Happy Halloween

For all that I sometimes give the impression on this blog that I party and drink a lot, I will have you know that tonight, it is Terz who is on his way to the party at Zouk --- his second Halloween party in as many nights --- while I am at home with the laundry, a DVD of the making of the extended edition of The Two Towers and the internet.

Of course, I also had to be up and at 'em at work at 7:30 am today. And I learnt that after many drinks at last night's Virtual Insanity Halloween party, having just four hours' sleep is insufficient to fully exorcise the influence of alcohol from my system.

In other words, I was still a little telltale pink in the face when I got up this morning, and all the face-washing and water-guzzling I could squeeze into the half hour before I left didn't seem to reduce the tinct very much. Two packets of Milo and polishing my face with a wet wipe on the cab ride helped somewhat, and no one asked any awkward questions at work. Perhaps most importantly, at least I didn't smell of alcohol or cigarettes.

For last night's party, I went as a witch and Terz went as a pirate. No witty costumes for us. As a measure of our relative dedication to our roles, consider this:

Sabre and sash

Terz bought a sword yesterday afternoon and put on our Pirates of the Caribbean DVD in the afternoon to swot up; there was also some consultation of the Talk Like A Pirate Day website.

Me? I bought a witch's hat at Cold Storage the night before for $3.50, resurrected a black bodysuit that hadn't seen daylight since we moved into this apartment six years ago, matched it with a swishy black skirt and dug up an old dragon pendant. That was it. The high point of my preparations was discovering that I could finally wear the black pair of stilletos I bought for a steal in the US more than eight years ago (kk, do you remember? I got them at Lincolnwood for like 15 bucks?). Sadly, because they have not been worn once in that time, the rubber heel pieces crumbled through the night and the sole layer of the right shoe decided to come off completely.

Nevertheless, the shoes made it home safely, as did the rest of us (although, apparently, not Cowboy's mask).

Recipe for a good Halloween party:
  • Costumes galore --- I thought the guy in the schoolgirl uniform took the cake, but that was before I saw the dashing TIE fighter pilot.
  • Silly drinking games, thanks to Cowboy's boredom ingenuity
  • Little Miss Drinkalot's expertise on shots
  • Crazy dancing, thanks to a combination of the above

If partying isn't your thing, you might consider carving a persimmon to celebrate Halloween Singapore-style.


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From an email I sent to Stellou today:
... there are two public holidays this week (Tue and Thu, one is Hari Raya Puasa or Eid ul-Fitr as the rest of the Muslim world calls it, the other is Deepavali, not sure which is which because the bloody local press is helpful in using shorthand to refer to it as "Deeparaya" *puke*) ...

I have been having lacklustre meals of late (including TWO Burger King meals, ordered and eaten entirely of my own volition, it wasn't like we were on a desert island that had nothing to eat except Burger King), so we'll need to fix that in the coming week.

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Stillness in the city

Connaught Drive bus stop

This is the loneliest bus stop along the quietest road in the city. In the 9 minutes that I waited there yesterday, only 19 vehicles went by, including 6 public buses and 1 Ducktours, er, duck. This was at about 6:35 pm, i.e. when the rest of the city is jam-packed with peak hour traffic, not to mention the fact that Connaught Drive is a four-lane major road smack in the heart of downtown and edging the Padang, no less.

The quiet is appropriate, though, for the war memorials clustered here. Hardly anyone comes to visit them; the glittering Esplanade across the bridge garners all the attention, leaving Connaught Drive to the ramblers, the sneaking couples and the lost tourists.

When you've ripped out the heart of the city, only frayed, empty vessels remain.


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Lesson of the day

When pouring water into a cup on your desk, it's important to look at the cup and make sure the water's actually going into it, instead of looking at some webpage on your laptop screen and realising only after pouring half a cup's worth of water that most of the water is now on the book you were also reading.

This lesson also teaches that pink highlighter ink does not run when it's splooshed with water.

For the record, the webpage I was looking at was for the Starbucks Challenge (link via the Chicago Metblog).


To the students I taught this year

Some of you read this blog. Most of you don't, I imagine. Never mind.

When I saw you last in a formal class setting, we did what had to be done, to get you on your way to the examinations, and then I booked it out of there. I'm not one for farewell speeches or pithy advice, and I don't do so good in person.

Besides, other people say it better.

So here's what you should've had: "Let us commence" by Anne Lamott, delivered at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. An excerpt:
Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.
You may need to click through some ads or get a one-day pass from Salon to read it, but it's well worth it.


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Let us eat cake

Let us eat cake

This morning, I had a craving --- not for coffee or cake, but for the company of my mother. So I called her first thing when I got to work, even before I started up ye olde laptoppe to check work email.

