Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A great way to fly...

So I'm typing this as we're sitting in The Oasis airport lounge in JFK. We have a 6-hour wait before our Singapore Airlines flight back home via Frankfurt and sitting in a Burger King with three huge bags, two backpacks, and two laptops trying to do work during that time was just going to be too hard. So we sucked it in and paid for a day-pass to the airport lounge and suddenly, we now have full access to complimentary wine, coffee (from a very exciting cappuccino machine), snacks (all the Milano cookies I could possibly want!), cheese & crackers, a hot bar, sandwiches, scones, a "library", comfy couches, shower facilities, and most importantly, free wi-fi :) Jude's got a bunch of reviews to finish and I have 60 audio files to transcribe, so yes, I think we will be very busy here in the airport...

On top of that, by some quirk of the airline karma, Jude and I actually found ourselves bumped up to first class on our Northwest flight in here from Detroit. I was quite sure we paid for coach tickets, but when we got priority tags on our bags and the seat numbers on our boarding passes didn't match the seats I had chosen yesterday, we almost thought we had accidentally bought first class tickets. But no, I suspect the flight was overbooked and they bumped all Northwest frequent-flyers up to first class to make space. I'm not complaining of course and I got my orange juice in a proper glass instead of a plastic cup, which is always nice.

So our journey home so far has been a galaxy away from my last trip back alone- touch wood, but no errant birds in sight... And I'm really glad I'm not traveling alone. Having Jude's company makes all the difference in the world :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoughts on turning 32

For one, not being embarrassed about saying that I am 32. There's something so cliché about a woman feigning outrage/ acting coy when asked about her age, or half-pretending she's only 21 every time her birthday rolls around. As if being 40, 50 or 60 somehow makes you less of a woman than a twentysomething with flawless skin and a bikini figure. Own it, I say. Embrace your age and all the joys and heartbreaks you've picked up over the years.

I love where my 32 years has brought me and all that I possess right now. I have health and I have happiness. That's got to mean something in the larger scheme of things. After all these years, I think I might have finally come to terms with the width of my hips. And they look just fine, thank you. And while I may not be rich, I have my work, and it's work that belongs to me and only me, my contribution to the ether that did not exist before. I'd like to think that I hold my own in an intelligent conversation without coming off ignorant or boring someone to death. And I roast a pretty mean chicken. Oh, and then there's that little thing about waking up everyday next to someone who makes my heart sing. Which I wish for everyone, regardless of their age.

And so yes, 32 awesome years. They rocked! :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surprise, surprise!...

Mystery box
Originally uploaded by ghetto of our mind
Last year, I blogged about a mystery present I had received in the mail a week before my birthday. Turns out, it was my sister who had sent me the beautiful scarf from Anthropologie and just forgot to attach a card. This year- well, last week, specifically, I come home from the half-marathon to find a giant box lying in our living room.
Apparently, the night before when I had stayed over in Detroit, Jude had gone and gotten me my birthday present. And so it's just been sitting there this past week, taunting me, every time I walk by it as I come in and out of the house... Everyone's been asking me about it since I posted the picture onto Flickr, and even Jude's been tempting me to open it. But Serene Koh, ever the paragon of self-control and restraint, resisted ;) Although, I did nudge it to make sure it wasn't just a huge box hiding a smaller present (it's heavy), tried shaking it to see if it had moving parts (no), and even thought to hold my ear against it to see if it made a sound (I never did...). It was just there, and I just kept staring at it.

Finally, at the stroke of midnight tonight, I trotted downstairs, Jude behind me, and eagerly ripped my present apart. And it's beautiful! I LOVE it!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Starlee Kine talks Lost!

I can't deal with this whole waiting 9 months thing with Lost :( Catching Season 1 again on the Sci Fi Channel (it's still my favorite season really, and Exodus Part I being one of my all-time favorite episodes...) just makes me realize how much I miss the series.

