Saturday, July 31, 2010

Episode 677: Holidays Finally Started For Real...

How disturbing. I was in Borders today, and it was so difficult to find three books to buy, so that I could use my voucher. I think it was partly because I only wanted to spend money on books that I really wanted, instead of just buying something for the sake of buying it. Ended up getting stuff by Mark Salzman, since I'd been eyeing one of his books for some time anyway, but just kept putting off my purchase. Hung out with Samantha and Tiffanie for some time in Wisma Atria, gossiping over a drink, and then went down to BooksActually because Kenny and Karen are having a 20% sale over the weekend. Shirley was supposed to have met me, but she was too tired in the end. I thought 20% was just too good a discount to pass up on! Bought a couple more volumes of poetry, including Arthur Yap's The Space Of City Trees, which is out-of-print now, so all remaining copies of it are stocked at BooksActually. Did not end up buying the entire series of Singa, simply because that would have required spending far more money than I can actually afford right now, at least until MOE pays me my attachment allowance, which they can't do because I haven't posted the attendance sheet. Haha! I've also finally posted that review of The Road for my editor's approval. The Evolve Journal site does not seem to like my Internet connection, so I've spent the better part of half an hour refreshing, trying to get it to work. Bad times...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Episode 676: DPPS Day 3

I think it's got to the point where the weather here is currently as abominable as it is in the UK. Caught in a traffic jam all the way along the road leading to the BKE because of the torrential rain, which resulted in me arriving at the end of the morning's session. So really, I paid nearly $30 to arrive in time for tea, and that started late anyway. I'd have got there earlier if I'd just stuck to the MRT! Oh well. Lesson learnt. Was pretty zoned out until the final session of the day, but that was only because the person speaking to us was so animated. I swear he was really a bit like a cartoon! That wasn't actually a bad thing though. I'm pretty close to finishing with The Road, so I'll probably write the review of it after I get back from tomorrow's Warwick alumni picnic. Wasn't going to attend until Tiffanie and Samantha said they were going, so at least now there're people to disappear with if it's too awkward at the picnic. The menu sounds pretty good though, even if we do have to pay for it out of our own pockets. Am thinking of hopping down to Borders after that, since I'll already be in town anyway...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Episode 675: DPPS Day 2

Today's seminars were slightly more interesting. I'm starting to realise that I'm actually quite interested in international relations, at least in terms of thinking about it as consisting of games and strategies being played out on the geopolitical stage. Not interested enough to want to study it though. What intrigues me more are the elements of calculation and manipulation involved. Afternoon was a field trip to the Changi Prison Complex, which I thought was going to be a drag, but actually turned out to be a rather fascinating experience. Don't know how things went for those who went to the MHA Heritage Centre and the Home Team Academy, but I'm glad I got to visit the prison after all. Had a good chat with Chermaine on the way there, and it's good to know someone else who cares about local literature and has read enough of it to have formed opinions on it. We're both interested in doing a PhD dissertation on Singaporean literature, when we reach that point in our academic pursuits. Feeling a bit guilty about still not having finished reading The Road, so I'm going to try and get through 100 pages of that by tonight!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Episode 674: DPPS Day 1

While I applaud people who actually ask questions during Q&A, I also wish they'd learn that the key thing is to keep your question concise, rather than deliver a long spiel that comes off sounding like 'failed social activism', an off-the-cuff phrase I coined. Anyway, it was good catching up with the other MOE people, some of whom I haven't seen in nearly a year. Food was not bad too. Haha! To be honest, one of the best things about these seminars at CSC is how well we're fed, although sometimes I wonder if the breaks were shorter whether we could just end earlier. Met up with Daniel and Thong for dinner after that at Shin Kushinya. I guess the food was okay, although my dessert was quite underwhelming for something that cost $7.80. (It was green tea ice-cream and mochi. Serviceable, but not breathtakingly good.) It's funny how easy it is to slip back into conversation with some people, even if you haven't seen them in ages. It feels so grown-up, to sit in a restaurant late into the evening on a weekday. Yeah, a bit random, I know. Now we're even going to see a play again. It's like JC days, except with more disposable income.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Episode 673: HQ Attachment Day 17

