Everyday affairs

The days that used to burn
shine so brightly now-
lit by innocence and paradoxes
paper lanterns dangling on a string
less than passion but more than dreams

Even waking up to your plaintive
“What’s for lunch?”
I can no longer imagine a universe
in which nobody needs to be fed
and I sleep on undisturbed

When did it happen that
we started annoying each other
just to collect scowls and furrows?
You have a go at disdain
but you still don’t know how to roll your eyes.

You need me; but even more than that
I need you
o you
were the best of all my days


Transpacific flight

And so we embarked on our first US to Singapore (direct) flight on Tuesday, leaving San Francisco on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The flight itself took 15 hours and we spent most of it watching TV – they had Studio Ghibli’s Red Turtle! According to the optician my astigmatism has gone up by 50 degrees in my left eye (which is not normal at my age). I got new glasses made (now in blue!) and the guy in this little push cart shop in J8 took all of 30 minutes to make the lenses. He told us to take a walk and he’d have the glasses ready in half an hour. When we were kids it took 3 days, and a return trip to the spectacle shop. I suppose this is a childhood experience that most American children would not have :P

Most of the plane journey was shrouded in night, as we followed the path of the setting sun. A day had to be given up somewhere. When we left San Francisco we could see the moon reflecting off all the little pools and rivulets of water enclosed by land. On the great big ocean the moon’s reflection was just a dim sort of matte glow, and on land that glow would run through all the tributaries on the very craggy Californian coast like an animated spark through an animated wire.

This year mooncake festival (or mid-autumn festival, as it is better known to the less gluttonous) starts only in October, which means that when we went to Takashimaya (on our first day here, like 5 hours after touch down :P) the mooncake food fair was in full swing in the atrium! Managed to buy a box of taro mooncakes from Swatow Restaurant, and we have two teochew grandmothers who would like the taro mooncake with its signature flaky skin. This is probably the most difficult mooncake to make. All the lotus paste mooncakes tasted the same :S seems like it would make no difference whether you made them yourself at home (as my mum has been fond of doing) or if you bought them from a fancy hotel where in all likelihood you’d be paying for the box. Mooncakes come in really fancy boxes now, some come in a chest of 4 drawers where each drawer has a pearlescent knob and the entire contraption is upholstered in chinese silk.

We’ve been here for 2 days and already we have eaten
1. Carrot cake
2. Chicken rice for me (twice!)
3. Yong tau foo for him (twice!) – I learnt that the pork noodles that come with Koo Kee yong tau foo are lightly dressed with a briny, porky sauce that makes it taste very similar to aglio olio!
4. Old Chang Kee, which really ought to be everywhere. LZ says he likes their skewers more than their curry puffs. I like both! I also realized that the skewer that consists of deep fried squid legs is known as ‘squid head’ on their menu :S Don’t ask me why. The lady asked if I wanted the squid head skewer or the squid body skewer so I asked for the body, which wasn’t what she grabbed.
5. Zhi char at Dian Xiao Er – had their signature angelica braised roasted duck (I still don’t know how they managed to do a duck two ways all at once and retain its crispy skin), hot plate tofu, seaweed tofu (much less salty than Jumbo’s or the Paradise group, hence less tasty), marmite chicken, etc. etc.
6. Beef noodles from the Ion food court
7. Hum ji peng from the Ion food court
8. The famous Pablo cheese tart
9. Lao Ban dao hui

We notice new things about Singapore each time we’re back. For example, Old Chang Kee has a tea time promotion running from 2pm – 6pm where you can buy 4 skewers at $5 (each usually runs from $1.30 to $1.75). We passed by the shop, saw the promotion, and promptly tried to order it, only to have the aunty tell us unceremoniously “Not 2 o’clock yet.” Which was when we actually looked at the time and realized it was 1:50 pm :P Singaporeans really can be rule abiding to a fault. She didn’t even tell us to “come back later.” She couldn’t care less whether we patronized her stall or not. It was just very jarring coming back from the US :P I don’t think there are many timed promotions there. Like even the Wendy’s 50 cent frosty promotion ran through the entire summer.

