latest book

So Yishun Library just opened while we were here and I homed in directly on their singlit section. Nobody else showed much interest except a young boy who was there poring through the Singapore Ghost Stories. I picked up an anthology – Under One Sky, and so far the most brilliant thing I have seen in it is this:

2018-02-05 13.59.15.jpg

So cute. I confess the shorts translated from Chinese were lost on me (even after translation!) in that I did not see the point of some of them but I did like the one with the paper menagerie. I read it at the dentist and almost cried right before it was my turn to be seen, which would have made the dentist understandably antsy if his patient were in tears before her teeth were even fiddled with.

The ones translated from Malay were also meandering with not much of a concrete plot, just themes woven together to evoke certain moods. So this poem is still my favourite. Yishun Library is super snazzy now with little reading nooks (with individual lights you can turn off and on), loads of magazine cubbies, and a ton of people already using it; it was as if it was never closed (I went on opening day).

Northpoint has also become a veritable food haven with restaurants I actually like! Of course after 20 odd years of living in Yishun they only decide to up their game when I am about to move away. There’s Din Tai Fung, Sushi Tei, London Duck, Canton Paradise, 4fingers/Bonchon/Jinjja chicken – three korean fried chicken establishments. We don’t even have one in Seattle and there are now THREE in Yishun.

Of course even with all those restaurants I asked X to venture further with me to Yishun Park where there is a famous har cheong gai. Our JC music teacher joined us (since we all live in the north) and he finally got a free meal out of us in exchange for the torture we subjected him to back in JC. I used to go over his notes and worksheets with green and red squiggly lines for spelling/grammatical errors and bounced them back to him. After the rather excellent Ah Tan chicken wings we took a bus back to Northpoint and he gave us a most uninformative tour of the place in which he basically pointed at restaurants and said “So here’s some food” and “There’s some more food…”

Of course halfway through he tried to get me to quit my job and to join him and X at MOE teaching music/planning the music syllabus, and also to help him screenwrite some of the shorts he wants to film/produce since he thinks my language skills are decent and we have established that his sucks. Every time I meet this guy or talk to this guy the odds of being asked to do creative work for him (for free, in my limited spare time) are very high. He thinks I’ve been wasting my life away studying math but I showed him my wooden adult mobiles (he has a v. strange brain in which he doesn’t know many words or technical terms for objects, in this case ‘mobiles’, but once I namedrop Alexander Calder we both reset to the same page. So one sorta needs to know how to hack his brain before any comms can be established.) and baby origami mobiles and he thinks I should sell them on Carousell under the Baby Toys section. He says that they will sell (I never doubted that) from $50-$100 apiece, but I have barely had any time to actually make some for commercial purposes (even though I have already designed a logo for my etsy shop, but that’s about as far as I’ve got :P). So far I have only made 3? for young kids that I actually know (or whose parents I know), and one for ourselves. He still has our work and the H3 projects we did in 2007 in his cubicle! Crazy! Is he a hoarder? I barely remember what I wrote back then.

In fact the other day Z told me his mum found a review I wrote of the book she gave me for my birthday last year and I could hardly remember that I wrote any such thing.  It has not even been a year since  I posted that. I don’t normally review books since I’m not really interested in reviewing books but that lady made me so pissed off with her rhetoric that I gave her a one star on Goodreads and basically warned everybody off buying her book. Which I guess was not the best thing for Z’s mum to find considering it was her gift :P Apparently I had written three extremely harsh paragraphs taking the entire thing apart and she got his entire family to read the review and they were all bemused. I felt bad after Z told me so went back to see what I wrote but everything was justified so I stopped feeling bad really quick :P

Episode 1

Bing rewards gave Z and I each a free 20 pg 8″x8″ photobook so I used it to make this. (We had to pay for shipping etc.)

It seems extremely difficult to embed a shutterfly photobook on wordpress :/

I will be making another photobook with my pasta recipes soon! (i.e. after finals, which are next week.)

Drew the cover design in 15 minutes in Fresh paint yesterday and am rather pleased with the results:
coverpage copy

5th Anniversary

I decided we should really record what gifts we get for each other during anniversaries because they are invariably very cool things but we can never remember what we received or got from the other person.

