment Therapy, Design*Sponge and Ikea Hacker.
Stay tuned for the list of things I haven't done to prepare (including *gasp* packing).


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Just call me Little Miss Crankypants

I wish it wasn't such an uneven week.

I wish "emily" would stop "inviting" me to MySpace.

I wish I'd remembered to blog the line "If the kempeitai asked me to make a corporate video ..." earlier, because it's too much trouble to explain now.

I wish I didn't have a sludgy headache after spending a perfectly decent day with the best friend and the smallboy, looking for stuff for the new place.


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Too expensive for my blood

Apropos of selling the flat at a fair price, I thought I should point out that the BBC reports on the Global Property Guide list for 2007, in which Bulgaria tops the list for house price growth at 30.6%.

Except that when you factor in inflation (though not local currency), Singapore moves from #3 to top of the list.

Top of the list, people --- that's how much the housing market has skyrocketed here, relative to the rest of the world for the same period. If things keep up at this rate, I'm not sure that I'll be able to afford to live in this country anymore.


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I can't believe I've been saying it wrong

I've always said I have a limited command of Singlish because I don't speak Hokkien. I didn't get the humour in Money No Enough and other Jack Neo classics because of that, and even my swearing is limited to a couple of common phrases I picked up on the school bus.

Now it turns out that I've been getting a bit of my Singlish-of-Malay-origin wrong too. I've been saying "pasar", as in "not my pasar", which I thought meant "it's not my concern" or "it's not part of my job" --- but it turns out the correct word is "pasal". "Pasar" means "market", which I knew but never spotted as being at odds with the phrase, while "pasal" means "business", which is where the phrase comes from.


Interestingly, no one's ever corrected me till a few days ago, and the Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English lists "pasal" as a variant of "pasar". Even so, I'm going to try and say the right word from now onwards.

Oh, and "Sarawak"? Is pronounced "suh-RAH-wahk", not "SAIR-ruh-wahk". Damn my Americanised pronunciation sometimes.

Edited to add (March 7): I recently learned that I've been getting "hentam" wrong as well. It's not my fault --- my mother and many people I know say "hantam" instead!

Oh wait ... they're all Chinese ...


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Selling, selling ... sold

I don't remember the day Terz and I bought the flat. I remember that we had seen several in the neighbourhood, but they were all done up in various styles that provoked either cringing, despair or, in one case, utter revulsion (a spooky goat-headed altar was involved). Then we found this one through a newspaper ad, and it was as bare-bones as we wanted it to be, so that we could get it fixed up our way, without having to spend a whole lotta money on ripping out the existing finishings.

It didn't come dirt-cheap but it was within our budget (though I seem to recall my mother having thought that we paid too much for it). I have no recollection of the negotiation process, just that at some point must have been a phone call, I think, to tell us it was ours, and then we came to the flat to sign the paperwork with the existing owner. I remember subsequently going to HDB offices at Bukit Merah and the housing agent navigating us through the bureaucracy's byzantine requirements. At the end of it, he opened the boot of his car and gave us a watermelon.

Yesterday, I got word that we had sold the flat. We had been involved in a little back-and-forth with the potential buyers for the past couple of weeks, but our agent (not the watermelon guy) finally got us the price we wanted.

The news came via SMS, as all news does these days, and I didn't know how to react. There was glee that we'd made a fair (though not obscene) profit on it; there was relief that I wouldn't have to show the place to strangers anymore; there was shock that this really had happened, we'd sold a flat, the flat --- and then there was that moment they tell you about in books, when sadness wells up and hits you because this really is goodbye.

Despite everything that happened here, it was a good home. It was the first place I ever owned --- I remember signing on the dotted line for a loan amount bigger than my mind could comprehend --- and it was the place we owned together. I wish it hadn't stopped being a home for the reason that it did, but ...

I have very few photographs of the place. I wonder if I should take any.




The year 2007, in books

Wahj and I were recently talking about how we each evaluate the last few years of our lives: he sees distinctly good and bad years, while I recall the past more in terms of individual events rather than in yearly blocks.

