Friday, July 29, 2005

rain

i am -as many of you know- optimistic about my current job prospects. despite the many cracks i make about how i'm afraid of the jobs i might wind up doing - there are bunch of openings i would be genuinely happy to start my civil service career in -chief among them being, of course, a defence policy job. this afternoon's chat with various people from various ministries -a nod to weineng for a much appreciated chat about his job and what life is like in the office, among other things- merely reinforced my optimism about said future prospects.

but an afternoon spent saying 'i did political science and economics at the university of chicago' and 'yes, i did take a class with steve levitt' as i brandished my freshly-reclaimed Freakonomics is apt to induce the odd flash of intense homesickness in someone who is just barely reconciled to the idea of not returning to college come the fall. it's not just the city i miss -not just having things to do and places to go and always ever the lake to see and marvell at- but also the academic life. the knowing that there is so much to learn from the Mearsheimers and the Levitts, and not being there to study at their feet. it's the Reg (i owe them tons of money, for some bizarre reason) -the Reg in the summer, when it is quiet, and filled with graduate students, and it is blessedly cool after the blazing heat that is a chicago hammer-and-anvil summer. it is the noise of moving in, and the crisp autumnal air, and the leaves falling to choke the drains and make the six block walk from apartment to campus a hop-skip-jump obstacle course, carrying eighteen books all vaguely to do with my BA thesis. it's waiting in the hallway yet again for duncan to show up -late- to another advisor meeting, gruffly apologetic and wanting to know what i'd been up to for spring break. (puerto rico, i told him, showing off my tan. four days in the sunshine and the pool and eating outrageous amounts in old san juan. very little rain, i said, and he murmured agreement that that made for a good spring break indeed.)

(here is that rain awaited by leaves with all
their trees and by forests with all their mountains)


now comes the good rain farmers pray for, e.e cummings

i never realised how much four years in chicago had changed me, until they were over, and i am here, and all that is left for me to do is look back longingly, and move forward.

I am a book of snow,
a spacious hand, an open meadow,
a circle that waits,
I belong to the earth and its winter.


Winter Garden, Pablo Neruda

Sunday, July 24, 2005

aiyee! shoes!

oh good heavens, i just got tagged by Tym with a shoe meme! of course, that means i had to go downstairs and count my shoes. -smirk- ok, before i begin, in my defence (take that however you choose) i have just moved back here from the states and had to do a great-shoe-spring-cleaning to get everything into the suitcases. it was heartwrenching, but necessary. so these numbers are...shall we say, artificially deflated?

Total Number of Shoes You Own:

erm. 46. which means, of course, 23 pairs. -wink- they include, among others, a couple of pairs of boots (one pair knee boots one pair comfy ankle boots); a bunch of strappy sandals and mules; a few pairs of comfy-yet-pointy-toed -not a oxymoron, i promise- close-toed real shoes; a pair of Teva sandals; and a bunch of flipflops/running shoes/street sneaker things.

Bonus details:

Number of empty shoe boxes cleared out while counting up the tally: One. only it's still sort of sitting there. erm. but i did clear out the closet on friday and throw out...four boxes and one box Still Including Shoes (they were worn out!).

Most Expensive Pair: white Ferragamos bought for a friend's wedding/wedding dinner and never worn again -i must go dig them out, they would look great with jeans;

Cheapest Pair: USD 10 flipflops from Old Navy, almost worn to shreds;

Brands Represented: Nine West, Teva, Diesel, Tang Studio, Ferragamo...errrrr...Charles and Keith, New Balance (running shoes!), errr...a bunch of American brands that i picked up at the Nordstrom Rack, otherwise known as Shoe-Shopping-Heaven. that's where i got my beautiful-but-painful shoes for graduation.

The Last Shoe You Bought: a pair of black strappy dressy Tang Studio sandals to match my dress for a formal dinner.

How many shoes have you under your work desk?: i don't have a work desk yet -grin- but i imagine a pair of rather disreputable flipflops will migrate there eventually. (it would be birkenstocks, if i had the disposable income to drop on a pair...)

