Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's cooking?

It all started when I had to walk past Borders to get to the hairdresser's (I now have icy steely blue streaks in my hair). I can't walk past a bookstore without going in, and can't go inside a bookstore without buying anything.

I picked up Nigel Slater's Eating For England because it had pretty rock candy on the cover. I browsed through it and it's all thumbnail write-ups on British food icons. From food that I was happily introduced to when I lived in the UK (Branston pickle, Penguins, Flake, Jaffa cakes, treacle tart, PG Tips) to stuff that I can't understand why anyone would eat (faggots and gravy, tripe and onions, haggis and neeps) to treats of my childhood (Quality Street, Ribena, Jacobs cream crackers, chocolate Digestives, KitKat -- complete with instructions on the proper ritual of eating it -- Toblerone, Bassetts jelly babies). He only missed Mr Whippy, I think. I was quite struck that a lot of my childhood sweet treat memories were all British. I wonder why that is so.

I fairly devoured the book and had to get more. I went to the library yesterday in search of more Slater. I thought he only wrote cookbooks so I had never been interested before. I enjoy cooking but I'm not really a cookbook person. Well, the library only had one of his cookbooks and not the biography that he wrote, which was what I was looking for. The food shelf had only cookbooks but tucked in among them were a few food-related volumes. People who wrote about becoming chefs, food and society, food and culture, that sort of thing. I figured it would be like Kitchen Confidential, only minus the sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll. So I took out all of them.

The trouble with reading food-related books is that it makes you a bit nibblish. So I made a batch of peanut butter cookies. I'm not sure whether I'll finish the cookies first or the books. I'll try not to get crumbs on the pages.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If paper can grow on trees, then I think I should try cultivating money.

Some kid upstairs keeps tossing out paper planes and sheets of tissue, I've seen them waft past the window as they float down. A couple of days ago, it was whole sheets of paper. I took a look at the ones that landed on the ground. It's some multi-choice assessment test and he scored a C. I wonder if he was tossing them out before his mother found them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PlayStation kills

A couple of days ago on the train, two kids sitting opposite me were absorbed in playing on their PSP. I was tempted to take a picture and caption it along the lines of: And this is why we developed opposable thumbs. But I was too shy to take a pix of strangers wiith or without their permission.

In an interesting by the way, PlayStation does shed real blood in its own version of African blood diamonds.

Dog day

It all begins when you wake up to a moat of pee around the bed. RuPEE is on a course of antibiotics and three days (just three, thank goD) of preds for his itchy rash. I've had dogs on preds before and I know they pee rivers when they're on it.

So I was careful with Roop, taking him out every so often. What I didn't account for was the 10-hour stretch shut in the bedroom overnight. He very carefully avoided peeing on the dog bed and the floor cushion and the bed. He just went on the floor on all three sides of the bed so I woke up surrounded by pee. I didn't have my glasses on so not only did I step in pee, I couldn't see a path out of the yellow lakes and rivers to get out of the room to get the mop.

That Dog. But it wasn't really his fault. He just desperately needed to go, only there was nowhere to go in the bedroom and I was too fast asleep to know.

The bad dog story of the day goes to Pancho, M's toy daschund who decided to eat one of a pair of expensive pair of leather dress shoes that he bought in Japan and that he only wears for special occasions. The ratty old pair of slippers next to it were unsampled. So Pancho has good taste.

That's not all. After M discovered the damage to his shoes, he realised that his pair of socks, which he had stuffed into the shoes, were missing. He searched all through the house, trying to keep calm and suppress the panic that the damn dog may have eaten the socks. And Pancho's a tiny dog. And M has big feet. You get the idea. Bloat. Obstruction. Emergency vet. Paying for vet's kids' college education.

Luckily, the socks were found. Laid out on the lower shelf of his printer stand -- where Pancho likes to nap. Pancho probably felt that the metal shelf needed more comfortable bedding.