We also overheard many snippets of conversation – not hard when you are a population of 7 million squeezed on this tiny plot of land. Tables in restaurants are typically really squashed together so you can easily overhear the next table’s conversation, whether you like it or not, and if you are buying things from a shop there is also typically a short queue, where many people with no concept of personal space will jostle you and let you in on whatever they’re talking about with their friends/family. Many people here have a very mundane concept of morality, most of which seems to have been lifted straight off from our civics and moral education textbooks (or 好公明) – tenets like
1. It is good to spend time with your family. Games that can be played by the whole family must be good!
2. It is good to help an old lady cross the road.
3. It is good to be nice to elderly people in general, letting them cut your queue and have their way whenever they want their way.
and other communist sounding nonsense.
And so many people espoused similarly boring views in the limited conversations we heard over 2 days! On the one hand it is adorable (how everyone is bursting with at least this standard morality), on the other hand I feel a little like I am on Camazotz.

Another feature of Singaporean conversations we noticed is that there is a brand of Singaporeans who like to expound extensively and confidently on subjects they know nothing about. Their tone is uber assured, like that of a Ted talk speaker speaking about his/her life’s work, but what comes out of their mouths is absolute gibberish. It’s really quite fascinating. In general when we’ve listened to people talk about things they are experts in they don’t really put in any effort in sounding confident? Professors usually only become a little bit know-it-all when they are impatient with someone who is not getting their facts right or making stupid assumptions. In conversation most people who know something about anything tend to be more self-effacing or open-minded so as to be able to learn more. Whereas these overheard conversations brought me straight back to my conversations with the natives 3+ years ago, where I actually resorted to naming one of them ‘genius’ and another ‘supergenius’ for their utter shamelessness in expounding on things they know next to nothing about. These evangelists also talk in a particular way that conveys that theirs is the only truth and that there is no other truth. I feel like Jesuits or Jehovah’s Witnesses would do very well here.

4th July

No update, just saw this on facebook and thought wtf. You can only eat sushi if you score 9 out of 13 on this quiz, and the first question is what fish is in a Philadelphia roll? Really?! Human cluelessness will never cease to amaze me. I don’t even like sushi but I feel offended on behalf of their inventors.

Anyway we drove up to Paradise on Mt Rainier today and my husband was doing silly stuff as usual:

“Does it look like I’m walking?” His core is too weak to hold his upper body up for any length of time. All the trails in Paradise were snowed over and we gingerly made our way up the Skyview trail(?) only to turn back halfway when everyone was basically sledding off this steep snow drift to get back down.

I’m really bad at going downslope because I am terribly afraid of falling and breaking my camera and/or any bones. Gareth was a champ and went all the way to the glacier view trail while we were napping at the visitor’s centre although I’m not sure the view was very different from base camp.

I need to stop taking photos I am completely swamped in backlog. And we are going to Vancouver in 2 weeks :S Maybe I’ll just stay indoors and otaku it out, I mean, it’s only Vancouver, we’ve been there tons of times, and if I go exploring I’ll just be spending more money :P I shudder to think of our expenses in the UK, especially all those delightful meals at Hakkasan. We already limited ourselves to weekend dimsum, which is vastly cheaper than meals at any other time, but at 65 quid a meal one does feel the pinch. On the upside, it’s 5% cashback at restaurants for Chase Freedom and Discover this quarter! Whoopie. I wish they’d learn how to arrange their cashback quarters so they don’t overlap :x


And so I’ve finally misplaced a piece of jewelry. Kathryn Schulz had a good piece in the NYer last week on loss –

Such losses sadden us because they presage larger ones — of autonomy, of intellectual capacity, ultimately of life itself.

I wore a necklace into the shower without thinking, removed it, wrapped it in a piece of kleenex, managed to remember to move the kleenex containing the necklace from the bathroom to my dresser… whereupon it lay forgotten until it morphed from “kleenex wrapped necklace” to “used kleenex” and made its merry way to the bin. T-T I’ve always wondered how people lose their rings gardening etc. and it seems that I have now reached that age.

