A reader asks, I answer (part 2)

To resume from yesterday's entry:

3. Do you still dream of becoming a publisher in New York?

No. It pays too little (it always did, but at this point in my professional life it's really way too little) and to have to start from scratch in that publishing world at a time when online media and other infrastructural factors are shaking up the industry, is just more risk and jumpstarting than I'm prepared to do right now. I'm happy as a writer and I'd rather channel those energies more into developing that career, then hopping over to something else (though it's a related field).

4. If you could turn back time to when you were 19, what would you change?

Tough question. I want to say I would tell my 19-year-old self to believe in herself more, rather than to presume there is a cut-and-dried formula for making career choices in Singapore. But I'm not sure that she had the chutzpah at that age to find ways to go on and do interesting things anyway.

I suppose the overseas education was critical in influencing a large part of who I am today and that is the one decision I wouldn't change. Whether I got there by dint of a government scholarship, parental financing or some other funding source was important too, but it's hard to say definitely right now that I would go back and tell my 19-year-old self to say no to the scholarship offer.

I don't think we get do-overs and I don't think we should dwell on them, either.

5. What do you think of Singaporeans who leave behind friends and family for overseas studies and decide to settle there permanently?

No differently than I think of people who choose to live here, be they Singaporean or not. People from many countries choose to go overseas for many different reasons; I think it's safe to say that more people today will live and die in a different place from where they were born. There's no need to pronounce judgement on that.

Someone I interviewed today mentioned the importance of being comfortable in your own skin. I don't think I've ever articulated it that way myself, but that's it, really. Be comfortable in your own skin, and leave other people to be that way too, as long as they're not threatening to hurt you or anything.

* * *

So those are the five questions I was asked. Hm ... that didn't take as long as I thought it might.

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A reader asks, I answer (part 1)

Recently I got an email from a reader responding to my essay, "Once Bonded", which was published last July but apparently continues to make the online rounds. The reader posed several questions which I thought would make good fodder for blogging and offer a break from all the other pay copy jobs I'm working on, so let's have a go at them:

1. Have the eight years of the scholarship bond changed your initial intensely negative perspectives and desire to leave Singapore in any way (i.e. tapered/balanced your opinions)?

Let's be clear about one thing: I did the eight years, then at the end of 2005 I quit being a government civil servant and I've been a full-time professional writer since. So how and what I feel about Singapore right now is tempered by a host of experiences, not the scholarship bond period alone.

Do I feel less "intensely negative" about Singapore? Absolutely. To quote what I wrote in a prior blog entry:
[...] grumpy and filled with a general animus towards towards everyone and everything Singaporean, I spent most of the first six months [after my return to Singapore] frantically calculating how much I could save of each month's salary towards paying off the scholarship bond. [...]

My mother always says that it wasn't till after I took a trip to the US at the end of that first six months, to see the then-boyfriend and college friends, that I settled down. [...] maybe what I needed was to see that the people I'd known and loved in college were moving on with their lives, for me to realise that I should do the same. Quit whining, accept the period of indenture, and get on with it. Besides, eight years is a bloody long time to be grumpy.
As for how the subsequent eight years had an impact on my attitude to Singapore and being stuck in Singapore, let me be lazy and crib from that same blog post. In a nutshell:
I made friends, settled down, got married, bought a place to live and a car, worked reasonably hard at my job, got over all the things Singapore doesn't have, appreciated anew the things it does (chief among them: being able to get good food at all hours, especially Teochew moi (porridge) with pigs' intestines and salted eggs), let my accent go and gave up on the government.
I still enjoy being away from Singapore because I think it brings some much-needed perspective. Singapore is not only a tiny country, but effectively only a city --- there's nowhere else in this country to escape to, just to catch your breath or be somewhere that feels significantly different in vibe or form. I always say I would still be grumpy today if I didn't have the opportunity to get out of Singapore for a couple of months of the year.

Would I migrate permanently? I don't know. I thought about it when I was married, but then you get older, and your parents get older, and Singapore is a lot more interesting of a place right now (despite its flaws) than I ever would've dreamed when I was a child. I think it would be nice to have a second home somewhere else, just to get that regular change-of-scenery (Hoi An is rapidly becoming a prime candidate, in that respect) without having to uproot or disconnect entirely from Singapore. But I don't feel any sense of ironic wistfulness when I say this is home.

Still, I worry about getting too comfortable in Singapore, and forgetting that the rest of the world does not (and should not) live by the same rules, and losing that desire to always want something more, for Singapore to be more, than what it is today.

2. Did government service benefit you in any way, career-wise or 'spiritually' as a human being?

Career-wise, absolutely. I picked up a lot of skills from my teaching and communications work that are still relevant to my work today. Some are specific to writing --- how to communicate clearly, how to gear up publicity or make something newsworthy --- while others are just good-to-have, like public speaking or working with people you don't necessarily have much in common with. I'm still friends (and I don't just mean Facebook-friends) with a number of former colleagues, and because almost everyone eventually moves on to other jobs or life choices, there are a surprising number of ways in which we've been able to help each other, work-wise and on a personal level, even though we're not fellow civil servants anymore.

Spiritually, well, I would say my personal experience in the civil service didn't exactly enrich my soul (perhaps several interactions with students and teaching colleagues notwithstanding). But no one says you have to be defined by your job and there are also plenty of civil servants having wonderful job experiences out there.

I often opine that working in the government carries the same risks and perils as any other job. If for some reason you're stuck in it --- and there are plenty of people who are stuck in their private sector jobs for very practical and/or serious reasons --- then you can choose to drag your feet to work everyday or you can choose to make lemonade with them lemons. My lemonade didn't turn out too badly.

* * *

Okay, so there are three more questions the reader had, but I need to get some shut-eye for tonight. Come back for part 2 later this week.

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Do you believe

Twice recently, friends who don't know me super-well have been surprised to hear me profess to being an atheist. On the first occasion, a friend --- a lapsed Catholic whose grandfather had been an avowed atheist and promulgator of atheism, no less --- said something along the lines of, "Wow, really? That seems so ... bleak."

Is it? Unrelated to that, I stumbled upon "ProAction Cafe Singapore- thinking collaboratively", which described an event whereat, among other questions, this one was discussed: "Are atheists basically religious at heart?" I can't speak for others --- actually, I don't know for a fact if I know any other atheists --- but I think if one were to seriously describe oneself as an atheist, it's probably not out of a flippant attitude to religion or religiosity, and hopefully out of a genuine consideration of ideas about religion and faith.

The second time I happened to mention being atheist was last night, at Zouk waiting for John Digiweed to show up. You could say that a dance club with pounding music too loud for you to talk is an odd place to have a conversation about religion --- or you could say that given the moments of communion one might find through that music, with it, that it's perfectly apropos.