M, awash with relief, didn't know whether to scold Pancho for eating the shoe or thank him for not having socks for dessert.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

20 years ago

There was a party at Bar None last night to mark The New Paper's 20th anniversary. I'd known about it for weeks and although I never got an official invitation from the bosses, I knew I was going to crash it right from the start, along with my gang of TNP contemporaries. We figured that we 1G TNPers don't need official invites.

And that was the spirit of things all night long. The old gang hasn't changed. They're still irreverent, funny, and downright wicked to the point of being complete a**holes if you were on the receiving end. And they are still capable of putting away vast amounts of alcohol. Except for the one who doesn't drink because it sends him off into a manic-depressive dive. I would like to finally thank him now, 20 years later, for introducing me to Jim Croce during his dives.

There're plenty of photos but I can only update them into this entry next week because they'll all be sent to my e-mail at work and I'm on leave for a week. I don't think the current TNP photographer taking them had any idea who we were, much less that we were the pioneer batch of reporters but she was damn good in snapping away when there were photo opportunities -- mostly involving shrieks and hugs when someone familiar turned up. Apart from my gang, there were people I haven't seen in 15 years.

It was a great evening playing catch up. Old jokes were revisited and there was much recalling of old times. It's nice to know that some things -- and people -- don't change. It didn't seem like 20 years have passed. The only thing that forcibly reminded us that it's a new generation at TNP now is that a new reporter who just joined them recently is a student of my old TNP buddy who went on to teach mass communication at a local university. At least the youngster didn't call his former teacher "sir". That would have been too much to bear. For him. Not us. We would have doubled over with laughter. What, him, responsible and moulding young lives etc. And shake our heads. And toss back more booze. Which we did anyway. The first batch of TNPers has produced two PhDs and an MP. But looking at my own gang in particular, it's quite heartening to see that we're the most unambitious lot.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Here's home

This is where Radovan Karadzic can expect to live.

After 11 years on the run, it's not too bad a deal. Particularly as the pix of the cell doesn't look very different from on-campus student accommodation at the university I went to. On top of that, he gets an ensuite bathroom and home-cooked Balkan cuisine. That's already two up on what we got.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Those crazy golfers and the things they get up to

It could only happen here. Company X organises and sponsors a series of regional golf tournaments, the winners of which meet in a world championship final. And in between teeing off, they get little treats such as taking company X's cars on a test drive.

The only "problem" is, what the Singapore winner does for a living when he's not playing golf is to sell cars for Company Y, which is the biggest rival to Company X. Which then refuses to send him to the tournament final. It says that it doesn't want him privy to its new cars and marketing plans. It offers him monetary compensation but he refuses it. All he wants is to play golf with the very best.

The whole sorry PR affair has now become a High Court case as the man is suing to stop Company X for preventing him from playing in the final.

In a more pluralistic society, Company X would have rolled out the red carpet for the Company Y employee and won him over with their largesse. Who knows, he may end up selling even more cars for them.

Instead, they blackmark him as That Man from the Rival and mutter about industrial espionage when all he wanted to do was to play golf. But then, this is how insular minds on a small island work.

Marketing campaigns reflect how a society operates. And ours isn't as gracious and as inclusive as our leaders would like us to think.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lions! Tigers and bears! Oh my!!

Well, OK, not the tigers and bears but three lions. Enough to intrigue Rupert so much that he forgot to bark. He also backed away from the window as the lions advanced down the path, until he was all backed up against the sofa and couldn't retreat any more.

The lion dance was part of some festival for Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, organised by our downstairs neighbour who's some sort of medium or devotee, along with a puppet show. The furkids were mesmerised by everything. I missed everything, I was at work. The pix were taken by L to show me what I missed. Not shown is a vegetarian meal, to which he was constantly shouted invitations to whenever the neighbours saw him standing at the window watching the goings-on.

