Monday, June 30, 2008

Alison Bechdel's Compulsory Reading

Alison Bechdel is cool.

Due to popular demand, she posted the comic essay, Compulsory Reading that she she did for Entertainment Weekly a while back.

It's a funny piece, about the anxiety some of us have about the need to read the Classics, the Important Book - like Moby Dick (Nope. I'm going to my grave without slaying that White Whale.) C'mon, admit it - you feel that guilt some times, when you look at that copy of unread Ulysses on your bookshelf, right?

If you haven't read Fun Home, I would really recommend it. Or you might like to wait for The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, a selection of the best of the long running comic series. Coming out this November.

Actually, I would recommend Fun Home over Dykes to Watch Out For. Sorry if you're a fan - but I just don't get the series. Maybe it's just a cultural blindness on my part.

I don't get it.

Random Sleater-Kinney Fangirl Notes

Because when all you have are crumbs, you might as well make a banquet out of it.

Carrie Brownstein reads Black Swan Green (David Mitchell. I approve) and enjoys Fleet Foxes, which she has described (to her own chagrin) as "Baroque Shins". [Source]


Of the track, "He Doesn't Know Why" she found it "melodically evoked that precipitous but gleeful fall into love, not to mention one out of every ten wedding ceremonies."

I have to admit, I'm warming to Fleet Foxes. Grand, lush melodies - probably sung by bearded men in flannel shirts.

At least that's how I imagine it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

BOOK | The Graveyard Book

Thank you to the nice people at HarperCollins for this Advance Reader's Edition of The Graveyard Book. It was a breezy, fun read, and I should have finished the book earlier - but life interfered with my reading plans. *sigh*

The story begins on a cheery note - with a family massacre. The father, mother and daughter were killed in their sleep. The youngest son, a toddler, survived because he was the sort that liked to crawl out of his crib and wander. His adventurous spirit saved him, as his wandering brought him to a graveyard where he was saved from the murderer in pursuit. The late Mr and Mrs Owens, who had no children when they were alive, adopted the young boy, who was named Nobody Owens. What better name is there for this child, who is living but lives amongst the dead? So the little boy is named Nobody, although they call him Bod, for short - because Nobody is kind of a stupid name, no matter how apt it is.

Because of the unique circumstances of the boy's existence, he also gains a guardian: Silas - the enigmatic figure who is neither of the living or the dead.

In the realm of The Graveyard Book, there are the living, there are the dead, there are day-folk and night-folk, there are ghouls and mist-walkers, there are the high hunters and the Hounds of God. Then there are the Silases of the world; they are the solitary type.

Little Bod grows up in the graveyard where he is loved and cared for by the dead. He is educated in the magic of Fading, of Fear and Dreamwalking - and on the whole he is happy. Except Bod has never been the kind of boy to stay still. He starts to venture out to the world of the living, even attends a real school - where the living seems a nastier place than his graveyard home. On top of it all, Jack, the man who killed his entire family, comes closer to locating Bod, and to finish the job.

This is the story of Bod, and Gaiman takes his time to explore the magical world of the graveyard denizens, and what happens when the world of the living and the dead collide. Gaiman knows his myths and fantasies well enough so that these elements in his story reads like familiar memories of stories we have been told before. He proves again that what he does best is how he uses the old stories, gives them a good spin so that they become fresh and new when he tells them in his own voice.

I admit, there are some scenes in the book that feel like "fillers" to the plot. These are the moments that feel like they do nothing more than to provide Bod an adventure. They slow down the momentum of the story a little - but they are never boring. I would have preferred a leaner book, one with a tighter plot - but that is because I am an impatient reader. But on the whole, it was an enjoyable read without a dull moment.


Afternote: I was re-reading what I wrote about The Graveyard Book, and I don't feel like I did justice to the book. I'm not good at writing about a book without spoilers.

There are a few things I would have liked to mention, but that might give away some of the suspense and mystery when you guys read it yourself. So, we'll discuss it on your blogs when you guys are done, okay?

'FESS UP FRIDAY | On Characters

I missed last week's 'Fess Up, and I'm late on this week's entry. But I want to do something vaguely 'Fess Up because if I miss two weeks, then it's easy to miss three weeks, then four weeks, until I stop doing it altogether.

Firstly, no word-count this week because I was too busy with work and meeting up with people. I read only a little, but The Making of a Chef is exactly the book I needed for researching one of my main characters. So, it's slow progress in the right direction. :)

I end with this little quote on writing your characters:

Frederick Buchner wrote:

You avoid forcing your characters to march too steadily to the drumbeat of your artistic purpose. You leave some measure of real freedom for your characters to be themselves. And if minor characters show an inclination to become major characters, as they're apt to do, you at least give them a shot at it, because in the world of fiction it may take many pages before you find out who the major characters really are, just as in the real world it may take you many years to find out that the stranger you talked to once for half an hour in the railroad station may have done more to point you to where your true homeland lies than your priest or your best friend or even your psychiatrist.

~ Quoted in Bird by Bird

This rings so true, because right now, one of my supporting character is threatening to dominate the narrative. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I guess I'm not really in the driver's seat here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Slightly Relaxing Saturday Post

For all of you who are particpating in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon this Saturday (28th July):

Good Luck!