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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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Once bonded

The article I was working on earlier this year has been published at s/pores. I gave it the title "Once Bonded" --- you can decide for yourself if you think it's appropriate. What's it about? Here are the opening paragraphs:
When I was 19, I inked my name on a legal document to affirm that I would enter upon and diligently continue in an overseas university course specified by the government of the Republic of Singapore, complete it to the best of my ability, then return immediately to Singapore to serve the government for a period of eight years (hereinafter called the ‘Bonded Period’) in any body or organisation whatsoever in any appointment which the government might deem appropriate.

In exchange, the government would foot the bill for my education, pretty much.
I think you know where it goes from there. Don't worry, it doesn't exactly re-tread the ground I've explored on this blog before (here and here).

s/pores is a multi-disciplinary online-only journal that focuses on "Singapore studies". Besides my article, the issue contains Ho Weng Hin's "Reminiscences on a HDB Point Block" and Lee Huay Leng's "学语以外 : Beyond Language Learning". I was very pleasantly surprised to be invited to contribute something, and I'm doubly pleased at how the article turned out (even though the writing of it didn't come easy). Thank you, Pin (guest editor for this issue), and the friends who chipped in with comments and suggestions along the way.

This new issue of s/pores will be launched at a casual drinks session at food #03 on Sunday, 26 July at 6:30 p.m. Come by for some Vitagen vodka, fair-trade coffee or yummy vegetarian food (cash bar basis), and I promise to show you my "wilting, yellowed copy" of my scholarship contract with the government. Alternatively, we can just chat, and I promise not to, um, drink too much organic red wine.

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Tiong Bahru walkabout III

What a week. I'm not sure where it all went. I mean, if I sit down and look back, yes, I know where it went, what I was doing. But it spun really quickly, a haze of conversations where drinks, food and cigarettes (not mine, Mom) were the excuse, not the object.

And then, broadsided at the end by bad news, the kind where no one knows the right thing to say.

This is what I read this week:
These are some new words and phrases that I learned this week:
  • "out of pocket" --- not with reference to business expenses but to one's contactability (see a recent Language Log entry).
  • "sitzfleisch" --- courtesy of "What Is a Master’s Degree Worth?"
  • "dots" --- you'll have to ask sarah (or me) about this.
  • ossement --- okay, it's French for "bone", which in itself isn't a remarkable word, but there's a heartbreaking story associated with it that I'm filing away for future use.
Happy Fourth of July, everybody

Today I attended a wedding, a funeral wake and a Fourth of July celebration. There was almost a mahjong session to round it all off, but we settled for Citadels instead.

I wonder how long I can keep spinning for.

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Going solo

In a week's time, I'll be in Seoul, with only a couple of sightseeing items left on my Lonely Planet to-do list. In two weeks' time, I'll be trying to stuff all my things into my backpack for the flight home.

The thing about long trips like this that aren't vacations per se, is that at the start they feel as if they're gonna go on forever, in both good and bad senses of the word. I flew into Seoul in late April and skidded into May, which passed in a blur of hiking, cave visits, bus rides and banchan (the side dishes served with a Korean meal). Now I'm in June and I don't know where the time has gone. If next year someone asks me, what were you doing in May 2009, all I'll be able to muster is, "I was in ... Korea?"

This is also the first time I've travelled solo for such a long stretch, which is remarkable because I've never been very good at doing anything solo. BoKo once remarked that he was surprised I'd decided to become a freelancer because I'd always struck him as the kind of person who liked being around other people. I think that's still true, but since I split up with Terz, I've also had to learn to be more comfortable with being by myself.

And I mean that in a very deliberate way, like choosing to go watch a movie by myself, without asking anyone else along, or having dinner on my own at a Thai Express outlet. These are not extraordinary things, but as someone whose first impulse is always to call friends and see who's free to hang out, it takes a little pep-talking to myself, to stop worrying about what other people will think, to get myself out there.

So in a way, this whole trip has been about getting myself out there, even though it was a professional decision to come to Korea, not a personal one. I guess I was ready for the personal challenge, though, because even though I'd established early on that unlike Vietnam, probably no one would be travelling with me this time, I was surprisingly not freaked out by it. Yes, surprisingly, because I've found in the last two years that far less demanding situations can be disproportionately upsetting.

And now I finally get why Adri was always so thrilled about packing a bag and just going, solo, wherever, whenever. Sure, I've got a job to do here, I can't ditch a town just because it's boring (Chungju, I'm looking at you), but there's still some room for day-to-day whim and fancy. I've even gotten used to the stares and questions. Solo travellers are a rarity in Korea, where the culture is very group-oriented, especially when it comes to eating. I think there's the added mystery of the fact that I'm a solo traveller and Asian and (if I get to the point of mentioning these details) 35 years old and not married.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've taken this trip in my stride better than I thought I would, despite some bumps and hiccups along the way, and in no small part it's due to family and friends who have been my personal cheering squad along the way (not just for this trip, either). I don't think I could have made this journey at any earlier point in my life, but for now, everything seems to be in place.

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A meme-like blog post

Because I'm feeling a little under the weather and I can steal the questions from Tricia instead of having to think up entirely original material. And yes, even though I didn't bother with the "25 Random Things About Me" Facebook meme.

1. Do you like blue cheese?
I don't mind the odd daub of it.

2. Have you ever smoked?
Once. If I ever picked up the habit, my mom would kill me.

3. Do you own a gun?
No. I live in Singapore.

4. What flavor Kool-Aid was your favorite?
Clearly whoever came up with this list of questions is American. I must've tried Kool-Aid at some point during my university years, but I can't remember a single instance.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
No. I just get impatient.

6. What do you think of hot dogs?
Yums! But only if they come with the trimmings.

7. Favourite Christmas movie?
Love Actually. I stole Packrat and Ondine's copy last Christmas and, er, haven't returned it yet.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Black coffee.

9. Can you do push-ups?
Kind of. Been practicing somewhat during Pilates class.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewellery?
A curvy silver bracelet I bought at a jewellery stand in the basement of Norris University Center, some time in the mid-1990s.

11. Favourite hobby?
Every time I see the word "hobby", I immediately think of "stamp collecting", even though I was an indifferent collector at best. I think hobbies are so 1980s.

12. Do you have A.D.D.?
We didn't have that in my generation at school.

13. What's one trait you dislike about yourself?
I don't have a very good memory.

14. Middle names?
Not telling! Some things are best kept private (or forgotten).

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment.
What am I thinking?
Damn, I type fast.
My wrist is itchy.

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink.
Black coffee, ice-cold water and green tea (out of a bottle or a can).