Apparently I also missed the neighbour putting his hand to Rupert and Queeni's forehead (she didn't protest, and she normally would if she didn't know you and you tried to touch her) in a blessing. I've always been disappointed that no church in this country does a blessing of the animals service for St Francis of Assissi's saint day. But hey, now they've got Kwan Yin's blessing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lying in state

Here's how Queeni watches TV. Note that the royal head needs a pillow. All that's missing is Rupert peeling her grapes. I don't have to do the bit where I stand in attendance and fan her gently because she's lying on the part of the couch that gets the draft from the airconditioning.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

3D puzzle

When we first moved in about two years ago, this lamp was a housewarming gift from C, who bought it in Thailand on one of his frequent trips there. It's actually comprised of flat little plastic rectangles with hook-like corners and you hook all the rectangles together and they somehow magically form a sphere. It's a really clever piece of design.

Knowing what a klutz I am and how anti-DIY L is, C had warned us that it required a little assembly. But by the time he gave it to us, he quite kindly took pity on us and put it together for us, complete with a light bulb. We were still renovating then and we simply handed the assembled lamp to the electrician who installed it for us. When we needed to change the bulb, we just had to unhook a panel, reach in, screw the bulb off and put a new one in, C instructed.

That was last week. It seemed simple enough. Only when I hooked the panels back up, the beautifully perfect sphere wasn't perfect and I know I messed it up somehow and a couple of panels aren't where they're supposed to be.

L, with his statistics background, says there's a mathematical formula to it. I'll be damned if I, the maths failure in school, needed to apply maths to changing a light bulb. I just slotted slats back where they could fit and let it be, beautiful perfect sphere of a lamp be damned. The statistician, being a non-DIY guy, didn't help beyond postulating mathematical theories. He'll fix it later. One very fine day. Or until the next bulb change.

So how many statisticians does it take to change a light bulb?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fun at the supermarket

First, I couldn't find the Marmite. It wasn't with the bottled sauces and it wasn't with the soups. That's what I use the yeast extract for so I didn't knew where else to look for it. I finally found it by accident -- next to the bread. So that means that Marmite on toast isn't a solely British thing nor as cultivated a taste as I thought.

Then I came across breakfast flavoured milk. I didn't know breakfast was a flavour and now I'm curious as to what lunch and dinner flavours taste like.

But nothing can be as interesting as absurd seafood...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wheels go on the road

I'd recently written about a pet peeve being cyclists on footpaths. They are an accident waiting to happen and L had a near miss yesterday. Someone cycled down the footpath behind him and he didn't even know she was bearing down on him till the mud-guard of her front wheel came into contact with the back of his leg.

He spun round, letting fly a torrent of blue words. The elderly cyclist responded just as vociferously as she pedalled off. She spoke in Chinese dialect, which L doesn't understand very well but enough to distinguish that far from apologising for hitting him, she was giving him what-for for giving her what-for. She's jolly lucky he didn't fall over or was hurt any more badly than a bruise on his calf. Or there'd be hell to pay. And that's just from him.

I think some cyclists don't want to go on the roads because they feel that they'll be at the mercy of *real* traffic. The result is that they ride on the footpaths and then pedestrians will be at their mercy. I'm sure we can compromise somehow. Don't ride up behind people who don't have eyes at the back of their heads. Or build more cycle paths. They're not unknown. We have them in parks. But the point is that a lot of people don't just cycle in parks for fun. In housing estates like ours, they cycle to the shops too. And more and more people I know are cycling to work. Our ministers who tell us to take more public transport don't seem to acknowledge that cycling is also an alternative fuel-free form of transport. And that as such, you need to provide for cyclists too.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I wrenched a muscle in my back. Again. This time, I did myself in when I dropped a slippery piece of soap and it skittered into a pail of water that was standing next to the sink. Almost without thinking, I bent over quickly to retrieve it. And that did it.

I'm very cross with myself because I know I should have squatted down instead of bending over -- all that stuff that the physiotherapist taught me.

