In the quiet of the night

I got up around 4:15 a.m. I'm not sure why I did. I mean, I do, I went to the bathroom, but I don't usually do that in the middle of the night. Were the cats restless, was that what stirred me? That was what I thought after, after it became apparent from the hushed voices in the corridor that there were people hanging about outside my flat.

One downside to living alone is that it makes me uneasy to have even one person loiter outside my flat for more than a couple of minutes. There were a couple of voices now, male for sure, but I couldn't make out what they were saying, even though I did what the cats were doing and stood alert by the front door to listen.

I decided I didn't need to call the police or anything. Not just yet anyway. Then I went to the bathroom.

Then the pounding on my door and front window began --- not loud enough to make me jump out of my skin, but enough to figure something serious must be going on.

When I opened the front door --- and the reason I dared to do this was because there is a reasonably stout and padlocked grilled gate that stands between the door and the outside world --- a man identified himself as a police officer and showed me his credentials. To be honest I was still too bleary-eyed to focus clearly on what was printed on them, so you could say I took a leap of faith when I unlocked the gate and stepped outside.

And then I saw the chair, standing beside the parapet, and I knew immediately what must have happened.

(I live on the top floor of a pretty high apartment building.)

There were four police types out there, two in uniform, two in plain clothes. They asked the usual questions, about the chair and if I'd heard anything. I closed my eyes when I answered some of the questions because my sleep-hazed mind was still trying to construct the sentences properly, trying to be helpful, even though I didn't really have much to offer. They took notes and thanked me for my time.

After I went back inside the flat and closed the door, I called a friend whom I knew would be up and we talked for a while, while the cats paced curiously about because they could still hear voices outside. It took a while before I felt more settled, sleepy once more, and we hung up.

But then there was knocking on the door again. One of the police types from before, requesting that I make a formal statement about what I'd told them. Which was fine, except that in the middle of it, he asked if I would be okay to look at an image of the deceased.

I flinched. "How bad is it?"

"Just try, okay?" he said nicely. "We're trying to identify him." When he showed me the image on his mobile phone, he reiterated, "It's okay. Just like in a movie."

And it was. Because in the movies, we've so often seen people with that wide-eyed stare and some sort of anonymous bloody wound. They're anonymous too, most of the dead we see in movies, as was this man.

As I was reviewing the statement before signing it, the police investigator asked me what kind of stuff I write. I picked up a copy of Singapore: A Biography and handed it to him. He did a double take --- I think he was pretty much in autopilot making-conversation mode by then, and didn't expect to be handed a big, heavy book. Then he asked me what book I was writing next.

It was close to 6 a.m. by the time the investigator left. My brain was spinning again, wondering if I was imagining the distant sound of running water --- were they cleaning the area before anyone turned up at the nearby school? Would they check the deceased's prints to figure out who he was, like they do on CSI? What must it have felt like, to look upon the same view I see everyday, and then to let go?

Everything looks normal this morning.

I wonder if the cats heard anything.

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Welcome to the Year of the Tiger

Welcome to the Year of the Tiger

I was born in the Year of the Tiger. Tigers are cool, yo. None of that namby-pamby Rabbit or dour-faced Ox stuff. But of course, in the grand scheme of Chinese patriarchy, Tiger daughters are disdained. Tiger women are supposed to be fierce, aggressive. One of my aunts was nearly given away because she was born in the Year of the Tiger. In his Chinese New Year message this year, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saw fit to remind Chinese Singaporean couples that "children born in the Year of the Tiger [...] are really no different from children born under other animal signs." I can't believe some people still need that reminder. I also can't believe (okay, yes I can, but I still wish he didn't say it) that the Prime Minister --- whose wife is the CEO of the government's leading investment company and whose deceased first wife was a doctor --- ditched a teachable moment (TM Barack Obama) about sexism for yet another expropriation of women's fertility for the PAP government's idea of national good. I wish tigers were not rapidly approaching extinction. I wish people would be nicer to animals.

This is only the third time in my life that I can remember the Year of the Tiger coming by, so pardon me if I get a little proprietary over it. I like being a Tiger. I look at my cats and I think, ah, they would be great tigers. Ink would preside majestically over some jungle, while Sisu would dart around more cautiously, occasionally sinking her teeth into your hand when you thought she was tame enough for you to pet her. The last time the Year of the Tiger swung around, I did not have any cats (nor any blog). I was also ... well, let's just say I was in a different place, then.

What's strange to think about is that I'm probably about halfway through my life now. I'm not about to get morbid (or maudlin, for that matter), but these 12-year cycles are certainly a different way of reckoning things. Since I've gone freelance, I've often felt like every year has to have something, to mean something. The museum project, the book, Vietnam, Korea --- what's this year's thing then? All the more (and I realise this isn't exactly a rational urge) because this year is my year.

My friend Cheryl is writing a book called A Tiger in the Kitchen. She's a Tiger too, so it's a clever title. I'm not quite a Tiger who cooks, but it's not like I've spent my life deliberately throwing myself against stereotypes either. I'm just not very good with the cooking, no matter how hard I try. I much prefer to just eat. Is that Tiger-like?

So it's the Year of the Tiger, and here I am.

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Just another day

Not every day is about writing.. Today was about scratching things off my to-do list, which is scribbled in ballpoint ink on a piece of used paper.

