Friday, August 26, 2005

Storm chasers

We're back in Ocala- safe and dry. What was initially Tropical Storm Katrina became an intense Category One hurricane as of two hours ago and reached landfall eight hours ahead of schedule. We literally escaped the eye of the storm.

A picture we took of Miami Beach when we were there yesterday.


How it looked like a couple of hours ago. Courtesy of weather.com.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Eye of the storm

Talk about being in the heart of things- here I am sitting at the lobby of the Winterhaven Hotel on South Beach, Miami, just meters away from the Atlantic Ocean watching the storm clouds of Tropical Storm Katrina come our way. She should hit landfall by tomorrow, but we'll be back in the safe confines of our aunt's farm by then. We're leaving South Florida by mid-day and should miss the storm by a long shot. No Key West for us though- you try driving through an open-water highway in a storm- and that's a bummer, but we got a great day at the beach yesterday and it was gorgeous.

I'll update once we get back to Ocala- wish us luck escaping the storm!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"Una taza de café por favor."

We'll be off to Florida tomorrow for a week to visit Jude's aunt and uncle in Ocala. I know, no one knows where or what it is. It's a little town two hours north of Orlando known for horse farms and little else. It's kinda of a strange place- not quite rural, but too rural to be suburban, wealthy because of the horse farms, but with pockets of ghetto redneck areas, and a generic EveryAmericanTownCenter with its huge Barnes & Noble (with in-house Starbucks of course) and JC Penny-esque department store (kinda like every Singaporean neighborhood central with a Giordano, U2 and Bread Talk). We never quite do anything when we're there. A day comprises of waking up early to wash the horses, feed them and hitch them on a buggy to ride. Then you sit at home out of the heat and humidity for the rest of the day with an afternoon nap, a book and hopefully cable TV. The day crawls by without you seeing another human being. I like it because it's really quite relaxing, but if I have to stay there for more than a week, I think I'll slit my wrist or asphyxiate myself in horse feed. The Florida where nothing ever happens.

Then there's the other Florida where everything happens, where every other person you see speaks Spanish, where no one is a native Floridan, and the only place in this country where it's mandatory that men are greasy, gleaming and strut around in white shirts with white pants and white shoes. Miami and everything else south. We'll be spending a day in Miami and then driving down Highway One through the Florida Keys all the way to Key West. This is of course the lousiest time in the year to be in Florida when the heat and humidity are at their absolute highest, but as long as there is seafood, beaches and blue water, I don't care. And then there's Cuban coffee.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Goodbye

That's it, I give up. I cannot bake. I wasn't even going for anything complex like a chocolate ganache torte or whatever it is that Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver make with such ease and panache. It was just granola bars for crying out loud... They turned out more like granola chunks. I can't believe I could screw up what has got to be the world's easiest recipe- just heat butter, honey, brown sugar and vanilla in a pot, and mix with granola. Bake for 25 minutes. They looked fine when I took them out of the oven- smelled great even- but then I tried cutting them up into bars and it was all downhill from there. I lost about a third of it to crumbs... Tasty, but ugly as hell.



I'm just going to stop trying altogether.

The granola things were (still are) meant for Jeff who's taking a week-long road trip back to California tomorrow. I was planning on putting the granola bars into a container for him as an easy snack on the road, but now I'm thinking I might have to throw a spoon in for him to scoop the crumbs out instead... So much for easy. Anyways, Jude's also burning him a road-trip CD with some of our favorite driving songs and some artistes we know Jeff likes like Stevie Nicks, just to ease the tedium of Iowa, Wyoming and Utah. Then he hits Vegas, and Jude & Serene's Road Trip CD will be the last thing on the man's mind...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Broken Flowers

So I'm sitting there looking at Bill Murray in Broken Flowers and trying to find traces of the man who once battled the giant Marshmallow Man with a Proton Pack and a Ghost Trap; as he sits there in his now signature position of indifferent resignation (legs slightly apart, fingers entwined and loosely hanging, shoulders slouched in some kind of existential defeat- pioneered in Lost in Translation, now perfected in Broken Flowers), I'm thinking, where is that almost deranged physical comic who drove Richard Dreyfuss (and me) to the brink of madness in What About Bob? He's gone, I swear. We saw a little of the 21st century Bill Murray in Rushmore, but I think with the triptych of Lost in Translation, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Broken Flowers, Bill Murray the comic has been laid to rest, and Bill Murray the actor has been born.