We attended another chamber music concert (Bolcom’s Serenata Notturna + Schubert’s Octet) and it was fab. The violist switched out inbetween pieces and I totally didn’t notice – just whispered to LZ “hey, she changed her skirt.” (The first violist wore a burgundy velvet skirt and the second one wore a black one) He whispered back to me “the whole person has changed. By extension it is also true that the skirt has changed.” That just goes to show how unobservant I am wrt appearance. On our anniversary dinner at Six Seven I managed to wear my sweater inside out until halfway through the meal when he pointed it out and I bothered to change it (I wouldn’t have done so as an undergrad). There were like TWO tags sticking out :P In my defence it was one of those knits with the same pattern on the outside an on the inside. He calls all sweaters with that diamond pattern my “combinatorics shirts” because our undergrad combinatorics text had a similar diamond pattern on the cover.

The 1st violinist in the ensemble is the current assistant concert mistress of the Seattle Symphony. Both principal and deputy concertmaster seats are empty, and they are hiring. She broke like THREE horse hairs throughout the course of the evening! How hard is she pressing that bow?? The cellist was really cute. I think I just really like cellists. If you presented me a cellist on any Coffee Meets Bagel/Tinder platform I would immediately swipe right. He was this asian guy with a pompadour (tt LZ didn’t like) and I didn’t think he was cute at first but then he would break out in the most adorable grin in the middle of playing because he was really enjoying it (or missed a note?); he was grinning to the second violinist and it was so cute. I wonder if they have a thing going on. He was also really good, not as good as the Rimsky-Korsakov cellist but really on point, had mature expressions, and really shone in his solos. I liked the Octet a lot more than the Serenata, and would post a youtube link here only it was so much better in person than listening on youtube. Also I had an inaccurate memory of performing a Schubert trio in JC with a very pretty, ethereal nachtmusik mvmt (which was why I decided to go for this concert) but it turns out it was Schumann’s Fantaisiestucke Op. 88

(the fourth mvt is really pretty)

The last time I performed seriously (for exams and shit) was a decade ago, so you’ll excuse my faulty memory. While even looking for the name of the fantaisiestucke I came upon an old exam program and had totally no recollection of preparing those pieces :P
1. Poulenc – Trois Pieces: II Hymne
2. Beethoven – Sonata no. 6 in F major
3. Grieg – Violin Sonata in F major

Like I had to look the pieces up on youtube to verify that I did indeed know them and knew how to play them decently at some point in my life :x

Back to the octet, I really enjoyed the quiet movements and that bit where all the strings glided in so smoothly and quietly (the Illsley Ball auditorium has really good reverb). There were a couple of pretty embarrassing moments when the first violin cued in the final movement with an additional, accidental F, and another string bit in unison arpeggios at the end of the first movement when either the first or second vln played a Bb in an F major arpeggio :S – yes, I am that person who picks out mistakes – I don’t want to, they just jump out at me and niggle in my mind for the longest time. But Z liked them better overall than the Rimsky-Korsakov quartet, whose first vlnist he thought was a bit messy and perhaps complacent.

Am looking forward to the next campus club concerts! We also managed to score free parking that evening in downtown Seattle(!!) so the concert was totally free!

More shouts and murmurs

1. An Imagined Date Between Two Straight Men
LOL. This is EXACTLY how I would have written it.

Matt: It’s nice to finally meet you! I like your flannel shirt that smells like whatever soup you had for lunch.

The banal conversation and the fake feminism.


lol. I guess we can agree on one thing. I wonder if this is what all married women fantasize about. Their husbands running off with another man and leaving them well alone.

I mean, I am in several Whatsapp conversations with exactly two other heterosexual (or so I’m led to believe) men and it’s really quite accurate! Especially the Cards Against Humanity obsession. My heterosexual men are not so poncey as to discuss the postmodern condition or to call things “Kafkaesque” though.

2. Valentine’s Day word problems
Ah, I was falsely led to believe that it would be problems to do with words, like anagrams or some such thing. I forget that K-12 teachers here inexplicably like to call math problems ‘word problems’.

6. A friend sets you up with one of her co-workers on a blind date, on Valentine’s Day. At dinner, your date insists it’s important that “we give President Trump a chance.” If your youngest sibling is five years younger than you and is about to celebrate her second wedding anniversary in three weeks, how important is it that a couple has so much in common, really?

