Saturday, December 31, 2005

Hi Dylan!

Our friends Dave & Jen have a baby! Just in time for the new year too! See here for a pic of the amazingly serene mum and the little darling. We'll try our best to make it to San Francisco to see you guys over spring break- promise!

Welcome to the world Dylan Gee Louie!

A Child Went Forth
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
- Walt Whitman

Friday, December 30, 2005

Playing House

Spending the last few days viewing apartments has been a most illuminating experience. Jude and I aren't dead set on buying something but just thought to keep our options open and so have been looking at several places around his parents' place. Just back from another house-hunting session, and bearing an uncanny sense of contemplation, a feeling I can't quite pin down, somewhere between anticipation, anxiety, and resignation I suppose. I love the idea of finally having a place of our own which we can fix up in a way which is uniquely us and a home we can be proud stewards of; on the other hand, buying a house is a huge committment, and one I'm not sure whether as grad students we can truly undertake. Also, walking around the many housing estates has offered an interesting insight into the whole Singaporean housing experience, one I never quite fully appreciated till now. There's a whole language associated with buying a house in Singapore- phrases like "valuation", "4-S", "4-A", "co-broke", etc. are thrown about and everyone in the loop toss them around as if they were born with that vocabulary; then there are all the players involved in the transaction- the buyers, sellers, agents on both sides, the government gets into the picture, as well as banks, tenants if we want to rent our apartment out, and of course our parents who are probably going to have to help us watch over it while we're away.

Interestingly, this relates really well to something we recently watched on DVD. While we were Christmas shopping last week, we chanced upon the inagural collection of Singapore short films, Singapore Shorts. Jude continues to keep abreast of the Singapore arts scene and we decided to buy the compilation, especially for Tan Pin Pin's Moving House, a short film about compulsory exhumation of grave-sites in Singapore. It elegantly and evocatively brings together social & political commentary about Singapore's housing and development policies, and a moving ethnography about one family's attempt to deal with exhuming their parents' graves in order for the government to take over the land in the name of urban redevelopment.

I grew up in an era where public housing is ubiquitous and the almost instinctual housing of choice. I'd never stopped to think about what it meant to try to contain 4 million people into an island which takes only 45 minutes to drive the length of, and the sacrifices and compromises which have to be made in the name of advancement and modernity. The film brought home to me the realities which belie our internationally reknown housing policy and interrogated the taken-for-grantedness which has always characterized my ideas of what it means to gain a home in Singapore, and what is lost in that process.

Jude and I still haven't decided if we're going to buy anything, but whatever the case may be, as it is proverbially acknowledged, a house doesn't make a home. We have each other, and as far as we're concerned, that's good enough for now.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Restraint is...

...something I have yet to learn. Especially when it comes to food, and especially when I'm back home where more often than not, people spoil you silly by feeding you. My day began with two cups of kopi-O and half a packet of nasi lemak. Right, you might say, it's half a packet, no biggie, but when it's half a packet of rice cooked in rich coconut milk, accompanied by fried egg, fried fish, ikan bilis (dried anchovies) & peanuts, and an otak which is a spicy coconut-based fish paste, all before 10am, you'll understand how indulgent it was... (and how delicious...)

Lunch was at Crystal Jade with my mum and Sam. I clearly have lost the ability to order proportionately when it comes to being back home in Singapore. Between the three of us, we had a bowl of smooth rice porridge, a plate of roast duck noodles, a portion of stewed trotters in black vinegar (I know this sounds almost nauseating, but honestly, there are few things which marry sweet, sour, and savory to such an ambrosiacal level...), and tim-sum which consisted of panfried carrot cake, shrimp dumplings, steamed pork ribs, steamed chicken feet, and baked pork buns. (I can just imagine Melanie squirming already.... Jonas, help.) Oh, and there was a plate of soy-sauce chicken too. Told you I no longer have control over my sense of perspective...

I think my greatest weakness are the desserts, and to make things worst, they're not even local desserts which I can excuse myself for having on the pretext that I don't get them in Ann Arbor. It's those tea-time treats and after-dinner indulgences that simply kill me. Was out with my cousins Jill & Terri and both my sisters and what do we do apart from voluntarily hurling ourselves at the constantly maruading crowds in Orchard Road? Have coffee and Bakerz Inn. We had a warm apple pie ala mode and an evil waist-busting, self control-crippling miscreant disguised as an innocent and oh-so-delectable warm oozing chocolate pudding with ice-cream. Pure evil I say, pure evil!! Oh the horror...

And dinner, don't even get me started... My lovely uncle and aunt brought us all out for Japanese steamboat (shabu shabu). After a trio of exquisitely crafted appetizers, we were presented with freshly sliced Wagyu beef to be cooked gently in a light broth (when I say freshly sliced, I mean it- the chef literally took out the frozen hunk of beef and sliced it wafer-thin right before us). It was the first time Jude & I have had Wagyu beef, and it was delicious. Immensely tender without being greasy at all. And the fresh veggies were a great accompaniment together with what we suspect to be hand-made noodles. But the piece de resistance was the rice porridge that the chef then made right before us using the intensely tasty leftover broth after we were done eating. With just that pot of broth, he transformed a bowl of rice, a beaten egg, some seasoning, a slice of cheese cut up, and some seaweed into what can only be described as the ultimate comfort food to satiate even the most demanding of palates. Nothing fancy here folks, just simple carbohydrates and proteins, but put together in a way that really warmed the deepest cockles of this girl's gut.

So you see, I was not exaggerating when I said I so need to work on fortifying my walls of self-control and restraint- I am not kidding. I need help. I'm contemplating clinical assistance... Like stapling my mouth perhaps.

By the way, we're having a buffet lunch tomorrow with Jude's parents.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Christmas at home was every bit as joyous as we had expected (but also more tiring than we remembered it to be...) Being with family was lovely and everyone loved their presents- I got Jude tickets to watch Feist when she comes to Ann Arbor next month and also the complete Director's Series DVD Collection that includes directors like Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, Spike Jonze and Anton Corbijn which Jude has been enjoying for a while; he got me that adorable Threadless t-shirt and a REI vest I've been coveting for the longest time; and Sam- good grief! amongst other things, my dear baby sister received a new pair of Birkenstocks, a Swatch watch, and a Crumpler messenger bag... talk about being loved!

