Saturday, February 12, 2005

Can you believe it? My second time eating dim sum at the same restaurant with the same people in less than a week! It's M-i-L's birthday and we went back to Kia Hiang Gourmet for lunch to celebrate. No, I'm not really complaining, after all the food's good. The additional Peking Duck dish was a delish, though unhealthy, bonus. Sweet roast duck skin wrapped in a pancake skin with a sprig of spring onion (?) dipped in plum sauce. Only June could refuse this treat, adverse as she is to eating animal skins.

We also bought a durian cake from Angie's Choice. The cake was quickly devoured by the 8 of us around the table, and we gave a wedge to the friendly restaurant captain who paid our table so much attention. M-i-L blew out the single candle to mark the passing of another year.

Candles on cakes were once probably a test of a person's health as he or she aged. As long as the celebrant could blow out an increasing number of candles in one breath the person was still ok. Cutting the cake is probably the modern humane equivalent of making a thanksgiving animal sacrifice. Not a good idea to slaughter the pig on the dinner table these days. The guests will get their nice party clothes all messy and the floor will get all slippery, so a pretty confectionery would have to suffice. Easier to stick candles in it too.

M-i-L's birthday is within days of Mom's birthday. This year my sibs and I will be pooling resources to get her a much needed DVD player. They've really come down in price these days. I got a Sony one from Causeway Point for $159, a bargain considering my bro was thinking of a similar machine at closer to $200.

Now, I think a DVD movie would go well with Mom's new player. Hmm... wonder which movie would appeal to her and at the same time show what the new player is capable of...?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Someone was in a pink blouse in the staff room this morning. I thought I saw that blouse before and it wasn't on the person whom I remember was wearing it. One day last week Amy wore a surprising splash of colour compared to her usual modestly muted tones. It was a rather smart executive-style pink which made her look, um... happy. Today, however, Amy was flabbergasted that someone else was wearing the exact same blouse, someone who had earlier asked her where she got it from. I'm not certain of fashion etiquette amongst women, but it seems it isn't done that they buy and wear the same clothes as each other. Party in question: Mel. Good thing they didn't wear the same thing on the same day, else they just might have gone door-to-door hawking Avon products.

There was a lo hei session in the staff lounge. Interesting. Platters piled high with shredded lettuce, carrots, radish; bits of ginger, candied citron peel, crunchy things; pickled cucumbers; fresh pomelo with all the toppings and sauces. There was an ingredient conspicuously absent from the dish though -- fish. Apparently it's against regulations to serve raw food on campus in case people got the runs and sued the college, or worse, the Ministry. So we had a healthy lo salad instead, and to be honest, noone really missed the fish.

Spent the evening obsessing yet again over my yet-to-arrive M2. Found the official Japanese website for the M2, known in Japan as the "Demio." Apart from the regular versions, the Japanese have a Sports version and an ultra-feminine "Stardust Pink" version. The Demio also comes with a funky optional sun-roof which is not on our list of approved accessories here. Trust the Japanese to keep the fun stuff to themselves. Sigh.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Family lunch with the Wongs at Kia Hiang Gourmet, the Chinese restaurant in Sun Plaza. It's our annual family dim sum event with a marathon cheong fun eating session thrown in. I remembered how I was done in last year with deep-fried delicacies so I focused on the steamed stuff this year. The dishes were fresh and tasted quite refined. Unfortunately, my days of eating dim sum in quantity are quite over. I missed the crappy coffee-shop style chilli sauce that goes so well with har gow/siew mai; the chilli served here was too high class for my taste.

Wongs went on their second day of visitations while me and June stayed behind to catch Constantine. We had more than an hour to wait till showtime, so we wandered around the few open stores in the building to kill time. Eventually, we got bored of looking at toileteries and dollar-discount items. We were still too full for a coffee so we simply settled on a bench and watched a bunch of little kids abusing a coin-operated ride machine. Typical of kids -- play until cry. Kids are so predictable.

Constantine isn't a fun movie to watch per se. It's slow, methodical pace develops quite an interesting story taking licence from the Catholic mythos, but don't expect too much gleeful shoot-'em-up action. There is some, but it's not by gun nor by fist that Constantine saves the day, but rather by an appeal to a higher authority to resolve the situation; not the common approach for the run-of-the-mill action hero, but then Constantine is no ordinary hero. He smokes a lot and has terminal lung cancer as a result. His motivation comes from a selfish desire to "buy" his way into heaven, knowing that his ultimate destination is going to be The Other Place due to a mistake he made in his early life. A hero from the dark side, then.