What I didn't say was that, obviously, this year's been different.

I still kept reading books, though, and buying far more than I oughta have. I read more non-fiction (occupational hazard, I'm writing such a book myself), chalked up an impressive amount of reading during the third-quarter vacation, and ended the year by caving in to the Borders discount card (I've already had a Kinokuniya discount card for several years).

The final tally: 30 (would've been 31 if I'd been more diligent the last few nights of the year). It's the second highest number since I started keeping this annual record, and only three books were rereads --- yay me!

1. Guns, germs & Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years, Jared Diamond (January)

I like books like this: big, bold and compressing heaps of history into several hundred pages (okay, closer to a thousand in this case, but still). Plenty to learn about how agriculture spread from the Fertile Crescent to the rest of the world, how 168 Spanish conquistadors defeated 80,000 Inca warriors in 1532 and what exactly Australian aborigines were doing on their continent for the millennia that preceded European arrival. Whatever the extent of geographical determinism, it's fascinating to know where we might've come from and how we got to this point today.

2. Shalimar the Clown, Salman Rushdie (February)

I'm a big fan of Rushdie and this was a good one. Not too weighed down by talk of terrorism and politics, and always beautiful.

3. A History of God, Karen Armstrong (March)

Heavy-going stuff. I'd be a liar if I said I understood all of it; at some points, I was just flipping the pages to get through it (I find it almost pathologically impossible to give up on reading a book halfway). Nevertheless, I liked seeing how ideas about God have changed through the centuries. I'd need to learn more about Judaism and Islam to really get some of these ideas, though.

4. A Cook's Tour, Anthony Bourdain (March) *

My idea of light reading, after the preceding three tomes. Plus if one can't go on vacation just yet, reading about Bourdain's travels are the next best thing.

5. The Naked Jape: Uncovering the Hidden World of Jokes, Jimmy Carr & Lucy Greeves (April)

More non-fiction: jokesters write about the history of the joke. Entertaining without trying too hard or being over-the-top, even though there are jokes on every page. I wanna write books like this!

6. Down Under, Bill Bryson (April) *

The almost-annual reread. It's a good pick-me-up when nothing else will do.

7. Arthur & George, Julian Barnes, (May)

I'm not usually big on historical fiction, but this was absolutely engrossing. I don't know (or care) if any of it was based on historical fact; the story had its own sense of purpose and life driving it forward. Now that I think it, the character George in this book reminds me of Oscar from Oscar and Lucinda (which I read in 2006).

8. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (May)

Another solid fiction read, this time about a dysfunctional family in a college town setting --- the better to conjure up scenes of academic posturing and college student angst, all in one. Maybe the characters' preoccupations are a little too precious, as a result, but I still liked how it all came together.

9. Old Man's War, John Scalzi (June)
10. The Ghost Brigades, John Scalzi (I forgot what month I read it in)

I've been reading John Scalzi's blog for years; this year, I finally got around to his books. I like the premise well enough, but I've never been big on action-adventure science fiction, so this was entertaining but not entirely my cup of tea.

11. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson (July) *

I keep rereading this in the hope that more of the science he expounds will stick in my head. What I find most engaging, though, is all the drama behind all the dry facts that have come to inhabit our science textbooks. It makes me wonder what really goes on at today's science conferences before they decided whether to delist Pluto as a planet and the like.

12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling (August)

I read it because I had to finish the series. It was too long, too circuitous and tried to mention everyone in the dramatis personae. This is what happens when you wait till the last book to start really killing people off.

Oh, and the epilogue? So self-indulgent. I don't care and it's very confusing to have new characters named after the ones that just got offed.

13. A Home at the End of the World, Michael Cunningham (August)

A great recommendation from a friend. More dysfunctionality, this time with gay men and their, uh, woman. For some reason, it's all the scenes to do with mortality, particularly parental mortality, that come to mind right now.

