Sunday, September 30, 2007

Spooky story

You know all these real ghost stories that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend? This is the only one I can tell, and it happened to a friend of my friend and I swear it's true. Sumpah.

A woman who works for her friend recently adopted a rescue dog, an Aussie mix. She calls him Curley and he is deaf.  He is an older dog found wandering around. The rescue group people noticed that Curley goes crazy when older men come around so they surmised that he must have belonged to an older man who may have either passed away or had to go to a nursing home or hospital.
One night, the woman woke up and saw a spirit standing by her bed. It was an older man and Curley sat up in bed, staring at him and wagging his tail. When the woman finally got the courage to speak, she asked the spirit if he was Curley's owner, and then it faded away.

Curley had been having some issues and his owner is working them through with him. But since the man appeared, he has been a much better dog, she said.

What spooks me out isn't so much that the woman saw the spirit, but that the dog also saw it, and sat up. *And wagged.*

But I guess maybe Curley needed some closure from his former owner, that he needed to be told that his former owner couldn't take care of him, so the new owner would. And maybe the former owner also needed to know that Curley is being taken care of. Hence the visit. So maybe this is a good sort of spooky story.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Clean bill of health

HRH went for her six-month check-up following the amputation, following that nasty mast cell tumour episode. She's got the all clear. We are happy.

What wasn't a happy start this morning was trying to get a cab. It still doesn't pay to be honest. We could have used the automated booking, but as always, bypassed that to tell the operator to indicate to the driver taking the booking that we have a dog in a carrier, especially as this is the Ramadan month and we don't want to screw up a Muslim driver. We ended up getting screwed. It took more than 45 minutes to get a cab and that was after lost tempers and indifferent operators. We were late for the vet appointment, but they were very nice, as always. They even called a cab for us, for the trip home.

That time round, we got a driver who was very concerned about Queeni -- since he picked us up at the vet, he thought she must be ill. He used to have a dog, a Pomeranian. He talked about it all the way back, how it used to run around naughtily but became quiet and still when it was ill, how it used to wait by the door for him when he went out, and how it leapt and jumped with joy when he came home. He was smiling as he recounted all that he loved about a dog, now long gone. It made our day too.

There's something about dogs.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The perils of subbing, part 2

I thought it was too good to be true when the copy subbing workflow slowed to a trickle at 11pm last night, with an hour to go before offstone. Damn right it was too good to be true.

One innocuous foreign page, assigned at 4.30pm and with the line-up ready at 5pm, was forgotten until 11.30pm, with half an hour left on the clock on a die-die-must-meet-offstone night because there was a supplement insert to go with the regular paper.

No one had the heart to blame the page sub for forgetting about it. She had two early pages, one of which was killed in a pagination rejig -- after she had finished the page. Then as the night progressed, she had to switch her focus to the VIP front and prime pages.

But it did mean half-an-hour of frenzy for the rest of us. And I guess there's no such thing as a full-page house ad.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The perils of subbing

... trying not to get teary eyed while going through the pictures and wire copy coming out of Myanmar.

The White House of course has already made its statement; the UN Security Council is convening (probably already has by now); even China, the junta's only friend, has had a discreet word. Only Asean, with Singapore in the chair, hasn't said anything. What goes on in the neighbour's backyard is the neighbour's problem. Typical.

[Update late on Thursday night: Reuters has photos of the AFP photog moments after he was shot. I don't think anyone could use those photos.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The morning after

... Mid-Autumn Festival and the lanterns are still hanging prettily on the trees. What's not so pretty is the new footpath splattered with wax and scorch marks. And what's more insidious is that someone strung a line between two trees in the field, presumably to hang lanterns on last night. I hope no late night dog walker got decapitated.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Signs and wonders

One morning, this sign appeared at the edge of the field outside our house. I wonder what it's going to achieve. The people who already pick up their dogs don't need it and the people who don't aren't going to be cowered into submission by a wordless sign.

As it is, we already differentiate the dog people in this estate into those who pick up and those who don't. Those who don't are usually also the ones who keep their charges on a tight leash and won't let them socialise even though their dog and mine are madly wagging their tails at each other.

So not surprisingly, those are the dogs whose names we don't know so we've formed our own: Devil Dog for the aggro Japanese Spitz; The Schnauzer With the Tail, to differentiate him from the rest of the Schnauzer crowd, most of whom we know by name anyway; Ugly Shihtzu, but then L thinks all Shihtzus are ugly -- and we say this having had a pug once so we've nothing against adorably ugly dogs. Actually, we finally found out Ugly's name. It is Yogurt. As in dairy product. He was better off as Ugly.

