29 December 2005

525,600 minutes

The year finally coming to an end in 24 hours, I decided to rework my very first blog entry which was on the remembrances of past years. Two months ago when I started it, I had taken the wrong bus and was walking the kilometre back home in the humid Singapore night when it suddenly hit me: I am 25 - and the clock is ticking away.

At that time, in a panicky attempt to account to myself how my years have passed, I decided to signpost my recent years as follows:

clock2005 - (Let's get past this first)
2004 - Year of ALOT of travel
2003 - Year of finally learning the cello
2002 - Year of Yale and tango
2001 - Year of Japan
2000 - Year of the Freshman 10

A few weeks later, I watched Rent and one of the songs really caught my fancy - lo and behold, I was actually able to hear most of the lyrics in spite of my notorious deafness (!):
525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
It is funny, but I have never thought it in that way. But now that the song has mentioned it, I do know of someone whose life would, on one count at least, be measured in cups of coffee. And for me, miles would be a very apt measure for 2004 indeed. (Although I must admit that I am still trying to figure out whose / how / why life would be measured in inches... Hmm.)

I found out later that the song is named a rather run-of-the-mill »"Seasons of Love". What a shame; I had liked the song for its introduction, i.e. non-love part actually.

So, that leaves me with the miles / minutes / coffee / laughter / tears of 2005.

Well, honestly, many of those 525,600 minutes in 2005 have been chaotic. But since the year has been winding down nicely for me these few months (other than recent crazy dreams of flying crabs and python and ape!), I feel like I should give it more credit than term it the Year of Chaos. (Yah, it was chaotic, but not to the extent I am counting down every minute for the year to be over.) Perhaps it is just because 2005 is still too upclose and personal; more distance and hindsight should help give it a better signpost soon. I will fill in the blank here when it comes to me.

Onwards to 2006 instead. It looks good for now - more travel and Gigi's wedding in Hong Kong - so I am looking forward to it. January trips to Pakistan and Laos are already scheduled, so look out for more entries to this traveblogue. Incidentally, I went to donate my blood platelets today and the poor nurse had to look up ALL the countries I have been to in the past 4 years. (It was compulsory to declare and I had already tried to shorten by summarizing them as "US, Europe, ASEAN, Central America".) I cleared the hurdle today - almost didn't because of Cambodia - but will have to check for Laos and Pakistan for malaria clearance the next time I donate. Humbug.

28 December 2005

Have you discovered Mozilla extensions?

Okay, I guess the first question should be: Have you discovered Mozilla Firefox? If the people around me or my site counter stats are anything to go by, I guess not :( Which is unfortunate, because I seriously have not looked back since switching to Firefox. (It first came installed on my work laptop.)

If you haven't experienced the joys of »tabbed browsing yet, please do. It is the single biggest reason to switch. And here is the deal - you can customize Firefox with »Firefox extensions to make surfing exactly the way you want it. Want a translate function in your right-click? A really compact menu bar so that you can put your bookmark toolbar in the same row as your menu bar? A nifty search bar that combines Google, Google Images, Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, WebMd, IMDB, Lonely Planet etc.. all in a single dropdown menu? (This is the excellent Firefox search bar in the latest version. I used to use the google toolbar but discovered there was no more need for it especially since I discovered the Search WP extension which meant I didn't to have to lose the highlighting function in the google toolbar.)

I accidentally came across »Download.com's favourite extensions yesterday, hence the motivation to post my favourite extensions too...

Have I won you over from IE yet? :)

The economics of socks

I had planned to only share this with the other economist nerd I know, but considering the economics of socks is a prerequsite to adulthood, I thought I'd share it.

img style="margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer;" src="http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c387/jenellim/FT_article.jpg" alt="" border="0" />

20 December 2005

Introspective lucidity | Drunken debauchery

The week that has just passed was an eventful one. The first half rolled along nicely with a nice intellectual slant: proof-reading archaelogy papers, then receiving an absolutely delightful Christmas present - a fountain pen. It was the perfect gift because I had been lamenting the loss of my old one since August and had been longing to feel the solid weight and flow of a good pen in my hand again. I haven't been able to stop fingering it since Thursday and must confess that I have finding excuses to write things down...