And I thought I had been so good with the physio and yoga threapy exercises the past 10 months or so. Since the last time I stupidly wrenched my back simply by getting off the sofa. I do them at least three to five times a week and had felt my back getting stronger. Apparently not. Or maybe stronger but not strong, because at least this time round, the muscle pull isn't as bad as last time.

I think my body is telling my mind that I'm middle aged. Ouch. That hurts.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sun dog

It's not just a bulge in the curtains. It's Roop sitting at the window in the sun that's streaming in when we get out of bed. This has become a daily habit for him now, he'll take a little sunbath while I have a quick cup of coffee before we go downstairs for the first walk of the day.

To me, it's a sign that he's become a little calmer at two-and-a-half years. Previously, he used to follow me about, watching my every move in case he'd miss something. It wasn't so much attachment as his acute need to be part of a pack.

Now, he's coming into his own and developing his own habits, and that's nice to see. What's also nice is that he's got enough control over his bladder now and doesn't need to be rushed downstairs the very first thing and I can enjoy a wake-up cup of caffeine first.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Desperately Seeking Mas Selamat

I took this pix a while ago and forgot about it. It is a bookmark that serves as an invitation to the launch of a new local search engine. At the bottom of the the bookmark, in the mock-up of the search web portal, some one had inked in the "Find" square, the name of the escaped alleged terrorist who is still at large.

Somebody is wicked. Very wicked. Delightfully wicked.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Digging up bones

This was what was found under the sofa. Twice as many bones as dogs -- and that's just what was kicked under the sofa, there's more scattered about -- in different varieties of textures, shapes and flavours, all for their chewing pleasure.

Dang, not only have they taken over the sofa, they've taken over the space under the sofa.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly

Two radio DJs have started this project where you're encouraged to video the good, the bad and the ugly side of Singaporeans and podcast it. It all started when one of them tried to leave a lift but someone else was adamant on entering it and blocked his way. It's a familiar situation for many of us, I think, and it also applies to train doors.

So that's why he thinks there are going to be more bad and ugly videos than good. Though to be fair, he emphasised that if you're going to shoot something bad, you should also shoot something good. The results would be interesting.

My only question is, how do I shoot cyclists who are coming up the footpath behind me, ringing their bell, scaring me out of my skin and then expect me to jump out of their way? (By shoot, I'm not restricting myself to video. An M-16 would do just as well.) That is one of my top peeves. It happens very frequently, and it did yesterday. I yelled at the cyclist that he has ****ing wheels and should be on the ****ing road and not the footpath. So if he'd whipped out his cellphone then, I would be the ugly one.

A couple of weeks ago, the same thing happened. On the same footpath to the train station. The cyclist came up from behind, whizzed past me, narrowly missing me. Further up the path, he wobbled where the path was uneven, veered onto the grass, tipped over and fell. He wasn't really hurt and by the time he was picking up his bike, I had caught up with him. And I laughed. In his face. Oh lord, I was ugly. But it felt good.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Been at the music store

I enjoyed the movie Shine a Light so much that I had to go get the soundtrack. And since I was at the CD shop, I also got the new Bryan Adams and the not-so-new Bon Jovi.

I had meant to get the Bon Jovi when it came out last year but dithered because nothing in it really grabbed me although it was all very listenable and in the end, I guess I sort of forgot about it. I liked Bon Jovi very much back in the 80s but then I was much younger. Now, it's one of those embarrassing 80s moments that you don't want to linger over.

L used to sneer at Bon Jovi, all backbeat and big hair, he said. At least, they've all got decent haircuts now. The backbeat is still there but they're sounding more subdued. I think the one thing that has made me stick with them still is that they're still straightahead rock 'n' roll. A bit sugary now and then but they have never condescended to slide into pop. They've still maintained that bit o f edginess.

Much to my surprise then, L took to the "new" Bon Jovi album. It had mostly to do with one of the tracks, We Got It Going On and everything to do with its lyrics: "We got it going on / We'll be bangin' and sangin' just like the Rolling Stones / we're gonna shake up your souls / We've come to rattle your bones"

The Stones are everywhere!