Friday, December 29, 2006

Holiday

We haven't been blogging much since we've been home not because we haven't had the time- quite the contrary actually; this time round- having learnt it the hard, hectic way last year- we've deliberately taken things really slow, not packing appointments and meeting people back to back, running to and fro our parents' places and basically trying to juggle too much in too little time. Instead, we've been sleeping in (like 11 in the morning in...), spending more time with family, dinners at home, and actually just enjoying each others' company without the accompanying stress of school and chores. Basically, we've been sorta having a real holiday :)

The constant downpour has been most inconvenient and a literal damper on things actually, but it's also made the weather a lot cooler than it would have been. Thank goodness coz I don't think we would have been able to bear both the humidity and heat plus the crazy crowds this time of year at home. As our Flickr pictures attest, we've been doing an inordinate amount of eating (don't even ask how many photos we've added to our Food Pornography set... ok fine, if you must know, 38 food pics in the last 14 days.) We also finally relented and made a small, teeny, little purchase- see here. I think Jude's in a better position to say more about it's snazzy functions and super-duper Leica lens. Me, I just love how it makes all our photos so bright and pretty :)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!


To be able to celebrate the holidays at home two years in a row is a blessing I will never take for granted. It is the simple joy of being surrounded by family, friends and loved ones that makes Christmas truly, truly beautiful.

So here's wishing everyone a blessed Christmas and we hope that your holiday is filled with as much cheer and celebration as ours is!



[City Sidewalks. J. Pirman, 2005. Adapted from a holiday card available at MoMAstore.org.]

Friday, December 22, 2006

Little things

One thing about being so far away from home is that you realize how you've always taken so many things for granted, especially the little things. On top of the list, a good haircut. Both Jude and I have had little luck with the haircuts we've gotten in the States- Aveda is always a hit-and-miss thing with me, and the Asian lady who cuts Jude's hair makes him more frustrated than anything else.

Which is why one of the first things both of us do when we get home here is to get a haircut. Few men in this world understand me like 1) my husband, and 2) Ashley, my hair guy. The man's a genius. I barely say two sentences and he intuitively understands what I want. Any woman (heck, any person) who's had haircut problems, knows how difficult it is to find someone who just gets you, or at least gets your hair. And Ashley's such a lovely person too- I love the fact that he's still so sweet and down-to-earth despite the theatre people in Singapore having just given him a public tribute for helping them with their styling all these years.

As for Jude, his heart lies with the men we've affectionately termed his "surrogate fathers"- the Hainanese barbers at the basement of the Shangri-La. Jude and his friends have been going to them for years and as Jude put it, these crusty old men have pretty much tracked his life for the better of the last 10 years. They've even been asking Jude's friends about him every time he doesn't visit for months on end. Besides, where else in Singapore can you get a perfect scissor-cut haircut (none of that electric razor routine), a rock solid Hainanese neck massage, a warm face towel, and a good old-fashioned blade shave for under S$25? And as a plus- if it means anything- they cut Rock Hudson's hair when he was in Singapore those many many years ago :)

So folks, don't take your barber/ hairdresser for granted. You'll never know when you'll miss them.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The madness...

I'm evidently only half the woman I used to be... The old me would have been able to traverse the whole of Orchard Road without a word of complaint and only just one cup of coffee; she would have been able to dash in and out of shopping malls in spite of torrential rain with panache and reckless aplomb; that me would also have been able to juggle Christmas shopping for a mere six people without feeling like she was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I don't know where that me has gone because today's little trip down to Orchard Road sucked the life out of me. Maybe it was the crazy weather (it's been raining non-stop since 7am this morning...), the equally maddening Christmas-shopping crowd, or just me having been away from all this insanity for too long, but I honestly remember having more stamina for these things at some point in my past life.

And just in case shopping in Singapore in the heart of Orchard Road during the Christmas season with rain pouring torrentially outside wasn't exciting enough for my system, throw in two exuberant teenagers to shake things up just that little more. Sam and my cousin Jill were with me and trust me, nothing makes you feel older than listening to the speed at which teenagers can 1) talk; 2) change the topic of what they're talking about. Just trying to keep up with their conversation was exhausting in and of itself... I was thoroughly zapped out!