I can't think of another actor who can do awkwardness, who thrives on awkwardness almost. How do you even act awkward? If you're Bill Murray you don't act, you exude. Everything from how he never seems comfortable anywhere (he sleeps fitfully on his couch, with an ex-lover, in various motel beds, on an airplane, but never soundly), his eyes dance furtively, defensively almost, but with so much emotion, and he just generally seems ill at ease with his surroundings, other people, and even in his own skin. And therein lies the heart of Broken Flowers- one man awkwardly searching for an answer to a question he doesn't want answered.

Jude says the movie's like High Fidelity for the over-55 set. I agree, with a road trip and six pink bouquets thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed it, mostly because of Bill Murray as the perpetually baleful Don (whose one particularly wrenching scene in a cemetery should nab him an Oscar nomination if nothing else...), but also because of the actresses who play all his ex-lovers. Sharon Stone is a hoot for her brassiness, and Jude almost couldn't recognize Frances Conroy as the mum in Six Feet Under. My favorite is the exquisitely belligerent Tilda Swinton whose smouldering anger was such a refreshing change from the almost beatific Angel Gabriel in Constantine and the White Witch in the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia. The audiences' encounters with all of them are lovingly crafted, but so short-lived. It's almost like you want to invite them all to a cup of coffe, sit down, and get to know them a little better, like Don did...

And one can't help but appreciate Jim Jarmusch's nuanced, almost quiet direction (although this does dawn upon you only a while later after the credits roll). There are no obvious emotions or huge confrontations, no earthshattering confessions or revelations. Broken Flowers doesn't answer questions nor ties things up in a neat pretty bow, and for a movie that has a mystery as a premise, that can be uncomfortable. But such is life no? There will be loose ends flapping in the wind and questions echoing unanswered.

But there will also always be flowers to be offered.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Flying Cats!


I know that there are a lot of you cat fans out there. You should see the photos this guy has taken with his 2 cats. A la Matrix!

Flying Cats by Junku

/jude

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sodom and Gomorrah

Just watched Sin City. God it was awesome...

Dwight: She doesn't quite chop his head off. She makes a Pez dispenser out of him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

No, we didn't have fried chicken.

Until two days ago, I'd never gone camping- EVER; I'd never rock-climbed, not even at the gym; and I'd never had salami and chips together for breakfast. Well as of today, been there, done that. Not successfully on all counts of course- the salami and chips in particular didn't go down too well with my digestive system...

Finally let myself be persuaded to go on a rock climbing/ hiking trip to Kentucky (my husband can be VERY persistent...). The thing that's always bugged me about going camping is the shower, or the lack thereof. Ok, so I'm neurotic when it comes to being clean- both myself, and the environment around me. So you can see how sleeping in a tent with little to no access to fresh water in the middle of nowhere in Kentucky was a potentially problematic prospect. But in the end everything worked out. The camp ground we pitched at had a shower facility (5 minutes for a dollar which amazingly is more than enough time), and I slept miraculously well on just a foam mat sans sheets nor pillow. So there was lunch on Saturday when we had to eat on-site with our hands after climbing and I had chalk and balm and goodness knows what else on my hands (bug remains probably), but you give in to the hunger and the sheer exhaustion, and dirty fingers become the last thing on your mind.

On the whole, it was good healthy fun. The experience was kind of exhilirating actually even though I wouldn't recommend plunging headlong into it without having been to the rock-climbing gym first. That part was a little nerve-wrecking for me. But you get over it after a while especially when you know that the people with you are not only seasoned rock-climbers, but your good friends too. A whole ton of trust and faith is involved- in your own strength, as well in the people supporting you, so being with great company really helps. Neither Jude nor I made it completely up the main crag but just being halfway up was kind of awesome. Painful, but in a good way... Rock-climbing takes strength and agility, but also a little courage and psychological tenacity. I kept giving up at this one level and the thing is, once your mind is convinced you can't move beyond that, your body isn't likely to push itself to try either. It's a lot of discipline- physical and psychological, something I sorely need to work on.