This is the happy equilibrium that my mother and I have arrived at since I got married and moved out on our own: There are no mandatory requirements for us to have dinner at home every Sunday or anything. Instead, we function on a much more fluid system that's managed to generate regular enough meals and drop-ins, as and when one party feels the need to see/dine with the other. Some months we see each other practically every week; other times we are equally happy to go for weeks without seeing or even talking on the phone, for various reasons (I assure you, none of them involving melodramatic mother-daughter entanglements).

Today, I felt most emphatically that I wanted to have afternoon tea with my mother. And lo, it came to pass that we met mid-afternoon, checked out Cream Bistro at Pacific Plaza, dismissed it as having far too narrow of a cake selection to meet our sugarmaniac needs (hello, we used to eat for the full three hours at the Goodwood Park Hotel's English high tea), and took ourselves over to Big O Cafe at Wheelock Place instead.

(Oddly enough, I can't find a website for Big O Cafe, even though its parent outfit NYDC is well-represented.)

And of course, what's afternoon tea without a few aunts stirred into the mix? Today's guest stars: just Third and Fourth Aunts, because my mode of precipitous planning didn't give First Aunt sufficient time to squeeze us into her day and Fifth Aunt's out of the country.

While the aunts settled into their seats, accompanied by many exclamations as to the sudden downpour (powerful enough to blacken the 3 pm sky to a 7 pm intensity), I stole Fourth Aunt's blue-framed sunglasses to try them on. The next thing I knew, she was giving them to me: "Oh, I bought them in Perth, because the last time we went there, I forgot my sunglasses. They look nice on you! Don't worry, don't worry, I have another pair from China, because when we went there, I forgot my sunglassses again! It's okay, I have the other pair, they're almost identical."

This was not unlike a certain scene from about twenty years ago, when the family gathered to visit our relatives' graves at the former Bidadari Cemetery. I stole (literally) one of her large gold earrings to wear on one side like a pirate; she gamely played along and kept the other one on. After the cemetery visit and dinner, she offered me the pair, but I declined --- which was just as well, because I don't think I would've ever worn them again.

These sunglasses, they're mine now --- I'll have to wear them again. But this time it won't be a problem, so long as the right weather presents itself (admittedly a tall order 'midst the current monsoon).

Actually, today's tea brought an unexpected embarrassment of riches: not only the sunglasses, but also a pretty jar of lavender body scrub from Bangkok, because Fourth Aunt felt that my spontaneous gesture to invite everyone to tea deserved a little reward in itself. I'm not sure how all this adds up in the great Chinese equation of giving gifts and paying for meals, but the general rule among the mater and the aunts is to accept the gift/treat graciously and return in kind at an appropriate juncture in the future.

Mutual generosity aside, afternoon tea consisted of the tasting of many cheesecakes and one chocolate hazelnut delight (improbably named Indecent Obsession, but really, it was all about decency and exultation, rather), the exchanging of household tips, the discussion of proper etiquette for delivering wedding invitations to one's grandfather, and some brow-furrowing over young people and tattoos these days. I didn't mention Terz's Project Tattoo (link accessible by Flickr friends and family only), but I did try to explain about self-expression and so on. Then my mother mentioned people who get piercings in their foreskin, and I don't remember anything after that. When my brain clicked back to reality, the conversation had moved on to mundanities like what everyone was doing after tea --- and thank goodness for that. I love the mater and the aunts, but there are some words I'm not ready to bandy about with them in conversation.

After tea, Mom and I went window shopping. We didn't need to buy anything; it was enough to listen to Mom's latest on the cousins, or the skimpy things girls are wearing nowadays, or ...


Related posts: Time at home, Home again, home again, jiggety jig, Snippets from the week that was, Teachers' Day, redux

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The world is ending

I just heard a British talking head on the local ESPN channel say, "Who would want to be in the role of a goalkeeper, whereby you're in a position where you have to ... "

It's where, WHERE, WHERE!!!

You know the war is lost when even the ostensible "native speakers" of English get it wrong.


Related posts: The uses of A-level English, Grammar geekout, Public service announcement, Hope! for English teachers everywhere, SSLSB and Teen Girl/Grammar Queen!, Okay, look

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New record

You know it's time to cut your fingernails when:
  • It's getting difficult to type on a laptop.
  • Every time your hands are free, you keep flicking at the corner of a nail, any nail, because you can't get over how long and unbroken they are (except for the little finger on the left hand, which broke about a week ago).
  • You can't close the wooden folding door properly because your fingernails get in the way of seizing the narrow door handle.
For the record, my nails are extremely clean. But they are much, much longer than usual, and it's been much, much longer than usual since I cut them --- 1½ months, to be exact, since the manicure I got for K's wedding.

Okay, I'm going to go cut them now.


