Wherein I am in pain

The last few days have been a world of pain.

I went for that little surgery of mine (tonsillitis, as far as my insurer is concerned), and now the upper palate of my mouth has been brought slightly further forward to the front of my mouth, and a wire has been sewn into the bottom of my tongue. The doctor had told me there would be no speech impediment involved, but I find myself worrying about the loss in tongue-flexibility. At worst, it’s going to be a permanent lisp–oh the stereotype.

On a liquid diet so far, because chewing anything makes me see spots and small swallows is about all I can manage. If nothing else, my lovehandles are slowly receding–if I can keep up the diet another month I’ll be able to see a six-pack. At least, until I revert to fried eggs and spam for dinner again.

Just a note for the future–the insides of your nose are sensitive enough to detect the fluoride they put into our tap water.

Daddy bought my hospital bed number in 4D and won a couple hundred bucks. He should have gone with my roommate–his bed number was the top prize. Figures–he had a heart-bypass.

Helping out the library

I recently joined the National Library Board’s “Friends of the Library” programme as a volunteer. So far, I’ve gone for the orientation briefing and helped out with one story-telling session/lesson.

Things I have learned:

  1. Kids love volunteering with the library. Some of the Secondary school kids I volunteered with last Saturday informed me that they have to perform a compulsory 30 hours of community service a year. The library is a great place to volunteer for them as it is relatively easy, clean and effortless compared to old folks’ homes or flag days. Plus air conditioning and free food almost every single session.
  2. Other than the kids who need to fulfill a quota, adults really love volunteering with the library. There are over 15,000 volunteers according to the Volunteer Programme IC, of whom evidently there are several hundreds who perform over 15 hours of service a year. Top contributor last year did several hundreds of hours of service (to be fair, she is retired).
  3. Because of the glut of volunteers, library volunteer sessions tend to be very easy. I spent last Saturday with seven – eight other volunteers helping out with a story-telling session/lesson for the 10,000 Fathers Read! programme. From the attendance sheet, I think there were supposed to be more, but some didn’t show up. Still, there were more than enough of us to go round–only about three people were really required. Still, given that it’s a volunteer-thing and that there’s no gurantee that the people you ask for will show up, I guess the redundancy is a good thing.
  4. Our public library is very well-funded. The National Library Board gets a cool $180 million a year from our Budget. Which is why there are so many programmes about to encourage literacy and reading, and also the fancy new buildings and shiny new machines. (to my surprise, in terms of percentage, we spend relatively little on our library–only about 0.1% of GDP compared to South Korea which spends 0.31%, and the UK which spends 0.2%).
  5. Given its budget and size, library volunteers are frankly unnecessary–but I’ve think one of the reasons for the existence of the programme is to draw Singaporeans to become more involved with the NLB and help provide some kind of informal personal outreach. Hell, they’ve got me blogging about it so that’s got to be worth something.

On a somewhat related note, the guy doing the story-telling and giving tips was Roger Jenkins, a professional story-teller (I wonder how you end up with that job) who was really good, considering he managed to get a bunch of kids all excited and happy with nothing other than his voice. I don’t think he even had any props other than a tasteless star-adorned vest. Although I kept thinking “Leeroy” thoughout the session and imagining him telling some kind of fantasy story involving some idiot charging in at impossible enemies. He didn’t, but I was somewhat surprised that his stories featured quite some amount of violence (to an anthropomorphic chicken). I guess I’m just a wuss.

Bizarrely, he chose to end the tips on story-telling session with a story about “baby snake” and “baby frog” who become friends and teach each other how to slide and hop, respectively, but are torn apart by their parents who insist that they are mortal enemies (a little one-sided towards the snake’s side, I should think). Then he started talking about how important it was as parents to teach our kids to love rather than to hate, and to look beyond superficial differences so that we could all get together, muslims and jews, blacks and whites, indians and chinese. I almost thought he’d go for “Israeli and Palestinian”…

Whoa. Pushing the envelope for cultural relativism and racial harmony at a kids’ story-telling session? Heavy. The predominantly-upper-middle-class parents looked a bit stupified. I wanted to laugh, but I figured it would be a little bit rude, especially since it was a pretty good way to teach valuable life lessons to little kids. Also probably would have made future volunteering a bit difficult.

