Busy busy busy

Might be going away for work next month.

Definitely have bucketloads of work to complete before then.

Should be spending more time meditating on the meaning of life and such, but in what little non-work downtime I have, I just wanna have fun.

Having said all that, a reader of my work happened to email me some interesting questions today, so I might use those as a jumping-off point for writing some blog posts this coming week (time and energy permitting). Stay tuned.



Credit where it's due

Today's not a work day for me, but as I was catching up on my RSS feeds, I came across Kate Harding's "A Happy Guide to Not Plagiarizing", which really says all you need to know about writing and giving attribution in the Internet age.

It reminded me of Mridu Khullar's "The Way We Outline", in which she mentions how she applies different colours to quotes from different people, to help with attribution after she's finished writing. And I thought I was being particularly anal retentive when I did that. (Sometimes I use more colours than Microsoft Word can provide in readable hues.)

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Cable TV no more

Lost TV

I returned my Starhub cable set-top box today, which means I no longer have cable TV reception at home. For the longest time I haven't known what's on TV at what time, least of all whether it's available on the channels on my subscription plan. I still watch TV series --- I just don't do appointment viewing anymore and if I want the news, I have the Internet.

Just over a year ago I passed the VCR (that's videocassette recorder, for you young 'uns reading this) and surviving blank videotapes to my mother, who still watches the odd tape of Cantonese TV series from Hong Kong. She had a working VCR at the time, but I figured it was good for her to have a back-up since it'll be obsolete technology soon.

I remember when we got our first VCR in the family. It must've been in the mid-1980s and we certainly weren't early adopters of that technology, more like catching up with the Joneses. When I got married, we got our own VCR as a matter of course, along with a cable TV box. That was just over ten years ago.

Faster and faster things whirl. I suppose I should try to tune the TV set to get free-to-air channels, but I'll have to Google that first.



What Google Buzz is good for

1. Procrastinating.

2. Telling the whole world something --- by default Buzzes are public, which I think is an extremely confusing state of things for the average user since Buzz resides in Gmail, which is very much not public. (The first Gmail "add-on", Google Chat, defaults to private mode too.)

3. Telling the whole world who your most frequently emailed contacts are, unless you remove that information from your public profile (Business Insider shows you how to do that, via The Not-So Private Parts).

4. Never losing another idle comment again, and storing it in a much more searchable format than Twitter or Facebook.

5. Ambient information overload. As Kashmir Hill writes in "Why Google should have stayed out of social networking":
The problem with Google Buzz is that it basically tracks and consolidates EVERYTHING that we do on the Internet.
At this point it feels like my Buzz stream is just replicating everything I already get through my other information streams. So ... we'll see.

By the way, I've finally made my Twitter stream public and I might have another go at using it. I blame it on Buzz.



Okay, so now we know it's called an iPad

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

(Image above of my old iBook used here for nostalgic reasons. Someday not too far in the future, I don't think we'll be wrangling with keyboards like this anymore.)

Now that it's been more than 24 hours since the announcement of the iPad and everyone's had a chance to freak out about all the functionalities it doesn't have and how it's not going to be the tablet-killer everyone thought it was going to be, let us remember a few things:
Me, I just wish they'd called it the iSlate instead because I'm old school that way --- I think the word "slate" has more resonance. "Slate" also makes me think of all the fun doodling goodness (literally or metaphorically) you could have with it, whereas "pad", once you get over the jokes about feminine hygiene products, merely conjures images of lined notepaper (perhaps even in that sickly yellow hue of legal pads) just waiting to be filled with, ugh, work.

Edited to add (10:48 am): Oops, except that I forgot about the HP Slate --- which I suppose tells you something about how much mind share it holds with me.

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In which I put blogging-by-iPhone to the test

I'm sitting at my laptop at home, so I thought this'd be a good time to test if I have BlogPress Lite set up right. It's a free app, but obliges Blogger users to have Picasa activated as well (even if, like me, you have no intention of ever using Picasa).

Edited to add (5:51 pm): Hey look, it works --- except that I had to manually add labels (or "lables", as it's misspelled in the app) to this post because BlogPress Lite imported only the five labels I'd used most recently.



Shifting technologies

After one week of iPhone use, I can safely say that I can, indeed, spend less time at my laptop. It's become that much more convenient to scroll through email, Facebook and and RSS feeds while lying in bed or on the couch, the only downside being that the accelerometer tends to misinterpret the angle at which I'm holding the phone and flips the display to landscape mode when I don't want it to.

"Has it changed your life?" friends keep asking me archly. In small ways, I think so. I like knowing how long I'll have to wait for the bus, or having foursquare tell me where some of my friends are hanging out, or being able to pull a phone number from an email because I forgot to scribble it down (old school!) or save it on my phone before going out for the day. Not that I couldn't do any of this on my previous phones, which were also 3G and wifi-enabled, but the iPhone just makes it that much easier.

It also happened this week that I had to send my MacBook into the shop to fix a little something. And then it turned out that the old iBook that's my backup wasn't quite in working order as well. So now I'm using ampulets' spare iBook (thank you, guys!), which is working great. But ...


But the thing is, once you get used to a certain level of personalisation with technology, anything that isn't set up exactly how you want it to be (down to specific Firefox Add-ons or the directory where files are automatically saved) just feels like it's not working right, even though the device is, in fact, working perfectly fine. I said to a friend a few months ago that if I ever took on a full-time job again, it'd be a deal-breaker if the employer had some kind of no-Facebook, no-IMing or no-Gmail rule, or wouldn't let me tweak certain settings for web browsing and other commonly used applications. Because how would I get any work done effectively if I couldn't use the tools I needed? It's as daft as if an employer curmudgeonly insisted that all employees couldn't have a phone at their desk.


So the iPhone's all personalised and I ought to have my MacBook back in a few days' time. Meanwhile I'm reluctant to change any settings on ampulets' iBook since it's not, you know, mine.