So it's finally over. Have sent e-mails out to people in my division, thanking them for making my time in CCD enjoyable. In case you think I was just trying to leave a good impression, I wasn't. I'm genuinely thankful that the people I've been working with for the past couple of weeks have been such an easygoing bunch. I don't know how the other scholars on attachment feel, but I'm actually going to miss going to work. I hate the hours, but it helps to have friendly colleagues. Plus I'm just an intern. Nobody actually needs to be nice to me! I've begun reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which I'm meant to be reviewing for Evolve Journal. It's a chilling post-apocalyptic novel, but I'm just having trouble getting into it because of how sleepy I've been. Alfian Sa'at's Collected Plays One is a lot easier to read though. I've never seen any of them being staged, but I'd like to. I'm just a little bit turned off by how insistent the copyright notices are. I mean, the tone was kind of beginning to border on hostile. I appreciate that copyright is serious business, but a reminder at the end of each play that all rights are strictly reserved does feel like overkill to me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Episode 672: HQ Attachment Day 16

The other day, Alex sent me a message on Facebook about those posts I did last week for Incwriters, basically informing me that my blogging style was a dead giveaway. Well, at least now we know I have that elusive thing some writers are always going on about. I've found my 'voice', for better or worse. Had lunch with two of the ADs today, which was less scary than it sounds. I mean, I'm an intern. Everyone's nice to interns, right? (Don't bother to contradict me if you're interning at a law firm because I think your future pay more than makes up for any humiliation you receive now.) It was a really busy morning at work today, although I was only involved in a small bit of it. It's a bit of a relief to find out that the ADs are aware that the amount I could have done during the attachment, or rather its scope, was inherently limited by the nature of the division's work. Now I don't feel so bad for spending hours surfing My Forum, since that was one of the few things I did have access to, and it was an enlightening experience anyway.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Episode 671: Despicable Me

Having just watched Despicable Me, I think I'd like a couple of the genetically modified minions for Christmas. Thanks. I quite liked how each minion was individualised by minor details and given a name. It would've been so much easier (and lazier) to have rendered them from a generic template and not bothered to distinguish them. The film's fundamentally a feel-good animated feature, and it does shamelessly manipulate you at all the moments where you would expect to be manipulated by cute expressions and behaviour. Still, it was a pleasant way to pass the evening. Plus I got a lift home afterwards from William, so I've arrived home at a decent hour. The rain was insane though, so I expect reports of floods tomorrow, or more cars being crushed by trees. I must say, it's quite interesting how this is turning into a PR nightmare for the government, and yet to a certain extent, this is something really beyond their control for once. Must be quite discomfiting. Singaporeans being Singaporeans, aren't thinking rationally and only too happy to start pointing fingers at those in power without stopping to reflect. I mean, it's not as if the government deliberately ordered the rain so that we could have floods!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Episode 670: Local Writing...

Headed to BooksActually today with Ben Woon, so that I could use up my $70-for-$100 Vouchies coupon. Ended up buying completely different stuff from what I'd intended to. Basically, no Nabokov novels. I ended up buying a lot of local literature, but it was all stuff I know I'll definitely enjoy, e.g. Alfian Sa'at's plays, Felix Cheong and Yong Shu Hoong's poetry, and an anthology of Merlion poems. Even found a copy of Clive Barker's latest novel, Mister B. Gone, in an edition that shelves nicely with the reissues Harper has been doing. Or it would have shelved nicely, if I hadn't returned all of them before coming back to Singapore. (Well, I'm going to order them all again once I'm back in the UK.) I also bought A Field Guide To Surreal Botany, which I'd read about in the newspapers a long time ago and thought was interesting, so consider it a semi-impulsive buy. There's also a huge number of issues of Singa at the store, which I'm tempted to start buying, just to get a sense of the historical sweep of local literature. It'd look a bit weird though, if I just picked up this huge number of issues and brought them to the counter. Incidentally, Kenny recognises me (we're Facebook friends), which sort of surprised me, but was quite nice as well. Will probably make another trip back before the end of my vacation.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Episode 669: HQ Attachment Day 15

The day began and ended badly. Was nearly late for work despite taking a taxi, as we got stuck in a jam. Then I got caught up after work, and that was about three hours gone, so I got home around midnight. Thankfully, it's Friday and I don't need to work tomorrow, otherwise I'd have been even more upset. Whatever. Not going to allow myself a repeat. No sense in making myself unnecessarily frustrated! Work was the usual, although the tiny TGIF slipped in at the end of a colleague's e-mail was a nice touch. Two more days with this bunch of people. Like I've said before, it's crazy that I'm actually kind of going to miss working there, but I am. Makes me wish the attachment were longer, so I could get more deeply involved with the work that we do in our division. Incidentally, I've finished filling up Stanza with all the English and French books from Feedbooks that I could want. No idea when I'm going to be able to read them all, but if I can find just one more book likeThe American Book Of The Dead, it'll be worth it. Hoping to find some interesting science fiction, as there seems to be a lot of that on Feedbooks. A lot of the public domain stuff I'd never have encountered any other way, so it'll be good to take a look at it all.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Episode 668: HQ Attachment Day 14

