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Archive for March 2010

Sometimes while I am chopping mushrooms or the dish of the day up into shapes that fit my mood of the moment, I pause and stare in wonder at the ingredients before me, having a curious moment of epiphany of how easy it is for me now to suddenly whip up a lunch meal, or full dinner that my stomach is in agreement with.

The wonders of being dependent on myself for food.

So I waited a couple of months before trying to work the whole skype-creative webcam problem again, and nothing seems to have changed. Instead, the microphone now does not work, as evident during testing and calling with the boy. So I installed QuteCom in the hopes of using another application to mediate communications over these thousands of miles, and QuteCom is not even opening as a program, even after restarting the computer. After installing and uninstalling several drivers and programs after testing them and realising they don’t work, I am close to admitting defeat.

This sucks.

I’m going to continue hinging on my housemate’s laptops to use skype – I feel like a parasite sometimes – but I am determined to find a solution to this problem. Not now though, with work looming ahead dangerously, but when I get back. Darn you, technology that lies outside my grasp!

I suspect it could be that Skype’s performance is worse now because my Ubuntu system ‘upgraded’ to Karmic Koala, which may have left certain programs behind if the programmers aren’t keeping up. Ohwell.

On another note, it’s been a short but squiggly rollercoaster these few days. My insect collection got a high mark, but the one cockroach I was so proud of was actually -gasp- a Coleoptera (beetle)! And I was so sure, too. I did get the bonus point of having the smallest insect in class though, that went to a wasp that was a tenth of a millimeter. :D

I’ve finished three books (The Tipping Point, Outliers and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell), and am in the middle of (Siew Lee, I recounted) 11 books. Heh. Itchy fingers insisted I bring my wallet to the Toronto Reference Library’s clearance sale, and I bought myself 3 books for a dollar (now isn’t that a swell deal!): two business books and one fiction. Started on two of them: Happiness by Richard Layard (curious about what he has to say), and How full is your bucket by Tom Rath and Don Clifton. The other book is WICKED by Gregory Maguire, which spawned the award-winning musical that we almost got to see in NYC.

Still in the middle of The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawkes, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (the annotated version), and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. Then there’s Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton given to me by Chrystella (:, and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins.

Aside, I am browsing through E.O. Wilson’s massive tome: Superorganisms, and a book on spiders as well in a bid to get my creative juices to think about upcoming FYP (final year project) ideas. I’m fascinated by communications and social insects, but I have no QUESTIONS. And that’s what I need. Recently though, working in the mite lab brought up the idea of studying tripartite mutualisms or even engineered mutualisms (predatory and herbivorous mites in domatia of leaves provided by the plants). Not sure if it’s possible and if I really want to do it yet though. Needs research!

Also borrowed two of Edward de Bono‘s books on creativity, to jolt more ideas because I have another idea for a photography series. I first noticed his books when I read his Six Thinking Hats in one sitting at PageOne at Vivocity in Singapore. That got me interested. Am excited! Might have a partner to do this series with, we’ll see. It’s going to be pretty major though, so it’ll be some time before anything’s out. Which reminds me.

The photography competition ceremony saw brilliant photographs – you know, the kind that takes your breath away? I know it did for me! – and taught me an important lesson! My pride launches up and lashes out at some photographs that I think I can beat with what I know I’ve taken, before I realise that I didn’t submit those. So there lies the gravest mistake. Similar to how a student has to answer a question and express the answer appropriately to display his knowledge of the subject, a contestant has to submit photographs that are greater than other photographs. It’s always a relative race here. I mistakenly and casually submitted photographs that I had learned to print (and weren’t necessarily great), while I had good ones in my computer that I didn’t even think about. I was locked in the mindset of submitting just my black and white film prints.

Damn.

Some mistakes in class once again make me think about that lesson, and it’s so important to be concise, hit the point and make sure you explain what you know, if not in the best way, then at least better than other people. Such is the competition that is breeding in classes nowadays.