0th year (2010):
Ze just asked me out two days before valentines’, so naturally I didn’t have anything prepared or anything. He gave me a cute swing set he got from Minnesota the previous winter (before we even got together!).


It took him 3 days to get up the courage to say anything, and meanwhile these freesias
were slowly dying in his backpack. He lugged them around (in their vase and everything) for three days!

My birthday: He got me three books (that he liked) – The Man Who Was Thursday, The Hunting of the Snark, and A Severe Mercy. I think I read two out of three but decided that we would never have the same taste in books. As in, he likes the books I like, but I don’t like the books he likes. They’re too… boring and philosophical and unliterary.

Ze’s birthday: To pay back the favor I got him a creme brulee torch and a set of ramekins.


I also brought him to Boston for SingSem (he wasn’t invited on account of being an A* scholar). We got stranded at Providence because of Delta cocking up their flights as usual and literally had nowhere to stay because there were no trains or buses running to Boston (where our motel was booked). That was seriously lame but the seafood made up for it.

We went to Skipjacks for dinner :D

skipjack profiterole
Their profiteroles are man-sized.

And then the Boston aquarium:
Here’s a bright blue frog we saw at the Boston Aquarium.

And some really fluorescent jellies!

I also brought him to his first BSO concert. Too bad we didn’t know about the 20 under 40 tickets then.

1st year (2011):
He brought me a bouquet of flowers for our anniversary while I was busy doing MCM. I don’t remember if I got him anything at all. It would be a little strange if we didn’t get anything for each other on our very first anniversary but neither of us remember :/

My birthday: He gave me a boxology box with a fairy mushroom ring in it cause I was doing the fungus course at cornell.
boxology box

He also made me a crossword! And tiffany made me a piano haha.

boxology box2
The cat box with the ring in it.

His birthday: We were in Budapest doing a semester abroad and so we went to Salzburg and Vienna with Michelle!
We hiked in this ice cave in Werfen on his birthday itself. Werfen is about two train stops away from Salzburg. This is the trip in which Michelle remarked “Austrians are so lazy!” in the middle of Vienna and we were so embarrassed :P

Him in Mirabel Gardens

And us at some Mozartplatz in the Salzburg city center


For his birthday we ate at this so-so Italian restaurant. I think it was Michelle’s treat!

It had sparklers for his birthday though!

Here we are in Michelle’s apartment in Vienna and she gave Ze a big box of merci chocolates. I really ought to call her soon.

In Vienna we got to walk about the Belvedere when it was completely deserted cause of the rain.

Why are his birthdays always so much more epic than mine??? :P

2nd year (2012):

My birthday: Ze made me a paper mobile with a locket from etsy and brought me to John Thomas for dinner :D

Ze’s steak

And my scallops in with some sweet bacon sauce that I invariably regret ordering

Their chocolate terrine is pretty good though!

Ze’s birthday: I made him a really epic cake with hazelnut feuilletine
Wow my cake decorating skills were (are) so bad

Here’s the cross section of the truly epic cake. Mousse, ganache, flourless sponge, and feuilletine.

And then we went to the only restaurant in Singapore that has the Vera Pizza Napoletana certification, which is this tiny trattoria in the central business district

Ze and his wine

Their veal ravioli is amazing but they’ve taken it off the menu since :(

3rd year (2013):
What did we do for our anniversary???

My birthday: He brought me to the Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora in the RWS aquarium and we ate fish sitting among fish :P
It’s like this celebrity chef restaurant next to the huge aquarium in Resorts World Sentosa (one of Singapore’s many offshore islands) where yo usee rays and stuff swimming right up to your table.

And then you eat all kinds of delicious seafood in a happy sadistic sort of setup. This is a crabcake sandwich – absolutely how anyone should do crab cake sandwiches! Who needs the bread?

Portions in singapore are all this tiny. Although portions in celebrity chef restaurants are probably tinier than most. You don’t normally hear about people doggie-bagging anything. This was some mad delicious seabass.

I checked out their menu at the podium. The whole place was really fancy! It’s such a luxury to have a car in singapore and get to drive to all of these out of the way places for food.