I continue to be impressed by Pomegranate. It's also interesting how many familiar names are turning up among the contributors. Anyway, someone's added me on Facebook, and the only reason I can think for it is that it must be related to my writing. Would be a bit awkward to ask though, so I'm hoping she sends me a message or something. Busy filling up Stanza with more books, this time it's not user-generated content, but classic works that are in the public domain. Also did something new at work today. Hardly worth mentioning really, but it was a bit like levelling up. Haha! Mixed it up a little today and had lunch with a different group of people than usual, so now I've had lunch with almost everybody in the division. (It's a pretty small division.) Feels strange to admit it, but I think I'm kind of going to miss everyone when I'm not in the office anymore next week. Ah well. I've got a new haiku out by the way, in Four and Twenty, and it's free to download here if you're interested. I suppose you could just read my poetry blog, but it's nice to support other people's work as well, right?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Episode 667: HQ Attachment Day 13

Whoa. The number of shows I'm behind on has grown to eight. Am watching Pretty Little Liars now, might squeeze in an episode of something else before catching the finale of that Cantonese drama I've been following since I got back to Singapore. Spent the first half of the day in Rosyth School. It really gives you a different perspective, being the one who follows the VIPs around. Kids kept bowing and greeting me, just because I was tagging along with the welcome party. Quite, quite surreal. Well, it was fun being there anyway. What was also fascinating for me was seeing how GE kids behave. Being one myself, I guess I did wonder as I grew up how we looked like to other people. All I can say is these kids were strikingly articulate for their age. Not just the GE kids even, to be honest. Anyway, I've finally begun reviewing the online magazines David Tait asked me to. The Asian Writer is not precisely a magazine, I think, and I wasn't comfortable with the consistency of the quality of its section on new writing, so that one's not getting a recommendation from me. Pomegranate, on the other hand, impressed me right from its inaugural issue. Might even submit something myself in the near future...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Episode 666: HQ Attachment Day 12

Today, while driving us down to Rosyth School to see their final rehearsal for tomorrow's Racial Harmony Day event, my colleague commented that she thought I would make a good teacher in future. This opinion is in stark contrast to that of almost everyone else who knows me, who all think I'll probably make my students cry or something. She said it's because she can tell I'm a caring person, which to some extent, I quite agree with. It's just that when dealing with my peers, I tend to amplify the more cutting facets of my personality for amusement. It's rare to meet someone so perspicacious, given how my personality is hardly perspicuous to begin with. She also remarked that it was a shame I wasn't posted to the division as permanent staff, as she thought it would've been good working with me. That pleased me a lot because it kind of confirmed my belief that the work this division does is a really good fit for me. When it's time for my first HQ posting in future, this division is definitely going to be high on my list of choices. I'm not exaggerating. I mean, it was also my first choice for this year's attachment, and I'm really glad with how it's all worked out so far.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Episode 665: HQ Attachment Day 11

Caught up with my mentor in the afternoon over cappuccinos. (She was on MC all of last week!) I think it's good that my mentor's also a teaching scholar, in the midst of serving out her bond. It gives me an idea of how my career'll develop after my studies, what's there to look forward to. I mean, she's literally only five years older than me. In no time at all, I could very well find myself in her shoes. That's actually pretty intimidating. Incidentally, the youngest person in the division is actually my age! Anyway, taking public transport today was exceptionally excruciating for some reason. Frankly, although people often lament that Singaporeans are a graceless lot, I wonder if that partially stems from how crowded our city's getting. All that pent-up frustration has to go somewhere, right? (Like a pressure cooker, I suppose.) Given how well the economy's doing this year, it wouldn't be surprising to have elections being called in the near future. So are voters really so money-minded that the whole crowding issue won't weigh on their minds? I guess that's what the government's counting on. More GST credits will make up for it all?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Episode 664: And It's Gone...