17. Current worry?
I'll never write that novel.

18. Current hate right now?
When I was a kid, my mother told me not to say that I hated anything because "hate" is a very intense word and not be bandied about lightly (I don't think she used "bandied" though). So, uh, yeah, not really hating anything specific right now.

19. Favourite place to be?
I've been thinking a lot about Hoi An today, partly because a friend there has been Facebooking about eating at Casa Verde, and I'm trying to pitch a related food article. But I think my answer from before still stands: I don't really have a favourite place, though there are many places that I've liked dearly and would be happy to revisit.

Also, my apartment's still a good place to be, though it's not the same apartment that I wrote about the last time.

20. How did you bring in the new year?
Do you mean "ring in" Anyway, it was at a friend's apartment, with the clink of champagne and the riotous chorus of local TV station MediaCorp's New Year countdown event.

21. Where would you like to go?
Paris (again)! Iceland (was just watching a Bizarre Foods episode of this)! Also (in no particular order): Melbourne, Laos, China and Taiwan.

22. Name three people who will complete this.
Um. No.

23. Do you own slippers?
I'm going to steal Tricia's response because she said it best: "This is Singapore. We were born wearing slippers."

24 What shirt are you wearing?
A grey pajama top.

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?

26. Can you whistle?
Yes, passably.

27. Favourite colour?
Red and its attendant hues.

28. Would you be a pirate?
Yes, if I can look as hot as Keira Knightley and get my pirate swag from 826 Valencia.

29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
None. I'm an execrable singer.

30. Favourite girl's name?
This changes regularly, but one perennial favourite is: Min.

31. Favorite boy's name?
Can't think of one right now.

32. What's in your pocket right now?
Nothing. After all, I'm going to bed.

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I have never been at once so happy, and so jealous. Tonight I got a Facebook-mail from an old friend, telling me she's secured a publishing deal in New York. It doesn't matter what book, it doesn't matter which publisher --- the only thing I could think of was that someone I know, someone who's had similar advantages I've had, is going to have her name on a book published and distributed by a real New York publisher.

While I ...

This news comes right after I've been wrestling with old ghosts, writing about the scholarship bond I left behind almost four years ago. It's been two, three weeks of sporadically picking at old scabs, as Pin put it, and revisiting the what-ifs. And now, this.

I'm so happy for my friend, really. She's worked hard and worked smart to get to where she is. But as I told ampulets tonight, I've always compared myself to this friend because we had similar advantages and trod a similar path up to a point. Then our paths diverged because I had a scholarship bond to come home to, and she didn't. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life; she not only knew what she wanted, she went right out and got it.

I'm not saying I could've done what she's done. But I have never felt the taunting of a path not taken as strongly as I do tonight.

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Turning 35

Birthday lunch

So it seems like there are two things you can do when you hit a milestone age like 35: throw a huge party and invite everyone you want to see, or hide away under a rock and hope that no one notices. I decided to just go with the flow, and ended up with a weekend of birthday festivities without really planning for it.

On Friday there was the family dinner at Spruce, a new restaurant I'd only learned about the night before on Chubby Hubby. On Saturday my dear old friend kk was in town --- which never happens --- so we hung out for the first time since September 2007 and had a lovely four-hour lunch at Oriole. Then I went shopping with another dear friend, who offered impeccable fashion advice in the form of a) helping me to spend my birthday money on, yes, another pair of shoes, and b) giving me pretty much exactly the kind of watch I had in mind when he asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said, "A watch."

On Sunday there was Azhang, because it's closing on 26 April. Dammit.

Gift from an old friend

I also got some incredible birthday loot this year. I don't usually set much store by birthday gifts because I don't need more stuff, and it's the birthday and family and friends that matter, not the stuff. But I think this year's stuff tells its own story: a travel pouch for secreting cash and other important things, a lovely modern fountain pen, chocolates galore, a T-shirt, an external hard drive and the abovementioned watch. The traveller, the writer, the geek and the ditz --- I'm all covered.

I'm not sure when I embraced the idea of turning 35, but I know that at some point in the past few weeks, I moved from making jokes about it to just acknowledging it rather matter-of-factly. Don't think so much lah.

Seriously ... ?

I wish my birthday was always on a Saturday.



It just goes to show you

On Sunday, the friend I met for brunch was someone I hadn't seen in over two years, so in the middle of catching up, I mentioned that I'd split up with my ex, to which he said, "Yes, I know. It's not exactly a secret." We have some mutual friends so his statement wasn't exactly a surprise either, but I still said, "Well, I'm not going to take for granted that everyone knows."

Today, I had dinner with another old friend whom I also hadn't really talked to properly in over two years. But I'd invited her over to my flat during the Chinese New Year, so I knew that she knew that I was single. Then towards the end of dinner she tells me that before the Chinese New Year visit, she'd mentioned it to a mutual friend whom I chat with more often, and she'd gushed, "I wonder what's new with her? Do you think she's had a kid?"

To which our mutual friend had said, "Er ... you know she's separated from her husband, right?"

[Insert your own kua kua kua sound effect here.]

I told her tonight that I really thought she'd heard the news from someone before this year. But I guess our informational paths don't cross that often.

As my 35th birthday inches up on me, I find myself thinking about when I was 25 (the year I got married), and that when you're 25 you don't really know what you'll be doing at 35, and that everything around me now --- writing, cats, singlehood, Marine Parade view --- is so remotely not anything I could have imagined when I was 25.

None of it's bad. It's just ... different.

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A new month

After the rain

After a long, long week, at 5 p.m. today I submitted the work that was due to the client ---

--- and then I took myself offline and spent a little quality time with the Buffy cast reunion in March last year at the Paley Center for Media. After all the Buffy episodes I've watched and rewatched, listening to the creator, producers and cast again almost felt hanging out with old friends whom you don't have to say anything to, you can just be the fly on the wall.

Then I went out and took myself off, to see an actual friend in the flesh. We had prosecco (my idea) and I finally had the pizza bianca I've been vaguely hankering for for the past few days (remember, I've been busy writing about restaurants), and we talked and talked and talked and talked, like all the words I'd been storing up all week were now tumbling out helter-skelter. I speak fast as it is, but several times tonight I know my tongue, or is that the brain?, was deliberately skipping over words because the ideas wouldn't wait for the words to get there.

I don't know where the first two months of 2009 went, but I have a pretty good idea for the rest of the year. It's time.



Not yet, but ...

Last night, I dreamed that I was surrounded by family? friends? former work colleagues? --- a lively scene, and then it turned out that I had clean forgotten it was my birthday but they were all there to celebrate it. There might even have been a cake.

Later, I said to someone, "I should have made a speech. I mean, I'm 35. I should have made a speech."