I also got a purple teapot from him!
This was bought during our double date with ahem yanyan and he-who-shall-not-be-named lol, from a previous visit to the same aquarium. I really wanted to visit the SEA aquarium with them since we had free passes and aquariums are totally my thing.. and the gift shop inexplicably had some really nice pottery! This is my ‘Cinderella’ tea-set because the cups and teapot look very fairy-tale like.

His birthday:
We took leave and we went traipsing around singapore –
1. To the national museum in the morning just to look at their exhibits and draw random stuff at the samsung s pen exhibition,
2. To Jumbo for lunch,
They write your name on these plastic reservation stands. I wonder how they got the spelling right.

The one thing I always order at Jumbo is their home made seaweed tofu covered in braised mushrooms and broccoli

3. To the Hort Park
with this lovely tillandsia exhibit. I’d never been there before this actually.

4. To the Marshmallow tree for tea
which was a stone’s throw from the Hort Park.

(they have a really nice rose latte)

3. And then to the Greenwood Fish Market for dinner
With his folks. I remember his dad exclaiming “Ivana, you don’t like seafood?” when I said I don’t eat sashimi or oysters. Seafood is my favourite thing to order on most menus if it’s cooked.

I got him two books –
presented by our entire menagerie in the car :P

My cool bike and My cool caravan.
which I saw in one of those hipster shops like Cat Socrates or Kinokuniya or something.

And the cake I baked this year (a concorde cake) fared much better on the decorative side than last years! Although last year’s cake with 5 different layers certainly tasted better.

4th year (2014):
We took leave and went to the ion Salt Grill and Sky Bar for the awesome view.

They had this really nice crab omelette, probably the best omelette I've ever eaten in my whole life.

Their curried scallops were also pretty amazing.

This was followed by my birthday: In Ithaca!
I can’t describe how glad I was to be back in Ithaca after two years. Flights from here to there are also not all that expensive so I should really visit more.

Cornell is unspeakably pretty in the snow.

We of course had to do all the things we used to do, like go back to Nasties and have a Mint Chocolate Chip F’real.

This was when he proposed!

And darling Chris made me southern fried chicken for my birthday which was amazing. I’ve never had anyone really cook me a special birthday meal before with champagne and the best table linen and everything. I think singaporeans just aren’t that great at making people feel special.

Chris also bought me this magnificent chocolate decadence cake from Wegmans which was really awesome, I wish I had packed it with me when we flew to Boulder after. The grocery store cakes here just aren’t as good.

His birthday: In Seattle.
He got a trophy cupcake; his cousin got him (us) a car radio, and I got him a purple hot water bottle from Etsy as well as Bob the Tomato plushie (he is a total Veggietales fan).

He got a lot of presents from home!

This is the beautiful polka dotted box from Paper Source that was housing an extremely squished Bob the Tomato

I brought him to Palisade for dinner during Seattle restaurant week.

Their seafood is amazingly fresh and the scallops were perfectly seared.

5th year (2015):

I got this judgmental zebra and erudite giraffe from him for our anniversary. We spotted them in 10000 villages (a fair trade chain) and I really liked them because they were so anthropomorphous. There’s just something super surreal about waking up and seeing a zebra with its legs crossed looking at you with an “Oh really.” expression.

He also gave me a box of Fran’s chocolates for vday

which was really exciting. I love Fran’s! They only do the best salted caramels in the world.

I got these roses from him about 2 weeks before vday and then a little pot of white roses on our anniversary itself accompanied by a lovely quote by Ian Burgham:

And you, a windrose, a compass, my direction, my description of the world.

He didn’t know a windrose is not a rose, which I found hilarious. And he’s a scout! Don’t they read maps and compasses and things??

all the meals were super crabby, from this dungeness crab melt from coastal kitchen to

this amazing crab and artichoke dip from Cutter’s Crabhouse.

I am extremely poor now since we’re waiting on our allowances to come in (I’m basically living off him right now), but I managed to bring him to

Paint the Town in the UVillage to paint some pottery.

My pottery looked much better pre-glazing.

He painted this cute tilted bowl for candy and stuff but which he uses for cereal. “It’s like you’re eating his brains!” he says.

We just collected them after glazing last week and they look like this:

His cereal bowl got a chip on it coming out of the kiln so they gave us a $20 voucher to go back and paint something else! I’m really excited.