Warning: the movie takes licence with the fundamentals of Christian belief, so if you are easily offended or confused this movie might not be for you. Else, be prepared for the kind of gritty storytelling from DC's adult line of comic books with its greater focus on human drama and experience than superhuman >pow< >biff< >bang<. In a way, it makes for meatier storytelling, but rates low on the fun index. Choice is yours.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The day passed without a lot of input from me. Just coasted over to the in-laws for a bit of lunch and gobble whatever I could of June's cookies while they were still obtainable. Watched Kung Fu Hustle on VCD. Sadly, it wasn't as funny as its trailer promised. We didn't bring Mimi back as she's still under 'treatment' at our place, but it felt strange being at my in-laws' and not having her around begging for tidbits and tummy-rubs.

When we got home in the mid-afternoon, we put phase 2 of Mimi's treatment in action. We took both Mimi and Q-tip for a long walk around Yishun Park. The park was quite deserted today so we took them off their leashes and let them just follow us as we trekked the jungle pathways. Idea was to tire Mimi out in the afternoon so that she would be able to sleep at night. There was an unexpected side effect, however. Both June and I were wiped out on the living room carpet in front of the TV for the rest of the afternoon. Went to my mom's a little late as a result.

Had lots of satay at mom's. Don't know where she got them from, but the sticks of beef and chicken were good and meaty; eaten with piles of onions, cucumbers and ketupat. And more of June's cookies. Over-ordered, as usual, and when we left there was still a number of sticks of satay left that we couldn't finish. OK, not exactly a traditional Chinese meal for CNY, but few stores are open today.

CNY: eat, sleep, give hongbao to younger cousins, nephews and nieces. And parents too. It's a whole different perspective after you're married.
Chinese New Year concert on campus probably isn't going to be as memorable as the breakfast after. 3 cars, 6 people running out to town for kaya toast at the original Killeny Road place. Unfortunately it was closed for the holiday. Decided to go to the nearby Dubliners instead.

Party comprised me & Boon Sin in Anthony's car, Tsui Wei in Vince's and Amy doing a self-drive. I was starving as I hadn't eaten in the morning, and presumably the others were too. Sadly, I had to forego the pork shoulder because reunion lunch with June's folks was in only a couple of hours. I contented myself with the fish fingers in chilli mayo, one of the lighter offerings on the menu.

Immediately after brekkie I scooted off for lunch. From my in-laws' place I picked up an unexpected bonus: Mimi, who has come to stay with us for another couple of days. It seems she has insomnia and as a result has been keeping the household awake at night with her barking for constant attention in the wee hours. We've been tasked with the job of training her back into her regular sleeping hours that are more acceptable to human habits, so we're hoping that our cats will keep her awake and occupied the whole day then she'll be properly tired at night and sleep like the rest of us. Once she's no longer insomniac we can return her to her proper habitat.

Abandoned all our animals to go to reunion dinner with my clan. The Peony Jade seems like a good place for reunion dinner -- especially during the second shift -- as the pacing is quite relaxed and the staff maintain their friendly demeanour throughout the 10-course meal, though they must be anxious themselves to go home to their own families. Food is pretty standard stuff. It was their ecologically unfriendly sharks fin soup that stands out for me as the most delicious dish of the evening. The bits floating around in the soup were chunky and gave the teeth something to do.

Nephew, Mark, had a reaction to the MSG, complaining of chest pains and facial numbness. His family took him to the hospital though, as we had predicted, his symptoms subsided while waiting to see the doctor. We guessed that Mark had been raised on healthy food since young and hasn't built much resistance against the introduction of unhealthy substances into his system. Unlike the rest of us.

We all adjourned to Mom's after dinner for loud conversation and June's cookies. Family chat till past midnight dosing on sugars and caffeine. Time for bed now... Happy New Year!

Monday, February 07, 2005

The world isn't a nice place; that's what one of my kids learned today. Leave your stuff lying about for long enough, when you come back something's going to be missing from it if you haven't taken proper precautions. Whoever it was who made my girl cry, I hope you have a dying mother for whom you bought medicine with your "takings." Poor kid's probably never going to be the same innocent from today, and what a loss that's going to be for the world.