In the approximate order in which they were completed:
  • Called my mom 'cause it's her birthday. Yay, Mom!
  • Confirmed a radio interview for next week for Singapore: A Biography and drafted some talking points for it. (First time in my life I've drafted talking points for my own use --- it doesn't get any easier.)
  • Made loose plans to meet a Lonely Planet writer who'll be in town next week.
  • Made loose plans to meet one of my best friends' boyfriends who'll be in town next week too.
  • Sent out an email reminder to a rather long list of friends and associates about the upcoming book launch events (which kick off on Sunday at the National Library --- are you gonna be there or what?). Fortunately I didn't break my Gmail doing it.
  • Secured a good freelance writing/editing partner for a small job next month that I don't have the time to do on my own (yay for pay copy).
  • Turned down another copywriting job that totally doesn't interest me.
  • Shilled for the book at the National Education mothership of Singapore.
  • Contemplated the niceties of starting a Facebook Fan page for Singapore: A Biography, considering the book is still at the printer's and will only be in bookstores next week (but you can buy it at the National Library event on Sunday).
  • Made loose plans to meet a couple of Singapore writers at the opening of the Singapore Writers Festival.
  • Emailed some contacts for a Vietnam trip next month.
  • Compiled a bunch of information for a government tender and updated a proposal document that one of my collaborators drafted.
  • Attempted to do a friend a favour and play around with the new Raffles Alumni website, but there was only so much I could do when it didn't send me my password.
  • Daydreamed (although we did this after dinner and via IM) with a good friend about the Really Cool Business we're going to set up --- someday.
  • Ignored Ink whining for more food because he's had his full ration for the day.
  • Bought more bandwidth for the Singapore: A Biography website (I suspect there's a not quite optimised-for-web image that's doing us in).
  • Scratched Sisu's head till she stopped whining at me (after lunch and now, as I'm typing this in bed).
  • Avoided finishing that essay I started a few weeks ago.
Pretty damn productive.

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What pets these creatures be

Wil Wheaton's dog Ferris died suddenly yesterday, which made me feel unaccountably sad. I say "unaccountably" because it's not like I'm friends with him or his dog. I guess I've just read his blog long enough, wherein the dog often made guest-star appearances, that I can't help feeling a pang at the awful news.

Then today I read (via Joan Walsh on Salon) "Night of the Hunter", Gwen Cooper's amazing account of how her cat-with-no-eyes --- well, go read it for yourself.

And now it's time for a picture of my cats, taken a few months ago.

Sleeping together

I still feel a pang.

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Getting started

Breakfast of champions

Inspired in part by Wil Wheaton's "just another day".

Some days I wake up to my cell phone alarm. Other days I wake up to a cat's meow. If it's Sisu, it's a plaintive whine, maybe delivered beside my ear, maybe exhaled as she strides peremptorily into my bedroom. If it's Ink, it's more likely an insistent wail, accompanied by a nibbling/nipping of my exposed toes, perhaps anointed by a baleful glare as well. (If I open my eyes to acknowledge him, the game is up.)

Sometimes I sit up, only to lie down again. The cats feel cheated then.

Other days, most days, when I'm determined to be productive or have an appointment to keep, I'm up and out the bedroom door to the toilet, which in this apartment can only be accessed from the kitchen. This confuses the cats greatly, because their feeding area is also in the kitchen, and I'll come out of the loo to see them waiting expectantly for me --- only to have me breeze by them to go back into the bedroom. (Because, you see, a quirk of this apartment is that the toilet is accessed from the kitchen, whereas the bathroom, with the shower area and sink with my toothbrush and toothpaste, is accessed from my bedroom.)

I might pause in the bedroom to change out of my pajamas (a rather snazzy black/grey/white ensemble, if I do say so myself) into whatever clothes I'm wearing at home for the day. Then it's into the bathroom for a perfunctory combing of the hair and a dutiful brushing of the teeth. This doesn't take more than a couple of minutes, but depending on how greedy the cats are feeling, there might be a rising lamentation in sync with their back-and-forth pacing while I'm hidden from them behind the bathroom door.

Of course, once I open that door, they both skedaddle for the kitchen. I move a little more leisurely, stopping at the chest of drawers beside my bed to pick up my glasses and my cell phone. The cell phone gets dropped off at the dining table on my way back to the kitchen, where the cats have parked themselves. I put down their feeding bowls and pour out their respective dry food, and while they set to the nom-nom'ing, I fill the kettle with water and flip on the switch.

While the water's boiling, I fill the French press with ground coffee from the fridge. Sometimes I start clearing the kitty litter; other times I wait till the boiling water is ready and I pour it into the French press, before I start on the litter.

I always have to check the time on the microwave (the only clock in the kitchen) to make sure I don't let the coffee in the French press sit for more than four minutes.

So: coffee. If I have any breakfast food, it gets set out onto suitable crockery. By this time Ink will have finished eating, so I clear his bowl. Sisu's the nibbler, so her bowl comes out with me and is set beside the dining table (where I've been working lately, instead of at my desk). I have to keep an eye on the food because the cats aren't supposed to eat each other's.

If I haven't done so already, I retrieve my laptop from the (cat-proof) cupboard, flip it open and refresh my email window. I plug the cell phone into its USB charger into my laptop. I crack open the delightfully old-school louvred windows at the front to let some light into the living/dining room.

I sit down to coffee and breakfast. And so the day begins.

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Cats in a (laundry) basket

Cats in a (laundry) basket

This only lasts a couple of minutes. Then one evicts the other, and takes the entire basket for his/her snoozing pleasure.



My mind is full

In the run-up to my departure date, things are much more under control than they were the last time, but I still find myself with not enough spare braincells with which to write an energetic, witty post.

Maybe it's because a significant amount of my energies today went towards thinking about how to wrangle budget accommodation in Seoul, since I 'd procrastinated on making a reservation and my top two choices were fully booked. (Lucky for me, in this case it worked out for the better, because I've landed cheaper accommodation at a more central location.)

Maybe it's because the AWARE situation shows no signs of imploding or being amiably resolved. (More detailed thoughts to come later. I'm still working on it.)