Five People I'm Passing This Baton On To: oh man, Tym's taken Ondine! why is it my girly friends don't keep up their blogs?

1. SM -grin- when are we going out?;
2. Wandering Girl who lives in Boston, lucky thing;
3. keuq, because i'd like to see the contrast between her shoe wardrobe and mine;
4. miss chen; and
5. oh. never mind =) anyone who wants to take up the challenge. leave me a comment. -grin-

p/s AIYEE! lightning storm!

things to be cheery about

trip to Ikea (spent battling the mobs of small children wandering about like a swarm of locusts) resulting in (a) a new bedframe arriving tuesday afternoon; (b) a new nightstand; and (c) a vase in which i have repotted a pretty little moneyplant, which is cheering up my desk as i speak. (any suggestions for a name?) as well as a whiteboard...

...which dad has installed on the wall so i have a place to organise my loose-leaf crap. (now all i need is a pack of whiteboard markers...not that there is a ledge to put them on...hmm.)

i played mahjong with the family sharks...i mean the Aunts this afternoon and managed to acquit myself fairly well, admittedly because my grandfather wasn't feeling too well and thus was rather handicapped in his playing ability. :p but still. we gotta take our small victories wherever they come from.

good dinner with the family at grandpa's post-mahjong session -i am positively STUFFED - they have outdone themselves spectacularly. and when jo gets back here from her gallivanting about the states, i imagine it can only get better...

my room is marginally cleaner than it was last week, thanks to extensive efforts to (a) throw crap out and (b) resort stuff into reasonable places. plus my brother has moved the desktop away, which frees up lots of space!

ahhh, the small things in life. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

all i want for christmas

if anyone is shopping early, all i want for christmas is

hugh laurie and a young stephen fry delivered to my doorstep, both of them clad in -what else- Jeeves-approved suits. or perhaps full evening wear, bowties and all.

barring that,

i'll take this.

Friday, July 22, 2005

food meme

taken from Chocolate and Zucchini:

if you were a condiment, a kitchen gadget, a spice, a herb, a pantry staple, a food chemistry phenomenon, a dish, a cookie, what would you be?

take it in the spirit it was intended - if you could be all things kitchen, what would you be?

i'll think about it and update this post to let you know when i decide. a nice sharp knife? i know! a mandolin...

the (dis)United Nations

reading over the papers today at breakfast - trying to get into the habit, since i do vaguely need to know what is going on in Singapore if not the world - i came across a review article on UN reforms written by the Ambassador of Poland to Singapore. Now he doesn't really say anything we didn't already know -that is to say: the UN requires reforms, but not just cosmetic reform, but there are some stumbling blocks- but it kicked me right back to those early days in my career as a historian/political scientist, and i remembered how little i knew then (and realised, quite possibly, how little i know now). and how things didn't make as much sense then as they do now -thank you, University of Chicago. but anyway: a brief return to my historian-roots as a History 7 student (History of the Modern World, if that makes any sense to you - basically a current affairs paper. i was a UN/USSR specialist.):

