How my mind works

This is what I thought about in the shower this morning: How my scholarship bond's going to be over in less than a year, and I was thinking of throwing a really big party, but maybe that's trying too hard and it should just be me and the bottle of wine I've been hoarding since 1997 ... and then I started thinking about being 30 ... and then I was like, hey, 13 Going on 30, which I saw recently ... and then it was like, "You are sixteen going on seventeen" ... and the next thing I knew, the entire song was playing on an eternal repeat loop ... and I was thinking about how certain ages get immortalised because someone writes a catchy tune about it ... and then I got to the line, "Lo and behold you're someone's wife, / and you belong to him ..." and it hit me that, man, that song is really evil behind its chirpy melody.

I suppose that's one way to wake up in the morning.


Out of it

I'm such a dweeb. I just discovered Wikipedia and now I'm going to be up all night.


The funniest thing at the end of a long, tiring Monday is to rip open the long-awaited card from a far-flung friend --- only to be stunned by a "Hairy Potter" birthday card and heartfelt happy birthday wishes within. And from someone who's known me for ten years! (Okay, just realised that I don't know her birthday either and it's not in my PDA so I'm screwed.)

I think I shall send her an equally heartfelt birthday card in return.


The Great Egg Shortage

If you hadn't heard already, we're having something of a chicken-and-egg crisis in these parts, thanks to our ever-vigilant government pulling the plug on imports of these items from Malaysia after a couple of cases of bird flu up north. So eggs are scarce and/or expensive and chicken only marginally less so. To wit:

  • Wahj got laughed at point-blank when he tried to order egg prata at Jalan Kayu a few weeks ago.
  • We had olua (oyster omelette) a couple of weeks ago and the egg portion was so measly that the oysters were readily visible for a change.
  • I squealed with delight earlier this week when the Malay food stall in the work cafeteria had hard-boiled eggs drenched in chilli, and waved my finger at them excitedly till the bemused stallholder scooped one into my packet of food.
  • umami notes the tacky behaviour of a young couple at a local buffet who shamelessly ate their way through 16 eggs (among other food) last week.
Amidst all this excitement, I noticed last week that our neighbourhood provision shop has started selling Instant Eggs made by the local Seng Choon Farm. These aren't, as you might imagine, powdered eggs but actual fake eggs in shrinkwrapped packaging. Behold:

Instant Eggs!
Originally uploaded by Tym.

Seeing as I was starving by the time I posted my previous entry, yet wanted to save my stomach for dinner with the parentals, plus I didn't have anything else to blog about today that wasn't purely self-involved and/or work-related --- I decided to see what these Instant Eggs were all about.

$1.40 later, I was the proud owner of two Instant Eggs. The label on the shrinkwrap identified the ingredients as egg, soy sauce and "spices of non-animal origin". So they're dubious, but not that dubious.

This is what they look like when they've been liberated from the shrinkwrap:

Out of the shrinkwrap
Originally uploaded by Tym.

Admittedly, they're not the most enticing eggs I've ever seen. More importantly, I think they defy the usual line of questioning: "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" Yes, they look like they're still shrinkwrapped, but there are no other plastic bits to cut away ---unless you figure that, if it's a fake egg, the whole thing is probably plastic.

I like my eggs quartered when I'm having them with instant noodles, so quartered they were:

Inside and outside
Originally uploaded by Tym.

Note the large "yolk" and the consistent soy sauce colouring throughout the "egg". I suppose that's meant to reassure the would-be Asian consumer that s/he hasn't been gypped.

Finally, the eating. No pictures this time --- not because it's particularly horrible, but because it was a rather flat experience, anti-climactic, like the first time I took a swig of Newater and thought, this is what all the fuss is about? Like most faux foods, an Instant Egg tastes too clean, too bland, too empty. It had the consistency of an overboiled egg --- not bouncy enough when bit into -- and completely failed to replicate the crumbly texture of a real hard-boiled egg yolk. Pretty tasteless, too, despite the promising deep brown of the soy sauce exterior.