Hence, I am off to FINALLY write my first draft of my essay, hopefully the skeleton will be up by today.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE??


YES. GMAIL ACCOUNT NOW AT 2222. also, hilarious photograph of squirrels getting their heads stuck in coconuts and attempting to look like spacemen. :D

Another idea for a photography series, I’m spurred on and inspired once again. For the second time in my life, I asked someone on the street if I could take their photograph. This is a big deal for me, because I place a lot of pressure on myself when I take photographs, unknowingly or not. Now that I’m doing film, even more pressure is on myself to keep within my budget, maximise learning and shoot good shots!

Yesterday I washed his photograph, and I’m happy with it! He’s a bookseller on bloor street, and unfortunately I can’t post it up on the internet – it’s my promise to him in exchange for the photograph. I’m giving him a copy this week, and I’ll hang my copy at home when I get back. :D

Now, I’m considering whether or not to do a couple of ideas. Up the people factor.

These past one and a half weeks have been the most awesome days ever!


The snow, fleeting fragile floating powder droplets of life, has altogether stopped visiting us for now. They claim fatigue, but I think otherwise. I think they’ve gone away for tea all by themselves!


Because if I had russian tea bisquits like them, I’d go away for tea all by myself too! :D Mmmmm. SO good! I still don’t know if Toronto has them. I want one more, at least! :D


And on beautiful nights that we had a full moon, we had to have TANG YUANS to eat! Being typical foodie Singaporeans, distance does not prevent us from filling our bellies with delights, however far we are! :D


And so come the cheapo tangyuans from Oriental Harvest supermarket at Chinatown. For you science students, see what I see? The tangyuan at 11 o’clock has cleavage!


Lastly, I am still debating whether or not to cut my hair. I have good hair days like today, and I have bad hair days. I think I’ve had enough of it, but friends and the boy don’t want me to cut my hair. Really? Have you seen me with long hair? It really kinda sucks.


See me? It ends up like that. All thick and not too nice. I also hate tying up my hair, and if it’s blowing all around my face. Hurhur. Oh my secondary school days. The horror. HAHA. All that craziness in four years!

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Yesterday, I went for my first couchsurfing event – and yes, you guessed it, we gathered over food! The trip to Little India (along Gerrard St E) was fantastic! First, my favourite aloo gobi, palak paneer, naan and biryani – shared with Dan (from Boston) and Umjee (sp?)(from Korea); then a visit to a supermarket chock full of indian goods, followed by chai tea and indian sweets and desserts! Organised by Payal (from India), there were about 20 people who turned up! We literally took up all the space in the restaurants!

Fellow Singaporean Joanne Poh was wonderful to meet – and together with Megan and her sister (who are Taiwanese), we’re going to have a Singapore food party next Sunday! I AM SO EXCITED. We’re going to make sambal kangkong, chicken rice, and perhaps even bak kut teh. She’s going to make kueh, I forget what the malay name is, but it’s green on top with sticky rice on the bottom (my dad’s favourite kueh!).

I had such a good time meeting different people and talking with people from Brazil, Norway, Toronto, Taiwan, India and more! And even got a ride back courtesy of Alex from Brazil (: I am definitely looking forward to being more active in this community of couchsurfers, and Joanne tells me that the CS scene in Singapore is pretty vibrant too!

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My first boardgame meetup on Wednesday with the Toronto community was a blast! I had a good time playing Stone Age, finally learning the right rule set up and getting my heart and brain pumped again (after 7 months of no gaming!).


