Saturday, June 04, 2005

Today was supposed to be a normal, boring, ho-hum day. One I was looking forward to. We brought Mimi back to stay with us last night and we took her and Q-tip for our usual Saturday morning breakfast walk. As we walked past the far end coffee shop, their harness bells (yes, they sound like reindeer when they go walkies) attracted Lung-Lung, a stray we haven't seen for quite a while.

The last time we saw Lung-Lung, she was a scrawny little thing who had lost most of her fur, though for reasons we couldn't fathom. She's a toughie, though. She had been attacked by a stray dog when she was a kitten, and till today the scars near her neck are still quite apparent. Today, she looked well-fed and she has recovered her lost fur. Her progress towards good health has been quite remarkable.

Here's the irony. Mid-day, Belle suddenly began miaowing in her panicked voice. She only miaows like this when we pack her in a travel cage and take her to the vet. She says, "miAO," emphasis on the last syllable, in this state. We went to see what was wrong and it was quite sad. She suddenly seemed to have lost the use of her hind legs. She was panting and the lower part of her body was cold. This didn't seem like normal cat behaviour so we called Dr Casey, who agreed to see her after 1400 though she didn't have a prior appointment.

Dr Casey didn't have good news for us. Belle had suffered a stroke and the resulting blood clot had cut off circulation to her hind legs. She didn't respond to the pain test and there was no pulse in her legs, so that's very worrying. What's hopeful is that so far she still has control over her bowels and that her general body temperature (she responded quite violently to the rectal thermometer -- she bit me) is still normal.

She'll be hospitalized for a few days while they try to dissolve the blood clot with medication and in the meantime she'll undergo further testing to see if there are other complications to her current problem. At least Dr Casey didn't say her condition was terminal, but how much use of her legs she recovers depends on how well she can respond to the treatment. Hopefully, we had brought her in early enough to be a factor in her recovery. Thankfully we hadn't left for Ikea yet, like we planned to do; else there'd be a major crisis when we got home in the evening.

Don't feel like going out right now. Apologies to Jordan for not being able to catch his last performance at Centrestage tonight before he leaves for the UK.

This is an unusual request, but say a prayer for Belle, ok?
Back on campus for more marking. Also for the company, particularly at lunchtime. I used to hate having lunch with people when I first started work. I'd leave early or later, after everyone else had left; or I'd arm myself with a book or magazine and bury myself behind it looking too busy to catch a familiar eye. Didn't really have much to say to anyone, and everyone was boring anyway. Or found me a bore, I guess it was mutual.

Glad I've found a crowd I actually like lunching with. Funny how life makes a sudden 180° turn when all along you think life will always go in the same direction. Today we made Amy drive us to GFC where we haven't been for so long. Rice and things still tasty and satisfying though my lunch companions found the towgay (sprouts) too hot for their taste. The dish was full of tiny chilli padi which gave a nasty kick, particularly since the dish isn't meant to be spiced up like that. But we took a relaxing break from our busy schedules just sitting at the coffee shop and discussing, for the most part, Anthony's upcoming wedding.

Shani opened her condo for the Drama Club to hold our long overdue cast party in honour of 'Oz.' We were there from a little past 1800. Apart from the BBQ, we got to try MJ's pasta marinara which was generously full of mussels. So that's pasta for me, like, 3 days in a row? Something like that. I've got pasta coming out of my ears now, and all I can say is, "ohboy, more!" Marco Polo might have brought my ancestors back to Italia on his last visit and a latent gene might have finally kicked into action in me. Italian food. Love it!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Q-tip came back from grooming this evening. She's been looking like a fuzzy puffball running around the house. Her legs were slowly disappearing under all her fur so we finally decided it was time. Dominic sent her back to us neatly trimmed. A sort-of schnauzer cut for her body and we can see her face again, too. But she's still pretty much ball-shaped. It wasn't all the fur making her look fat, it's because she is fat that's why she looks fat. Definitely diet time for her. And more exercise too. For someone who sleeps 23 hours a day, her condition shouldn't be surprising. Walkies, anyone?

But her walk had to wait. June found an easy-to-follow recipe for pasta in today's 'Urban' supplement of our local English daily and she tried it out for dinner. I've copied the recipe below if people are interested:

Penne with tomato, bacon and chilli
Serves 4 to 6

500g dried penne, a tubular pasta
1 teaspoon salt
250g streaky bacon, sliced into strips
2 medium-sized purple onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato puree (not tomato paste)
2-3 red chillies, sliced into rings (the smaller the chilli, the hotter the sauce)
A big handful of fresh basil leaves
Black pepper to taste

1. Put a large pot of water to boil, add the salt. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

2. Meanwhile, stir fry the bacon in a non-stick wok or saucepan over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes more till the whole lot is really fragrant.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and chillies. Tear up half the basil and add to the pan. Stir well. When sauce bubbles, turn heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.

4. If the sauce is too sour, add a pinch of sugar. Not salty enough? A pinch of salt should do it, although the bacon should be salty enough. Too thick? Thin it down with some water or white wine. Then add some freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

5. Drain cooked pasta and pour it back into the pot you boiled it in. Pour sauce and mix wellso the sauce coats the pasta. Spoon into a large serving dish or into individual pasta bowls. Tear up the rest of the basil, sprinkle over the pasta and serve.

