Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A pair of lover’s poetry exchange (情人于诗对气曲)

A very good friend of mine had decided that she’d had enough of her boyfriend of two over years. It took a while for her to come to this decision and finally, over the weekend, she moved out from their shared adobe and announced the end of their relationship. I’m one of the few that knew of the ups and downs as she confided in me most of the time. However, I knew that she’s making the decision based on frustration and emotion rather than the lack of love between them.

Frankly, most of our friends that are privy to this matter were actually betting on the numbers of days they will be separated. Some speculated a week, some said a month while some said she is dead serious, and there is no turning back. The break up lasted only two and half days but before agreed to renew their relationship again, a couple of poems were exchanged. It is worthy of a mention (and reference) for I find it amusing that poetry written during the Tang dynasty can be used to express his regret and her frustration.

From him:

谓城曲 王维者(699-759)

Rhyme from Wei City by Wang Wei
The city of Wei is clear after a morning breeze,
This place is quiet and I can smell the fragrant of the willow tree.
With regret, I hope you will enjoy this glass of wine,
After passing the Yang Pass, I am not sure if we will meet again.

Her reply:

凉州词  王之渙者 (688-742)

Beyond the border by Wang Zhihuan
The Yellow River risen up and yonder through white clouds,
One strip of city-wall by mile-high mountains on low grass,
Which flute can resists resisting the willow tree?
Yet, the wind of spring has not blown beyond Jade Gate Pass.

Taken out of its original context, he uses the poem to express his empty home after she left till he can smell the fragrance of the willow tree that are aplenty near his home which is not far from the Singapore Chinese Garden. He expresses his regret and offers a glass of wine because he isn’t sure if they will ever be together again. In ancient time, 阳关 or the Yang Pass referred to the last Chinese controlled territory along the Silk Road. Those who ventured out of it were basically venturing out into the wilderness where the guarantee of return can never be confirmed.

Ruins from Yang Pass when I visited the site in 2011. 

In her reply, she uses Wang Zhihuan’s Beyond the Border to express her nostalgia for the willow trees but she is frustrated that despite all their ups and down, she have not seen the sight of change but yet she is still not leaving that far, hence, the wind of spring has not blown beyond the Jade Gate Pass. Jade Gate Pass is another important pass along the Silk Road for travellers either chooses the northern route or the southern route after passing Dunhuang to reach Kashgar. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

With iPhone 6, I bid adieu to Canon G16

The iconic Bridge over River Kwai at dusk. 
Capturing moments in a photo is something that I am very passionate about. Every photo are forms of appreciation and communications with the moment at that time of the shooting – where I was, who I was with and what I was doing.  

I enjoy taking pictures of everything – from insects to food to portraits to formation of clouds. At the same time, I loved to be photographed and I demanded that the snapshots of me must be perfect, even on candid pictures.  In order to capture a picture that deemed acceptable to me, sometimes, up to 30 shots will be taken just for only one to be selected, much to the stress of my friends holding the camera.

Call me picky, demanding or obsessive or whatever on this aspect, and I will admit to it. Any serious photographer will tell you that, for the thousands of shoots that they took, perhaps, not even one percent of the photos will make it to their list of acceptable ones.

In the days before the camera function on smartphones are acceptable, I used to carry a camera with me all the time – a Canon Compact IXUS. When I travel, cameras and their accessories took up half the space of my hand carry luggage – a Canon DSLR with various lenses and a Canon Powershot G16. Before sticking to Canon, I have tried various brands, compared its functions, resolutions, the printed end result and I vote for a Canon. True to its tagline – it delights me, always.

However, I slowly say goodbye to my cameras since the arrival of my iPhone 5s. Then, on my April’s trip to Siem Riep, Cambodia, I took shots with iPhone 6 and my trusted companion, the Canon Powershot G16. Much to my surprise, shots taken from the iPhone 6 yielded better results than the camera. The beautiful pictures that we see in signboards all over the world with the simple tagline “Shot on iPhone 6” are real! They aren’t product of photo editing, a norm in marketing gimmick that my skeptical mind initially thought of.

