27.2.08

Planes, tanks and people

Shiny static displays

So I said I'd blog about the Singapore Air Show, but then I was busy catching up on sleep.

Ru's friend thought it was "hot, tiring and boring", and I can see why people would think that: the legendary kilometre-long queues for the shuttles at Pasir Ris MRT station, the energy-sapping mid-afternoon heat, the queues for other stuff that seemed to be going nowhere. We exited the show at 3:40 pm (over an hour before the official closing time) and spent over an hour in the line for a cab, not because there weren't cabs willing to come in to pick up passengers, but because the design of the traffic flow and cab line didn't move people and cabs along more efficiently.

But I guess I'm not the sort of person who goes to these shows in the first place, so the whole thing was a bit of a novelty. The last time I went to some kind of military show in Singapore was probably back when my father still qualified for VIP treatment, which meant no waiting in line, plenty of cold drinks and cooling off in an air-conditioned lounge whenever one wanted it, and lots of chances to bounce in the seat of some random piece of military equipment. So yes, I was a teensy bit jealous when I spotted a certain Minister and his family getting the special tour with the US Air Force guys, especially since regular folks don't get to clamber all over the planes and tanks like they used to be able to at SAF Open Houses.

Other things were different too. The noise from the planes during the aerial display seemed less, which also made their aerobatic moves seem less impressive. There were many, many more foreigners in the crowd --- the "1 in every 4 persons in Singapore is a foreigner" statistic translated into something more like "1 in every 2 public visitors at the Singapore Air Show".

But some things don't change. All those military vehicles on display still smell the same when you get up close. I still don't know what most of the vehicles were, despite my friend's running commentary. And it's still goddamn hot all. Day. Long.

Another reason things probably worked out well was because I had good intelligence from G-man and Beeker about cab lines, walking distances, sunblock and free back issues of military journals. Plus the surprising discovery that an ice-filled Nalgene bottle wrapped in a towel, then in a plastic bag and then stashed in my little messenger bag, retained enough coolness that the water remained icy cold for 3-4 hours.

They really ought to bring in more cute pilots, though.

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25.2.08

The end of a busy weekend

An Apache, I think

Went to the air show --- yay!

Came home and had to rush work that I couldn't complete any earlier this weekend --- boo!

Ended up working till 3 am just to get everything right --- double-boo!

Had to wake up at 6:45 am to get ready for a full slate today --- triple-boo!

More later, when my brain's more coherent.

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23.2.08

Sing-along time in church

The wedding I attended today was the first in a long while where I knew all the songs in the service. Many wedding services tend to be full of these trendy "Praise & Worship"-type tunes, and even though I grew up with enough of those that some still occasionally spring, unbidden, to mind, it's the hymns that I have a soft spot for. Maybe it's the Methodist side of me (i.e. my mother's side) coming out.

Today's hymns were: "How Great Thou Art", "O Perfect Love" and "Blessed Assurance". "How Great Thou Art" is my favouritest hymn ever, chiefly because my friend's dad led the most rousing rendition of it I've ever heard. It's still his voice I hear, when I think about that hymn, and no one else seems to give it the thumping resonance it deserves.

"O Perfect Love" is alright --- dignified, with some unexpected turns in the tune. I didn't realise until today that it's quite specifically a wedding song. I guess I never paid attention before to lyrics like "That theirs may be the love which knows no ending / Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one."

"Blessed Assurance" is another old favourite, but I don't have much to say about it, other than that same friend's dad used to do a kick-ass version of it too.

It was also only today that I noticed that all these hymns were composed in the 19th century. What does that say about my musical taste now, huh?

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22.2.08

The uncertainties of saying "auntie"

How does one address one's friend's grandmother? This question stumped me when I was invited to Stellou's for dinner, although I forgot to ask her beforehand and wound up calling her grandmother "auntie". Which I later heard Stellou's friend and other dinner guest say as well, which made me feel better.