Anyways, Jude will be home in just under 24 hours and I'm literally counting down the minutes :) I've missed my husband dearly and I think he really needs this break home to just relax and unwind from the stress of this past semester.

In other words, I think we'll stay away from Orchard Road for a while at least... ;)

History that we forget all too easily

Some advertising for a friend's talk. Sounds really interesting. Pop by if you are in the vicinity at that day and time.

"The University of Malaya Socialist Club and the Fight for Singapore Independence"
by Michael Fernandez, Loh Kah Seng and Lim Cheng Tju

15 January 2007 (Monday), 3.30 to 5.30pm
Venue: Conference Room, Institute of Policy Studies, 29 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, S 119620

In the 1950s and 1960s, the University of Malaya* Socialist Club played a crucial role in the struggle for Singapore and Malaysia's independence from the British. The club, which counted major figures such as Tommy Koh, Lim Hock Siew, Edwin Thumboo and Wang Gangwu,
among its leaders, was instrumental in helping the People's Action Party obtain mass support and in pushing for a free, democratic and non-communal Malaya.

This talk is based on research for a book being written by the speakers.

Register by emailing to Catherine_Lim@ips.org.sg

* In 1959, the University of Malaya had two campuses, in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The latter became the University of Singapore in 1962.

About the speakers:

Loh Kah Seng is a Ph.D student at Murdoch University, Australia. He co-wrote with Michael Fernandez aa chapter for the forthcoming book "Path Not Taken" on the history of trade unions in Singapore from 1945 to 1970.

Lim Cheng Tju is a masters degree graduate in history from the National University of Singapore and works in the Ministry of Education.

Michael Fernandez is a former union leader who was detained without trial for nine years between 1964 and 1973

Monday, December 18, 2006

Be happy together.

These are the words engraved on my best friend's wedding ring. They were told to Duncan by his grandma and that's the sentiment that's going to now guide their marriage. Just be happy together. Simple, but so important...

So yes, the wedding was lovely. Just lovely. Everything from the tea ceremony to the church solemnization to the lunch reception went on as envisioned; but more importantly, did so because it all stemmed from a genuine and deep affection for Aileen and Duncan. All the organization and coordination weren't just tasks to be accomplished or a schedule to be fulfilled, but individuals' gift to the couple on their wedding day for being two of the most wonderful people around. And so insanely in love... :) I almost cried just watching Duncan's face as he read his vows (thanks to the vantage point of standing next to Aileen...)

And no, I did not trip on my two-inch heels. Buddy Holly's True Love Ways was the perfect tempo for the processional [and reminded me a little of the last song I walked down the aisle to... :)] and by the time S Club 7's You're My Number 1 came on for the recessional, I had been in those shoes for 4 hours and wore them like second skin. And yes, you're seeing right- S Club 7 (or S Club, since they're now down to 6 members...). This was Aileen's one concession to Duncan :) Apart from embodying all the requisite characteristics of the proper Englishman- loves soccer, incredibly polite, armed with a wicked sense of humor and an unfathomable affection for all things tea- he's also been a now not-so-closet fan of the British bubblegum pop group. And of course, he loves Rachel...

I am also proud to report that my speech went down as planned- all the aeronautical engineers laughed at my Airbus A320 joke (thanks to Aileen for a heads-up on that one...), people didn't just sit dumbstruck when I made a reference to her many emails of undying devotion and promises of lifetime servitude (cue canned laughter...), and I did what I promised her I wouldn't do (all energies must be harnessed to prevent those fake eyelashes from falling off)- I made her cry. I think it also fit in well with everyone else's speech- the father of the groom, the best man and both Duncan and Aileen- so that was nice too.