Maybe it's because the weather it's so hot, it makes it difficult to think. On the bus back from Beach Road market today (I bought cheap army raincoats again), Ming and I were equally listless in conversation, thinking more about when we could reach the cool comfort of our respective homes. In fact, it was so hot last night that the cats came into my air-conditioned bedroom and slept on (not under) the covers.

I hope my brain gets to chillax soon.

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I forgot how much I hate Windows

... till I started using a HP Mini today.

The machine itself is great. I had it in my bag for most of this afternoon and evening, and didn't feel the weight at all. It runs pretty fast, and while the keyboard takes a little getting used to, that's mostly to do with the placement of my hands with respect to the touchpad; the size itself is fine.

Now if only these machines could run OSX. I also miss Adium. Miranda looks positively like ICQ circa the late 1990s.

But all in all, I ain't complainin'. The nice folks at Edelman Singapore were nice enough to rustle me up a loan unit for the next few months, so I can bring it to Korea and not have to lug the Macbook everywhere. The latter held up very well against the rigours of on-the-road travel in Vietnam, including being bumped in a backpack against some rocks during an unexpectedly steep descent at Cuc Phuong National Park and enduring the rough vibralto of many motorbike rides throughout the entire trip. But my back and shoulders will be grateful for not having its weight bear down on them every. Single. Day. of the next trip.

So now I have one sparkling white Macbook and one snazzy black HP Mini. And a white cat and a black cat. Can we say photo op?

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Waiting for guests

Three friends. Two bottles of wine. Many barbecued chicken wings and sticks of satay. Heaps of sushi and spinach salad. Two cups of coffee. Five slivers of dessert from Indulgence.

Now that the friends have left, the dishes are done and I'm sitting on the couch to unwind --- Sisu has decided to go to sleep on my outstretched ankle.

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Thusly moved

Yesterday was a harrowing afternoon for Sisu. I foolishly didn't realise how much all the noise and strangers and packing activity would upset her, so when I extracted her from under the bed mid-afternoon she clung to my shoulder (i.e. sank her claws right in) and spent the rest of the afternoon quavering there in terror.

Much, much later, I eased her into a box where she could ball herself and, uh, quaver some more.

Waiting I

Waiting II

Ink was less nonplussed, just more crotchety at being boxed up for several hours.

We're now installed at my parents' for the interim, which would not have been possible without the family and friends who showed up, helped, advised and made ironic wisecracks. This whole experience has made me realise, however, that maybe I need to make more lawyer friends.

It's been an exhausting couple of days, and tomorrow the writing must resume.



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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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.



Ask and ye shall receive

panaphobic asked for some cat pictures to alleviate her cat deprivation. Here you go (of Sisu, because Ink's over-exposed):


Watching ...

Sisu looks like an Ewok

Ewoking ...

These paws conceal fearsome claws




Fine, you win

Cats don't need toys

I needed to charge my cell phone before going out for the better part of the day this morning, so I took out the charger from the cupboard where I safely squirrel it away from Sisu's imprecations and plugged it in.

The phone didn't start charging. I switched outlets. Still no response. I switched to a power strip in the bedroom. Zilch.

Then I noticed the frayed cable. I'm surprised it was still holding together.

Remarkably, even though it was before 8 a.m. and I had a mild headache, I did not yell Sisu's name loudly, even when she came sniffing around at the phone and charger.

The thing is, I do have lots of old Nokia chargers lying around. It's just that most of them come with a fat pin that plugs into older model phones, not the skinny pin that my N95 and many current models use. I used to have an adaptor with a thin pin, but I loaned it to a friend recently.

Meanwhile, my phone battery held less than half its charge, and I was going out for the better part of the day. I knew I should've bought that turbocell charger when I saw it at the Singapore IT Show.

Fortunately, today's meetings put me in the vicinity of Funan Centre, where I picked up an original adaptor thingie for $15. I suspect I might've gotten gypped, but I didn't have time (or remaining charge on the cell phone) to quibble over it or hunt for a better bargain.

Sisu, that $15 is coming out of your allowance, you hear?

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Emerging from the sickbed

After three days of almost constant medication and sleeping as many hours as a baby, I finally feel more like myself again.

This was the first time that my falling sick coincided with a period when I didn't have that much work to do, so I could take it relatively easy on Friday and not panic about losing work time. Even so, lying about for two days and not having the energy to do more than watch some TV (I didn't even feel like blogging) made me feel like the days were just passing me by.

I think the cats were mystified by how much I slept. This morning, Ink tried to remedy that by waking me at 7:30 with some very insistent mewing. I thought he wanted food, so I got up and fed him (and Sisu). They ate quite happily, but as it turns out, Ink's mewing might have just been about trying to get to the top of a particularly high cupboard.

I'm actually feeling well enough to cook a real meal for tonight. We'll see how it turns out.



Brand loyalty

Reason to buy the same brand of cell phone year after year: so that when one of the cats (Sisu, I'm looking at you) chews through the cord of my phone charger, I'm not too panicked because I've got plenty of spares.

This does make me nervous about all the other wires I have lying around though ...



Too hot to handle

Ink&ALL-inked (黑)
Taken by ampulets2

You know the weather is too hot when:
  • Ink has taken to sleeping in the bathroom sink throughout the day.
  • Running two standing fans in the living area doesn't do much good except to channel the warmth around the room more quickly.
  • The tiniest rumble of thunder sends me into rapturous joy (it didn't rain in the end, but it was a little cooler around noon).
I am officially tired of this weather. Rain, please!

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A little cat crisis

Yin & yang

As I reported jubilantly to a few cat-loving friends last week, Ink and Sisu seem to be finally settling down. There's been much less scuffling and many more instances when I stumble upon them grooming each other. Of course, what usually happens is that mid-grooming, Ink will decide he'd rather nibble upon Sisu's neck instead, or Sisu will be more persistent at licking Ink's ear than he'd like --- and then they're off in a tumble again.