There has been a dry spell for book related posts, so I'll just throw in a list of my recent acquisitions:

  1. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach

    I guess in a way, this is the direction I am heading for: a journey, done independently. To find out for myself, by myself, who am I. We are often defined in relation to others - daughter, mother, friend, co-worker. If we take those relationship away, who are we?

  2. The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos [Translated by Rémy Rougeau]
  3. Mouchette by Georges Bernanos [Translated by J.C. Whitehouse]

    Two novels by Georges Bernanos, yes. In one of the more disreputable introductions to a book, I first became aware of Georges Bernanos through Robert Bresson's film adaptation of The Diary of a Country Priest.His country priest seems like a self-doubting loser - thwarted at every corner, unhappy, unloved, lonely. His only consolation seems to be writing in his cahier. Bresson put great care into the scenes of writing, as nib meets paper and ink runs over the pages. It was a captivating film, one I could watch over and over again.

    Georges Bernanos seems to be an inspiration to Bresson, as the filmmaker also adapted Mouchette, which NYRB has wonderfully published. You can't go wrong with NYRB.

  4. The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares [Translated by Ruth L.C. Simms]

    I first read about Casares from Alberto Manguel's A Reader's Diary (a book that might have influenced the creation of this blog!) Manguel was full of praise for Casares's imaginative prose. The recent write-up on Boldtype reminded me to pick it up. Who knows, I might just bring it over to Dubai.

I'm still on the prowl for a digital camera, so this should be on my list of "Things To Do" this weekend.

But this Saturday evening has been reserved for the Anoushka Shankar concert.

Beatles fans would probably be familiar with Ravi Shankar, the great sitar master who taught George Harrison how to play the instrument. Ravi became known to the West during the '60s, when he played at Woodstock and the Monterey festival and collaborated with the Beatles.

Anoushka Shankar is Ravi Shankar's daughter - a musical pedigree, of a sort. She started learning how to play the sitar when she was 9, and by 13, she was performing by her father's side.

Anoushka Shankar's repertoire is rooted in India's rich tradition, but also influenced by the music of the West. This is all thanks to an upbringing in London, New Delhi and California spent listening to artists such as Sting and Tori Amos.

"People tend to find a big difference between me and other Indian musicians," she says. "I have fun on stage. I like to groove."

Do we call it fusion? Or perhaps Anoushka is just the current generation of musicians and artistes who knows boundaries are nothing but a state of mind.

Here are some Youtube videos if you are interested in checking out her music.

Anoushka Shankar performing at the San Francisco Stern Grove:

Anoushka Shankar performed live sitar solo as the opening number at the "Concert For George " (2003):

Ravi and Anoushka Shankar performing together:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It Has Been An Intense Week

When was the last time I posted? I know, it's only been a few days, but these past few days feel pretty intense.

Since I released the news of my Dubai stint, friends have been calling for meet-ups. I understand the sentiments behind my friends wanting to meet up before I go. I was happy to oblige - until the reality of the situation hit me: my normally placid and spacious schedule has spun out of control. My evenings are now scheduled for back to back dinner dates . Yes, I feel loved. But I wish my friends could meet ALL TOGETHER instead of insisting on the one-on-one meetings which are more time consuming. And some friends insist I meet up with other friends whom I don't care about - just because! I have missed yoga class two weeks in a row! Somebody help me!

Okay, I admit: it's because I have never been a social creature to begin with. So when my social life goes into overdrive unexpectedly, my "Fight-or-Flight" instinct kicked in. It's a feeling not unlike Orpheus being torn to pieces by the raging Maenads.

A part of me now just wants to fly off to Dubai without telling anyone. Just to get away.


I haven't been able to read much either. I have returned all but one of my library books - Making of a Chef - because it is really interesting, and it's also very relevant to some of the ideas I have been exploring for my "Novel-In-Progress".

I've missed 'Fess Up Friday last week. I doubt I can find the time to write a 'Fess Up this Friday either.


Flickr and Facebook are apparently banned in Dubai. Oh god. What am I getting myself into with this overseas assignment? How do I keep in touch with my friends? Blogger is still allowed, right?


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Random Stuff From My Old Work Desk I

I'm in the process of clearing my old work desk. Over the past 7 years I really nested in that tight little corner.

I'm taking pictures of the desk as I'm clearing it bit by bit. If anyone is interested in following the visual archive of my packing process, here's my Flickr photostream.

Among the items on my desk is a simple little note that I've kept in plain view for the past few years. It is an extract from the Dhammapada. I kept it there to remind myself of one of the most important lessons I have learned. Everyday remains relevant to this day, because it is a lesson I need to relearn every single day.

As it goes in the Dhammapada, "All that we are arises with our thoughts./With our thoughts we make the world."

We are owners of our karma. For me, this revelation was liberating - as we maketh the world with our thoughts, so can we mend it. Suddenly, change is possible. It all begins with awareness. Love is a choice. Hate is a choice. Forgiveness is a choice.

"I can't stand them!" is a delusion. So is: "I can't forgive her."

Note to Myself


We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind

And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakeable.

In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.

You too shall pass away.
Knowing this, how can you quarrel?

