Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Last Day

Reader, do you sense the heavy air of finality? Well, of course not! We're all happy we're gonna have a NEW year... though, I'm not exactly thrilled right now. Or, at all. I should be in bed, catching up on sleep, having joyful dreams, but instead...

About 12 months ago, I made a list of lessons I've learned, in the place of resolutions, which people in general love to make and then break. I just don't see the point in publicly announcing "new year" resolutions - I mean, if I resolve to do something, or to *not* do something, I don't need to shout it out. In that way, if I'm obliged to break it, or feel like breaking it, or forgot I ever thought it in the first place, no one has to know. I digress - I'd meant to share more lessons:

1. How to survive on the *same* food (that which you get on campus) 5 days a week, 17 weeks a trimester, 3 trimesters a year, year after year: go for lunch only when extremely hungry, such that you can think of nothing, but how grateful you are that something (no matter how far from palatable it is) is going down your throat.

2. How to avoid Monday blues: work through the weekend, of course. No weekend, no dreading the impending gloom of Monday!

3. How to minimize time spent marking: set either super easy questions (everyone gets everything right - a tick and full marks) or super tough ones (everyone gets everything wrong - a cross and a zero)


Oh, it's a short list alright. Now, I shall surrender to my beckoning bed and try to lose this obstinate consciousness.

Happy New Year, Reader!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Pick

Right after I bought my first guitar, more than a decade ago, I was given an orange D'Addario pick. I never really used it - I couldn't hold many chords properly (still can't) and didn't know any fancy strumming patterns (still don't) - so I only learned the simplest songs requiring plucking one or two strings at any instant. Those I do with my nails, so the pick was just... mine. For ten long years (and more) it was mine, and I kept it in my purse. For ten long years (and more) it went with me everywhere I did, snugly nestled in my purse.

I lost it nearly three months ago. I was at the airport, dropping off my baggage at the counter, tugging at my ID card in my purse, when I noticed it missing. I could have dropped it anywhere, anytime. It was gone.

It was a pick I don't use, given to me by someone I don't relate to anymore. Yet, the moment I realised I'd never see it again was so unexpectedly overwhelmingly painful I had to hold back the tears. I do not understand how I can be so attached to that little inanimate object, which I don't even need! For the rest of my wait and the entire flight to my destination, I was sad. I was brooding; I was actually grieving. The lost pick was all I could think of. I do not even have a photo of it!

After touching down, I took a taxi to my hotel. I suppose my being extremely sorrowful was apparent, and perhaps alarming, for I noted that the driver stole occasional curious glances at me from his rear-view mirror, and kept from small talk. It wasn't until the last stretch of the winding road we were on, that he dared asked if I had traveled for work or leisure. And following my short but civil response, he made some comments about the weather. I hadn't meant to make him uncomfortable, but I lost something important to me... Wait, was it really important to me? No, I guess not... just that it's been with me for so long, I grew so used to having it that I didn't want to be without it.

I took two days to get over it. Two days. However, considering that I took two years to get over my first breakup... it wasn't so bad. Don't you agree?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Partner Yoga

One of the lesser reasons I enjoy yoga is the fact that it can be done totally on my own. Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't love and appreciate my (former) yoga buddy of 4 years - but she was a luxury, not a necessity. A partner in any kind of activity is a bothersome requirement, as compatibility in competency and level of commitment and/or passion in the activity is very important to me. On top of that, most physical activities are best done with partners of about the same size, and I don't find people my size very often, if at all. Therefore, when I stepped into class the other day and saw the setting made for practice in pairs, I was slightly irritated.

The mats were placed two together, and at a glance, all were already occupied by, well, couples. I was about to drag my own mat from the pile at the end of the room when I heard someone calling me. I had no idea how I figured it was me she was calling out to, for she didn't know my name, so she didn't say it. It was just "Hey, hey! Come here!" while gesturing to the vacant mat beside hers.

The irritation I felt just moments earlier vanished as suddenly as it came. She was a regular in the class, always friendly with everyone and totally fun-loving. She's also about the same height as I am. So yea, if I must have a partner, I would much rather have her than anyone else in the class.

We started with some basic stretches, pulling each other by the arms into sitting forward bends. Then, we moved on to standing balancing poses, each supporting his/her partner by holding hands, arms, elbows et cetera*. Reader, you must have noted the inclusion of the masculine possessive pronoun in the previous statement. There were two pairs of men in class that day. One was right in front of me.

Don't get me wrong - I have absolutely nothing against men not minding holding each others hands with fingers interlaced et cetera* - but those being such uncommon sights simply made me giggle. I know my behaviour was probably inexcusably distasteful. We moved on to poses involving more arm-to-arm, back-to-back, butt-to-butt... and a crazy back bend which required a partner to hug, I mean, support, the waist of the other while he/she bent backwards. I felt a wee bit awkward doing that with my female partner, so I was quite amazed at the men, really. Oh well, maybe I'm just awkward. Ha!

We always ended the class with an inverted pose - shoulder-, head- or hand-stand - and that day, we did head-stand. I've always felt it precarious to do head-stands with a partner, specifically for the partner supporting the inverted one. Obviously. Fortunately, both my partner and I could manage on our own without support, so that was easy for us. *Phew*

I guess partner yoga isn't so bad when you have a good partner. But then, I suppose partner anything isn't bad when you have a good partner. The getting a good partner bit is the tricky one.

*A couple of days ago, I told my roomee that there is a kitten called Etcetera in the musical Cats, and she developed such a sudden liking to that word she wouldn't stop using it in our conversation. It made me laugh every time =)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Queen Procrastinator


I started this "project" a few weeks after I came to know of my friend's pregnancy. It is supposed to be a blanket for the baby, and my plan was to make it about 25 x 25 inches. I used a smaller than my usual pair of needles, so the stitches are closer together and the resulting fabric thicker. It takes about 8 stitches across and 12 rows of them to make a square inch. That translates to a lot of work... for someone lazy like me, at least, who'd usually avoid making anything larger than toddler's caps. I thought if I could just progress a couple of inches every weekend, it should be done in time. After all, at the time, it was still well over 20 weeks till the baby was due. I had lots of time...

Baby was born yesterday... and I'm - well, 6 inches or so short. Yikes.

This happens *all* the time. Sigh.

Sorry, baby, your blanket's gonna be a bit short. Hope you won't mind too much...

17th December edit:
Look, baby... I hope you like the finishing detail I added:


Sorry, the teddy isn't for you... he's just my regular model for baby-related knits =)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Together As One


This is the 2011 production by YKLS! Reader, if you are not acquainted with choir shows, think Glee, with the following differences:

1. Solo parts are minimal and most of the time, all members sing together in beautiful harmony - not in the style of A Diva + the rest of them doing backing vocals

2. These people really can sing, very well, and live - not at all like the auto-tuned, over-produced tracks that make me... I mean, you, want to fast-forward through all the "singing" parts.

3. Each and every member of the choir is there for their love of music and passion for singing - not *any* other reasons.