Excellent flash and shutter speed to capture this picture. 
And, for the past few days in Bangkok, I took the Canon Powershot G16 along but not a single shot of photo was taken with it. I am wholly satisfied with every shot taken from the iPhone 6 - from the busy streets of Bangkok to the tranquility of the hillsides on the bank of River Kwai in Kachanaburi. All that a camera can do, iPhone 6 did it even better. Shutter speed – passed. Flash – passed. Zoom – passed. Aperture speed – passed. Clarity – passed. Quick editing – passed. Gone too are the wait to upload nice pictures on Facebook. But to be sure to have good and reliable powerbanks ready as the phone’s battery span depleted much quicker than expected.

After this, I am going to put my Canon Powershot G16 into retirement as I can now make do with iPhone 6. Nevertheless, I will still carry the DSLR with me until Apple can come out with camera functions that can totally put DSLR cameras into retirement as well. On a glance, among the droves of tourists that throng the Grand Palace compound in Bangkok, all I can see was smartphones taking over the job of cameras. In the race for snapshots, the camera makers, for now, looks like they are losing to the smartphones.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Baron for “lelong”

My spoilt rotten cat Baron is going to be “lelong” (auction) off, declared his grandma (my mom) angrily. “Ask your mummy (me) to buy you off at “lelong” and bring back to Kuala Lumpur,” added grandma to Baron who looked at her innocently. But certainly he is not innocent at all. He had been caught scratching grandma’s carpet, scratching the wallpaper near the staircase and his latest crime was stealing food!

Something was amiss from the dining table but nobody suspected Baron until a check on the CCTV. And guess what that actually amuse and enraged his grandma at the same time? This cat is so smart to hide away the evidences of his crime (leftover bones) in his poo box and covered them with the sand! Duh!!

“Where do you learn all these?” I asked Baron and he gave me an arrogant staring look as the answer. Double duh!! 

"He inherited all these from you! What type of owner produce what type of cat." retorted his grandma. Triple duh!! 

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Rude, slow and overzealous government officers aplenty

There are many things that fellow Malaysians of all political stripes cannot agree but there is one thing that everyone will agree absolutely and loudly – everyone hate to go to government departments to get things done. If possible, going to the government departments, be it local government or federal government, is the last thing that everyone wishes to do.

Even with the setting up of Urban Transformation Center (UTC), the KPI benchmark, promises of delivery, promises of efficiency and all sorts of promises done by the government, it is still a drag to go to do basic things such as changing the passport or making a police report. More often than not, my friends and I lament of how we wish that changing of passport, IC and other processes that needed to be at government departments personally can be done online and if possible, without even having to step a foot inside the government departments.  

Rude, slow and overzealous moral police government officers are aplenty in all government departments throughout the country. The recent incident of a woman that was forced to don a sarong before being allowed entry to the Road Transport Department is only the tip of an iceberg over the many ills at government departments. I do not see anything wrong with the woman’s dressing!

More precisely, what I see is that of overzealous moral police politicians and officers that have been growing in this country. What used to be a norm and acceptable suddenly became unacceptable after zealots in the likes of Ridzuan Tee Abduallah, ISMA, Perkasa, PAS and their like-minded friends preaches so. In future, are we expected to be covered from head to toe before being served in government departments? I’ve received complaints too, that, since the last general election, with the Chinese not supporting the Barisan Nasional government, some government officers have become racist too. However, without substantial evidence, we shall leave it this aside. I just hope that this is not true even we have plenty of evidences that certain ministers have turned racist!

Aside from overzealous moral police government officers, rude officers are aplenty too. They behaved as if they are working in their father or mother’s company when in fact; they are public servant funded by taxpayer. They communicate with the public like masters shouting instructions to the slaves. And often, these are the officers that are without empathy for they never take any explanation given into considerations. Two years ago, I’ve written about a rude security officer by the name of Fatehah who behaved like a gangster at LCCT. Yes, it is one of the types of officers that you’ll encounter once a while.

It will take many more pages to note down the rude encounters at government departments, including one incident when I change my passport last year. I was rudely refused by the officer handling out forms and waiting numbers when I presented my passport and IC because I told that my IC looks old! I would have to change my IC first before I am allowed to change my passport.  I explained to the officer that I changed my IC in 2008; it is just 6 years and asked what does she mean by old? I was told that because the color looked faded. Duh! Is it my problem if the color of my MyKad look faded to her eyes? To cut short the story, and thanks to my friend’s smartness which I am not convenient to disclose, I’d managed to change my passport on that day.