Sometimes, when I talk to my friends about this idea of the karma of change, I get the looks of skepticism. I get similar reactions when I talk about what yoga means to me.

"You sound like a self-help book," someone once said to me.

"I know," I would reply. "Who would have thought?"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Question asks 17 practitioners The Question: "What in Buddhism have you changed your mind about, and why?"

My personal favourite, or perhaps, the one that resonates most profoundly with me, is this reply by Steve Hagen:

I used to think I could be a Buddhist, but it seems you can only be a Buddhist by not being a Buddhist. To take on any kind of identity at all is to misunderstand the subtlety of what the Buddha taught. Saying “I’m a Buddhist” only makes “me” distinct and different from others who might call themselves something else. And what have I done? I’ve frozen myself into an identity. Now perhaps I’m proud of myself because I’m following the Superior Way. Or maybe I’m more likely to take offense. After all, I chose Buddhism, didn’t I? Obviously it’s better than your way.

This deluded understanding only encourages endless trouble. It doesn’t mesh at all with the exceedingly sane and practical teachings of the Buddha. What he showed us is how not to embroil ourselves in such confusion and suffering.

We won’t find freedom by making ourselves into something particular, including “a Buddhist.” Gautama’s teaching points out that we’re never anything in particular—in fact, we can’t even find that thing we commonly preoccupy ourselves with: “me.”

Taking on an identity and slapping on a label cheapens the Buddha’s message and invites more heartache, anger, hatred, pride, and confusion. Instead, we need to see such confusion for what it is and not get entangled in it.

[Read All]

SHARLEEN SPITERI | An Idol From My Youth

One of the senior department managers at the office is a big fan of Cliff Richards and Olivia Newton-John. Punks that we are, we snickered at her love for what we called, "old-fart music". We felt no guilt about it, because trust me – she has no qualms about laughing at us for whatever reasons.

If karma has its way, this is going to come back to haunt me. I am at the age where the artistes I adored in my youth are gradually moving into similar "old fart" terrority.

The artistes of my lost youth might also now be washed-out drug addicts or alcoholics - but not necessary so. Some of them moved on to other careers, or they are now mothers who want to concentrate on raising their children. Not that it's a bad thing, wanting to raise your children - but is that why Sleater-Kinney is no more? *sob*

The music industry is brutal, especially to women of a certain age. Not everyone has the ability to reinvent and renew their appeal like Kylie Minogue or Madonna. This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found out recently that Sharleen Spiteri has her first solo album, Melody, coming out this year. Spiteri has been the frontwoman and poster-girl for the Scottish pop group, Texas for the past 20 years. Now at 41, she is finally venturing into a solo career. Some might argue it's a little late - but I like to think she has not gone gently into the night.

I was full of glee and I was full of anticipation for the July 21st release. (I hope I can get my hands on the album before I leave though) Like a geek,I googled Sharleen Spiteri for news and preview streams of the new album. That's when I read the unkind piece that showed a picture of an obese Sharleen Spiteri, and described how Spiteri was snubbed by a younger artiste when she asked for his autograph – at her own birthday party.

I despise the person who wrote that story. How dare you.

Sharleen Spiteri is an icon. She showed all the tomboys out there that you can swagger in your Levis, boots and leather jacket and still rock sex appeal. Beauty isn't defined by a skirt or a dress - it's about your style. Her Scottish accent and great voice also helped. A lot.

Here's Sharleen Spiteri and Alan Rickman (yes, Severus Snape himself) in the music video for "In Demand". If you fast-forward the music video, you get to see Spiteri and Rickman do the tango:

This is the official music video for the single, "All The Time I Cried" music, on Youtube (The MTV was shot by Olivier Dahan, the French movie director who made La Vie En Rose. Yes, the guy who made the Edith Piaf movie) Spiteri has gone for a more retro tone to her solo album, a little Nancy Sinatra, a little Dusty Springfield at times:

For fans of Sharleen Spiteri: a bootlegged Live/Acoustic version of Spiteri performing "It Was You". It's stripped down, Spiteri with just two back-up guitarists. There is no 2-hour hair and make-up styling. Just Sharleen Spiteri in jeans and an old sweater, her hair tied up, with the occasional stray wisps around her face.

I am biased, but I like the austerity of this little bootleg. That she is sex symbol, icon, star - but take that all away she is still a singer gifted with a great voice. Even after all the success she has enjoyed, she is still capable of buklcing down to work hard to produce music that people respond to. That is the real reason she is still around after all these year

Melody, out in stores July 21st, 2008.

Join Sharleen Spiteri on Facebook

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scheduled Reading For This Weekend

I am Aries; we hate to wait. ;p

Building the Highest Tower in the World

I was just reading The Independent's article about the pending The Mile High Tower - 'to be built in a "mini city" near the Red Sea port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, [which] will be about 1,600 metres tall – seven times the height of the Canary Wharf tower in London Docklands, or four Empire State buildings on top of each other.'

The Mile High Tower is set to beat Burj Dubai, shown in the picture above, as the tallest building in the world.

It could just be the fact that I spend 10 years in a Methodist mission school - but the first thing that comes to my mind is the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel.

The article is interesting, because it states that we actually have the technology to build really high building - but often it's the money and the practicality of it that stops us.