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Are you an armchair inclusivist?

This one's for Agagooga, who isn't online at the moment for me to share it with him: Butterflies and Wheels' Fashionable Dictionary --- "your guide to the language of pseudoscience and fashionable nonsense".

I particularly like:
  • assumption: something to be examined when it is our opponent's and taken for granted when it is our own,
  • bigot/fanatic: someone who believes something I don't believe, and
  • paradigm: a thing that shifts, thus proving that scientists make up their findings.




Well, now.

After I bought my new PDA and transferred most (but not all) of my information to it, I put the old one aside and told myself that I'd play around with the new one for a few days, then come back to the old one to complete the transfer of miscellaneous information.

Then, surprise, surprise, I procrastinated.

This morning, it occurred to me that given how long the old PDA's been sitting in that particular corner of the dining table, it would probably need to be recharged, especially since its battery didn't have very much of a life anymore. And it occurred to me that mayhaps the battery had fully discharged to the point that all the data on the PDA might've been lost.

I recharged it anyway --- all day, in fact --- and just turned it on just now. Indeed, the loud and annoying greeting tones confirmed my worst fears: it was responding as if there'd been a hard reset, i.e. as if it was being turned on for the very first time. (Insert your own "Like A Virgin" joke here.) A couple of taps of the stylus later (dirty!), it was obvious that I was dealing with a blank slate. All the programs remained but no data.

The main thing I lost was all the calendar/datebook entries prior to August this year. So if anyone asks me what I was doing at such-and-such a time in the past few years, I'm going to be stumped for a response. A lot of it was mundane shit --- meeting with so-and-so at some-boring-venue-or-other, remember to bring something-or-other, send out car payment, that sorta thing --- but what's life without such minutiae, right? For all the good moments, we have our memories and maybe our blogs. For the mundanities, I had my PDA, in case I ever wondered what I used to do in previous jobs or wanted to look up the last time a friend from overseas was in town.

I feel a little pang.


Related Posts: They won't throw me in jail for my birthday, I procrastinate, therefore I am

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How was your Saturday?

Well, I had to go to work (boring!), then met my cousin for lunch (fun!), then came home and played with Flock (fun!), then took a nap (super-fun, except for the part where I was asleep), and we just got up a short while ago.

Oh, and Terz is back (insert sappy smiley-emoticon here).

Of a feather

It is quite something to download and play with Flock for an hour or so, including setting up a del.icio.us account, then go take a nap and dream of multiple tagging nestled among powder-blue clouds.

I have been possessed. It's all Adri's doing.

Get Flocked.


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The night out

Chocolatini at Morton's
Originally uploaded by Ms. Marly.

While the martinis at Morton's are very, very good indeed --- as Abigael's hearty endorsement of the chocolate martini went, it's a meal in itself! ---

And their steak sandwiches are also very, very tasty --- slices of good steak oozing sweet juices and fresh-baked bread at once crisp on the crust and soft within ---

And of course the conversation with cour marly was scintillating, as usual ---

Having a hearty combination of the above without any water to wash it down, means that several hours later, I'm ready to pull a Cinderella and pack it in for the night, even if Zouk's great reopening party hasn't quite gotten off the ground yet.

Zouk really brings them all in. Sitting along the road outside, waiting for my friends to arrive, I was greeted by intermittent waves of English, Singlish, Hokkien, Cantonese and Mandarin going by, not to mention a couple of other Asian and European languages I didn't recognise. The inadvertently funniest moment was when two salarymen men in their fifties --- one local, one Caucasian and probably foreign --- walked by, and upon seeing the packed traffic and club lines spilling onto the street, the latter said, "What's all this? What's going on?" in a genuinely perplexed tone. Several minutes later, they came back, heading in the opposite direction and looking as if they hadn't quite found what they were looking for.

The verdict on the new Zouk decor:
  • Me: It's very white, very bright. You can see everything going on inside. How surreal.
  • Beeker: It looks like Zouk KL, yo.
  • Unnamed source: The white exterior pieces look like what you see at the dentist --- ah, like molars.
  • Other unnamed source: Nah, it looks like a single butt cheek.
Your imaginativeness may vary.


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Earlier this week, I found myself out with 儒 and BoKo, having a good time --- and SMSing at least five other people anyway.

I'm not usually that rude, but it's been one of those weeks.

I told Darren via SMS that night that I was feeling antsy, to which he responded that he's never heard the word "antsy" used so much until he met me a little over a year ago. (I only said it once to him that night, though.)

I thought I'd gotten used to not having Terz around when he goes away on these short trips. They've been happening for a while --- fieldtrips that he led during his teaching days, as well as the various Mercy Relief missions earlier these year.