Although, um, I did upgrade Firefox and Adium and add the Tab Mix Plus Add-on.



Don't ask me why it took six hours

Waiting for my iPhone
Taken by G-man

Things I did while waiting for my iPhone:
  • Stood in line for two hours
  • Text-messaged people who might be sympathetic to my plight
  • Text-messaged iPhone-expert friends for advice on which phone/data plan and which capacity iPhone to get
  • Updated Facebook and foursquare
  • Wandered around [email protected] with sangsara and determined that there was no good reason for us to return
  • Bought sangsara teh (tea) and kaya toast, in exchange for sitting with me to while away an hour
  • Pondered Xmas gifts for friends in Muji
  • Pottered around Guardian Pharmacy for toiletries
  • Had dinner
  • Finished reading Farish A. Noor's The Other Malaysia
I could tinker with the new phone all night, but now I'm going to bed.

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Out in public

I've been playing around with foursquare this week, which allows you to inform your friends of your whereabouts so that they can, serendipity permitting, rendezvous with stalk you. I'm trying to use it sensibly by, for instance, adopting a befriending policy akin to Lucian's: "You need to be someone I'd walk up to and say hi. No offence."

I'm also playing around with it to see how much human behaviour --- all right, my behaviour --- can be swayed by the possibility of racking up points. So far I've been chagrined that I zipped all over to all sorts of interesting places yesterday (not even counting the Jack of Hearts Mystery Tour), but clean forgot to "check in" on foursquare. However today I dutifully remembered to do so --- in the middle of pork porridge breakfast at the delightfully old-school Carlton Restaurant, no less.

All this, by the way, for points that aren't good for anything "but bragging rights for now", according to the official foursquare FAQ.

Apropos, this morning my RSS feeds delivered to me:
Not that I'm about to drop off foursquare (or Facebook), but, you know. Let's pay attention.



Reading about writing

Karen blurs by

The Singapore Writers Festival is on, plus I need to close some my Firefox tabs, so here's a writing-related linkdump.

1. "When Writers Speak" by Arthur Krystal in the New York Times

... writers don’t have to be brilliant conversationalists; it’s not their job to be smart except, of course, when they write.
This is why I still love blogging and books, of course, while all around me people have moved on to Twitter, podcasts/vodcasts and exciting TV gigs.

2. "Reading Faust in Korean" by Anne Michaels in The Atlantic
(via Qian Xi on Facebook)

Do we belong to the place where we are born, or to the place where we are buried? When one is dispossessed of everything—home, country, landscape—what is left?
Interesting apropos of the debate earlier this week at the announcement of the new MAC Fiction Prize, about whether only Singapore citizens should be eligible for the prize or if Permanent Residents and/or other residents should be considered as well.

On a separate note, my favourite line in Michaels' essay is: "We are marinated in our childhoods ..."

3. "Writers, Visible and Invisible", a speech by Cynthia Ozick as part of the 2008 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony
(via Dave on Facebook)

Writers are what they genuinely are only when they are at work in the silent and instinctual cell of ghostly solitude, and never when they are out industriously chatting on the terrace.
See also my quoting of Anthony Lane last week.

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Qikly does it

The thing about having coffee with Kevin Lim at Highlander Coffee, is that you never know when he'll suddenly ask you, hey, do you mind if I grab a video of this conversation? And what he means is: using Qik, he's going to upload the video live from his cell phone onto the web.

Now you can hear how quickly I speak in real life.

Also good if you wanna hear me maunder about writing, travel writing and being a freelance operative.

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All it took was a little MacGyvering

My vacuum cleaner, fixed!

Over a month ago, I ran into vacuum cleaner trouble. Here's the summary from my Facebook status update that day:
[Tym] wonders if anyone can troubleshoot a vacuum cleaner – the motor works fine but the machine (with or without the hose) is not sucking up anything.
Friend #1: change the bag?
ME: Took the bag out to empty it and fit it back in. It seems to be in the right slot, but very little "sucking" power is coming out of the machine.
Friend #2: talk to the fellow, tell him, "oi, work la"
Friend #3: Check for leaks.
Friend #4: check the ports for blockage..
Friend #5: cat hairs wreak havoc with filters ...
Friend #6: It has an exhaust also.. check the machine at the opposite end of the hose end.. to see if it's somehow blocked
ME: Thanks for all the suggestions. I don't think it's a leak and the hose is ok too. I've washed the filter and will try again tomorrow when it's dry. Failing which ... it's time to find me a vacuum whisperer.
Tonight, I finally got the vacuum whisperer to make a house call. That is, I got a friend who used to MacGyver things for a living to come over. Within half an hour he had troubleshot (troubleshooted?) the problem and fixed it with some gaffer tape. Not that I'm the sort of person who ordinarily has gaffer tape lying around, but he bought me some on a previous occasion when he fixed another household hiccup for me.

The morals of the story:
  • Gaffer tape binds the universe together.
  • Friends who like to tinker with stuff (and know how to do it without electrocuting themselves) can save you a bundle in either repair bills or a new vacuum cleaner.
Now if only he can get his hands on a multimeter so that he can troubleshoot one of my Ikea lamps ...

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The week whipped by

Look at all that cool stuff behind us
Taken by ampulets

Earlier this week, a friend posted on Facebook a quote by film reviewer Anthony Lane:
Writers should be treated like rubber plants: lightly pruned, occasionally watered, but basically left to do their own thing in a corner, away from direct sunlight.
Every time I had to gear up for a book-related event this week, I thought of that quote. I mean, I wrote the book already --- now I have to go talk about it? Which is mostly the childish trepidation talking, but still. It'd be nice if one could just release one's books into the wild and let them find their own way, but that's not how the business works.