"Auntie" seems a tad too familiar, though, for addressing someone two generations older. I know my mother says something that sounds like "Chair-mm" in Cantonese when she greets her siblings' in-laws, but I have no idea what that term means or if it applies to grandparental types.

Help, anyone?

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Related post: The uncertainties of saying "uncle"

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21.2.08

33 years old and he's never had a headache before

When we were at lunch today, my friend says, "I think I have a headache."

I'm thinking about whether I want the katsu don or the unagi don. "Uh huh ..."

"I've never had a headache before."

I look up. "What do you mean, you've never had a headache before?"

"I've never had a headache before. What does a headache feel like?"

"You're pulling my leg, right?"

"No! I've never had a headache before. How do I know if I'm having a headache now?"

In my head, I'm thinking, 'Cause your head hurts? Out loud, I say, "Well, it's usually like a pain, pressing down on the back of your head or something ..."

"I have a heavy feeling here," and he rubs his eyebrows or eyelids.

"That's fatigue." I have no sympathy for him. "Your eyes are tired."

"No! No! It's a bit higher, here." Okay, he's rubbing his eyebrows.

"How can you be almost 34 years old and not know what a headache is?"

I still can't believe it. Nor had his colleagues, before lunch, who had given him shit for it. I mean, I used to have migraines as a child. I still get headaches just from the weather being too hot. How can he have gone through this much of life without experiencing a headache?

On a related note, the place where we ate was the dodgiest little upstairs pseudo-Japanese coffeeshop eatery I can imagine finding in the city. I thought I was going to have to fumble for a password before the auntie let me up the stairs, but no, she just beamed and waved us up. I can't believe I forgot to take pictures.

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19.2.08

The teh si that failed

Last night, Suzie and I were wandering Chinatown, looking for a breezy spot to enjoy a little night air and maybe some teh si (tea with evaporated milk). There were no availably breezy spots at Maxwell Hawker Centre, while there were no hot beverages to be had along Smith Street. So we deposited ourselves at the well-touristed corner of Trengganu and Pagoda Streets.

On hindsight, I should've known better. This is the yellow-chaired coffeeshop that is always full of tourists. But then, we just wanted a simple teh si --- we weren't asking them to whip up a mean char kway teow or anything.

First, the guy who makes the drinks wasn't available. When he got back, he brought us one drink instead of two. While he toddled off very good-naturedly to make us the second one, I had a sip of the first, which was suspiciously pale. Yuck --- far too much milk and water, hardly any tea. I went back to the counter to ask the guy to add more tea to the cup. Maybe he heard me wrongly, but he added a dollop of sugar instead. While I flailed my hands trying to explain my request, he said he would just make me a new one.

A couple of minutes later, we had two glasses of tea, as pale as the first had been, and were out two bucks for it. Sipping the tea gingerly confirmed that it was, again, mostly milk and water --- in fact, mostly water. I didn't bother to drink mine; Suzie persevered through most of hers.

Clearly, the worst teh si in all of Singapore, and given that every other drink stall here makes it, that's saying a lot. I had a merely mediocre one at lunch today, but after last night's experience, it didn't seem so bad.

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17.2.08

Manufacturing imitates reality

No, it's not Ink.

Not my cat --- or is it?

It's a cat figurine, crouched over some kind of water feature figurine, that just happens to look uncannily like Ink, black tail and markings and all (minus one black spot that Ink has on his back --- see here for comparison).

The figurine belongs to bowb's kid, who got it at one of those machines where you put in money and use the claw to pluck out some kind of toy. She likes cats and would be miffed if I took this one away from here, otherwise we would have here a photo of Ink with his toy counterpart.

No, stellou, I did not show this picture to Ink.

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Properly unpacked

I realised earlier this week that I wasn't writing very well or resting very well, probably because the apartment was still in something of a shambles. While I'd gotten the bedroom, bathroom and half the hall in good shape within the first weekend of living here, the kitchen was barely unpacked and the other half of the hall was full of stuff that belonged elsewhere. Add the fact that I'd cleared out over 100 books, but they were still in stacks on the floor waiting for friends to come pick over the leavings --- and it would seem that I was still living in a thrift store after over two weeks of being here.