This time, though, it's different. I feel adrift, untethered. There's a hollowness within that I try to fill up with, well, whatever. It's not something as banal as loneliness or sadness per se; I'm not curled up in a corner at home, crying my little eyes out or anything. No, no. No melodrama in this house.

It's more of a dullness, verging on a void. Everything seems to have lost its flavour: work, reading, my favourite DVDs, taking random pictures. I just --- float.

Well, before I sound too sorry for myself, I should point out that one thing was very nicely flavoured this week: a surprise Nutella muffin from Toast, courtesy of a kind colleague.

A muffin surprise

And now I'm off to 'tinis, red meat and maybe a peek at the new Zouk.




Just chillin'

Umbrella Light Tabletop

Where the Grey Goose is $5.50 a shot and the music lurches from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack to Air Supply. Not too shabby for a Wednesday night.


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The rain, it raineth every day

Rainy weather is good for many things. Eating piping hot Teochew moi (porridge) spooned together with spicy Szechuan ma po tofu, for instance. Sprawling on the couch to veg out over DVD after DVD, for another (last night's choices: Notting Hill and Bend It Like Beckham).

What it's not so good for is waiting at Tanah Merah MRT station for a train home from the airport, because the station was so artfully designed that the wind whips rain fiercely onto the train platforms. Even when you're cleverly standing near the centre of the platform, thinking that you're furthest from the exposed sides, the wind'll play a fast one on you and toss rain through the small slits overhead, and the next thing you know, you're as well-baptised as if you'd just stood out in the rain itself.

Changi Airport

I've been to the airport twice this week, to see Terz off yesterday and to lunch with Darren today. Both times it wasn't raining on the way there, but on the way back, the sky changed its mind --- which made these airport sojourns all the more surreal, sandwiched between episodes of real life and real rain.

I like the rain.


Related post: An evening at the airport

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Scrabble babble

It's no secret that I love rainy weather, and nothing's better than a rainy afternoon spent at Book Cafe.

Book Cafe Book Cafe

Especially when I finally win a Scrabble game for the first time in my life, and score more than 200 points (211, to be exact).

Book Cafe


Because merely playing Scrabble isn't enough, the four players are now invited to write something using all the words we played in each game in the order in which they were played, viz.:
  • Game 1: dancer, an, glower, chad, coronet, ant, cages, axis, winter, die, goo, maven, hemp, goon, torn, awake, miller, proved, tearful, quit, zip, tearfully, doe, maxis, jay, sour, qi, fa, goo (yes, it made a second appearance).
  • Game 2: scabby, boiling, horny, data, thorny, wholes, safe, silks, luau, peons, quiz, option, yen, confess, magnates, gamer, dew wend, divot, jived, latte, plod, ax, ex, turn, roil, re.
Contributions from non-players are welcome.


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My version of the Sunday paper

I was saying yesterday that I don't usually wake up before noon on the weekends if I can help it, to which James responded with abject horror because he likes having the mornings to read the paper over coffee. My response: I don't get the paper (for background, see "Related Posts" below).

On the other hand, I do "get" blogs. So today, for instance, over bread'n'jam and milk, this was my version of the Sunday paper:
Girl: Yeah ... but I have my period, so we can't have sex.
Guy: That doesn't matter. See? It just shows that I love you.
Girl: What it shows is that you want head.

Related posts: Why scanning The Straits Times annoys the hell out of me, Air!, In our own worlds

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Gluttony and sloth

Late lunch + lazy evening on the internet = eating almost an entire 6.5oz bag of Ruffles potato chips between 10 pm and midnight






Help me, Peter Jackson, you're my only hope

A little geek fandom: Top 11 Changes in George Lucas's Lord of the Rings: Special Edition (link via By The Way).

It's perfect that I came across this tonight, since Olorin and I spent the better part of this afternoon explicating why we heart the Lord of the Rings movies.


Related posts: A long, long time ago, Burp, LotR tidbits, Dry eyes, wet eyes, So you know what really bugs me?

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Afternoon coffee, redux

It's the week for drinking coffee, I guess.

Olorin and I were looking for a place to sit down and grab a drink in the middle of the afternoon. Since we were in the middle of Katong, the logical choice was Chin Mee Chin Confectionery.

Located: Next to Holy Family Church.
Established: At least 25 years ago, if not earlier (Google didn't turn up any info on this).
Serves: Kopi and teh in old-fashioned porcelain cups, kaya on buns, and assorted tasty Chinese tarts and pastries. Modern canned drinks like Coke also make sporadic appearances.

Although Olorin has lived in the east all his life and I've been living around here for more than six years, this was sadly the first time that either of us have stepped into the place. Perhaps it's the demise --- albeit spiritual, rather than physical --- of The Red House that makes us appreciate this nook all the more.