So --- to business it was. I summed up most of the highlights on our book blog earlier today. I'd optimistically planned to post event updates within a day of each event, but completely failed to account for post-event fatigue, which is why even this blog is only being updated right now (and I'm still short of sleep). I can't imagine how authors on proper cross-country book tours keep up the momentum.

In between all that, I was reading New York Times reporter David Rohde's five-part account of his kidnapping and captivity by the Taliban, watching the awesome Intel "Sponsors of Tomorrow" TV ads, reading Suchen Christine Lim's Rice Bowl and playing with Tweetie (despite sangsara's best evangelisation efforts, I'm still not sure if I want to start Twittering again). Oh, and doing some pay copy work too.

Plenty more ideas swirling around in the old noggin, but it'll be a couple more weeks before I can sit down and think about them properly. Meanwhile, two more book events, ho!

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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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Incidental inspiration

When I wasn't thinking about Korea these couple of weeks, I was thinking about:

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When life gives you writer's block

Go out and do something else.

  • Have an impromptu rendezvous at the Starbucks outlet at Siglap with friends who live in the neighbourhood.
  • Mosey down to a Korean fried chicken restaurant at Tanjong Pagar.
  • Re-watch Firefly.
  • Blog.
  • Allow friends to redirect you to There, I Fixed It and Emails From Crazy People.

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The best Singapore blog you're not reading

A Singapore Taxi Driver's Diary --- not updated that often, but there's a good trove of stories already that has some nice nuggets about living in Singapore today.

(Via Heman Chong on Facebook.)

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My new best friends

I have made two new best friends since Sunday.

Please meet: Hong's Hangul Conversion Tools. Type in some hangeul and it'll spit you the romanised equivalent (transliteration, not translation). More importantly for my needs, type in the romanised word and it'll give me the hangeul character that I need to add to my text.

The second one is a no-brainer: Google Translate, which has received enough queries from my computer to default to offer Korean-English translation.

How on earth did people do things before the internet? (Rhetorical question.)

Edited to add (Aug 8): The Korea Times reports that an Indonesian tribe in Sulawesi has chosen to adopt hangeul as its writing system (via The Marmot's Hole).

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Writing mode

I didn't mean to take a break, but between yesterday evening's two meetings and today's work-related lunch, I kinda killed the momentum of writing I'd been building up since Sunday. Oops.

More and more I find that to do any substantive writing, I need extended blocks of distraction-free time --- no IMs, minimal email activity, no dips into Facebook or Google Reader, no face-to-face interaction with anyone I know (the postman doesn't count) and no phone calls of consequence. SMSes are probably the only minor interruptions that won't derail my writing entirely.

Needless to say, no social plans too.

Lately I also find myself unable to write in the morning till the brain has had a couple of hours to warm up. So I've had to wake up earlier (my alarm is set for 7 a.m. on writing days), so that by the time I'm done ploughing through the morning news, fun reads and administrative emails, I can still pack in a few solid hours of writing before the stomach demands a lunch break.

My self-imposed writing lockdown has prompted one friend to email me to "check in" --- I suppose, to make sure I hadn't fallen and hit my head, or passed out from a lack of food or anything. Ironically, he sent that email today, when I was completely not locked down.

I'll be resuming life as a hermit tomorrow.

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Night and day

I. Night

On Monday, I had dinner with a friend from Seoul. She worked in Singapore for a year and a half and moved back to Seoul recently, but can't wait to land a job that will bring her back here again. At dinner also were her friends from France-via-Réunion and Morocco, who have lived in Singapore for three years and counting. "We love it here," they said. "Everything's so easy."

On Tuesday, I had dinner with a former student who now works in New York City. He said he'd come back to Singapore to work if the right job came up. "Why come back to Singapore?" I asked, not provocatively, genuinely curious. He shrugged loosely. "It might be interesting. For a while."

On Thursday, at Polymath & Crust, I eavesdropped on a woman (I think she was French) talking about having lived in Singapore for over twenty years. "It's much better now than it used to be," she averred, "but things keep changing. I can't recognise some places anymore."

On Tuesday after dinner, I walked from Robertson Quay along the Singapore River over to Zouk (yes, I know no one goes there on Tuesday nights, that was kind of the point). The river seemed particularly shimmery that night. I looked across the river, seeing sparkling condominiums, seeing the ghosts of old godowns that used to define the riverbanks. I love my city, mixed-up as it is.

II. Day

I've been assured that there's been a wave of responses to "Once Bonded", though many must be invisible to me because they're on Facebook and non-public Twitter pages. At any rate, the comments that are public and the responses I've received have been plenty to digest. The essay seems to have tapped into what I've been calling a vein of unarticulated dissatisfaction --- though now that I think about it further, I'd rather describe it as a disquiet that dare not speak its name.

The spectrum and tenor of the responses are also fodder enough for another s/pores essay, but I'm not sure yet if I'll write that one. Maybe when there's been some distance and fresh perspective between this essay and the next.

I haven't added anything to the comments because I've said all I want to on this subject already. It's most welcome and intriguing to hear from readers, but hey, even if I were still a teacher, I'd say go talk about it among yourself and work out your own conclusions.

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Let the Slayer show you how it's done

Because moody, self-absorbed stalker-boys should not be allowed to get away with harassing and misleading teenage girls. "Buffy vs Edward (Twilight Remixed)" shows how everyone's favourite Slayer would put the dreadful Edward in his place.

(Via Dave and Dio on Facebook.)

Edited to add (July 9): Creator of the video mash-up Jonathan McIntosh discusses how and why he made the mash-up in "What Would Buffy Do? Notes on Dusting Edward Cullen".

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Links for friends

I had some time to catch up some RSS feeds before dinner, because I'd finished what I needed to do in the day and needed to rest my well-blistered feet.

So in no particular order:

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En route to Seoul

There would be a picture of my two backpacks here, taken this morning before I left for the airport to prove that I'm really travelling that light --- but the USB cable for my camera is in my check-in luggage.