3. People more difficult to break up with than your SO

4. Classic Rom-coms Rewritten for Trump’s America
This makes me feel like rewatching all of them! It’s been more than a decade since I went on my romcom binge in rgs. To watch: Clueless, You’ve Got Mail, Maid in Manhattan, Reality Bites (have not watched?), Obvious Child, Casablanca, Kate and Leopold, Annie Hall, The Lake House. Well, maybe not Lake House.

5. The Kama-Sutra for Married Couples
As always, Simon Rich is gold.

6. The Cheater’s Guide to Love

7. Books just for grown-ups, with cute interactive shelf!

8. A Singaporean love story in civil servant speak
omg… “Irregardless”… the whole thing was so painful.

9. OMG This is me to a tee!

For years, I resented any recipe that called for tomato paste. It wasn’t the flavor of the paste itself, which I’ve always been fond of, or even my erroneous suspicion that its impact on finished dishes was overrated. Rather, it was the sight of yet another full can (less one or two tablespoons at most) joining its half-used predecessors in the back of my refrigerator, an elephants’ graveyard of forgotten tomato pastes in various states of decay.

Finally, a cute comic by Adam Ellis:
No automatic alt text available.

Anniversary 2017

Got up in the middle of the night (6:30am?) and couldn’t get back to sleep for awhile, so we decided to skip the Hilary Hahn concert today :P in favour of staying in. Sorry Hilary, I guess sleepiness and laziness won out over you in the end. We have seen her before at the BBC proms playing the Beethoven violin concerto but because the symphony doesn’t seem to have processed my campus club membership yet ($30 for all-you-can-hear) it was also a bit difficult to get tickets. I didn’t want to make the trip downtown only to find that they had no tickets left :S

It was a fantastic decision – I got up at 12-ish and made us an English fry-up
Full English Fry Up
with scored sausages and all (no black pudding). We didn’t have English muffins on hand so substituted with bagel halves smeared with raspberry compote from Dahlia Bakery.

I gave Z his present last night – a really vintage compass/sundial that I got from Pangaea in Nashville, TN

(which he already knew was coming) and a bottle of artisanal olive mix (which he didn’t know was coming). I had asked him to drop me off at Paper Source in UVillage ytd (believable, but not the true destination), from which it was a short walk to Pasta & Co., where I was first intending to get the olives. Some pricy Italian ones since he only buys cheap Greek varieties for himself. Pasta & Co. was closed! So I ended up having to go back to our regular QFC to find the best olives on their shelves, all the while stealthily avoiding him because I had sent him to get groceries while I was at Paper Source :P

This morning he gave me a really cool anniversary card:

that he made by cricutting the swans out, placing them on the white linen paper, lighting a candle and snuffing it, placing it near the paper+swan cut out and then covering the entire setup with a bowl. The wax vapor would then condense on the uncovered parts of the paper, making those parts hydrophobic.

Adding the yamabudo ink at the end was a nice touch, although it made the swans look rather more like flamingoes. Probably we should do more research as to the kind of paper to use that doesn’t bleed; the end result was rather unintentionally tie-dye-y:

He also gave me my presents (which I picked out :P) – a set of Sarasa milk colored pens (kind of like chalkboard ink) and also sent me on a washi tape hunt through the house

on the picture frame leading to the loft

in the bathroom

on the shopping shelf

on the ntuc water bottle

on the mechanical wave toy

underneath zassou

next to the crate & barrel fox

next to the pebble tower

on top of my muji humidifier

and on top of the chesapeake bay candle

There were 14 tapes in total and each one of them has really pretty watercolor designs on them and is 21m long!! About $1 each on Amazon, which is pretty worth it. I think the watercolor designs are much prettier than those in Paper Source and definitely more so than those in Michael’s etc. Then again, washi started in Japan and has had a much longer history in Asia than over here. Not to mention stationery in general is 100x more advanced in Eastern Asia than here, in terms of compactness, design, color, and efficacy. I remember being quite horrified the first time I went to the Cornell Store – the staplers are holepunchers are ginormous! Super heavy and super non-portable and you need a lot of muscle to use these tools, when their functions are really singular and can be easily outsourced to much smaller implements that are easier to use and to bring around. Case in point: I have been lending my classmates my stapler every time homework is due or after an in-class test ever since college started whereas in Singapore nearly everyone has one of their own in their pencil case from elementary school.