It is just not practical to build a building too high. Imagine an elevator ride that takes 3 hours. It's like being stuck in traffic vertically. In fact, we are not meant to go too high:

There's also we frail humans to consider. If an express elevator – at speeds up to 25mph – went from the ground floor to the top, we could pass out due to changes in the air pressure.

Imagine telling this to your boss: "I am late for work because I passed out while taking the lift."

There is no logical explanation for wanting to build a tower that high - except the very human condition of egoism - because we can.

Once again, the story of the Tower of Babel comes to mind.

If You're Going To Dubai For A Year (At Least)

… what would you pack?

This is the ultimate test in economy and minimalism. How to pack the least to last for 1 year (at least) in Dubai? Things are expensive and I am poor, so I better bring just the essentials. Shipping thing over will be expensive. So is shipping stuff back.

But the girls have offered to send me instant noodles via post to help tide me over from time to time. Yay!

Must take iPod. Definitely. I am currently using a Nano. But maybe I should upgrade to an iPod Classic, with all 160 GB of memory?

Do I have enough songs for 160 GB? Oh yeah.

I hate to over-pack, but I will need to pack cooking and dining utensils. D'uh. Can I just buy it cheap over there?

Random bookish panic: What if I really need to re-read something – but I have a copy at home? It would be spendthrift to buy another copy at the inflated Dubai prices.

I will allow myself one carton of books. What books should I pack?

This feels like a Desert Island Reading List (albeit a huge, ostentious island):

  1. Definitely the final two volumes in the Proustian epic: The Prisoner & The Fugitive and Finding Time Again. I swear to finish In Search of Lost Time.
  2. Dostoevsky novel(s) – but which one(s)?
  3. Colette's Earthly Paradise
  4. Giuseppe di Lampedusa's The Leopard
  5. Jose Saramago's Death at Intervals
  6. ????

Hmm...I have 2 French, 1 Italian, 1 Portuguese and 1 Russian on the list. Who else should I bring with me?

If you were going away for a year to a place with no access to library and books are expensive, what books will you bring?

Endnote: Also reading: Dubai Explorer: The Complete Residents' Guide. *yawns*

Public Libraries in Dubai

I'm pretty much screwed on library books over there, aren't I?

DUBAI — Though Dubai is fast emerging as a melting pot of cultures, the Dubai Public Libraries comes across as an institute catering only to a specific community — that of the Arabs.

The lack of sufficient books in English has led to a general belief that the libraries are only meant for the nationals or the Arabic speaking people. Though the service and the dedication of the public libraries’ staff to improve these services is impeccable, the libraries’ collections of books leave much to be desired.

There’s a huge gap left for those wanting to enjoy the literature and other books in their native language. There are around a quarter million books in Public Libraries’ huge collection, out of which 60 to 70 per cent are in Arabic, this includes a special collection, where rare books as old as a century are stacked.

Almost all of the special collection is in Arabic, which leaves a non-Arab with not much of a choice to browse through. Had rare collections in English been stacked, this part of the library would have thrived even more. All the million plus collections are connected via the computers and thus available in all the Dubai libraries branches.

[ Source: Khaleej Times Online ]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Moving to Dubai the Sequel

Dear Friends,

Thank you everyone for the very kind and very good advice.

Something happened at work today. Maybe it was the thought of Dubai that released something dormant and suppressed within me. I think I woke up, at least for a few minutes. I stopped letting someone at work relegate me to the sideline on what should be my job. I pushed back instead. And things got done surprisingly fast.

It was the Idea of Dubai. PW calls it "a clean slate". Perhaps what it represents is the possibility of moving out of a place that has become comfortable but stagnant.

The idea of a possibility: that I do not have to stay here; that it is my choice. I just need to find the energy for the first step - which began with writing the resume.

The glimmer of an idea, of a possibility.

All this is just a preamble to say I formally accepted the Dubai position today. Why not mull over it further? Because my mind is made up and I have things to do.

I spent the next hour informing people at work. First, my department manager - to tell her I will be leaving for desert lands. Then the colleagues that I have come to love as my friends.

Some of my friends have received messages about my pending departure. Lots of farewell meet-ups to do.

Packing our bags means sorting out what is important and necessary - and what are not. In a way, this is what I am doing right now: sorting out the people who are important to me, and therefore needs to know - and everyone else.

As for all of you, my blogfriends, no worries. I am bringing you with me to Dubai. :)

The Continuing Saga of the Kiwi That Flew

You know the video of the kiwi that tried to fly?

Here's how it ended:

SPOILER: He's okay.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Question of the Week

They officially came back to me on the interview this morning.

They want me.


Now, the questions to consider: Do I want to move to Dubai for at least a year? I might have to be there by early August, so that's less than 2 months to pack up my life and go.

Do I want this? I have until this weekend to consider.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Red Bird Explains Himself

"Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
and I was the song in the summer leaves,
but this was only the first trick
I had hold of among my other mythologies,
for I also knew obedience: bringing sticks to the nest,
food to the young, kisses to my bride.

But don't stop there, stay with me: listen.

If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
and thus wilderness bloomed there, with all its
followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
for the death of rivers.

And this was my true task, to be the
music of the body. Do you understand? for truly the body needs
a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work,
the soul has need of a body,
and I am both of the earth and I am of the explicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart."