From there, life shifted two gears forward.

Thursday evening 6.50 pm. I suddenly heard that my Sec 3/4 form teacher had died. We went to the funeral. It was brain cancer - aggressive one. The saving grace was that she wasn't in pain. But she lost her memory, movement, reflexes... one by one. Such a cruel way, for an intellectual. Going to the funeral was sobering. It is a lucid remainder once again that life is so fragile and that one is so blessed to be healthy, standing, breathing, thinking, every single day.

The introspective lucidity seeped into Friday where there was a big Christmas party at work. (Is it possible to be introspectively lucid while placed in drunken debauchery at the same time?) Wine flowed freely from noon onwards, and by 5 pm, I was in rather high spirits. In fact, I was so high-spirited that I offered to wash the wine glasses but not realizing that another high-spirited person had spilt wine / water on the floor. I slipped and fell, remember seeing people sweeping alot of broken glass bits away, but not remembering how I got back to my desk to awake only at 7 pm and noticing a small scar on my palm...

Most of Saturday was spent on music theory lessons, replenishing fluids and waiting in the stupendous queue for »Ministry of Sound. The only other time I remembered such single-minded waiting was at the Time Square New Year Eve's party - and alright, I guess that was worse. 100 minutes later, we were finally inside and I felt such a sense of triumph at my patience that I had to take a coaster as a keepsake:
We didn't stay too late as Friday's party had worn us out but I liked MOS. Its many rooms of music reminded me of ID Bar in Nagoya, but MOS' decor was more interesting what with the heavenly Pure room, pyschelic retro room and angsty R&B room. We apparently missed the chill-out tunnel but I guess it just means a good excuse to return sometime soon.

Sunday... Sunday evening's open-air guzheng concert at the heritage site of Fengshan Temple off Mohd Sultan Road warrants a surrealist posting all of its own. Akan datang.

22 November 2005

Jojo at her most maternal

My best friend just sent me photos that she took of me in Europe - this is definitely Jojo at her most maternal.
I can't stop gushing about this big-eye baby girl from Nice.  She's French mixed African, Chinese and I think Portuguese. Ooo-la-la.

(Sorry if you can't see my small Chinese eyes beside hers smiley)

07 November 2005



  • Isla Negra | Neruda
  • 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair | Neruda
  • Portrait in Sepia | Allende
  • Daughters of Fortune | Allende
  • Fragrance of the Guava | Garcia Marquez
  • The Fountainhead | Rand
  • Her Husband: Ted Hughes and Slyvia Plath | Middlebrook
  • Shanghai Baby | Wei


  • No One Writes to the Colonel | Garcia Marquez
  • The Old Man Who Read Love Stories | Sepulveda
  • The Hours | Cunningham
  • Beauty and Sadness | Kawabata
  • House of Sleeping Beauties | Kawabata
  • Master of Go | Kawabata
  • Temple of the Golden Pavillion | Mishima
  • Quicksand | Tanizaki
  • South of the Border, West of the Sun | Murakami

25 October 2005

Faces of Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH - When I heard we were visiting a silk village as part of the Mekong River tour organized by our very hospitable Cambodian colleagues, I had thought it would be quite commercialized a la Thailand. But it turned out to be a bona fide village - with chickens, mud roads, and very very poor.

There was a 6-year-old girl (along with 20 other women and girls) who followed us the whole way to the local roofless temple, trying to sell me a scarf for US$1. I didn't buy initially because I was in no particular need for scarfs and most of all, because I was so plagued by dilemma - I didn't know who to buy from, which woman's / girl's need was greatest, who to help.