M'sieur Ambassador points out various principles the UN has to bear in mind when contemplating reform: the principle of state sovereignty and the related notion of the right of self-defence; the principle of democracy and its related notion of the right to self-determination; and the principle of non-intervention. Nothing unusual there - state sovereignty and non-interference are the founding principles of many inter-state institutions (not the least among them our own ASEAN, where these princples tend to outweigh all others), while the increasing number of democracies in the world (say what you like about democratic peace theory, you don't often see democracies headed in a rush for the exit marked 'tyranny and absolute dictatorship') suggests that this particular institution had better sit up and take notice of democratic interests (and notions of what constitutes acceptable behaviour both within the state and in interstate relations). But he claims that
"The basic problem of the UN stems from the lack of clarity and consensus on certain principles underlying collective action in the international environment. These principles have to be adequate to meet new threats, challenges and expectations."
this is where i disagree. i think the basic problem of the UN may be an insoluble one: it is the head-on clash between the need to preserve state sovereignty and related state rights including non-interference, and what has increasingly become the point of the UN exercise, which is intervention, humanitarian or otherwise. many will claim that the failure of the UN to become the world's policeman is caused by the lack of a UN army (blue helmets nonwithstanding) - 'i say!' they remark, 'look at America, she can intervene wherever she wants, because she puts half her troops on an aircraft carrier group and zooms around backing up her velvet glove with a bloody big iron fist!'. [it's easy for single states -relatively easy, in any case- to decide when and whether to intervene. and even the US has all sorts of domestic troubles whenever she decides to stick herself into business elsewhere. imagine the collective action problem within an institution comprising many many independent states! (not, you say, that most of them matter, seeing as they contribute little to the cause in any case. but their votes in the GA matter. and the votes of the few who sit on the UNSC matter.) but it's not the collective action problem that i'm thinking about. at least, not directly.] i think the real reason the UN isn't the world's policeman is -well, the world doesn't WANT it to be one. independent states are unwilling to give up their (god-given) rights to self-whatevers in order that sometime in the misty future, when trouble might arise in their backyards, they can call on a supranational government for help. (heaven only knows it's bad enough having to call on your own government.) the profit/loss ratio doesn't balance in anyone's favour, except the people who are in trouble now -and even then you see a general reluctance to call in help from outside. states would often rather go it alone - reliance on an outside institution is perhaps seen as a sign of weakness and failure at self-government, and merely invites future trouble.

i don't know that there is a good way to resolve the conflict between these competing principles of governance. the modern solution has tended to lean toward an agreement that 'something must be done' in situations requiring humanitarian intervention, followed by a general consensus on looking the other way when the time comes to step up to the plate and insert your own troops and resources into the picture. after all, if you cannot even justify the loss of your troops to what is ostensibly a defence of the homeland (coughcoughiraqcough) then how can you tell mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers that you've sent sons and daughters to die for a people they've never met, never even heard about until they started being slaughtered in large numbers somewhere very far away?

i used to be fairly optimistic about the future of the UN (-amused- how silly the examiners must have thought me, grading those essays i wrote back when i was eighteen and still sort-of-vaguely idealistic and believer-in-the-goodness-of-the-world). but now, after learning all about game theory and the principles of international relations and collective action problems and so forth, it's hard to see a clear path for an international institution such as the UN, with so many competing interests and internal differences between member states. i mean, if an institution like the European Union finds it hard to get off the ground, comprising as it does states that are geographically close to each other, with plenty of shared economic interests, and similar political systems, as well as social and cultural conditions, then how can we expect anything of a vastly larger institution without any of those things? perhaps there is such a thing as aiming too high.

and now i must go and make a start on packing my room. the new mattress is coming, but right now there is nowhere to put it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

silence is golden and all that

was back at the old Alma Mater this morning - though 'back' is not necessarily the best word, considering the Alma Mater has moved from Ghim Moh to Bishan (and i no longer have a direct bus, funny as that sounds - i took a cab to bishan, for crying out loud!) - to have tea with mr R and have a look around the new grounds. i have to say this: the new campus is freaking GINORMOUS. it is HUGE. it's bigger than i could possibly imagine. the kids look tiny and lost in it, unlike our campus, where the somewhat-less-than-the-full-complement of 1800 kids wandering around made the grounds look filled to overflowing. and mr R was pointing how much of his life is spent walking to and from class, waiting for lifts, etc etc. mindboggling. (lifts!?!)

the new campus is also fairly ill-designed for tropical weather - every time it rains everyone settles in for a good dampening. the hallways -corridors- are all open (this is not to say they don't have roofs, just no walls), and whenever the wind blows the rain winds up dancing all over the nice slippery concrete floors. not to mention the fact that it is never a good idea to let girls in thin white shirts and boys in thin white pants to get wet every time it decides to thunderstorm in Singapore, which is to say approximately twice a week.