~ Mary Oliver

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Movie Screw Up

HobbitGirl and I are supposed to watch Sex and the City this Saturday at 2:30pm. I bought the tickets online and when I showed up this afternoon to pick them up - the girl at the counter told me I bought tickets for 2:30 AM instead!

*Slaps hand to forehead*

HobbitGirl and I watched Kungfu Panda instead. Hee hee hee. We loved it.

Yes, we wasted some money on the Sex and the City tickets, but what can you do about it? On hindsight, it was actually quite funny. Not that I want to do it again though. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

'FESS UP FRIDAY | Progress

I actually managed to bang out a few words this week. There is some forward motion on the story. I'm finally getting to the bit of the story where we meet Charlie's sister—the reason why Charlie and her father are no longer on speaking terms.

I didn't know quite how to handle the story behind Charlie's sister. The sister is a late addition to the story. At one point I thought she would be alive. Later I decided she would be dead but influencing the characters as a ghost (I have a gothic sensibility). I changed my mind once more – decided I wanted to try something more realistic. So now she's just dead. Her story will be told through Charlie's memory. This means flashbacks.

For a last minute addition, this character has quite a few changes.

Does anyone wonder how characters really come about? Do we write them, or have they actually been sitting in the dark recesses of our imagination for a long time – until the day we finally set words on the page, and they manifest themselves?

I haven't planned on creating Charlie's sister—but now her coming into the story adds a new theme of family.

I've been re-reading parts of Laurie R. King's With Child, to study how she weaved the intermittent flashbacks so seamlessly into her narrative. It is a joy anyway to re-read any Laurie R. King novels.

It's also amazing how you have been reading novels for so many years of your life, but it isn't until you sit down to try to write one—that you really start paying attention to how things are structured.

I wrote a fair amount of personal "essays" this week. But re-reading them, they feel more suited as journal entries. This is the real reason I write - not because I want to be published, but because putting things down in words sometimes help me sort out my thoughts.

Still reading Bird by Bird slowly.

Practiced yoga 3 times this week. I attended two Hotflow classes and practiced a bit of the Shadow Yoga poses in the morning, with some core-work.

I am so out of shape.

A Quick Post Because I Can't Sleep

I have to be out of the office the whole day today. It's for the new company project. Everyone is barely able to cope with the new project on top of our usual workload. We are not totally happy with how things are right now.

Sometimes you just wonder about the mental capacity of upper management. They make decisions that affects everybody - yet they do not listen.

It's 3am right now and I can't sleep. So, just a quick post on the proofs and review copies I picked up from work yesterday.

  1. The Spiritual Emerson: Essential Works.

    I know who to blame for this one. :)

    Emerson in bite-size. Okay, sounds comfortable.

  2. The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism, by Geoff Nicholson

    Again, I know who are the two people to blame for this one.

  3. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, by Guy Delisle

    It's a graphic novel. It's not new. My boss has it at his desk for ages. He finally realises he's never going to read it anyway, so he passed it on.

Perhaps after I finish reading them, I shall set them free.

It's never good to hoard gifts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Still Trying

First, a big thank you to everyone who wished me luck on the interview yesterday. It's done - and I think it went well. They will decide if I am the person they want for the job.

So now we wait.

There is a good chance I might not accept the offer, unless they offer better terms. It is comforting to be in the position to choose our jobs. Many people don't have that choice.

In case anyone has noticed, I haven't been as active with my comments on everyone's blogs lately. I'm still reading your blogs, but lurking more. A new company project suddenly landed on our lap and the workload just multiplied. This - and some pretty lousy directions - is stressing me a little. And our boss assured us it's going to get worse.

So, apologies in advance if I don't reply to your comments as fast as I used to.

I'm still:

  1. Trying to wake up at 5am.
  2. Trying to get to bed by 10pm.
  3. Trying to meditate twice a day (morning and night)
  4. Missing the night meditations, because I'm usually tired from having to wake up at 5am
  5. Trying to come back to a regular yoga practice.
  6. Trying to write something for Novel-In-Progress.
  7. Trying to read everyday.

Most of all, trying to keep sane under all the pressure. It's manageable. Imagine that. A few years ago I would probably be throwing things around the office.

The stress management was done while listening to a lot of Sleater-Kinney.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Didn't Manage to Finish Quest the Second for OUT II

Where did the time go? I started pretty well with the Once Upon a Time II challenge and finished Quest the First. I decided to jump in and try for Quest the Second instead.

Turns out I was side-tracked and there's only 10 more days to the end of the challenge and I know I'm not going to make it.

Still, I did finally manage to finish The Prydain Chronicles after all these years. And I discovered Terri Windling and Patricia A. McKillip.

I'm going to throw in the towel and say I didn't manage to finish Quest the Second.

I think I'm done for challenges this year. I obviously suck at keeping to any schedule.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

From Scientific American, research has shown a link between writing (and by extension blogging) and improved memory, better sleep, bettero immune cell activity and even faster healing after surgery (damn, I should have been writing instead of reading so much) [via Yogamum ]

Flaherty, who studies conditions such as hypergraphia (an uncontrollable urge to write) and writer’s block, also looks to disease models to explain the drive behind this mode of communication. For example, people with mania often talk too much. “We believe something in the brain’s limbic system is boosting their desire to communicate,” Flaherty explains. Located mainly in the midbrain, the limbic system controls our drives, whether they are related to food, sex, appetite, or problem solving. “You know that drives are involved [in blogging] because a lot of people do it compulsively,” Flaherty notes. Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.