The weekend's over and although I didn't actually do very much, I still feel unrested. Sigh. Just realised that I'm probably not going to have anything to do the whole of tomorrow aside from the usual news stuff, plus the foreign media coverage I'm supposed to send stuff for to my colleague in the afternoon. I guess it's a good thing Stanza's full of stuff to read now. I've also begun reading Andrew Duncan's The Council Of Heresy, which is actually quite confusing right now, but I hold great hopes of being enlightened by the time I reach the end of the book. Randomly, my mouse has started malfunctioning, and it's quite annoying. It'll just suddenly stop working, and then after a while, it'll go back to normal, before the whole cycle repeats itself again. I'm hoping it's just a temporary glitch that'll go away after I reboot my laptop. In more banal news, I've finally got the whole first season of Justified, so yes, Alex, I will watch it after all. Once my attachment is over, obviously. It's quite hard to have a social life when you're in the office from 8.30 am to 6 pm, Mondays to Fridays, and the commute saps you of more energy than the actual work does. Sad times...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Episode 663: Weekend At Last!

Slept till past noon, just like when I'm in the UK. Ah, it was lovely. This was after I stayed up to write a poem that borrows the terminology of quantum physics, hopefully accurately. Now I've just spent the entire evening playing Tap Tap Revenge 3 on my iPhone. I made it all the way to level 10, got a bunch of awards, unlocked a couple of new songs. Fun times, right? Before that, I spent the afternoon filling up Stanza with all the books I could get off Feedbook. God only knows when I'll actually have time to read them all. Then again, a lot of the 'books' are actually short stories. I have, however, been reading another Shearsman publication, Brandi Homan's Hard Reds. Coming after Ian Seed's Anonymous Intruder and Wendy Saloman's Chrysalis In The Desert, the publisher's three out of three for me so far. Watching the pilot for Covert Affairs now, and it's just joined my list of must-watch series for the summer. It is that good. Christopher Gorham is playing a completely different character from the creepy fiancé of Harper's Island, and the show's also got Anne Dudek in the supporting cast. Her turn as Amber on House impressed me very much, so here's hoping she gets some good scenes on this series, even though she's just a supporting actress.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Episode 662: HQ Attachment Day 10/DPPS Day 0

Only spent the first half of the day in the office, but didn't have much to do today. (It was a relatively slow day, education news-wise.) Had to go down to Civil Service College for a half-day programme, which was basically the introduction to DPPS. It turned out to be not as boring as I'd thought it would be. The director who spoke to us first was so young! I worked it out, and he has to be only in his early 30s. I found his sharing refreshingly candid and frank though. I've also got a lot of respect for PS Lim now. It really gives me hope that when I join the civil service, it's possible to carry out your duties without compromising on your own personal beliefs. It's not about becoming a mouthpiece for propaganda. I was never quite that cynical, I think, but sometimes sessions like these just help to remind me of that. Something the director said really struck me, about how being in the public service calls for the paradoxical ability to hold idealism and realism in tension with each other. I thought to myself, isn't that kind of one of the most crucial aspects of studying literature? (Yeah, I'm just trying to make my teaching subject appear more important.) Okay, public service announcement over.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Episode 661: HQ Attachment Day 9

Pleasant surprise. Colleague wrote the report, incorporating the points I sent him in my e-mail yesterday. Was actually expecting that I would eventually end up having to write the report, but I guess not! Spent the entire day waiting for that to happen, and then his draft landed in my e-mail. So now I'm going to read it and make suggestions, which is a lot less stressful. Also managed to spend some time while waiting for my colleagues to go for lunch to finish all my posts for Incwriters! They're all scheduled for posting now, and the first one's already got a comment, from my namesake, who also apparently likes speculative fiction. Now I've just got to get through the second half of my attachment and review those online magazines for Incwriters. I can actually see myself enjoying working in this division, should I ever be posted back to it in the future. Oh, and I also know my results. The module average anyway. It's a First, a few points higher than last year's too, so that's nice. It does mean, however, that my LL209 mark was actually pretty average, slightly lower than what I'd hoped for even. Oh well...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Episode 660: HQ Attachment Day 8