on the other hand, it's a gorgeous set up. it's big, and it's airy, and it's spacious. you walk around and feel like you can breathe. (a big deal, seeing as i am feeling extremely claustrophobic at the moment.) everything is white, and green, and there's airconditioning in the classrooms, and the lecture theatres are huge and bright and clean, and there are lifts -- it's like being in one of the new ITEs, or a highly improved, much expanded RGS. they have a new indoor gym, and a new multipurpose hall, and the gym kids have their own facilities for the first time, i think. and a new track, and accompanying field. and i assume we have access to the RI swimming pool - i imagine it makes no sense for the schools to have TWO pools between them. there's a performing arts centre, which is by no means perfect, but in comparison with LT1 in the Ghim Moh campus, it is a paragon of its kind.

i guess, in the end, it all comes down to nostalgia and sentimentality -- this campus, no matter how big and comfy and filled-to-the-brim with wonderful things, is not the campus where i spent most of my 17th and 18th year playing carrom, doing math tutorials, running on a really hot track, or drinking copious amounts of ice-lemon-tea. it's not the place where we shoved a bunch of benches together to study for the A levels, or took naps, or watched the world -and crushes- go by in the late afternoon sunlight. it's not the place we escaped from to have Johnson Duck Rice or ice kachang in Ghim Moh market. however, the kids who go there now -i feel entirely entitled to call them kids, as i have had it pointed out to me that now i am a J7!- will never have known that RJC. their memories of JC will be built entirely around this new place - and they really do have a blank slate to write their memories on. in a little while, the college will have settled into its new grounds, and new-old traditions will spring up, and it will be as if we had never been elsewhere.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

oh, how i miss my apartment and my kitchen, and my city with its supermarkets and its farmer's markets and its fresh windy straight streets and the crash of the lake against the point and the weight of summer pounding the top of my head between 55th Street and the entrance to the blessedly cool Reg.

Lament

Everything is far
and long gone by.
I think that the star
glittering above me
has been dead for a million years.
I think there were tears
in the car I heard pass
and something terrible was said.
A clock has stopped striking in the house
across the road . . .
When did it start? . . .
I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
I would like to pray.
And surely of all the stars that perished
long ago,
one still exists.
I think that I know
which one it is—
which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,
stands like a white city . . .

Ranier Maria Rilke
trans. by Stephen Mitchell

i already miss winter, and the sharp scent of fall, and the sneaking approach of spring. to have traded all of that -the bursting of trees into bloom, and the spread of daffodils and tulips, and the starkness of the trees against a leaden sky, and the incredible bitter cold of a blue-sky winter morning- for the unchanging sun-rain-sun of here --

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

amazon.com

ai! Amazon.com turns ten on sunday (July 16th). they're a decade old this weekend!

it makes me feel old. -amused-

congratulations to my favourite online bookstore (not, as you may have noticed, my favourite bookstore ever: that distinction belongs to the Seminary Co-op/57th Street Books combination.) and be sure to catch what looks like a rather fabulous concert streamed live on amazon.com this saturday, 5pm Pacific time. (i fancy that means over here in Singapore i get to miss it, as i will be in church like a good little girl. anyone got any way to record streaming video?)

Friday, July 08, 2005

who's next?

Robin Cook, in today's Guardian, has this to say in response to yesterday:

...The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error (by which he means the mistake of arming bin Laden for the war in Afghanistan against Russia, and not seeing the long term effects -blowback, indeed). So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us....
the death toll continues to rise, and the horrific pictures of the injured, the dead, and the mangled remains of Tube trains continue to pile up on newspaper front pages and websites all over the world. even my beloved Pete and Geoff Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio is subdued this morning, trying their best to provide information and help people get on with their lives instead of their usual irreverent taking-the-piss morning radio.

i find it more and more impossible to get into the heads of people who believe that terrorism will accomplish their ends. who believe it is possible to frighten people -whole societies of people- into doing what they want with random acts of violence. who believe that killing people is not only permissible but desirable -for why else would the bombs go off in the tunnel, at rush hour, in a city as densely packed as london?- as a means to an end.

i don't know what to say, so i'll let Ian McEwan speak for me, also in today's Guardian:

In Auden's famous poem, Musee des Beaux Arts, the tragedy of Icarus falling from the sky is accompanied by life simply refusing to be disrupted. A ploughman goes about his work, a ship "sailed calmly on", dogs keep on with "their doggy business". In London yesterday, where crowds fumbling with mobile phones tried to find unimpeded ways across the city, there was much evidence of the truth of Auden's insight. While rescue workers searched for survivors and the dead in the smoke-filled blackness below, at pavement level men were loading lorries, a woman sold umbrellas in her usual patch, the lunchtime sandwich makers were hard at work.