The women and girls followed us as we walked through the village. We soon came to the roofless temple. As I closed my eyes in prayers, it dawned on me that I could not just pray and do nothing. I looked down at the mud road. Two pairs of feet struck me. They belonged to a shoeless 6-year-old girl and a clubfooted pregnant woman. I bought a scarf from each of them.

Heartbreaking as Phnom Penh was, it still held alot of charm for me. I found an abundance of grounds-up social projects there - a free reading library run by a French woman, postcards at the Russian markets painted by disabled artists, a wonderful garden restaurant (*excellent* food and extremely value-for-money) called Bodhi Tree that hired youths at risk...

It will be nice to do something like that one day.

柬埔寨的 Singapour

傍晚| 柬埔寨,无名村






“你饿了吗?” -- 我笑笑地摇头。

“我家还有货。” -- 我又笑笑地摇头。

“你是从哪里来的?” -- “Singapore”。


发音和三年前的法语一样,就是那一样的 sung, 一样的 pour... ...

10 October 2005




10 OCT 2005, PARIS

08 October 2005

On the Dali Museum

FIGUERES - Just came out of the Dali Museum and am on the way back to Barcelona now.

What an EXCELLENT museum!

My head spun for a while after I came out because Dali is so unfathomably crazy.

No, not crazy in a derogatory way, but in the sense of unfathomable wildness or fantasy. How does he think of these ideas? How is it possible to live aside a person as wild as him? (Recall that he has a wife.) I reached the pinnacle of such sentiments when I was in the Mae West room looking at the converging mirror in mid-air. How, I question myself, can anyone think of as wild creations as these?

As I walked on, I thought to myself that every single person should have a Dali experience, just so to understand the spectrum of the human imagination. With nostril fireplace, lips sofa, corncob hair, mirrors reflecting illusion after illusion, intertemporal paintings, Dali has ensured that the reality-illusion duality is blurred to a maximum. One is left gasping as one walks through the various rooms. It was a substantial collection of his works (I am sorely reminded of the cheaterbug Picasso Museum in Barcelona) that was presented in a manner that reflected Dali's fauvist quintessence. I spent a lot of time in the courtyard and room 3 because there was so much to see once you look at the details. Yet the number of details was not overwhelming the way Sagrada Familia was. It was just sufficient to occupy the mind, to incite thoughts and contemplation.

What Dali works did I like?

(I am tempted to look through the photos I have taken, but I recall the words of my literature and photography class professor - that by recording, snapping away, one renders the memory of the experience to only what one has photographed. Having the intention to write a piece on the obsession of recording, I should not let myself fall into the same trap.)

I should think that the piece I liked most was Gala Looking at the Sea. I liked the colours and the somewhat Cubist feel of it. I also liked Othello Dreaming of Venice - I intend for this to be front cover of my future Venice album. There were other pieces I enjoyed, although not liked per se. The satirical interpretation of Matisse's La Danse was funny. So was The Bed and Two Bedside Tables Ferociously Attacking the Violoncello. I like how his titles are so humorously long. Like the one - 6 Reflections of Something that Looks Like 3 Chinese Pretending to be Lenin When Looked 2 Metres Away, and Like the Crown of a Lion When Viewed 6 Metres Away. Is this too prescriptive? I don't think so. I like to know what the artist intended for while allowing myself room for interpretation. I don't fully buy the Derrida idea that the author can have intentions or meanings that even he himself may not know about. (This would mean that the work attains a life of its own once commenced? If so, then like the conception of life, we have to ask: at what point does it attain its own soul?)

The silhouette of the Pyrennes is now faintly in the horizon. As the Catalunya Express charges forward, the arcs of blue in the train cabin morphs into waves and swirls into the blueness of the Pyrennes at twilight. The journey is coming to an end. The orange-vermillion of the setting sun asks me -

Are you ready for reality?

At this point, I feel like Gail Wynand - I could go either way. I could continue travelling for another 2 weeks, 2 months?

Or I am equally at peace going back to the humdrum of my city state.

More photos of glorious Spain »here.