Which is why I got so excited when I saw this on the Facebook sidebar. Starlee Kine of This American Life! Talking about the Lost Season 4 finale! On a post-it! Woot!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Yet more music - The Temper Trap: "Sweet Disposition"

The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition

Gorgeous stuff. I can't decide whether I love the original version better or the remix below:

Sweet Disposition (Curtis Vodka Remix) - The Temper Trap

Anyone know anything about this band? All I could find out was that they are from Melbourne, Aust. But apart from that ... do they have an album out?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Can I Kick it?

Love this remake of A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" by Lykke Li. Two videos juxtaposed here for how different her interpretation of the track is.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Song of the week: Adele - Chasing Pavements

Chasing Pavements - Adele

Like a cross between Lily Allen and a tortured Amy Winehouse (oh wait, she's *already* tortured...), Adele describes her songs as "heartbroken soul". Doesn't she remind you of a latter day Lauryn Hill at her torchy best?

Apparently Adele's been causing waves across the Atlantic by having her album "19" nominated for a Mercury music prize. Something to keep you going through those long nights of work ...

Oh oh, the video for this song is pretty inspired as well. It's really well done. Check it out:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Radio on the TV

It was a weekend pretty much defined by This American Life. Jude and I finally finished watching Season 1 of the TV series on DVD and today, on my last long run before the Half, I thought it might be interesting to listen to podcasts of the radio show to see if it'll be better than just random mixes of music of 2 hours. And it was. For the most part.

On the one hand, because you're listening to the stories so intently and because you somehow get emotionally invested in these people- as one invariably does every time you watch or listen to the show- your mind doesn't think about the pain and tedium of the run as much. But on the other, precisely because you're so focused on the pain and pleasures of these ordinary folk, and their simple, funny, poignant predicaments that could have so easily been yours, you find yourself wanting to laugh or even cry along, and that's hard to do when you're hot, sweaty and at Mile 7 of an 11-mile run. Like at the story of the mom who had to make a life-changing decision on behalf of her Down Syndrome daughter, or the dad whose six-year-old son wanted him to “pinky promise, to seriously and forever promise,” that he and his partner will always love each other and stay together. At so many points during the three shows I listened to, my body hurt from literally- as in physically- choking back tears or stifling laughter. All this while running.

I adore Ira Glass- me, and every other NPR-listening woman who wants him as their radio boyfriend. But really, the show- TV or radio- is about stories. Stories we tell ourselves, stories we have to tell other people. Or just stories we need to hear so we know we're not the only crazy, fallible, lovable, and human people out there. Two of our recent favorites and absolute must-listens, #328: What I Learned from Television and #339: Break-Up.

This American Life? Is that that show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are?
-Summer (Rachel Bilson), The O.C.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Playing dress-up

OK- so after almost three agonizing months of shopping- both online and otherwise, I've finally found my two outfits for my dear sister's wedding in November. For some reason, this was actually harder than finding my dresses for our wedding- I mean, it's hard striking a balance between looking appropriately joyous- I *am* the sister of the bride, without standing out- I'm not the focus of the day, and not taking the attention away from the bridal party either- i.e. no pink or purples. In the end, turquoise and blues ruled the day and it came down to a 1930s-inspired silk dress from Banana Republic for the church ceremony:

It was actually Jude's keen eye that spotted it first when we walked into the store. It wasn't something that I loved immediately but after I tried it on, the vintage feel grew on me and I've come to really like the soft, floaty feel of the whole thing. It's not an intuitive choice for a celebration dress, but with the right kind of accesories, I could just pull this off :) In terms of shoes, turquoise is a tricky color to match, but I think I'll go with the peep-toe pumps I bought for my best friend's wedding a couple of years ago:

Picking the dress for dinner was a lot harder. Because there's an Oriental theme of sorts, I was tempted to get myself a traditional cheong-sam, but that could go so wrong so quickly that unless I was sure I could really pull it off, it wasn't a risk I was willing to take. Plus, I was hoping to find something on our trip to California, but since that didn't happen, it was JCrew.com to the rescue:

I fell in love with the dress the moment I saw it in the mail catalog but it was just too expensive and I couldn't justify buying it for any reason. And then it went on sale and I did secretly hope that I wouldn't find anything else just so I could get this instead :) It's a darling of a dress- sweet, simple, and vibrant enough without being garish. Just for that extra pop, I think I'll look for a pair of pink pumps just like these:

I'm excited :) It's just under a month away, the bride and groom seem all prepared, I know at least one of the three bridesmaids who's beside herself with excitement at the prospect of being a bridesmaid- again (she insists she was too young when Jude and I got married to really embrace the gravity of the experience...), and I tried to combat insomnia by writing my wedding speech at three in the morning the other day. I have yet to decide whether sleep deprivation did the speech good or bad- the happy couple will have to decide for themselves come November 8... :)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More Perl fun: Do the number of Sam's Clubs in a state correlate to its Obesity rates?

I wrote yet another perl script that scrapes data off walmart's webpage in order to see if there is a correlation between the number of Sam's Clubs in the state and the state's obesity rates. As you can see in the scatterplot below, there is... surprisingly, no correlation! :)


Map visualization:

Who's your Perl daddy?

I am taking Lada Adamic's data munging class (officially titled SI601 - Data Manipulation and Analysis) this term and am learning lots. Check out what I managed to do this week - scrap our flickr contact list and display our contacts by the size of their contact list. Written in Perl, I am looking to extend the functionality of this script by looking at whether there's a correlation between the size of one's contact list (and hence audience) and the kinds of creative commons licenses they use. Hopefully with the extension of the script, I will be able to get data beyond just my contact list too :) Any suggestions or advice?

Oh yeah, from the many eyes visualization, it looks like 'Here is Katy' & 'Kevin Lim' are the big dogs on our flickr contact list. ;)

Monday, October 06, 2008

10 miles. Really...

Today's 10-mile run
Originally uploaded by ghetto of our mind
So two weeks to the Half. Sundays are my long-run days so today, for some motivation, Jenn and I did a 10-mile (16km) together (although it probably was a tad more because of a slight detour we took at the Arb). The route seemed doable and Jenn and I braced ourselves for what we knew was going to be a brutal hill in the middle of the Arb. But there's going to be a mile-long uphill across the bridge to Canada at the beginning of the Half anyway so we figured it was a good idea to include a couple of hills in our training. Thanks to my trusty Nike+iPod thingey (I still don't know how to call it), I managed to track my mileage throughout. And with just one playlist I stick to almost all the time, I end up associating songs and thoughts with certain points along the route, which is kind of what I did today. Basically, you occupy your mind with whatever you can on a 2-hour run...

Mile 1: The run started breezily along- it was a beautiful day to run too, all sunny and cool. Architecture in Helsinki's "The Cemetery" played while Jenn and I talked ourselves into a frenzy about all-you-can-eat crab legs at Metzger's tomorrow. Yes, we run and talk about food. A lot.

Mile 3 or so: Running towards the Arb. Jenn's the faster runner but today, she decided to start off a little slower and that allowed me to speed up to pace her. Which was really good. It helped that "Belleville Rendezvous" from the Les Triplettes de Belleville soundtrack was playing. That song is nothing if not frenetic. Think the Tour de France, but in the middle of Gallup Park.

Mile 5 and 6: Forget music- I could barely hear myself think running up that hill in the Arb. Gnarly, I think, was how Jenn described it. Steep, pebbly, and worse than I expected. I was practically breathless when I reached the top and I haven't been breathless for so long. I hope the uphill to Canada isn't this bad.