Finally, I guess I need not comment much about the snail pace of certain government officers conducting their job for I know fellow Malaysians will agree with their hands and legs up. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

My smelly pillow – world’s best sleeping pill

The precious one! 
A few days ago, my hilarious boss, the pharaoh forwarded a few of his “slaves” an article from SGAG with the title of “Confessions of a Chou Chou/Bantal Busuk owner”. As the article was written by anonymous, Mr. Pharaoh teasingly wondered if the confession was by one of us. It is no secret that many of us own a smelly pillow in the form of pillow, bolster or blanket which we never cease to bring along whenever there is an overnight trip for we can’t sleep soundly without this precious thing.

Count me in among the owners of the so call ‘smelly pillow”. My smelly pillow is not actually a pillow but an old blanket that I fold till it becomes the size of a small pillow. It is my most precious sleep companion since I was a small. No sleep is considered a sleep at all without this trusted companion next to me. Its function as the natural sleep inducing helper made me crown it as the world’s best sleeping pill.

I lost count of the age of this blanket and to all I know, it has followed me through my secondary school years, my Auckland years and till now. Just like all owners of smelly pillow, our greatest fear is not about the late arrival of our luggage bag or the luggage bag goes missing altogether but it is the fear of the sleepless nights without this dearest companion.  No matter what sort of magic that I have to do with the allocated hand carry luggage, the smelly pillow is the first priority.

Sleeping on flight with my best sleeping pill. A friend took this secretly. Duh!! 
Above all, I am not shy to admit openly that I have this precious smelly pillow that I must bring with me everywhere. Neither do I felt ashamed to use it on flight, in the train or even on the road during long distance travelling. Childish? I beg to differ. Everyone, regardless the age, have a certain degree childish tenderness in them and having a smelly pillow even at the age of 50 is just one of the thing in the long list.

Actually, I would love to write more about this smelly pillow, especially my constant “battle” and “hide and seek” game with my mom when it comes to washing this smelly blanket of mine but I just have to conclude that no one know best except to those who own one. The writer of Confessions of a Chou Chou/Bantal Busuk owner expressed it out for the rest, every single detail included. What a great piece of article!

 Hereby is the reproduction of the article:

Confessions of a Chou Chou/Bantal Busuk owner

I have a Chou Chou and I'm a proud Chou Chou owner. While many like me call it Chou Chou, other common names include bantal busuk, busuk busuk, with some even giving it pet names (aww so cute)..

Chou Chou comes in different forms, shapes and sizes for. For some it might be a bolster, for others it might be a small pillow, hand-sewn blanket, or even random soft toys. The lucky ones have had their Chou Chou since they were a kid while some were slightly late to discover this hidden treasure but you know as they say, it's better to be late than never!

One common characteristic of all Chou Chou is the smell, oh that heavenly smell. A deep breath of Chou Chou after a long day refuels my body with energy. When I'm heartbroken, I hug and cry with my Chou Chou and I feel much better very quickly. Only when I hold it in tight embrace at night that I can fall into deep sleep dreaming of unicorns.

The smell does vary according to the seasons and temperature though. Studies of my Chou Chou over the past 10 years have shown that mine tends to smell better during warmer days/temperatures. Cold weather/aircon tends to mute the smell a little but nevertheless, it is still good, just not as good.

It is always a struggle when Chou Chou owners have to travel. We all have that one secret wish to pack our chou chous into our luggages. I always didn't do it in the end cause I'm worried I might lose my luggage with my Chou Chou inside.

But mothers, they just don't get it, why would they take my Chou Chou out to sun it? Like hello? My Chou Chou doesn't need a tan can? My Chou Chou is not a plant you know! Don't need sunlight to survive one! You are going to fry my Chou Chou alive in the sun!! Don't you know putting it under the sun will change the smell of my Chou Chou???

Sunning of my Chou Chou aside, the other crisis I've had to deal with is the constant changing of cover! Some mothers like to change covers of Chou Chou to wash the old one! WHY???? My Chou Chou is clean and nice and everything wonderful! Why is there a need to change cover??? You know how many days it would take me to build up the smell again once you change a new cover for my Chou Chou??