Dad's attending something at the Biopolis today and tomorrow, so I'm getting lifts to and fro, which is awesome. It's only really good when it comes to the homeward journey, since I still have to wake up at the same time to get to HQ in the morning. Work's picking up, although to some extent, I'm flying blind as far as how much effort to put in is concerned. I worry that I'm not doing enough, and then I worry that I'm channelling too much effort in the wrong direction. Have pretty much done as much as I've been told to, so I just need to see what replies I get to my e-mails. Have only managed to finish and schedule three posts for Incwriters so far, so I'm going to have to bang one more out before going to bed. Maybe two, just to stay ahead of my own self-imposed schedule. Also need to find some time to grab a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road from a library, the next book I need to review for Evolve Journal in August. Oh, and random discovery of the day: Rachel Stevens's Come And Get It is possibly one of the most underrated pop albums of the decade. I'm also slightly embarrassed to admit that Enrique Iglesias's new single, 'I Like It', has totally grown on me, shameless studio effects and all. (I suspect Dan would not approve.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Episode 659: HQ Attachment Day 7

I am not normally an apologist for the government, but it's becoming truly dispiriting how naïve some of my peers appear to be. First there was that article in The Straits Times by a young reporter lamenting the influx of foreigners (when she ironically went to an overseas university) and proclaiming how all the current grousing is perfectly natural and justified. Now I've just finished reading an essay in Ceriph entitled 'Independence', in which the writer trots out the same tired sentiments regarding our government and its hand in producing the current state of Singaporean society, with its political apathy and tendency to behave like an obedient sheep. Such criticisms are nothing new, nor are they entirely unjustified, but it was the writer's envisioned solution that bothered me. Not only was it simplistic, i.e. our education system needs to become less rigid, but his essay ended off with precisely the sort of platitudes that the government likes to declaim: 'We are a shining beacon of racial and religious harmony, sharing a bond of 44 years.' Let's leave aside the fact that MOE gets too much flak for everything that supposedly is wrong about our education system. I mean, we've changed a lot in recent years, and while a lot of the changes might seem overly optimistic now, and we almost certainly still haven't got it exactly right yet (assuming that's even possible), it doesn't seem fair to criticise when changes in education are the sort of thing that filter down over whole cohorts. Granted, it means some students get the short end of the stick no matter what we do, but change and its effects aren't some magical overnight panacea. So the platitudes. It baffles me that the writer couldn't see how his own writing was guilty of the same unreflecting attitude he charged Singaporeans with. Simply arguing against what the government does isn't displaying and exercising 'freedom of thought'. I think he's forgetting that all governments have a vested interest to hang onto power. It's what they do once they have that power that matters more, if you ask me. I suppose I'm just disappointed that an obviously educated individual has failed to go beyond a superficial critique of the way Singapore is to examining the sociopolitical reality in which any society must function. The clincher? Someone thought his essay was worth printing.

Anyway, work this morning was okay. This attachment is really changing my impressions of the media, I'll say that much. I'll never read anything in the papers quite the same way again. It was also fairly disturbing to see how hungry the reporters were to get a piece of SMS Fu. I swear one of them would have marched right over and accosted her, except it was pretty clear I was hanging around to prevent just that. We were stuck longer than expected at Republic Polytechnic, so we just ended up having lunch there and arriving back at HQ at 2 pm. Drafted a very brief report for one of my projects, and finally got confirmation that I need to go ahead with the report on the other one, so I've got something to do for the next couple of days. I've also realised that my blogging stint at Incwriters starts on Thursday, and after my colleague kindly informed me that for an online outlet, my post was probably too long and chunky. Guilty as charged. I've thrown it out completely and started from scratch, and the first post is almost done. It's a lot snappier, I hope, and I might be able to finish a second one tonight. Busy, busy, busy...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Episode 658: HQ Attachment Day 6

Mentor's on MC for three days. It doesn't really affect my duties that much, although I was a little bored today because I kind of ran out of things to do. Colleague hasn't asked me to help with his report yet, so I don't know whether I should offer. Did go down to Republic Polytechnic (which I've never been to) to recce the place for tomorrow morning's event. That should be fun, being at the event, I mean. It'll also take up the entire first half of the day, and I've already planned how to occupy the time after lunch. I'm going to try and meet with someone to discuss another of my projects, but if she's not free, then I don't know what I'll be doing. Have also stupidly agreed to read the Home section of The Straits Times tomorrow, except I've just remembered that I'm not actually in the office tomorrow morning! Argh. Time to send an SMS to fix this slip of the mind. The American Book Of The Dead continues to prove an intriguing read, and I can't understand why this wasn't put out through a mainstream publisher. It's a lot better than that tripe that Stephanie Meyer's peddling, that's for sure. Also started flipping through Issue Zero of Ceriph, and sad to say, Shirley's right about it. It's a vaguely promising bunch of stuff, but in this case, I would've advocated tougher editorial standards.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Episode 657: Self-publishing?