The verdict: I guess Seng Choon Farm was targeting people who miss eggs badly enough to want to see something egg-like in their food, even if it doesn't add anything taste-wise to the meal --- perhaps the same market as that for mediocre Chinese vegetarian food, which looks like char siew pork but doesn't even have a taste of its own.

The irony: While egg prices at my local provision shop shot up to $5.20 a dozen (up from the usual $1.20-$1.30) for local eggs this past month, they seem to have stabilised at $4.00 a dozen for now. So for the price of my two Instant Eggs today, I could've had four real ones. To be honest, the thought did cross my mind while I was at the store, plus we do have two eggs in the fridge that pre-date the chicken-and-egg ban --- but then, what would I have blogged about?


Everyone's blogging about recipes lately:
  • Neil - pork stuffed with asparagus
  • Yuhri - parsley and almond pesto
  • Nardac - mushrooms
  • umami - pork and scallop congee
So many recipes, so little time ...



Nothing like having lunch in a coffeeshop to make me smell like I work at the Doublemeat Palace. So much for washing my hair this morning.

Speaking of Buffy, Salon's named its award for the most unjustly ignored TV show the Buffy. Yeah! (subscription required to access the article)

After work, when I get home and still have to log on to do work, it's good to have Bend It Like Beckham for company. I have a feeling I'm going to be reaching for my comfort movies through the end of the month. Beautiful Girls has already had its turn, I have a strong feeling that Serendipity's time will come soon, and there's always Buffy (the TV series, not the freaking, freakish movie).(Further sidenote: I am not biased towards TV shows/movies that start with B.)

But you'll know things have gotten really bad if I yield to temptation and buy myself an iPod. Last night's attempt to hint to Terz that mr brown had bought his wife one was to no avail, so I'll have to fall back on the old-fashioned method of actually, y'know, saving for one.


A test post, disguised as a cat post (who doesn't love cats?)

Originally uploaded by Tym.

This is the cat that lives by the longkang (big storm drain) that I pass everyday on my way to the train station. He's an aloof fellow, prone to naps by day and prowling activity by night. Someone feeds and waters him, and he's wily enough to hold his own against the local crows, oul creatures, so he's comfortable enough not to have to pay heed to my faint meows. Who'd've pegged him for being camera-shy?

Can you speel?

Check out the Guardian's spelling quiz for fun. And don't read beyond this paragraph until you've done it, or my mistakes will skew your score.

(Linked off Brooklyn Bridge User Blog)

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I can't believe I missed dessicate, dumbbell and miniscule --- although that last, I swear, was because I blinked and blinked and minuscule looked exactly like miniscule when I clicked on it! All of last week's work is killing my eyes.

Little things

After a week of toil (sorry to keep harping on it, but it was a bad week) and a likely week of further toil and turmoil ahead, it's the little things I'm grateful for, like:

- Watching Bob's World on the Discovery Travel & Adventure Channel over breakfast.

- Not being forced to cancel lunch with a friend because of a meeting I didn't have to attend in the first place. Instead, Casey and I got to try out Crustaceans at Holland Village, which has perfect dark wood furniture that I would like for our flat, thankyouverymuch. Pity the food was kinda meh (note for Stellou: nowhere near the standards of the Project Shop cafe at Paragon).

- Leaving work at sunset, so I could look up from my book, look out through the train window and relish the first burst of vivid orange I've seen in, well, too long.

- Having dinner and a drink with Terz; it's been too long since we went out, just us. It was also our first visit to Sods 2 since Terz's detoxing last week, and we learned that just two Heinekens now get him pleasantly tipsy, as compared to two weeks ago when he used to down them like water.

- Having the time to balance ye olde checkbook and to blog! O Blogger, how I've missed your clean white space and trusty "Save as Draft" button!

Catching up

Wah, very busy at work, no time to blog. Instead, I leave you with little jottings in my PDA on the way home from work last week...

Wednesday, September 15
You know people are working too hard in the office when it's 7 pm and someone starts meowing.

By the way, person meowing? Me. I was convincing enough that a colleague promptly popped her head up, gopher-style, and asked, "What's that sound?" All the times I've meowed greetings to the cats in our neighbourhood have clearly paid off.