14. Paris: A Secret History, Andrew Hussey (September)

I finished this on the day after I arrived in Paris, then toted it around for a few days to track down a couple of neat places like Passage Denferth. I had other notes about the place where Abelard used to teach (I think) on Ile de la Cité or less well-known old churches with piquant histories --- but I'm too lazy to go dig up my notes now.

Anyway, as a book it didn't quite rev up as much sordid steam as I'd hoped, but I enjoy these "alternative" histories.

15. Theft: A Love Story, Peter Casey (September)

I suppose it's a strange thing to read a book that's predominantly set in Australia while I was in Paris and London, but the idea of fakery/forgery and the international art shenanigans in the book were quite at home amidst all the museums I visited.

16. How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff (September)

I pulled this off Stellou's shelf and it was such a good read for a "young people" book. Sometimes the narrator got a little too Holden Caulfield on me, but the unexpected turns in the story (I'm trying not to give anything away here) helped to keep things going. I actually think this could be a little too intense for its "young people" label. Surely it belongs on the fiction shelf with A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and its ilk.

17. Paris Out Of Hand: A Wayward Guide, Karen Elizabeth Gordon (September)

A very different kind of guidebook, and best read --- as I did --- after one has just visited Paris. One of those whimsical, imagined journeys that always makes me wonder, how did anyone get this green-lighted at the publisher's? Not because it's bad, but because it's the kind of richly imagined (there's that word again) narrative that one hardly expects to be able to pick up anymore.

18. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan (September)

Stellou gave me her galleys of this --- it's lovely to have publishing connections --- so I read it with typos and all, none of which impeded my enjoyment of the book. Very internal as McEwan tends to be, and I always wonder how he manages to keep control of everything without making these multi-layered narratives seem like schizophrenic skips through the park. I would like to write a book like this: one man, one woman, one night --- and all that unfolds before and after.

19. Islam: A Short History, Karen Armstrong (September)

I picked this up for a couple of pounds at --- damn, I've forgotten the name of the second-hand bookshop already, but I'm sure Stellou will remember. 200-plus pages of a crash course in Islam that I found very handy. I'm not sure that I'll ever read the Qu'ran cover-to-cover, so I think this might be a handy cheatsheet of sorts for me.

20. Goh Keng Swee: A Portrait, Tan Siok Sun (September)

Oh dear. I was so looking forward to this and then on the very first page of the narrative, the name of the man whose biography this was got truncated in a typically Singaporean fashion to "GKS" --- and that was the end of it for me. I mean, I read the whole book, but it didn't have any of the zest or oomph that one would expect from a biography at once personal and political. Oh, I know, it's hard in Singapore to tell certain stories at all, the moment they show any sign of diverging from the official narrative. But there better be some damn good notes or excised chapters lying around in someone's safe, otherwise I'm not sure what the whole exercise was for.

21. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (October)

Wahj loaned me this because it's one of those sci-fi classics that I've been meaning to read forever. I'm glad I read it now because I don't think I would've fully gotten into it at a younger age --- after all, it's mostly about boys learning to fight a war while bouncing around in a scenario room. What surprised me was to see it in Kinokuniya's children's section a few weeks later, with a cover that would suggest it was all action-packed adventure as opposed to one big scorching mindfuck.

22. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (October)

I'd like to read more graphic novels, but I never know where to begin. This one came recommended by Salon some time ago, and I was thrilled to finally track it down at Kinokuniya (thanks to Wahj figuring out how their apparently-convoluted-but-actually-alphabetical graphic novel section is sorted). The book is a very vivid personal memoir, but mediated through the graphic novel format and so it doesn't read as "heavy" as, say, any number of the abovementioned narratives about dysfunctional families --- but it's still a solid, good read.

23. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy (November)

Another one I finally tracked down. Short and sharp, making a clear and compelling argument about why tarting or slutting it up does not make for women's "liberation". A must-read for all girls and women, alongside Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth.