Jude and I went hiking while the rest of them climbed on and it was gorgeous. Wildflowers everywhere, plants of every conceivable shade of green, and voracious bugs that teemed with an exuberance so unfettered I was mildy envious. I know little else about Kentucky except for fried chicken and the Derby, so being there and basking in its rugged beauty was an interesting experience. I can't say much about the people except that they listen to music that makes me just that tad uncomfortable ("I lost my girlfriend who ran away with my brother. She took my money, my heart and my guns. She took my guns, she took my guns... Repeat to fade"), and that they look at you funny, probably coz Jude and I were likely to be the only Asians in a fifty-mile radius. Now that's scary...

Our Flickr account is maxed out for the month so the photos are on the Yahoo! site.

My best friend would be so proud of me, aren't you? ;)

Friday, August 12, 2005

For that minty fresh taste...

Nope, this isn't going to be a post about chewing gum- it's about making something from scratch for the first time with things growing literally in our backyard (and I'm not talking about escargots...). We had Jeff and Allison over for dinner yesterday and to accompany the roast lamb (for which I take no credit whatsoever- that goes to our beloved friend Joe, Trader Joe that is...), I made fresh mint sauce from the profusely growing mint plants outside our house.

1. First I pulled a handful of mint stalks to get about 2 cups of mint leaves. Those stalks look like a lot but don't add up to much once you take them apart. You also need a couple teaspoons of sugar, vinegar and lemon juice.


2. You sprinkle the sugar over the washed mint leaves and let that sit for about an hour. That's apparently supposed to counteract the initial bitterness of the mint. I love how the sugar forms a light crystalline crust over the bright green leaves. So pretty...


3. After an hour, you bunch the leaves up and chop them. See what happens after the wash and sugar have had their way with the mint. That's all 2 cups of mint leaves amount to after I chopped them up.


4. You then heat up 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I guess you could just use vinegar but we don't have the fancy sorts like wine or apple, and just plain vinegar smells really noxious if you ask me. Lemon and mint go really well together though. Nice and fresh, like how mornings ought to smell. Which is how the kitchen (and my fingers) smelled like for a good 4 hours- lovely (the smell, not my fingers...). It took about two seconds to heat since my pot was disproportionately big for 4 tablespoons of liquid. Pour it over the mint and stir. You end up with a deep emerald mixture that doesn't quite yet taste like anything actually.

I added a wee bit of salt and some olive oil to make it a tad smoother. You have to let it sit for about 2 hours until the mint has infused the vinegar/ lemon, by which time the sauce should turn moss green.

5. This is just before Jeff and Allison arrived. To accentuate the mint theme, I thought it would be nice to put together a little arrangement with the mint flowers from the plant. They're shaped like lavender flowers, but have miniature blossoms within them.


6. Here's a close-up of the mint flower arrangement.


The final taste of the mint sauce was actually rather mild- all the aroma and freshness of the mint and lemon without the violent acridity. It worked great with the lamb which was darn tasty (it did say "Well-seasoned Bonless Leg of Lamb" on the package)- kind of added that extra layer of taste without being distracting. There was also roasted vegetables pasta and Jeff & Allison brought Spanish Breaded Tomatoes and stir-fried veggies. Jude made a refreshing summery concoction of Ribena (for the unenlightened among you, that's a blackcurrant syrup all Singaporean children- and children from former British colonies I suspect- grew up with), pomegranate soda, and soda water. We wanted to take a photo of the table after everything was put together, but the camera ran out of battery. Cest 'la vie. Give a little more love, I might make the meal again- homemade mint sauce and all...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Flying Spaghetti Monster

Long live the satirist! I don't remember the last time I laughed SOOOO hard! Jude and I were practically on the floor with tears in our eyes. This "open letter" is in response to the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to allow intelligent design to be taught in science classes alongside evolution (and also particularly pertinent in light of George Bush's recent support for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools).

OPEN LETTER TO KANSAS SCHOOL BOARD

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him...

For the full script, click here. And you must spend some time going through all the response letters from real Kansas School Board members and the pages of emails he received, most of which profess contrite conversion to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism... And best of all, this phenomenon has it's own Wikipedia entry, itself worth an invested read! The sites will be a time suck, but I guarantee it will be both a gratifying and nourishing endeavor (both mentally and gastronomically!)