I'm at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, where contrary to what the internet would tell you, there is free wi-fi. So I caught up on email, Facebook and RSS feeds instead of swotting up on hangeul. That can wait till I board the 1.5-hour flight to Seoul.

My flight from Singapore to Shanghai was packed with a couple of tour groups from China. This was the first time I've ever heard cabin crew sternly, shrilly yell, teacher-style, in Mandarin, "Please stay in your seats!" This was prompted by passengers who were unfastening their seatbelts and getting up from their seats the moment the plane lifted off from or hit the ground.

My ineptness with Mandarin is so embarrassing. I wasn't sure of the term for bottled water when the flight attendant was coming around with the beverage trolley (she simply used the generic word for "water"), and I could not, for the life of me, remember how to say "credit card" when I was ordering drinks at a cafe in the airport. I remember how to say "Korea", but I can't remember how "Seoul" is translated in Mandarin.

However, I did manage to work my way through a six-page inflight magazine story on "the spirit of art" in Melbourne. Just don't make me take a test on that.

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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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Just call me an old-fashioned girl

I spent some of today working and watching Mad Men (my newest addiction), then after dinner I did something I hadn't done in a very, very long time: I curled up on the couch and read --- a book.

Sure, the TV was on for white noise, the laptop was on and my cell phone occasionally beeped with a text message that I answered. But for over three hours I sat and read that book, getting up only to refill my mug of tea (I'm trying to fight off an incipient sore throat) or go to the bathroom. I'd already read about one-third of the book and I finished the rest of it tonight.

This is not to say that I haven't been reading all year. I read online everyday, heaps and heaps of stuff. But when it comes to books, I usually read them to kill dead time while I'm on public transport, waiting for public transport, waiting in line at the post office or waiting for a friend at a cafe. In other words: as much as I love reading and books and words and ideas, I very rarely choose to read a book, when I could be doing something else.

Tonight I actually caught myself thinking something along the lines of, "Okay, so I've finished that episode of Mad Men and I don't have the next one. But I have the latest episode of Dollhouse. But after that I don't have anything else, so how will I fill up the evening ..."

And I think it was when "how will I fill up the evening" traipsed across my mind, that I knew there was something terribly, terribly amiss.

The book I finished was Jen Lin-Liu's Serve the People, which I stumbled across at the library last week while I was looking for books on Korean food. It's an account of Lin-Liu's journey to learn to cook Chinese food in China, from a cooking school for kitchen workers who need government-approved culinary qualifications to a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop to one of Shanghai's most chi-chi restaurants.

I have to admit that I picked up the book mostly because the friend who recently landed a book deal is going to write a memoir linked to Singapore food (see her spanking new blog, A Tiger in the Kitchen, which shares the title of the book), and there are other food-related ideas that are burbling at the back of my brain. At any rate, it was nice to take a walk through modern-day China through someone else's eyes, and the ease with which most of the Chinese terms and names made sense to me, made me wonder if I shouldn't indeed spend some time wandering around that vast and crazy land. If nothing else, as I told everyone when I got back from Shanghai last year, my spoken Mandarin would improve really quickly.

This book aside, everything else I've been reading has been related to the upcoming Korea trip. I'm still trying to find a good book on Korean food --- not a recipe book, not a glossary of definitions, but a proper look at the culture and the people. Recommendations welcome!

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It's frakkin' over

I stayed up to watch the Battlestar Galactica series finale tonight --- even though I really should be catching up on sleep instead --- because in the three days since it aired, it's been getting ridiculously difficult to avoid spoilerish material online.

Hot damn.

Now it's almost 2 a.m. and I wish there was someone awake who's seen the finale whom I could talk about it with. *growl*

PS: If you're gonna leave a comment on this post, don't leave any spoilers unless you leave plenty of spoiler warnings and spoiler space (this is for the benefit of my BSG-loving friends who haven't gotten around to the finale yet). Thank you!

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Link dump

Because I have too many tabs open.

In no particular order:
Yes, these links are all about writing. Some weeks, it is all I read about.

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Too darn wet

It's been unseasonally rainy, the kind of rain we're supposed to get in January (but this year we had just a lot of wind instead). It's odd having to deal with monsoon-style rain at this time of the year --- it just doesn't feel like March. But I don't really mind the wet. Gadding about in flip-flops brings me right back to last year's Vietnam trip, especially when I'm wearing the pair of black slippers I had to buy in Hue because my Tevas were giving me blisters. And I'm grateful for any cool weather that Singapore gets.

Nonetheless, I hope it's not going to be so wet in South Korea, which is where I'm headed next. It'll be spring and there's supposed to be "light rain"; I'm going to hit Beach Road market to pick up another $3 army poncho before I leave, but I hope I won't have to use it much.

What have been too wet lately are my pasta sauces. I failed to drain the diced tomatoes before chucking them in last week's bolognaise, resulting in a soupy sauce, and I messed up the proportion of chicken stock to sour cream on tonight's stroganoff, making for another liquidy concoction. Taste-wise both were fine, but these little screw-ups are the reason I never trust myself to cook a full meal for family or friends.

Cool things I found on the web today:

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (abridged)

Seven seasons, four minutes, one gambolling piece of music.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (Abridged)

Thanks, Wahj (who found it via io9).

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Okay, it's officially passé

When the "25 Random Things About Me" Facebook meme is all over the mainstream media, viz.:
... then the window has officially closed on me responding to any of the friends who tagged me for the meme on Facebook.

If you must have some random "facts", go read some of the old memes from my blog archive.

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Why Nciku is awesome

Because when Ondine describes a Chinese character to me via IM thus:
The top is a "ru" as in "ru guo" as in "what if" ... the bottom is a "xing" as in "heart" ...
I may not have a clue what the word is, but I can go to Nciku, handwrite the word in the box provided and it will match the word for me.

The internet is amazing.

