Friday, August 19, 2005

Was appointed Designated Driver to take aged parent (mom) to cousin's farewell party. Cousin is leaving for England on a 5-year apprenticeship in organ grinding building and repair. There are only 2 such apprenticeships offered by H. & H. every year so cousin's off to learn the ropes and become the only guy licensed to service the pipes at the VCH, the Durian, and 9 other locations in Singapore when he takes over from the current one upon his return.

He's one fella who has made a mid-life career switch -- he worked in Education until recently -- and has given it up to pursue his personal esoteric dream. Our family Christmas parties will suffer now that there's no one left of his calibre to play the keyboard to accompany our carrolling. Oh well, the neighbours will just have to put up with it for a while.

Spent much of the evening watching a ping-pong discussion between Architect Uncle and Pipe Organ Cousin over organ mechanics and specs. Usually eyeball rolling subject matter but cousin has such passion for it that I was rolling my eyeballs right-left-right instead of up-up-comatose.

If you have a pipe organ that needs maintenance in 5 years' time, I can pass on his contact.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thanks to June and her magical efficiency we've got our tix to fly and room in BKK so now we need to get the proper personal admin done. Leave applications have to go out to our respective Heads, and NS overseas notification needs to be submitted. A few clicks online should do it. And then we wait.

Meantime, life goes on. M2 met Eddie again for his bi-monthly grooming. I've been quite lazy with M2, and you can tell. Dusty exterior, floor mats full of bits of grass and other vegetation dragged in by an assortment of feet, white dog and cat fur that stand out so conspicuously from the carbon black leather upholstery, dashboard turning slowly greyish under an accumulation of street dust.

I knew Eddie would faint when he saw the extent I would be pushing his grooming service, so I didn't hang around for another round of lectures on proper car maintenance procedures. I parked, took out my bowling ball from the trunk, tossed the key to Eddie then walked very quickly towards Orchid Bowl for a round of "secret" training.

I decided not to pick up a new 13 pounder for the time being but since the competition is next week I had to reacquaint myself with my 11 quickly. Did reasonably well with the lighter ball so I should still be able to continue using it for another while more. I'll be glad to save the $200+. Never know when another major expense might become unavoidable. Heh.

By the time I went back to collect M2, Eddie was just putting the finishing touches on the rear-view mirror. He'd done a great job, as always. Shiny exterior, polished upholstery and dashboard components, spotlessly vacuumed mats; enough of a morale boost good for a couple of days, at least. With my luck it'll probably rain tomorrow, but I'm used to that already.

As soon as I arrived, Eddie saw his chance to close shop and go home. "Just in time!" he said, then promptly skipped off. No time to harangue neglectful driver then. Saved by the bell!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Making further plans for BKK. Now we've got Wendy helping us look for options for flight and hotel. Guess it's really going to happen so I'm going to mentally prepare myself. Fodor's, Lonely Planet and other travel guides are going to be my Required Reading for now. Maybe I'll even schedule some time to hang out at the little Thai supermarket downstairs to absorb atmosphere, examine (and sample?) the contents of those intriguing bottles and jars on the shelves, and to listen to people speaking Thai to see if I can make any sense of it.

Actually I'm quite reasonably well travelled. I've just not visited my back door before. Maybe I'm overreacting?

Edit 01:
Temporarily interrupted. June came in to boot me off the PC so she could surf the Tiger Airways website in search of a better deal than the one we received earlier today. Indeed, air tix and accommodation do seem somewhat cheaper if we book through our local budget airline.

June and I called Amy and put her on speakerphone so we could discuss these new possibilities. Such animation, such excitement in our voices as we struggled with the arithmetic involved in figuring out which were our more financially viable options. Now it's up to Vince and HP whether these new rates and schedules are acceptable to them.

Considering how psyched my travelling companions are about this trip, maybe what I'm planning to do isn't such an overreaction after all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A historic occasion for June: I'm actually considering taking a trip to BKK with her. Call me prejudiced, spoiled, whatever, I have yet to be convinced that there is any attraction there for me to enjoy. Shopping? I don't even shop here. Tourist attractions? Puh...leeze. Beach? BKK is landlocked, no beach in sight. Food? The less my stomach encounters spicy, sour cuisine, the better it is for the sewer system. Beautiful exotic women? Umm... let's just say that I become a tongue-tied nitwit just facing ordinary local women already. Imagine what an exotic beauty could do to me (let me clarify: you're supposed to imagine the worst case scenario, ok?).

Yeah, ok. Very stereotypical view of what the Thai capital might offer me. On her first trip, June immediately wanted to go home, but she stuck around (no flights available for the next six hours, probably) and fell in love with the place. No telling that I might do the same too. Or not. But I'll never know until I try, ain't that right?