Once, one of the the non-picker-uppers' dogs was in the middle of a squat when I was out walking mine so I walked over and offered the woman a sheet of newspaper. I don't read English, she said in Mandarin. In my limited Mandarin, I told her it wasn't for reading, it was for picking up her dog's poop. She looked clueless.

I wonder what excuse she'll use for not understanding this pictorial sign.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sleep positions

Now that Rupert has won bed privileges, the two dogs start the night like this, mirror images of sleep, with HRH Boss taking the top of the bed, of course.

Then when we get in, Rupert tries to move to the top of the bed. Some nights, HRH gets grumpy and growls at him, so he hops off to sleep in his dog bed in his Cinderella corner of the room. On the nights he gets to stay on the bed -- and that's usually only if she is too sleepy to budge herself or him -- he puts his head on the pillow, and his bottom half is under the duvet. By the morning, he has shifted so that his head buried under the duvet (I don't know how he breathes) and his ass is next to my face. That's phase #1 of my morning wake-up.

Once, just at about dawn, I stirred because there was a weight on my pillow. I opened my eyes to find HRH sitting on the pillow, perched on the highest ground she could find, looking down at Roop in consternation: how the hell did he get up on the bed? Didn't I push him off?

Rupert gets up when L does, and is taken out for a quick pee. I don't trust him on the bed when he has a full bladder. Then he jumps back up on the bed for round #2 of a lie-in. My phase #2 wake-up finds a dog on either side of my legs, lying sphinx-like alongside me and facing the door, like two sentries guarding me since L has by that time left the house. It's a great, safe, warm feeling to wake up to. Much better than a dog's bottom in your face.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Breaking the jinx

You know how there's always one person in a group that always -- and repeatedly -- gets the full brunt of Murphy's Law? It used to be me. This January, when I started doing layout, I was always the one calling Help Desk. Pages hung on me, and unexplainable e-hiccups happened to me. Only me. Once, my page froze and was so messed up that Helpless Desk couldn't fix it. They had to go to Pre-Press to get them to delete the page and then create a new one so we could start all over again.

At another time, another job at a small outfit where the tech guy was outsourced, I had to call him so often that soon, he started his day by calling me to see if I needed him to come in. L, who at that time worked for a computer firm, was even going to get me one of those anti-static wrist bands their assembly-line workers wore, just so I wouldn't zap and fry my nth computer.

Anyway, all the tearing of hair over doing layout on an antiquated software (it was so user-unfriendly it had no 'undo' option, which forced me to re-do a lot of things over and made me slower than I already am) stopped for a merciful two months when we switched to a new layout software and the senior subs had more serious technical fish to fry than helping out someone new to layout. I went back gratefully to copy subbing -- something I'm used to and something I'm so much better at.

But a sub must draw pages and so after the dust of the new software settled, I'm back to drawing pages again. This time, I can at least blame all the knotty bits on new software.

Only, I'm not the jinx anymore. The other new-to-layout sub has been the one struggling with the page rejigs (one hour before offstone), the change in line-ups (and nobody told her until she had to send a message begging the copyeds to clear the story and then one of them told her nobody touched it because it was being held over) and a printout with fonts all gone wrong although they looked fine onscreen while my pages breeze through with plenty of time to spare.

Last night, the only thing holding up my page was waiting: For Production to enhance a picture. They forgot. For Foreign Desk to update one of the stories. They forgot. For the proofreader to okay the page. He forgot. Frustrating and time-wasting but at least not as panic-inducing as a line-up change, a page rejig and a printout that didn't match what was on the screen.

I feel for my colleague. And I just know that as soon as I set this down in writing, I'm tempting fate and the jinx will be mine to carry again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Good enough to eat

In answer to an enquiring mind, the "flavoured" dog shampoos mentioned in the last post include: "Banana Oatmeal -- a rich, banana delight blended with moisturising oatmeal oils" and "Tropical Twist -- a fruity, citrus zest enhanced with a kick of wild cherries".

The first sounds like breakfast and the second a cocktail. Who comes up with this stuff? And did they consult a dog? I think dogs would prefer flavours like Fresh Roadkill, Yesterday's Ditchwater, Pungent Puke and that classic favourite, Eau de Skunk.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


This is Rupert's first rawhide. He's more than a year-and-a-half old and he's never experienced a rawhide chew. I just simply don't trust him with them, he's the sort of dog that gulps his food and I'm leery that he'll try to swallow the softened end of a rawhide chew and choke himself. As it was, this chew had to be removed after 15 minutes. HRH of course, was an old hand. Err, paw. Err, expert.