I knew my almost religious affinity to carbohydrates would one day lead me to the meaning of life... I have not noodled in vain.

**Since we're on the topic of carbohydrates, here's a quote from the latest issue of TIME about Atkins Nutritionals- of The Atkins Diet fame- filing for bankruptcy:
"So it's not surprising that when Dr. Robert Atkins' 33-year-long fad diet finally came to a crashing end last week, a whole lot of us were glad. This was a guy who wanted to take away our bread. Even prisoners get bread. Bread is so basic that, unlike water, restaurants don't have the guts to charge for it. Certain foods cannot even be made without bread -- such as French toast and... bread."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sisyphus

Yes, like the man condemned by the gods to ceaselessly push a rock up the hill, I'm feeling the futility of the search for the perfect blog template. Note to self: by the end of the year, we're not only going to find a reliable server to host all our graphics and blog related files (even if it means having to pay), we're going to learn enough HTML and Flash to design our own website (complete with professional portfolios). Enough of this fiddling around with someone else's design...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sufjan Stevens- Come On Feel the Illinoise

This is a great follow-up album to his last one on Michigan. His music takes some patience to appreciate though, what with the song titles longer than some people's vocabulary (see "A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze"), and the many allusions to American (more specifically Illinois's) history. There are references to Frank Lloyd Wright, the United Nations, and some Polish revolutionary hero that I'm still deciphering... Still, despite the seemingly staggering scope of the album, it rewards your committment by unveiling something more spiritual and personal beneath. The track "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.", about the Chicago serial killer doesn't so much remember the murderer than to remind ourselves that maybe deep down, we all fall short because we're flawed by sin.

Jude and I enjoy his stuff because he writes like a poet, his words more like narratives than lyrics. Click here for his set on Morning Becomes Eclectic. I recommend The Predatory Wasp of The Palisades is Out To Get Us! where he mourns the death of his best friend, while Jude's track of choice, Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother! is a sublime exercise in awesome rhyming (I never imagined you could write a coherent song with the words "alligator", "aviator", "debater", "emancipator" altogether.)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Another kind of party

It's been six hours and they're still at it. At this moment, there are five laptops and three desktops going at the same time in our house, all connected to our wireless network. Eight grown men who barely know each other have been reduced into intent silence and/or vague incoherence, speaking in male-bonding sub-phrases only geek gamers understand. As far as I'm concerned, it's a whole other language. A whole other dimension of existence. In the games they play, people bleed *purple* blood. I rest my case. It's an aura of sublime techdom I'm not even going to attempt to penetrate. Yes, we're having a LAN party; no, I take that back- Jude's having a LAN party. I could only take the foreign vocabulary and generally rather odd vibe for about 20 minutes before scratching the wall for some female company. ANY female company.

Thank god for Melanie and Iris. And for the laconic charm of a Dr.-Zhivago-watching-dog-loving John Cusack. On any other day, I would have hated spending $7 watching him squander his lovely talent on an otherwise lacklustre excuse of a romantic comedy. But tonight, he was my knight in shining armor, saving me from a fate worse than drinking bad coffee on a frigid winter's day. Diane Lane seemed even more luminous than usual (when I'm in my forties, I want to look just like her, crow's feet and all- talk about aging gracefully), and Christopher Plummer was just smashing reciting Yeats.

Ok, it's close to 2am, and I think people are about ready to go. The three packets of chips are almost gone (extra large Cheesy Cheddar, BBQ, and Vinegar & Onion), and I think the caffeine/ sugar from all that diet Pepsi is finally wearing off. It seems to take very little in terms of food to sustain these guys. Take it from me- sugar and MSG.

Guys, when I find another chick-flick with John Cusack in it to spend $7 on, please do come again. Either that or someone's going to have to teach me how to get that vigilante to spurt purple blood...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Four wheels good, two wheels better.

