Do you shoot RAW or JPEG?

For all my photographer and photography-loving friends: A DSLR Catechism.



What have you eaten lately?

I was wondering what to blog about today, then I came across this new meme at olduvai's monomania.

The Omnivore's Hundred (which originates at Very Good Taste)

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you've eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I want to say I've eaten this, but I'm not sure)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth US$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (I think kway chap counts)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe (I can't remember if I had this in Prague)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef (I'm not sure if I've had this)
86. Hare (rabbit counts!)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I've had 55 of the items, excluding the three (crocodile, absinthe and Kobe beef) I'm not sure if I've eaten before. I guess my score isn't too surprising for someone who lives in a fairly international city.

I'd do better if I was more open to Mexican food or, you know, had more cash (see items #45 and #84 in particular). After all, the only thing I flatly won't eat is insects --- although now that I think about it, I must've inadvertently ingested a tiny black ant or two in my time.

Oddly enough, I haven't had a PB&J sandwich, despite the four years I spent in the US.

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What is't but to be nothing else but mad?

I've been watching quite a few Singapore films lately, such as A Wicked Tale, which I liked very much, and Mad About English, which I didn't. My opinion of the latter seems to put me firmly in the minority, though. Other people say:
  • "This piece of work is huge fun from start to finish. It has more laughs, poignancy and warmth than any fictional movie in recent memory. And it beats any of this season's CGI-laden blockbusters for sheer enjoyment value." --- The Straits Times
  • "... a hilarious look at China as its people embark on a mad rush to learn English before the Beijing Olympics. ... this film shows how ordinary lives are changed as China flings its doors open to the West." --- The New Paper
  • "... does a great job capturing the charm and quirkiness of the people." --- movieXclusive.com
  • "Mad About English is highly recommended, and goes into my books as contender to be amongst the best of this year's theatrical releases." --- A Nutshell Review/Sinema
Uh ... no, no, no and no. The film aggravated me enough that I spent part of the weekend writing down what I thought of it (without being ranty, despite the aggravation). Your mileage, as always, may vary.

In a scene from the documentary film Mad About English that also appears in the movie trailer, a police officer in Beijing unleashes his repertoire of Brooklyn-accented English: "Hey, whaddya want?", "Fuhgetabowdit!", "What's up, man?", "Put yer gun down!" Yes, he sounds as if he's been watching too many Robert de Niro movies.

We laugh, of course, because of the incongruity between the chubby, pink-cheeked Chinese mainlander, and the harsh New York slang that he rattles off so unthinkingly. But in the film we never find out how he picked up this accent, when he thinks lines like "Fuhgetabowdit!" are going to come in useful in his daily patrols, or why he enjoys chatting with tourists while he's in uniform (he's supposed to be a police officer, not a tour guide). He's an object of curiosity, both to the tourists he meets and to us watching him as he rehearses his "Welcome to Beijing" lines in English, German, Japanese and other languages. And he remains just that: an oddity, a strange bird, nothing more than a funny little Chinese man.

Multiply that by 92 minutes, and that's the sum total of Mad About English. Every English learners featured in the film, from a 12-year-old cherub to a 74-year-old retiree, is introduced with all the fanfare of, "Oh look! Here’s another Chinese person who’s a little nutty about learning English!" Then we hear the person dutifully recite a few English sentences – with some incorrect pronunciation or grammar, or moments of pure misunderstanding for "comic relief", of course. Perhaps he or she gets some airtime to murmur something about how important it is to learn English so as to welcome foreign visitors to the Beijing Olympics.

Then the film cuts to the next character waiting in the wings. Lather, rinse, repeat.

No matter how many times we come back to any of these people, we never find out their full stories. Where do they come from? How do they feel spending so much time and energy to learn a language that is so historically, culturally and grammatically divorced from their own? What are the implications of learning English when China is on the ascendant? Are these people fringe elements or truly representative of English learners in Beijing (or, for that matter, the rest of China)?

So many questions, hardly any answers. There's only so long that you can watch people stumble over learning a foreign language before it starts to feel not only trite and tired, but also mean and cheap. Stick a camera in front of anyone learning a foreign language – especially a language with such different roots from one's native tongue – and you’d pretty much get the same result. There are signs in Paris that have just as entertaining (or apparently insipid) translation errors in English as they do in Beijing. There are Americans or Europeans learning to speak Mandarin who make just as egregious or laughable errors as these Chinese mainlanders stuttering their way through English. Mad About English doesn't tell us anything that we don't know already.

It was also ironic that all the Chinese interviewees largely spoke in English, whether they were being interviewed or interacting with other (Chinese) people. It felt as if they were constantly having to perform in English, with little opportunity to speak in their native tongue and say what they really thought and felt. Perhaps this was deliberate, to show exactly how "mad" about English these people are, but it only made them seem more inscrutable and kooky (ah, those inscrutable Orientals!), allowing them to be laughed at but not understood.