They will be performing choral versions of religious songs from various beliefs. I'm neither a religious person nor have I any interest in anything that has to do with religion(s), but I'll be expecting a spectacular show, Reader, for it is -

Directed by: Joe Hasham OAM, Dato’ Faridah Merican
Music Directors: Susanna Saw, Tracy Wong
Produced by: Ian Chow, Tan May Yee


There is, after all, only good and bad music. Here are the details, if you would like to see it:

Dates:
10th to 12th November 2011 @ 8.30pm
12th to 13th November 2011 @ 3pm

Tickets:
RM40 (Normal)
RM30 (Children below 12 /TAS Card Holder/People with disabilities)

Box office:
Call or Walk-in to: klpac @ Sentul Park (+603-40479000)
Call or Walk-in to: The Actors Studio @ Lot 10 (+603-21422009 / 21432009)
Walk-in to: ILasso Tickets @ A606, Block A, Phileo Damansara II, Petaling Jaya (+603-79576088 – enquiry line only)


Oh, but I'm not in it. I was in the previous one. =)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Brian Tan


Were there really a better place after death,
Were there really a day we'd meet departed ones again,
When we ourselves have taken our last breath,
And be free of all worldly suffering and pain;

Were it that the end isn't the end,
Though mortal existence must cease,
The spirit does death transcend
Into eternal bliss and peace.


Great musician, inspiring leader, incredible man. My thoughts are with him and his. Rest in peace.

*earlier post*

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Birthday

I am grateful for having had a not too shabby year - with loving family and friends, a good enough (*ahem*) job, and excellent health.

I am grateful for being physically and mentally fit to do the things I love.


I am grateful to have the ability to think before I speak/write/act; to look at matters from various perspectives; to understand people who think differently from me.


I am grateful to have enough confidence and trust, so I could just let go and hang for a while when I need to. We all need it sometimes.


I am grateful I am happy today. Today, at least =)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupational Hazard


Reader, have I ever told you the extent of my clumsiness (and absent-mindedness, thoughtlessness, silliness, forgetfulness etc...)? Long story short (I'm tired and I want to go to sleep) - I knocked over a bottle of ink while I was refilling my markers. It fell over the edge of my table, onto - well, me. In addition to splatters on my printer, chest of drawers and floor, I got splashed all over my pants, slippers, feet and right hand. There was a spot on my cushioned chair too. I was literally stunned for several seconds, as my mind struggled to accept the nasty reality.

The mess! The horrible, horrible mess! The ink! The bottle was 2/3 full and would have lasted a long time still! I let out a long, tortured, silent scream. I had a class a couple of hours later and I really didn't need a mess to deal with then!

I took a deep breath, and with my unstained left hand, I took my phone and took the shot. Seriously, no point crying over spilt ink.

First things first - I went to the washroom and washed the ink off my hand. Back in my office, I wiped as much as could be wiped from my printer and chest of drawers, and then "borrowed" the mop from the janitor's closet and cleaned the floor. It wasn't easy - it took a lot of strength to get the stains out. As for my pants, slippers and feet, there wasn't much I could do. The pants were positively ruined - from past experiences, I know marker ink stains simply don't come out. They just don't. I don't know about the slippers... perhaps I could think of something tomorrow. My feet - well, I'd just have to put up with the stains for the rest of the evening, I figured.

Later, I went to lecture in my pants adorned with black patches, and after that, to yoga with my feet sporting black spots.

All these should be upsetting, but I'm not much upset. I keep thinking it was quite fortunate that I spilled black ink, instead of red ink, which will probably make my office look like a scene from CSI, and me the murderer, or victim. I mean that whole-heartedly - I was refilling my red marker pen just prior to the black one. It could so have been red! *shudders* 

It was also fortunate that I wasn't wearing my new sandals, which I had actually put on in the morning, and then changed my mind. It would have been catastrophic if they got stained and the stains won't come out! Lastly, I'm grateful my pants were grey, though not dark enough to render the stains invisible. Imagine if I wore white - like, white with black blotches? I'd totally look like a COW!

Say, this positive thinking thing is quite becoming of me. Oh, and I just thought of one more - if I ever need a reason to buy a new pair of pants... well, one pair was ruined today!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nikon D90 at the Walls


Bee Ree climbed, Shell was official photographer, and we had so much fun! =)

(Photo taken by the photographer using iPad2, of the climber attempting to photograph the author)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Musician Extraordinaire

Dear Reader, it's been over two years since I first performed on stage with the choir, accompanied by a full orchestra, conducted by a dashing, charming and sexy conductor. I wrote about it here. This brilliant man, conductor and violinist, is Brian Tan.

From the very first rehearsal, we were smitten by him - all at once serious but friendly, very professional but full of fun, passionate, expressive and absolutely one with the music. As a violinist, he makes great music; as a conductor, he makes the musicians make great music. He is patient, yet firm, and knows just how to bring out the best in each and every one under his leadership. I do not know how I can put into words how grateful I am, really, to have had the chance to work with such a musical genius.

It saddened me tremendously, therefore, to find out that he's actually been sick the last couple of years - the horrible, HORRIBLE pancreatic cancer - and his health has deteriorated to its worst. It is utterly heartbreaking to know that a man yet so young and talented; so great a teacher, mentor, and leader; and without doubt so awesome a person, is destined to face such tragic circumstances. I know not what else to write... I'm still overwhelmed.


Musicians who love, and I believe, are loved by Brian, are putting together a concert to raise an education fund for his children, and needless to say, any form of contribution will make a difference. The concert will be held on October 28, at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center (klpac). Details here: http://www.facebook.com/fight.for.brian

For non-Facebookers, here's a list of contacts extracted from the page:

KLPac 03.4047.9010
Box Office 03.4047.9000

Jeff Lim (Program & Score)
016.915.0218
jefflimmmm@gmail.com

Eugene Pook (Program & Sponsorship / Donation)
012.521.5756
eugenepook@yahoo.com

Ken Hor (Composition and Rearrangement, Facebook Page)
012.651.5369
hfken@me.com

Chan Yit fei (KLPac Musicians coordination & Score)
012.321.3679
feiyi76@hotmail.com

Phooi Wooi (Non-KLPac Musicians Coordination)
012.303.0801
lpwnso@hotmail.com


Ticket sales for the concert begin next week. Call the klpac Box Office. For Brian.



11th October 2011 edit:
http://www.klpac.org/?p=4358

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hello Sunset

Crazy is she who finds the need to blog at odd times from odd places... or perhaps just eager to jump on the chance to use this Blogger mobile app (she's had for a while but never used) with the perfect excuse...

I didn't really catch any sunsets... bummer, but the beach was quite a fine change of scene =)


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My New Elektra

After a year and a half of once-a-week climbing, my very first pair of climbing shoes, the Cragsdance, show hardly any wear. Here's a photo Shell Shell took of it on its very first day:


And, 18 months later:


Apart from being a little worn, and much dirtier, it is still good. The soles are still solid and everything else intact. So, what's a girl to do when her climbing buddy found holes in his Cragsdance, and decided to buy new shoes? I mean, new shoes! New! Why can't I get some holes in mine so I can buy new ones too? :"(

He took some time off his gleeful gloating to laugh at me, and said I didn't need to wait till my old shoes are totally trashed, to get new ones. He had a very, and I mean, very valid point!

So, ta-da..... I settled for the Evolv Elektra!


It is not a performance model, definitely not one a pro would choose, but good enough to be my second pair. They are a better fit compared to my Cragsdance, since these actually hurt my feet. Well, yes, a "good fit" for climbing shoes mean they are way too snug to be comfortable. The toes are supposed to be cramped and squeezed till they are slightly curled, and can't move at all.