Also, I should really brush up on my Mandarin.



Why I like A Small Orange

(Besides their cool name, that is.)

Because within 3 hours of me emailing them on Saturday morning Singapore time/Boxing Day night American time, they had upgraded my hosting package status exactly as I requested (pro-rating the bigger package for the remaining month till I renew the annual subscription for this site), so that I can publish my blog without errors again.

I had to upgrade my package because this domain has somehow hit its disk quota of 75 MB, even though I barely store any large image files on it. The next size up is 400 MB; I think that'll hold me for a while.

Yay for A Small Orange (and Lucian, who introduced me to it)!

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Working up to Christmas

Between the moving and the deadline, I've been too busy to do anything Christmasy except order food for the family Christmas lunch and marvel at other people's idea of a Christmas greeting.

So in lieu of any traditionally festive posts, I offer you this rather nifty travelogue instead: "The road to Bethlehem", wherein BBC correspondent Aleem Maqbool follows in the footsteps (and donkey-steps) of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

Personally, I love the opening to the December 17 entry:
"Why are you standing there with a donkey?" said an old Palestinian man.

"This is a nice modern city, and you're standing there with a donkey! What are you trying to say? What's wrong with you?"

Clearly, not everyone was as happy as I was to meet my new travelling companion in the centre of the city of Jenin.

The old man thought I was trying to show Jenin as a backward place. He refused to accept the nativity explanation, and went on his way muttering about how deceptive the foreign media is.
I can't wait to hear more about the donkeys.

Also, I want to write a travel/news story like this some day.

(The only irritating thing --- and this is a technical issue --- is that the posts are ordered in reverse chronological order, like a blog, which would be fine if they were all individually hyperlinked, like blog entries would be, and one could navigate through them from an archive page. But you can't, so it all feels very manual and pre-Web 2.0. The correspondent should just set up a free Blogger or Wordpress account instead.)

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Getting things sorted

Minh's Jazz Club

When friends at home saw me online this afternoon, all they wanted to know was a) how was everything in Hanoi, and b) what was I doing online instead of checking out the place I'm supposed to be writing about?

To the latter, the answer is: I'm not writing about Hanoi, I was chillaxing for the day and I was online only to finish up some prep work for tomorrow, which is the first real "working" day of my trip.

Today we wandered around Hanoi some to run errands --- buy train tickets and Vietnam SIM cards --- and I got to eat a lot more street food than I did the last time. No pho yet, but plenty of time for that (seven weeks, to be precise). Today we had bun cha, baby pineapples, some dumplings with, er, mystery meat, a salad-y thing with something that resembled beef jerky, and cha ca la vong. I was too busy eating to take pictures of anything.

Hanoi is still a fun place to get lost in, just don't let the motorbikes run you over, but I think the air quality has declined distinctly. The quality of light at night is just off, somehow.

Tomorrow we're off to Ninh Binh, and I don't know if the hotel we're checking into has wifi. So don't mind if there's silence around here for a few days ...

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Google, I am not a bot!

Every time I use the "define:" operator in a Google search, it thinks I'm sending automated queries and makes me type in a CAPTCHA to prove that I'm human.

Maybe I use "define:" too often.

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Random observations about food from the last few weeks

Having a flimsy memory is not remembering to drink the milk in the fridge unless I set a daily email reminder for it.

Sometimes I buy food from unlicensed street vendors, just because.

I have 40 39 pieces of vadai in my kitchen, fresh from Gordon's Katong Vadai, for tonight's party. Woot!

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Do not make me uglify my blog

The National Heritage Board (full disclosure: I work for them from time to time) is having a "heritage star blogging competition", which asks people to write about a heritage-related topic or a museum visit. Aside from the cringe-worthy name of the competition, or the fact that it is a blogging competition at all, I'll allow that it's well and good to get people interested in writing meaningfully about their history or sense of identity. I even thought of taking part for the hell of it, seeing as I regularly write about museums or being Singaporean anyway.

Until I got to the part where I read that to qualify for the competition, one has to insert the "Brag Badge" on one's blog.

The term "Brag Badge" instantly set off alarm bells in my head (it sounds like something out of a Bratz product line), but even it hadn't, I took one look at the badges and decided that this was a deal-breaker.

Heritage starbloggers Brag Badges

Forget it. No way was I sticking anything that ugly on my blog, just to enter a competition. (Yes, I did it here to illustrate its ugliness, but the above is a screencap from the competition website and doesn't link back to the competition.)

I understand that they need a way to track competition entries. I understand that they're trying to stamp some kind of "branding" on this activity. But the "brand" of my blog is going to last a whole lot longer than any government campaign, and I don't need to clutter it up with other people's short-lived campaign artwork (particularly when that artwork conflates "star" and "blogger" as one word, ugh). Wouldn't a simple text link do the job as well?

Corporate attempts in Singapore to target (or should I say co-opt?) bloggers have been going awry lately (see what Vanessa Tan and my brother have to say). When are PR types going to figure out that not meaningful new media publicity does not come from, in the words of Cowboy Caleb, those who "[v]alue attending blog meetups, blog events, blog outings, blog sex orgies even MORE than actual blogging anything unique and interesting that you came up with yourself"?

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I got my shots

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

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

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

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

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

Quite the spread

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

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

Related post: Like a lost backpacker

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Hamlet (Facebook News Feed edition)

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

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

The king thinks Hamlet's annoying.


The king poked the queen.

The queen poked the king back.

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

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Government websites: the good, the bad and the ugly

The good

I needed to start looking at some 2009 dates for work, which entailed knowing when certain public holidays are, so I took myself over to the Ministry of Manpower website. As always, they faithfully list the public holidays for the following year, but now they've gone one better and provided the dates in an iCal format.

So all I had to do was download the iCal file and let Google Calendar import it. Easy-peasy. Importing information from the web into real life should always be this easy.