29 September 2005

Can life get any better than this...?

NICE - The sky is finally brightening up and casting a good light on this notebook as I write. The little fibres of my white angora sweater are illuminated, creating a soft focus. I am warm and snug in my sweater and scarf, waiting forthe next train. Such is life as should be experienced by a 25-year-old...

Priceless indeed are certain experiences. To curl up on the grass in Paris and wake up to Tour Eiffel befeore your eyes. To lay on the grass of Epernay, still slightly inebriated from a 1999 Moet vintage, looking up at the azure cloudless skies marked only by contrails of planes flown by. To sit out at night in a 44-euro hotel balcony right in the centre of Plaza Massena, listening to familiar tunes from a classical guitarist busking on the plaza, eating turgid Nicoise olives freshly bought from market this morning... Can life honestly get any better than this?

27 September 2005

A day of drunken happiness in a half-state of sobriety

EPERNAY - A day of drunken happiness in a half-state of sobriety around the charming little town of Epernay. I love being trained through the rolling hills, seeing the cottages, the farms, the blue skies...

It is my view that all painters should be made to go for day in French countryside to expose them to the possibilities of the palette - how can one paint when one does not have an idea of how blue blue can be?

I have since discovered that blue can actually be as blue as the skies of Epernay on 27th September 2005 at 2.30 pm when one awakes from a nap on the green green grass... How come no one told me this before my nascent painting talents vanished? :{

26 September 2005

Light and pleasure in Cour Puget

PARIS - At last, a time to breathe and a time to recap. And in a beautiful courtyard like this, on a beautiful day.

How nostalgic it is to be retracing one's steps in the Louvre through the marvellous Italian collection of sculptures again. This time, I have also made it through the French sculptures. What a pleasure it is to see and admire sculpture. I don't think one can ever get tired of it. To see the luminosity of the marble, the statuesqueness of the arm in the air, the leg outstretched, the fluidity of the motion frozen in the second for eternity by the sculptor...

Marble. I like marble on sculptures best. It is as if the graceful flow of fabric is all the more accentuated by the heaviness of marble. And of course, that luminosity. Cupid and Psyche is in a class of its own when it comes to luminosity.

One has to admit that the Italian sculptures are still the most vivid of all. Their fluidity is simply unrivalled. The Greeks are detailed, but somehow too static. It is not their fault - I would imagine it takes that long for style to evolve and the Italians have the benefit of history. (Do we speak of the weight of history or the lightness of it? Does history inspire or does history constrain?)

Light, light, light. Incredible how much difference light makes to a place.

Sitting in the Puget courtyard amidst the light passing through the roofs of the Louvre. Pleasure, pleasure, pleasure.

Such are the small pleasures of life. To be surrounded by sculptures, to feel the air, the space interjected by the awe of their presence. Sculptures are born for big open spaces. Like this in Cour Puget and Cour Marly. Or like that in the jardin of Musee Rodin. How else to feel the magnitude?

It is no wonder that France should reserve these two courtyards for their French sculptures. What better way to showcase them? The sunlight streaming through the roof, the vast space between the trapezoidal roof and the top of the sculpture, birds flying, eyes intently looking up.

This moment. Priceless.

23 May 2005


北京 - 卫塞节,我和父母到了雍和宫。是初十五的关系吧,雍和宫很拥挤。但来到佛寺,总有几分安定感。雍和宫殿内有殿,宫内有宫,像是一层层的洋葱似的。

走到最后一层宫殿,我们看到了一个藏传佛教的展览,便进去兜了一圈。来到 Panchan lama 的时候,我便不太看得下去了。宗教与政治对我来说是分隔的,实在不应混杂在一起。所以我对任何的政治干预都不赞成。所以我对政府想把西藏人现代化有抗拒。我心目中的宗教乌托邦、香格里拉,就寄托在西藏上... 对于西藏,我有种潜意识的保护感。