It was also a Christmas of a couple of firsts- 1) my first Catholic midnight mass with Jude's family, 2) our first Christmas with our niece Amelia (who's developing a strange affection for bedding of any sort- pillows, bolsters, blankets...), 3) the first time Johnny Cash has been played as Christmas music at dinner (imagine "A Boy Named Sue" instead of "The Little Drummer Boy"- it's my dad's Christmas present which Jude picked out- Johnny Cash's The Legend box set- to prepare him for the movie that I suspect won't open in Singapore till just before the Oscars); and 4) the first time in a long while that we've had EVERY single member of my extended family at Christmas together. We're talking two grandparents, 11 aunts and uncles, 20 cousins, 5 nephews and one niece. In case the math deluded you- that's 39 people in all (the photos tell it all).

Anways, we're both completely pooped from the festivities, especially the eating. Time for some serious recuperation before we leave in a week. Going back to student life is going to seem like sheer deprivation for a while after indulging so much and also being showered with so much attention and love. We're basking in the warmth of our family and to share it with you, from both of us, here's wishing everyone a truly blessed Christmas!

Enchanted Forest. Peagreen, 2005.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Both Jude & I read the book when we were much younger and remember it to different degrees. I suppose you could think of the movie as a kind of Lord of the Rings for the under-18 set but with what is probably a starker Christian allegory. One could go on and on about the religiou undertones (or overtones) of the story, but as with all allegories, they are meant to be symbolic, not literal- as A.O. Scott wrote in the NYTimes, you don't find talking beavers in the Bible...

Anyways, we enjoyed the movie very much. It was less epic than I had expected but because of that, also with alot more heart. You could palpably feel the human emotions between the children (resentment, betrayal, forgiveness, reconciliation), but at the same time, also the lofty weight of the battle between good and evil. The casting was truly genius, especially Tilda Swinton as the exquisitely malevolent White Witch. It is her almost other-wordly allure that made her an equally evocative Angel Gabriel in Constantine but here, she has truly outshone herself, literally. Some literary characters will forever be immortalized by the actors who play them- Holly Gollighty, Dorothy, Harry Potter, and now, the White Witch. But I thought little Georgie Henley as Lucy was truly the soul of the story. Her well of empathy, faith in goodness, and artless courage made me smile everytime she was happy, and tear whenever her little heart was broken, either by her brother's dishonesty, or at Aslan's sacrifice. Just wonderful.

I did have issues with some of the battle scenes being a little too vivd for young children, and in that vein, also share some of Jude's discomfort at the metaphor of warfare in what is essentially a Christian allegory. But during this holiday movie season, as long as you suspend your religious or spiritual anxieities at the theatre door and embrace the story as a universal tale of maturity, sacrifice and triumph, I assure that you will find profoundly more genuine wonderment and joy in the two-half hours than a giant simian or sashaying bespectacled fowl will ever come close to doing.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Have you?...

Got this from Susan's blog. Most definitely both a liberating but also mortifying recollection...

Jude- bold
Serene- italics

01. Bought everyone in the pub a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Done a striptease
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night long, and watch the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
19. Touched an iceberg
20. Slept under the stars
21. Changed a baby's diaper
22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
23. Watched a meteor shower
24. Gotten drunk on champagne
25. Given more than you can afford to charity
26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
28. Had a food fight
29. Bet on a winning horse
30. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
31. Asked out a stranger
32. Had a snowball fight
33. Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier
34. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
35. Held a lamb
36. Enacted a favorite fantasy
37. Taken a midnight skinny dip
38. Taken an ice cold bath
39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
40. Seen a total eclipse
41. Ridden a roller coaster
42. Hit a home run
43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
45. Adopted an accent for an entire day
46. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
47. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
48. Had two hard drives for your computer
49. Visited all 50 states
50. Loved your job for all accounts
51. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
53. Had amazing friends
54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
55. Watched wild whales
56. Stolen a sign
57. Backpacked in Europe
58. Taken a road-trip

59. Rock climbing
60. Lied to foreign government's official in that country to avoid notice
61. Midnight walk on the beach
62. Sky diving
63. Visited Ireland
64. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them.
66. Visited Japan
67. Bench pressed your own weight
68. Milked a cow

69. Alphabetized your records (CDs)
70. Pretended to be a superhero
71. Sung karaoke
72. Lounged around in bed all day
73. Posed nude in front of strangers
74. Scuba diving
75. Got it on to "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye
76. Kissed in the rain
77. Played in the mud
78. Played in the rain
79. Gone to a drive-in theater
80. Done something you should regret, but don't regret it
81. Visited the Great Wall of China
82. Discovered that someone who's not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog
83. Dropped Windows in favor of something better
84. Started a business
85. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
86. Toured ancient sites
87. Taken a martial arts class
88. Swordfought for the honor of a woman
89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
90. Gotten married
91. Been in a movie
92. Crashed a party
93. Loved someone you shouldn't have

94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy
95. Gotten divorced
96. Had sex at the office
97. Gone without food for 5 days
98. Made cookies from scratch
99. Won first prize in a costume contest
100. Ridden a gondola in Venice
101. Gotten a tattoo
102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on
103. Rafted the Snake River
104. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
105. Got flowers for no reason
106. Masturbated in a public place
107. Got so drunk you don't remember anything
108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug
109. Performed on stage
110. Been to Las Vegas
111. Recorded music
112. Eaten shark
113. Had a one-night stand (it doesn't have to be sex)
114. Gone to Thailand
115. Seen Siouxsie live
116. Bought a house
117. Been in a combat zone
118. Buried one/both of your parents
119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off
120. Been on a cruise ship
121. Spoken more than one language fluently
122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
123. Bounced a check
124. Performed in Rocky Horror Show
125. Read - and understood - your credit report
126. Raised children
127. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
128. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
129. Created and named your own constellation of stars
130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
131. Found out something significant that your ancestors did
132. Called or written your Congress person
133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
134. ...more than once? - More than thrice?
135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
137. Had an abortion or your female partner did
138. Had plastic surgery
139. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
140. Wrote articles for a large publication
141. Lost over 100 pounds not all at once, but after losing, gaining, and then losing again, it adds up
142. Held someone while they were having a flashback
143. Piloted an airplane
144. Petted a stingray
145. Broken someone's heart
146. Helped an animal give birth
147. Been fired or laid off from a job
148. Won money on a T.V. game show
149. Broken a bone
150. Killed a human being
151. Gone on an African photo safari
152. Ridden a motorcycle
153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph
154. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
157. Ridden a horse
158. Had major surgery
159. Had sex on a moving train
160. Had a snake as a pet
161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
162. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
164. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
165. Visited all 7 continents
166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
167. Eaten kangaroo meat
168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
169. Been a sperm or egg donor
170. Eaten sushi
171. Had your picture in the newspaper
172. Had 2 (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in your lifetime
173. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about