This extreme snugness enables the climber to effectively use tiny footholds and pull off techniques like heel-hooks and toe-hooks. So, when it comes to climbing shoes, one or two sizes smaller than the regular is ideal. Here's a shot of me with one foot in my new Elektra and the other in my normal flats:


*Ouch*
It's a dull, throbbing pain, having my foot squished like that, which is not as bad as sharp pains, I suppose, and it gives way to numbness after several minutes... which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing =P

The top flaps don't cover my foot completely - climbing buddy said it's because my feet, though very small, are quite fat. *hmph* Anyway, I'm too pleased with my new Elektra to be offended. Ah, my pretty, pretty shoes..... =)

7:30pm edit:
These pretty shoes seriously pinched pretty hard! Granted, I might have been a little too ambitious, choosing a route I'd failed to complete in all previous attempts as my first today. After the first few moves, the pain became nearly unbearable. However, about half the route onwards, it started to mellow and by the time I finished, there was no more pain. I actually finished the route! I didn't clean it, but at least I reached the top =P

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Broken


Don't ask. I found it like that after several days of not playing, and of course, "nobody" did it. Reader, you may remember when they were new, not yet two years ago. Funny how, after all, I didn't need to decide, based on approximated reasonable wear, when they should be changed.

I've never changed my own guitar strings - I had help both times they were changed - fortunately or unfortunately, for I'm on my own this time. Oh, well.

The new, the old, the broken:

*struggle*struggle*struggle* And done:

My poor, abused guitar looks lovely, and sounds even lovelier. The tones are so much brighter and warmer that even I, with my not-so-trained-ears, can tell the vast difference. I guess I now know why it's necessary to replace strings even when they are not actually broken...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Random Kindness

This year marks the tenth from when I first started teaching. I remember then - when my passion to teach was the only reason I taught and when I expected similar passion for learning from those I taught. I was very young and inexperienced; I would get angry easily and would give the students (many of whom were almost the same age as me) a good scolding for the littlest offence, I would raise my voice at them when they dared present nonsensical arguments to me, give me crap or raise their voices at me (yup, happened before). I remember the time I discovered that 3 students had copied from each other during their test (a few identical ridiculously wrong answers were the dead giveaway) - I failed them for that test, then went straight to the Head of Programme to report their "crime". The HOP waited patiently for me to finish my very serious complaint, then said it wasn't really a big deal and after all, I did not catch them red-handed. I was indignant beyond belief - I showed her the scripts, pointed out the offending spots and reiterated that those kids were indeed guilty. She smiled, leaned back on her chair, and asked me, "They have all failed this test, anyway. What else do you want?"

I admit I didn't have an answer to her question. I didn't know exactly what I wanted, except that I expected her, as the Head, to do something to those kids. They should not be getting away cheating in my test. Furthermore, I couldn't have failed them if they did not also answer all the other questions wrongly, could I? I was very dissatisfied. I told her so. She said, "My dear, you are very young, and very rash. You get worked up too easily, and I understand that. You will see, next time, that matters like this are common, and there is no need to over-react."

The HOP was an old Indian lady with a very slight frame, who smiled a lot and was friendly and soft-spoken. I could not believe she would say that to me. I resented her passiveness then, but it didn't take more than a couple of years for me to realise she wasn't all that wrong. It was a long and hard journey, learning to handle students, and there was no shortcut to it. There was a time a boy rebuked me with "What is your problem?!" openly, during a lecture, when I reprimanded him for having not done a task assigned to him the previous week. There was a time another boy retorted with "If you want me to stay till the end of the week, why don't you buy me another air-ticket?" when I didn't want to entertain his excuse of having bought the ticket (to return to his hometown earlier for festivities) for missing some classes. There was a time a known troublemaker spent a good half an hour, during a lab tutorial, verbally harassing me to give him softcopy source codes for their programming exercises, and upon me repeatedly refusing, threatened outright to lodge a complaint against me to the faculty. I could go on and on.

For the sake of my own mental health, I'd learned not to let students get to me. I'd learned not to raise my voice at them, whatever they may do. I'd learned to be patient when dealing with the most arrogant, the most stubborn, the most aggressive, the most unreasonable, the most obnoxious, the worst of the worst... I'd learned even to put up with the most ridiculous arguments, desperately hoping that logic and reason can overcome selfish irrationality. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it will never happen, and honestly, I think I have had enough. I feel nauseous just listening to "We can't get this done due to time constraint!" Time constraint! When I have given them 10 weeks to do their project, it isn't my problem that they choose to start working on it a week before the due date. I gave them 10 weeks, out of a 14-week semester, for heaven's sake! We all have procrastinated in our lives, tarried till the last minute - I understand, but please take responsibility for having done it!

The truth is, I've had an awful day today. I'd gone out of my way to give an extra class, to give what I thought should be very valuable lessons in facing the coming final exams and for more effective learning in general. I was so ready to answer any questions regarding the subject matter, but all they wanted to know was why they got "low" marks for their assignment. Why, indeed. After the two-hour class, I had to face several more in my office, loudly in my face. Enough is enough.

I left work mentally drained and quite distressed. I couldn't decide if I love or hate teaching. I couldn't think straight and I couldn't stop thinking. I was angry, disappointed and fed up. I would've continued in my sourness and bad mood till the end of the day if it were not for what took place on my way to yoga class.

I was so caught up in my negative emotions I didn't care that it was raining. I walked right out without an umbrella but just before I stepped into the rain, a fitness instructor (who recognizes me as one of the members at the gym), coming from the opposite direction, saw me. He greeted me, and showed concern that I had to walk in the rain to get to the gym. I said I didn't think it was heavy. He said, no, it was rather. Why don't I just take his umbrella, and leave it at the counter when I got there? I hesitated. Just take it, he said, and gently pushed it into my hand. A totally random act kindness. I don't even know his name, and he definitely doesn't know mine.

An unexpected random kindness, and it turned my day around. I know not where my foul mood went - I enjoyed my yoga class, despite all the arms-cramping handstands; I enjoyed the cool, rainy evening; I even enjoyed listening to my mother scolding the evil characters in the Taiwanese drama she was watching.

Now, I shall enjoy my much-needed night's rest. Tomorrow is another day. And here we'll go again...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Loh Mai Kai

That's Cantonese* for Steamed Glutinous Rice with Chicken.


When the week-long holiday started, I lamented having nowhere to go and having to spend it all just being at home. So, I declared I'm going to whip stuff up in the kitchen, and my mother, being very supportive, got me all the required ingredients. Such then, I had no choice but to go ahead and do what I, in a moment of frustration, said I was going to do.

First, the glutinous rice had to be soaked overnight, then marinated with oyster sauce, light and dark soy sauce, a little sesame oil and salt, and steamed for about half an hour. The chicken slices were also marinated with the same sauces, plus a little corn or tapioca flour to give them a smooth texture. Mushroom slices needed only some sesame oil and oyster sauce. Other ingredients normally included are char siew (which I didn't have because I used them all up for the char siew paus) and Chinese sausage (which I didn't have either). Instead, I had some dried shrimps. These, I had soaked.


To ensure the rice don't turn out under-cooked, after marinating, it went into the steamer for a good half hour. While the rice was steaming, the chicken and mushroom went into the wok for a quick round of stir-frying, until half-cooked.