Recall that time when I mentioned writing a resume? Well, the dice have been casted: The interview is scheduled for tomorrow.

I'm oddly nonchalant about it. I just think if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. My whole life has been spent chasing after things - and losing them because I wanted them too much.

Let's learn to take a step back and try to retain some perspective.

Check It Out

Jeanette Winterson's website has a new look.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Playing On the iPod this Weekend?

"It's insulting to call Sleater-Kinney the best female rock band in the world when they're one of the best rock bands, period." ~ The New Yorker

When you can't watch them "live", Youtube is an alternative - albeit a poor substitute. It must really be something else to watch them in concert. I would have loved to watch Carrie Brownstein rocking the stage like a Guitar God.

[The Crystal Ballroom. Sleater-Kinney's final concert, performing "One More Hour"]

[Sleater-Kinney performing "Jumpers" on The Henry Rollins Show]

[MTV for "Entertain"]

Just found: Tiny Suns Infused With Sour: All the latest news about the ex-members of Sleater-Kinney...

Joined I Miss Sleater-Kinney on Facebook

Heh. It was meant to be:

You Know Yer Indie. Let's Sub-Categorize.

You're a Riot Grrl. You love the rockin' sound of loud women, and rightfully so. You're probably an activist of some sort. And yes, you're right, not all Riot Grrls are lesbians. Just most.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla | Join

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Five In the Morning

I've just set my alarm clock to ring at 5:00 am.

Three years ago I started waking up at five in the morning. My day would start with fifteen minutes of sitting meditation, sixty minutes of yoga, preparing lunch to pack to work, shower, a bit of reading if time allows. Starting the day this way forces me to keep awake by the time I get to work. The most positive side of it was the sense of structure to my previous trainwreck existence. Often I find myself with less free time, but it felt like a great trade-off. Maintaining the morning schedule was difficult though. There were morning when I just slept in until seven.

Last year I was going through a terrible period of insomnia. I could only fall asleep at four or five in the morning. Waking up at 5 am was no longer an option, since I still went to work as usual with barely two hours of sleep the night before.

The insomnia lasted several months - it only improved earlier this year. But there are still nights when I just could not fall asleep.

These days I rarely pack lunch to work. I wake up at seven. I stopped practicing and meditiating in the morning. I sleep late.

It feels like my life has lost its previous focus. It feels like I have fallen behind on my own life.

So, let's start again, shall we? From where I am right now.

LAMOTT | "The act of writing turns out to be its own reward"

But I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Sounds like yoga to me.

Friday, June 06, 2008

'FESSED UP FRIDAY | Don't Break the Chain

Recently, I crawled out of the rock where I live and stumbled on Lifehacker.

Since I discover it, I have been going back for more tips on how to organise my computer and maybe even my life. But one of the most interesting and relevant tip I found this week is the little friendly advice Jerry Seinfeld offered on how to motivate yourself to write everyday. He used the technique on himself, and it seems to work for him, so I'm going to post it here:

He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here's how it works.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."

"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.

It works because it isn't the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes. You may have heard "inch by inch anything's a cinch." Inch by inch does work if you can move an inch every day.

Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. If you don't break the chain, you'll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn't. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides "compounding interest."

Skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next.

I've often said I'd rather have someone who will take action—even if small—every day as opposed to someone who swings hard once or twice a week. Seinfeld understands that daily action yields greater benefits than sitting down and trying to knock out 1000 jokes in one day. [ Source ]

This is a technique that actually works. I realise I have been using this method to track my yoga practice.

I have a moleskine diary that I use to keep track of my appointments. I also record the details of my yoga classes inside, so if I went for class today, I will note down, for example: 7pm, Power I, Michelle.

Since I open the diary everyday, at a glance I can see how frequently I practice every week. This has helped me maintain a 5~6 times a week practice for the past year.

It works.


Report on things done last week:

  1. Finished reading Comfort Me With Apples. I love how Ruth Reichl can relate food and life experiences so seamlessly. One of the best thing she wrote in the book was that writing about food alone is boring - it is everything else around that makes it interesting.
  2. Followed someone's advice and started reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.


The Literate Kitten's link to all 'Fess Up Friday-ers. Or FUFers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Meme of Fives

The rules:

  1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.
  2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
  3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
  4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?

I think that was when I knew I was serious about yoga. I quitted my gym and went looking for a place that teaches yoga exclusively and properly. Other than that, I was pretty much learning how to pick up after myself. Much like what I am still doing today.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

  1. Must write something for my novel-in-progress.
  2. Must iron work-clothes.
  3. Must buy the magazines reserved for me.
  4. Must start researching for New York trip
  5. Cook and pack lunch for work

What are five snacks you enjoy?

  1. Berries: Blueberries. Raspberries.
  2. Danish butter cookies
  3. Goat cheese on crackers.
  4. Nuts. All sort: Almonds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts.
  5. Cherries. Or any other small fruits that you can pop into your mouth.