So I set aside this weekend to get the place in order, which entailed buying under-bed storage boxes and kitchen shelves to stash things away, unpacking all the remaining boxes, organising the kitchen, dragooning a friend to come over and install the shelves he'd handed down to me (they spent a week sitting by the front door, adding to the general disarray) --- and cleaning up after everything.

Bag of tricks

If that previous sentence read like a mouthful to you, let me just say that it felt pretty nonstop to me too. Good thing I allowed myself to sleep in both mornings, so the fatigue that'd been plaguing me all week couldn't be used as excuse for procrastinating further on things.

But at least everything is in order now, and I'm not tripping over boxes every time I need to pull out a book or get to the other side of the bed.

Books aside, I also have a set of cutlery and some odd bits of crockery to give away, so if anyone needs to kit out their kitchen, let me know.

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16.2.08

Saturday, at last

A(nother) sign that I am getting old: today I caved in and increased the default font size on Firefox and Adium by 1 point.

Ten years ago, the first thing I used to do on a computer was to superciliously adjust the Internet Explorer font size down to a more aesthetically pleasing proportion. Today, functionality trumps form. Who've thunk it?

It's been a particularly long week, hence the lack of blog updates. Tired eyes, tired body, tired mind. I updated my Facebook status yesterday to say I was "declar[ing] a one-week moratorium on 'business development'" --- because while more business (and money) is good, the distraction of following up of every single potential business lead was taking a toll on both the quality of my writing and my overall equilibrium.

Of course, not three hours after I set that Facebook status, I received emails from two more potential clients about some new projects.

This weekend will be dedicated to unpacking the last few boxes and getting things in order. This place needs to stop looking like a forgotten warehouse.

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11.2.08

I will not pour coffee grounds down the sink

I have been living with a blocked sink since the first day of the Chinese New Year (i.e. last Thursday), which cannot be good for one's luck. I thought that the blockage was due to accumulated crap in the drainpipe from all the people who've lived in this flat in its thirtysomething-year history --- but when my trusty plumber showed up this afternoon, it turned out that the culprit of the blockage was all too recent: the coffee grounds I've been pouring out of my French press since I moved in.

In my own defence, I used to pour these same grounds down the sink at the old place, and never had any problems. But I guess old pipes with their convoluted twists and turns are more vulnerable. It only took one week to block up the sink.

While living for four days with no working kitchen sink was tolerable only because I spent so much time not-at-home, things took a dire turn yesterday when the stopper on the bathroom sink somehow got wedged into place, reducing drainage to a trickle and resisting all attempts to un-wedge it. Bah!

Anyway, all is well now and the important thing is that I will be able to resume making my own coffee tomorrow. Which is absolutely critical because Starbucks is really awful (and the [email protected] connection there wasn't working this morning) and the kopi at the nearby coffeeshops is meh at best.

PS: On the safe side, I'm going to also buy a plunger --- though I'm not sure that my inept self could use it very successfully.

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10.2.08

A cool trick I learned last night

Chinese New Year decor at the park

When things just all get a bit too much:

Close your eyes.
For one or two minutes, tune in to a background sound.
And just concentrate on that.

Thanks, domch!

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7.2.08

Doing the family thing

Babies galore

My grandfather has 14 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He's a lucky guy.

Today I learned that the most important thing when you introduce Very Young Cousins to each other, is to prevent their active but not exactly coordinated selves from whacking each other with whatever happens to be within their grasp. Also, that nothing brings relatives of almost all ages together like a Wii.

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6.2.08

I survived Chinese New Year Eve shopping

Blue and bright

Hitting Parkway Parade on the eve of Chinese New Year may not seem like a smart thing to do, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have a kati of bak kwa and a jar of prawn rolls to keep the love letters company in the kitchen. Also, I wouldn't have serendipitously run into first bee, then Olorin and had the chance to catch up with the latter over coffee --- during which we bumped into another ex-colleague. Olorin actually had three hits altogether, so clearly his Eastie karma is stronger than mine.