Much as I prefer travelling alone, in order to convince me to go where I've always resisted going, I feel better going with the right company. June, of course, but she's got her objectives locked in already so I'm going to need others around with perhaps other more diversified interests so at least I can keep my own options open. Who's signing up for this little cross-border jaunt? Well, let's take down a few names and see, shall we...?
1. Amy
2. Vince
3. HP
Think the list is just about full. How about it, Anthony? Wendy?
I haven't handled a 13-pounder since NSF days but I actually found one that fit my fingers at SAFRA this evening. Since Amy bought an 11-pounder for herself and my own 11-pound throws have been going wild these last few games, I theorized that I needed a heavier ball for better control. My 1st game with the house 13 went just fine: 155. Then in subsequent games I started throwing inconsistently again. Scores were still ok, though: ranging from the 130s to 160.

So now I have a decision to make: do I have to get a new ball because my current one is too light for me? If I do, do I get a 13, or heavier? How much will a new ball improve my game? And what is to become of my current 11-pounder? June says she'll take it over as long as we seal up the current holes and re-drill new holes for her fingers, but my poor ball will look horribly disfigured if we do.

Also, budget-wise I don't have that kind of cash to spare right now. I promised myself an austerity drive for the next couple of months just to make my bank account look a little healthier than it is now. Ha ha.

Dinner afterwards found us at the last coffee shop on Casuarina Road, ostensibly to share a couple of noodle dishes amongst Anthony, Wendy, Vince, Amy, June and yours truly. But the crabs looked irresistible so we ordered 2 of the Sri-Lankan variety, one steamed and the other in chilli. Big suckers they were, lots of meat and full of flavour. Wonder if crabs, like oysters, taste best in months that don't have the letter 'R' in their names, i.e., May, June, July, August? These fellas sure sustained the theory.

On the way home from dinner, M-i-L called while I was driving and asked for the Animal Rescue Squad to spring back into action. One of her neighbours had picked up a Pomeranian stray and, mistaking M-i-L's flat for an animal shelter, left the poor boy-boy with her. She in turn called us, knowing our reputation for animal philanthropy.

He turned out to be slightly bigger than Mimi, but a lot friendlier. Our idea was to bring him back to our place and keep him till we could find a good home for him. This turned out easier than we expected. There was a cute teenage girl hanging out with her cute boyfriend in the exercise area on M-i-L's void deck. June immediately went into her sales-pitch mode and after some exploration of the girl's options, allowed her to play with him. Sold. 'nuff said.

Just as we were bidding the new "family" farewell, the dog though he would demonstrate his affection for me by humping my leg. One quick extrication later and June and I fled for the M2 before anyone could change their minds.

Good deed done for the day!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Utterly boring day with very little activity. So boring and I have so little to report that I'll just make a short comment on my marking of essay assignments so far: Either I'm getting more generous, or the kids are writing better, more thoughtful essays. No failures so far, and a handfiul of actually logical, readable scripts that seem above the usual average I'm used to marking. Maybe a whole weekend is too generous a time limit for them to get a short essay done?

Other than that, 3 hours of CSI (thanks, AXN!) on a Sunday night and my eyes feel like they've been burned out of their sockets.

Oh, and June's acquired her own set of Uno cards and she's practicing for a rematch. Guess who her sparring partner is? Ouch...! *nurses bruised ego.
Went browsing around Suntec City in the early evening and found a little chocolatier called, "Royce'," a brand of Japanese chocolate. The outlet is run by a Japanese lady proprietor who freely hands out samples from behind her counter. It was love at first bite for June. Just a tiny piece of dark chocolate on a toothpick packs enough flavour to fill the whole mouth with rich, chocolatey goodness; and it melts readily on the tongue, almost instantly turning into its molten state, so creamy and smooth flowing down into the bottomless pit we like to call the stomach.

It's not cheap, obviously, but it was hard to resist. June bought a standard bar of dark for $6.40 and with a little persuasion got me to purchase their signature product which they keep stored under refrigerated conditions at roughly double the price. Because the latter requires refrigeration, for the ride home it comes wrapped together with a slab of dry ice in a heat dissipating cooler bag. They warn that the packaging is only good for 5 hours transit time, so it's best to save chocolate buying for the last stop before going home. Mmm... chocoholics unite! But save a few pennies first, ok?

Immediately after, we did the most appropriate thing to follow up. A quick drop off into our home refrigerator first, then we sped off for the evening screening of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The movie's a visual treat, full of colour and quirky designs. Willie Wonka seems to be the Michael Jackson of the candy industry, that is, his isolation from societal norms rather than his penchant for having kids stay over to jump on his bed.

As Wonka evaluates his 5 guests for the big prize, he lets them eliminate themselves by providing opportunities for them to indulge in their particular "deadly sin." The kids represent gluttony (Goop), pride (Beauregarde), avarice (Salt) and wrath (Teavee), but Charlie is the most well-adjusted of the lot because his family balances him out. Wonka, himself, has a troubled past and Charlie eventually helps him to see that love isn't just a chocolate-induced endorphin rush to the brain.

What we have here is quite a fun movie to watch. It's got Burton's dark-whimsy touch all over it which I like. Still, it's not one of those movies that make me feel I want to get the DVD for my library either. Once is enough, I think.