So rawhide here is more of a special occasion treat. The occasion this time is a bath -- which shows you how often they get baths. The rawhide was free from the pet supply store -- which must really like us for the amount of dog food two dogs can plough through. So since I had some on hand, I gave it to them as a post-bath treat. I thought that Rupert needed to experience rawhide, otherwise it would be like arrested dog development or something.

These rawhide chews are tiny -- after all, they were free. I've got a monster-sized one that's a foot long, presented to HRH as royal tribute from J's Bully. It's been in the store room all this while because HRH just isn't interested in chewing. Maybe it's time to give it Rupert now that he hasn't done any rawhide damage to himself.

Also in the store room are several bottles of dog shampoo in different "flavours". Several times, the pet supply place has also given me a free bottle of shampoo with a bag of dog food. All those bottles in the store room also goes to show how often the dogs get baths.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Doggone it!

We have two ceramic dogs -- those little gegaws you find in novelty gift shops -- outside the front door on a plant stand. We didn't have anywhere to put them inside the house, mostly to do with Rupert and breakage reasons. When we put them outside months and months ago, I had at first wondered if the Muslim neighbours directly across would be offended by not just graven images, but of haram dogs. The wife's reaction was; "Oh, so cute!"

So they stayed out there. Besides, they wore little plaques that say "Welcome" around their necks, they looked better outside the front door than inside the house. In any case, they were too cheap to steal, I thought.

Well, not to somebody. Early yesterday morning, they were still there when L walked Roop. By mid-morning, when HRH was ready for her constitutional, they were gorn.

And a fat lot of good the two real dogs in the house were.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lost in space

I got home early enough last night to catch the opening episode of the seventh season of The West Wing. I tried to follow it but was hopelessly lost.

At first I thought it was because I hadn't followed the series chronologically. I started watching it when it was maybe the third or fourth season -- you miss a lot of prime-time TV when you work nights -- and then found it so good, I caught the missed earlier seasons on late night repeats. Which meant that every time I caught it on TV, I had to first take a few minutes to mentally place what season I'm at, caught between a rerun/prime-time sort of warp.

So I thought that was the source of my confusion yesterday. Then, some full 15 minutes into the show, I realised that I was confused because I was mentally placing the characters in a different White House. All this time, I was trying to relate the goings-on to Commander-in-Chief. Different series (which I also enjoyed), different president, different staff, different characters.

Just one same old muddled brain.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Music, part 2

The place where I go to get the cricks massaged out of my neck and shoulders started off as a foot reflexology place. Somewhere along the way, they threw in a couple of massage chairs like an afterthought and now the back massage business is taking off and pulling ahead of the foot reflexology portion.

Which means it's now full of younger office workers now (instead of the uncle, aunty foot reflexology crowd), all facing the same problems like me, as a result of eight hours hunched in front of a computer. And that's only for work. We spend more hours hunched in front of another computer for fun after that.

But the staff all come from the foot reflexology era, ie all older uncles. Which means what they play on their sound system reflects their taste (well, you can't fault them, they get to chose the music if they have to listen to it all day) -- soothing music, instrumentals (mostly piano) of ballads from a bygone era. I can recognise Elvis Presley (if only because he is king) and Patti Page (from my Dad's records, I quickly add before someone puts a time stamp on me) and once, something I vaguely identified as Chinese evergreens.

And then last week, the music changed. It appeared to be a compilation of boy band songs. I think that must be their effort to stay ahead with the clientele. But that was when I realised there's a fine line between soothing and annoying.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The earth moved

A friend of mine who's into astrology said a few days ago that there's an eclipse on Tuesday and wondered what would happen. It would be like having the rug pulled out from under your feet, she said.

I'm not much into astrology but neither do I disbelieve it. Let's just say I'm aware that there are a lot of things beyond my understanding and I remain happy in my ignorance.

So I wondered what would be disrupting thing in my day. At first I thought it had to do with having to do page layout (instead of copy subbing, my usual duties) for the first time on new software -- it was actually quite bad, I had so much trouble fitting things, I took four hours to do a smallish page with a biggish ad and just two stories.

Then the quake struck in Indonesia. And I didn't even recognise a tremor when it shook the chair I was sitting on. I thought I had swivelled my chair absent-mindedly. I was also momentarily dizzy. But I thought it was just me.