Then, it was assembly time. I used regular rice bowls for these. The chicken, mushroom and dried shrimp went in first, then topped by the rice. After that, each bowl was flooded with just enough water (not so much that it covers the rice, since the rice is already half-cooked and wouldn't need that much moisture) and it was off into the steamer again. I guess the amount of time it takes in the steamer depends on how big the portions are... I steamed mine for about 35 minutes.


Pardon the uneven colouring of the rice - it's the inexperience of a first-timer...

To serve, tip the bowl over a plate and the loh mai kai should slide right out effortlessly. Best eaten while still steaming hot, of course...


Reader, I think I'd make a passable food-blogger. What do you say? Ah, but the holiday is over now. It was good while it lasted =)

*I'm not Cantonese and I can hardly speak Cantonese. When I do, my bestfriend says I sound like a Westerner attempting it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Char Siew Pau

That's Cantonese for Steamed Buns with Chinese BBQ pork filling.


Dear Reader, you may or may not remember this post I wrote some time ago of making steamed buns. Of course, the batch which I wrote about was an embarrassment. The second batch I made using that recipe was better, but not great. Prior to that time, I'd made steamed buns twice, using a recipe I got out of the box of flour I bought. They were a success both times. Then, I lost the recipe (sad!) and had since been on the hunt for one which I can keep. Earlier this year, I stumbled upon Lily's Super Soft Pau. I'd never heard of, or used a starter for pau dough, so I was eager to try it.

I'd since made no less than 5 batches and each time, they turned out good (I'd say 'great', but won't that make me sound conceited?). They are incredibly soft and fluffy when hot from the steamer, and remain soft for up to a couple of days, stored in containers at room temperature. Most importantly, when I made them for my mother, she didn't retort with "I have a better recipe for this... why don't you use mine next time?" which, believe me, is rare.

On Monday night I whipped up a batch of particularly good (again, I'd say 'great', but...) char siew paus, and I thought, why not write about it? I am not a food blogger (there are so many, you don't need one more!) but I do have some pretty photos I can post. I don't think I've yet written a how-to post, but considering what I do for a living, I don't suppose I'd do too badly. Alright, Reader, are you ready to learn?

The first thing you'll need is the char siew. Honestly, I don't know how much you'll need... when it comes to cooking, Chinese-style, I don't bother with measurement. (OK, this is not a good start...) Anyway, my mother bought me a strip of char siew from the local wet market, and it looked as if it were about 10 inches in length. The seller also gave us some gravy, usually used for drizzling on the meat when eaten with rice. To prepare the filling, dice the meat, along with 1 carrot and 1 onion. Try not to let your tears drop into the ingredients (I always end up crying when chopping onions, so I assume you do too)





Heat some oil in a wok and when it is hot enough (this may be quite ambiguous for those who don't cook regularly, so if you're one of those, when you suspect the oil is ready, throw in a tiny bit of onion to confirm) dump in the chopped onion and stir-fry until fragrant. Toss the diced carrots in and continue stir-frying until the carrot is somewhat cooked. Oh, I should mention that the usual char siew filling has peas instead of carrots, but I don't like peas. This is the best thing about making your own food - you can replace or eliminate whatever you don't like. Ha!

So, where was I? Ah yes, the stir-frying. Once the carrots no longer look raw, throw the meat in and tumble the whole lot around a little. Now, since I have the char siew gravy, it was easier for me - I poured the whole thing in, added some light soy sauce (to offset the sweetness of the gravy), dark soy sauce (for the colour) and a little water. If you do not have char siew gravy, make your own sauce by combining oyster sauce, light and dark soy sauce, sesame oil and some pepper if you wish.

Let simmer for a little while to let the meat absorb the moisture, then thicken the sauce with a little starch (dissolve a teaspoonful of corn starch in a little water). Cook until the filling becomes dry and gooey. Fine, I don't think that is an appetizing way to describe. Here's how mine looked like:



The filling has to be completely cooled before they are used, so while it does that, you can prepare the dough.

For those who don't like clicking on links when reading posts, here's a copy-and-paste-with-minor-editing of the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the Tangzhong starter:
2 ½ tbsp / 25 g pau flour
125 ml water

For the Pau:
All the Tangzhong starter
240 ml water
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp shortening
1 ¼ tsp double action baking powder
3 ½ cups / 480 - 500 g pau flour
1 ½ tsp instant yeast.

Method:

For the Tangzhong Starter:

Measure 125 ml tap water in a glass measuring pyrex jug and whisk in 2 ½ tbsp pau flour until there is no lumps.

Microwave on high for 30 seconds ( 20 seconds - if you are having a higher wattage microwave). Stir well and continue to microwave on high for another 30 seconds - stirring after every 10 seconds to get the roux to a temperature of about 65C/150F.

For Pau:

Put all the ingredients into the breadmachine bowl starting with the list above accordingly, starting with the starter and ending with the yeast on top of the flour. Choose the dough function on the bread machine and press start.

In the initial stage of kneading, check if the dough is binding, add the remaining 2 tbsps of water or add more if necessary. Do not add too much as if the dough is too soft, the pau will not have a nice shape.

Prepare the filling while the breadmachine is having all the fun.

When the fun is over in about 1 ½ hour, the breadmachine will beep and you can start shaping the paus.

Cut into equal portions and roll all the portions into a very thin circle before wrapping in filling.

Wrap the first circle and so forth.

Let it rise for 20 minutes.

Heat up the steamer and when water is rolling hot, steam small buns for 7 - 8 minutes and big ones for 12 - 15 minutes.


To say I kneaded the dough with my hands because I don't have a bread machine is just saying for the sake of saying. Reason is, my mother has one she makes bread dough with. I never use it because I'm a masochist (ahem!) and I like suffering myself through 20 minutes or so of working that dough from a sticky mess to a smooth-textured ball. It takes some practice and experience to know how much is enough, though generally, once the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl and your hands, you're about done. There are some who recommend whacking the dough, but I don't do it. If you're harbouring a lot of suppressed anger and whacked yours, maybe you can let me know how the buns turn out.

Next, the dough needs to proof for 45 - 60 minutes.



I covered it with a clean towel (weighted down with a clean plate because I'm also a paranoid who's afraid the dough might dry out, or the towel might slip off etc.) Then, I watched an episode of House.



After proofing, the dough should be roughly twice its original size:



To make a pau, I weigh out approximately 2oz of dough (I'm not being OCD about uniformity, just that I'm so poorly still, that if I don't do this, all my paus will turn out very different in sizes), flatten it using a rolling pin (try to make the sides thinner than the center), heap 2 to 2.5 small spoonfuls of filling and pleat the sides together.

Since all the photos in the post are taken by me, I have none of myself working at this stage to offer. These are some of the wrapped-and-proofing ones (from previous endeavours, since I forgot to take some of those I'm writing about):





As you can tell, Reader, I've not yet mastered the delicate art of pau-pleating. *Sigh*

Once the wrapped paus have proofed for another 15 to 20 minutes, jam them into the steamer and steam for about 15 minutes. Be sure to place them adequately apart as they will rise even more when cooking.





The recipe yielded 18 buns - 16 wrapped with filling and 2 man tous for my most-of-the-time-vegan mother.