It never rains but it pours

After several days of whining venting to friends about my creative ennui and other things, I finally made a Plan --- or rather, diverted my whinging into Step 1 of a Plan --- which was to kick off tomorrow for a personal creative project.

All the repining must've also helped with the camera-constipation, because after I decided to walk home from Parkway Parade via the beach/East Coast Park today, I "saw" a picture as soon as I entered the underpass leading to the park and was instinctively pulling the camera out of my bag before the thought (or image) had cohered in my brain.

Go towards the light

And then I just knew that I would be taking more pictures on the walk home.

Stay on the bike path! Unstable coastline I Unstable coastline II
Find your own bodhi tree Unstable coastline III Unstable coastline IV
Waiting "Keep our parks beautiful and litter-free" Abandoned

But alas for my newborn creative impulse. When I got home, I was diverted by work --- specifically, several emails and phone calls requiring immediate attention or work done in the next few days, which means that Step 1 of the Plan is being postponed to next week. Even uploading these pictures and writing this post had to wait till I was done with work for the day.

It never fails, does it? One moment I was working at 50% capacity and cavilling about having no creative focus; the next moment, as soon as I'd formed a plan to use the other 50% of my time more productively (other than taking long lunches and catching up with friends as I've been doing), Real Work shows up knocking peremptorily on my door like an Internal Security agent, demanding that I get back in line.

But I am taking pictures again.

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Still ennui-fied, as I put it to a friend a couple of days ago, but there are things to be grateful for:
  • Story published in Hemispheres.
  • Recipe attempted successfully.
  • Studio 60 watched in its entirety at last (only two years late).
  • Good, good late-night conversations (post-nap, post-Korean food, post-research trip to bookstore).
  • Good, good friends.

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(Pun on the previous post about "25 Things" not intended.)

I've been feeling somewhat off-kilter since I moved house. I know why: I love the apartment, but work-wise I have nothing major lined up at the moment, so I'm filling my time with kucing kurap (literally 'diseased cat', metaphorically 'unimportant') assignments that pay the bills but leave me feeling blah at the end of the day. I don't have stories to tell when people ask me how I'm doing, but I still do the kucing kurap work because everyone's murmuring about the recession and how the money's drying up.

All of which leaves me feeling like an ant toiling away in the fading summer (not that I know any grasshoppers).

I also haven't taken any photographs that I really like since I got back from Vietnam, and that really bugs me. I have my camera with me almost all the time, but I never see anything I want to take a picture of. It's like that particular creative muscle is settling into entropy and I can't think of what would jolt it out of its flaccidness.

At the same time, I've been yearning to play the piano again because I want to do something creative that doesn't involve the internet or writing. The main obstacle to this plan is the cost of not only a piano (even a secondhand one), but also the cost of moving it into the flat where I've living and any future moves. A friend tells me it costs $50 per floor to move a piano around and I live on a very high floor; I'm definitely not making enough money to cover that.

Yes, yes, I should quit whining and get on with doing something creative for myself. I should sit down and work on those novel/short story/film ideas I've been dawdling over for years and always say I have no time for. If nothing else, I should write up the overdue recounting of last year in books (as I've done since 2003) --- but the truth is I'm embarrassed at how few books I read in 2008.

I know eventually I'll emerge from this stasis, but for now I can't say I feel thrilled about it.

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Gee, thanks

China has chosen 28 March as Serfs' Emancipation Day for Tibet, to commemorate the day when it "freed" Tibetans from serfdom and slavery.

That also happens to be my birthday.




What I did when I wasn't writing

On Christmas Eve, I walked through a light spray of rain, not enough to be a drizzle, palpable enough to feel like a dusting of snow, the kind that leaves your hair damp but not wet. At the first party, courtesy of ampulets' family, we politely raided her mother's wine collection after dinner and clinked glasses to the fact that we've been friends for 18 years (my bad, I said 16 that night). At the second party, courtesy of beeker's family, the conversation turned inexplicably to ghost stories some time after 1 am, which is a little weird for Christmas Eve.

On Christmas, the food from The Garden Slug was a big hit, as was my uncle's homemade roast beef. Packrat and Ondine got my grandfather a digital photo frame, which is so cool I want one. I did, however, get some very cool Breadou (thanks, Darren & Mel).

Today, I resumed work. Well, technically, I did, but really the writing muscle was so torpid from yesterday's tryptophan exposure, I felt like it was moving at the rate of one word forward, two words backspaced. So now I find myself two days behind schedule, with my final deadline exactly two weeks away.

Tomorrow better be more productive.

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Toi khong hieu

So apparently, I look Vietnamese.

Despite my short hair.

And sunglasses (when it isn't raining).

And camouflage-pattern daypack.

And Tevas.

I don't get it.

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I am as old as ...

The cable car service that runs between Singapore and Sentosa.

Okay, I'm actually a month or so younger than the cable car service. But it's a pretty random local landmark to be "as old as".

Ah, the things you learn while doing research ... Now I wonder what other Singapore landmarks I'm "as old as".

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Rainy nights are good for ...

A cup of hot tea in front of the TV and the internet. Two cups, actually --- first camomile, then peppermint. For a change I'm trying not to snack after dinner, although watching POTUS and Senator Vinick spoon ice cream out of giant tubs in the Presidential kitchen (just to be clear, this is The West Wing universe we're talking about) made the unopened pint of Ben & Jerry's in my freezer look pretty damn tempting.

Okay, I really need to write in shorter sentences.

I created a new photo set on Flickr tonight, when I realised that I've taken heaps of pictures while looking up at ceilings. I don't know where the impulse came from, other than boredom at shooting whatever was visible at eye level. Talking to Wesley about it via IM tonight, he thinks the pictures show "a sense of freedom" or "seeking freedom". To which my glib response ran along the lines of: "So I keep looking up, but I'm trapped by the ceiling".

One wonders, huh.




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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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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A monologue on mushrooms

Said to me, over lunch, on Sunday, about my week-old haircut:
You look a little bit like a mushroom --- but a nice mushroom. ... What's a good mushroom ah? Not button ... I dunno, fungi. You look a little bit like one of the mushrooms that's gonna sprout out of your umbrella.
My hairdresser would be so pleased.


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Someone said ...

So apparently, I am very well-preserved for my age.



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Sing-along time in church

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

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

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

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

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


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A cool trick I learned last night

Chinese New Year decor at the park

When things just all get a bit too much:

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

Thanks, domch!




One year

What a year.

Sometimes, no other words are needed.




Just call me Little Miss Crankypants

I wish it wasn't such an uneven week.

I wish "emily" would stop "inviting" me to MySpace.