Crime occurs because there is intent which follows through from opportunity. Intent cannot be prevented because that's trying to assert control over realms that we have no control over. What we do is control what we can control and that is, as far as possible, to reduce the opportunity. With half the equation gone, crime is unlikely to happen.

"Reducing the opportunity" simply means being responsible for what you have or what you are entrusted with. Don't leave stuff unattended. If for some reason you can't look after your own stuff for a while, get someone you trust to help you look after it while you're gone. In an ideal world, we needn't have to be this paranoid, but we do live in a nasty world so it's wiser to be careful than be sorry.

On another note, Mel, Pete and me finally sat down for a meal together. Scotts Picnic where we all had different versions of beef noodles. Wholesomely delicious, with rare broiled beef strips and beefballs in thick gravy and clear soup on the side.

Before that, we went to visit Tina first to sort out where we all were for Drama Night and what needed to be done from this point on. With Mel as den-mother, Pete as music director, Tina as drama coach, what's left for me is admin, finance and backstage (with Yee's help, of course). That means I really am Producer, a role I've never had to play before. It's going to be a stretch, especially since I'm removing myself a step away from the stage and handling overall management (I'm the Man now) but I can do it. I'm scared, but I've done various aspects of these duties before. I just need to pull them all together for this one performance, that's all. *Crosses fingers*

Sunday, February 06, 2005

It's Gerald's son's 1st-month cum baptism celebration. The Dept went to lunch at his place to congratulate the new parents and see the kid. We pooled our cash together and with June's help got them some things that we thought might be useful for raising young Ed. It wasn't the plasma screen TV Gerald asked for but it was the best we could do.

This is the 2nd 1st-month celebration I attended in 2 days running. Last night I had dinner at my cousin Raph's house in honour of Rachel, my new niece. Guests included his dad's (my uncle) side of the family and his mom's side. The side I represented, though chronologically more advanced, is curiously devoid of children. Raph's mom's side brought in so many kids we had to be careful where we put our feet to avoid stepping on one or another of them.

What reasons might there be for the disparity? The common factor I observe is in the strength of the matriachal influence on the family. A strong female presence within the extended family unites the disparate members, forcing (in a nice way) siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts together to enjoy common family bonding activities. There is a sense of family support; multiple redundancies -- like the Internet which has rerouting capabilities through damaged parts of its network. There is security in the family community that will continue to provide support for its members even if something untoward should occur to a branch of the family tree.

Also, there is reassurance in being part of a larger whole. Everyone else one is emotionally and physically close to is already establishing a family and having kids, so it's all part of a natural process of family continuity that is easily taken for granted. One cannot have or raise kids in a vacuum.

My extended family is pretty close to each other too, but not THAT close. We've moved away from that kind of communal lifestyle and it's hard for me to imagine doing things like that again. We don't holiday together, or enjoy recreational activities together, or even eat together; we don't spend much of the week together, just perhaps 1 or 2 festival days a year apart from the occasional "hey, Kit's back from England, let's go have dinner," kind of thing. So the family bond is looser.

Having kids -- apart from by 'accident' -- is not really a matter of want or don't want. It's whether having new issue can be supported by one's larger social context. For an extended family group that is already strong and well-established, kids arrive as a matter of course. For family groups with weaker bonds, kids could drive the different members even further apart because the priority is not towards the family but rather towards looking after the individual's immediate interests. Skipping Grandma's birthday dinner because the brat has to go for Chinese tuition, say.

The Appalachian version is a bit extreme, but yes, it's family that breeds family. And having a tough old bird of a Matriarch helps too.

Edit 01:
Chew, my sales rep at Mazda is moving things along for me. He secured my COE bid this month so today I went back to see him again to complete my first payments for my M2. I wrote 4 cheques: 1 for the downpayment balance, 1 to the bank for my 1st installment, 1 to the insurance company for my annual premium, and 1 for the upgrading of the M2's fabric interior to leather. Chew told me my car has already arrived in port. Mazda will close over CNY then on reopening will take two weeks to get it ready to my specifications and by end Feb I should be able to drive it home. Hmm... what does 'expedited' mean?