My painted city (I was copying an illustration by Ji Mi) turned out kinda patchy :S

(something like this)

But I do like the splotchy typography on the other side that came naturally from a ceramic paint pen.

Phew that took a lot of trawling through my old photo archives, which are really badly managed. I also only keep the current year’s photos on my computer hard drive and am too lazy to go digging for photos out of my hard drive so I had to find everything on facebook or flicker. And we still have no recollection what we did for various anniversaries and vdays :P I resolve to keep a better record of all these special occasions!

Missing Snow

Saw this link on fb and it had really pretty pics of cornell in the snow:

View this post on Instagram

Is it the Kremlin? #Москва or #Cornell? 😀

A post shared by Nathan Shirley (@nathanshirley) on

Remember slip sliding down these stairs of doom while on my way back to Risley.

some nice composition although the photos are pretty grainy sometimes. Don’t people have proper camera phones?

The next few are by the same person:

Whoever said west coast best coast surely does not know what he’s talking about.

In other news, the New Yorker finally covered Yitang Zhang; the article was both on my fb feed and posted by the math chair here, with a note saying “It gets off to an unfortunate start, with the author confessing his lack of ability in math, but if you get past that, you may enjoy it.” And that piqued my interest because it was so judgy, exactly my style :P So I had a look and agree completely. That author is so narcissistic. If you’re going to be publishing an article on a math genius nobody, I repeat, nobody, in the math world is interested in how much you suck at math. People would read it because of Yitang Zhang, and nobody wants to/should have to sit through one entire paragraph detailing how bad you are at math and how you would likely not even appreciate his accomplishments despite the totally lofty title “The Pursuit of Beauty”, a beauty which I’m sure is lost on you. Journalists need to get a grip.

I was going to upload some posts on our trip to Alaska, (I kept a pen and paper journal while we were there) but since school has started there has been no rest for the wicked. I am greatly looking forward to Friday though where we will head down to the Microsoft campus and sneak in to use their laser cutter to cut out some trivets and coasters. One of our own is having a birthday party on Saturday and we are going to cut a fibonacci spiral trivet for him. Will post the end product here, if I remember to. We went downtown to the Greg Kucera gallery last friday to look at an exhibit featuring aquatint prints of the work of ten famous/noteworthy mathematicians and physicists condensed into a single equation or diagram drawn on a whiteboard.

It was really rather elegant and beautiful; I might recreate them in my house. But with equations of my choosing of course. Since we were downtown we also headed to a wood shop (Woodcraft) and picked up some 1/4″ thick plywood ($6.25), teak colored wood stain ($5), butcher’s block conditioner ($7) (containing beeswax and carnauba wax), two planks of really beautiful 1/8″ thick walnut (~$25), and a sanding sponge at grit level 180 ($2.95) in order to undertake our trivet projects. This whole thing started when we thought of ways to try to hack this beautiful wood trivet

midcentury modern trivet
on food52 that cost $50. Does that sound unreasonable to you? Actually while scoping out the wood shop we found out that solid, dark wood is ridiculously expensive, so it’s not all that surprising that it costs that much. I just.. am not willing to pay that amount :P

so with the skill of seasoned pirates (as only the chinese can be) we created an svg file that looked exactly like the original so as to cut our own trivets with the MS laser cutter.

This was a sample Z’s cousin cut for us out of MDF with the vectorized file we sent him. I stained it with our teak wood stain and then glued it onto Z’s door. Now our apartment feels so “countryside cottage”.. I love it!

Random gobbets

Gosh. I can’t believe one of the cast of Boys over flowers committed suicide. She’s one of the trio of mean girls who were supremely irritating in the drama :S Yikes. Apparently both her parents died in a car accident when she was in high school, which has got to be pretty rough. She hanged herself. That was during the filming itself, and episode 20 had a condolence to her family at the start of the episode.

On a separate note, I really like the paintings in Yoon Ji Hoo’s abode – and am having problems finding the names of the artwork and the painters. We also saw a shop with really nice paintings in Cluny Court – basically exotic sorts of cockatoos set against seaside type backdrops. Very simple (to copy :P)

view of the white house

Here’s one I want to copy, along with all the naif art of Norberto.