但我也意识到这种保护感的起点也并非无私的。就像 »在 Yogyakarta 的时候所感受的,我大概只想为自己保留一个乌托邦、一个香格里拉。但香格里拉仍住着贫困的人民。我很想相信这些人民物质贫穷心灵不穷。但这到底是我个人的假设。我深切怀疑,内疚地怀疑,我的精神寄托是不公平地建筑在别人落后的环境上的。

说穿了,是我自己没有信念、没有诚心三步一拜蒂从西北跪到拉萨,所以想借藏人的诚心来 live vicariously... 所以我害怕政府把藏族同化、害怕政府大量鼓励媒体与旅游业进军西藏。

所以我感到一阵急迫 -- 我得到西藏去。

15 May 2005


北京 - 很高兴自己昨天乱闯胡同,能以第一手经验看到老百姓生活中的胡同。盛水洗衣、洗米烧饭、牵狗散步.. 走进了胡同,就仿佛进入了另一个北京。你抬头看不到高楼,只看到树荫。你往前看不到四条车道的马路,只看到狭小的窄巷。但现代化的存在却也都在眼前:超市、电视、汽车...


13 May 2005


北京 - 终于有闲空坐下来写写东西了。这家茶轩叫成富水艺轩,在雍和宫附近。走得很累了,决定坐下来休息。累的时候买东西总是失调的...原来这茶叶是$40,而不是$20!回去后真的得慢慢品尝。

世隔10年的北京已经不太一样了。当初印象中的北京只有故宫、天坛、天安门、颐和园...这一次来的北京有清华大学的书香气息和热情的款待、感觉勃然不同,仿佛又回到在美国念大学的时候。让我留下最深刻的,是清华的教授。他们语言能力过人(你有听过经济学者用这么优雅的“孔雀东南飞、一江春水向东流”来形容人民涌向中国沿海地区的趋势吗?!),更难得的是对所讲解的课题充满热诚。他们讲课时不依赖 Powerpoint, 看着银幕上草草的几行大纲便能滔滔不绝地讲上三小时。有好几位教授七、八十岁高龄了,我们完全看不出,还以为中气十足、炯炯有神的教授们最多也不过六十。休息时闲聊时大伙儿发现了,赶紧请教授们传授养身之道 ;)

清华校园外的北京却不是那么令人鼓舞的。语言方面的无差异更强烈地突出了文化上的差异。北京人的不礼貌依旧让我皱眉头 -- 扔钱、扔票、大声说话、地铁上挤了人而不道歉。但是在以服务业为中心的地方,服务是相当细心的。Swissotel 晚上有开床服务、餐馆会给大衣皮包套个盖子(以免被熏得臭气熏天)、吃火锅手烫着事会给您敷醋... 实在是好坏悬殊!


北京 - 刚刚去参观了毕加索画展。在这么中华的紫禁城博物院展出这么西方的毕加索,这中西交叉点的构思很有意思。说来我还是第一次以中文了解西方艺术呢。


Picaso contest 1 Picasso contest 3

31 March 2005

For the pleasure of my nostalgia, how long do people have to swat flies on dusty roads?

YOGYAKARTA, Melia Purosani Hotel lounge - First impression of Yogyakarta: the buildings and cityscape quite charming. The aged red-tile roofs reminiscent of my old primary school during childhood days in the '80s. The five-times-a-day prayers over the public speaker indicative of a place less fast-paced and efficient than Singapore. The rows of sleeping feet sticking out from trishaws comical. The barefotted man reading newspaper intently by the side of the road nostalgic.

But the pleasure of my nostalgia - to what extent is it dependent on a standstill, a non-modernization of a people's way of life? For the pleasure of my nostalgia, how long do people have to swat flies on dusty roads? How long do they have to put up with cramped living conditions, take loans from exorbitant local moneylenders in order to maintain my charming little pushcart of mie soto...?