174. Gotten someone fired for their actions
175. Gone back to school
176. Parasailed
177. Changed your name
178. Petted a cockroach
179. Eaten fried green tomatoes
180. Read The Iliad
181. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, cups because your apartment needed them
183. ...and gotten 86'ed from the restaurant because you did it so many times, they figured out it was you
184. Taught yourself an art from scratch
185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
187. Skipped all your school reunions
188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
189. Been elected to public office
190. Written your own computer language
191. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
192. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
193. Built your own PC from parts
194. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
195. Had a booth at a street fair
196. Dyed your hair
197: Been a DJ
198: Found out someone was going to dump you via LiveJournal
199: Written your own role playing game
200: Been arrested

Monday, December 19, 2005

Simple sustenance

The second food-related post for the day. Jude's mum bought us fish beehoon (rice vermicelli) for lunch and oddly, it was one of the nicest meals I've had since I've been back. I supppose it had less to do with taste and more to do with the simplicity of it all- fresh fish slices, tender rice noodles, and a light tasty fish broth. No frills, no fussy garnishings, just simple fare that was as delicious as it was comforting. And of course the quiet setting of lunch at home with Jude made it an even sweeter joy...

Christmas Dinner I

This is Christmas Dinner I because there is of course going to be Christmas Dinners II and III all within the next week. This is Singapore where we love our food, and we are talking about our family, which loves food even more than your average Singaporean, so there. Anyways, this was a soiree that my sister threw for friends from work and it was veritable success if we should say so ourselves. I think everyone had a great time, and I finally got to meet the people who help make my sister's otherwise crazy demanding job that much less painful, so that was nice :) A whole ton of cooking went on on Saturday though and I imagine that's the kind of effort that goes into preparing a Thanksgiving meal, except without the oversized bird. The pictures are on Flickr and here's the menu:

Smoked Salmon Tortilla Pinwheels
With Dill & Cream Cheese Dressing

Savory Meatballs
Spiced with Cumin and served with Lingonberry Sauce

German Potato Salad

Roast Chicken with Sausages and Sage

Spiced Saffron Basmati Rice
With raisins and almonds

Seafood Stew
In an olive-basil marinara sauce

Honey Baked Ham

Parmesan Creamed Spinach

Hearty Baked Mushrooms
In balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Assorted Pastries

Oh, we also played Cranium, and Sam and I totally rocked! Considering I was jetlagged and she was the youngest in the group, we were definitely at a distinctive disadvantage. But nooo, 12 year-old or not, that girl spelled "jettison" with great aplomb and confidence (despite never having heard the word before in her life), managed to decipher my terrble humming of K.C. & the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way Uh-Huh Uh-Huh I Like It" (even though she didn't know the title- which were the only lyrics she knew anyway), and guessed my sculpting of a turtle even before I could shape its head. Someone say Dynamic Duo??!!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Home for the holidays

I don't think I could have had a more varied spectrum of experiences than I have in the past four days. On Wednesday, it was a typically brisk December morning in Ann Arbor complete with slick ice and deep chill; spent the rest of that day and most of the next stuck next to the most obnoxious Chinese man known to humanity in a stifling air-controlled space that would have out-claustrophobized Claustrophobia if ever there were such a thing; thankfully, the Tokyo-Singapore leg was more forgiving and I managed to not only catch some sleep (whatever sleep means on a seven-hour flight...) but also the sublimely comforting Wallace & Gromit :) And then, against my better judgement, I immediately proceeded to go Christmas shopping with my sisters the very next day- ok, really people, not a good idea. The throngs of Christmas shoppers in Orchard Road- Takashimaya specifically- were mindfully executing a coordinated plan to overwhelm me- M.O.: shoving, jostling, shouting, long lines at the cash registers, people using their shopping bags as defensive and offensive weapons, etc... They emerged victorious because Serene Koh was mentally and physically exhausted by 3pm- I had to plea for a coffee break. And this is from someone who used to be able to do all her Christmas shopping in a day without breaking a sweat, with coffee on the run at that... I think I'm going to stay indoors the next couple of days.

On a less dizzying note, I managed to find a copy of Zadie Smith's On Beauty in paperback at Kinokuniya (with a gorgeous cover no less- yes, I'm shallow like that...). Will finally be able to read it in peace instead of surreptitiously reading bits and pieces of it everytime we go to a bookstore. It'll be good bedtime material after I'm done with all this infernal grading... Also, trimmed our Christmas tree with my sisters and my godsons last night when they came to visit. It was an absolute blast and the two rascals were sheer joy as always (although I'm sure their long-suffering mother would desperately beg to differ).

Spent the morning getting ready for a party my sister's having tonight- decorating the house, cooking, and the most fun of all, putting together the little gingerbread house I brought back from Trader Joe's with Sam. It was alot easier than I had expected- the pieces were all nicely packed and you just have to assemble them with icing. It's so pretty although some of the gingerbread cookie pieces cracked from the plane ride I think. Sam had the most fun putting the decorative trimmings on the house :) The pics are up on Flickr- let us know what you think!

It is such simple pleasure to be around family during the holidays- getting things ready, enjoying each others company, and just all being together. I'm glad I'm home :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Say hello wave goodbye...

So, it's now 7.32 on a Wednesday morning and my plane leaves in about 5 hours and 20 minutes. I haven't slept since Monday night, so hopefully the hideous Detroit-Tokyo leg of the journey will come and go without me being conscious for very much of it. I really do hate that part of the trip home- there's no personal TV, it's always a full flight (Narita is Nothwest's hub in Asia), and the lousy Northwest service gets progressively worse with every hour we gain in time zone... I came this close to taking two Nyquils with me to knock me out just in case sleep deprivation doesn't do it enough.

Anyways, a sneak into my satchel to see how I'm planning on surviving the 21 hour trip across the world:
1) A fully-charged iPod;
2) The latest TIME magazine (I can't seem to read books on the plane. Magazines work way better for me...);
3) Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine which I haven't finished reading;
4) My notebook;
5) A black pen for writing in my notebook;
6) Gum;
7) 13 final papers to grade. I have 25 students but with each of them submitting a 15-pager, only half could fit in my bag; the rest are going to be checked in. I told myself I'd try grading them now instead of sleeping so I won't have to worry about them when I get home, but as we all know, self-discipline is something Serene has very little of and even less control over;
8) A green pen for grading;
9) My water bottle. The one thing I compromise on plane rides (apart from my sanity and general good cheer) is coffee. I never drink coffee on the plane. We know that coffee on flights is not really coffee right? Think of the worst coffee you've ever tasted; now think of a distant cousin to that coffee; airline coffee is a sad excuse of that distant cousin. That's how bad I think it is. But more importantly, coffee really dries me up on plane rides and I get these really massive headaches. So I literally drown myself in water instead, and hence the water bottle.