I wish I'd remembered to blog the line "If the kempeitai asked me to make a corporate video ..." earlier, because it's too much trouble to explain now.

I wish I didn't have a sludgy headache after spending a perfectly decent day with the best friend and the smallboy, looking for stuff for the new place.


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Selling, selling ... sold

I don't remember the day Terz and I bought the flat. I remember that we had seen several in the neighbourhood, but they were all done up in various styles that provoked either cringing, despair or, in one case, utter revulsion (a spooky goat-headed altar was involved). Then we found this one through a newspaper ad, and it was as bare-bones as we wanted it to be, so that we could get it fixed up our way, without having to spend a whole lotta money on ripping out the existing finishings.

It didn't come dirt-cheap but it was within our budget (though I seem to recall my mother having thought that we paid too much for it). I have no recollection of the negotiation process, just that at some point must have been a phone call, I think, to tell us it was ours, and then we came to the flat to sign the paperwork with the existing owner. I remember subsequently going to HDB offices at Bukit Merah and the housing agent navigating us through the bureaucracy's byzantine requirements. At the end of it, he opened the boot of his car and gave us a watermelon.

Yesterday, I got word that we had sold the flat. We had been involved in a little back-and-forth with the potential buyers for the past couple of weeks, but our agent (not the watermelon guy) finally got us the price we wanted.

The news came via SMS, as all news does these days, and I didn't know how to react. There was glee that we'd made a fair (though not obscene) profit on it; there was relief that I wouldn't have to show the place to strangers anymore; there was shock that this really had happened, we'd sold a flat, the flat --- and then there was that moment they tell you about in books, when sadness wells up and hits you because this really is goodbye.

Despite everything that happened here, it was a good home. It was the first place I ever owned --- I remember signing on the dotted line for a loan amount bigger than my mind could comprehend --- and it was the place we owned together. I wish it hadn't stopped being a home for the reason that it did, but ...

I have very few photographs of the place. I wonder if I should take any.




Downright local and doing good

It was a windy welcome to the new year, which I know only because I was far from the madding crowd --- first at a delightful house party, then having supper at the neighbourhood prata place. It was windy enough that I started to feel cold by the end of supper, despite wearing a sleeved top and ordering a teh halia to warm myself up. And this morning afternoon, as I brushed my teeth after showering, the five-storey-tall trees downstairs were swishing noisily with the fresh energy that comes with a cool-but-not-rainy day.

I would be a liar if I didn't admit to having felt a little holiday ennui this year, despite the family festivities and meals with friends whom I hadn't seen in a while. More accurately, it was great to see family and friends --- I just wish it didn't have to be dressed up as "the holidays" to happen.

The first thing I did in the new year (Singapore time) was to clink glasses, sip champagne and knock over my friend's beer. I'm not sure what that portends for 2008, but hopefully nothing too dramatic.


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Next stop wonderland

It's a little surreal to contemplate, but in about a month I will be living somewhere else.

After a surprisingly effortless search, graced by a great deal of serendipity (my mother would say God's will), I've landed myself a nice little apartment in the very heart of the neighbourhood I was eyeing. And it only took buying two copies of The Straits Times (to peruse the classifieds; the news sections went straight into the recycling heap) and viewing exactly one apartment.

Yes, you read that right: one apartment.

But the real kicker is that the apartment turned out to be owned by someone I know professionally --- not someone I'm especially close to (wouldn't that be awkward), but someone I've worked and occasionally socialised with enough that I didn't have any qualms about saying yes to the asking rental price. Sure, I wish it were cheaper, but given how manic the local real estate market is at the moment, I'm thankful for what I have, rather than griping about the unlikely.

I don't have a fixed move-out-by date, but I figure before the Chinese New Year is a good target. Which means that most of January will be spent planning, measuring, sorting and pa(ni)cking. And working, of course.

In the meantime, I'm madly surfing Apartment Therapy and websites of its ilk, and I've ordered the very first piece of friends' artwork that will grace the apartment's walls.


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A cousin collision

I saw my cousin today for the first time in what might be fourteen years. And if I hadn't had gone shopping for Abigael and Ming's birthday gifts, I wouldn't've bumped into him at all.

Impressively, he recognised me after I hailed him in the Parkway Parade post-Xmas crowds --- not bad considering that I now wear contact lenses, keep my hair short (though it's a little raggedy around the edges at the moment) and am almost half a lifetime older. He looks pretty much the same, just older and more built. Someone's got a gym membership, I bet.

Sadly, though we wanted to catch up, a quick glance at my watch confirmed that I needed to get home stat or I'd be late for my 3 pm meeting, and he leaves Singapore tomorrow. Let's hope it isn't another fourteen years before we run into each other again.




This never happens

When my eyes blinked open this morning, everything was still cast in evocative grey-blue tones that could mean only one thing --- it was barely dawn. I checked my alarm (aka my cell phone) and I had an hour to go before my 7:30 a.m. alarm time. So I went back to sleep.

Or rather, I wanted to and I tried to, but the brain was already awhirr with adrenaline, beyond what I knew was the point of no return. Funnily enough, I didn't feel like I needed more sleep either --- whereas I'm usually bleary-eyed and reluctant to wake up even after a solid eight hours' sleep, which is what I'd planned for last night. But this morning the mind was all up-and-at-'em, racing away with with all sorts of work-related foo.

So I got up. At 6:20 a.m. I reiterate, without the alarm clock going off or any extrinsic circumstance motivating my getting out of bed.

Or to use a pithy Singaporeanism: faster go and buy 4D now.

When I fired up the laptop, no less than three IMs popped up almost immediately, marvelling at the fact that I was up. Ondine was up because she has four-month-old twins, kk was up because she's in Tokyo and they work hard over there, and the third friend friend was up to help with the Cat Welfare Society's mass spay-neuter day. My excuse: "I went to bed at 11:30 p.m. last night."

Well, clearly, I need to not do that again.




Writing style

I write in Helvetica 11 point with 125% zoom on Microsoft Word. How 'bout you?


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A birthday party, senior citizen-style

Happy birthday, Gong

My grandfather rang in his 90th birthday last night with a chocolate cake from an HDB bakery, a short speech and toast by his eldest great-grandchild, and the flashbulbs of a dozen digital cameras of varying vintage. There was also the requisite nine-course Chinese dinner, and the presence of almost every family member who isn't living overseas, as well as his closest church mates.

This was the first Chinese dinner I attended that involved, technically, three servings of dessert. First, the Portuguese egg tarts (ho-hum). Then the ah bo ling (yum-yum). Then the birthday cake.