I'm working through this weekend and the next. I think I jinxed myself by attempting to blog lyrical last Sunday [Ed's note: two Sundays ago, i.e. September 5] about how great the first two weeks of five-day-work-week September were. Terz now wonders, what five-day work week? In other news, the local government continues to be mystified why people like me aren't procreating.


Thursday, September 16
How I described my work in SMS today:
- really busy day
- very bad day
- stupid work (x2)
- bah, hate work
- my work's a mess for the rest of the month
- work is hell
- a truly crappy day
- any moment now, I'll punch a hole in the cubicle wall [Ed's note: This came at approximately 12:15 pm]

You might ask, how bad could work have been if I had the time to SMS? The answer, my friend, is that it was so bad that it crept into my every message, because what I was doing pissed me off that much.

Most importantly, I had to cancel lunch with a friend who's leaving the country tomorrow. So much for our plans to indulge in Michelangelo's and hunt for durian keychains ...


Confessions of a disconnected grandchild

We went to the hospital today to visit my grandmother. She's got a broken wrist from a fall and they're keeping her under observation to be sure nothing else was knocked out of place. But one look at her expression tells you she's heartsick over much else that the doctors can't fix.

She's in the same hospital where she was warded something like fifteen years ago, for a broken hip that left her with a limp she still bears today. The hospital's cleaner, or maybe it's had a fresh coat of paint, and the wards seem brighter. My grandmother seems smaller, shrunken and sadder.

It was mostly my father and my aunt who spoke to her. My brother and I, crippled by language deficiencies, stood silently, smilingly by. It was liberating in that we couldn't resort to the usual platitudes of "how are you", "take care" and "rest well", knowing they would sound flatter than usual, given my grandmother's limited English. But language was just an excuse; it masked the even more embarrassing truth that we had nothing to say to her. Terz --- blessed with the right language, the right timing --- had a more meaningful interview with her earlier this year than I've ever derived from our awkward exchanges.

So I got to leave the hospital with the guilt of having made a token gesture, yi si (to show its meaning, rather than to do something out of genuine feeling), which was yet preferable to the guilt of not having visited at all.



Last night, I returned to the battleground of my childhood: my former primary school. Unlike most childhood experiences, where a place looms large in your memory but turns out to be really small when you revisit it as an adult, my former school now outsizes everything in the neighbourhood, with sprawling fields and staircases that keep going up, up, up. It made me think of the castle-like Stadium High School, where 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed against a larger-than-life, yet real life backdrop.

In the school itself, the experience turned surreal. Neatly uniformed schoolchildren bobbed their heads in well-orchestrated greetings every time a someone walked by, resulting in a wave-like echo of "Good evening ma'am evening ma'am evening ma'am" wherever I passed. I smiled at the first few, then thought about telling them they didn't have to greet me, then decided that would upset probably upset their teachers' carefully laid plans, and proceeded to ignore them for the rest of the evening. Sorry, kids.

But it was hard ignoring them because they were everywhere --- little white ghosts haunting the spanking new school with their frozen smiles. Was I ever that docile, that automaton-like? I must've been, or I wouldn't've survived seven years in that school (I come from the experimental "pre-primary" generation). The only place that wasn't flanked by the students was the hall, where the school opening ceremonies were to take place; far worse, it was filled with parents, alumni and guests, most of whom looked too old to have primary school-aged children and were decked out in tacky glittery gold or the equivalent. I sat at first in front of a row of alumni: women old enough to be my grandmothers, fluttering over their digital camera as they took turns snapping pictures in front of the stage. Was I supposed to have something in common with them? Then I moved to sit with someone I knew (we were both there for work) who cackled with unmitigated glee when I quietly confessed that I was, in fact, an alumna.