24. The View From Castle Rock, Alice Munro (November)

I bought this because Nardac had highly recommended Munro and I wanted to see how she turned family history into memoir (I'm trying to figure out what to do with my family narrative too). It read like historical fiction, but I suppose with that added quality of the reader wondering what's "real" and what isn't. I was just amazed at the fact that Munro could go back to the village where her great-great-grandfather had come from and find family records, including personal letters and the like (at least, I'm assuming those are actual letters, not fictionalised ones). Those aren't typically the sort of resources one finds in a village in China or Sri Lanka.

25. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, Jared Diamond (November)

It took me a few months to get through this, mostly because it was too heavy to lug around so I made it my bedtime reading. More fascinating case studies, and more esoteric ones too. I finally know what might have happened to the Easter Islanders who raised their magnificent statues, and learned a lot about Norse and South Pacific societies as well. The case studies are the best bit, really --- but then I always love a good old-fashioned story.

26. iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon, Steve Wozniak & Gina Smith (December)

An impulse buy --- I'm not that much of a Machead. It's an interesting narrative: the guy did originate many computer interfaces and accessories that we take for granted today after all, not to mention the universal remote control. But it sounded very much like a guy chatting into a tape recorder and less a structured, studied story with proper context and everything. Then again, if it really is Steve Wozniak's voice we're hearing throughout the story, I guess that's the sort of story he'd tell anyway.

27. Girl Meets Boy, Ali Smith (December)

So beautiful and lyrical --- and I'm fairly certain I didn't completely understand it. I need to go read it again.

28. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein (December)

Another long overdue read, especially after reading John Scalzi's Old Man's War. I definitely glossed over all the military jargon (repple-depple, anyone?) and tried not to get bogged down in the politics. I must say the protagonist was much more engaging than I thought he would be.

29. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe, Bill Bryson (December)

I was surprised to see this lying on the best friend's bookshelf because I thought I a) knew had heard of all of Bryson's books, b) had read most of the travel ones. Turns out this is one of his early ones, which you can tell because the tone and writing isn't as tight as his later books, not to mention there's quite a bit of unfathomable whining about some aspect of his travels or European culture that seems quite at odds with the more charitable approach I'd gotten used to. I think I'll stick to his more recent titles.

30. Moral Disorder, Margaret Atwood (December)

I bought this off the internet and promptly read it, which makes it two collections of short stories by female Canadian writers that I read within the span of two months. This one's entirely fictional and more introspective, I think, which sorta makes it an appropriate book to end the year on.

For next year, I'm going to start keeping notes throughout the year as I read. As you can tell, my memory of the books I read earlier in the year is sketchy compared to more recent reads. Which is totally unfair to the books, plus I obviously need to supplement my wilting memory.

So: more note-taking and more reading. Also more borrowing of books from the library or friends, I think, because the place I'm moving to is smaller and I just can't keep buying books the way I do. As always, reading recommendations are welcome.


Related posts: The year in books 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003

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Missing the news

For some reason, Gmail has been diligently filing the BBC News' daily email alert in my Spam folder since January 1. And here I thought they were just enjoying an extended New Year's in the UK ...


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Downright local and doing good

It was a windy welcome to the new year, which I know only because I was far from the madding crowd --- first at a delightful house party, then having supper at the neighbourhood prata place. It was windy enough that I started to feel cold by the end of supper, despite wearing a sleeved top and ordering a teh halia to warm myself up. And this morning afternoon, as I brushed my teeth after showering, the five-storey-tall trees downstairs were swishing noisily with the fresh energy that comes with a cool-but-not-rainy day.

I would be a liar if I didn't admit to having felt a little holiday ennui this year, despite the family festivities and meals with friends whom I hadn't seen in a while. More accurately, it was great to see family and friends --- I just wish it didn't have to be dressed up as "the holidays" to happen.

The first thing I did in the new year (Singapore time) was to clink glasses, sip champagne and knock over my friend's beer. I'm not sure what that portends for 2008, but hopefully nothing too dramatic.


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