Related posts: I have coffee!, Afternoon coffee

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Take my breath away

I walked into the classroom with no expectations. My colleague, the art teacher, had invited us to come view the artworks that his students had prepared for their 'A' Level examinations. I'm guessing he invited me in particular because we've worked together on various projects this year, and also because I happen to teach three of the eight students involved and we've chatted about them from time to time.

Did I really want to be there? I confess that I waffled. I've just spent the better part of a year tussling with eighteen-year-olds --- their angst, their ardent desire to succeed, their unearthly stubbornness (obviously, I'm dwelling on the difficult moments). Did I, on my last day of formal lessons, really want to see all those issues spat out onto a canvas?

I went anyway, to be polite, to be supportive, out of respect for the incredible work that I know my colleague puts in with these kids. I was late, because his informal tour had started while I was delayed by a phone call. I was scuttling apologetically into the classroom, recast by the hush of black curtains into a serious exhibition space ---

--- and it snatched my breath away.

The image in no way does it justice. You can't pick out the intricacies of fabric and fibre, the twists of thought and tension, the sheer richness of the piece. Before I learned its title, what it was about or who made it, its language reached out to me and had me in thrall. The art teacher, was telling colleagues about the other piece in the room, but I had eyes, ears, soul only for this one.

I'm no art connoisseur, never even took a class in art history (much to my regret, I might add). My response to art is thoroughly visceral: I see it, I like it, even if only in some unarticulable way, and that nails it for me. My favourite painting in the world is Ivan Albright's That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door), because the first time I walked into that particular gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago, it forcefully hit me that this was what I'd been looking for in all the other galleries --- this was art.

Today's experience was more seductive. The longer I allowed Red Desert to hold my attention, the more I found that it drew me in. Reading the accompanying notes that documented the artist's creative process (an examination requirement) made me want to stand back and look at it even more. I inched in close, I leaned back to see it in full. I wanted to touch it, could've --- the tactile experience is part of what the artist intended --- but that would've somehow tainted the moment.

Most of all, I wanted to take it home --- not in any acquisitive sense, but so that I could spend time with it, look at it over and over again, deepen my relationship with it. It was asking so much of me; to give it merely those few short minutes was plainly inadequate.

We moved on to another classroom, to other artworks, but when the artist popped her head in and said something about having to show the vice-principal around the exhibition, I took the first opportunity to slip off and join her back at Red Desert. I couldn't help it, I played the groupie to the hilt; it all came bubbling out of me, yes, including the bit where I said I would buy it if I only had a room with a ceiling high enough to do it justice.

I would, in a heartbeat.

Because that's what art can do, you know? It takes your breath away. It stops you in your tracks in the middle of a busy day, when all the other weighty mundanities of life are tearing you down, and it demands your attention to the fact that there is more to the human condition than those mundanities.

All the artworks I saw today spoke to that idea. Clearly I'm biased towards Red Desert, but the other pieces too revealed a depth of feeling and exploration that I hadn't expected to encounter: from butterflies bobbing in the airconditioning's breeze, to fashion design and an original children's storybook, to meditative triptychs, a Grecian mural and a sculpted, domed installation (Late Renaissance- or Baroque-inspired? my architectural ignorance is showing).

You know what? I'm so damned moved by all this, I can't just describe it here. I am so damned moved, I am coming out on this blog to say where
it is I work, because goddammit, I want everyone to go and see them right now.

So you heard it here first: get your ass down to Victoria Junior College on Saturday. The college is hosting its annual Open House, so it'll be open to visitors anyway. But regardless of whether you have any interest in that, come down, find your way to the container classrooms (ask a student to point you in the right direction) and have a look at these incredible pieces of art. Be reminded, as I was, of how much vision, energy and talent young artists can have.

There is plenty to be depressed about in this country. But there is also art, and with art like this, that is enough.


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I have coffee!

Cedele coffee, to be precise. Just what the craving ordered.

There's no better day for it too, given that the weather's turned abruptly monsoonal on us and the rain just won't stop pattering down. It's been persistent enough to prompt my colleague to recall the Great Flood of 2004, when it seems that a combination of an extremely high tide and heavy monsoon rain overran the ground floor levels of the school, necessitating a great deal of wading and emergency sandbagging so that the staff room (on the ground floor) wouldn't be inundated.

Now I'm wondering if I should move my really important stuff to the shelves above my desk...

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Little things

"When I was a little girl, my mom told me that I was always late to school. One day she followed me to see why. I was looking at chestnuts falling from the trees, rolling on the sidewalk, or ants, crossing the road, the way a leaf casts a shadow on a tree trunk ... Little things."
--- Celine, Before Sunset
I never had to do much walking to school. As a kid, the going-to-school routine involved dashing out the door before I missed the school bus or my ride. The only walking I did was between the front door and the vehicle, and between the vehicle and the school entrance.

