Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm leaving on a jet plane

And the iBook is not. I don't want to spend my holiday figuring out WiFi in a London Starbucks. Actually, at London prices these days, I'm not even sure if I can afford a venti latte, double shot there.

You'll know when I get back.

See ya!

Oh doG

By this weekend, I'll be on a boating holiday in Warwickshire. To give myself a headstart on the trip, I've been rereading Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In a Boat -- To Say Nothing of the Dog. I'd forgotten that the dog in the subtitle is a fox terrier.

"Fox terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs are, and it will take years and years of patient effort on the part of us Christians to bring about any appreciable reformation in the rowdiness of the fox terrier nature." Amen

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No sub-titles

L took out the recycling to the big recycling bin at the next block. There's a kindergarten there and when he got to the bin, he found that there was a teacher there, telling her charges about recycling.

Nothing like starting your kids out early in protecting the environment but she was speaking in Mandarin and there were a couple of Malay and Indian kids in the group, looking up at her uncomprehendingly. I don't think they're multilingual at that age yet. And you wonder why minorities feel that they are left out.

You know that bit in the Pledge: "Regardless of race, language or religion"... we all recycle.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Making sport of it

I was quite surprised when I turned on the TV yesterday afternoon to find that BMX cycling is an Olympic sport. Sychronised diving caught me off guard at the last Olympics and now there's synchronised swimming. And all this time, I thought synchronised swimming was called water ballet -- which I think of less as a sport but more of a movie genre. You know, Esther Williams and all that.

Whatever happened to higher, faster, better? Prettier, sassier and all together now?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Killing time

I should be throwing clothes into a suitcase and flying tomorrow but I'm not. We've been forced to delay our trip to London by four days because the serviced flat that we were to stay in is not ready. Never rely on a procrastinator to book holidays.

I've done all I can to while away the hours, I've baked a batch of ginger snaps, had a long soak in the tub, took the dogs on a long walk -- well, the dog that would go on a long walk; best to let sleeping, grumpy queens lie. And still the hours are crawling till I can leave. To make things worse, there's nothing to watch on TV -- Olympic coverage has replaced the usual programming. And I don't really want to start into the book that I bought for the 16 hour flight.

All good training, I suppose, for the 12-hour transit that we'll face, although that will be on the return leg of the trip.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A citizen's solution

So we're watching the PM give his National Day Rally speech on TV and he's talking about the declining birth rate and discussing the reasons for that. In the background, his multimedia presentation (eh, not just PowerPoint but multimedia, OK) showed a "Stop At Two" poster from the '70s.

"The reason is because your father f**ked up," L heckled, referring to the campaign in the '70s, started by the then-prime minister, who is the current prime minister's father, to control population growth by lobbying Singaporeans not to have more than two children.

And L's solution to fix the low birth rate?

"Import winter." When it's cold outside, everyone makes whoopee indoors, he reasoned.

And how would one import winter?

"Can lah, if we can import Olympic silver medallists, we can import winter."

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I bet the sports subs have been playing with silver in a headline all day. So where were you when Singapore won its first Olympic medal in 48 years? This would be Singapore's equivalent of the JFK question. It's a big deal, considering that the last medal was won before the post-independent Singaporeans of my generation were even born.

And that's why the Prime Minister's Office postponed the live telecast of his English speech at the annual National Day Rally. They knew he wasn't going to be able to compete for TV eyeballs. The Malay and Chinese speeches were delivered and telecast but the English speech is embargoed till Monday evening and the papers cannot carry it till Tuesday. That's gonna throw out my colleagues who are working tonight because two pages have been set aside for reporting on the rally.

While the women's table tennis team was fighting for Olympic gold, the whole nation was glued to their TVs. We'd been to see my parents but timed to leave for home so that we'd get back in time for the table tennis final. The taxi driver said he was heading home too. On the way, crowds were already forming at the kopi tiams, with the TV in full blast. And it wasn't the Prime Minister these people were waiting to watch. Not when the general conversation was: "KNN! Still talking cock! Get him off!" -- duly reported by L, who stopped by for a takeout dinner and dashed home with it before the match started. Halfway into the match, Roop needed to pee so I took him down. I could hear all our neighbours' televisions blasting the same table tennis commentary from the same TV station.