So there, my modest survival kit. The next time I post, I will be on a tiny island nation two degrees north of the equator where playing "White Christmas" even in December makes about as much sense as the idea of good airplane coffee. Till later!

Monday, December 12, 2005


Yes yes, to continue the trend of single-word posts this week... Anyways, you think I'd learnt by now that grad school is supposed to be hard. Every semester I tell myself it can't be worse than the last one, and every semester the workload proves me wrong. In Winter, it was my educational statistics class which drove me up the wall (the term paper for which I'm actually presenting at a conference in San Francisco next year so I guess I shouldn't complain...); this term, it's this mammoth 50-page tome that I have to submit tomorrow. I'm on my third draft and I think I've about had it. At this point, I don't reckon I could do much more to it that would change my grade dramatically more than if I just handed it in as it is. It's about the history of Head Start and the program means a lot to me- it's the paper that doesn't...

By about 4pm today, I had been sitting in front of the computer for 6 hours straight and really needed to just get out of the house and do something else. So I did. Drove to the gym in the snow, expended all the frustration and inertia on the elliptical machine for 45 minutes (this is a record- see what stress does?), and for reasons I'm still trying to fathom, went to the store and bought a whole roasted chicken. I came home, made a huge pot of spaghetti, and now I have a massive amount of roast chicken and mushroom pasta sitting in the kitchen. Unbelievable. And I'm not even hungry... Right, and I'm leaving on Wednesday. Which therefore means that's all I'm eating from now till then. Great.

Anyways, am going to have to spend the rest of tonight belaboring this paper- I don't think I've encountered another project that has caused me so much grief. Honestly, if not for the fact that I'm going to see Jude and my family & friends soon, I don't think I'd be able to suck this in and hunker on. God bless their lovely souls...

I love you guys.

Friday, December 09, 2005


You are Ice Cream

are Ice Cream

You're madly in love, cheerful, and carefree. Life couldn't get
any better than this!

Sarah McLachlan Song Are You?

Created by Noor

Ice Cream
Your love is better than ice cream
Better than anything else that I’ve tried
And your love is better than ice cream
Everyone here know how to fight

And it’s a long way down
It’s a long way down
It’s a long way down to the place
Where we started from

Your love is better than chocolate
Better than anything else that I’ve tried
Oh love is better than chocolate
Everyone here knows how to cry

It’s a long way down
It’s a long way down
It’s a long way down to the place
Where we started from...


Since Jude left...
1) My plants have never been so cared for in their lives. With no one else to shower attention on, I water them constantly and prune them to death. I don't think they're appreciating it though- I had to drain two pots of plants yesterday. Think I need to go easy on the love...

2) Instead of cooking everyday, I cook enough food twice a week to last me the next four days. In other words, since Jude's been gone, my meals have revolved around miso-marinated chicken, beef stew, teriyaki chicken, brown rice, and loads of roasted veggies. I store them in boxes in the fridge and heat them up when I want to, or bring them to school with me. It takes alot of the fun out of cooking and eating but I guess I don't mind for now. The thing is, I haven't been enjoying eating very much since Jude left (and this is coming from someone who loves to eat, period); it's just me, my food, and a magazine or my notes. How boring.

3) I've been watching the snow alot. I know, this probably has nothing to do with Jude not being around but I have. Find myself randomly staring out our study room window or the kitchen window and just looking at the snow. I had a field day today- while waiting for the chicken to roast, felt compelled to watch the snow swirling outside. We're in the middle of a snow storm right now- an inch per hour and that's a whole ton. I'm not looking forward to the morning, but for now, it's pretty to watch.

4) I've been baking. Yes, yes, this is coming from the disaster of a baker, but its mainly from those boxed premixes from Trader Joe's. It started with two Cranberry Vanilla cakes over Thanksgiving, then I made chocolate cookies last weekend for a Singaporean friend's kids who're visiting, and tomorrow, I'm going to bake a Chocolate Truffle cake to bring to a classmate's place. Those premixes are a lifesaver and the house smells so good when they're in the oven. Simulates the warmth of having another person in the house I guess...

5) I haven't switched on the TV except to watch the Notebook on DVD over Thanksgiving, and my Thursday CSI and Without A Trace fix. Usually we take breaks in between doing work by watching TV together. Since Jude's been gone, I just end up sitting in front of the computer doing work and my breaks are being able to chat with him online. Beats watching TV anytime.

So there, I'll be home in a week and I can't wait! It's going to be a fabulous Christmas- I can feel it already...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Good Teacher

So, I'm preparing for my second to last class for the year, and potentially my second to last class forever. From next semester, I'm committed to work solely on the research project I'm already on right now (we're developing a literacy curriculum for low-income children in cooperation with Sesame Street and Between the Lions!!) and so no longer have to teach for my tuition. Teaching has been a lot of work, more so than research will be I think, but I've enjoyed it. Yes, it's been stressful, but as always, rewarding in a perverse way only other teachers understand and appreciate...

So anyways, this is always my favorite lesson to teach- after 10 weeks of attending to issues of race, class, language and inequality, we're going to look at how their knowledge about these issues then informs their conception of the kind of teacher they want to be. I help them by introducing three models of teaching- the Executive, the Facilitator, and the Liberator. I've found that students understand these models better and identify with them easier when they see representations of them, so guess what I'm going to do? Show them clips from movies as examples of course! So here are the picks I used last semester which I'm going to use again, but I'm open to suggestion if anyone can think of others...

1) The teacher as Executive: This approach views the teacher as a manager of complex classroom processes, a person charged with bringing about certain outcomes with students through using the best skills and techniques available. Carefully developed curriculum materials and methods of teaching backed by research are very important to this approach.

Movie example: Stand and Deliver. The scene where Edward James Olmos tries to teach the group of misfit Hispanic kids about the concept of zero and gets them all to chant "A negative times a negative is a positive... "A negative times a negative is a positive..."