This is a great post about how to make perfectly crispy, browned hashbrowns, although in this case, I think ‘hashbrowns’ are loosely defined, and are more like a rosti than anything else. LZ’s dad doesn’t like hashbrowns, for reasons I can’t fathom. Probably this is not the sort of hashbrown he doesn’t like, he doesn’t like the one from mcdonalds, which he claims are not real potatoes.

This article on bagelnomics – or how to not spend $800 on bagels with cream cheese for breakfast in a year, investigates the amount of cream cheese bagel shops in New York spread on your bagel when you ask for one with cream cheese and compares it to how much they sell a 1/2lb of cream cheese for, and then poses the question: why don’t people just buy the cream cheese from the shop and slap it on themselves? Since adding cream cheese to your bagel can more than double the price of the bagel in some cases.

I miss bagels! And vegetable cream cheese. My favourite thing to order in CTB is the Soho, which is a croissant spread with vegetable cream cheese, tuna spread, and some other melted swiss if i’m not wrong. agh.

We headed down to the National Museum on Sunday after lunch at Toa Payoh to see the Sebastiao Salgado photo exhibition there (Genesis). It is an exhibit of his and his wife’s (Lelia Walnick Salgado)’s photography project to document the beginnings of our world, or rather, parts of our modern world that remain unchanged from its beginnings. It includes photos of various indigenous tribes in Brazil, various landscapes and animal colonies in the North and South pole, vistas and geographically interesting regions in Brazil and other parts of South America, and various islands in the British Isles.

The exhibit was completely in black and white; there is a teaser exhibit outside the main exhibit, which you need tickets to go to. Tickets are free for singaporeans (perhaps everyone? not sure about this), but you do need to collect the tickets at the museum ticket office using your pink IC. Which is really superfluous and somewhat against the environmental preservation message of the entire show, especially since they got funding from a Brazilian mining company (Vale) whose key objective is to produce sustainable energy. Couldn’t we just flash our pink ICs at the door to gain entrance? What is the point of printing the tickets?

The photos are brilliant, edgy, have marvellous composition, although some are blown up really large and are a bit grainy because of the film he uses to capture high speed photos, something I have yet to learn how to appreciate. The photos in the external “free” exhibition are also framed with glossy glass panes, which interferes with the viewer’s enjoyment of the photos because of the multitude of reflections on each print. You can read more about his experiences on shooting with the Nenets and drinking reindeer blood and other extreme conditions of this project here.

After the photo exhibit was probably our last SSO chamber concert for some time at SOTA. I planned on going to the exhibition on Sunday because it’s just across the street from SOTA, and we had planned on attending this particular concert (Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1 and Vaughan William’s Piano Quintet in C minor was playing with my favourite musicians as usual) about a month or so back when the publicity first came out. We didn’t bother purchasing the tickets until the week we came back from Italy because the concert had free seating (their sunday afternoon concerts at SOTA usually do) and there was no rush to get the good seats when all you have to do is to show up earlier.

I think I actually received two brochures in the post about this concert, plus an email, which made me think that perhaps the ticket sales were not doing too well. When we actually showed up a quarter of an hour before the concert though, a lot of seats in the left half of the stall were filled, and still more people came, to have the largest turnout I’ve seen at a Sunday afternoon chamber concert so far.

I like chamber concerts because I prefer chamber music to orchestral music, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of decent chamber ensembles performing independently in Singapore (or perhaps I don’t do enough research). So it was really nice to listen to a piano trio or a quintet for once instead of a concerto/symphony. I think more work needs to go into chamber performances too, because you are unsupported by your section – each instrumentalist has to carry his own and any mistakes can be immediately attributed to the only violinist in the group, or the only cellist in the group, etc.

I didn’t really like the first pianist’s rendition of the Mendelssohn piano trio – I thought her playing was a bit flustered/messy. The runs weren’t clear or confident and there were quite a few errors. The second ensemble that played the Vaughan Williams quintet was clearly the more together one, but they had the better pianist, and I have always been biased to that particular cellist and bassist. The Vaughan Williams also had more interesting sonorities and harmonies for the piano quintet genre (I haven’t listened to any of his chamber music before), but that didn’t stop either of us from sneaking little naps in the boring movements of both pieces. I stayed awake for most of the second piece, but we were out cold for entire sections of the first piece. The problem was working on D and S’s wedding prezi slideshow until 3am on saturday, and then having to wake at 7.45am on sunday morning to go to church, and not having any time to fit in an afternoon nap before the chamber concert because I intelligently decided to go for Genesis. I don’t regret any of it! We even spotted a white shouldered starling outside SMU while walking from the National Museum to SOTA, which was pretty cool.

