Archive for December, 2005

Yay yay yay – Oma and Opa are here!!

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Hey, yay, Oma and Opa are here. Today, Tuesday was a regular, normal first-day-back-at-work-after-a-long-weekend. Great. Very quiet in the office, got a lot of small tasks done, good. The new issue of the magazine came in, and it looks like this is my issue, because about two thirds of the articles are written by… me!?!? Okay… Left work a little early, went to the MRT and jumped on a train, inside were Zen and Naoko, and Zen was so happy, he looked like the happiest kid in Singapore (whatever that looks like). Rode out to the airport, waited 20 minutes or so, and out came Oma and Opa. Happy to see them, they were happy to see us, unfortunately they were hacking and coughing and could hardly speak, with nasty colds. Uh oh – guess I’ll be bedridden this New Year’s Eve long weekend. Oh well, get it over with… Got home, ate some food, and Zen got his present, an nice Spider-man pajama set, hooray! Here are a few pictures of Zen in his new kit.

Spider-zen 1 Spider-zen 2 Spider-zen 3

Wallace and Gromit

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Hey, another nice long weekend. Saturday was a busy day – I spent the morning cleaning the apartment from top to bottom, even moving the beds and refrigerator to clean away the scum and crap that acccumulated under them. Has to be done at least once a year anyway (ugh!), if not more often. Went to the store to pick up stuff, so many chores, go go go until about 2:00, when we lay Zen down to sleep, then waiting waiting for him to wake up, then people came to our pool party. I took Zen down for a swim, and we jumped around in the water, so much fun – it’s been a while since we’ve done that. Got out, pulled out the guitar, played some songs, then waited for Naoko, started drinking, started eating, all sorts of Chinese people came, I spent time chatting in Chinese, looking after Zen, gave CDs of my music to a brother of one of Naoko’s co-workers, a DJ who plays by the name of G-SPEC in Shibuya, cool cool cool… Kicked the ball with Zen, the ball often fell in the pool, once it went over the fence and into the bushes next to the tennis court, I did a King Kong impression and climbed down to fetch it. Nice. Went back at 9:30, bathed Zen, tidied up, went to sleep. Sunday we got going nice and early on the 77 bus, into town, to the movie theatre to see the Wallace and Gromit movie – “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” or something. Weird – two movies in a row about over-sized animals, but whatever. This one started out with (and was practically upstaged by) an amusing trailer for Ice Age 2 (check: squirrel and acorn), and a short piece on the penguins from Madagascar, then the actual Wallace and Gromit film, very nice. Maybe not really enough Wallace in this film, but the new characters were all very amusuing, with the exception of Dobby… er… Hutch… but never mind. Recommended for everybody. Then by taxi to my colleague’s house, our first time in an HDB complex in a long time, but very nice indeed. I like how the rooms all lead out into the common area, very central and nurturing, no sneaking around possible there… Nice to meet her parents, her father is a German- speaking Indian, and the little 3-year-old boy who Zen could play with, although they spent most of the time playing on their own rather than together, and there were some disagreements as well. What can you do? Went home at 4:00, Zen fell asleep in the car, then woke up when we got here, then slept again. I stayed up, then at 5:45 woke him up to take to the Malaysia train. Oh no – there was a derailment in Malaysia and the train was cancelled!!

Zen and Shanik Zen in wreath train station Zen w. Spiderman bottle pointing at an airplane

Movie review – Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit: The much-loved and always-clever Wallace and Gromit is a joy and a treasure, and a significant improvement on Chicken Run, which was a “neither fish nor flesh nor fowl” of a foul film, in my opinion. Wallace is dim, Gomit is clever, and some good vegetable gags. Too many jokes and puns to pirnt, and I probably didn’t catch many of them. Unfortunately, the main plot twist is a litttle too wacky, or goofy, or whatever… but still it’s sure to end up one of the best films released this year. Hurray Wallace!! Three cheers for Gromit!!! The world finally has an intelligent, humourous and wise icon along the lines of Tintin, Asterix, and Lucky Luke!

Wallace and Gromit...