And really, why should we laugh? Because they make mistakes, as beginners always do? Because they speak English "wrongly", as shown by the bewilderment of the white man they’re speaking to? The laughter makes us complicit in the white man's criticism (not critique, which is what's lacking here) of non-native English speakers, without questioning if that criticism is justified in the first place.

Sure, it's funny for about five seconds to hear a little old lady struggle with saying "bowel movements" and "take off your shirt" (she’s a doctor learning phrases she’ll need to communicate with foreign patients). But the job she does, the life she's led and her determination to learn shouldn't be dismissed on the level of toilet humour. All these people learning English – they deserve better than this.

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I got my shots

Like a good germ-fearing person, I betook myself on Monday to Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Travellers' Health and Vaccination Clinic, where the nurse informed me that for Vietnam, the following shots were recommended:
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Influenza
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Rabies
At which point I wondered if there wasn't some kind of cap on the number of shots one could get at one go, because seriously? Owwwww.

As it turned out, before you get the Hepatitis A & B jabs, they test your blood to see if you're a carrier (or something like that lah, I'm honestly not too clear on the medical details). So no shots for that yesterday. I also declined the rabies and Japanese encephalitis shots, on the grounds that I plan to flee from any animals that might attack me and that Japanese encephalitis seems kind of rare, compared to dengue, malaria and the like.

(If I'm being egregiously ignorant, feel free to point it out in the comments. It just seemed like getting that many shots were overkill. Yes, this is how my brain works when it comes to medical decisions.)

So at the end of the session, I got tetatnus, typhoid and flu jabs, one in my right arm and two in my left, after which I went for a Pilates class that involved putting some amount of weight and strain on my shoulders, so for the rest of the evening, my upper arms were a little sore.

Fortunately, I had a Very Nice Dinner waiting for me.

Quite the spread

It's amazing what one lovely host can put together with five guests who chip in with wine and bounty from Cold Storage. I had cheese and dip and wine till I was ready to fall asleep in my chair, but not before we talked of Facebook and Indonesia and more Facebook (seriously, six adults, mostly in their thirties, sitting around with red wine, talking about Facebook).

There is a story yet to come about the anti-malarial pills, but that will wait till tomorrow.

Related post: Like a lost backpacker

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Muzzled or misdirected?

Among today's news reads I found a Salon article rounding up the Olympics, "What I couldn't write in China". Among its conclusions:
... it [China] has also figured out the most modern means of efficient repression. Better than muzzling those with dangerous thoughts is creating a populace so focused on personal goals and consumerism that they have nothing to say in the first place.
I think that observation could as easily apply to Singapore.



An airport run

I didn't leave Singapore today, but I got to nose around the public areas of Changi Airport's Terminal 3 while killing time with G-man and the friend who was catching a flight. Terminal 3 feels strangely a little welcoming than Terminal 2, which has always struck me as rather cold. Maybe it's all the attempts to "green" the terminal and bring a little of the "garden city" into an industrial-sized space.

Waiting in line

What Terminal 3 is really good at is introducing people to all of Singapore's retail and dining chains. I spotted signs for Crystal Jade, TCC, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Coffee Club, Watson's and, of course, NTUC. The one that threw me off was Harris, but G-man told me the bookstore's owned by the Popular group.


Test post from Posterous

Let's see if this works and if the post appears in the Blogger back-end too.

Posted by email from tym's posterous


Hamlet (Facebook News Feed edition)

I always means to read more McSweeney's and then I don't, until Cowboy Caleb provides this awesome link to "Hamlet (Facebook News Feed edition)". An excerpt:
Horatio thinks he saw a ghost.

Hamlet thinks it's annoying when your uncle marries your mother right after your dad dies.

The king thinks Hamlet's annoying.


The king poked the queen.

The queen poked the king back.

Hamlet and the queen are no longer friends.
Read the full piece by Sarah Schmelling.

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Like a lost backpacker

Around lunchtime, I trooped around the towering office buildings of Beach Road and Shenton Way: grey hoodie, three-quarter jeans, orange shoes and a rather large backpack (thanks for the loan, Adri!). This is what all that education my parents paid for has come to --- me looking like an overgrown teenager, amidst all the financial types talking about stock market prices and other things I know little about.

Why a large backpack, you ask? I'm test-driving it for an upcoming trip to Vietnam to write for Lonely Planet.


Yes, this is the Really Cool Writing Gig I've been mentioning.


Okay, that's really the last time I'm going to put that in all caps.

The backpack seems to be a good fit. Now to figure out the other 20 million details before I go (in between finishing up work, of course) ...

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Phoning it in

At my age, when the husband of a friend who lives in the US calls me out of the blue, even though I probably haven't spoken to him since I last visited in 2004, it can mean only two things:
  • Something bad (CHOY!).
  • They had/are having a baby.
Happily, it is the latter. To quote the husband: "I couldn't believe she hadn't told any of her friends back home yet, so I decided to just see who was in her phone book and called you."