The important thing is that they haven't knocked anything over.

However, today I learned at the vet that Sisu shouldn't be eating Ink's prescription food (Royal Canin's anti-urinary tract infection diet, with the extremely appetising name of Urinary S/O). I thought it was harmless and she really loves it anywaLinky, but no, the vet says it could affect her urine pH balance. My brain does not intuitively comprehend why that's bad but, er, it is.

At the same time, Ink absolutely cannot have regular cat food anymore. So the bottom line is that I have to get Ink and Sisu their own food, and make sure they don't eat out of each other's bowls when I'm not watching.

Which means that if I'm not home, Ink and Sisu don't get fed, unless I put them in separate rooms with their separate food --- but then that entails having a second kitty litter set-up in the separate room too. And in the small flat where I live, the only possible separate room is my bedroom. I really don't want a kitty litter set-up in there, even temporarily.

Okay, that's way too much thinking and agonizing. For today, I've stocked up on their separate types of food (Sisu gets Avoderm, for those of you who care) and fed them only under strict supervision. We'll see how things go over the next few days.

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It's my birthday and I'll brush my teeth if I want to

Even if the cat won't let me.

I wanted to brush my teeth but the cat wouldn't budge

Actually, he got out of the sink after a couple of minutes, so I could perform my morning ablutions after all.

My birthday has been hot (where's the unseasonal rain when you need it?), somewhat work-filled but generally not too bad considering how much dawdling I did. This I document to reassure my brother, whose SMS to me this morning consisted of birthday greeings followed by "Hope the whole day isn't spent doing work."

My dad's SMS included a line to say, "Make the world a better place to live in" --- both sweet and guilt-inducing at the same time. I need to dust off certain ideas and get cracking on them.

My mother's SMS asked me what my plans were. To wit:
  • I planned to back up my hard drive --- done.
  • I planned to do a spot of work --- done.
  • I planned to mix various leftovers into a chicken salad for lunch --- done.
  • I didn't plan to finish the Leonidas chocolates oiseauxbleu gave me for Xmas, but there were only two left and I did.
Tonight's plans consist of dinner and maybe ice cream or something sweet after. I almost called Awfully Chocolate just now to get myself a whole 6" chocolate cake, but decided I would rather hold out for a real Lana cake when I have time to engineer an order for it.


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After working late tonight

I am sitting here at the laptop, reading blogs and having a glass of white wine before bed. The karaoke pub across the street --- which I summed up to Wahj an hour ago as "strictly of the dive variety", with a "HANDWRITTEN 'members only' sign on the darkened-glass door" --- has a very enthusiastic band tonight. The current tune: "Sweet Child of Mine". The new cat was sniffing my heel some minutes ago, but has now gone to sleep on the chair beside me. The old cat is looking expectantly from the couch towards the back window, as if he expects a bat to fly through it any minute.





Two days later

It's a good sign when the two cats are snoozing together under the bed


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Ink has a playmate

Creepy cats

Her name is Sisu.

She's quite feisty, despite (or perhaps because of) being half-blind.

They have spent most of the afternoon circling around/chasing each other, so this is the least blur picture --- never mind that it's also the most uncharacteristic --- I could get.

Despite the mild batting and swatting, they have not been at each other's throats (yet). Perhaps it's because Ink keeps running away ...


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Missed the window

Ink meets Sapphie

I spent all of yesterday thinking, "Oh, it's February 29, that only happens once every four years --- I'd better post a blog entry today."

Then I overslept, which made me late for lunch. Then I had to clear out some rubbish at the old flat and the friends who helped came over afterwards to the new place for a bit (with their dog, hence the encounter pictured above). Then I had to do the weekly flat-cleaning. Then (and oiseauxbleu will be particularly glad to hear this) I cooked. Then I had to get more groceries. Then I ran into a friend, who came over for the evening.

Happy green drinks

So I didn't blog yesterday and I went to bed feeling a little rueful at missing the opportunity to have a February 29 entry.

But it was only today, when I looked more closely at the dates of the pictures I took yesterday, then cross-checked the dates on my email inbox, and finally checked everything against the computer's date setting --- that I realised that February 29 was two days ago. So I'd missed it anyway.

Which just goes to show you where my mind's been.

For the record, I spent February 29 powering through some work in order to meet a deadline, then kicked off the weekend with steamboat at my favourite old-school steamboat place.


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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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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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The perils of living with an animal

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

Under the table

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

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

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

Upsetting the coffee ---

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

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

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

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


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Xmas Eve shopping

I bought a purportedly catnip-laden cat toy for Ink from Ikea today, but he paid more attention to the giant plastic shopping bag instead. So much for my attempt at an Xmas gift.

He loves his plastic bags

Ikea's Tampines outlet was really quite civilised, despite it being Xmas Eve. I'd never been there before and the hugeness of it is very refreshing. Not to mention the inevitable Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe when one enters the self-service warehouse area.


Related posts: Breaking the bad taste barrier, Surprises from Ikea

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It's not really Xmas till ...

I have fresh cupcakes from Baked Ideas in the house.

Pretty in pink

There were four boxes of them, but most are going away as gifts.

The cat, of course, immediately decided as I unwrapped this box for myself, that the pink ribbon was his new toy.


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The perils of working at home

A cat in the lap

How am I supposed to get anything done when he takes a stack of A3 printouts as an excuse to climb into my lap and snooze?

Fortunately, he got bored about half an hour later and moseyed off elsewhere --- just before my legs fell completely asleep.


