Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Meh. Cardiologist raised some concerns over the treadmill test results. Tested positive for hypertensive response to vigorous activity, he says. Recommendation: pending further and more thorough investigation, keep physical exercise light; walk, don't run. So much for representing S'pore in the next track and field international.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Health screening with breakfast

One unexpected bonus from getting a full health screening at Abundant Health is this food voucher for an all-day breakfast at the cafe next door. It's very thoughtful of them as we had to fast 9-12 hours prior to the medical evaluation. Since insurance was heavily subsidizing the fees, we went whole hog with the exam and basically got everything looked at. I can now describe the prostate procedure, but suffice to say that you kinda' curl up in a fetal position on the table, then everything goes sideways from there.

Anyway, the Grande more than makes up for the fast, the evacuations, the extractions and the probes. Two eggs (poached would have been preferred but sunny-side up makes for a more colourful pix); toast, buttered, slightly salted; chunky, fat sausage; and real bacon! Loads of rocket tossed in the middle as a nod to healthy eating -- it's a cafe in a hospital, after all.

La Ristrettos offers a fully Italian menu in a cosy little nook between clinics. If indoor seating is full up, there are some al fresco tables in the garden area. The environment is warm and inviting; and probably great for quiet reading or chillin' out while pop classics play softly in the background. A hidden treasure, this place.

Because of a prior optical condition, I took an extra consultation with Dr Audra. Unexpected bonus #2: after nearly 30 years living under a medical injunction I've been green-lighted to run again. Though the old scars are still apparent, there has been no re-occurrence of that old injury and so I can live a normal life again -- as long as it doesn't involve bungee jumping, muay thai or MMA grudge matches... the fun stuff. Tomorrow: the dreaded treadmill.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


While May's out of town, we are tasked with changing Pebbles' litter. He's very protective of his stuff, so to avoid getting bitten or scratched when messing about with his precious litter box, one of us distracts him while the other works very quickly to get the job done. Here, I've got him occupied doing baby seal impressions.

Baby seal in a barrel o' crude.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday gas tank syndrome

Achievement unlocked! First time ever, M2 crossed the 500 km odometer reading on a single tank of gas. Under 'normal' circumstances, at the 450 mark, a visit to the gas station is due. Yes, there's probably such a thing as 'Holiday Gas Tank Syndrome' (HGTS). When we're on vacation, we select our drive routes and most optimal drive times, avoiding the rush hour crowds. So instead of expending fuel stuck in a jam, we're chalking up more kilometres for every unit of fuel burnt. Still, hitting 500 km before the first warning indicator lights up is an unprecedented feat for M2.

By the time a thirsty M2 got his drink, he'd travelled 501.1 km. Doing the math, fuel consumption was 14.16 km/l, or about 32 mpg (US). Sure, it's not the most energy efficient engine out there, but it's the best performance M2's given so far.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dog in the city

Needed company on today's early morning walk. Have dog but cannot travel on public transport. Had to park at the Singapore Flyer instead. The parking lot is open air so dog need not transit through any indoor locations to reach street level. Two loops around Marina Bay: 9 km

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First memories of Doom

Doom is 20 years old today. 20 years ago, I was a fresh grad returning home from a journey that had taken me to the other side of the planet.

One last souvenir to bring back with me was a precious 5-and-a-half inch floppy disk with the freeware version of Doom on it. Technically, the program was free. But id Software's servers had crashed, not being able to cope under the overwhelming demand on release day. My flight was scheduled that very night, so my absolute last commute to downtown TO was to hit a computer store that charged me a princely $5 for a free game.

I'd seen the demo in a shop window and was blown away. Wolfenstein 3D was already something to obsess over, blocky and pixellated as it was. Doom smoothed out a lot of the blockiness, making the monsters look so much more realistic, lighting effects made the environment more atmospheric, working stairs and elevators gave the illusion that there was an 'up' and 'down' adding two more degrees of movement to the usual four (forwards, backwards, left, right).  I wasn't dreaming of coming home for Christmas; I was dreaming of battling demon-aliens on Phobos.

