Saturday, March 24, 2007

The air-con unit in my bedroom had a surprise for us when we woke up this morning. When I turned it off, there was a small waterfall coming out of the vents, drenching my headboard. Then it made some odd cracking noises that went on for more than a minute, which prompted an investigation. As I lifted off the faceplate, a glorious sight greeted me. Completely covering the vents and sealing the filters in place was a layer of pristine white frost, smooth and perfect like the first snowfall. My air-con literally froze up overnight, and I'm at a loss as to how it happened, and whether it could happen again.

Should I call the maintenance guy again?
M2 went into Mazda for his 40,000 km servicing. Replacing engine oil, brake fluid, coolant, spark plugs and battery, plus doing all the other routine maintenance jobs cost nearly $400. Just thought all you non-car owners out there would like to know.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This week has been good for food and company. Tonight a section of our dept and Wayne went to the newly opened Punggol Choon Seng for a seafood dinner. This outlet is supposed to have survived from one of the original seafood joints at Punggol Point (well, that's the impression I got, anyway).

They serve an outstanding mee goreng, which I think is cooked with some chili crab gravy. It's moist and has a hint of crab flavour that whets the appetite for their house speciality, um, chili crab. For our table of 8, we ordered 3 medium crabs and 2 plates of mantou (June described them as 'cute', Josh just said they were 'small'). Juicy, fresh, fleshy crabs swimming in a generous dollop of chili gravy.

As Mel said, it's so seldom that we get to enjoy a 3-hour meal together. Tonight's non-celebration was special. Rounding out the table: Amy, HP, Belinda.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Met Jen for dinner at Le Point de Vie, a little French restaurant on Waterloo Street. June brought Pam, her friend from work, and Adrian made up a table for 5.

It's good to be among these guys 'cos they remind me what working outside of academia is like. Their responsibilities are immense, and their job-scope seems to be ever-expanding all the time. Keeps what I do in perspective, and I'm grateful.

For us, uninitiated in French cuisine as we are, we ordered a variety of starters to share: the brie salad (my fave cheese), the king-prawn salad (nothing new here), and escargot (flavourful with garlic goodness). We each ordered our own main course. As I was feeling adventurous, mine was the pork belly served with a large oyster mushroom. It didn't take much to fill me -- the pork belly had a layer of fat that made feel real full real fast. Dessert was another decentralized affair. We shared a hazelnut torte, a souffle in Bailey's sauce, a molten chocolate cake and what looked like a cocktail of nata de coco mixed with some high-class lychee jello.

Bill came up to $80 per person (excluding June whom we insisted shouldn't pay for her own birthday dinner).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tonight's production of the Madhatters was quite a treat, considering we haven't been to the theatre in such a long time. The Madhatters are an improv comedy club that play their shows through a series of "games" somewhat similar to TV's Who's Line is it, Anyway?

We went to support Tina who sort of leads the group, but also because the show is a guaranteed good time. Based on suggestions from the audience -- and they sometimes can get quite outrageous -- and within a given set of rules per game, the company spins a story completely unrehearsed. Because it's all imagination and play (as in fun-and-games play) the humour is always unexpected as the performers switch scenarios and play different characters on the fly.

Tonight, in the game of "old job, new job", from suggestions from the audience, we had a scene in which a sex-worker turned dentist performs an unforgettable tooth extraction on an "unsuspecting" dental patient.

The improv musical numbers put the performers to the test as they have to sing about various audience members, given only their names and other small bits of personal information, and rhyming the couplets as they go. One song was about a Roberto from Milan who was an engineer but wanted to be a mountaineer instead. This song was particularly difficult as the performers could only take turns to sing one word at a time.

And as an unexpected tribute, thanks to Tina, June and I got our lives as a couple turned into an opera as the grand finale to tonight's show. Of course, the story was made up, but there were occasional flashes of "yeah, that is so us!" amidst all the hilarity. Bet Tina had always wanted to roast us ever since our wedding. But she behaved herself then, and tonight, she let her creative licence reigned unfettered.

Glad Mel pushed for us to go tonight, and Wayne too. A fitting reward for being good and marking my quota of scripts over the last couple of days.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Actually quite proud of myself having pia-ed through my vacation marking and completed it all in the last weekend. And, no, I didn't scrimp on my comments on the kids' essays either. Everyone got their fair share of unintelligible red gel-ink scribblings in the margins and wherever there was space.

Had to be done. Got another load of essays today from the block test, and another tight deadline to meet. Brain a bit fried now trying to read essays about the "relevance of moderation in today's society"... who came up with that question, anyway?

Kids keep saying that there are certain behaviours that need to be moderated or else terrible things will happen to the individual or to society. Therefore moderation is relevant today. Sure. Fine.

But this answer quite misses a major facet of the question. Why does the question put the focus on today's world? Obviously, there has to be some comparison between then and now. Has the world since changed in such a way that moderation seems no longer valid? or useful? or even advisable? What have these changes been and how have they altered our view on the concept of 'moderation'? Implications of and effects these changes have had on our lives? Well, something like that, anyway. Ok, really too fried to think coherently any more...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

150 grams of pure beef in a hand-packed patty. Covered over with a layer of melty mozza cheese. Topped with sauteed shitake 'shrooms. Served on a bun with onion rings, tomatoes and lettuce; a mountain of fries on the side. Welcome to the Botak Burger, set meal edition.

Made the mistake of ordering 2 sets and dessert. There was more food there than June and I could finish. Or we're just getting to the age at which our appetite outstrips our capacity to consume. If we had ordered just 1 set and 1 additional burger, that would have been perfect.

Anyway, that was the first phase of June's birthday dinner. Jen's trying to put together phase 2, maybe Wednesday.
300 is the ultimate NE movie for adults. In an age that's fashionable to portray teenage nancy-boy GIs whining for mommy while they're leaking blood and guts all over the countryside, Frank Miller reminds us once again what "dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori" means.

It's been a long while since there has been a movie featuring a bunch of soldierly-type fellows so eager to die for king and country. The volunteer civilian army packs up and leaves first sign of trouble, but to the Spartans, "no retreat, no surrender" is the code they grimly lay their lives down for.

And for what? After all, Xerxes did promise to leave Leonidas warlord of all Greece if only Leo would acknowledge Xex as Grand Poobah Overlord of Everything. Bit of an expedition Xex has mounted just to make the Greeks call him "uncle," I'd say.

But Leo would rather die a free man than a puppet king of a larger empire than he knows what to do with. And that's the price of freedom, fought over and paid for in blood. What? And you thought your freedom was a basic human right?