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Morning call

For the second time this week, my day has started with me reaching under the bed with paper towels to mop up Ink's puke.

He does this every so often, usually after scarfing down his food, then immediately running around like a mad hatter. It's preceded by the telltale hacking sounds that suggest he's retching up a young alien creature, followed by the appearance of a pale brown puddle of gloop.

At least today, he didn't do it at 6 am.


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At the gift shop at the Chinatown Heritage Centre, $2 buys you this:

Aeroplane chess

I thought anyone who went to primary school in Singapore in the early/mid-1980s would be familiar with it, but apparently ACS boys are not. Good thing the rules are easy to explain.

In the debut game of Wahj vs. Packrat yesterday, both players wound up with three pieces "home" and one piece left to trudge forlornly, perhaps forever, around the board. So they, er, declared it a tie, which I'm fairly certain is not kosher in the rules.

The thing is, I'm fairly certain I played this with someone recently (i.e. maybe the last year or so). I seem to even recall reading the rules printed on a piece of dusty thin paper. Now who was I playing with and whose set was it?

Other retro amusements that have recently entered my possession include a bunch of small toys that came out of a goodie bag assembled for the adults at Nate's birthday party. The capteh (shuttlecock) didn't last long with Ink around.

Ink gets acquainted with his new toy


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Confusing the cat

Where's the baby?

I was watching Evan flip over on YouTube and Ink trotted over excitedly to investigate, very much wearing an expression that said, "I can hear the human noise, but where's the human?" He has the same reaction if my cell phone ringtone with the screeching "Ohaaaaaayyyyyo!" voice goes off.

It was only after two minutes of replaying the video that he lost interest and moseyed off.


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The things I do for my cat

He likes his cold water

What can I say? He has a penchant for cold water, preferably when it's in my glass.

(Quite a bit of water was spilled on the table in the making of this photograph.)


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Of all the ...

I thought I got a splinter in my foot --- but it was a whisker from my cat!


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It's a good idea to stock up on new toothbrushes

So that when I accidentally locked the cat in the bathroom at 3.30 pm before going out, and the flatmate only realised he was stuck in there and let him out at 8.30 pm when she got home, I still have a clean toothbrush to use for the night. Because among the destruction he wreaked:
  • My old toothbrush was on the floor and had been subjected to who knows what kind of feline imprecations.
  • One contact lens case was missing and may in fact have gone down the drain ...
  • Since he managed to get the drain cover off as usual, but mercifully did not this time toss the cover down the drain as well.
  • My perfume bottle had been knocked onto the floor but, miraculously, did not break.
  • Ditto my glasses.
  • A good half a toilet roll lay in an artistically messy heap on the floor.
  • My towel and some odd bits of clothing had been pulled off the towel rack onto the floor. (Good thing I washed my alternate towel yesterday.)
Another small mercy: the only item to land in the toilet bowl was something completely unimportant and dispensable.

Note to self: always check on the cat's whereabouts in the apartment before going out.


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Ink's week

What Ink has been up to lately:
  • Breaking a glass that was left unattended on the dining table.
  • Making friends with the best friend's 16-month-old boy. They were mutually curious and delighted with each other. For now, the cat outruns the boy while the boy outsqueals the cat.
  • Adjusting to a new (and less private) kitty litter spot. He's not quite as poopalicious as usual.
  • Peering out the kitchen window from atop the washing machine.
  • Attacking a 3-metre length of raffia string.
  • Diving into empty cardboard boxes.
What Ink has not been up to:

miao covered!
Taken by budak

I don't think he would fit anyway. Everyone who's seen him lately remarks on how big he is.


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The day when everything went wrong

We used to get assigned to write school compositions with that title and whip up impossible feats of coincidence to satisfy its demands. Who knew that real life could be just as churlish?

I dreamed that I stabbed Ink accidentally and had to rush him to the vet's emergency room. (The dream was this morning, around dawn, so it counts as part of "today"'s calamities.)

I woke up to my cell phone alarm and the cell phone was fine --- but after charging it for an hour or so (which I do everyday), the screen went on the fritz. I think I'm going to have to get a new one, but that means paying more than I'd like for the Nokia N95 because I can't sit around and wait for the price to go down. I just hope I can still trade this one in for something.

Putting on my contact lenses just now, I managed to flip the case into the sink --- and the lens I hadn't put in yet vanished into thin air. I peered all over the sink and absolutely could not find it. On the bright side, I had one last pair of lenses I could switch to, but that means I need to order more lenses stat, too.

If all this had happened yesterday, I'd be a sobbing (and sodding) heap. Good thing it all waited till today. But still: poo.


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Sleepy is ...

Noticing first thing in the morning that the cat's food bowl, needs refilling and going through the usual motions of doing so (the same motions I go through everyday) --- only to pour the cat food into the water bowl.

Which is still full of water.

At which point the cat looks at me as if to say, "So am I having cornflakes in milk for breakfast now?"



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The birthday that was

The biggest slice of pie in Singapore

It was my birthday earlier this week, and it was a rather strange one.

For starters, I was PMSing, which meant that there was far more meaningless and uncontrollable crying than I'd care to admit to. All those scenes you've seen in movies where a female character burst into tears for no good reason whatsoever? It's just as frustrating in real life if you're the cryer, to say nothing of how truly baffling it must seem to any cryee(s) present. Thank goodness it lasted only two days.

Then there was the fact that something was definitely wrong with Ink. He kept getting into his kitty litter, scrabbling around and assuming the position to pee --- only to have very little or nothing come out. Rinse, repeat, rapidly within a matter of minutes. Poor boy. I took him to the vet on my birthday (I'd given myself the day off, which made it the only free day I had this week) and she diagnosed him, predictably enough, with a urinary tract infection. The antibiotics seem to have taken effect since, so fingers crossed he doesn't have a relapse or I might be blogging next about how to get a urine sample from a frisky cat.