Ramayana dance

YOGYAKARTA - The sequined multitude of colours. The little monkeys. The measured steps. The exquisite gestures. The precise execution of the foot cloth flicks. The ascension to heaven. The flames. The painted faces. The economical affixation of the white monkey's tail to the headgear. The angle of the fingers, the waist, the upheld bow. The catching of the arrows. The arm band distinguishing the two brothers. The incesen offering to the four corners of the stage. The aroma. The sonorous music emitting from the orchestra stand. The curt rejection of the devil king.

So why does Princess Sinta need to prove her purity? And why is a long-haired, pot-bellied man mountain not instead a long-haired pregnant woman mountain...?

30 March 2005

Borobodur Buddhas

YOGYAKARTA - The majesty of ancient monuments is always awe-inspiring. If Borobodur were still mired in the jungle, it would probably feel like Tikal. (The colours are similar.) But with the clearing and landscaped lawn, it feels almost too sanitized a la Chichen Itza.

Going up the steps of Borobodur is supposed to symbolize the attainment of nirvana from samsara. The exquisite carvings on the lower realms were detailed and full of sensual women in their natural, beautiful nude state. It is hard to decided which I prefer - aspiring to the peaceful zen state at the pinnacle, or remaining in thee samsarically beautiful but also samsarically painful lower realms.


In the end, I climbed straight on. I am not sure if I did so out of curiosity or a desire to be closer to the Buddhas. The pinnacle was surreally beautiful. So many stupas, with so many shy Buddhas, awaiting, hiding.

One could only stand in awe and pray. I prayed to Buddha to watch over this land he oversees, to inspire us all to enlightenment.

Circumabulating the stupa in the rain, the raindrops fell pitter-patter on my 40-cents rented umbrella. "I", the rain, the umbrella - we are all one.

Turning around, I noticed a lightning rod running down the main stupa. Did they not trust the many Buddhas to protect the very abode they resided in? But the many headless Buddhas provided the stark answer. Man is greedy, the world is harsh.

Is Buddha omnipotent? Or at the least omnipotent enough to protect himself? Or maybe he is too compassionate, just yielding to the needs and wishes of man. What is a head anyway if it can bring some warm food to the looter's dinning table?

The rain turned into a torrent. Water gushing, jeans wet.

What a mighty shower of blessing.

11 January 2005


As some of you may have heard or seen, I was busy the past week being a tech geek. Part of it was fixing my niece's wormed laptop, but mainly, it was an obsession with Mac-ing my computer to give it that impressive clean look. Voila!

If you crave more aesthetics in a workspace that you face most of your waking hours, here are the programs that can make it happen:

  • Objectdock - Freeware. Let the kiddy Windows taskbar rest forever in peace.
  • StyleXP | UXtheme.dll hack - Freeware | Shareware. Choose the Panther theme for the menu style in StyleXP. However, note that StyleXP is a shareware and expires after 30 days, leaving you with the original, excruciating, Windows menus. But don't worry and don't feel like rushing out to buy a Mac when that happen :) You can use the Uxtheme.dll hack freeware from Neowin available here. If that doesn't work, the manual hack (which is actually not difficult) is succintly detailed here at Neowin.net. This is a long-term solution. (You can also skip installing the StyleXP step altogether and depend on the Uxtheme.dll hack, in which case you just have to google for your own Panther theme and install.)
  • Yahoo Widget Engine - Freeware. For those beautiful widgets on the desktop. Previously known as Konfabulator, it has been bought over by Yahoo. Nothing has changed much from the user point of view.
  • Lucida Grande font - do away with the boring Windows default San Serif!
  • Icon Tweaker - Freeware. I used to use IconPackager, but again, that expires, so IconTweaker is definitely a more long-term solution.
  • ObjectBar - The main reason to have this bar found at the top of a Mac screen is really for the system tray. But if you are like me and prefer not to overload your RAM, it is actually possible to make do without it.

For a step-by-step guide and more hardcore emulating, try:

http://features.engadget.com/entry/8828351836181248/ http://www.joeuser.com/index.asp?c=1&AID=66871