Even so, she's six months pregnant and we only find out now.


I am a bad, bad freelancer

Between the wall and the laptop ...

I took a nap this afternoon. On the couch. The kind where one moment I'm staring at the printouts in front of me, the next I've safely tucked everything away (including my glasses) and I turn over to face the inside of the couch and fall completely asleep.

I blame it on the rainy weather.

I think I slept for an hour and a half. Sisu slept at my feet. She's not as anti-touchy-feely as Ink.

I almost never do this (sick days don't count), but now when people ask me how I resist the lure of the bed and the couch, I'll have this story to tell.

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Celebrating National Day

I did not see The Dark Knight. But I did see The Swordfish, Then the Concubine at the Singapore Theatre Festival, as well as the exhibition about The Artists' Village at the Singapore Art Museum, and some Vietnamese art. Plus it was all free (thank you, museums who had a free day and Ming who had complimentary tickets to the play).

The only part of the National Day Parade I watched was on the bus on my way to town for the play. As it turned out, the audience on bus was predominantly non-Singaporean. Workers from the Indian subcontinent were clearly the parade's biggest fans, huddling around the screen near the front of the bus. A group of students (coincidentally also Indian) were behaving as most teenagers of any nationality do when it comes to such things: chatting about girls and boys they fancied, listening to funny audio files on each other's cell phones, and taking the piss out of the odd flash of activity they caught on the TV screen.

When the bus passed by Lavender and Arab Streets, most of its passengers tumbled out and the parade lost its audience --- which made me wonder just how much Singapore is still segregated by race and language (perhaps all the more so given current government policies towards "foreign workers", "foreign talent" and "foreign students").

After the play, Ming and I went for very low-key beer and supper in the Bras Basah area. The low-key part was what I found astonishing, since the parade had ended around the same time not ten minutes' walk away, yet the streets we passed were fairly deserted. I guess all the party people were already at the party places, and all the people worn out from the parade extravaganza went home to put up their feet.

There would be pictures to illustrate this post, but I'm not very good at shooting in crowded situations.

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Is it National Day already?

Until I asked sarah last night,"So what are you doing for National Day?", I hadn't really registered that it was National Day this weekend. I mean, I knew it was coming up. No way can you grow up in Singapore with the annual month-long red-and-white lovefest, without having the date 9 August burned into your brain as Something Significant.

But this year it didn't really loom as a major date on my calendar or my consciousness. Some possible reasons why, when I sat down and thought about it:
  • I don't watch local free-to-air TV channels.
  • I don't read the local papers.
  • I no longer live in a public housing estate, which means that no one bugs me about flying the Singapore flag and I'm not as surrounded by government-sponsored banners with grotesque mugshots of politicians grinning down at me.
  • When mr brown highlighted the un-originality of this year's National Day music video, I was too impatient that day to wait for the videos to load on the page and just took his word for it.
  • The only person I know who was remotely involved in the preparations for the upcoming National Day Parade is a friend who did some traffic duty for his annual National Service reservist requirement.
I'm gonna visit some museums tomorrow, and possibly cap off the day with The Dark Knight, assuming there are any tickets left.

Oh, and I didn't watch today's opening ceremony to the Beijing Olympics either, though I enjoyed the images collected at The Big Picture.



Confuzzled cats

Between the wall and the laptop ...

If you confuse the cats by shutting them out of the bedroom, they will not know where to take their morning naps. So Ink wound up sulking on top of the fridge or in his carrier, while Sisu eventually moseyed over to this spot on my dining slash work table.

They were shut out of the bedroom because the bed linen and mattress and pillow protectors were being washed. Once the bed was restored and the cats let back into the room, they promptly claimed it for their afternoon nap.

At 4 p.m., which is usually when they bug me for their second feeding, they were still too busy lolling on the clean sheets to notice.



Nom nom nom

Layer-layer cake

They were from Glory Catering and tasted just as good as they oughta.

However, I was stuffed after two, so I didn't eat them all in one sitting.



Get a whiff of this

It's funny how one's fingertips still smell faintly of raw garlic two days after I chopped some.

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You know the weather is hot when ...

Life beyond bars

It takes me less time to use up the contents of two ice-cube trays than to make more ice.



Only connect

It's been one of those weeks where my mind is all over the place. My days alternate between writing about 1950s/1960s Singapore and researching about modern-day Vietnam. My nights feature a lot of dinners out (no cooking this week, unless you count making coffee) and/or generous doses of season 3 Veronica Mars. In between all that, my mind takes its own expatiations, sometimes into territory I'd rather not dwell on (in?) too much.

On a more mundane note, I have a funny story about a lovey-dovey couple that frequents a particular corner of the reference library, another funny story about photos of a diseased vagina, and a not-so-amusing tale of being jumped and thumped in our lovely pristine Singapore. Only one of these stories is firsthand; if you see me, you can ask me about them.