2) The teacher as Facilitator: This places a high value on what students bring to the classroom setting. It places considerable emphasis on making use of students' prior experience. The facilitative teacher is typically an empathetic person who believes in helping individuals grow personally and reach a high level of self-actualization and self-understanding.

Movie example: Conrack. This is an old movie way back when people were just beginning to think of Jon Voight as a sex symbol (yes, that's how old this movie is...). The scene is when he introduces a group of poor Southern African-American kids to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony by tapping into their emotions and feelings about their surroundings.

3) The teacher as Liberator. This approach views the teacher as one who frees and opens the mind of the learner, initiating him or her into human ways of knowing and assisting the learner in becoming a well-rounded, knowledgeable, and moral human being.

Movie example: Dead Poets Society. I can't think of a scene that fits this approach better than the one where Robin Williams gets his students to rip the entire Introduction out of a poetry textbook because it reduced the value of poetry into a mathematical measurement. "Excrement" he calls it...
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse." That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
- Robin Williams as John Keating

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas presents

So Susan's tag has now gotten me thinking about getting Christmas presents ready. I'll do the shopping for family and friends in Singapore when I get home but I've been thinking about what to do for our friends here. I can't afford to get everyone fancy presents of course, but I don't want to buy them trinklets they'll forget about the moment after they receive it either. Our friends here have become really important to us (and also those who have moved away whom we dearly miss!) and I think they deserve something nice this holiday season. So here's what I'm thinking- Cookies In A Jar. I'll pack the dry ingredients for one recipe-worth of holiday cookies in a jar and attach a greeting card with instructions on what wet ingredients to add and how to bake the cookies. I'm planning to layer the ingredients one after another instead of just mixing them up; this way the different texture and color of the ingredients will play off each other nicely. This works especially well with this recipe for Cranberry Hootycreeks which are essentially white chocolate cranberry cookies. The recipe calls for pecans but I think I'll leave those out in case people are allergic to nuts. This is how it'll look (I hope...):

The digital camera's with Jude so this is the closest I'll get to showing you the final product. I'll also buy gingham fabric to wrap the top of the jar and attach the greeting card and instructions with twine. It won't cost too much since they're really simple ingredients and canning jars aren't particularly expensive either. Hopefully they'll turn out pretty. They'd better- I haven't done this before and the last thing I want is to be stuck with a dozen jars and 70 cups worth of flour, oats, sugar, white chocolate chips and cranberries...

Here's the recipe if you're thinking of something similar for your friends:

5/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1. Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart or 1 liter jar, in the order listed. Make sure you press hard on each layer you add in. This is to make space for all the ingredients.
2. Attach a tag with the following instructions:
Cranberry Hootycreeks
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy.
3. Add the entire jar of ingredients, and mix together by hand until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.
4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Cool on baking sheets, or remove to cool on wire racks.
The recipe serves 18 and if you leave it in a cool place, it should last for about 3 months (the jar of ingredients, not the cookies!). Now we just have to hope I finish all my crazy work in time to destress with this holiday project...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Top-10 Tearjerkers

Spent the last 2 hours crying my eyes out... Like my sister says, "I guess that means the girls in your class are going to do really well this semester..." Yes, watched The Notebook and they were right. About the crying at least. It's not a spectacular movie, but 1) it's a Nick Cassavetes movie (the guy always casts his mother in his movies- that's kinda creepy...) so it was well-crafted if nothing else; 2) the chemistry between the leads was really good; which brings me to 3) they convince you that their story is worth using half a box of tissue for.

Those who know me know that this is clearly not the first movie I've cried myself through, nor will it be the last. But as a self-professed pudding of a sappy sentimentalist (try saying that ten times in a row...), I defend my kind and say that there are movies that make you cry, and then there are movies that *really* make you cry. Sobbing at Bruce Willis bidding Liv Tyler farewell in Armageddon does not count. True-blue tearjerkers sustain the emotion throughout the movie- trust me, tear ducts are manipulable... So here's the list of my top-10 favorite tearjerkers. Bring on the Kleenex!

In no particular order...
1) The Mask
No, I did not cry when Jim Carrey turned green. This is the one with Eric Stolz and Cher where he suffers from the Elephant Man disease.
The part where I lost it:
When he was at the fair and walked into the Hall of Mirrors and saw a reflection of himself looking *normal*. He was so comfortable with how he looked right until then...

2) The Road Home
This is the one with Zhang Ziyi before she became Ziyi Zhang. I watched this with Jude's family and had such a hard time hiding the fact that I was a complete puddle. So embarassing...
The part where I lost it:
When she fell sick from sheer pining when he was summoned to Beijing by the Communist government.

3) Shadowlands
Watched this with my best friend. I think we couldn't speak after we came out of the theatre.
The part where I lost it:
Basically after she fell sick, I was watching it through a torrent. When she died, that was it.

4) Tombstone of the Fireflies
Need I say more?
The part where I lost it:
When the girl started hallucinating and ate pebbles from the candy tin her brother bought her. Jude bought me that exact tin of candy once and I thought I was going to cry right there at the supermarket.

5) Untamed Heart
I told people this before. Every line in this movie is calculated to make you bawl.
The part where I lost it:
Caroline: I have fallen...
Adam: Are you hurt?
Caroline: I wasn't finished.
Adam: Finish.
Caroline: I have fallen so in love with you, so much more than I said I would.
I know it sounds cheesy here, but you have to watch it in context. After 40 minutes, I gave up on tissues. I was using a bath towel.

6) The Hours
One of my all-time favorite movies. Ever. I don't think I've watched anything with such sustained melancholy. Not tragedy like The Pianist or Schindler's List. Melancholy.
The part where I lost it:
The sequence where Julianne Moore lies on the bed and begins to be engulfed by the gushing waters. Guess what else was gushing...

7 Stepmom
Gets me everytime I watch it even though I know Susan Sarandon is going to die. And the little boy just kills me...
The part where I lost it:
The blanket she makes for them. C'mon...

8) Dead Poets Society
You know the moment he makes them tear up their textbook that it isn't going to end well, but you hang in there. By the time Robert Sean Leonard kills himself, you're too far lost...
The part where I lost it:
"O captain my captain!"

9) Truly, Madly, Deeply
Like Ghost, but so much better, and British. The was Anthony Mighella before The English Patient, and Alan Rickman way before he was Professor Snape. Done so well, and so heartbreaking.
The part where I lost it:
When he came back from the dead and played the chello with her. Less sexy than Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the pottery scene, but just as if not more evocative.