That’s the management game, Stone Age. It requires planning in advance for many things, and also considering what other players are aiming for. A player also has to manage their group of people, because for every additional baby born to add to your group of workers, makes for an additional mouth to feed! And not being able to feed is costly! :D

This is the second time ever in my life that I played the same game back to back, and though I lost the first game badly (I entirely forgot about one component of the game, the bonus cards, and only realised it halfway through the game), I made a victorious comeback, becoming first in the second game! :D Such a rush to play management games. (:

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Alice in Wonderland in 3D was pretty – and I mean, Pretty. Visual effects were pretty cool, though as usual, Burton’s films are a little bit morbid and on the dark side. At the same time, it’s not his best film, and it may seem a little overindulgent of him, even. The actors weren’t too terrible, but they weren’t brilliant – the thing is, I can’t tell if that’s because the character they played was meant to be like that, or if it was just simply bad acting! And as usual, Helena Carter is amazing in her reprise in the utterly insane character, this time manifested as The Red Queen. Anne Hathaway on the other hand, is quite disturbing as The White Queen. I am constantly disturbed by her black eyebrows, dark lipstick and platinum blond hair. Again, that’s just her look, and I’m just simply disturbed by it. If that’s what Burton wanted audiences to feel, he achieved it!

Also, it’s probably the last film I’ll watch in 3D. I’m not convinced it’s worth paying the extra money to watch the show in a digitally manipulated plane. (:

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UofT filmfest later and St Patrick’s day parade on Sunday awaits!

Photography is like solace, at times. This cute family actually thought I was a photographer for Chicago Chinatown’s Chinese New Year Parade. She asked for my pictures, and I took one of her family as well. That’s Lynn, Joe and little Devlin (:

The parade wasn’t a huge affair; there were floats that consisted of a platform on trucks with people sitting on chairs on it, waving around and shouting “xin nian kuai le!”, “gong hei fatt choy!” and “happy chinese new year!” all at once. Dragons, lions and tigers paid a visit, some of them more real than others. Marching bands (my favourite) were an absolute joy, and their passion was beautiful to watch, feel and hear. What a visit for the senses!

And not forgetting to mention, the little funny boy in the parade who took great pleasure in showing the world his tongue :b haha!

Photographs calm me down, keep me in awe, get me excited, and melt my heart. So much capability, for something that is kept in two dimensions, only brought to life by the imagination, ay?

Hustling and bustling, the energy flowed around in sheer abundance in Chicago. Blue skies replaced by overflowing white clouds taken over by grey pot-bellied cumulonimbus ones, all invited to a game of catch by the ever running sun, that sometimes peeks through in teasing prose.

Beauty accentuated by the snow, the trees stood in their grandeur, and extended their reach to people. Children laughed and played on ice, and music – oh the music – was everywhere! There was always something going on somewhere, a play, a performance, a talk, a tour; there was always something to do.

There were always people on the streets, well, if you were downtown. An untimely choice saw me in a relatively deserted street just twice in four days, and I promptly got myself out of there first chance I got. Not a great idea to keep myself in an abandoned place with no one to hear me should I need to speak.

“You’re travelling alone? Walking the streets alone?”
“Yeah, I’m on this trip by myself”
“You’re crazy man! Chicago’s full of crazy people. No, I’d never do something like that – and I live here!”

That was the funny little girl who was so impatient for the bus (she kept walking out onto the second lane of the road to see if the bus was coming) made me laugh. My couchsurfer host Sara Wiseman laughed when she heard that as well. Yes, I probably walk the road less travelled, against the grain and on my two feet most of the time. That is, I feel, one of the best ways to experience a place and its people.

Sometimes when I remember, I scribble hastily on a piece of paper the people I’ve met and spoken with – for they are precious memories that make me smile, and remember once again when times are bad, that the people out there, they have good hearts, most of them, yes they do.

Beautiful memories of laughter, stories shared, painted skies and meals beyond compare.

Something in me is positively yearning to be doing the arts right now. To be in art school, learning lithography, printmaking, painting, sculpting, casting, woodcraft and photography. To be making things.

I had this sudden inspiration for a photography series to do. Somehow or rather, I either need to learn photoshop to pull it off, or make the items myself, which would make it an installation series instead of just pure photography (because these items don’t exist).

I’m not posting it here, because I want to keep it confidential for now. (: Talk to me though, and I’ll tell you.

But yes, I really want to do something with the arts right now. Darkroom classes are keeping some bit of my sanity, but I want to be able in more than one medium.


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