The most surreal moment: when Gong Gong's sitting behind his birthday cake with one great-grandchild perched on his lap and another ten or so huddled around him for the picture --- and in my mind's eye, I'm seeing a yellowed photograph from the late 1970s, when he was similarly surrounded by my cousins and me, with Packrat (now a daddy himself) in Gong Gong's arms. The quintessential composition of the picture hasn't changed, nor have the expressions of the children, nor has the aesthetic of the cake. It's just my grandfather who's somewhat older and more distinguished-looking.

Though I suppose the kids are also dressed a lot more hip than we used to be.


Related post: A little birthday fuss

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Did you know ...

... that the first CD ever produced was The Visitors by Abba? So says BBC News, as the "Compact disc hits 25th birthday".

I've never been a real musichead so I don't think I started buying CDs till the early 1990s. When I graduated from university in 1997, CDs were still something you bought in a music store ("CD store", though they didn't sell blank ones), while data storage to the average person meant 3.5" floppy disks or Iomega zip disks with a whopping 100 MB capacity.

I don't remember the first CD I bought (though I remember that the first cassette tape was a 1983 compilation of Grammy Award-winning songs). I do know that I did a double-take after seeing Discmans for sale in Ho Chi Minh City last week (alongside pirated music CDs, no less) and I almost wished I hadn't given my mother permission to sell mine some years ago, otherwise I could add it to my growing Collection of Obsolete Technology.

When I cleaned house a couple of months ago, I accumulated at least 100 used CDs for recycling. My mother now hangs some of them outside her windows to scare the birds away. How far we've come.


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Out of sorts

Baby superpowers

I think my Super Hero cape was on backwards this weekend, because everything conspired to make me feel at the very bottom of my game. Okay, not everything, because the weekend began promisingly enough with a work-related event Saturday morning, at which I shook enough hands and traded enough introductions with folks to make me feel like Work. Got. Done.

But maybe having to do a work thing on the weekend threw me off my game, and watching two tortured love stories on DVD on Saturday afternoon wasn't the best complement to that. Then there was the 满月(first-month birthday) celebration for the twins today, at which many members of the extended family were in attendance.

On the bright side, at least I know I'm not PMSing.


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Crabby when hungry

Now that's a warning label I should come with.


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Officially a workaholic

You wouldn't know it from the (in)frequency of blog postings here, but I'm actually faffing about on a lighter work schedule right now. After the breakneck pace of the last few months, I decided, annual business targets be damned, I needed to cut myself a little slack before I completely lost my mind.

And so I've been coasting along working what approximates normal hours, i.e. an average of 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week (rather than 10-12 hours a day everyday). Now I remember what the concept of "free time" is about.

Which also makes it the perfect time to consider this timeless question from Workaholics Anonymous: Twenty Questions: How Do I Know If I'm A Workaholic?

(Via Cowboy Caleb. Of course.)

Workaholics Anonymous prefaces the list of questions with: If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions you may be a workaholic. Something tells me three "yes" answers are going to be something of an understatement in my case.

1. Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?

No, but I get pretty damn excited about my work in general.

2. Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can't?

Yep. Times when I can: when non-negotiable deadlines are coming right up, particularly if the money is good. Times when I can't: when I'm feeling burned out or creatively spent, or on the weekends when everyone is out having fun and I'm alone at home in front of the laptop.

3. Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?

To bed: yes. But only when I know it doesn't matter if I'm also simultaneously catching up on friends' blogs or chatting online.

On weekends: Yes. Hence the chronicling of the "Day of rest" series.

On vacation: Okay, that's an absolute no-no. I try not to even have my cell phone on when I'm on vacation. Except that I've got a two-week vacation coming up in September and I'm thinking of bringing my laptop just so that I can check in on stuff ... and already I can hear the chorus of friends screaming "NOOO!!!!!" down at me.

4. Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?

See, this is where it gets tricky. My work involves writing and editing, which I love doing, and part of me really wants this to be the last job I'll ever have. That means even when I'm not writing for work, I'm writing for fun which also feeds back --- sometimes indirectly, sometimes directly --- into work. And writing is certainly one of the things I live to do best.

On the other hand, do I talk most about work? Heavens, no. In fact, I get tired of giving the same answers when people ask me what I'm working on at the moment.

5. Do you work more than 40 hours a week?

Yes. I'm almost unapologetic about it.

6. Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?

Well, I've always like to write and now I write for a living. I've occasionally been paid to blog, but I wouldn't say those experiences merited the term "money-making ventures".

7. Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?


8. Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time?

I hope not! Although I'm late more often than I'd like because "I was just finishing up something."

9. Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won't otherwise get done?

Sometimes --- but usually only if my reputation and/or the quality of the overall project is at stake.

10. Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?

Sheesh, just about all the time. Mostly, I think, because I typically work at home and then I get distracted by bits and bobs of things around the apartment. I'm much more productive working in a cafe or office environment; I'm most productive if there isn't an Internet connection available.

11. Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?

(Kill me now.)

12. Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?

No way! People get to make their own choices.

But if someone commits to completing a certain join within a certain timeframe, and then fails to do so because they felt like going shopping, and then the entire project is thrown into jeopardy --- well, let's just say I'll be more than impatient in such a situation.

13. Are you afraid that if you don't work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?

Yes. *meep*

14. Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?

Yes. *double-meep*

15. Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?

I most certainly do not play competitively. In fact, I slack on most things that aren't "work"; hence I'm fairly domestically challenged, never really did well (or made money) from any of my hobbies, and never saw the point of conversations about who found the best bargain/has the swankiest apartment or car/had the coolest vacation/has the latest designer outfit/etc.

16. Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?

Sigh. Sometimes. I need to let go, I know.

17. Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?

I think so. I believe this merits a *triple-meep*

18. Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?

I don't drive at the moment, but when I used to, I used to be mostly swearing at other drivers.

I've sometimes made the mistake of thinking about work as I was trying to fall asleep --- only to be up another half hour because that my mind spun up into high gear and wouldn't let me rest. Now I think about the colour black ("colour" is a misnomer, I know).

When others are talking? Sometimes. But only if a) I'm stressed about work, b) they're being at that moment truly, 110%, I've-given-them-as-many-chances-as-our-relationship-will-allow boring.

19. Do you work or read during meals?

Yes. But not all the time. (Reading during meals was a bad habit I picked up as a kid, despite my mother's best efforts.)

20. Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?

Of course not!


On that note, I'm off to enjoy the rest of my non-working Sunday.


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Things I meant to blog in the week that passed


Some days all I do is plot to leave this country.

Other days, I've got my goreng pisang (fresh from the wok) in one hand, a cup of sugar cane juice in the other, as I'm traipsing from Telok Ayer across a corner of Chinatown to Peck Seah Street --- and it feels just like home.