Finally there was the weirdness that ensues when it seems like everyone's forgotten your birthday. Which, in my PMSing state, I didn't mind at all (and still don't, for the record), but it's just sort of weird anyway. I mean, even my mother --- who called me first thing in the morning to ask about something else entirely --- forgot to wish me happy birthday, as she faithfully does first thing every morning on my birthday (she later SMSed a contrite message of atonement).

Of course, not everyone forgot and it's not like I sat around all day wondering why nobody loved me. Nor am I still wondering about it today. It's just that today I downloaded the above picture of a gargantuan slice of pie (served up at Marché at Vivocity, in case anyone was wondering), which was one of the many decent eats I had on my birthday, which made me think I should blog about the birthday, else this time next year I'll be cracking my head to try to remember what happened.

Anyway, when in doubt on how to end a blog post, I always say look for a Buffy quote. In this case:
Joyce (Buffy's mom): So what'd you do for your birthday? Did you have fun?
Buffy: I got older.
Joyce: You look the same to me. Happy Birthday. I don't have to sing, do I?
Buffy: No.
Joyce: Well, go on, make a wish.
Buffy: I'll just let it burn.
--- "Innocence", Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Note: This is not some kind of poorly disguised passive-aggressive plea for belated birthday messages, nor an attempt to guilt-trip anyone who forgot. Say whatever you like in the comments, but for goodness' sake, don't say "happy (belated) birthday". Thank you!


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All is explained

I don't have the time to keep up with Boing Boing anymore, but I've got pals like Suzie to point me to gems like this: "Mood-altering cat parasites make women friendly and men into jerks". It seems that the presence of the Toxoplasma (in cat faeces) may make infected men more "self-reproaching and insecure", "jealous and suspicious", while infected women "tend to be more outgoing and warm-hearted".

I don't know how many cat-keepers read this blog, but consider yourself warned, regardless of your gender.

The contortionist sleeps


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A little hungover.

A little irritated by the cat's antics persistence in doing everything he's not supposed to be doing.

A little unproductive.

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The cat killed our ironing board

On the one hand, it's amazing how strong he's getting.

The cat did it

On the other hand, we now need to get a new ironing board. And no, Ink didn't get us one for Xmas.


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A commercial break, brought to you by our cat

Ink's version of rolling in the dirt

He gets free run of the bed and the couch, but all he really wants to do is to snuggle up with our (not very clean) shoes and to chew on the shoelaces on Terz's boots.

Cats, I tell ya.


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My very first cameraphone video

Busy week, hence the "dearth of blog posts", as Little Miss Drinkalot pointed out last night.

In lieu of blathering, enjoy my very first cameraphone video/YouTube upload. There's no fancy music soundtrack or anything, but you get to hear my voice briefly.

Behold: The Ink Attack.


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Laundry day

Ink enjoys clean sheets

Pretty, isn't it? Nice clean sheets, fresh from the dryer. Comfortable cat, contemplating the clear skies (no haze today, woot!) outside the window.

Unfortunately for the sheets, Ink went off to his kitty litter shortly after, did his business, came back --- and left a faint shit streak on the clean bedsheet.

So that went straight back into the washer ...


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Help wanted

You know it's a bad sign when you meet friends for lunch and the first thing they say is, "Wow, you look tired, man."

In no particular order, I need:
  • A WorkSpace.
  • A less hyperactive cat.
  • An electrician --- or rather, someone who can figure out how to detach our ceiling light covers so that we can replace the lightbulbs. We have been living with only one working light (instead of the two needed to illuminate the whole space) in our bedroom for more than three years, and now the lightbulb in our attached (ensuite) bathroom has given up the ghost too. Anyone know a good handyman who can fix anything?
  • A vacation.
  • A drink.

This blog post has been brought to you by the vices of workoholism and coffee addiction, and the sublime delight of a champagne truffle mooncake.


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Tearing himself a new one

In the ten or so minutes that elapsed between when I got home and snuggled Ink, and hearing Terz holler from the kitchen, the little critter managed to tear a wee patch of fur off his back.

Off! His! Back!

Ink's bare patch

My poor Inky pooh. He seems completely unperturbed about the wound, but it looks like we're going to have to visit the friendly neighbourhood vet tomorrow ...


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I'm just a prop

Ink is asleep on my right ankle.

Unfortunately, while I have a laptop right in front of me, unlike wahj I don't have a camera within reach, so I cannot impress the interwebs with the fabulous cuteness that is Ink with his middle all stretched out over my right ankle.

Trust me, it looks better than it sounds.


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The sporadic Ink report

This blog has been accused of not having enough pictures lately. That means it's time for a little gratuitous cat cuteness.

Studying is HARD

Ink says: "Studying is HARD!!"

Actually, more like Ink was nuzzling the edge of the books and papers because he likes the feel of it against his cheeks, I think, then he decided to flop over and pose when I pulled out the camera. I have a camwhore cat. Heaven help us all.

Recent Ink shenanigans:
  • Scavenging inside the wastepaper basket in the living room, because he thinks used tissues (snot and all) are fun to chase around the room.
  • Stalking cockroaches (or at least, defending the kitchen against them) at the drainage trap.
  • Chewing on the end of the cable for the cell phone charger.
  • Kidnapping his favourite black ballpoint pen and batting it around under our bed (maybe he likes alliteration too).
  • Absconding with my keys.

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The not-so-cute side of having a cat

Ink just killed and ate a cockroach.

I'm torn between glee and revulsion.


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Here, kinda

Quite the contortionist

Busy. Tired. Somewhat sick. Besides, Ondine's said it all.