Abruptly, my old Principal made an appearance, looking exactly as she did in 1986 when I saw her last, bouffant hairdo and all. I could say that she's well-preserved, I could say that she really knows how to take care of herself --- but all I did was gape as she greeted old staff and old friends. A couple of other faces looked familiar, but only four really reside in my memory of primary school: two pre-primary teachers (witch-like Chinese teacher who berated me old-school style for often not understanding her, beautiful young English teacher who was our light and shining saviour), my last form teacher (an oddity on his own, an Indian teacher in a Chinese school, and now a school principal elsewhere in his own right) and my Primary Two Chinese teacher, also my choir teacher, Lin laoshi, who was the nicest Chinese teacher I ever had, mostly because he seemed to realise that old-school berating didn't do very much good to kids who just didn't have a flair for Chinese.

The pre-ceremony announcements began, delivered by students whose formal school jackets hung loosely on their diminutive frames as they nailed their smiles from ear to ear. The shrill Mandarin brought me right back to announcements at school assemblies where my friends and I --- the minority that *gasp* preferred English to Chinese as a medium of commmunication --- huddled together and had no idea what was going on. The opening strains of the school song brought back not a jot of memory in me; either they've changed the song since my time or I've thoroughly suppressed any recollection thereof. I couldn't even understand half the song --- or, for that matter, half the announcements. Some things never change.

After the ceremony was over, while I was hanging around to wrap up work responsibilities, I thought about retreating up, towards the portion of the school grounds where the old buildings, with my former classrooms, would have stood. But I shrugged off the impulse; the landscape had changed beyond imagining, better to rely on memory instead. Moments later, an old classmate walked by, possibly with someone else whom I also used to know. I blinked not, nor extended eye contact, preferring to dwell in the anonymous shadows rather than own up to being alumni and having to retread thin memories from almost twenty years ago. As soon as work stuff was done, I skedaddled, without a backward glance. Some places you just gotta leave behind.

People I know laugh when they find out what primary school I'm from --- my academic marks measure up to its pedigree, but my fluency in Chinese, not so much. At some point, they ask if I'd send my kids there. Sometimes I laugh, somestimes I roll my eyes, mostly I shudder at the thought. A cold breeze nipped at me as I walked out of the school last night. However the school has changed since I was there, whatever else they've done well in the interim, I don't think I could consign flesh of my flesh to its care. So long, and thanks for all the fish.


Just call me suaku* and be done with it

I didn't know that Centro took Embargo with it when it closed, till Terz confirmed it earlier this week.

I didn't know Baker's Inn was now Bakerzin and had taken over Prima Taste at One Fullerton.

I hadn't been to the top floor of Raffles City since it used to be occupied by Compass Rose and now it's the Equinox Complex, with New Asia Bar rocking to the opening strains of "Sweet Child O' Mine" when we arrived, so we ducked into the more genteel City Space, where waitresses in long sequinned black dresses showed us to the prime real estate: cosy seats cast by the floor-to-ceiling windows, affording a contrary view up Orchard Road (whereas traffic flows down it) through the muggy, haze-like night air.

--- Despite my profound ignorance of local downtown happenings, Casey, EH and I managed to successfully procure dinner and dessert at the poncily renamed Bakerzin. The verdict: warm chocolate cake good, but it can't top Awfully Chocolate's or, heaven itself, good old Lana cake.

At half-past twelve, we adjourned to City Space, but the party poopers closed at 1:45 am. Then again, that's just as well since my cocktail had about as much Absolut Citron in it as the Absolut Citron bottle that we use to store water in the fridge at home. I should've had it straight up, but buckled under Casey and EH's powerful peer pressure to get a cocktail with a chi-chi name instead. Through it all, we talked work, talked politics, talked future plans, told funny stories about teachers and students --- back when we were one or the other --- and prefaced really juicy anecdotes with, "Okay, keep this to yourself, but ... "

Just what I needed to revive the brain from the killer fatigue that comes from reporting to work at 7:30 am and staffing a press conference shortly thereafter. I'm not even sleepy now, thanks to the complete lack of alcohol in my drink ... cocktail schmocktail ...

* suaku: A Hokkien term which literally translates as "mountain tortoise". Used to describe or suggest someone as being unsophisticated and ignorant. The Singlish equivalent of a "country bumpkin" or a "hick". (The Coxford Singlish Dictionary)