Now, for the close-up:



So, Reader, will you be attempting this anytime soon? =)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Post-Midnight Post

There is nothing extraordinary about this post, really, because most of my posts are post-midnight anyway. What is odd about me writing right now is that it is really very late, I'm feeling rather tired, it's been raining for a few hours (which is perfect for sleep!), I'd been in my very comfy bed, tucked under my very soft and fluffy comforter... but I couldn't sleep. My mind wouldn't rest. Many times I'd complained about these occasional sleeplessness and each time, my friends would ask what I was thinking about. Well... stuff! These stubborn thoughts - they just come and go (or come and stay) as if they own my mental space and my consciousness isn't mine to command. Tonight, specifically, I'd been involuntarily thinking about climbing.

Perhaps it is that the climbing gym I go to will be closed the entire following week, so that I will not get to climb until the week after that. I hate the prospect of missing my weekly climbs. I simply do! So, I guess it is when I can't have it that I can't stop thinking about it. Or perhaps it is that I'd been talking about climbing shoes, climbing rope and climbing places for a good part of the evening, that the moment I closed my eyes, I saw walls. I saw the holds, I visualised the movements, I imagined feeling the triumph of completing a lead route, clipping into that final anchor. I'm totally obsessed.

So, I figured - if I can't fall asleep because I can't stop yearning for a good climb, I might as well get out of bed and do something about it. Climbing is out of the question, but writing about climbing might just get it out of my system. It is worth a shot.

It seems I'd written more on lead climbing than climbing in general, but in truth, it is what we do least frequently. The reason is we don't have our own rope. Sure, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to rent a rope, but that not-too-hefty amount every week could add up to quite a substantial sum in the long run. The problem with climbing lead only once in a month or so is that we tend to forget the way to solve route. We're very inexperienced still, and unlike the expert climbers, we cannot figure out moves just by looking at the holds. Quite frequently, while on the wall, by the time I'm done thinking about how to get to the next hold, I'd be too tired to do it. One way to get around this problem is to repeatedly attempt a route, such that I become familiar with the holds and the moves required, so I can finish it before my arms give out. That, however, becomes quite an impossible task with the lead routes, since we don't lead every week. We really ought to seriously think about buying a standard length of rope. I want my own rope. I want nicer climbing shoes too, although mine are still good. I want so many things. And they are all on my mind right now!

But that's not all. There's this rather severe overhang section on this lead route we'd attempted a second round. I'd attempted it three times in two separate climbing sessions, and each attempt ended at the second last hold before the dreaded overhang. My climbing buddy, being the stronger and more skillful of the two of us, made it there, but couldn't get past the first hold, both the times he attempted. So, after he got down, we consulted one of the regulars. He was more than willing to help. He said, "Left hand that hold, right hand on the other one, put your right foot where your right hand is, cross your right hand to the next hold, then left hand to the pincher..."

Wait, did I hear correctly? Pincher? Who on earth puts a pincher on an almost-roof overhang?! I never thought I'd encounter the words "pincher" and "overhang" in the same statement! How could I ever hang on to a pincher at that angle? How?

That's another.

Of course, there are still more... but I think I'm ready to go to bed once more, and try lull myself to sleep.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Busy"

There are lecture slides to prepare, tutorial questions to set, classes to conduct. There are students to entertain, databases to update and manipulate, talks and training to attend. And it's been less than a week since I got my hands on that much needed software, so I really hadn't much time to get any work done.

That's the truth, but not entirely - I found time to go for climbing and yoga, watch videos on YouTube, learned the next part of a song I've been learning forever on the guitar, and here I am, blogging. Honestly, I don't feel guilty that I haven't spent the weeknights and weekend getting my assigned task done, but I do feel guilty that I don't feel guilty. Does that make sense?

I don't want to tell her I'm "busy" with excuse excuse excuse, therefore I don't have any updates for her. Time is what we make, and being busy is how we find time for the things we need get done. She is way busier and she took the time and effort to check on me. I feel humbled and well... some guilt (for not feeling guilty about being a slacker, of course). I don't want to promise her that I will have something for her by the end of the month. It may turn out to be one I have to break.

So, I promised her my best effort for the next week. That I can fulfill, but first, I have to stop writing now =D

Friday, August 19, 2011

Temptation

It is something I'd been lusting after for the longest time. Being a little luxury I could use, but do not absolutely need, I've decided to not give in. It is nothing less than crazy to want something so very badly, yet disallow myself to have it. There it was - as I'd seen it countless times before - sitting prettily, beseechingly, imploring me to come near. I went near. I reached out to, took it, held it in my hands. I ran my fingers over it, I pored over every beautiful detail, I imagined it were mine...

I held it close for five minutes. Then, I put it back, turned and walked away.

Gosh, I'm insane!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Whitewater Rafting

It would be lovely if I could just litter this post with photos of the beautiful countryside - the clear water of the river, gently flowing, tumbling over rocks large and little, bubbling over little falls; the bright blue sky, the pleasing green foliage, the host of pretty butterflies - but I do not own a water-resistant camera. Yes, it is quite a bummer.

I remember once a upon a time my girl friends and I talked of going for this. However, as with most of the things we wanted to do, some didn't have time, some didn't have time that coincide, others weren't keen, and, before the plan was even laid out, it was shelved indefinitely. Therefore, when our Bukit Tabur Outdoor Expert asked if I'd like to join this rafting trip he's signing up for, I jumped at the opportunity. Given past unsuccessful "recruitment" of friends, I was prepared to join the Expert and a bunch of strangers. It is funny how when one finally gives up hope that fate smiles upon one and grants one one's desired. By the time I was ready to email the organizers, I had 4 other names to give alongside my own. So there were six of us altogether - just right for one raft.

We were all first-timers, and except the Expert, no one knew what to expect. We were first given a safety briefing and the more I heard it, the more worried I became. For, there were so many warnings: we were to hold the paddle properly or we could break someone's nose swinging the handle the wrong way; we were not to swing the paddle at low-hanging branches or we might cause the branches and/or paddle to knock into raft-mates; we're not to knock our raft-mates into the water; we're not to "rescue" someone in the water by pulling their arms because they might dislocate... and I kept thinking - if I were with careless rafters, I'd so get killed! Gosh!

After the basic safety guidelines, we were taught some basic commands - "forward" and "backward", which meant the direction to paddle the raft; "hold", which meant we should stop paddling and hold on (for dear life) to the lifeline which is fastened to the side of the raft; "boom boom", which means we should abandon our positions at the side of the raft, move to the floor inside and hold on tight, so we won't fall out of the raft during "big" drops.

The distance we would cover was approximately 7km, with 9 "major rapids" along the way. In a bulky life jacket, with a helmet a little too big for my head and a paddle almost as tall as me, it's too late to have second thoughts. Each group then proceeded to carry their rafts to the starting point.

Reader, there are many disadvantages to being a short person living in the average-sized world - some of my similar-height friends prefer the term vertically-challenged, but I don't see what is wrong with being honest and straightforward - like, I have to climb on a chair to get to the top shelf of any kitchen cabinets (no, stools are not enough), I can only utilize the lower two-thirds of the whiteboard, I have to alter *all* my long pants, I have to smear everywhere on the walls because the next hold is *always* out of reach... you get the gist. Before you misunderstand - we are, of course, very positive people and we've always known the reasons it's better being short. So, back to carrying the huge inflated raft - well, it resting upon the shoulders of the guys was it being elevated to the level of my head. When they balanced it on top of their heads, I could just touch it with my arms outstretched. I'm not too embarrassed to admit that I didn't contribute much to the carrying... it's the privilege of being tiny.