10) Ladyhawke
It can't get more painful than this: only being able to look upon each other as man and woman for that split moment between sunset and sunrise before he becomes wolf by day and she is cursed to be a hawk by night.
The part where I lost it:
Phillipe: Are you flesh, or are you spirit?
Isabeau: I am sorrow.

** Ok, in response to my husband's bafflement at some of my choices, I have defend this list by saying that tear-jerker status does not necessarily equate quality. A soppy movie isn't always a good movie which is why only some of these films are also on my Desert Island Movie List.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I will survive...

He called! I was waiting for Jude to call since I woke up this morning and I'm happy to report that the man has survived the ungodly 23-hour journey (with awful Northwest Airlines food, brusque service & bad movies- except Junebug which he said was very good) and is now hopefully sound asleep in his parents' house in Shunfu Road.

Day 2 of being alone at home has been surprisingly painless. I slept in, woke up past noon, had Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and am now trying to get my work in order for the rest of the semester. It's going to be one hell of a three-weeks till I leave for home, but seeing Jude again and spending Christmas with friends & family will be powerful motivations to suck it in and get it over with. If I can survive the next 20 days, I can survive anything...

On a lighter note, since Jude's gone, I figure I need other distractions from the tedium of work. Ended up borrowing three videos which I think cover a good range of movies. There's a summer blockbuster, War of the Worlds which we ended up watching together when he was packing the other night. If you ask me, everyone in that movie should have been killed by the aliens. Nothing in the movie made sense and the acting was deplorable: Tom Cruise was just plain smarmy, Dakota Fanning needs to be taught that there's a difference between yelling & screaming and real acting, and Tim Robbins' wonderful talent was so regretfully squandered that he should have jut shot himself.

I also have a sappy tearjerker- The Notebook. All my female students swear by both the novel and the book and insisted that my life would not be complete if I haven't watched it. And this is AFTER I told them that their grade will be determined by how much I enjoy the film. I don't know how I'd take to watching a love story and missing my husband at the same time, but if my living room lamp shortcircuits, you'll know why...

And lastly, Jude recommended an art-house documentary, Born Into Brothels. It's about child prostitutes working in the red-light districts in Calcutta. We've been wanting to watch this for a while but I just know it's going to be such a discomforting experience. I have a hard time watching anything with children in pain or suffering, but I guess if I seriously want to work with and help these very kids (well, not these kids specifically, but disadvantaged children in general), then this is something I'm going to have to deal with.

How's your Thanksgiving holiday going?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving alone

Considering the circumstances, Thanksgiving was a blast. My friend Julie wonderfully invited me to her family's Thanksgiving gathering because she was convinced I would shrivel up from pure despondence if I had to spend Thanksgiving alone. And I'm glad she did. This was my first real American Thanksgiving dinner. The past two years we've been here, Thanksgiving was always an excuse for an elaborate potluck (Singaporean curry, Korean bulgogi, orange-basted turkey, Chinese jiao zi, Spanish sangria, etc.), and I'd never had a proper sit-down Thanksgiving meal with all the works. So today was really nice- Julie's family is fabulous, there was waaay too much food (they sent me home with so much leftovers I'm going to have tryptophan oozing out my pores for the next few days!), and my definitive Thanksgiving experience has been cast: a huge cheese platter, green and red M&Ms (you gotta have green and red M&Ms!), the warmth and scent of vanilla and cinnamon candles everywhere, copious amounts of freely flowing wine which I did not have, a huge 19-pound lovingly prepared turkey, 2 kinds of cranberry sauce, cornbread and bacon stuffing, creamed onions, corn pudding, sweet potato mash, garlic potato mash, sauteed brussel sprouts, pumpkin pie, vanilla cranberry cake (which I baked and brought with me), copious amounts of freely flowing coffee which I did have, two adorable children (one of whom was running around the whole day half-naked), two golden retrievers, a cat, and a house full of wonderful people. It was an absolute privilege to have been part of the warmth and love they so clearly share.

The one thing that would have made it perfect is Jude. He's been gone 15 hours and I miss him already. It feels somewhat peculiar to be at home alone. Disconcerting perhaps. It's not like I'm scared or even lonely; a little lost maybe...

In the spirit of the season and as I sit here refreshing the Narita International Airport Arrival web-page to make sure my husband is transiting safely, here's something he shared with me a while back. It's a reminder that to be truly and utterly alive is to be grateful, aware and sensitive all at the same time.

i thank you God
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything
which is natural which is infinite
which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;
this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:
and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
what ever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them
men are old
may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right
they are not young
and may my self do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been
quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it connot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
-e.e. cummings

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Optic Nerve!!!

This is the inside of my eye!!! I can seeeee youuuu!!!!
I just had my eyes examined and the optician/optometrist allowed me to keep the above image. Funny how the nerve itself resembles nodes and edges in Social Network Diagrams of blogs? If anything, I think my optic nerve's an outlier in a social network, hehehehe. Hmmm, maybe I am thinking too much about research ....

Monday, November 21, 2005


Got this off a former student's blog and found it an intriguing idea. Play along won't you?...
If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a memory of you and one (or both) of us. It can be anything you want, either good or bad.

We promise not to burn your house down, either way... When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people remember about you.

Threadless no more...

Look what my sneaky husband surprised me with today- a yummy Threadless T-shirt!

Cookie Loves Milk

We've been both going ga-ga over their t-shirts for the longest time not only because of their deliriously tongue-in-cheek designs, but also for what can only be called an inspired business concept. People submit their designs to the site and members and the public (I think) alike can vote to get the ones they like printed. Some go out of stock pretty quickly but if enough people then request to get a particular design reprinted, it will. That's what happened to a t-shirt design Jude really likes.

My Pet Human

It was out of stock for the longest time and we both separately requested to get it reprinted. Last week, I got an email to say that it's been re-released, I ordered it intending to surprise Jude with it, and what happens? I find out he had gotten it as well!! I had to call them to cancel the order and his t-shirt arrived yesterday along with the one that he got for me... So I'm a happy girl :)

Am now buying a whole bunch of them for friends and family for Christmas (let's see if my best friend can guess which one I got for her...). So many of the ones I like are sold out already but I've been frantically requesting reprints so, cross your fingers! Here are some of my favorites, and you have to think of the designs in relation to their names- that's where it gets really inspired.