On MSN with James:
James: So how has it been so far?
ME: moving the shelves into the living room
ME: then reorganising all the books again
James: So butch!
James: I think you were a lesbian in your past life

At Raffles City, I literally almost ran into a friend I hadn't spoken to in several months. But all I had time for was, "Sorry, sorry, I'm late, I'm late!" and keep on running.

Not five steps later, I ran into another friend, and yammered the same staccato response while still in motion.

Dammit, I need to stop being late for everything.

Including updating this blog.


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What do you call it

For the first time ever, someone in conversation this week said "ex-husband", by which they meant mine. For a moment I felt like I had been unplugged from what was going on around me, then the feeling passed and the conversation maundered on.

I have not said "ex-husband" much myself. Mostly I use his name, as most of the people I talk to recognise it. Otherwise, the default term is still "husband", out of habit. "Ex" sounds too trivial --- one in a string thereof, no different from how one would refer to an adolescent sweetypoohbear or a boyfriend who lasted all of one month. Not that one's age or the duration of a relationship alone mark the seriousness of a relationship, but I think being married to someone for seven-plus years quite clearly falls into a separate category of intimacy and dependency.

Then there's the "we/I", "our/my" conundrums that trip up one's speech. We used to have a car, but I don't have one now. It's our flat but my clothes that are in the cupboard. "The" becomes remarkably handy, filling in for any possessive pronoun that would otherwise draw too much attention.

What it boils down to, ultimately, is that I never thought "ex-husband" was a word that would be admitted to my personal lexicon --- but there it is.


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And then there were two ...

I'd never carried a newborn before. Usually I don't even visit babies when they're at the newborn stage; on the previous two occasions that I have, I peered appreciatively at the child and even babysat one briefly while his mom went to the bathroom (alas, he gave himself up to bawling within seconds), but always declined to actually carry the child lest I drop it on its head. Newborns are so, well, small. They fit within the crook of even my arm and while I love how soft their skin is, that also always reminds me of how fragile they are.

Yesterday, I carried a newborn for the first time. Two newborns, actually. First there was Jordan, who frowned and gave a small yawp when she was moved from the new dad Packrat's arms to mine, but quickly settled down and snoozed on. I whispered, "Be vewy, vewy quiet. Hello, Ah Hui."

("Hui" really is a part of her Chinese name, but since "Ah Hui" is a homophone for "ah huey" which is a none-too-complimentary Singlish reference to a woman with dubious fashion sense, I'm pretty sure new mom Ondine doesn't want me calling her that too often.)

Then there was Evan, who seemed a little more sanguine about being handed around. He has very "boy" features with a certain Zen-like cast. I didn't whisper anything to him besides his name because nothing clever came to mind.

I'm still surprised that they a) fit within the crook of my arm (yes, it bears repeating) and b) are lighter than my cat.

I'll leave it to the parents to tell you the story of how Jordan and Evan got here, but meanwhile there are (Family-only) photos on Flickr and, of course, the inevitable quote from The West Wing --- not just because it's about babies but because it's about twins and there was talk about using a "Huck and Molly" codename at one point:
Toby: I didn't realise babies come with hats. You guys crack me up. You don't have jobs. You can't walk or speak the language. You don't have a dollar in your pockets, but you got yourselves a hat. So, everything's fine. I don't wanna alarm you or anything but I'm dad. And for you, son, for you, this'll be the last time I pass the buck, but I think it should be clear from the get-go that it was Mom who named you Huckleberry. I guess she was feeling like life doesn't present enough challenges to overcome on its own. And, honey, you've got a name now too. Your mom and I named you after an incredibly brave, uh, an incredibly brave woman, really not all that much older than you. Your name is Molly. Huck and Molly. So, what do I do? Well, you're gonna need food and clothes and doctors and dentists, and there's that. And, should you have any questions along the way, I'm gonna be doin' stuff like this (grabs a tissue and wipes Huck's mouth), Huck, because you're leaking a little bit out of your mouth there. You're holding my finger, son? Hey, Molly. Your brother's holding my hand. Do you wanna hold my hand?
--- "25", The West Wing
Plenty of time for hand-holding as we go along.

Edited to add (Thu, 12:48 am): Packrat's posted snapshots of the twins on their first day of, well, life.


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Things I wanted to Twitter yesterday

... but didn't have the time or internet connection to.

$83.94 for a new remote control for the airconditioner??

Despite all the construction and new traffic, pockets of Portsdown Road are still very pretty.

Nothing like almost choking to breathlessness on a miscplaced gulp of water to add a little perspective to one's day.

People who screw up one's dinner (namely Suzie's) should offer at least a free dessert to atone. (Sun With Moon Cafe, if anyone wants to know. Good food and service, except for the part where they screwed up).


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Still in bed

Things that are impossible to do when one is beset by a cold and fatigue:
  • Copyedit text.
  • Proofread emails to see if anyone's been left out of the list.
  • Make sense of emails in general.
  • Tick off people who cut in front of me in the cab line or ATM queue.
  • Chase the cat down from the top of the blinds where he's taken to hanging out (and scraping plaster off the ceiling).
  • Eat.
For the record, I am eating. It's just that everything seems to have lost its flavour.




To bed, to bed

Ondine says that the last few blog entries make me sound like an alcoholic, so I should qualify them by enumerating what I had to drink today:
  • Warm honey in water
  • Warm water
  • Vitagen (peach flavour)
  • Honey dew juice (I wanted a green apple juice, but the stallholder heard me wrong)
  • Warm water
  • Beer (oops)
  • Warm water
The beer was not precisely my idea, but I figured it would help me sleep. And I need to sleep because my throat hurts and my body is slowing down and I can barely concentrate on the work that needs to be delivered by tomorrow. Not having a fever yet, but I'm sure it's just waiting in the wings to assault me once my scratchy throat succumbs to the inevitable cough.

Wah, so much verbal diarrhoea. I need to go to bed.




Moving day

1 hour.
10 boxes.
2 friends and a hired mover.
A bow, a bicycle, a motorcycle helmet, a bedroll.

More than 8 years together.





I've got jeans!

Which is an achievement worth blogging because while I have at least three pairs of jeans that are still in serviceable condition, my recent (inadvertent) weight loss means that what was once snug now is hanging-off-my-butt. And the current crazy work schedule didn't exactly put me in the right frame of mind to go shopping after work, even though I am in town pretty much everyday.

So today: a deliberate trip to Far East Plaza, where the clothing shop in the basement immediately to the right of the descending escalator opposite Gelare is now officially my favourite place to get jeans in Singapore, because the retail assistant (whom I suspect is also a co-owner or the owner's wife) not only immediately offers genuine assistance when you walk in, but is extremely astute at picking out jean styles and sizes to suit your person as well.