The first sight of the river was rather intimidating. The spot at the riverside was a rocky one, and the water was actually white with froth. The rafts were pushed gently into the fortunately not-too-rapid river, and rafters were told to step into the water. One by one, assisted by a guide (there was one guide for every raft), we clambered clumsily into the raft. It looked so easy when the guide showed us how to do it. I conceitedly thought that being a climber, I have stronger arms than the regular girly girls, so I should have no problem hauling myself up by the lifeline... Alas, just as everyone else, I had to be pulled in by those already in, like a big, fat, flailing catch-of-the-day. *Ahem*

I'm not sure I can describe accurately enough the wonderful exhilaration when the raft began moving along with the current. It was all clear and blue and green, warm sunshine and cool water, beautiful landscape and the river stretching ahead as far as the eye could see. It was mesmerizing. And we paddled on - forwards, backwards, forwards - according to our guide's commands, while he navigated.

The first rapid, which our guide called the "warm-up", was not a scary one, in retrospect. Sure, the raft tumbled a little; I held on ridiculously tightly to the lifeline, got soaked to the waist by the splashes, screamed... but it wasn't so bad. I knew it immediately after we got past, because I saw the next raft tumble through it - it looked like it was nothing, and made the screaming rafters appear silly. The biggest rapid was called "The Easy Drop", which our guide jokingly said meant "easy to drop out of your raft". It was the one for which we needed to do the "boom boom". Again, in retrospect, it wasn't all that bad. But at the time, even though I was inside the raft and holding on like nobody's business, I was genuinely scared. It felt like we were toppling over when we dropped down with the flow over several huge rocks. Of course, if I actually saw another raft at it...

At times, our raft would get stuck on rocks, or tree roots near the banks, or combinations of stuff, and our guide would command us to all move to the front or to be back to the raft, and "jump jump", which was simply to bounce up and down where we sat, to dislodge it. Doing the "jump jump" was fun, and watching the other rafters looking extremely silly doing it was even more fun... until it dawned on me that I looked equally dumb doing it. Well, still fun. At one point, our raft veered to one side of the river where several small rocks formed a little island, and became still. Two of my raft-mates started jumping even before the guide said a word, and within seconds, we were on the move again. That was when the guide did an exaggerated facepalm, which had everyone in stitches. Apparently, he purposely navigated us there to "park", while waiting for the next raft to pass the rapid we'd just passed. I figured it must be a safety practice to have another raft within sight when one is going through a rapid, in case of accidents.

There were several stretches where the water was so calm, so gently moving along, and so inviting we were invited to go into it. The first time, I went in, floated on my back and closed my eyes, letting the life jacket buoy me and the current carry me along. Then, someone dunked my head in. Right, so river water tastes better than sea water. The second time, I declined to jump in, after a couple of my raft-mates did. I was laughing and making a lame joke about how I was very comfortable where I was when I felt a tug at my back, and before I knew it, I fell into the water backwards with a huge splash - and had another generous helping of the river water. My friend showed me how much she enjoyed herself by telling me "The moral of the story is, just jump by yourself!" So, the third time, I did. I jumped - then I swam, then I relaxed, and then put my guard down, and got dunked again. When the guide came around to pass us bottled drinking water, I told him I wasn't thirsty anymore. And he - well, he laughed.

The entire adventure took about two hours, I think. Although I sustained some bumps and bruises from knocking into my own paddle and knocking into someone else's paddle, I came out of it much less injured than I usually am after a session of evil routes at the walls. I was more hoarse though (I don't scream as much when climbing, because climbing buddy / belayer frowns upon it, like, totally!)

When I started this post, I didn't have any shots, as should be evident in the opening paragraph itself. However, I'd tarried so much so that there are others who had posted some. Here's one of us, taken by one of the organizers, right after we "survived" the "Easy Drop". We were smiling because we survived =D


I guess my farewell note isn't needed (just yet) after all...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Still

Traffic jam. Jam when it's time to go home. Jam when it rains. Jammed till I'm numb in the driver's seat.

Numb. Numb to the usual irritants. Numb to the unattainable want of a direction. Numb to the increasing loss of the zest for life. Numbed till conscious efforts are needed to stay functional.

Conscious effort. Conscious effort to focus on the positive. Conscious effort to ignore the rest. Conscious effort to be convinced that happiness exists. Conscious effort to not think of all the missing bits. Conscious effort to live each day as it comes.

Live. Live for those I love. Live for those who love and depend on me. Live for those who believe in me. Live for the work I have resolved to undertake. Live for the innate need to improve accomplishments. Live, because I am alive.

I'm alive but I'm still.
I'm still but the days, weeks and months flee.
I'm alive, living, and watching my life pass me by...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Angry Yellow Bird


It is so YELLOW and so ANGRY!

Angry at those who haven't an ounce of brain! How did you guys slip past natural deselection?!

YELLOW bird is angry. YELLOW bird wants every PIG knocked out!

*GRRR*

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tummy "Exercise"

At the end of the yoga class I went for earlier, our very sexy (yea, I just have to include this description!) instructor made us do some abdominal crunches. Now, abs workout being a part of a yoga class is very normal, for core strength is indeed important for a lot of poses, especially the balance ones (along with back strength, arms strength, legs strength, etc., but let's leave that for a different post). Therefore, I didn't think much of it. After the crunches though, she told us to lie flat on our backs, and massage the tummy area. Although my thoughts instantly flew to the conversation I had with my roomee about slimming, I still had the notion that all that rubbing was just to relax the recently-cramped abdominal muscles.

Then she said, "Now, pinch your tummy!"

I just had to laugh because I thought of my tummy now being the piece of char siew to be treated without respect! Anyway, being an obedient student, I proceeded to pinch my fats lovingly...

"Pinch harder, until it hurts! Otherwise, the fats won't go away!"

I stopped short - pinch until it hurts? What, do I look dumb? I'm not going to hurt myself!

"This is what they do when you go for slimming massages... so you might as well do it yourself - for free..."

Gah! No way I'm going to pinch my fatty tummy until it hurts!

"Now, slap hard the area around your tummy..."

And I heard ferocious slappings *piak piak piak* all around the studio. These people really were abusing their fat-filled middles with a lot of enthusiasm. I respect their determination! Meanwhile, my tummy got some endearing pats from me.

I guess slimming centers exist for the likes of me, who find it impossible to inflict pain upon themselves, therefore needing a therapist to do it instead. Now, I can understand what my roomee went through. Crazy! If this is what it takes to have a totally flat tummy, I'd rather be content to live with *some* flab!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guan Huai Fang Shi

Earlier in the evening, before I left for home, I dropped by someone's office to collect something. Music was softly playing and while he was telling me about all the work I need to get done (gah!), a distractingly familiar song began.

It was one of the very first songs that I'd performed on stage with Mee Mee and a few other girls. We were accompanied by a single guitarist, the arrangement exactly as the original. I never listened much to Chinese songs, therefore I had never heard of the song before I learned it. But once I'd learned it, I loved it. It's called, The Ways of Care.