The bad

Okay, first off, let's make things clear: I like the library. I love books, and books live in the library where people can borrow many interesting ones for free, so I love the library. You don't have to make me go there or want to use it or want to like it. I'm sold. Tell me that I can access library materials or services online, and I'm thrilled that it saves me a trip down to the physical location.

(See how many times I used italics in that paragraph?)

That said, what the hell has happened to the National Library website? Or websites, I should say, because where before http://www.nlb.gov.sg served all library needs in one place, they recently decided to split their web presence into three domains:
  • http://nl.sg --- the National Library
  • http://pl.sg --- the public library
  • http://nlb.gov.sg --- the rest?
To which I'm like, we're a nation-state, isn't our National Library already a public library? And where do I go to find what information? And why the hell do the sites take so damn long to load if the web assets have been divided up? And why the hell aren't any links, including "Contact info", working? (That last complaint occurred yesterday on pl.sg; within a couple of hours they emailed me to say that the links were working again.)

To quote from my email to the helpdesk yesterday:
I don't know what else doesn't work, but I'm tired of trying to find anything on this website. I miss the old NLB website. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't as frustrating and impossible as the new ones.
I can only conclude that they're trying to be deliberately inefficient and, as I said to a web-savvy friend over IM:
maybe their secret plan
is to frustrate people
so we HAVE to go to the brick and mortar library
The ugly

Uh ... take your pick. Most government websites give me eye pain.

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Of governments and new technologies

I know I said I was going to write a proper blog entry soon, not just toss out links, but I couldn't pass up on the comparison which leapt out at me while I was reading this morning's news.

The UK government's idea of harnessing new technologies: Make public a wide array of government statistics for the Show Us A Better Way competition, where anyone can suggest new ways of using that data to make people's lives better. It hopes to attract everyone from the tech industry to "hardcore coders to adolescents in their bedroom". BBC News even calls it "data mash-up" in the article headline.

The Singapore government's idea of harnessing new technologies: Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan is quoted on Channel NewsAsia as saying:
I think we will get into the 'YouTube' style of politics, which means it's multimedia. It's no longer enough to just talk, you must have moving images, you must have sound, you must have music. And if it makes an impact, you will get millions of hits. And if it's true but boring, without multimedia, then no one's going to watch it.
Also, as quoted in the Straits Times:
Because you think you are not revealing yourself, a lot of people on the Internet engage in what I call virtual shouting. They want to gain attention and the best way ... is to say something crazy, outrageous, scandalous, maybe even defamatory.
Uh. Yeah. So one is releasing information out there in the hope of getting something good back in return, while the other is still concerned with the Sisyphean task of outshouting the crazies.

As a tax-paying citizen, I certainly know which project I'd rather my government be working on.

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Get your geek on

Cast out

Monday's links were about reading, today's are more tech-inclined:
I promise that my next blog post will be an actual blog post and not just a linkdump.

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Good reading fun

I had a work-filled weekend (except for the ROJAK interlude), so it's only today that I can get around to posting some neat reading-related links:
  • Since so many people got a tickle out of "The challenge of problem with office-speak", here's Slate's "Notes on Catch: Which catchphrases should be 'thrown under the bus'?" (via kitschy potemkin). Excerpt:
    It is possible to think of catchphrase use in stages. There's Stage 1, when you first hear a phrase and take pleasure in its imaginative use of language on the literal and metaphorical level. ...

    Then there's Stage 2, when you use it to establish "street cred" (time to throw "street cred" under the catchphrase bus?) or convey a sense of being au courant.

    Then there's Stage 3, when the user acknowledges a phrase's over-ness and tries to extract some final mileage out of it by gently mocking it, usually by using ironic quotes, or adding "as they say" to the end.

    Finally, there's Stage 4: terminal obsolence, dead phrase walking. Take "at the end of the day." It kind of stuns me whenever I find someone still saying "at the end of the day" with a straight face. What are they, stuck on stupid, as they say?
  • Also from Slate (also via kitschy potemkin), ";( Has modern life killed the semicolon?", wonders Portland State University faculty Paul Collins. I have a soft spot for the semicolon, and an even softer one (as I'm sure you can tell from reading my blog) for the dash.

    I also really like the penultimate sentence of this essay:
    When grading undergrad final papers recently, I found a near-absence of semicolons, save for one paper with cadenced pauses and carefully cantilevered clauses that gracefully stacked upon one another, Jenga-like, without ever quite toppling.
  • Alison Bechdel, one of my favourite authors, gives her take on "Compulsory Reading" (via Bitch Ph.D.), about all the guilt we bibliophiles feel about the books we oughta read that we haven't read yet. This one's a comic-strip essay, for those of you that don't feel like dealing with any more prose right now. (If you like it, borrow her graphic-novel autobiography Fun Home from me.)

    My personal list of I-really-oughta-reads includes: War and Peace, London: A Biography, any novels by James Joyce and anything at all by Charles Dickens (I don't think the opening two pages of Hard Times or the adapted-and-illustrated-for-children version of A Tale of Two Cities counts).
After proofreading for an entire week, I'll be glad to get back to a little old-fashioned reading for a change.

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Get your own Swedish furniture name

$61.70 worth of stuff from Ikea

I have a love-hate relationship with Ikea, so the Blogadilla Swedish Furniture Name Generator made me giggle.

My Swedish furniture name is YYMEI --- what's yours?


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Feeling my age, redux

Is it scary that I clearly remember three out of Wired's selection of five obsolete storage formats? And for the other two (the 8-track and punched tape), the ex-boyfriend in the US used to make enough 8-track jokes that I feel like I know what they were, and who hasn't seen punched tape in some old spy thriller movie, eh?

As for feeling one's age in internet terms, there's always news about Yahoo issuing new Rocketmail accounts to trigger ye olde memories of an ex-student and an ex-colleague who had accounts there way back at the beginning of this century. The funny thing is that "Rocketmail" makes me think of, you know, something blasting off at high speeds, and the two people I remember having Rocketmail accounts were not what you would call explosive personalities.