And as Singapore came to a standstill, where were its elite -- the leaders, the politicians, the big-time business honchos and even our newspaper editors (heh). All stuck at the National Day Rally, forced to listen to speeches when they probably wanted to watch a table tennis match instead.

Just last week, a ruling party politician who lost the ward he was contesting to an opposition MP, went on a walkabout and said that party grassroot in the constituency are still strong. If our grassroot leaders were really so on the ball, there would have been block parties organised for the table tennis final. Instead of having every household watch its own TV in its own flat, we could have gathered round for a massive cheer session. It would have been a nice touch to National Day and would definitely produce more Singaporean camaraderie than the National Day Rally. I mean, these guys keep going on about the Singapore Spirit and all that. This would have been a good chance to harness it. But alas, all our leaders were all stuck listening to speeches.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A medal at last

The whole office came to a standstill today as everyone gathered around the TV for the women's team table tennis semi-final. And now, Singapore is through to the final. Which means a silver medal, at least. No one seriously thinks that we can beat China for the gold. Still, that's like the first Olympic medal in 44 years.

And of course you're going to get the cynics who will point out that with a group of China-born naturalised Singaporeans, it's just another China vs China final. What thickens the plot, or the blood, is that the Singapore coach is the older brother of the China coach. All in the family.

The real rub is this. The final will be on Sunday night. That's the night of the National Day Rally. Television programmers are going to have it down to the wire, do you cover the match or the rally.

Of course you know already. Nobody's going to pay any attention to the Prime Minister.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's for dinner?

The other day, I picked up a copy of Asian Geographic at the supermarket magazine rack and leafed through it. It was the 'Love' issue so I wasn't prepared for an article on dog meat. The article picked up on dogs as cosseted pets in Asia and then ran with it the wrong way towards the dinner table.

The pictures of dogs being slaughtered for meat just wrung my heart out. It wasn't so much the idea of eating dogs, but the picture of a skinned dog carcass that would be someone's dinner that got to me.

I suppose a picture of a skinned pig, lamb or cow carcass would have done the same. So it's not just the dog parent in me.

I know nowadays, all the ecological-minded chefs are pushing for rearing your own animals and growing your own produce. Or, if you couldn't do it, then get it from the farmer down the road. In other words, know what you're eating, or know who's producing it.

But how do you eat a filet mignon if you once knew it as Daisy?

Remember Arthur Dent at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe where a cow comes up to him, introduces itself, and points out the various choice cuts on its body?

I would still like to put on my blinkers and think of my meat as a chop on a cling-wrapped styrofoam tray, not when it had legs and walked and had a mother.

Scott Adams, a vegetarian, once mused that if the sight of a cow didn't make you salivate, then maybe you're not genetically programmed to eat meat.

Well, the sight of Daisy doesn't make me salivate but a perfectly grilled sirloin does. So maybe this makes me a shallow, unthinking consumer. But quite honestly, if I think anymore beyond the styrofoam tray, I will have a problem with what to eat for dinner.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blogging in Melayu

Last month, Blogger made available blogging in Malay, noting that it has a large base of users in Malaysia.

Maybe in some Freakonomics cause and effect, what Umno decreed three months earlier that candidates for political party posts must have blogs has taken effect on Blogger's Malaysian base.

That and the circus around the former deputy prime minister, his accuser, the examining doctor, the notary and the private investigator. It is more riveting than The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, especially now that there's a by-election too.

There's so much to write about across the Causeway.

Goodbye to two friends

Two dogs in my little e-list of dog owners died on the same day last week. Fritz was in kidney failure and Nicho's little body just couldn't take his epileptic seizures any more.

It is hard to lose a dog, even when you know its time will soon be up. It is even harder to take when two go on on the same day.

And it is really, really hard to explain the loss and the grief I feel when these are dogs that I've only known through an e-list. One lives in Missouri, the other in Minnisota. How do you explain the tears for a dog that you've never petted, never scratched behind the ears, never rubbed its belly? And yet, I do know Fritzy and Nicho. I know how Frtizy like to be acknowledged as a pretty boy, and how he loves running in the park and riding in the car, and how when he was for a while an only dog after the older dog died, hid under the bed in misery for days. And how Nicho went from foster home to foster home and when he was finally really home, it was realised that he came with major medical problems, all of which he, and his people, fought valiantly.