Anyways, the newlyweds are off skiing in Japan as we speak and I can't wait to catch up with them when they get back in the new year. It was one of the most beautiful and moving weddings I've been too and it gives me great joy to have been just that little part of it :)

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Duncan Colyer!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The first two days home...

... have been a whirlwind of activity. I want to say that I've been relaxing and trying to slowly recover from the dastardly jetlag, but I haven't. With my best friends wedding happening in less than 24 hours, I've actually been panicking along with her (although I'm sure for rather different reasons...):
1) After walking around the mall for almost 2 hours, I finally found a nice pair of shoes to go with my dress. They're tan/gold suede peep-toes and my first 2-inch heels. I'm a little nervous about walking down the aisle in them, but as the priest said at the wedding rehearsal last night, walk slowly. Besides, the best man's like 6ft 4in- I think he only hears echoes when I talk to him from down here...
2) We're going to the bridal shop today to pick up her gown. There's kneeling involved in the ceremony and guess who's going to have to make sure that she can get up and down in her dress while herself being in 2-inch heels... I hope neither one of us falls.
3) I'm bravely going to get a haircut today. Of the people I've told this too, only the women understand what an act of courage this is, to get a haircut the day before a big event... I'm telling myself that no one's looking at me, but there's no way I'm going to walk down the aisle with what's masquerading as a decent hairstyle right now.
4) I've been stressing out about this speech I'm giving... How does one strike the balance between the right dose of funny without being inappropriate, moving without being overtly emotional; short without being forgettable, but just the right length without getting boring?... I wrote something up on the plane and I think I'm going to have to send it to Jude to ask for his opinion. I read it to Sam and she thinks it's sweet. But she's also thirteen- Singapore Idol rocked her world. Enough said.

So anyway, the next 36 hours will be a little stressful but ultimately also very exciting. My best friend is marrying a man who's made her happier than she's ever been and that just knocks my socks off!... :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wedding tracks

Ok, I think I'm done with the CD for my best friend's wedding. It's a mix-bag of songs- some stuff we listened to together when we were in school, a bunch of schmaltzy favorites, and a few others that hopefully distinguishes this wedding soundtrack from thousands upon thousands created every year. It needs to be a smashing collection for one helluva couple!

While the Web was kinda helpful in picking out some tracks, I had more fun reading about what NOT to have on a wedding CD. Some top no-nos:
1) YMCA
2) Chicken Dance
3) From This Moment & You're Still The One (Shania Twain)
4) Amazed (Lonestar)
5) There You'll Be (Faith Hill)
6) Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler)
and ANYTHING Celine Dion...

That last one made me laugh- can you imagine how many brides probably walked down the aisle to "My Heart Will Go On" in 1997/ 1998??

Anyways, this is what I put together- with the bride's stamp of approval of course :) She has a jazz band playing during lunch, so this is more the "when-the-band's-taking-a-break-but-we-can't-have-silence-when-people-are-eating" music...

1) God Only Knows (Beach Boys)
I started compiling this over Thanksgiving weekend so there's a whole bunch of Love Actually-inspired tracks.
2) If She Wants Me (Belle & Sebastian)
3) Sparks (Coldplay)
4) Just Like Heaven (The Cure)
5) My One and Only Love (Sting)
Schmaltzy but oh so sweet...
6) Kissing You (Des'ree)
7) Flowers In The Windows (Travis)
8) Better Together (Jack Johnson)
9) Wedding Bell Blues (Laura Nyro)
Jude and I had this on our wedding CD too- nothing not to love about the joyous voice of Laura Nyro.
10) Pure (The Lightning Seeds)
11) All You Need Is Love (Lynden David Hall)
12) Fade Into You (Mazzy Star)
13) Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell)
This is on here coz it's from a movie we both love- go guess...
14) Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
15) Such Grest Heights (The Postal Service)
16) The Sweetest Thing (U2)
17) Nightswimming (R.E.M.)
I know, not conventional, but I've loved this song for a long time.
18) What the World Needs Now (Burt Bacharach with Elvis Costello)
19) Somewhere Over The Rainbow & What a Wonderful World (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole)
A gorgeous version...
20) The Final Frontier (Anita Baker)
From one of our favorite TV shows.
21) If I Should Fall Behind (Bruce Springsteen)
22) Truly Madly Deeply (Savage Garden)
23) The Luckiest (Ben Folds)
24) By Your Side (Sade)
Her voice is so sexy it should be illegal...
25) Ice Cream (Sarah McLachlan)
One of the sweetest of her songs, and one of her least angsty too.
26) Lovefool (The Cardigans)
27) Shape of My Heart (Sting)
28) It Had To Be You (Harry Connick, Jr. & Frank Sinatra)
29) Melt With You (Modern English)
30) Dreams (The Cranberries)