Related posts: Spotted in a crowd, Not done growing yet, That time of life, Someone said ..., Feeling my age

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The challenge of problem with office-speak

I'm glad I'm back at my email and reading BBC News today, or I would've missed the BBC News Magazine's "50 office-speak phrases you love to hate". I think most of my pet peeve corporate-speak phrases are on the list, including the vomit-worthy:
  • "going forward" (#1)
  • "incentivise" (#4)
  • "challenge" (#10)
  • "paradigm shifts" (#35)
  • "stakeholder" (#36)
  • "cascading" (#39)
  • "leverage" (#42)
On a related note, Slate has the sparkling "Lazy Bastards: How We Read Online" (via kitschy potemkin).

Related post: On being plain-spoken

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No bad puns on Shanghai in this post title

I'm going away on vacation to Shanghai tonight. I spent the entire day cleaning the house and running errands, and finally sat down to pack at 6 p.m.

At which point my brain gave out and I could not compute if daily temperatures of 20-25 degrees C mean that I should pack a jacket, or not. So I called Ondine, who confirmed that I would need one --- no, not leather, too heavy, something lighter.

Bear in mind that I used to field Chicago winters, no problems. One glance at the weather forecast, and I used to know which jacket I'd need, how many layers to wear under it (in the event of the weather changing midway through the day) and which shoes to wear. Now I find myself staring blankly at a website that tells me it's 71 degrees F in Shanghai "right now!" and my only response is to exult that it'll be cooler than it is in Singapore.

For the first time, I'll be bringing my laptop on vacation with me. I'm not going to do any work or read any work-related emails, but I thought it'd be useful for downloading pictures from the new camera and finding out what's going in Shanghai (I've barely worked out an itinerary yet). Plus I'm staying with a friend, so there won't be any security issues.

If anyone is still interested in my shoe count (see previous tallies for five days in Bali and four days in Ho Chi Minh City; I forgot to tally it for the two-week Paris/London jaunt, but I'm pretty sure it was three pairs then), this time it's three pairs for a seven-day trip.

Oh, and unlike the last time, I have a valid passport.

Edited to add (9:51 p.m.): xkcd goes to the airport too! At least I don't have lockpicks and the blood of a churchmouse ...

Edited to add (11.09 p.m.): Okay, I may only have three pairs of shoes (okay, four if you count slippers), but in my one hand-carry luggage and one check-in bag are squished three other bags, giving me five bags in total: one small wheelie, one backpack, one small messenger bag for daily use, one small handbag for going out at night and one fold-up bag that can be used to tote back shopping acquisitions. I think I'm going a little mad --- or taking that old Girl Guide motto "Be Prepared" far too seriously.

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For your reading pleasure

The Top 50 Blogger-powered Blogs, ranked based on some fancypants mathematics involving Google PageRank, Technorati Ranking, Bloglines subscribers, backlinks and Alexa Rank. Most the big guns are there, including PostSecret (#1), Blogger Buzz (#9) and Xiaxue (#24).

Yes, Singapore's very own Xiaxue, who, if you believe the math, outranks Eschaton (albeit narrowly, it's at #26) and Ikea Hacker (#33).

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Then again: "Lies, damn lies and statistics".

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Not aliens, just an uncontacted tribe

BBC News has images from the Brazil National Indian Foundation of an uncontacted tribe that lives along the Brazil-Peru border. First of all: cool. Second of all: there are still uncontacted tribes? Third of all: Is it just me, or do the images make it seem as if they're a species on an alien world being visited by us?

It's the aerial perspective, I guess, not to mention the fact that their bodies are covered in red and black paint. Every time I see one of the men wielding an arrow or spear at the photographer-interlopers, I wonder what they're thinking. Do they think the helicopter (I assume the photographer(s) travelled in a helicopter) comes from the gods? Another planet? Other civilisations?

It boggles my mind to think that I'm sitting here, blogging about this, a blog post which could potentially reach any wired person in the world, while talking about it on IM and Facebook --- and I'm looking at an uncontacted tribe.

Okay, I'm going to go look at the images some more ...



Click on it --- you know you want to

Is it any surprise that the most popular BBC News story right now is, "Great tits cope well with warming"?

Oh, human beings --- so predictable. If an alien race wanted to come down and trap us all so it could take over the planet, it would just have to label its trap with the words "great tits" and its work would be done.

I clicked on it too. But that was in the email of daily BBC news, which had it listed as the top story under Science/Nature rather than Health, so I figured it was about some odd creature rather than, well, you know.



Strike three, but we got lucky

Because I am a freelancer who is --- for all intents and purposes --- surgically attached to her internet connection, Cowboy Caleb calls me on occasion for last-minute restaurant advice and I spend about five minutes helping him pick a place where he can fête a client or boss on his company's tab. The other typical condition is that it has to be a place that he knows how to get to in Singapore, which can be harder than it sounds.

Today he calls at about noon from Hong Kong and needs a place for dinner tonight. He can't expense the meal, but still needs it to be nice enough. Oh, and no Asian food.

We settle on Valentino's, because we've been there before and it's pretty damn good food. He asks me to get a reservation (yes, I am officially his entertainment secretary, didn't you know?) and SMS him when the table's booked. I call. Valentino's, it turns out, is fully booked for the night.

A little SMSing, another phone call. "How about Marmalade Pantry at Palais Renaissance?," I suggest, "because the air-conditioning at the Holland Village one isn't working [as I found out to my dismay on Monday night]."

"Where's Palais Renaissance?"

"Next to Orchard Towers, between Orchard Towers and the Thai embassy."

For reasons that cannot be reported here, Cowboy Caleb declines to go anywhere near Orchard Towers. We settle on Ember at Hotel 1929, another reliable choice that he knows how to get to.