Maybe this says so much about the reach of a dog.

I am reminded of an elegy that Theodore Roethke wrote in an elegy for a student:
"... I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Another one

There's another Malay wedding downstairs again today. It's not as large scale as the last one and the music is all Malay. Not even a whimper of an REO Speedwagon ballad. Although there was Marc Anthony's I Need to Know but I think it was slotted in only because it fitted in with the joget rhythm. And later, when the karaoke singers took over, there was one Deep Purple song. So there were mat rokers in the wedding guests.

Now that it's Hungry Ghost Month and the Chinese aren't holding weddings, I suppose the Malays are picking up the slack.

Now there's racial harmony for you. Happy National Day.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Peachy, just peachy

I was eating a bowl of apricots and had placed a seed on a piece of tissue, the one with the moral fibre. It was a breezy day and I had the window flung wide open. Enjoying juicy stone fruit in a breeze just about cuts it as the best summertime experience, even this side of the tropics. I love it when cherries, nectarines and peaches come into season and become cheaper. Although white peaches are still out of reach -- gone are the days when I could afford to buy it by the crate.

Anyway, that apricot seed. I left my seat for a minute and the breeze must've wafted the tissue off from the side table because when I returned, I found That Dog on the other side of the room, valiantly trying to chew through the apricot seed.

He almost gratefully spat it out when sharply ordered to, because he wasnt getting anywhere with it. I was even more grateful that he did that without me having to extricate saliva-coated objects from his mouth.

There were no signs of the tissue despite a manhunt under furniture and even down the back of the sofa cushions. So I'm pretty sure he ate that. Well, at least it's full of "hygienic, soft and natural values" and must be good for him.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Such stuff as dreams are made on

This poster is popping up at bus-stops in the space meant for billboard ads. It's all very rah-rah and all, what with the Olympics starting this weekend, but am I the only one who wants to take a red pencil to it?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Back to work

I went back to work yesterday after a week's leave. There is one habit that I have followed from my parents, that of having coffee on a workday morning and tea on days off (in their case, tea on Sundays; in mine, on days off or as in last week's case, the entire week I was on leave).

Which meant that I couldn't even finish a cup of coffee yesterday. After a week of tea, it was way too strong. Even if the tea wasn't really that delicate but malty Marks & Spencer's Extra Strong. The coffee gave me quite a caffeine buzz after just half a cup -- which is weird since tea supposedly has more caffeine than coffee.

But I'm sure as the week wears on, I'd be gasping for coffee the minute I wake up.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Distractions from downstairs

The roomy pavilion at the corner of the communal space downstairs, and almost directly under our bedroom window, is being prepared for a Malay wedding feast. Nowadays, most kenduri caterers prepare the food in an industrial kitchen somewhere else and then deliver it in chafing dishes. Only the really traditional ones like this one would have an army of mak ciks sitting up all night cooking and stirring huge pots on site. Which means that there is a wonderful smell of rendang wafting up into my bedroom window. It's driving me crazy. And making me hungry all day. And that's just the effect on me. Imagine what the dogs are making of it.

The DJ is setting up his system and running through his playlist so we're getting a free concert as he does so. It's the usual love ballad suspects, Richard Marx, George Benson, Bee Gees, Chicago, Air Supply. And then, very suddenly, George Michael's Careless Whisper. I hope he doesn't play that when the wedding gets started, it's not the sort of song that augurs well for a wedding. And then, inexplicably, it was the theme from Star Wars. Maybe the groom was going to come in to that, along with the kompang hand drums? Or the couple would be using that for the triumphal march as they leave? Or should I look out for Darth Vader?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

At least it's natural

I'm not quite sure what "natural values" are in a box of tissue but it's nice to know that the stuff I'm using to blow my nose has moral fibre.

Friday, August 01, 2008

For one blurry unfocused moment, I thought the new detergent pack was offering me a rock 'n' roll wash.