In any case, I’m actually considering a career with the library, which explains the volunteering. As far as I can tell, it seems like a pretty nice organisation, though I’m a little uncertain if I could fit into the backdrop of female motherly-figure-types.

I am a MAN!

Likelihood of you being FEMALE is 5%
Likelihood of you being MALE is 95%

Site Male-Female Ratio
youtube.com 1
photobucket.com 0.85
flickr.com 1.15
wikimedia.org 1.2
drudgereport.com 2.08
abcnews.com 1.22
megaupload.com 1.5
freerepublic.com 1.27
funnyordie.com 1.27
reddit.com 1.33
investopedia.com 1.33
utorrent.com 1.5
tinyurl.com 0.83
theatlantic.com 1.2

From Mike on Ads. Based on SocialHistory.js, which I have only just discovered. Shame on me, considering it’s something so pertinent to my job.

Wherein I take part in Real Run 2008

Ran 10km, the longest I’ve gone in a while, on Sunday. I would have posted sooner, but my fingers have only just recovered enough that I can type this.

Waking up a little late, I ended up turning up with the last batch of racers coming in for the race. Since the roads to Changi Exhibition Centre had already been closed by then, we ended up having to walk 3km to the start point, by which time I was sweating, a little out-of-breath and feeling very irritated with the ipod-connected, fanny-pack-bearing woman power-walking in front of me.

I regret not bringing a camera along. The route was along Changi Coast Road, a long barren tarmac road with nothing to distinguish my long tedium under the hot sun. I spent much of my running time thinking how if I just kept going on (not that I was going-on all the time, there was plenty of stopping-off involved) with a video camera in front of me I’d have an interesting piece of stock video that could be used for a film called, potentially, the “Singaporean Auswitch March”.

I took almost an hour and twenty minutes to finish the race. Not my best timing, but considering how sedentary my lifestyle has been the last couple of years I suppose its only natural. Ah well.

Wherein I celebrate my 27th birthday

My birthdays have become a lot weirder ever since I got to know the Banana.

We had to work on our shared birthday this year, and desperate to make something out of a ruined occasion we did something rather silly.

The Banana describes the event on her SuperBand blog, so I won’t. For those who would rather a million locusts visit them than click on a mediacorp link, we ended up asking strangers to sign on our hastily-self-bought birthday cards.

People were very nice, and I must say my flagging faith in humanity has been restored somewhat.

Thanks to the Banana’s newfound fame (though no one whom we asked for signatures recognized her), I am now featured on the SuperBand website looking like a crazed squirrel.

The Banana and I 2008 Birthday

The Banana demands that we do something even more outrageous next year. The way things are going, I fear that on our sixtieth we’ll have to skydive.

Wherein I take up chinese calligraphy

The recent months of my life seem to have slipped me by, slowly and without notice. Waking life feels a little unreal, as if I were walking around buffered by cotton wool and only allowed a dim peripheral view of the worldaround me. The hours and minutes merge into a dull, monotonous filmreel set on an endless repeating sequence, splashing shades of overexposed greynesss on a dull and dirty canvas. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can hear the sound of my life ticking its way past its prime and into middle-aged-staleness, and it fills me with fear and loathing for the corporate slave I have become (and also the pressing desire to get a new, less noisy clock).

So, in an effort to escape the monotony, I have decided to take up an exciting new activity–Chinese Calligraphy.

Today was lesson one for me and lesson god-knows-how-many for the rest. It turns out in a class there are students of (extremely) differing levels.

Today my teacher taught me that there are 2 types of paper used in chinese calligraphy, which side to write on and how to fold the paper so that I can get neat little squares to guide me in writing. Then I was instructed to write “?” several times, as you can see below.

Wang CalligraphyMy first character

The guy sitting beside me was churning out letters with dozens of strokes at an impressive rate. Whilst I had to refer to a dinky little photocopied instruction manual indicating how I was to write the two strokes I had learnt, he was transcribing poetry.

He took his work home, possibly to get framed and put up onn one of his walls.

Mine would be more useful in a recycling bin.