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

  1. Buy a house and stock it with beautiful bookshelves for all my books.
  2. Finally adopt a doggie and love it lots lots
  3. Quit my job. Read and practice yoga full-time.
  4. Open a cafe where my friends can hang out, and I can kick out asshole customers when they disrespect my staff.
  5. Vagabond around the world until the day I decide to stop. That's when I will settle down and open that cafe

What are five of your bad habits?

  1. Swearing. Alot.
  2. Surfing the net obsessively
  3. Procrasinating. Alot.
  4. Narrow-mindedness. Yes, it's a habit. And like all bad habits you can kick it if you make an effort.
  5. Bad temper

What are five places where you have lived?

I've lived in the same place my whole life.

What are five jobs you’ve had?

  1. Cashier
  2. Secretary (okay, I was a glorified clerk) in a French Bistro. I actually liked this job. Too bad the restaurant closed down
  3. Relief Teacher (Hated this job.)
  4. Buyer for a bookstore
  5. Full-time student of the world

Sorry. Not going to tag anyone. Feel free to pick this up if you wish.

Travelers without visas will soon register before U.S. trip

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States said Tuesday that it will require visitors who are allowed to enter the country without visas to register biographical details online at least three days before they travel.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who announced the changes, said they will help the United States boost the security of its visa-free travel program by allowing the government to screen visitors before they travel. Currently, visitors fill out paper forms en route and are screened by U.S. customs agents upon arrival.

The U.S. will begin implementing the changes in August, Chertoff said. Online registration will be mandatory for all visa-free travel by Jan. 12.

[Full story here ]

As far as I know, there is supposed to be a visa reciprocity agreement between the different countries. There are currently 27 countries whose citizens are not required to obtain visas for U.S. entry, including those in most of western Europe as well as Andorra, Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore. Eight other countries — among them the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Korea — are expected to be admitted to the visa waiver program.

I understand the security concerns here, and registering online would definitely be a lot more convenient than having to queue at the embassy for a visa. But what makes this new policy "safer"? What is to stop potential terrorists from registering false personal information? And say, you forget to register 3 days before you fly into the US? What then?

Why is this interesting to me?

I hope to make a short trip to New York later this year. I just hope I don't get myself screwed over by sudden changes in visa policies.

Say, anyone has recommendations for places (not too expensive please) to check out when I'm in New York? Quirky bookstores or vegetarian-friendly restaurants that I must visit?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Battlestar Galactica Season 1-3 Recap

A hilarious 8 minutes recap for everyone who asks: What the frak is Battlestar Galactica?

[Thanks: Galactica Sitrep]

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Yet Another Post Where I Give My Opinion About Something that Matters Only to Myself

The results on the 2008 Afterellen Hot 100 poll have been announced. The Afterellen poll is a response to the various "Hottest Women" listing by magazines, such as Maxim and FHM. The criteria for these Hottest Women as chosen by the gentlemen often seem to ignore important traits like intelligence, charisma, talents or class. The results in these magazines often baffles the women themselves.

So, the women at Afterellen has decided to do their own poll, voted for by their readers - not necessary bisexual or lesbian - though a lot of them are. As they call it: "The sexiest women, according to women."

I am glad to see Tina Fey as #1 for 2008. She is the embodiment of smart, funny and classy in the right package. Tina Fey would never make it to the Maxim Hottest Women listing of course, but I'm glad the sisters see things differently.

Lena Headey, Ellen Page and of course the awesome Lucy Lawless made it to Top 20 (Yay!). But I'm also glad to see two of my new favourite actresses make it to this year's Top 100: #47. Marnie Alton (on the left in the picture below) and #80. Michelle Paradise (right, seated, in the picture below) - from Exes & Ohs.

I am thrilled Marnie Alton made it to Top 50. She is an incredibly endearing actress (and she has great muscle tone. Really. It's muscle tone that can play Wonder Woman.) It's women like her that makes me want to move to Canada.

Now this is the part where I am outraged:

ONLY #80? Michelle Paradise wrote, starred in and produced her own TV series. How many people can claim to have done that? She is smart, funny in a warm, unassuming manner, speaks French (a very sexy language) and has a Masters in Comparative Literature. She also used to run marathons, she's learning to play the drums and she's Capricorn (I'm not sure how that's relevant, but I know this about her.)

If Tina Fey deserves to be #1, Michelle Paradise at least deserves a Top 50 ranking.

Why Read Herodotus, Why Travel?

Almasy's copy of Herodotus from the film 'The English Patient'

Herodotus, however, besides being the first reporter, was also the first “globalist.” Fully aware of how many cultures there were on Earth, he was eager to become acquainted with all of them. Why? He believed that the best way to learn about your own culture is by familiarizing yourself with others. For your culture will best reveal its depth, value and sense only when you see how it is reflected by other cultures, which can shed the best, most penetrating light on your own, and thereby help you understand it best by yourself.

What did he accomplish with his comparative method of confrontation and reflection? Well, Herodotus taught his countrymen modesty, tempered their self-conceit and hubris, their belief in their superiority and arrogance toward non-Greeks, towards all others. He told them, “You think that the Greeks created gods? No. As a matter of fact, you've appropriated them from the Egyptians. You say your structures are magnificent? Yes, but the Persians have a far better system of communication and transportation.”