Needless to say, the more you want something now, the longer you have to wait for it. When I finally arrived home, the ants in my pants had already grown to colossal size -- but my suitcase simply would not open. The locks held under different permutations of 3-digit combinations. I realized that this. was. not. my. suitcase. In catching my connecting flight in SFO, I must have grabbed the wrong one off the carousel. Hey, it was 0200 in the morning.

The next day, I brought the not-my-suitcase back to the airport and reported my own as missing. The response was immediate. Somehow, my suitcase had followed me back and was waiting to be collected in the unclaimed baggage department. BTW, my suitcase looked nothing like the suitcase I swiped from SFO. Mr Blur strikes again.

Finally. Finally! After about 48 hours unnecessary delay, gaming Valhalla opened its gates to me. The rest is history. My name is Xmac and I am a gamerholic.

Monday, December 09, 2013

City walk

So this is Orchard Road at 0703 hrs. Quiet, cool, very little pedestrian traffic, though the air smells a bit smoggy. Took the free early morning SMRT ride into town to try out a new long walk route. No Tasha 'cos dogs not allowed on public transport. From Orchard station as the starting point, this route took me all the way to Temasek Boulevard, looping around Marina Bay, ending up back at Raffles City; a 9.2 km trek. 

Sad thing is, this early in the morning, there is hardly any place for a bacon and eggs breakfast open. Had to settle for a pathetic roast beef sandwich from Starbucks -- too much sandwich, not hardly enough roast beef. Sigh, if I really wanted a roast beef sandwich, I'd go for Arby's... but we don't have that here.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

'C' is for cookie

The wife's been busy baking up a storm of these almond cornflake cookies. Not for us, though. They're her contributions to a charity fundraiser. Who knows, maybe it's also a hint as to a whole new career direction for her?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Leaning tower of PISA

A bit late to chime in on our national success at PISA, but the results have been impressive. Internationally ranking second in mathematics, third in science and reading, what's not to be chuffed about? Well, in terms of ambition, we're aiming way too low.

Wait. Backstory: Over the weekend, I bumped into a trio of my graduated students. We chatted at length about how everyone was getting along. All three are currently engaged in undergrad programmes and should be living the Singapore Dream for their stage in life.

But they're not happy. Everyone told them that 'life would get easier at uni', but guess what? Everyone they know is still studying their brains out 24/7, just like they were at JC. Nothing's changed except that it's even harder to socialize now that their class schedules are so diverse, it's difficult to meet anyone even for a simple meal. For the one enrolled in the University that is supposed to "Make a difference", he says that at least things are marginally better there, and that if he had gone to either of the other two more established unis, he'd go nuts.

Our three chums, like many others in their cohort, have no idea what they are studying so hard for, other than that everyone else is studying equally hard and if they don't keep up, they're bound to lose out. They want a way out before they become 'zombiefied' (their terminology, not mine) like everyone else.

See what I mean by not having ambition and not aiming high enough? For many of our kids, their only ambition is to top the subject, top the class, top the cohort and scale the increasingly leaning tower of PISA. Once they've done that -- and many of them are doing exactly that -- then what? Oh, right. Climb the corporate ladder as high as they can go... and then? Retire comfortably, fizzle out and disappear back to the nothingness they came from, I suppose. Woohoo!

I'm so proud. These three musketeers may not have been my best scorers in GP, but they learned my most valuable lesson: don't be a corporate zombie. They have seen through the empty shell of academic ranking and now they're asking about what else there might be for them.

So, lesson #2: Note that academic and career achievements are inherently selfish goals. The effort is entirely aimed at benefiting oneself and not anyone else. Instead of wasting your youth pursuing meaningless 'A' grades, go explore other areas of life and find something you really enjoy doing. How will you know what that might be? Simple: you will enjoy it so much, you will want to share it with other people. At that point, the more you share with others, the better you will get at sharing it with others. Translated into academic terms, your 'A' achievements become meaningful because the knowledge you are gaining is helping you become a better sharer of that which you enjoy most in life.

This is not to say that there is no ambition at all among Singaporeans. We've done some marvellous, even miraculous things with our little nation. We just need more people with more audacity to dream up and do more crazy things. Whether it's rocket scientists; Olympic competitors; big-name entertainers; environmental crusaders; cupcake chefs; or mad doctors looking to cure cancer, we have them, but we could always use more. After all, the kids are already doing well in school. Do we really need more academically high-scoring yet aimless corporate drones?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Pig out weekend

Hur. What's the point of taking daily walks to burn off calories when they all come back on the weekend?