Sigh. Chinese calligraphy looks so easy when someone else is doing it.

Breaking in shoes

I remember shopping for trekking shoes once with a friend, who was more experienced than I was in such matters. I settled on something that looked suitably pricey/branded/affordable–a pointless endeavour since they would only be worn on mountaintops where my only audience would be a bunch of goats–and proceeded to exclaim in relief that I would no longer have to worry about footwear matters for my trip. Whereupon said experienced friend told me that I should spend at least a month wearing the shoes so that they’d be “broken in” and more comfortable for the trek. Not entirely exhilarated at the idea of having to wear the heavy things about on campus for a month (all the cool kids wore flip flops to match their fishmonger attires at lectures), I made some quip about why shoe factories didn’t employ underpaid sweat-shop kids to walk about in new shoes, breaking them in first.

I thought it was a pretty funny quip, but he didn’t laugh and rather looked at me as if I had said something stupid. He then told me that I was being silly (said friend took footwear rather seriously): breaking in shoes wasn’t about making the shoes more comfortable–it was so that your feet could grow into the shoes . Shoes didn’t magically conform to a certain person’s feet, no matter how well-made they were – only feet could grow accustomed to shoes. Just because a pair of shoes was well-worn didn’t mean they would be comfortable, unless they were well-worn because of you.

The shoe-salesperson, who was kneeling beside me, concurred and nodded sagely, and they both cast pitying gazes upon me, me who knew so little about feet and shoes.

Ha ha, so did that mean I could break in stilettos if I walked in them enough, I asked said friend in a jovial manner, trying to break the awkward silence that accompanied my embarrassment.

He replied seriously that yes, I could, but I’d probably have to go through hell first to get my feet into the correct shape (said friend possessed little humour regarding footwear, or anything else for that matter).

I remember this little incident, mainly because it was the only time I had ever been embarrassed over shoes and also because it was interesting to me that my own perceived superiority over an inanimate object–a shoe–had been erroneous. It chafed at my ego that I was in fact the subjugated party, my feet in a war of attrition that it would ultimately lose, shaped and twisted to the whims of some strips of cloth and leather.

I was humbled at the thought that my shoes were bigger than I was.

And yet, it was also a cheering reminder of the plasticity of the human body–a reminder of our ability to surmount the odds, of how adaptable we could be to even the worst of surroundings. How we, the living, could triumph over the dead, as long as we kept on walking and growing. For surely even the greatest of mountaineers, before they set off on their journeys to heights unknown–surely even they too had experienced the slight squashing of the toes and the uncomfortably tough soles.

And so, my friends, I share with you this story of shoes, and hope that you can garner some wisdom from my pain. When next you encounter a seemingly unsurmountable task, remember the parable of the shoes and know that for us, Impossible is Nothing.

NEA Big Read

I’m not American, but since I’ve never done one of these memes before and I love to show off the expansive extent of my education…

The rules:

  • Bold those you have read.
  • Italicize those you have started but haven’t finished.
  • Place an asterisk by those you intend to read/finish someday.
  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  52. Dune – Frank Herbert (started but couldn’t get into it)
  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession – AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Who the hell “finishes” reading the Bible?

I think I need to read more. Recently, what with Reddit and Google Reader, I haven’t touched a book that wasn’t work-related. It’s somewhat embarrassing that I haven’t read some of the ones above but seen the movie–such as Pride and Prejudice and any of the Potters’. It’s also a little embarrassing that I’ve read some of them without watching the movie–such as Bridget Jone’s Diary and Little Women.

I need to macho up my reading list. Why have I read Anne of Green Gables but not War and Peace???

More maddening is the fact that I read so much literary criticism online that I know OF all the books listed above, even if I haven’t read them. All plot-spoiled, sadly.


Found this article, which I found interesting because because of my problem with sarcasm:


Sadly, the article only describes the mechanisms involved in understanding sarcasm (I guess I must have quite a few friends with brain lesions) but not the mechanisms for making sarcastic statements. Of course, it’s likely to be the same parts of the brain that govern the behaviour.

So there’s hope for those with especially sarcastic partners. A simple lobotomy can make life much more enjoyable!