关怀方式 (陈汉炜)

寂寞开在心事旁,随手种一些伤感,
不让星星来窥探,找个沉默的夜晚。

找个沉默的夜晚,不让星星来窥探,
随手种一些伤感,寂寞开在心事旁。

我的关怀方式是你无法察觉的悲凉,
只能在你不经意时才锁上我心房。
你往常的亲切友善是我今生的遗憾,
受伤后无悔的埋在不流露的脸上。


Out of the eight of us performing it, only one or two could actually read Chinese - the rest, including me, were all *ahem* bananas. So for the majority of us, the song was simply referred to as "Ji Mo", and the lyrics were:

Ji Mo Kai Zai Xin Shi Pang
Sui Shou Zhong Yi Xie Shang Gan
Bu Rang Xing Xing Lai Kui Tan
Zhao Ge Chen Mo De Ye Wan

Zhao Ge Chen Mo De Ye Wan
Bu Rang Xing Xing Lai Kui Tan
Sui Shou Zhong Yi Xie Shang Gan
Ji Mo Kai Zai Xin Shi Pang

Wo De Guan Huai Fang Shi
Shi Ni Wu Fa Cha Jue De Bei Liang
Zhi Neng Zai Ni Bu Jing Yi Shi
Cai Suo Shang Wo Xin Fang
Ni Wang Chang De Qin Qie You Shan
Shi Wo Jin Sheng De Yi Han
Shou Shang Hou Wu Hui Di Mai Zai
Bu Liu Lu De Lian Shang


The song is beautiful in its simplicity and the casual manner with which it is performed. We still love it very much, Mee Mee and I.

=)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Powder

This has the significance of being the first movie I'd sought out because it was the one the music for Sarah's No One Like You was composed for. It has long been a favourite of favourites of mine, and I thought a movie from which such a beautifully haunting piece came, must be beautifully haunting as well. Well, I've been known to be wrong countless times before, so what's once more?

I find the film pretty awful - read the synopsis here - for though I find the idea of a misunderstood, outcast, extraordinary individual with supernatural abilities very appealing and somewhat romantic, the execution of that idea is a letdown. For one, Powder, the protagonist, is extremely underdeveloped and his incredible intellectual ability, in my opinion, isn't exploited quite enough in the plot. The social worker lady - at least I think she's a social worker - is a rather shallow character and therefore inconsequential and forgettable. The sheriff - I don't even know why he's there - and the sub-plot about his wife (who I thought was comatose, but could apparently cry and sob - but couldn't open her eyes - when Powder was communicating her thoughts to her husband) is just weird. The other teenagers who bullied Powder for being different never actually learned to appreciate his being, or learned acceptance, which, although cliche, I feel is important at the conclusion of the movie. And the "love interest"... what love interest?

For the very first time indeed, I found myself focusing on the background music all-throughout the movie. I am definitely partial, but I don't think it is outrageous to say that the best thing about Powder is the soundtrack. For without, I probably wouldn't have sat through nearly two hours of it.

So, yea, I wouldn't recommend the film... but do listen to the song, if you can find it on YouTube =P

Monday, July 11, 2011

Please Respect My Fats

My wonderful Roomee and I were discussing ways to get slimmer and she told me that slimming centers are nasty places that we should never go to. At the very least, that one to which she went for a trial session, is. She started by saying she thought it would be spa-like inside, but it was like she paid to suffer.

"I was like - my fats, although are fats, are still a part of me... why wanna be so mean to them?"

I laughed right out, and couldn't stop. She went on:

"I was positive the lady who treated me had this idea that my tummy was a piece of char siew*! Raw one, of course..."

I don't know what exactly the lady did to her - probably pressed real hard - but it was definitely pain-filled.

"Like wanna make the meat tender that kind. Might as well bring out the tenderizer!"

By then, I was laughing so hard I'm sure I was burning quite some extra calories.

"See, your tummy isn't treated with respect, right? Crazy place!"

For obvious reasons I should not disclose the name of this "crazy place", but I can say, very assuredly, I am totally convinced I should never pay it a visit. Not that I would need it, after all that laughing... I feel tighter abs already (though I'm sure that's from the resultant cramps, but a little self-delusion every now and then doesn't hurt)!

*char siew = Chinese BBQ pork

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Embracing Misery

This day is a significant one. Whether positively or otherwise, time will tell.

I remember the time when my weekdays were completely consumed by work, weeknights and weekends, if not also occupied by unfinished work, then by additional work I had imposed upon myself. It was the time when there was absolutely no room for leisure nor indulgence. Every moment spent watching TV, reading a novel or a magazine, writing tales, even sleeping, was laden with guilt and afterwards, regret. Bouts of despair, panic, helplessness, leading to depression were common, and afflicted me often. Misery, is what it was. Yet, is it possible that something in me revels in being miserable? How else, could I explain my tendency to make choices that I know will cause me to suffer? And yet...

Today marks the beginning.

We're taking the road less traveled by; let's hope we'll at least have some fun alongside the pain =)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Farewell, Cruel World

Weep for me when I am gone,
Think of me every so often,
Miss my voice, my lively conversation,
Miss my gait, my cheerful countenance;
Every now and then, give thought
To the delight and laughter I had brought,
However small, trifle and dispensable
Which gave you joy, even if just a little.

Weep for me when I am gone,
Weep a while, but do not mourn -
Dwell on the days when we were happy,
The days we felt our hearts could be free,
And their yearnings, longings so fulfilled
That they know not want nor guilt;
Dwell on the best times we had shared,
Or dwell not at all, should you be sad.

Farewell, indeed, all things earthly -
Isn't death grand, isn't it lovely?


Now, should this be the last post I write, those would certainly be the last words I'd leave the world. Well, not that I believe the world really cares. And why should it? Every one dies, so why not I, why not today, why not in two weeks? After all, I will be embarking on a journey so perilous, I was told the chances of surviving it, with the necessary safety gear in place, would be fifty percent.....

Right, it's just whitewater rafting. It's going to be my first time, but I doubt it's crazier than Bukit Tabur, and I highly doubt I should die attempting it.

I don't wish to die; at least, I wish it much less than that all the horribleness on earth would just drop off the face of it. That, which I have absolutely no control over. That alone made saying farewell to this world just so satisfying in itself. Ha!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ode To A Lizard, Trapped In The Rim Of A Tyre

Upon first sight, I greeted thee
With a gasp, with disbelief -
It's a puzzlement, an oddity,
No reasons my mind can perceive
For the manner thou art caught
And the horror that must've been;
I wonder what it was thou sought -
Some curiosity, or some prey unseen?
That led thee right in there
Between the unforgiving metal,
Thy life which it would not spare
And thus, this venture thy final.


*RIP*

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Evening

So, I'd spent quite a lot of time writing - well, 90% of it thinking of what to write, 10% actually writing. I'd also spent some time looking for literature, most of which require subscription, which I could only access from my office. So, my engagement today brought me within a short driving distance to campus, and I thought - well, why not? So, I'd expected the place to be totally still and deserted - for who, other than me occasionally, would be insane enough to be at the workplace on a Sunday evening? But as I sat locked in my office, I heard footsteps, doors opening and closing, the turning of locks... Someone else was there and was going about. As I was leaving, I saw him re-entering his office.