Well, it WAS a special occasion (alert: pure food porn follows):

Location: Angus House, where the service dresses in French maid costume and the chefs cook in full view of the dining patronage

Ordered the rib eye steak set comprising...

a prawn roll, which is roughly equivalent to a popiah but with Thai/Vietnamese skin that has the more glutinous texture, upended so it looks like a kueh pie tee set. A nice, fresh starter that only whets the appetite for more.

Soup. This one is the cream of corn. Very smooth... maybe too smooth. I like my corn soup with some kernels to chew on, but otherwise a good soup.

Salad served with an Oriental dressing, mostly soy sauce based. The combination is light and tangy while the salt of the soy sauce works to heighten the appetite for the main course to come. As far as possible, the dishes here reflect a European-Japanese fusion philosophy without going overboard with creativity.

At last, the tender, juicy rib eye arrives on a sizzling hot plate. The texture and consistency make it one of the best steaks I've ever had. On top is a pat of butter on a slice of lime -- a very simple but effective enhancement to the oddly dry-ish, yet fruity gravy you can see at the bottom of the pix.

Dessert is a mango pudding topped with vanilla ice-cream, another fusion idea that works so very well. Sweet, smooth and cold, it rounds out the meal satisfyingly.

That was dinner. Breakfast took us back to PARK @ Holland Village:

In the foreground is the main breakfast set, background is the smoked salmon crepe.

In detail. The Parma ham (between the sunny sides) is an optional extra. The pancake would have been served with syrup, but I'm on a diet. Yup.

The latte bears a portrait of Tasha, probably inspired by the fact that she's under the table -- so cute!

Ok, enough with the food. Back to losing weight in the morning.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

From France with love

Didn't know what to expect from a performance celebrating French music by four male cast. The blurb promised "A musical revue about love and other accidents!", but it stymied the imagination as to how they would pull off the passion of French romance with no mademoiselle treading the boards with the monsieurs.

It turns out that French music embodies a lot of narrative; that each song (or chanson) is a theatrical piece in itself. Whether it's about a heartbreak, unrequited love, bawdy drunkenness, or an old man's longing for the glory days of yore, each song comes to life via stories retold in situational choreography mostly done in congruent cabaret style.

The focus is on four highly influential French singer-songwriters (male, of course) spanning between before WWII till the contemporary period. For the sake of the audience, most of the lyrics are English translations of the originals penned and sung by Gainsbourg, Brel, Trenet and Aznavour. In more or less chronological order, the cast introduced each artist briefly before presenting their most iconic songs.

The overall programme was a well-chosen melange of narrative themes, some heavy and regretful, others light and comedic, while a few others had hilariously lascivious overtones. Leong, Goh, Chan and Furnell look like the're having a ball telling these stories. The choreography is slick and their voices blend well together. Overall presentation: delightful.

Staging-wise, quick and simple costume changes facilitated some of the storytelling effectively. The lighting rig at SOTA Drama Theatre is to be envied. Such a variety of gobos create illusions of so many different surfaces and textures stories could be told upon. There were a couple of hiccups with sound at the performance I watched, but quickly resolved with minimal impact on the presentation.

"A French Kiss in Singapore" really is a lot of fun. An evening of song, dance, storytelling, and a brief history of French music by Sing'theatre turned out to be a lot more entertaining than I had initially expected. The Drama kids chose well for their enrichment outing this year.

AFKS runs at the SOTA Drama Theatre till 7 December 2013.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Down by the riverside

A new long walk route to try: Punggol Waterway Park. NParks has done a terrific job of prettying up the Punggol River. Although it now looks manicured and well-maintained by an army of gardeners, it still retains its authentic swampy, all natural smell.

Such a long stretch of picturesque greenery to traipse along. My route took me from the main car park all the way to the Sunrise Bridge and back along the opposite bank.