Enjoy the gratuitous cuteness that is Ink instead.

As cute as can be


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Doing the chores

A slight breather in my workload these couple of days, which gives us the time to spend our evenings on household chores like laundering our bedsheets (we really should do it more often), bathing our cat and, er, taking gratuitous pictures of the cat.

Caught in light

I'm not complaining that I don't have enough work to do, but it's strange to be at so much of a loose end. I even had time on Sunday to see Thank You For Smoking, which not enough people in the audience seemed to laugh along with, but I personally chalk that up to a gross lack of a sense of irony in our national culture.

Speaking of national culture, did you get your tickets to the Singapore Theatre Festival yet? Faster go and buy!


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The thing about running again after six months away

Ink was very mystified the first couple of times he saw me do my warm-ups. Then he thought it was a new game and tried to jump at my outstretched hands or at my hair whenever I bent over in some kind of stretching exercise. Now he just lies there and ponders how long before I leave and come back all stinky.

Speaking of being all stinky, when I got back tonight, Ink padded over as usual to say hello (i.e. to sniff at or nuzzle my hand or cheek) --- then totally backed off after the initial whiff of me. Huh.

But the most interesting thing is that despite the sweltering heat of the past couple of days, the fact that my iPod's crashed so I was running music-less, and the pint of beer I had with Terz at Brewerkz at 4.30 pm --- I still ran better tonight than all month previously.



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Names we call our cat

Technically, his name is Ink, for his slender black tail and the three four (yes, I cannot count) black spots on his otherwise perfectly white body.

Ink in shadow

But we also call him:
  • INK!!!
  • Iiiiiiink-ky
  • Inky-dinky-pooh
  • Inky-du (a bastardisation of Enkidu, I suppose)
  • Ankle-biter
  • Crouching tiger, hidden ferret
  • The-cat-who-spent-his-whole-life-in-the-toilet (that's Terz's favourite threat, not that Ink gets it, we know)
No swear words, though.


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Why you shouldn't let the cat too near the keyboard

Why you shouldn't let the cat too near the keyboard

Because he gets excited watching the mouse symbol skid across the screen, and in his enthusiasm to pounce on it, ends up pulling the 'L' key right off.

Oh well --- my fault, not his, for trying to introduce him to the computer age.

Now to find out how much it will cost to replace the keyboard, not to mention the downtime involved, and to see if it's worth it or if if I should struggle on for a bit with having to poke just that particular spot without the aid of a key.

Edited to add (6 June): My helpful MacHead friend sends me this link of a kitten vs. Frontrow, which aside from being all cuteness and entertainment, makes me wonder what kind of person would let their pet unsupervised near a brand new MacBook Pro in the first place??


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The kind of afternoon it is

Where after Daryl walks over to our neighbourhood coffeeshop for lunch, he needs not just one but two Cokes to restore him. And possibly a third ice-cold drink to carry him home after we visit the neighbourhood ATM later.

Where I wish I was on a beach in Bali with a fruity drink (maybe the concoction loof Life from Loof) in my hand.

Where the smart thing to do is to make like Ink and curl up on the bed for a comfortable nap.

Ink in blue 2

Unfortunately, I have scads of work to do and Ink has now usurped the couch, right in front of the fan.


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24 things that took way more than 24 hours

So I've been tag-team-tagged by Chandler and a gecko's tale.

Once you've been tagged, write a post with 24 weird facts/things/habits about yourself then tag 6 other people.

1. If I don't do a meme straight away, I'll sit on it for weeks and weeks on end before finishing it. This one, for instance, took a good five days to get done.

2. I haven't not had a drink everyday since Sunday, 15 May.

3. Many moons ago, I went by the nick LizVader.

4. I frequently think of something, immediately forget it, and then spend ten minutes (or hours, or days) trying to dredge the thought up from the miasma of my brain. Yet another reason my domain is named what it is.

5. Before I went to university, I was painfully shy. Funny how it looked a lot to other people like I was being aloof, when I was just absolutely crippled by the thought that everyone else was too cool to be interested in me.

6. I still think everyone else is too cool to be interested in me.

7. I obssess about how untidy my handwriting is, even though a) I'm hardly twelve years old anymore, and b) I hardly ever handwrite anything anymore.

8. I have to practise my signature because at some point since the last time I renewed my passport, my signature's gotten a lot more indecipherable, to the point where official-type people have asked me to re-sign documents to make sure I really am the person I say I am.

9. My favourite comfort food is buttered toast with sugar sprinkled liberally on top.

10. I really didn't need or want an engagement ring, but Terz insisted.

11. When I was a kid, I quavered in fear some nights, thinking that giant monsters (?) would swoop down from the mountains (what mountains? Singapore has no mountains) and kidnap us away to their giant cave.

12. My nose is so sensitive to dust that cleaning up just one room in our tiny apartment is enough to send me into sneezing fits for the rest of the day.

13. I can't type the word "enlightenment" accurately on first try. The impulse is always to type "englishtenment" instead.

14. I have a cat who enjoys clambering into and sitting inside the washing machine drum, although he looks a little confused when he unintentionally sets the drum turning.


Clearly, he's no hamster.

(Okay, so this point is about how my cat may be weird, rather than about how I'm weird, but I'm running out of steam here.)

15. I remember song tunes rather well, but I'm hopeless at song titles and even worse at song lyrics. It's all about the melody.

16. I go to dance clubs to people-watch, not to dance, because I don't dance. More accurately: I can't dance.

17. I have a horrible poker face.

18. After consuming one unit of alcohol, I turn red faster than anyone I know. People who've never been out with me before often feel the need to point it out, probably because they're afraid I'll pass out on them or something. I've been told it's got something to do with good circulation and/or a particular enzyme that Asians are genetically predisposed to having. All I know is it means I can't have a drink over lunch and then go back to the office because everyone'll know I've been drinking.