I call and: "We regret to inform you that we will be closed for renovations from 30 April to ..." Cheebye. I hang up without bothering with the rest of the automated message.

"Strike two," I SMS Cowboy.

He calls back. By this point, I'm trawling through The Travelling Hungryboy for ideas. We confer. "Okay, Wild Rocket," he decides.

I call and I cannot believe my ears: "I'm sorry, but we're closed tonight for a private function."

Clearly, the moral of the story at this point is that it is not possible to get a dinner reservation at a decent place on the eve of a public holiday (it's May Day tomorrow), unless you planned your evening a week before and had time to work your way through an entire restaurant directory.

Cowboy cannot believe it; neither can I. James comes to the rescue on MSN: "Cork", he says, "63279169." Does Cowboy know where Capital Towers is? Why yes, he does. After which he SMSes: "I boarding the plane. You decide."

Meanwhile, I'm calling --- and miracle of miracles, they are open, they have tables available and they are pleased as punch to take Cowboy's reservation. I manage to sneak in a last confirmation SMS to Cowboy and the URL for Chubby Hubby's review of the place before he switches off his phone on the plane.

As far as I know, dinner went all right.

It seems Secretaries' Day has just passed us by, so Cowboy owes me a huge bonus next year. He should buy me dinner at a nice place.

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Radio silence

I haven't had a call or SMS on my phone since 4:15 pm, which in itself isn't unusual. What's unusual is that I didn't notice the dearth of contact until right now, as I'm packing up to hit the sack.

I've barely chatted online with anyone all night too. Maybe I'm not as much of a communications junkie as I thought I was.

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Holy crap, that was fast

So migrating to a new server didn't take as long as I thought it would, and I didn't even have to activate my brother (whom I'd put on standby, in case I flubbed something up and needed a rescuer). Even propagating the DNS change took next to no time.

Compare this to a colossal more-than-one-hour struggle this morning with Priceline Singapore to book an air ticket. I kept getting error messages from their server at various points of the search or purchase processes, which exacerbated the usual nervousness I get when I'm about to place an online order for anything that costs more than a DVD box set.

Anyway, I got my air ticket and my website seems to be intact at the new server. Now I still have the rest of the afternoon before me. Whee!


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Server migration imminent

This website is all grown up and ready to move on to its own server space (as opposed to mooching off my friend's server, which is what it's been doing for something like seven years), so I'm going to be doing a little content migration this afternoon.

No action is needed on your part, except to not panic if toomanythoughts.org is unreachable for a few hours. Just be patient till the new DNS changes are propagated internet-wide.


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Of neo-nomadism and neighbourhoods

It was a year ago that I decided I liked the term "neo-nomad", and now the Economist has a whole special report on it.

The thing I find about living the neo-nomadic/digital-nomadic lifestyle, is that when I read a "special report" like that, I tend to go, "Ho-hum. Tell me something I don't already know."

Or else I tend to assume that these reports are confirming what I hope will happen, like this scenario from the article "The new oases":
... urban nomadism makes districts, like buildings, multifunctional. Parts of town that were monocultures, [William Mitchell, a professor of architecture and computer science at MIT] says, gradually become “fine-grained mixed-use neighbourhoods” more akin in human terms to pre-industrial villages than to modern suburbs.
I count myself lucky to live in a village-like neighbourhood now. The free wifi is dreadfully spotty (why, oh why, can't [email protected] get it right?), but all the other elements --- brick-and-mortar stores delivering basic services, a mixture of chain stores and "local" enterprises, low-rise living and neighbourhood folk who kind of recognise each other after a while --- are well in place, and have been for decades.

Being neo-nomadic Working freelance means I can spend more time here and still get enough work done to pay the rent. I'd like to think, along the lines of Mitchell above, that the broader neo-nomadic trend also means that it will keep this neighbourhood village-like, with the kind of vibe that made me want to live here in the first place.

(I'm still hoping the coming MRT line doesn't muck up the neighbourhood either.)


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Readers' poll #3: Which pic does the trick?

I've decided I would like to make a little photo wall, consisting of pictures taken by me. This lovely layout would be great, but I'm going to go with something a little less ambitious: four portrait-format photos, 5" x 7" each, to be hung in a 2 x 2 arrangement, in black frames on a white wall.

So far, the shortlist consists of exactly one photo:

Eiffel Towers for sale

Hence my reader's poll: Which picture (if any) from my Flickr account do you really, really, really like? Bearing in mind that it'll be displayed in a portrait format.

Edited to add (11:47 pm), because beeker complained that I was doling out homework on my blog: I certainly don't mean for anyone to go through every one of the 903 images on my Flickr account. I just imagined that if any particular image stood out in a reader's memory, now would be the time to say so.


Related posts: Would you watch this?, My very first readers' poll

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A little off my game

So last week was a bust.

Monday was frightfully productive. Tuesday was a day of meetings and errands, but fortunately was topped off with good news. Thereafter the entire week kinda went outta whack: between meetings and mood swings and my usual procrastinatory impulses, I just didn't get enough work done. Add in the lassitude induced by the stifling hot weather, and you have a recipe for a major deadline disaster.

Which hasn't happened, um, yet.

Yesterday I was at the old flat for what is probably the last time. It looked very, well, empty. Not forlorn, necessarily, but most definitely vacant, vacated. The whole experience, including travelling there and back, was quite surreal. I don't think I've completely processed it yet.

Today has been absolutely productive --- except that given the amount of backlog from last week, it's still not enough.

PS: Key to being productive? Like all the lifehacking sites tell you: stay off instant messaging.


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Tired as hell

It's a strange sort of day when I typo "mind-boggling" as "mind-blogging".


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Links of the day

I surf, I read, I share. In no particular order:


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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Saturday, at last

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

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

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

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

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


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I did not know that yesterday

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

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

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

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

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


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