Tasha will tell you that the mad not-Englishman was at it again. It's blazing hot today, and he didn't bring enough water. Fortunately, there are public toilets at both ends of the route for a top-up of fresh tap water and a vending machine for cold drinks (the one at the Sunrise Bridge end only accepts old coins, not new). 

Tasha can't resist taking a peek at the river from this end of the Sunrise Bridge. The name suggests that perhaps the best time to walk this route is early morning. Will keep that in mind next time.

Finally back at our starting point, taking a break before crossing the Adventure Bridge back to civilization.

Yes, Tasha deserves a good lunch after all that calorie incinerating exercise.

Me too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rain on our parade

Totally underestimated the circumference of Bedok Reservoir. That wouldn't have been a problem, necessarily, except for this torrential downpour... which the weather reports were warning about, but somebody evidently didn't listen. At this point, it's too late to turn back and run for the car. At the same time, it was one heck of a walk to complete the circuit in this crappy weather. In between breaks of, ahem, extreme humidity, we ran (ok, brisk walked) from cover to cover, making the 5km distance seem miserably interminable.

By 'we', I mean the dog and me. That's one wet and miserable dog taking shelter with me in the porch of a public toilet awaiting our first break in the weather. It got progressively worse from here on out. Mental note: DO trust the weather forecast next time you're planning an outdoor activity. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Coffee, cake and dog

In our quest for more dog-friendly eating establishments, Tasha and I visited PARK at Holland Village. While the staff are very friendly with dogs, perhaps the place still isn't all that well-known to the dog owning public. No other canine friends were around for Tasha to socialize with. Anyway, there is only one table reserved indoors for diners with dog. Dogs and owners are free to sit at any of the outdoor tables. PARK is still working on a menu for pets, but for the moment, it's food for humans only.

My craving was initially for cake and coffee, but this appetizer of a portobello mushroom topped with a mound of crabmeat, Parmesan and alfalfa was too tempting to pass over.

An iced latte was refreshing in the warm, humid afternoon.

This wasn't the cake I had in mind, either; but I'm a sucker for banana pancakes. If it's on the menu, I have to try it. I like the thick stack of pancakes sandwiching slices of slightly scorched bananas, but I could have done without the caramelizing on the topmost banana slices: too sweet for my teeth. The a la mode vanilla ice cream was a nice counter as it had the full flavour of vanilla (including the little black dots of real vanilla) without being too sweet.

 And, of course, the dog who is happy to be out and about in the afternoon, sniffing new smells and sampling bits of banana from the pancake.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tasha visits GBB

Another nice day for a walk. GBB is setting up a tropical Christmas backdrop for seasonal photo ops.

Oy! Tasha the photobomber.

GBB has quite a few of these odd, scenic touches which can only be improved by the presence of a dog.

Next time, I'll remember to carry some treats with me so that I can get her to focus on the camera and not on whatever's behind my shoulder.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Long walk: by dog

I Tasha! Erm, no, I mean, 'Anonymous'! I taking over my stupid human owner's blog to protest my mistreatment!!!

Stupid owner taking me on a loooong walk. His idea was to walk from Kent Ridge Park to the Henderson Waves. We got lost once, retraced our steps then found out that the path was right all along! Extra 2 km added to a 12 km route.

Henderson Waves at midday. No shade! Only mad Englishmen and dogs go out in the noonday sun. My owner is not an Englishman, but he is mad.

Oh, my Dog! Crossed the bridge -- for no purpose! Then crossed back. Why???

Yay! Water break!

The Forest Walk is very high. If you look down, it's so scary! But where my stupid owner walks, I must follow anyway. Stupid pink leash.

Finally! Back at the Hort Park. Five minutes to rest and drink more water at the pool. I not liking pools. Places where they have more water than I can drink is scary.

 Ah! The reward for a long walk is a fat sirloin steak, medium-rare at the Colbar which welcomes dogs like me!

Aaa...! This is my biggest complaint! My stupid owner so stingypoke! Ate the whole plateful and only left me three tiny beef cubes of lean meat. Even the gravy he cleaned off first! Haiz.

Total walking distance: 14.1 km. I have proof! I never walk so far in all my life!

And who sleeping in my comfy bed while I was out??? Ah, me, such a tough life, I having!