It's a no-brainer that one of the applications I've downloaded onto my iPhone is Stanza. I have, however, so far tried not to download books that I would buy print copies of anyway, even if they're books that have passed into the public domain. Currently, I'm using Stanza more as a tool to explore self-published writing. The first book I've starting reading so far, The American Book Of The Dead by Henry Baum, is actually very intriguing and it's honestly changed my mind about what to demand from self-published work in terms of quality. If all the other e-books are just as good, consider me a convert. I'm not one of those people who think traditional publishing is definitely going to be displaced by the likes of Kindle, but I think e- and self-publishing are useful avenues to get work out that isn't perceived by mainstream publishers to have commercial viability. Even House Of Leaves, that phenomenal work, first started out as something that was circulated online. Anyway, I'm grossly simplifying my train of thought here because I want to go to bed, but I may expand it into a post for Incwriters, which I haven't worked on at all beyond preparing my first post. Lame, I know!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Episode 656: iPhone Owner!

So I've crossed further to the dark side and bought an iPhone 3GS to replace my Nokia N95. Was contemplating several other models, but I figured if I wasn't going to get the latest (I never waste money by buying something that's practically obsolete the moment it's marketed), I might as well get something with social cache, and currently, I think nothing quite trumps the iPhone in that department. (Except possibly the Blackberry, but I'm not too keen on its design.) Spent most of the afternoon fiddling with it, so I've got everything that matters set up, i.e. Facebook and Twitter. Also changed the plan that I'm on, so now I can surf without having to look for a WiFi network if I'm outside. I hope I'm still satisfied with my choice in a week, as this is one of the rare occasions I've got a new mobile without actually having made up my mind beforehand about what model I want, so getting the iPhone was practically on impulse. Am now looking to fill it up with applications (I bought the 32 GB model), so if anyone's got any recommendations, let me know. May just stick some music onto it to fill the space, but I'm not giving up my iPod quite just yet. In fact, I've actually got two. All I need is a Mac and an iPad, and my conversion to the dark side will be complete.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Episode 655: HQ Attachment Day 5

Just got back from cell. Was so sleepy after a day in the office, but I still forced myself to go down to church. In hindsight, not entirely convinced that was actually the right decision. Managed to skim through the whole sheaf of papers I photocopied yesterday, but it was enough to get a gist of what was going on in all the reports. I must say, this week alone has really opened my eyes to just how much goes on at MOE that you never realise as a student or a parent, and possibly even as a teacher first starting out in the job. It's so easy to appropriate corporate jargon and parody it, but the thing is, a lot of the time, I can see the underlying sense to it. It's just that most people won't be prepared to look past the terminology and will instinctively reject whatever's being said. Had lunch today with colleagues in Holland Village's Eating With Fries. It was a quirky place, I suppose, but I wasn't terribly impressed by the food. Conceptually, I think it's brilliant, and I love the random library section just stuck in on the upper floor (although quite why so many of the books are kids' books like Enid Blyton, I don't really know). For a place whose selling point appears to be its wide choice of fries though, the preparation really feels quite pedestrian. It's basically a lot of powdered flavourings that in all likelihood came straight out of a packet from the supermarket!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Episode 654: HQ Attachment Day 4

Slept about seven hours last night, but woke up feeling just a bit more tired than I have for the past couple of days. What gives? Also made it out of the house slightly earlier, so I ended up in the worst of rush hour (human) traffic. Literally crushed from Jurong East to Buona Vista. On the way home though, I seem to have got lucky and missed the human flow by a couple of minutes, as I was on a relatively 'normal' train in the reverse direction. Didn't make it onto the first southbound train that pulled in though. Next one was terminating at Yew Tee, so I did the usual thing of getting off at Bukit Batok and doubling back. Got a seat, read a bit of River Of Gods, and then snoozed all the way home, waking up just in time at Sembawang. Workload starting to grow, so I don't feel like I'm just showing up to browse My Forum anymore! Actually have a pile of stuff to read before Monday, but I'm forcing myself to read it during office hours. No point turning into a workaholic years before it's a necessity! River Of Gods, by the way, is coming to a climactic finish, but I'm definitely not convinced that it's as fantastic as all the blurbs proclaimed. It's good genre fiction, but I don't think it's really doing anything that hasn't been done by other writers before, apart from transplanting the action into a distinctly Oriental setting (which I already pointed out feels like an overly calculated decision). There's already a collection of short stories set in the same fictional universe, Cyberabad Days, and Ian McDonald really does seem to be one of the new Gollancz darlings, so bully for him.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Episode 653: HQ Attachment Day 3