Even worse, some mothers wash the Chou Chou itself. WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT? ITS WORSE THAN MURDER!! When my mother did it, I nearly committed suicide. All that heavenly smell that I built up over the years. All that pain and effort and slow marination to create that smell, all gone down the drain! After that happened I couldn't sleep properly for weeks, eyes wide open at night, wondering what is this new foreign thing on my bed that looks like a pale shadow of my Chou Chou. It took me a few weeks to get over this devastation in life, and a few months for me to marinate and season it to a glimpse of what my Chou Chou used to smell and feel like.

If my mother washes my Chou Chou again, I swear I'll go to Hong Lim Park and organise a SAY NO TO WASHING OF CHOU CHOU protest! It is against human rights to do such inhumane acts!

To all husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends of Chou Chou owners, STOP ASKING US IF WE CAN THROW AWAY OUR CHOU CHOU! Our Chou Chou is a part of us!! Asking us to throw it away is like asking us to cut away our hand or something! Why would you want to cut away the hand of your loved one??? How can you be so cruel? If you love us you gotta accept everything about us, including our Chou Chou! Period.

You should be thankful that we even wanna share our Chou Chou with you! We don't share it with anyone ok? Only with those people we love! So stop avoiding it and pushing it away when we put our Chou Chou to your nose and try to share it with you! That hurts us, truly madly deeply.

And stop saying it is SMELLY! It is not! It is acquired taste! I smell it, I feel alive. If you don't appreciate good things like this then too bad for you, you've a sad life, or maybe you're just jealous of our Chou Chou cause you don't have one that smells so good!

Oh yea, and stop saying it is unhygienic too! What do you know about hygiene! For all Chou Chou owners, we know that it is our Chou Chou that keeps us alive. Without oxygen we Chou Chou owners might not be alive, but guess what, without our Chou Chou we would DEFINITELY be dead, yes dead from the inside to the outside and back to the inside again. We are alive and kicking because of our Chou Chous, so don't say it is unhygienic or there's germs, it is NOT TRUE AT ALL! Your eyes microscope ah? Can like that see germs ah?

If there's one dream of all Chou Chou owners, it is to duplicate our Chou Chou and share with the world this wonderful creation of ours, and maybe make it into smaller versions for our kids so that our Chou Chou's legacy lives on forever and ever and EVER!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

This pair of shoe is 10 years old

Ten years old and still good ! 
When I wrote that I only own 5 pairs of shoes in October last year, many friends, especially from the opposite sex, thought that I was joking but when I got serious, some secretly while some openly wishes that their wife or girlfriend can scale down their shoes collection to what I own while a few more confessed that they have more shoes than me.

Some friends commended me for being frugal but with all honestly, I don’t think I am frugal because when it is time to spend on Yixing purple clay teapots, bonsai plants, custom made Chinese silk tops, cuisine, travelling, antiques and of all, books, I am spendthrift on the very extreme side. I would just say that I would not mind to pay a premium for something that will last me for a very long time and worth the money spent.

Two days ago, my best friend Bridget was my guest in town and we were talking about shoes when  I happily told her that I’ve owned this very pair of Bally shoe for ten good years. I bought this pair of shoe in June 2005 from Bally’s boutique at Ngee Ann City Singapore for SGD 899.00. I use it as my working shoes and for formal functions, altering it with another pair of lower heel Bally that I bought in 2008. 

It is my second pair of Bally. I bought the first in Auckland way back in 2002 at the recommendation of my best friend Peggy. She told me that shoes produced by Bally are comfortable, durable and presentable. That pair of shoes cost me a bomb as I had just started my intern at Helen Clark’s office. That pair of shoe is still in its pristine condition in Auckland though it is no longer fit – my feet have grown slightly larger.  

The shoe cream, lotion from Bally and brush set courtesy of Fullerton Hotel for my shoes care. 
It sounds quite unbelievable but at the end, it is the quality of the shoe and how the owner take care of them that counts.  With good care, this pair of shoes will still serve me for many more years comfortably. I can’t wait to count how many years that a pair of Bally can lasts.

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