Now, I take about a ten-minute walk to the bus stop, take a five-minute bus ride (excluding waiting time), then walk another ten minutes to get to work. Lots of time to stand and stare.

Okay, usually, I just stare (though not the "what the hell are you staring at" kind of stare that Mark blogs about) but today I stopped to stand, stare and snap, often enough to almost be late for work.

First, there was a black cat snoozing on the roof of a white car. Dramatically striking, but the few pictures I snapped off before the cat woke up didn't turn out very well. I swear, cats have a sixth sense when it comes to sensing digital cameras activated within a one-metre radius of them. So you'll have to use your imagination, with a little help of wahj's newly created Singapore Cats pool at Flickr to help you.

Then, there were mushrooms.

(Cropped with Terz's excellent assistance.)

Edible? Smoke-able? I dunno, I just take the pictures.

Then there was another cat, this time white, but it was in a difficult-to-photograph corner in a drain, so no pictures of that either.

To make up for it, I took a picture of what was next to my feet at the bus stop.

I have no idea what this does, but it's good to know that my tax dollars pay for some subterranean and no doubt highly efficient system of lightning protection.

And then I was almost late for work.


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Afternoon coffee

Sometimes, all a girl wants is a good cup of coffee ---

--- so it's a good thing we live next to a coffeeshop.

The reason I really wanted coffee is because my colleague was making some this morning and it smelled so damn good, but I didn't know her well enough to shamelessly ask for a cup, so I went away with an unsated craving. And even though we went grocery shopping this afternoon, Terz wanted to hurry home so he could fix some of the groceries into his lunch, so we completely neglected to buy ground coffee.

I sort of wanted "Western" coffee, i.e. a brew with a little more fragrance and a little viscosity than our local variety, like what they serve at Cedele Bakery Depot. I wanted it badly enough that I pondered out loud, "Do you think [our neighbour] Cowboy has any coffee and a coffeemaker?" But seriously, seeing as the chances of that were slim to none, we headed downstairs instead, where the kopi-O gao (extra-thick black coffee for just 60 cents a cup) did the trick.

Over our coffee, we sorted through the mail, which I suspect is not what you usually see people doing at a neighbourhood coffeeshop. The mailman brought us a whopper of a delivery today: bills, statements and miscellaneous advertising updates galore, as well the latest edition of the National Geographic --- er, Terz has the story on that.

My coffee thirst is slaked for today, but I suspect I'll be hunting down some Cedele coffee in the near future...

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Blowing hot-cold

The weather got really hot tonight, so we moved from our living room (no airconditioning) to the game room and switched on the airconditioner so we'd be comfortable while doing our nightly blog-reading.

Because I am sitting in the direct path of the airconditioner vent, I decided that the best thing to accompany my blog-reading would be a piping mug of hot chocolate.

So here I am, sitting practically on the equator and drinking hot chocolate to warm myself while the airconditioner pumps overhead. I'm not sure this is what Lee Kuan Yew had in mind when he singled out the airconditioner as the single most important invention of the twentieth century.

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Since I'm reviewing food places

From my comment over at Stellou's blog:
In Singapore, there is Big Ben's Place that offers tasty, tasty British pies. While their main outlet is at the not-too-accessible Swan Lake Avenue, they have recently rented a space at Giant supermarket at Parkway Parade where they sell their delightful pies. A sign beside the space says, "Student discount 10%". So when my teacher friend Ondine and I were there after school one day, buying pies, we twinkled at the young man manning the stall and asked, "If we wear school uniforms the next time we come, will you give us a student discount?" Whereupon the young man, because he is a clever young man, he said, "Sure! Next time!"

We haven't gone back yet. I don't even have a school uniform that I can resurrect, see. Maybe for Halloween...
If anyone has a girl's school uniform that you think could fit me, I'll be quite happy to go test the Big Ben's young man's generosity. And we don't have to wait till Halloween.


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We like Charlie's

Like many fascinating things about Singapore, I only discovered Charlie's at Changi Village after I moved back from university. As I got rapidly bored with the growing Mall-of-America-nisation of downtown, got tired of the pedestrian selection of beers at the typical watering holes, and could finally steal the car out without too much hassling from the parentals, Charlie's became A Place To Go. Where else required you to all pile into a car and drive for at least forty minutes from the nearest civilised meeting point, whereupon arrival, would fete you with a smorgasbord of beers from around the world while also expecting you to pick up your own orders when the counter staff spotlighted your table with the beam of a flashlight?