Thus Herodotus tried by means of his reportage to consolidate the most important message of Greek ethics: restraint, a sense of proportion and moderation.

~ Ryszard Kapuscinski, Herodotus and the Art of Noticing

Monday, June 02, 2008

Asparagus Love

But what delighted me were the asparagus, steeped in ultramarine, and pink, whose tips, delicately, painted, with little strokes of mauve and azure, shade off imperceptibly down to their feet--still soiled though they are from the dirt of their garden bed--with an iridescence that is not of this earth. It seemed to me that these celestial hues revealed the delicious creatures who had merrily metamorphosed themselves into vegetables and who, through the disguise of their firm, edible flesh, disclosed in these early tints of dawn, in these beginnings of rainbows, in this extinction of blue evenings, the precious essence that I recognized again when, all night long following a dinner at which i had eaten them, they played, in farces as crude and poetic as a fairy play by Shakespeare, at changing my chamber pot into a jar of perfume.

~ Marcel Proust, Swann's Way [translated by Lydia Davis]

Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts.

~ Charles Lamb

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Upcoming on Battlestar Galactica

Promo clip for Battlestar Galactica episode, "The Hub". They finally unboxed D'Anna.

I bow at the awesome badass-ness that is Lucy Lawless.


"She celebrates the everyday by making it seem momentous"

"She can make you taste things just by writing about them, but that's not the point. She actually makes you pay attention to your next meal, feel more alive because you're doing that. When you read her you understand that you need to respect yourself enough to focus on the little things of life. She celebrates the everyday by making it seem momentous."

~ Ruth Reichl talking about M.F.K. Fisher [Comfort Me With Apples]

Books & Reading for May 2008

For the past month I've been meddling with the items on my sidebar. I've shifted some items onto my Wordpress blog, which has been renamed Dark Orpheus’ Reading of Notes. (What is it with me and pretentious blog names?)

I have decided to keep a closer eye on my reading habits by keeping a monthly records - on the number of library titles I check out, how many I actually get around to reading/completing, how many books I buy each month.

Why do we do things like this? Keep track of our books and readings?

Who knows?

My Books & Reading Records for May 2008:

Library Books Borrowed:

  1. Tender at the Bone • Ruth Reichl

  2. Amber and Ashes (The Dark Disciple Volume 1) • Margaret Weis

  3. Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape of the American West • Rebecca Solnit

  4. We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction • Joan Didion

  5. The Making of a Chef • Michael Ruhlman

  6. The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen • Jacques Pépin

  7. White Slave: The Autobiography • Marco Pierre White

  8. Library at Night • Alberto Manguel

  9. Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays • Joan Acocella

  10. Last Rituals • Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

  11. The Reach of a Chef • Michael Ruhlman

  12. The Art of Eating • M.F.K. Fisher

  13. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone • Deborah Madison

  14. Comfort Me With Apples: Love, Adventure and a Passion for Cooking • Ruth Reichl

  15. The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn • Solomon Volkov [Translated by Antonina W. Bouis]

  16. Other Colors: Essays and a Story • Orhan Pamuk [Translated by Maureen Freely]

Books Started:

  • Tender at the Bone • Ruth Reichl
    [09/05/2008 ~

  • Amber and Ashes (The Dark Disciple Volume 1) • Margaret Weis
    [09/05/2008 ~

  • Red Bird • Mary Oliver
    [23/05/2008 ~

  • Kitchen Confidential • Anthony Bourdian
    [27/05/2008 ~

  • The Making of a Chef • Michael Ruhlman
    [27/05/2008 ~

  • Last Rituals • Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
    [29/05/2008 ~

  • Library at Night • Alberto Manguel
    [30/05/2008 ~

  • Comfort Me With Apples: Love, Adventure and a Passion for Cooking • Ruth Reichl
    [31/05/2008 ~

Books In Progress:

  • The Surgeon's Mate • Patrick O'Brian
    [18/04/2008 ~
    bookmarked at p268

  • Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics • Rebecca Solnit
    [26/04/2008 ~

  • The Prisoner and the Fugitive • Marcel Proust
    [translated by Carol Clark & Peter Collier]
    [08/05/2008 ~

Books Completed:

  • Tender at the Bone • Ruth Reichl
    [09/05/2008 ~ 26/05/2008]

  • Checkmate: Fall of the Wall • Greg Rucka, Joe Bennett & Chris Samnee
    [18/05/2008 ~ 18/05/2008]

  • B.P.R.D. Killing Ground • Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis
    [18/05/2008 ~ 18/05/2008]

Books Bought:

  1. Alice Water and Chez Panisee • Thomas McNamee

  2. Gardening at the Dragon's Gate • Wendy Johnson

  3. Red Bird • Mary Oliver

  4. Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller • Judith Thurman

  5. The Landmark Thucydides • Edited by Robert B. Strassler

  6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future For You • Brian K. Vaugh, Georges Jeanty & Joss Whedon

  7. B.P.R.D. Killing Ground • Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis

  8. Checkmate: Fall of the Wall • Greg Rucka, Joe Bennett & Chris Samnee

  9. Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit • Robert Macfarlane