Ok, now to figure out what to say in my speech...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas present 2006


Final product!
Originally uploaded by jyew.
I think we've started some kind of tradition without quite meaning to. So the Christmas present we prepared last year were ingredients for Cranberry Hootycreeks layered in a jar. This year, Jude and I had the same idea (at the same time!) to do something with hot chocolate. What's better to get you through those cold winter days and nights than a creamy mug of chocolatey heaven? Initially, I didn't think it was going to be very pretty since all the ingredients were kinda just shades of brown and beige, but then I stumbled across this recipe from Sunset that shows you have to brighten up your hot chocolate gift in a jar. We decided to go with a peppermint hot chocolate mix coz it's just that little more festive, and I lurve peppermint hot chocolate- so Christmas-y... :) It also ended up coordinating really well with the twine and crepe ribbons I have and pink & mint gift tags I made from card-stock from Target.

I really enjoyed putting the gift together- as messy as the process was (there is humanly no way to handle cups of milk, cocoa powder, sugar, choc chips and crushed peppermint candy without spilling things all over the floor)- and we're pretty happy with the final product :) There's just something sweetly satisfying about having made your own Christmas presents. Don't get me wrong, I love raiding the mall for Christmas presents as much as the next girl, but putting together a homemade holiday gift is just gratifying in its own little way :)

I think next year, we'll make Soup in a Jar...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Step out of the car please.

*Drats*… so I got pulled over for the first time today. Yes, you heard right. Pulled over. By cops. With the whole blaring sirens, lights flashing, you’ve-been-identified-as-breaking-the-law routine. And for what? Because I did an illegal right turn on the No Turn on Red corner from South University onto Washtenaw (yes, you’ve been duly warned…). I have no excuses for not seeing the sign, except that I really didn’t see the sign, but am just a little miffed that these cops had nothing better to do on a Wednesday night than to hang out on street corners waiting to catch someone turning on a red light onto a completely empty street. Isn’t there some drug party you should be breaking up or donuts you should be eating? Sheesh… Yes, you know Serene Koh’s upset when she makes snide remarks about food.

So there goes $130, and with it, my dreams of a new super-slim digital camera I was saving to buy myself for Christmas. Urgh… I am so not happy :(

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

7 days

I'm going home in a week! And yet at this point, it seems like such a looong way off... Someone dropped a bomb on the research project I'm on so now everyone's in crisis mode, plus I have to watch even more Sesame Street videos, and finish this 25-page final term paper by Friday, after which I will be HOME FREE! :)

Things to do from now till next Tuesday:
1) Finish term paper
2) Work on research project stuff
3) Watch Sesame Street clips (till tolerance for primary colors runs out)
4) Prepare Christmas presents/cards for our friends here
5) Shop for Christmas presents for our family/friends back home
6) Download, compile and burn wedding CD for best friend (see here for some pretty good suggestions)
7) Prepare speech for best friend's wedding (see here for some downright dreadful suggestions)
8) Make sure can still fit in dress for best friend's wedding, i.e. gym till I turn Grover-blue
9) Tidy up study room so that it looks less like tornado wreckage
10) Spend much time with The-Man-I'm-Married-To who's not leaving for home till the week after :(