Some friends that we've introduced to Charlie's have been like, "So you drive all the way out here --- for expensive beers --- and mediocre Western food? What's the point?" People, that is the point. Charlie's has no pretensions about it. They sell beer, loads and loads of varieties of it, and they sell mediocre-to-average Western food. They're not trying to wow you with fancy tablecloths or happy hour prices or specialty dishes (unless the range of beers counts as a specialty).

What they've got is an unduplicatable location: as far east on our tiny little island as you can go, even further than Changi Airport, without falling into the ocean, and right under the flight paths for planes taking off. And with their beers and grub, they've made the place a little more hospitable for those of us who want to escape the claustrophobic inanity of the city without having to activate our passports.

The distance you go to get to Charlie's isn't just a matter of travelling time, but also a gradual shift in mindzones as the number of vehicles on the road falls away and the frequency of traffic lights declines, leaving longer and longer stretches of unbroken road ahead. Time slows down; the vision clears; the rest of your life belongs in a different universe. At Charlie's, once you're in your seat, with a beer in hand, you feel like you could sit there forever.

Charlie's looks like the kind of place that hasn't changed in fifty years, and parts of it, I'm sure, are as old as when Charlie first set up shop here. (It hasn't been fifty years, but it's been a damn long time by Singapore standards, especially for a place as far-flung as this.)

Little things have changed, though. They used to be closed on weekends, but now they open on Saturdays (except for the first Saturday of the month, I think). The most jarring transformation is that they don't shine a flashlight at your table to signal your to pick up your food from the counter anymore. Oh no, some years ago, we showed up one evening to find shiny new chairs and tables --- their predecessors had their legs deliberately sawn short, so that you felt like you were almost sitting on the floor or at the height of a table in a traditional Japanese restaurant --- and counter staff who actually came out from behind the counter to serve the food to you. They even brought the menus to us! And I was downright mortified when they insisted on carrying the beers to our table. My world was topsy-turvy!

Fortunately, despite the change in table service, most of the staff haven't changed --- specifically, the two women, one older, one younger, who seem to run the show. (Charlie himself makes sporadic appearances, to take an order, clear a table or chill out with a beer.) I'm not so chatty with the older one, but the younger one seems to recognise us whenever we show up and makes sure we have everything we need --- not to mention she's pretty good with the beer recommendations whenever they have new stuff in, which seems to be every time we go there.

For instance, on Thursday night, her recommendation was the very tasty Westmalle from Belgium:

The guys had minds of their own, so (from L to R), G-man had the Greene King IPA, Terz had the (mostly hidden) Kingfisher Strong and BoKo had the Sapporo. Our food was par for the course at Charlie's: heaps of chicken wings with sauce on the side, chilli dogs, burgers, fries and a porterhouse steak for the famished BoKo. Calories and cholesterol galore, that's the way to go.

And then beer, and then kibbitzing, and then some non-alcoholic drinks to slake our post-oily food, post-beer thirst. And then the long drive home (thanks, G-man!), during which the potency of the beer evidenced itself in how quickly I fell asleep once we hit Changi Coast Road.

All evenings should be like this. Everyone should have an anchor like Charlie's.

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A bevy of brides

My best friend got married in August. Ondine's best friend got married in September. Terz's best friend got married today.

*sniff* They grow up so fast.

Oh, wait --- so did we.


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A good evening

It's nice to come home to dinner, but it's even nicer when you think dinner is going to be seafood soup, but it turns out that Terz decided to get creative, and instead there's almost-shrimp etouffee: shrimp, crab meat, scallops, topshell, asparagus and scallions stirred together in a light milk sauce with macaroni.

And it's hot and ready to serve immediately.

And even after friends came over to partake of the abundance, there's still enough leftovers for me to bring some for lunch tomorrow. Mmm-mmm mmmmm.

The only downside tonight, really, was the growing certainty that this latest season of The Amazing Race is special not only by virtue of being the Family Edition, but also because it looks likely that they won't be leaving the United States. But we liked watching Americans fumble their way around the world in culturally alien environments!


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I like surveys

So I was tickled to find this morning in my work email two invitations to separate work-related surveys. Of course I went and did them, posthaste, and then I wrote an email to the group dispensing one of the surveys to tell them why certain multiple-choice answer options probably wouldn't get them entirely accurate or useful responses. (Yes, in addition to doing surveys, I also like to tell people how to run them better.)

Just like week, I also did a big-ass survey at work. That one was old-school: we had to colour in little ovals on an optical answer sheet --- the ones that get fed through a machine for the results to be read and that I remember were a big deal when they were introduced in school in the early '80s. I felt like I was taking a test, except that I did know all the answers for once (or could, at least, readily make them up).