Just back from a run. The ordeal has been less painful lately, probably because I've been doing it more regularly and my body's sucked it in and given up resisting the pain I put it through. It's still a constant struggle to run harder and farther though. I figured in the long run, I can't keep running at the same pace and for the same distance. Either that or I should find a new sport to occupy myself (my best friend is so going to balk at the notion of me thinking of a SPORT to kill time. All through my school years, I've never passed any fitness test, primarily because I always failed the running segment. Ironic...). Jude and I have toyed with the idea of:
1) Tennis (not enough arm strength nor stamina, although my cousin Jill, a puny girl 16 years younger than I and school champ has offered more than once to coach me...);
2) Swimming (in this region, what are you going to do the other 6 months of the year? And I have my doubts about the sanitary conditions of the indoor pools here...);
3) Rock-climbing (it's indoors so that takes care of the weather, and the prospect of being able to climb like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 2 is rather alluring, so I'm considering...); and most lately,
4) Cycling. No it's not a Lance Armstrong thing; it's more a "taking-advantage-of-the-pretty parks-in-the-area" thing. Besdies, it's also a cheap mode of transportation and you could conceivably ride in Ann Arbor till late-November.

So we've been bike-shopping- comparing prices, specs, suitability, that kind of thing. We kinda like what we saw yesterday but being the bargain-hunter that he is, my husband will stop at nothing to get the best deal, and he always does :)



What I really really want though is a zippy Vespa. They've modernized it a little without losing the retro feel and it'll be fun to have that mobility without the cost. Jude always says that in our ideal household, we ought to have a car, two bikes, and a scooter. That's provided we have stunning incomes, live in a climatically less insane area, and where fellow drivers are courteous rather than homicidal sociopaths.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Defence

All done. This might be the fastest blog recovery in history- less than an hour and everything's pretty much up and going- Tag-Board and Flickr included.

Please, whoever you are, don't do this again. I type fast and I'm not stupid. The coding is tedious but brainless, so getting things back isn't that big a deal. What disgusts me is the callous disregard for someone else's work. I may not have designed the template but someone talented out there did and this is the product of her toil. This is our blog (note POSSESSIVE pronoun)- time, thought and effort has been put into getting it to help us share of ourselves with our friends and family.

Stay away.

!!!

Believe it or not, the blog's been hacked! We lost everything except the posts and some of the graphics... As you can see, I'm repairing the damage right now... Geeez... and just when I was so proud of my HTML coding. Figures, hubris... This isn't even a celebrity blog like Xiaxue's or anything... If I find out who and how someone managed to do this, things are not going to be pretty.

I'm pissed.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New Template

So, we finally found a template we like that has a little something of the both of us. I love the the way the frothy blue plays against the assertive brown, and the contrast between the primitivism of the butterflies and the industrialism of the train is wonderfully intriguing- like getting lost in a naturalist's nightmare... Besides, since The Arcade Fire is one of Jude's favorite bands, this is perfect. We were actually toying with the idea of buying an Arcade Fire poster, but they were too expensive, so I guess having a blog that looks like one is the next best thing.

There are still some kinks I'm fiddling with (like finding out what on earth is going on with Tag-Board and how to fit in Jude's Flickr bar), but for the moment, we're happy with how this looks.

What say you?

Guess who?

Guess who's going to be home for Christmas and New Year for the first time in three years? Guess who got his conference paper accepted in Singapore and managed to wrangle the university into paying for his ticket home? Guess who learnt from their mistake and booked December air tickets in July instead of September? Guess who can't wait to do Christmas shopping with her sisters and cousins again? Guess! Guess! Guess!

Monday, August 01, 2005

2046

There was a period in my life where I firmly believed I was born in the wrong era. Had I been a woman in Pre-Raphaelite England where a full figure was revered, I would have had people write poetry about me, sculpt my likeness in alabaster, and kiss the ground I walk on. Ok, there is always the chance that I could have been born a kitchen wench, and I couldn't have voted or gone to the university, but at least I wouldn't have had to diet. So there... Call me shallow.

But now, I want to live in Singapore/ Hong Kong in the '60s. I want to dress in a Shantung cheongsam everyday. I want to paint my nails blood-red, line my eyes dramatically with kohl, and drawl on a cigarette lazily while my lover looks on with melancholic desire. I want to live in a hotel perpetually drenched in the scent of passion- both rapturous and repressed, wear three-inch heels, walking langourously as if it were the easiest thing in the world to do. I want to take a train to a place, a time where things never change and where memories are real. I want to fall in love like I was drugged. And I want Tony Leung to look at me as if I grip the madness of his soul.