It is unlikely that London will claim to have been transformed in an instant, to have lost its innocence in the course of a morning. It is hard to knock a huge city like this off its course. It has survived many attacks in the past. But once we have counted up our dead, and the numbness turns to anger and grief, we will see that our lives here will be difficult. We have been savagely woken from a pleasant dream. The city will not recover Wednesday's confidence and joy in a very long time. Who will want to travel on the tube, once it has been cleared? How will we sit at our ease in a restaurant, cinema or theatre? And we will face again that deal we must constantly make and remake with the state - how much power must we grant Leviathan, how much freedom will we be asked to trade for our security?






Just for A01A

my darlings -

cheryl is in town for just another week, so we would like to arrange a dinner to meet up, hang out, catch up before she takes off to go back to her high-flying life in boston. (lucky child.) so - msg me at the same number as last time (leave a comment if you don't have it) and let me know what works for you between monday and friday next week (11th through 15th July) and we'll set something up, ok? so far it's me and gail and cheryl - i know there are more of us out there hiding in the woodwork.

i'll return us to regularly scheduled (that is, not at all scheduled) programming now. =)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

walking is good for my health? how?

i am:

1. the latest inductee, it seems, into the Singapore Ice Kachang Club. we walked fifteen or sixteen kilometres today (sixteen would have been what, ten miles?) through jungle and on road and stairs and whatnot. there was a break at the halfway point where we ate ice kachang (for non-Singaporeans: a local dessert comprising shaved ice flavoured with various syrups and sweetened milk, piled over a bowl of assorted bits like beans, corn, and jello cubes. sort of like a sno-cone on steroids.), and i became the fifth member of the SIKC (misspell that, and you get SICK, which is what i feel after the amt of sun i got today). i've also experienced the treetop walk -a suspension bridge at treetop height through the jungle. sort of scary - suspension bridges wig me out.

2. exhausted. i bid thee goodnight -- tomorrow is another day. Changi Naval Base!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

neil!

another productive day:

met Cheryl for a late lunch at coffee club in wisma, where we sat and ate, and chatted about buying chef's knives, and work clothes, and all kinds of other things...before we wandered off to borders, stopping intermittently to shop, and stood in line for THREE HOURS to get neil gaiman's signature on a bunch of books. gail joined us, and it was a good catching up time before cheryl takes off for boston once again. plus we got neil's autographs, and he personalised -finally!- my Dream Country, almost my favourite sandman of all time, and certainly the one containing my favourite line re: getting a thousand cats to do something at the same time. and i have a picture! of neil signing things, and a blurry shot of me standing next to neil while he personalises my book. (i told gail not to use the flash, because i figure he's gonna get about a bazillion flashes in his eyes before he gets back to the hotel tonight, and i didn't want to make it a bazillion and one.) yay! =)

then gail and i went to eat la mian xiao long bao at crystal jade in scotts (it occurs to me that that sentence will make no sense whatsoever to my non-Singaporean readers. translation: we had noodles and steamed dumplings at a chinese restaurant in a shopping mall called Scotts.) and it was yummy. i haven't had la mian or xiao long bao for a while, so this was a wonderful meal. and we rounded up the day with some wandering and some rather fruitful shopping. (though i still need to get a pair of driving mocs that won't cost the earth. where oh where can i find them?)

and i met an old friend on the train on the way home. it was v cool. i hadn't talked to him in years, and there he was, getting on the same train as i was (and we get off the train at the same stop, too!), so we had a nice chat on the way back.