How embarrassing. I'm meant to knock off half an hour earlier on Wednesdays, but I totally forgot and was still reading forum posts 10 minutes after I could have left the office. Only realised because my colleague in the neighbouring cubicle asked me why I hadn't gone home. Thank goodness she did because I managed to avoid the worst of rush hour today, so at least once a week, I'll get to ride home in what passes for comfort. I spent pretty much the entire day reading posts on the forum, and it was pretty interesting. There's a lot about the service that I didn't know about, and wouldn't actually have found out until I started teaching for real, so it's good in a way to know what lies ahead. So I can be mentally prepared! Met up with Zilu for lunch at the Biopolis. Haven't had O'Brien's in ages! Anyway, I've been spending my extra time at home watching the new episode of Pretty Little Liars. Sadly, the first cracks are appearing in this show's plot development. Why has Toby suddenly emerged as an alternative love interest for Emily? Was her lesbian exploration with Maya hurting the ratings? Or are we headed for a heady love triangle on a family network? Also not impressed by how the Ezra-Aria romance has temporarily been scuppered. Dude was sticking his neck out to date his student, but now at the least sign of trouble, he develops trust issues and bails? Seriously? Oh well. Next up, the new season premiere of Warehouse 13!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Episode 652: HQ Attachment Day 2

Didn't have anything to do in the morning, so I spent time clearing old e-mails, of which I have a lot, thanks to GMail's ever-growing storage. Also managed to access Evolve Journal, so the book review has gone up for vetting, thereby proving that it really is my SingTel mio connection that was refusing to play nice with the journal's website. Argh! I did make use of the time before lunch to write the first post as well for my blogging stint at Incwriters later this month. It's about literary rejection! Clocking in at more than 1200 words, it's actually longer than what I'd planned on writing. May have to do shorter posts for the subsequent days, especially if I don't end up writing them in advance. Had a couple of briefings again in the afternoon, so that was good because I'm slowly starting to form a picture of what some of my projects are going to be about. Some of it actually sounds like pretty major stuff to be roping in an intern for! I'm liking the work that this division does though, so would quite like to get posted here for my HQ stint in future. Jet lag still pretty bad, but not as bad as yesterday. By the end of the week, I might actually be able to stay awake for the whole MRT ride home!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Episode 651: HQ Attachment Day 1

So I arrived at MOE HQ about half an hour early today, which did not go unnoticed by my new colleagues. It's not that I was crazily eager to arrive at work (although I'm really quite glad to be in Corporate Communications Division), but I was just trying to figure out how long I need to get from my home to Buona Vista. So now I know I can afford to wake up half an hour later! Didn't actually do a lot of work on my first day, and it looks like the first week is mostly going to be taken up with briefings before I actually get around to working on the assigned projects from next week onwards. I have tried my hand at summarising a news item related to education though, which is literally one of the first things that happens in the division every single morning, so it's a good thing that I didn't do too badly for a first attempt, as it's the one thing that appears unfailingly every day on my schedule. Went out for lunch with colleagues and discovered Purple Rose Café, which serves really nice cakes. Then I came back to the office and discovered that Zilu, one of the few people I know who's at Buona Vista for her attachment during Frame A rather than Grange Road or Ghim Moh, is actually in the same office as me, except she's working at the other end of the room in Higher Education Division. Jet lag didn't hit me till about the last hour, but I was struggling to keep my eyes open all the way home!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Episode 650: It's Shocking, But...