The queues weren't too bad, either. At Bee Cheng Hiang, I was about the fifth in line, but everyone was telling me how ridiculously long it was when they passed the shop. At Cold Storage, I managed to get through the checkout counter in about fifteen minutes.

So I count myself lucky, and now I'm gonna go eat some bak kwa before reunion dinner no. 2, where steak and salad awaits.

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5.2.08

I did not know that yesterday

Blog post title taken from the eponymous blog, which I read from time to time.

Last night, I left the Discovery Travel & Living channel on for white noise, which threw up a World Café: Asia episode on Singapore. Presenter Bobby Chinn went through the usual hawker favourites, then ended up on Pulau Ubin where an Indian woman cooked him nasi kerabu --- described on the show as a dish once common in Singapore that's all but forgotten now.

To which I say: nasi what? Turns out it's a synonym for nasi ulam, which I think I've seen listed at Malay food stalls before, though I've not tried it. Google actually turns up more entries related to the Kelantan variety, where the rice is apparently tinted a bright blue colour. Don't think I've seen that in Singapore.

Then today, while IMing with Suzie, she expressed a craving for kuih rose. To which I pretty much responded again with: kuih what? Once more Google threw up images of food I didn't recognise, though Suzie's well-acquainted with the snack. How did I miss this while growing up here?

All of which points to the fact that while we rave about how much great food we have in Singapore, there is always something else lurking in the next stall or shop that we haven't tasted yet.

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3.2.08

Decluttering

As wiser voices have already pointed out, this is something I should've done before moving. Oh well. To quote The New York Times (via Unclutterer):
There is nothing like being forced to pack up every last thing you own, load it onto a truck, and unload and unpack it on the other end to make you question the true value of all that stuff.
So perhaps it makes sense that it's only after moving house this week, not to mention many moments of "Oh, I didn't know I had this" while I was packing, that made me take a fine tooth comb to my book collection. About one-third of the books that I'm probably never going to reread are now in the "out" pile --- or rather, the 11 such piles that flank the front door and the TV.

Books to go

Also, whereas I used to pretty much buy everything I wanted to read, I will henceforth be more circumspect and buy-to-keep only those titles that I'm fairly certain I will want to read again. This is the rule that's worked well with my DVD collection so far --- I own less than 20 movies and box sets only for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The West Wing and a to-be-completed Battlestar Galactica.

I'm also thinking about getting rid of CDs, but part of me wonders what'll happen if I *touch wood* lose my MP3s in some kind of massive digital calamity that eats up my backups too? So I can't yet be as Zen about it as Nate Mendel, especially since I can't buy music off iTunes in Singapore.

If you might be interested in buying some secondhand books, send me an email (toomanythoughts [at] Gmail) and I'll keep you posted on upcoming book sales. I've got too many books to list at the moment, but you can get an idea of what I read, starting with the 2007 list (caveat: not everything on these lists is for sale).

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1.2.08

I failed to pack the coffee

While the movers were impeccable in hauling furniture and 30-something boxes up to the new place, I failed to give clear instructions to my mother regarding the coffee --- which means it got left behind and I only realised it this morning when I woke up in the new place and couldn't find it.

Fortunately, the only thing I had to do this morning was to make sure the Starhub guy got the broadband and cable access set up alright. By 11 am, I was online and things seemed to be falling into place.

Except for the unpacking.

Unpacked (sorta)

As I've told several people today, the place looks like a cross between a second-hand book store and a furniture leftover storeroom. Or as Ondine suggested --- albeit without seeing the place --- a thrift store. I desperately need to declutter, and a book sale might be in the works (a travesty, I know).

In the meantime, I live amidst boxes and stacks of stuff, and the cat is whining from disorientation. But hey, at least I bought new coffee today.

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