Sebastiao Salgado’s book is selling for $98 in the museum shop, but is $47 on Amazon. This is the regular sized copy by Taschen. The larger sized display copy goes for about $5560 in the museum gift shop.

I suppose I should do some posts on Italy soon. It was a very undocumentable trip – everywhere was filled with breathtaking beauty and sunlit vales and tangled vineyards and blue skies and poppy fields – you just feel it’s a bit unfair on artists living anywhere else in the world but Tuscany, to have all their senses assaulted in this manner every single day while doing something as mundane as driving to the supermarket. Do you know what I see while walking to the supermarket at Yishun MRT? Neighbourhood cats fighting, the occasional rat, students canoodling in the study corner. Unspeakably ugly architecture that is our HDB estates. Even more visually disturbing are the brightly colored playgrounds and garbage bins, the clothes that people wear, the simultaneously orange AND blue bus stops. Grass and mud everywhere, not a flower in sight.

In Singapore, you have to work to find art. In Tuscany, art finds you.

What do I mean by “undocumentable” then? It’s simple – to document the trip with clumsy words (for these take the least brain power to write) would be to spoil anything you experienced. If there was any single motivation to become a better writer, it would be to not debase your own memories with cheesy descriptions. (Not saying anything about anyone *cough* Liangze *cough* :P)


Another great post on the Borowitz Report:

LONDON (The Borowitz Report) – In response to the international uproar created when he reportedly compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler, His Royal Highness Prince Charles today issued the following letter of apology to the Russian people.

My dear Russians,

Yesterday, it was reported that I compared your President Putin to Hitler. If by making this comment I have in some way offended you, I am deeply sorry. Adolf Hitler was one of the horrible villains in world history, and comparing President Putin to him was uncalled for.

What I should have said, and what I say to you now, is that this Putin chap can be a bit Hitlery at times.

Let’s take, for example, his penchant for taking territory that doesn’t belong to him and then adding it to his country and so forth. Would you call that behavior Hitlery or not Hitlery? From where I sit, it’s more like something Hitler would do than something he wouldn’t do, and so the verdict must be, yes, the chap is being rather Hitlery when he does that.

And, while we’re on the subject, what about Putin’s use of tanks? Also very Hitlery. Again, let me be clear: I am not calling him Hitler—but if you think you can use tanks and not come off a tad bit Hitlery, you’re not right in the head.

Since I made my remarks, some British politicians have suggested that I abdicate my position as Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne. In other words, they believe that I do not have the right to free speech. If memory serves, back in the nineteen-thirties another chap went around trying to punish people for speaking their minds. I’m not going to name names, but if the shoe fits…

Yours truly,

H.R.H. Prince Charles

While nursing my humongous crush on Kim Soo Hyun I managed to get liangze to watch all of his dramas :P from You from another star, the Moon embracing the Sun (which we talked about at his grandma’s house yesterday and discovered his aunty and cousins have also watched it! I am turning into a Singaporean aunty!), and now, Dream High. :P One thing I can’t stand about the way he watches Korean dramas is how he likes to watch it at 1.5 – 2 times the original speed, since we’re both reading subtitles anyway it doesn’t matter to him that they are speaking inhumanly fast or that the music is different or all subtlety is lost. He just wants to get over all those “looking” scenes (where the various actors look at each other with tear filled eyes without actually saying anything or contributing to the plot) as quickly as possible. Nuanced micro-acting is not something he has learnt to appreciate yet. Or the fineness of Kim Soo Hyun’s eyes.

LZ has however fallen for our dear Miss Sushi (or IU) in Dream High because she was a little tubby and had cute black glasses and also has really cute mannerisms. To repay the favour I’ll watch two of her dramas with him (I like her too, but definitely not in the same way as I like KSH).

So the drama round up of things to watch next would be..
1) Sungkyunkwan Scandal
2) Bel Ami
3) Lee Soon Shin is the best
4) My girlfriend is a gumiho