19. I don't use makeup, except for a dash of lipstick when I remember to, but, more importantly, I don't know how to use makeup.

20. I typically IM in grammatical and correctly punctuated phrases. And I generally apologise for typos.

21. I have an incredibly poor gauge of distance. If there weren't markers on the ground where I run, I wouldn't have the faintest idea how far I'd run. If you ask me how far away something is, I can give you the dead distance in terms of how long it'd take to get there, but I'd be hard-pressed to say so in kilometres or, worse, miles.

22. I'm multiracial. That's less common than you'd think it was in ostensibly multiracial Singapore.

23. I'm a great believer in vibes. If I have bad vibes about a person/place/job, I probably won't pursue it. It's all about the gut instinct.

24. I don't mind the odd meme, but I feel guilty about tagging others, so a lot of the time, I just let the meme die with me.

Like this.


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What kind of day has it been

See through

I continue to have crappy sleep.

I neglected to bring an umbrella and got drenched in the rain, which I ordinarily don't mind but I was too sleep-deprived to enjoy it today.

I took an hour to fold all the clean laundry.

On the bright side, Ink's liver seems to be recovering, although the blood test results still aren't completely normal so he's got medication for the next few weeks.


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Life with Ink

It's been almost two months since we brought Ink home, and from the kinds of posts I've made here and the accompanying photos in the Flickr photoset, you'd think that life with him mostly consists of moments of unbearable cuteness, interspersed with the odd reality check of buying food and kitty litter.

In other words, something like this:

Ink in shadow

Things that I have had to do since we brought Ink home, that I never did before in our almost seven years of living in this apartment:
  • Cover my hand with a plastic bag so that I could reach down the bathroom drain to recover the drain cover that Ink'd pulled off (an almost daily ritual) and casually tossed down there.
  • Wedge a non-functioning desktop computer on top of that drain cover, between the sink and the shower stall, because it's the only thing heavy enough that Ink can't move it to scrabble further at the drain cover.
  • Pick up his toys after he's been put to bed.
  • Vacuum the living room, dining room and kitchen every other Sunday (we have someone come in to do a thorough cleaning of the entire apartment the rest of the time), not so much to clean up cat fur as to suck up the regular dust that accumulates in all the corners he loves to hide in.
Oh, all right, I love the little bugger.

Some friends have remarked that Ink is like our substitute child, to which I say that despite the above, he's a lot less work than a child because he's self-cleaning (excepting the weekly shower we subject him to), doesn't require any food preparation more sophisticated than pouring dry food out of a bag and doesn't talk back (although he occasionally sulks when he's been told off).

Having said that, we sinned grievously last week because we knew we were running low on cat food, but for one reason or another neither of us couldn't make it to the pet store --- and the next thing we knew it was 11 pm on a Wednesday, Ink was starving and the cat food bag was completely empty.

Oh, how he mewed.

Fortunately, we had a packet of wet food, some kitten formula Terz'd bought before, so that kept Ink going overnight, till Terz got new food the next day (all 20 lbs of it, so that we don't have to go to the pet store so often). But we felt very, very guilty, and when we got home the next night to find a stray cat outside our door (on the eleventh floor! How did it get up here?), it was time to atone for our sins.

Returning the karma

He was a skittery creature, but he came forward to get the food once we backed off. So he got fed, we left some water out for him too, and our karma equilibrium was restored.

Last Sunday, I was napping on the couch and Ink pounced on the cushion I was hugging. Once I got over the shock, he settled down on the cushion and went to sleep too. It was nice.


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Why everyone should keep disassembled fans around

So that the cat has a playground to rummage around in.

Why everyone should keep disassembled fans around


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She who walks into walls

Terz says that would be my politically incorrect Native American name, if I had one. He ain't wrong.

I have a mystical talent for being a klutz: tripping over invisible nonexistent cracks on the ground, stubbing my toe on the corner of the bed or a chair, bumping my head on things (or against Terz's head). This past week has turned up a bruise of unknown origins on the side of my leg, which is really nothing remarkable because in any given week, I'll have equally mysterious bruises show up on the side of my knees or on my lower calves. Nothing as dramatic as Ondine's recent dance-induced war injuries, but enough to make me go, "Hmmm ... "

Of course, now that we have Ink, that's even more cause for picking up knocks and bruises. The little guy thinks our every movement is an invitation to play and enjoys nothing more than darting between our legs where possible. If I had a dollar for every time he's come close to tripping me over, I'd have enough money to pay for his monthly food and kitty litter.

Meanwhile, left to my own devices, I'm perfectly capable of, say, swinging the back of my palm into the corner of a plastic table, which doesn't sound very painful, but trust me, it feels as though some implement was stabbed through my palm, and it's been throbbing since for the better part of the day. No visible bruising and only the faintest swelling, which might in fact be perceived only by my pity-seeking imagination, but my hand's not pleased if I try to use it for anything that's more strenuous than typing or writing.

Oh, all right. I'll stop whining and go back to work now.


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I'm too old for hangovers

Stairway to ...

It's nice to start the weekend with some wine.

It's not so nice to have too much wine because then there's the throwing up (sorry, Makanguru!) and the feeling dehydrated the next morning and the general disorientation that's aggravated by not enough sleep. Which then heightens the confusion when the vet tells me that Ink has something weird going on with his liver, so he can't go under general anaesthesia and hence can't be sterilized as planned, which is fine except for the part where no one seems to know what's really caused the weird liver symptom in the first place.

Anyway. If any of you reading this are ever out with me and see me attempting more than two glasses of wine in one night, please bash me over the head with your shoe. Thank you.


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