Thanks to the news wires, we quickly realised it was two earthquakes in succession and a tsunami warning.

Back in March when a quake struck off Indonesia with reports of tremors felt in Singapore, E in San Francisco -- where you're more likely to find an earthquake supplies shop in your street corner than a 7-11 -- asked if I had felt anything. The quake then took place around noon and I was ashamed to say that I had slept through it. But it made me feel better as I added that the dogs were with me in the bedroom and also slept through it.

This time, L reported from home that they were all antsy and growly. The curtains were drawn and the windows shut with the airconditioning on so he didn't think it was any passing dog outside that sparked it. He himself felt nothing.

Just five minutes down the road from our house, some housing blocks in Potong Pasir and Serangoon were evacuated, as were some office buildings in the commercial district. I bet the RCs in Potong Pasir and Serangoon were really "on". All those SCDF disaster mock-up exercises were finally being put to good use! I bet they were raring for the chance to go do a real one.

It also didn't escape me that this quake took place on the night before Ramadan. Let the Islamist who said that the Boxing Day tsunami was a punishment for Christian infidels -- never mind that it killed quite a lot of Muslim natives along with the Christian tourists -- make what he will of this quake. The gods are fair.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stolen music

I don't know who Rihanna is, I only became aware of her when I watched the Live Earth concerts on telly in July. I don't follow current music anymore, I don't require singers to dance, strip or do whatever they now do. Instead of singing. Or even songwriting.

Anyway, this Rihanna. I keep hearing her Shut Up and Drive on the radio and the only thing I like about it is the bass riff. And it isn't just this old fogey thinking that it sounds familiar. Itt's stolen from New Order's Blue Monday isn't it? L is no help, he thinks that all modern music is stolen since, oh I dunno, Vanilla Ice.

So to exorcise Rihanna, I had to play New Order. Very loud. And then of course, I had to dance to it -- to Queeni's disapproval (there's no amusing these royals) and Rupert's delight. I should take up canine freestyle with him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


There is something about Sept 11 that has been imprinted on the global psyche. A couple of weekends ago at the supermarket, L picked up a carton of our usual brand of milk but put it back because the use-by date was Sept 11. He just didn't want to buy something with that date on it, he said it "felt weird", so for that one time, we switched to another brand of milk with a different use-by date.

But here's somebody who doesn't feel any bad karma to Sept 11...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Escalating observations

Much has been said about Ugly Singaporeans. I think some of them don't set out to be ugly (and we're not just talking about the looks department) but they become boorish to other people because they haven't/don't/can't/won't realise that they, as individuals, have to share space with other people.

They are the ones who won't hold the lift doors; stand in front of the bus and train doors and block people from getting on or off; walk upstream from you and steal the next taxi; and the gaggle of four teenagers who must walk four abreast across the footpath and expect you to give way, even though you're loaded down with heavy grocery bags, because it would just so kill them to break formation and interrupt their chatter.

And Ugly is not just a Singaporean thing. One day I will tell you about an Ugly Whitey on the train, but preferably face-to-face and not just because of R(A) language (not all mine) but because you can then buy me a drink after.

Anyway, this Ugliness by unthinking osmosis came to mind when I had to get on a peak hour train a couple of days ago. (I work nights, I usually avoid the world when it needs to commute.) Everyone got on the escalator (which I usually avoid because there's a lemming-like bottleneck of commuters automatically headed to the escalators while the stairs are empty but that day, I got off the train right at where the escalator was) and as per standard commuter practice here, stood on the left side of the step, leaving the right side as a passing lane for people in a hurry. Except for one person. Everyone who was walking up had to sidle round her before they could continue walking up. They all tsked at her when they had to get past her. She was clueless, she had absolutely no idea that she was in the way. Because she continued to stand on the "walking lane" on all the three escalators it took to get from the platform to the street level.

Later, on another escalator -- but a much narrower one that wasn't designed for standers on the left and walkers on the right -- I heard someone come up behind me, and so pressed against the side so that she could get past me. She continued on her way, wordlessly. "You're welcome," I called out after her. She looked back puzzledly. I bet she's a nice girl, great to her friends, polite to company, respectful of her parents, pays her taxes. But she was Ugly at that one instant.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This just in

Chip implants have been linked to tumours in animals. Microchipping is a requirement now, for a dog licence. I'm nervous. To microchip or not to microchip?