It was pretty much a verbatim repeat of my last visit there:
Woman in the shop: Can I help you? Looking for jeans?
ME: Yes.
Woman (immediately pulls something off the rack): This is our latest. The cutting is very nice. Want to try?
ME (looks it over briefly): Can I get my size?
Woman (sizing me up, literally): I think this one can fit you. Go and try.

So I do, and the jeans fit perfectly, and five minutes later I walk out of the shop, a happy customer.
The only difference being that I bought two pairs of jeans today, because the woman was so prompt and helpful.

The rest of Far East Plaza was a bust. Where has Womb gone?


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Two degrees of separation (or not even)

In which I whine about how Singapore is Too. Damn. Small.
Among my current clients, I count:
  • The best friend's ex-boyfriend from way way back.
  • Someone who went to school with Wahj way way back.
  • The old government department I used to work for, including people who used to be my bosslets and colleagues a few years ago.
Only the last instance was a case of me knowingly taking up a job with people I already knew. The first two were pure and somewhat serendipitous surprises.

Familiarity is fine and dandy (which is partly why I took the job with my former department), but I would also like to meet some new people, please!


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Monday morning to-do

I need two character referees who have known me for two or more years, who must be Singapore citizens and not related to me.

And, obviously, who don't mind being thusly named in a government form.

It's not as easy as it looks.


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I forgot to blog.

More accurately, I have been trying to spend a little less time on my laptop, so when I'm not having to do work, I try not to be at the computer, which kinda makes it hard to blog.

As for how I am doing generally, leave it to the inimitable Suzie to put her very finger on it, even over MSN:
ME: i think i am more "two steps fwd, one step back"?
Suzie: it's more of, two steps forward, maybe one step back, oh maybe not, wait, wait, er, how about another one back, oh whoops, back and forth, aiya, just sit down lah.

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Prophetic much?

Who said this in 1970?
Life is not just eating, drinking, television and cinema. ... The human mind must be creative, must be self-generating: it cannot depend on just gadgets to amuse itself."
Well, obviously, I'm screwed.


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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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Written off, sold out

I am writing a piece on the first Cabinet of Singapore.

And enjoying it more than when I was writing a profile of Madrid's Hotel Urban yesterday.

Kill me now.

No, really. Kill me.


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Welcome back

Ah, swollen lymph node, how I've missed you.



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A Chindian lunch

I don't normally use the phrase "Chindian" (i.e. a mixture of Chinese and Indian) and indeed, I'd never heard of it till a few years ago. But it seems appropriate to describe today's made-at-home lunch (not to be confused with a homecooked lunch), which consists of:
  • basmati rice
  • mushroom achari out of an instant pack (thank you, Mustafa)
  • a fried egg
If I wanted to be really Chinese about it, the fried egg would be sunny-side up (instead of over-easy, which is how I like it) and sprinkled with soya sauce.

Speaking of Chindian meals, has anyone tried the several-months-old Indian Wok at Siglap? It claims to be some blend of Chinese and Indian cuisine, though from the outside the decor looks more heavily Indian than anything. Part of me wants to give it a shot, another part of me shies away from what seems to be yet another variety of "fusion cusine" ...


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Warning: extremely uncharacteristically angsty emo post ahead.

I had enough blog post ideas to cover every day this past week, but finding the time to write them proved to be more challenging than I imagined. So there will be no posts about turning down a copywriting job because of ethical issues, ordering the Buffy Season 8 comic (never mind that it's a second-print), enjoying The Devil Wears Prada more than I expected (maybe the Lana cake helped), attempting (very badly) to dance at Movida after a day of mild aggravations, cheering Shirlyn's Newfound Jealousy album launch or long conversations about where all this is going.

Suffice to say the following:

I am not as well as I appear to be. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it gets harder everyday. I've had too many good days --- or what felt like good days, anyway --- and now it's like all the bad days are showing up to claim their due. The crying is ridiculous, at this point. Just call me Chemical-Dependent Emo Girl and be done with it (the chemicals being alcohol and caffeine, not anything that requires a prescription or psychiatric examination).

I don't usually write about less-than-thrilling personal affairs on this blog because, well, because that's just the sort of blog I keep. But I realise that as a result of that editorial policy, this blog of late has painted a perhaps too-pretty picture of life post-separation/-breakup. Not that I was deliberately glossing over the less photogenic moments, but it was more important at the time to just get back to writing about something, even if it was as inconsequential as what I had for dinner or Urban Dictionary's word of the day.

Now ...

I'm not about to start letting all kinds of emotional foofaraw rip on this blog, but now I know why leaving the country seems like a good idea. A cheaper alternative is just to start screening calls. Not that anyone's become persona non grata overnight, but it's positively exhausting to talk about it all the time, yet to not talk about it seems to be a pathetic attempt to ignore the elephant in the room.

A friend commented earlier this week that maybe all the crying is because of the emotions that have been bottled up for some time, because I'm not the kind of person that lets on that I'm upset, and now it's time when I just have to let it all out. Maybe so, but can it all just be over, please?

PS: I'm leaving the comments open, because that's my editorial policy, but seriously, this is not a desperate cry for help or plea for internet-conveyed sympathies and pats-on-the-head. I'm writing because I need to write, and also need to have this on my blog. At the same time, I've consulted those nearest and dearest for advice, Kleenex and comfort food. So don't panic that I'm moping in front of my laptop or anything.




I, the neo-nomad

I recently came across the BBC's "In search of the neo-nomad", which picks up a San Francisco Chronicle definition of neo-nomads as:
... people who turn a laptop, a wireless connection and a cafe into an office and work wherever they happen to be ... distinguishe[d] from traditional freelancers because of their close engagement with technology and use of the latest generation of web-based tools in their working lives.
Laptop --- check.
Wireless connection --- check (thank you, [email protected]).
Cafe --- check. Coffee tastes best at Starbucks or tcc (German blend). Less satisfying is The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's, and overpriced is Coffee Club's. Epicurious and Toast also have yummy coffees (and unbeatable iced teas). Not that there's anything wrong with indigenous kopitiam coffee, but sometimes in the afternoon it's too hot to sit in a non-airconditioned environment.

Close engagement with technology --- I think so. Did I mention what's in my bag? Nowadays, the list includes a laptop (usually with charger), although I only have one cell phone now and no more security pass.
Latest generation of web-based tools --- check. Gmail to manage 5 work-related email accounts, Flickr, Adium for MSN/Yahoo/GTalk/AIM, blogging software (Blogger/Movable Type/Wordpress) all. Plus I recently got sucked into LinkedIn.

I'm going to put down "neo-nomad" the next time I fill out a job that asks me for my "occupation".


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