  • The Flat House
  • Come back to Me
  • A Room With A View
  • Well, This Just Really Sucks...
  • Pillow Fight
  • Moby Was A Consumer
  • Gingerbread Nightmares

  • "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me
    C is for cookie, that's good enough for me
    C is for cookie, that's good enough for me
    Oh, cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C"
    - Cookie Monster

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Google galore

    Here's a sweet gallery of the Google logo as it's evolved through the years. You'll notice as your eye scans the many "Google"s, the word stops making any sense after a while...

    This is my favorite:

    The ones that form a narrative are especially cute...

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    First snow

    Yes, it's here. The first sign that my favorite season is over and winter has come to stay for the next five months... The first flurries started during lunch time and look set to get heavier through the night. It won't snow again after tomorrow until Thanksgiving but I don't think the temperature's going to get warmer though. It really plummeted today and I had to finally give in and wear gloves- bummer...

    Here's pictures of the gorgeous tree outside our house. The one on the left is how it looked when my family was here a couple of weeks ago, and the other is what's left of it now after two weekends of unnervingly strong winds.

    On the one hand, it's kinda depressing looking at it like this, but on the other, there's also an incredible sense of promise, like yeah, it'll be this way for the next few months, but think of all the extraordinary things that are happening inside the tree as it gets ready to leaf again in March (see what happens when you've been here long enough? You end up with an entire repetoire of positive thinking mechanisms to make the best of the long winters, like talking yourself into believing that cold winds are "cathartic" and "invigorating" instead of just admitting that they're plain... well, *cold*.)

    Besides, I was crossing the street today when a single pristine snowflake landed on my glove and I had a sudden vision of Ann Arbor blanketed in immaculate white snow. I'll regret saying this in two months, but it was a nice mental picture. I actually like snow, it's the cold I have problems dealing with. It might help if I read and re-read this Stevens poem often enough, disengage myself from the bitter cold, and chant over and over again, "Serene, winter is all a state of mind..."

    The Snow Man
    One must have a mind of winter
    To regard the frost and the boughs
    Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

    And have been cold a long time
    To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
    The spruces rough in the distant glitter

    Of the January sun; and not to think
    Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
    In the sound of a few leaves,

    Which is the sound of the land
    Full of the same wind
    That is blowing in the same bare place

    For the listener, who listens in the snow,
    And, nothing himself, beholds
    Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
    - Wallace Stevens

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    If you need a break... we do, here's some of the latest archived shows on Morning Becomes Eclectic. I just spent more than an hour attempting to de-stress, going through the videos and sound clips with my dinner propped precariously on my lap, trying to feed myself, flipping my notes, and clicking the mouse at the same time. Talk about a multi-sensory, multi-tasking experience.


    1) My Morning Jacket
    2) Joe Henry
    3) Broken Social Scene
    4) Imogen Heap
    5) Tracy Chapman
    6) Teenage Fanclub
    7) Keane
    8) Sigur Ros
    9) Death Cab for Cutie
    10) Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah
    11) Michael Penn
    12) The New Pornographers
    13) David Gray
    14) Turin Brakes

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    Too much?

    Ok, say it- this would be too much right? Be honest.

    If we signed up for the program, no one's going to believe we're really poor grad students. Seriously. We are.

    We just also love coffee.

    "I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee."
    -Flash Rosenberg

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    For shame ...

    I came across this shocking story via boingboing. Inheirited from the British, we are still continuing this legacy of execution by hanging. What compels me about this story is the fact that its a JOB for this guy and he explicitly treats it as such. Not a piece of journalism for the faint of heart I must warn.

    Nguyen executioner revealed.

    "They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more"
    - Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    The raccoon story

    Someone asked me for the full arc of the raccoon story. I knew it would tug at heartstrings. Here it is. Enjoy!

    The beat my heart skipped

    And this is something my cousin Terri will totally empathize with- they've released all the Calvin & Hobbes cartoons into one giant 3-volume collection!! Hailed as the last great newspaper comic strip, I was in mourning when Bill Watterson retired only after 10 years of drawing two of my favorite cartoon strip characters (who, I was flabbergasted to find out, are named after two rather humourless philosophers- John Calvin & Thomas Hobbes) to concentrate on painting. There are a few cartoons I still love today, like Foxtrot (as a teacher, I couldn't decide if I love Jason or not...) and the bittingly funny Sherman's Lagoon, but there's nothing like the flights of fancy mounted by an endearingly annoying little boy and his more than intelligent stuffed tiger.

    [click on each strip to enlarge]

    The strip first introducing Calvin's epic love-hate relationship with feminist-to-be Susie Derkins:

    This story arc made me realize that deep down inside, this tyrant of a six-year old might not be such a brat afterall:

    And who said cute cartoon strips can't make insightful political commentary?

    NPR has a good story on the new collection.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Does Jeff Daniels care about local politics?

    [click for video]

    This is downright hilarious, but only to the select few who understand what it means to chart the geography of Michigan on your palm... These people do their research man! As someone said, this is worth going home right now and missing a meal for!

    Sunday, November 06, 2005


    Ok, I have new found respect for Lance Armstrong. He's no longer some guy who wears a yellow wrist band, is engaged to Sheryl Crow, and just happens to bike really well. Biking really well has taken on a whole new meaning...

    So Jude & I finally both have our own bikes. He got his off Craigslist a couple of weeks ago and has actually been biking to school already; we just got mine today with the birthday ang-pow my parents gave me. I think Jude was more eager than me to baptize my new aluminium toy so we went trail-biking with Olivier. Mind you, this was my first serious biking experience in a long time. The last time we biked like that was around Rottnest Island off Perth four years ago.

    Anyways, so off we went along the trail (ok, off they went, I was trying hard to figure out how to bike straight- I still can't understand why that was so hard for me- use my fancy brakes and gears, and not quite succeeding...) and what should happen on my first trail biking expedition and on my new bike no less? I hit a huge branch and fall. Hard. And the bike kinda landed on my chin. *Darn* And so Jude and Olivier come by to find me most unglamorously slumped in a pile of aluminium (the bike was of course unscathed, not even a scratch), wet leaves, soil, and incomprehensibly, ash.

    I'm fine now- the chin still hurts a little and my right arm's a little sore, but generally ok. It was in retrospect really rather exhilirating- I know Jude had a blast :) Just give me some time to work on my coordination skills and reflex action- maybe in a month or so I'll be able to empathize more with people who would willingly put themselves in undignified tights, a funny platypus-bill looking helmet, three layers of thermal wind-proof clothes and ride in Winter.