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Don and Drew no more

I am sorry to have missed this radio show in Singapore. I have been somewhat peripherally aware of the Don and Drew show for some time now. However, I never really took the time to listen to it. I just found out a couple of days ago that the show's been pulled off the air a couple of months ago and I think that it's a crying shame. It's one of the best things to happen to Singapore radio in a long time. Sure they're rude and make fun of everybody and everything. But these guys write, produce, and even compose music for their own shows. This is more than can be said for most radio stations that are all tangentially linked to the government and all seem to employ the formula that pretty young actors and actresses would make good radio DJs and hosts. How is Singapore going to attain the title of the regional IT and media hub when there is little tolerance for difference and creativity? I am not trying to defend Don and Drew because they can be extremely rude. But you have to admit that they had the balls to enact some change in the Singapore radio scene. And besides they were one of the first people to use podcasts as a means to draw in an international audience for a radio industry that is really quite parochial.

As I've said, my lament for this show perhaps comes too late. (and I should even admit that I know Don's brother & Drew's wife) But I do like their weird irreverent humor and making fun of all things local. Check out their inspired Ramly Burger Rap.

For those of you not familiar with what a Ramly Burger is, there's a wikipedia entry on it and I have attached a photo below for good measure.



It's a burger with a fried egg on top. I do miss it dearly. And the best approximation for a Ramly Burger for me is a triple with a fried egg and onions from Blimpy Burger. But I digress. You can listen to Don & Drew's last show below. Check out especially the last 10 minutes of the show. It's inspired and the saddest ending to a show I've heard in a long time.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Where's...?

[created by eBoy]

[click for enlarged version]

It's like playing Where's Wally, except with all things webalicious... Enjoy!

The beginning of the end

I've done it. Submitted the first draft of my first pre-candidacy paper. It's a little unnerving actually, and I'm not actually sure how good a job it is. I keep telling myself that it's only a first draft, but there was a sense of inevitability as I hit the "Send" button this morning when I emailed the draft to my committee. This first paper is meant to exhibit my ability to do original research, which means I had to "showcase" all the research methods I've acquired. I basically augmented my conference paper from last year and pulled out all the stops in terms of whatever quantitative skills I have. On some self-flagellating level, I guess I do enjoy crunching the numbers and pouring through reams of data, but it's not something I anticipate doing for life.

So a couple of weeks ago, I made a potentially momentous decision with regards to what I might be doing for my dissertation. I kinda have to take that step soon since my second pre-candidacy paper- which I'm writing in the Winter- is supposed to be the lit review for the thesis. Typically, doctoral students in my position use the research they're doing for their professors as data for their dissertations, but I'm in sort of a unique situation. The professor I work for isn't my adviser, so technically, I don't have to use her data. Besides, as much as I enjoy working with Sesame Street, writing curriculum, and all those things associated with early literacy instruction, I don't quite see it as my life's work. Jude and I were talking to Eric the other day about what kind of research we want to do, and I came to the conclusion that I want to write a dissertation that is rich and generative of later work, not just something which "shows" that I can run multilevel regression models. It has to be work I can stand by with conviction and say is mine. One of my friends who defended her dissertation last year talked about how she couldn't wait to wake up in the morning everyday to write her thesis because it was something that really inspired her and that she felt passionate about. I want the process to be like that for me- if I'm going to commit the next three years of my life to one single topic, it had better be one that I can really dig into and explore, break apart, put together, basically get my hands dirty so to speak and really grow intellectually from.

Rachael shared these wise words with me over lunch a couple of weeks ago, that as an academic or a scholar, you may not get paid as much as let's say lawyers or doctors, but your work belongs to you. It's your research and your ideas- you may be accountable to your professor or your dean, but ultimately, what you create is yours. Sorta like an artisan- ok, I might be romanticizing it a little, but you get the point. Anyways, it was truly quite heartening to hear what she said, and also made me think really long and hard about what I want to do.

So like I said, I think I've made my decision. I'm not sure if I'll regret it or if I might change my mind in a couple of months, but for now, I'm incredibly excited :)

Dissertation research