In case you're wondering about the "serves 4 to 6," June just recalculated the amounts for just the 2 of us. And she added in a few finely sliced white champignons 'cos we love those.

Spent the rest of the evening watching "Madagascar" which I thought was hilarious. Now I'm quite inspired to send Momo and Belle back to live in the wild. They're becoming so spoilt with their urban lifestyle here. I'm starting to feel a pang of guilt, like I'm keeping them from their true destiny. Just kidding.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

It's bad to stay at home all day, especially when you know there is outstanding work left to do. There are too many distractions at home, TV, DVD, PC, console game device, pets, that work rates pretty low on the "things-to-do" list. No social life to speak of since I am isolated from everyone else. What to do? Everyone I know is busy with their outstanding issues too.

So today, I'm on campus, and I am being a lot more productive. Marked 10 scripts already and I'm rewarding myself with a quick post. There are people here too, and there is an opportunity for a sociable lunch to look forward to.

Don't ask about the scripts I've marked, though. They're nothing to be proud of. Whatever have I been teaching the kids? At least I know what to focus on next term: how to argue with a strategy to win (as opposed to rambling random thoughts with vague reference to the topic of the essay question). How to win arguments and influence people. Yes.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Finally, after being nearly 400km overdue, the M2 got his 5000km servicing done. Another Mazda owner *cough* had told me that the process would take the whole day, but I was able to collect my car at 12. Not bad at all.

So Mazda gave me a coupon for free servicing, plus a car wash and vacuum at no extra charge. They replaced my engine oil and topped up all the various fluids -- hydraulics, coolants, cleaners -- and checked for possible defects due to wear and tear. M2 got a clean bill of health from today's inspection.

While M2 was in the shop, I had nothing to do from 0930 onwards. My intention was to mark essays, but the workshop guest lounge didn't have tables (and why should it, anyway?), it was dim, and it had a TV blaring away. Not... conducive.

So I took a bus (gasp! public transport! how plebian!) into Toa Payoh and discovered that most stores open at 1100. So I just wandered around like a disembodied spirit looking for an unobtrusive place to park myself, though I didn't have much luck there. No unoccupied benches, so I just had to keep walking.

Finally collected M2, just in time to meet June for lunch. I had another craving for pasta, so we went to Al Forno Tratorria, a class above the Pastamania, etc., that we are so used to. The restaurant had heavy wood furniture and patrons tend to be business people, or from the tai-tai variety. In my ah-pek t-shirt and berms, I felt a bit underdressed, but hey, whatever, I was there for pasta and not to make an impression of myself.

What can I say? Beautiful lasagne, so smooth and creamy, with meaty beef chunks rather than the sprinkling of ground beef that we get in the el cheapo places. They even make you decide what kind of water they serve you, "still or spa?" They then bring a 1 litre bottle of mineral water with an impressive label on it, and pour your first glass out for you. Classy.

Warning: our pasta was a bit too salty. June's spaghetti vongole tasted like it had been cooked in sea water, and this was the one anomaly that marred what might have been a truly gorgeous experience. Next time we go, we'll definitely ask for way less salt.

Cost of meal for 2: $54. Explains the fishball bee hoon soup I had for dinner.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Yay! The mid-year break is upon us! No time-table to adhere to, no formal tutorials to conduct, and the time is mine to do what I want. And what do I want the time for? Marking a rather large pile of essays! Yes!

Spent the morning in the staff room ploughing through script after script, oh, and only another 50 more to go. Gotta get them done in the next couple of days so I can get into the frame of mind to tackle the NE backlog and the miscellaneous other items cluttering up my desk. I do so love vacation time!

I was there when the Council dragged themselves back from Ubin. The Elects, having been thoroughly indoctrinated, enthusiastically greeted passing staff in unison, united in their loudness. They must be glad to be home after 3 days in the wilderness within the nurturing confines of a BMT-style boot-camp.

Vince and Amy came back with them, obviously tired out, hungry and grouchy. The wilderness must have done them some good too. But they were also obviously unlikely to want to go bowling tonight, so I bowled with June at SAFRA. A 4-game average of 154, which isn't bad, I guess, but I'm still being held back by my inability to convert simple spares. Oh, well, today's performance impressed the kids bowling in the next lane. I'm still gonna havta' do better than that, though. The next fixture is in July, so there's still a few more weeks left to train.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A group of 40 Japanese dropped in on service today. Our invited guest item from the "J-choir." They sang gospel, not J-pop, unfortunately. But it was a very sweet choral performance, very competent, and very understated. No particular need to get dramatic with their presentations, they just sang and harmonized and blended their voices together, and I really appreciated them for that. No outstanding soloists, no ornateness, just sincerity of effort put in by everyone. Good job.

But my attention was fixed on the projection screen on which a slideshow of scenes of daily life in Japan was playing. The streets, the forests, people at work and at play, different kinds of attire, different kinds of food, flora and fauna... What captivated me was that the photos were simple, yet so well composed. Lines, textures, lighting, action and atmosphere. It felt just like looking out of a window and seeing things happen right in front of you for real. Wish I could take pictures like that.