Doing the tape hunt made me realize how colorful our place is :P He could find objects to match every single tape to and I walked right past a lot of them without noticing them.

Watched two episodes of We Got Married (Jjongah) over lunch and then had our defrosted eclairs from TJ’s:
Trader Jacque's Eclairs
Trader Joe’s really has The Right Idea when it comes to dessert! Look at that shiny chocolate fondant! They should roll out a coffee eclair; I would be overjoyed. I believe it was something like $2.99 for a box of four. Which is ridiculous. I am never making eclairs again. The only problem is it takes like an hour to defrost at room temperature, and in our house the room temperature is quite a bit lower than the room temperature I imagine they think our house is at :P and it looks so delicious and beckoning more often than not we end up eating it while the vanilla custard is still partially frozen because we are piggy :S I think two hours is a more accurate recommendation for defrost time.

Links 2

Mainly for my own remembrance
1. Well people are actually moving to Canada

Also, a company called True North has sprung up overnight, in Vancouver, to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start poaching some of our top technology talent.

“Got U.S. visa worries?” the company’s website goads. “The solution is True North. We make it simple for you to immediately gain the necessary paperwork to set up a Canadian work and residency status similar to what you have in the US, so that you avoid disruptions or uncertainty relating to changing U.S. visa regulations.”

2. How the kiwi descended from the chinese gooseberry

It all began in 1904, when Mary Isabel Fraser, the principal of an all-girls school, brought back some Chinese gooseberry seeds from China. They were then given to a farmer named Alexander Allison who, planted them in his farm near the riverine town of Whanganui. The trees went on to bear their first fruit in 1910.

But, as luck would have it, neither the British nor the American attempt at commercializing the fruit was as fruitful. For example, the first batch of seeds brought to Britain’s Veitch Nursery all produced male plants, thwarting the growers’ plans to produce edible fruit. The same fate befell the U.S. government’s attempt. “It seems ironic that the sending of seed by a missionary to an amateur gardener should eventually lead to a new horticultural industry, when the efforts of the Veitch Nursery and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were so much less successful,” Ferguson remarked in his 1983 essay.

The gooseberry’s rebranding didn’t happen until almost 50 years after Allison’s trees bore fruit, according to New Zealand’s official history, when agricultural exporter Turners & Growers started calling their U.S.-bound Chinese gooseberries “kiwifruits” on June 15, 1959.

The fruit’s importer told Turners & Growers that the Chinese gooseberry needed a new name to be commercially viable stateside, to avoid negative connotations of “gooseberries,” which weren’t particularly popular. After passing over another proposed name, melonette, it was finally decided to name the furry, brown fruit after New Zealand’s furry, brown, flightless national bird. It also helped that Kiwis had become the colloquial term for New Zealanders by the time.

Huh. I thought it was at least hybridized or something but it looks like they took it wholesale!

3. On Puzder as labor secretary

A bit whingy and over-emotional/irrational. Like, if for the first 5 years of your job you hardly see any raises or anything wouldn’t you go looking elsewhere? Why would you let your career continue in the same trajectory? But yes, I see your point.

4. Jake Tapper grills Kellyanne Conway on Trump’s Lies

5. The dishes of different dialect groups each chinese new year
Thought the hainanese chicken rice with creamy mushroom and chicken sauce was quite weird haha. I always felt chicken rice was a 清 dish though, having a gloppy sauce is a bit weird.

6. On Emily Temple-Wood, the wikipedia editor who fought back online misogynist trolls by adding articles about underrepresented and unknown female scientists every time she received a threat or insult. People -.- Should learn that their personal insecurities are not a woman’s problem to solve.

7. This picture is me at any social gathering involving more than 4 people (including Z)

8. Flight Attendant Quietly Informs First Class Passengers Where Real Emergency Exits Are