    My Trek 4500 WSD:

    Jude's Gary Fisher Marlin:

    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Deprived childhood

    It doesn't get any better than this- sixty degree weather, cloudless skies, and trees in saturated goldens, reds, and oranges I could almost believe I was in a Gauguin painting. If Ann Arbor stayed this way all year, I'd stay here for the rest of my life. But it doesn't, so... Anyways, so what was I doing at 11 in the morning when the rest of the city was probably gratefully soaking in the gorgeous blessing of this beautiful day? Stuck in front of my computer writing about the history of Head Start.

    That is until a frantic knocking at my door.

    Only one person knocks at my door like that in the middle of the day. My neighbor Audrey. She pokes her head in and asks breathlessly, "Hey, do you want to jump into a leaf pile with me?" And how does a person respond when she has a whole ton of schoolwork to do? She listens to the kid.

    And so went a good portion of the next hour. I just stood there watching her burrow through a huge pile of leaves her mum had racked, perform stunts only a four year-old with no concept of pain would do, and allowed myself to be talked into jumping into the leaves in my PJs. Several times. Very dignified.

    So there is the story of Serene Koh and how she jumped into her first leaf pile. Ever.

    Here's Audrey in her element:

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    They came and went...

    So, the whirlwind- otherwise known as my family- has come and gone. I think everyone had an awesome time- my parents now want to retire here and open a ramen shop and my sisters want to come to U-M. I have to say though that Ann Arbor was at its best for them- the colors were gorgeous, and the weather was cool enough to be just about chilly without being frigid. And my folks were also kinda let down by New York before coming here because everything was soggy and congested so Ann Arbor was literally a breath of fresh air.

    Things were a little hectic at times what with juggling work and wanting to keep them company, but I think everything went well retrospectively. We manage to squeeze in an amazing amount of stuff to do considering the schedule- berry-picking, shopping, eating, celebrating my birthday, Niagra Falls, Toronto, cooking, and a full-fledge Halloween experience!

    The house is a little quiet now without Sherri bustling in the kitchen and Sam traipsing about (I think deep down she thinks she's a squirrel). It was great having them here and I am a little sad that they're gone. But I'll be home in 6 weeks so that's some kind of comfort.

    My favorite picture of my sisters and I:

    Monday, October 31, 2005

    Social Studies

    Thanks to my darling little sister, Jude & I are now almost halfway towards getting the complete set of quarters from all the American states. We were trying to occupy her with something to do while we frantically caught up with work after the weekend in Toronto; so the poor girl was duped by her dear brother-in-law into going through our massive coin collection and ended up getting a crash course in American social studies. She industriously went through all our coins and actually found quarters from 22 states. And the best thing is, it did seem like she was having fun doing it! It's incredible what apparently trvial activities can engender so much joy in kids (oops, I meant pre-adoloscents. She's twelve remember?...) So anyways, here's the list:

    1) Rhode Island
    2) New York
    3) Ohio
    4) Georgia
    5) Delaware
    6) Massachusetts
    7) California
    8) Pennsylvania
    9) Louisiana
    10) Vermont
    11) Indiana
    12) New Hampshire
    13) Kentucky
    14) Wisconsin
    15) Florida
    16) Maryland
    17) Virginia
    18) Missouri
    19) Illinois
    20) S. Carolina
    21) Minnesota
    22) New Jersey

    Great job Sam!

    Saturday, October 29, 2005

    Why life should imitate art...

    On some very elemental level, this is how life should be- colorful, bouyant, and free. And in San Francisco of course... When people say "a child-like wonder", this is how I imagine it would be.

    Just lovely.

    [click picture for high-res video- it'll take a while and you need Quick Time 7. But trust me, it's oh so worth it... This is the low-res version.]

    Check this site out for more info on the video clip.

    Friday, October 28, 2005

    Jude Yew: Concert Photographer Extra-ordinaire!!!

    Here's a set of my artfully taken concert photos:

    Camera: Sony-Ericsson T610
    Exposure: As long as I could hold my hand up in the crowd
    Aperture: f/????
    Focal Length: infinity
    Flash: Available Stage Lights

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    I've lost my voice and my heart.

    I've sacrificed it on the altar of Bono and the Greatness of U2. My trachea strained and stretched as my soul sang for 3 hours along with a man whose presence cannot be captured in words, my awe at the magic that is The Edge, and the hypnotic storm of Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton. I don't even know how I can begin to describe the experience that has forever spoiled me for all concerts to come.

    "City of Blinding Lights" with the electrifying light curtains and confetti that accompanied it can only be thought of as roaring, if not seismic, and by the time they got to the pulsating "Vertigo", the words "Uno, dos, tres, catorce" were a needless countdown to a frenzied secular worship of Irish rock gods. The battle hymn "Sunday Bloody Sunday" roused the crowd to such fevered heights of adoration that when Bono asked everyone to turn on their cell phones, everyone dutifully did so, illuminating the stadium into a glorious cosmos of communality, and then promptly text messaged as requested in support of "Pride in the Name of Love", "I Still Haven't Found What I Was Looking For", "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Hourses" set the stage for the moving tribute to Sarejevo in "Miss Sarejevo", and when they played "One" in memory of Rosa Parks, my heart welled up so full I thought I would cry.

    I won't break down the concert any further- that would be wrong. You had to be there, to bask in the wholeness of the experience, inundate your senses with the sight, sound and soul that is U2's greatness. You had to be there to see them and hear them for yourself, raise you arms and voices to the rousing anthem of their message. It truly was an almost religious experience. And I've been made a believer.

    If you twist and turn away
    If you tear yourself in two again
    If I could, yes I would
    If I could, I would
    Let it go

    If I could throw this
    Lifeless lifeline to the wind
    Leave this heart of clay
    See you walk, walk away
    Into the night
    And through the rain
    Into the half-light
    And through the flame

    If I could through myself
    Set your spirit free
    I'd lead your heart away
    See you break, break away
    Into the light
    And to the day

    To let it go
    And so to fade away
    To let it go
    And so fade away

    I'm wide awake
    I'm wide awake
    Wide awake
    I'm not sleeping
    Oh, no, no, no

    If you should ask then maybe they'd
    Tell you what I would say
    True colors fly in blue and black
    Bruised silken sky and burning flag
    Colors crash, collide in blood shot eyes

    If I could, you know I would
    If I could, I would
    Let it go...

    This desperation
    In temptation
    Let it go

    And so fade away
    To let it go
    And so fade away
    To let it go
    And so to fade away

    I'm wide awake
    I'm wide awake
    Wide awake
    I'm not sleeping
    Oh, no, no, no