So, one of the best things about being in academic is that one can be as crazy as one pleases, for crazy is the norm!

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Absent Mind

My tendency to be totally lost in my own thoughts manifested itself in the one of the most annoying blunders (though I generally find all blunders arising from my innate clumsiness and/or carelessness very annoying), not once, but THREE times, in the past seven days! Five, if the weekend doesn't count.

You see, Reader, although I generally like to take the stairs when I'm going up, I definitely prefer the elevator for the opposite way, given my high likelihood of falling down when I'm going down. Last Friday, the elevator halted one floor above the one I was to go. Without so much as a second thought, or a glance at the LCD display on the panel beside the opened doors, I stepped out... only to hear a very sarcastic "We're not yet at the-destination-floor". I turned on my heel hurriedly, reentered the elevator, and did my best to ignore the smirking and laughing. In all my years taking that lift, it's never happened. Surely it's just a one-time thing.

No, it isn't. On Tuesday, I made the exact same mistake, only this time, I realised it way too late, and the doors had shut before I could get back in. I had to take the stairs down, and slowly too, so to minimize the chance of running into the people walking out of the elevator which I'd quit a floor too soon. I had a long day that day; I was so tired I practically stood inside the elevator with my eyes closed, I reasoned.

Come Thursday. It happened AGAIN! No, I'm not going to describe my silliness a third time. Given that the floor I was heading, to exit the building, is the lowest there is, I really want to put the blame on the lazy bums who pressed the elevator button at the level right above it - I mean, how unfit must one be, to want to ride it ONE floor down? Right? Wrong - my opinion aside, they have every right. *Sigh*

What more was I going to write, actually? I can't seem to focus my mind enough to remember. I think I'd wanted to say that I'd been writing a lot, and yet I haven't been writing, and something along the lines of my journal weeping, for it wants a little attention. I had this post all outlined and properly organized in my head while I was driving home...

There is also a vague memory of the plan to briefly mention 23rd June being Jason Mraz's birthday, but it fails at how the idea relates to the one about my out-of-focus-ness. Surely they're not both meant to be in the same post? Well, anyhow, they are now.

I really should not blog when I'm so overwhelmed by exhaustion and experiencing temporary (I hope) senility...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Windblown Cactus


Pretty convincingly so, except there is no wind in my office. I got the trio two years ago at Cameron Highlands. While the other two grew quite a bit, right up till end of last year, this little fella looked almost exactly the same as it did when I first put it on my window sill. Recently, I noticed it's grown a little, and quite skewed to one side.

I was told it was because I didn't give the pots a quarter turn every day. I was also told that they're probably dying slowly from my constant abuse/neglect, and expecting them to survive on just water and dirt.

My poor cacti. However, I really like how this one looks windblown. Maybe I can give the other two their quarter turns every day, but leave this be...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not Pretty

My roomee was recounting a conversation she had with a certain individual, who happened to have said that a certain other individual isn't pretty. She made a remark along the lines of how terrible it is to call someone ugly. While I agree it is indeed rude to call someone ugly outright, in his/her face, but if someone truly isn't good-looking, is it really so bad to express it?

Sometimes, I wonder what is so wrong with not being within the "standard" definition of beauty. I myself have been labeled "bad" or "mean", reprimanded, and smacked, by my girl friends, just for expressing honest opinions of some other people's looks. (Fine, I called them ugly. Sorry, but I really do find them ugly). It is as if I've judged a person solely by the looks. That is not true. When I make any comments on anyone's looks, they refer exactly to that - the looks; nothing about the person's (perhaps) admirable talent, (possibly) generous heart, (probably) wonderful personality and (hopefully) worthy life-partner material. If one is all that, should one care that one isn't gorgeously hot as well?

I remember reading a post on the official Sarah Brightman forum where the members sort of squabbled. It started with someone posting a link to a YouTube video of Sarah performing somewhere, and amidst doting, flattering, and ardently-in-love-with-Sarah replies, one person, though full of praises for the performance itself, had the misfortune to say "Sarah looks fat". (Note: personally, I don't think she is, but she's certainly not celebrity-standard-thin, in a good manner) That poor fella was shot left, right and center, over and over, by so many. They echoed the same sentiment - Sarah is beautiful, she is not fat. It made me think - do they mean if Sarah were to put on more weight than is ideal for her frame, she wouldn't be beautiful any longer? More importantly, if she doesn't look she way she does (say, much less pleasant to look at) will her music be less amazing?

It is something we all should think about. Perhaps then, one does not need to give a damn (that is, to take offense) when someone passes a comment unfavourable to one's ears (and ego, mayhap). Furthermore, there's no "flaw" anyone might have that make-up and wardrobe can't take care of =P

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fear of Falling

Knowing that someone reliable will always catch one when one falls doesn't make falling any less scary - for me, at least - especially so when one is falling from 10 or 15 meters from the ground. That's probably more than the distance beyond which my uncorrected myopic eyes can no longer distinguish facial features.

There actually is a term to describe the fear of falling from a high place: bathophobia. In fact, there is a word describing any fear you can think of - http://phrontistery.info/phobias.html - even fear of falling down the stairs (no, I don't have it, although I've never yet met a flight of stairs on which I'd not fallen down)

Two fears - that of heights and of falling from a high place - must somehow come together. I don't imagine there are many who are afraid of falling from a great height, yet don't mind being perched up high. It makes even less sense for someone to be afraid to be elevated, but do not mind falling off from there. Mind you, I use the word "fear", as opposed to phobia. Phobia implies irrationality, and although I feel it is hardly irrational to fear plunging down, possibly to death, the fear I intend to write about isn't intense enough to qualify for that term. So, the two fears - I have them both, I'm afraid. (Is there a phobia of phobias? Like, the irrational fear of being afraid of everything?)

I was first asked to overcome my fears by going up the bouldering wall beyond my comfort fall-level, and let go. Owing to one very insistent, I did, although I was immensely terrified and embarrassed (you would be too, if an involuntary squeal accompanies every fall). When I started top-roping, every time I felt I was going to slip, or felt I would likely not succeed making the next move, I'd shout a warning (or more accurately, an outright demand) to my poor belayer to really tighten the rope. With the rope absolutely taut, a fall isn't really a fall. Over time, I learned to completely trust my harness, the rope and the one holding it, and I was able to climb less noisily.

However, when it comes to leading, I've come to understand that I have no choice but to embrace falling. Suddenly, I find that I am afraid to attempt moves which, if it was a top-rope, I'd probably done without a second thought - for the rope must be slack, and if I fall, I'd really fall a long way. Clearly, if I were to pursue lead-climbing, this fear must be overcome.

He said it is common, in climbing training, to practice falling. Thus, we did, in small increments in the magnitude of the fall. First, we let go immediately after clipping the rope to a quickdraw, then halfway up between the last and the next one, and lastly, just before making the next. These falling exercises do help condition my mind to not respond with panic, which is crucial in preventing injuries. That said, giving notice to my belayer - "I'm gonna fall now!" - just before letting go sort of sets the exercise back a little. One day, I will, I hope, gain enough courage and confidence to just let go without warning, nor stealing a glance at him to ascertain he's paying attention and will not fail to catch me when I fall. He said I must, however, be careful not to attempt it when we're in company of any hot female climbers.

Yikes. OK, I have been warned.