[You techies will laugh. But this e-challenged person will buy 4D today because I managed to do a hyperlink on my posts at last! With html coding, okay, because Blogspot does not have a tab for the hyperlink function when you post in Safari.]

Watching what you eat is not for dieters anymore

M is in China. For business -- there's no pleasure in a trip to China nowadays, he moaned.

Over the years, I've given him all sorts of wishes for all his trips -- a safe flight when he went back to the US, a great trip when he went to Bangkok, and always "drive safe" for all his commutes to KL.

This time round, I said something I've never said before. "Eat safe," I told him.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Crowded bed

Since Rupert moved in last September (my goD! it's been a year), HRH has never let him on the bed. Our bed. Her bed. That is the holy of holies in this den and she once famously head-butted Toby, twice her size, off it when he stayed over. She also religiously defends it from the housekeepers when they try to straighten the covers or dust around it.

So all this time, Rupert has been sleeping in the dog bed in the corner of the bedroom, like some outcast Cinderella. The only time he ever jumped up on the bed was months ago when Queeni was overnight at the vet's for her biopsy and again for a subsequent operation.

But last week, he has been testing the waters, nosing the edge of the bed, hopping up and hopping down. I think it was a combination of factors. L had been working late, which meant that Rupert had been crated for eight or so hours, instead the usual four hours -- the interval between when I leave for work and L returns. One night to my horror, I came home to find that L wasn't even home yet.

So I felt really bad for Roop and I didn't shoo him off the bed when he clambered up -- probably in search of company but really I bet to see how much sympathy he could milk. To my surprise, Queeni didn't chase him off as she usually does. Instead, she moved down to the edge of the bed to lie next to him. Then he got off and went to his Cinderella corner.

Last night, he jumped up on the bed again. This time, he wedged himself between my legs, curled up and went to sleep. Queeni didn't bat an eyelid. Since she let him up, I would too. That was when L came in and found that there was very little room left on the bed. He's lucky we have small dogs.

So now the bed sleeps four. That's another reason not to get another dog.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lives will be lost!

That's a lot of nice trees that are going to come down when this proposed commercial and residential development comes up. Sigh.

I think I'd rather have the trees.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Making tracks

Nice path isn't it? If they had this in commercial floor tiles, it would be on my floor. Oh wait, I have two dogs. All I need now is cement...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Back to work

I've been home the past week, clearing leave. How did you think I managed to post daily for the past week? I have much admiration for -- daily journal entries for seven years -- how do you do it, along with the foster puppies?

So after spending much time watching the trees outside the window grow and providing a lap-top nap-spot for the furkids, how to go back to work today?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Talking back

Overheard on the bus, from a couple of seats behind me.

Mother, remonstrating misbehaving child: "Naughty boy."

Her son begged to differ: "Good boy."

She disagreed: "Naughty boy!"

"Good boy!" rising in volume.

"Naughty boy!"

"GOOD BOY! GOOD BOY!" And it went on for the rest of the bus ride.

Thank god Rupert doesn't talk back like human children.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Would you pay $12.50 for this?

L jokingly threatens Rupert (at least I hope it's a joke) that we would sell him, especially when he had made transgressions involving inappropriate peeing.

We're not the only ones issuing parental bogeyman threats. C regularly threatens Colin, Rupert's brother, with dumping him at the SPCA, mostly also after transgressions involving wrongful discharge of body waste.

Anyway, the last offer we've had since L put Roop the Poop on the market was $12.50, from I. But I think it will come to nothing since she is probably going to adopt Chester. For free. (Chester is a wiry fox terrier that C is helping to rehome because there's a new baby who's allergic. L and I agree with C that since the dog was in the house first, it should stay and the baby should be the one to be put up for adoption but just try telling breeding humans that.)

Now M is thinking of getting a second dog because Vivi is so needy. Seperately, E is also wondering about a second dog because he thinks Sophie is lonely when she's alone at home when he and his wife are at work.

Getting a second dog to entertain/be a companion to the first dog doesn't always work out the way you hope. So that's when I offered them Rupert as a test drive. He's good with other dogs and other people. He's just not so good about the peeing thing.

So maybe we could hire Rupert out, I told L. He has a better idea. We should just loan him out at no cost. Then when M and E get so sick of mopping up pee, they would pay us to take Roop back, he reasoned. And if we can foist Roop onto other people and they would pay us to return him, then we can make more than $12.50 and still have our capital. Like a Nigerian scam that can regenerate itself. Whaddaya think? I mean, it's time Roop earns his keep.