Saturday, June 30, 2012

Asian fruit cornucopia

It's been a couple of years already that I've sworn off durians due to them being a contributing factor to my asthmatic symptoms. Note that it was never a formal diagnosis, pending further confirmation. Since then, I've not had a relapse in a long time. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been pushing my limits little by little. The big test arrived today in the form of the big durian party organized by the neighbourhood residents' committee. For $8 per head, each of us was entitled to four whole stinky fruit ("bad ones can exchange!"). That's quite a leap of faith for me as previously I was restricting myself to about four individual seeds per sitting.

Apart from the main attraction, each table bore an additional load of fresh tropical fruit. Do I have to name them all for you? Fine: mangosteen, longan, rambutan and what we colloquially call 'baluku' or langsat.

While I suffered no relapse, eight whole durians between the wife and me were simply too much to stomach in one go. Fortunately, she had foresight enough to bring containers for 'afters'.

This is one lucky recipient of our doggie bag. Both Pebbles and Q-tip are big durian fans. If we ever want to buy durians, we should bring Pebbles. He can tell which are the good ones and will miao to indicate his preference. Those that don't interest him invariably turn out to be lousy.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Return to sender

Took the nephews with us to watch The Amazing Spider-Man. While I enjoyed the movie -- and considering it's reboot of a familiar story, it still manages a fresh, new perspective on the character and motivations of Peter Parker without looking like a rehash -- it was more significant for me that the few hours spent with the boys taught me a little bit about parenting, and how terrible I would be at it.

Two parameters clearly set this situation from a normal night of parental supervision: the first is the short-term contact with the promise of return-to-sender at the end of it, and second, there's no biological imperative to particularly look after their welfare. Social obligation, maybe, but definitely not biological.

The evening went more or less like this: as soon as they got into the car, our conversation turned mainly towards me questioning their every utterance and making them think about what they had just said, examine their assumptions and evaluate their conclusions. Note that they are still in elementary school, but still they were quite game to engage in logical thrust-and-parry. Now everybody's more appreciative of the criteria determining the difference between "near" and "far" as diametrically oppositional yet relative concepts, or more confused... I'm not really sure.

It took a neutral third-party to ask if I had considered the rating of the movie for which I was bringing kids to. I just assumed they'd be let in with no trouble, and indeed they were, but a more conscientious parent would have done some checking first, wouldn't they?

Fortunately, they had a wholesome dinner prepared by their grandma. I was prepared to stuff them with a burger and fries if they were hungry. I still stuffed them, anyway, with a Wendy's vanilla Frosty while we waited for the cinema to let us in. The boys were trying to outdo one another shovelling increasingly bigger spoonsful of frozen dessert into their mouths until the inevitable occurred. They experienced brain-freeze, I had a laugh. And that was before the medium caramel popcorn and Coke that I let them share during the movie.

On hindsight, that extra sugar that late at night might have sent them bouncing off the walls until the wee hours, so perhaps that wasn't really a good parenting strategy either. Not if I wanted unbroken sleep and not have to deal with nightmares and beasties-under-the-bed every five minutes or so. Wonder how their parents handled it after I deposited them at their doorstep and waved goodbye-thanks-for-a-lovely-evening-hope-yours-went-well-too?

To be honest, I did have a good time with the boys, but probably because I could stick to my nutty uncle mode without the need to be a parent. Hat's off to you if you are one! :)

To Riang we go!

A toast to HP to celebrate a slightly belated birthday! (And to whatever it was that Josh and Wayne were celebrating).

We made the staff of La Pizzaiola and Wimbly Lu really happy with our entourage of lunch seekers. These two trendy establishments are housed in neighbouring shophouses on Jalan Riang.

The former serves an Italian menu. The portions are generous for the price; and full of rich, strong, hearty flavours. Whether it's the Parma ham, the creamy mozzarella, the fresh rocket or the robust lasagne, the tastebuds sing with every mouthful. The impact can be a bit much for some people, though.  Fortunately, there are others at the table who are less finicky and will gladly clean up leftovers and table scraps to minimize wastage.

The pix (above) is of Wimbly Lu's s'mores pie: a blend of chopped marshmallows baked over a layer of cream over a layer of chocolate, held together by a crumbly biscuit crust. Looks sweet, was sweet. Discovered that despite having a high tolerance for pasta cream, I got to saturation rather quickly with sweet, creamy dessert. Perhaps if Elim hadn't been distracting me with our Plants vs Zombies co-op game, I might have passed on my dessert to somebody else with a sweeter tooth than me. Never mind, curiosity sated. Next time, I'll go back to the root beer cake a la mode.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Location, location, location

As the mid-term marking season plods on, the talking point of the day is suggesting the best places to get marking done.

There is a premium on being the first to spill the beans on the coolest, hippest, newest, caffeine-enriched locations that tolerate lead-butted patrons who hog the table with piles of reading materials. But you'll get no such tip from me.

My fave marking location is to sneak an unoccupied classroom, windows open, one fan activated (no air-con) and a couple of rows of lights on. Working in isolation with nothing and no one to distract me, I can be quite the grading machine.

For breaks, I have an abundance of floor space to practice crazy walks on, and a panoramic view of the neighbouring blocks beyond the running track. Yay. It should also be near enough to the campus cafe and to the toilet, yet far enough to have to think twice about abandoning my stuff for a quick cuppa or sprinkle.

Such luxury is hard to come by, though. Have to make the best use of it this week while everyone is on exam-mode. This self-imposed exile is also a penance for not being as diligent as I should have been over the mid-term break. :p