I should qualify my blog post title by saying that I like surveys about stuff that I like answering questions about, which is why I once happily spent twenty minutes standing at the door, answering questions about what I feel is the inadequacy of family-friendly policies in our economic system, with someone who'd come a-knocking on behalf of the government. And I happily plugged the MIT Weblog Survey some months ago.

I will not, however, stop along Orchard Road or any other public place where random people wave fliers in my face and try to interest me in a "survey" that will mysteriously lead to offering me a credit card or a vacation home in Malaysia. And back in school, when it seemed that for weeks on end we were subjected to a battery of surveys about health, careers and who knows what else, I remember diligently colouring patterns into the optical answer sheet, without referring to the questions at all. Factor that into your survey results, why don't you.

Er ... I think I should go do some work now.


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What's in your bag?

As earlier mentioned, the image for the "What's in your bag?" Flickr photo pool. Click on the image to see detailed notes. The inventory's grown since I last blogged about it.

I've clicked through a goodly number of images in the photo pool and it would seem that the average Flickr user participating in this pool:
  • Carries a messenger bag, backpack or some other carry-all of equivalent size.
  • Is armed with, beyond the typical wallet and keys, a cellphone, an iPod, a digital camera, of course, and probably a laptop, in all likelihood a Mac.
  • May in fact be a photographer who hauls around any number of cameras and lenses with him all day, everyday.
  • Has a job either requiring a security pass or, conversely, that's of a creative and casual/freelance nature, where they carry everything they need for work around on their person.
  • Enjoys cataloguing such personal minutiae with witty comments.
Ah, Flickr users. Such hipsters, we are.


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Neat things on the 'net

I don't geek out about web applications very often --- my geeking out is usually more Whedonesque or otherwise fangirl in nature --- but I am just! so! thrilled! with my latest finds:

1) meebo (as seen at e pur si muove)--- Finally, the IM equivalent of web-based email: an integrated IM system that doesn't require any software downloads. All you gotta do is punch in your existing logins and passwords for ICQ, MSN Messenger, Jabber/GoogleTalk, Yahoo! Messanger and/or AIM. You can sign in with one account first, then add more accounts on the same IM service once you're online. After that, it's just a matter of IMing to your heart's content. When I'm at work, my connection is more stable to this web-based application than to separate IM clients.

2) GIMPshop (as seen in Popagandhi's comments section) --- For those of us who can't afford Adobe Photoshop. All I had to do was download X11 and it was running like a char. Now I actually have learn how to 'shops images properly...

3) The latest discovery/acquisition: GmailThis! (courtesy of Cowboy Caleb's Almost Daily Linkorama Part 152): An indispensable web browser add-on for all Gmail users. Plus it's built for the Mac! (Although I think it works with Windows browsers as well.)

Knock yourselves out.


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Bookends: A night out

Before: Catching a ride with Darren to town. The back of his van was, for once, almost completely empty, only a lone tripod marking the spot that's usually cluttered with lights, softboxes, cameras and things. Colour me surprised.

After: What you might see if you had too many beers at Far East Square.

Me? I'm doing okay. It takes more than a couple of Hoegaardens to knock me out, even on a school night. But colour me red anyways.




Got it!

What was lost, has been found.

I was just observing to my colleague how I tote around like more than $1,000 worth of stuff in my bag these days --- iPod, new PDA, new camera --- which frankly not only blows my mind, but also, as we have just seen, wildly enhances the possibilities for screwing with my mind if any item should go astray. As it is, all the way to work, I was locked on my own mantra: "Pleaseletitbeatwork, pleaseletitbeatwork, pleaseletitbeatwork ... " Because it's not the potential loss itself *touch wood* but the suspense that'll kill ya.



Requiem for a bathroom rug

What happens when a blue bathroom rug explodes in the washing machine.

Okay, it didn't explode so much as the frayed edges of a hole in the rug took the opportunity to unravel while it was tumbling end on end in the machine. By the time the laundry cycle was done and I took it out, it held two gaping holes and a trail of blue fluff.

It was the latter that proved most insidious, spotting all the other items in the laundry. The dryer filter was all choked up by the time it got done with them.

Bye bye, blue bathroom rug. You served us well for three years (not bad for something bought at Giant) but now we'll have to find something else to stomp our feet on.





I can't find my iPod.

I haven't used it since at least Wednesday night, so it might be that I left it at work.

I hope.

Sadly, the only reason I realised I didn't know where it is, is because I was trying to gather my things together for the "What's in your bag?" Flickr photo pool (link via IZ Reloaded).

I really, really hope it's at work.

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Struck twice

Taken by Terz.

Spare a thought for Bali tonight. They've got a long, hard night ahead. Let's hope, not harder months after that.


Because black text on a white background is the easiest on the eye.

Thank you, Francey!
(And Adri, too, who first used one of her blog designs.)