Mile 7: Going downhill through the Arb and back on flat land was a breeze after that hill; even running up to the Medical Center was a cinch. Appropriately, Pete Yorn's "Just Another" played as we turned onto Fuller and that was nice and soothing. And then there was "Through the Backyards" (Au Revoir Simone). Sweet... And while they're both not pumped-up songs by any stretch of the imagination, I think the combination of surviving the hill and being more than halfway through the route was kind of euphoric and Jenn and I both sped up a little at this point.

Mile 9: Last leg. We're running back to Gallup Park now. An oldie but goodie, New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" was on and for some reason I think I smiled. I think it had to do with the fact that we ran past a group of people playing softball and I remembered the summer of 2004 when a bunch of us went down in history as probably the worst softball team ever to play in Ann Arbor. We lost almost every game but we brought watermelons for the umpires and we were nice to our opponents. We sucked at softball but everyone loved us :) Oh, and then there was R.E.M.'s "Nightswimming." A favorite :) More smiling.

Mile 10: Ok. Home-stretch. My legs are hurting- my knees specifically- and all I can remember is Coldplay's "Spies" and "Trouble" and that awesome video. That first album, Parachutes, is still the band's best one- every single track is a gem. And while they've had good songs since then, as a whole, as Nic Harcourt of Morning Becomes Eclectic writes in Music Lust, that was one of the greatest First Albums ever made. And yup, pain still there...

So we're finally done. It's 1.30pm and I feel really good- aching knees and all. We've been officially running for 2 hours, 2 minutes and 48 seconds. We're of course starving since the only thing I've had since I woke up was a banana, and we did just burn 1287 calories. Hunger is a very powerful thing, people, and Jenn came up with the inspired idea to get pancakes at Northside Grill. I was never so happy at the prospect of pancakes :) And so pancakes it was. Plus eggs, bacon and sausages too! We so totally earned it :)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

"Last Words" - The Real Tuesday Weld

Last Words - The Real Tuesday Weld

I spent the week at home trying to get better from a bug but today, I finally left the house and we decided to go catch "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" and this song is one of our favorites from the movie's soundtrack. And I have to admit it, I do like the teen movie. I like it for its unbelievably informed hipness of the alternate music scene in its soundtrack. But more importantly, it had the appropriately sensitive leading guy who is perhaps, a little too awkward, a little too mature for his age, and a little to normal for his peers. And, of course, he doesn't quite fit. A telling line in the movie:
It's not that easy guys. You don't know what it's like to be straight. It's awful.
-Nick (played by Michael Cera)
It reminded me of when I used to teach teenagers in Singapore. So many students in the school were coping with some "alternative" or "edgy" image and attitude, which then begs the question of who or what is truly alternative or edgy? And what does it mean to be "different"? I think that was a lesson that I have yet to be able to impart.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Yes, until today, we didn't have a thermometer in the house. I'm not sure why, but it just wasn't the sort of essential thing we thought we needed, unlike say, the Wii Fit or a self-foaming latte-making espresso pot. But it's about time- Jude's been down with a tenacious viral fever for the past few days, the baaad kind, the kind that incapacitates you, the bed-bound, chicken-soup-only kind of fever that hits you like a ton of bricks and haunts you for the next week like a relentless hound. He could barely make it down the stairs, lest of all out of the house. Which is why we had to cancel our long-anticipated trip to San Francisco to Jonas and Melanie's wedding :(

We've been looking forward to this trip for soooooo long- it would have been Jude's first journey to California and it was also meant to be a reunion of sorts with several of our friends whom we haven't seen in a few years. Plus all the sightseeing, food, and we even planned a trip to the Google campus to meet a friend for lunch. But it was not to be- unless my recovering husband has anything to say about it. He's actually feeling a little better today and we're planning to go for a walk outside later. But for right now, the dear man is hunched over the computer figuring out different ways of configuring our miles and cash options, looking out for last-minute deals, and just all round making a last-ditch attempt to haul ourselves out West.

Watch this space, we might just make it afterall...