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:

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


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.