It's only been 48 hours, and I already miss Virgin Media. I mean, however annoying their level of customer service got, at least the broadband connection itself was almost entirely fault-free. Whereas SingTel mio seems to be incapable of getting anything right, years after its inception. Why's that? It's really frustrating! Have been trying to access Evolve Journal for the past few days to post my review, and I can't tell if my connection is lousy or if the website is down. The thing is, I can occasionally make it to the site, but it won't load fully, hence I can't make up my mind as to which is the problem. Sigh. On to reviewing the magazines for Incwriters then. Will start on the first one tomorrow evening. Anyway, I bought two more pairs of trousers from G2000 today, so I've got more wardrobe options for the office for the next few weeks. River Of Gods is getting more interesting, by the way, so I'm bringing it along to the office tomorrow. Maybe I'll read during my lunch break? I mean, it's not like I can do anything else, not having an active mobile line and all. Yeah, my contract expired and I won't have the time to sign up for a new one until this Saturday at the earliest. So I can receive SMSes, but I can't send any, and it costs an insane amount to make or receive calls. This is going to be a trying week...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Episode 649: Putting On The Habits

Have started reading Ian McDonald's River Of Gods, and it's pretty damn good. (It'd better be, given how it's a rather thick book.) I'm not entirely sure about how I feel regarding the futuristic Indian setting, which occasionally feels like cultural tokenism, in the sense that you could have swapped the country in question for say, China, and it would simply require applying a different set of clichés. Yet at the same time, the choice of country strikes me as somewhat redressing the tendency for a lot of science fiction to unfold in settings that are, explicitly or implicitly, Western. (I might be mistaken in this regard, so do feel free to correct me.) Have finished the first, and comparatively short, section of the novel, and so far, the disparate cast of characters doesn't seem to me to be entirely necessary. Incidentally, for those of you wondering what it's like to be back home, it actually doesn't feel particularly different. If I wanted to go all clichéd about it, I'd say this is called being a 'global citizen', but it's really less about that than the fact that our habits are powerful things, and living here or there really just boils down to slipping into a different set of habits and patterns. That's how it works for me anyway. Wouldn't presume to generalise to the experience of all the other Singaporeans studying overseas, some of whom seem to really, really miss this place whenever they're away from it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Episode 648: Home!

Watched just two films during the flight, Date Night and Clash Of The Titans, although I did catch up on two recent episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. So glad that Sara Sidle's back on the team! Anyway, I really loved Steve Carell and Tina Fey in Date Night, although come on, all those shirtless Mark Wahlberg scenes were so obviously gratuitous. I was a lot less keen on Clash Of The Titans, despite Sam Worthington putting in yet another performance as saviour-of-the-world. The problem was just how loosely the whole film was following the original Greek mythology. Some license is to be granted, naturally, but what with the really contrived Perseus-Io romance and his rejection of Andromeda (the latter flying completely in the face of established tradition for no apparent good reason), it was hard to be impressed by all the CGI when the story felt like it'd been watered down so much. Worst of all, I don't see how the title of the film was actually related to the plot. Seems to me like the clash was between the Olympian, Hades, and the demigod, Perseus, with a bit of fatherly backing from yet another Olympian, Zeus. This is a remake of a 1981 film by the way, in which the 'canonical' Perseus-Andromeda pairing is retained, so maybe whoever thought the remake was a good idea thought we needed some sort of open-ended conclusion, with the threat of Hades's eventual return hanging over everything, although how that requires Io around baffles me as much as I'm sure it does you. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there was really no need to deviate from the original Greek mythology. I mean, that stuff is crazy enough without you making up your own stories for a film, right?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Episode 647: Successfully Checked In

Was a bit annoyed with my taxi driver from the house to Pool Meadow, as he didn't really seem to be understand a word that I was saying. Was I speaking too quickly to be intelligible? Or was it because I didn't have an Indian accent? Was a bit annoyed with my taxi driver from the house to Pool Meadow, as he didn't really seem to be understand a word that I was saying. Was I speaking too quickly to be intelligible? Or was it because I didn't have an Indian accent? At least he had the common sense to subsequently follow me in his taxi around the corner to where I actually wanted to get off, something I'd somehow failed to communicate clearly to him despite repeating 'Around the corner' several times before getting off to return the keys to the agency. Not to be racist, but later, when getting off the coach to Heathrow, the guy who stepped on my foot and didn't apologise was also Indian. (Clearly, this really just wasn't my day as far as they were concerned.) On a brighter note, the lady at the check-in counter didn't bat an eyelid at what was clearly an overweight piece of luggage. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was checking in about four hours before the flight was due to depart, and there wasn't a single person queuing for Qantas anyway. Honestly, I wouldn't have had any idea what to do if she insisted on imposing the limit on me. Probably would've tried to take some stuff out and squeeze it in my carry-on, or just caved and paid the ridiculously extortionist fees for extra baggage. So am now checked in and just chilling in Costa with a drink...