tomorrow, i am going Walking with dad and his friends. hopefully i will not die of (a) dehydration, (b) heatstroke, or (c) exhaustion before the afternoon is out. will be fuelled by Toa Payoh chicken rice, and the promise of ice kachang at the end of the trek!

passed! what a relief

add to the list of adminstrative dominos --

passed the Basic Theory Test yesterday! and converted my licence. now i am the proud owner of a temporary licence that comprises two pieces of paper -one white, one blue- stapled together, with the words 'You may drive while waiting for your photocard licence' printed on the white one, along with my address. (i'm not sure my name is on either of them, come to think of it.) the actual photocard licence is supposed to arrive in the mail within two weeks. keep your fingers crossed, everyone.

the Basic Theory Test sure is different these days from when i took it back in 2001 (and failed, i might add, the first time). it's done on touchscreen computers now. no more pencil and those ridiculous OAS where you have to colour bubbles for not only your answer but your name as well. of course, because it's all computerised, you no longer have to wait an entire month to get your results in the snail mail. it's instant gratification (or doom as the case may be). you finish the fifty MCQ test, and then click -press- the End Test button at the bottom. the system goes, horrified that you have finished in less than an hour, 'Are You Sure you want to End Test?' (leave aside remarks abt grammar etc please), and if you answer 'YES (dammit, i was done ten minutes ago but was too nervous to actually end the test and see how i fared)', the screen immediately flashes 'PASSED' or 'FAILED' (i presume) and you know. so efficient, right? =)

so now i have to go sign myself up for a refresher course in driving, since i need to learn how to drive on THIS side of the road! -grin- i still look the wrong way first when crossing the road. one of these days, i'm gonna get run over by a lorry. (that's a small truck to you non-singaporeans...)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Graduation Day

as promised to various peeps, graduation photos have been uploaded to Flickr. =) my dad handed me this cd this morning with my photos burned on it, and a cool picture of Rockefeller burned on the cd label! very cool. (i know, i am a geek, but cd-label-burning is very very cool...)

anyways. let's begin with me and the parentals:

the parents and i

alex, his brother amos, cece and i:

Alex, Amos, Cece and I

Mari, Brian and I - i missed the official Mathews House phototaking!:

Brian, Mariangela and I

Alex and I - why do you always stand with your arms crossed? :p

alex and i

and finally My Diploma -huge sigh of relief-:

me and my diploma

Friday, July 01, 2005

applause, please.

-takes a deep breath-

things i have accomplished in the last eight hours:

(1) finally put the rest of the clothes in my suitcase on hangers and stuck them in my closet. (this does not include the ones lying on the floor in my maid's room waiting to be ironed. only the no-ironing-required ones. ie the minority, but still.)

(2) registered myself for the Basic Theory Test next Tuesday in the AM. however, that short sentence does not begin to capture the trials and tribulations the process encompassed. first, i was misled by the website into going to the Traffic Police Headquarters on Ubi Ave 3, which is (a) not the right place at all and (b) abt fifteen fucking miles from where the right place -at the driving centre- was. ok so i'm exaggerating. but i still had to walk a good half hour in the baking afternoon tropical sunshine and stickiness to find the driving centre. and had to ask the nice policeman at the Traffic Police HQ and then some random stranger who was racing a remote-controlled car in the parking lot of the Audi service centre how to get there. then i had a nice long half hour wait in the airconditioning to register myself for the test.

the lady who registered me was v nice. when she realised an opening had popped up for next week she quickly said 'you want to do it sooner? next week can? very fast. next slot is in august.' needless to say we made conspitorial faces at each other and took the slot. so now i am registered to take the test next week. pray i don't fail. make sure i study this time, yah?

(3) registered myself for my gym package - i have unlimited access for the next three months. whoopee. pilates and lifting, here i come. (and cardio, i imagine, as well.) need to get some of this chicago-induced weight gain off, and improve my cardiovascular fitness, which is currently really crappy.

so now i am poorer and dirtier and tireder, but slowly and surely the adminstrative dominos are beginning to fall...

now to deal with the new mattress - and remodelling my room. -smirk-