’tis the night before Christmas…

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

… and all through the house, is the sound of klanging cutlery, and Thomas the Tank Engine on the VCD. Yes, a funny near year-end week. Sunday was a mellow day, I don’t remember what we did, but I think we hung out at home a lot. Monday was yer regular late-night-at-work, Tuesday very busy, Wednesday I got home early so that I could pick Zen up from school as Naoko was heading out to be with friends, Thursday I went out myself and had beer and burgers with a fellow Canadian. Mellow-ish week at work, only really finally starting to feel the Christmas buzz on Friday as people got the good cheer going, lots of nice wishes, good vibes, and friendliness. Also got rid of a lot of old Christmas junk and stuff, with cool nice great yummy snacks. Friday was only a half day, so I worked from home, which was nice and relaxing. I also got to pick Zen up from school and take him off to see the Malaysia train at the Bukit Timah Station. Recently Zen is very funny – he tells me that he likes being the last one to leave school, perhaps because he likes spending more time with the teachers. How funny. Anyway, we got to Bukit TImah Station and saw that some film crew had set up, probably the local Tamil film section, since everybody looked Indian, but were from Singapore regardless. They asked us to be off the platform so that they could film their great scene, so we watched the train come along from the other side of the tracks, which is actually a better spot to watch from anyway, and even the train driver waved to us. Zen was so happy, even masking his disapointment at ONLY seeing one train. Ha ha. Went home, did a bunch of stuff, played guitar, hung out, went to sleep late. Saturday, the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, we woke up, Naoko went off grocery shopping for tomorrow’s Christmas party with people from her work, and I took Zen to the Bukit Panjong LRT loop, which was nice. Zen got to see the MRT drivers up close and say hello to them, then we whizzed around the LRT, I read my Economist special report on Canada, very interesting to see how they wrap up the issues. I will want my dad to read that when he gets here on the 27th of December. Then got to the end of the LRT line, went into Chua Chu Kang mall, met Naoko, ate a light lunch, bought drinks and snacks, and went off to see King Kong (see review), which was great, although pretty frosty for a 3-hour film. When we got out it was raining in buckets, so we took the MRT to Bukit Batok, then lined up in a taxi queue for 30 minutes, rode home, the rain cleared up, we headed out to see the Bukit TImah Station train again, no film crew this time, then back home, give Zen a quick shower, have a yummy zummy Gyoza dinner, then let Zen fall asleep around 7:30 watching Thomas the Tank Engine – with no nap and a 3-hour film odyssey, no wonder he was tired. The first time he saw Kong, he was alseep by 6:00!!!

Movie review – King Kong: finally went to see King Kong, saw it with Naoko and Zen. N&Z had seen it already, so it was the second time for them. Zen has been a big King Kong fan for half of his life, since we got the DVD of the 1933 King Kong when we got to Singapore in 2003. The new one is quite incredible. I like the Onion review, which says something like “Peter Jackson finally shows some ambition with his remake of King Kong…” Talk about understantement. My theory is that King Kong, still not an original screenplay from Jackson (who got his start doing nothing but), is a bit of a CG rehash of the technology, sets, props of Lord of the Rings (check out the native village on Skull Island if you think I’m out of line), and also a bit of a sell to people in the industry to show that Wingnut Productions has more to it than Dungeons and Dragons. Why, otherwise, would he spend so much money wringing emotion out of a CG gorilla? Thankfully for us King Kong fans – and Jackson is among them, apparently – the ape is still the highlight of the film, and the emotional scenes between the fantastic Naomi Watts (she wants to be a comedienne, but really she’s all about eliciting our sympathy). The story is well known, except this vesion is double the length of the original (I have yet to see the 1977 remake with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange). This allows for plenty of character development, particularly for Kong, and also for drawn out battles between apes and dinosaurs. I loved the movie, my main complaint is that there was a bit TOO much action (this usually doesn’t happen in a film, but it did in this one). Interminable battles between Kong and THREE tyrannosaurus rex, in particular, that involved way too much one-handed fighting by Kong (he’s holding Naomi Watts in the other hand) and too much falling off cliffs and swinging from net-like vines. Crazy. Then there is the much-vaunted, very superfluous giant insects scene, which was really very disgusting. Perhaps one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve ever seen in a film, and really quite horrifying. I could have done without it. Either way, the film was very good, and a hundred million billion times better than the Incredible Hulk, which had zero emotional appeal in all of its overwraught plot twists (hello Nick Nolte), perhaps a film that draws a close comparison in the “love for a CG character” sweepstakes. Adrian Brody – somewhat underused, but otherwise quite good; Jack Black – his old annoying self (how will he parody himself a-la-Lord of the Cock Rings for the MTV Awards) but not too bad, especially in the first half; Naomi Watts – stunning, outperformed only by Kong himself. Probably the Sally Fields of her generation.

Complaints: I know that for a movie like this we have to suspend our disbelief. Unfortunately, Peter Jackson expects us to trample and destroy our disbelief in a few scenes. For example:
1. I refuse to believe that they had automatic weapons in the 1930s the way is shown in the film.
2. There’s no way that a group of people could run between the legs of stampeding brontausauruses for more than 10 seconds without getting totally flattened, and….
3. It would have been impossible to drive a 1930s Ford Model T (or whatever it was that they drove in those days) as if it were the General Lee in the Dukes of Hazard. Sorry, Peter – even when you make a fantasy film, you still have to respect the laws of physics and historical reality (unless you explain it away like the Matrix, etc.).

King Kong 1933 VS.

King Kong 1977 VS.

King Kong 2005

Book Review – Rum Punch, by Elmore Leonard: Having finally read an Elmore Leonard book, I remember a time when I confused Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Be Cool, Jackie Browne) with James Elroy (L.A. Confidential, the Black Dahlia). Weird how that could happen. Rum Punch is the inspiration for Jackie Browne, with most things being the same (from what I can remember of that slow-moving, not so impressive film), except that in Rum Punch the main character is white and named Jackie Burke. No matter, we can forgive all that. The writing is good, and comes to a slow boil. We only just get the sense that Jackie is one clever chick. Only Just. Barely.

Rum Punch

My Way

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

Wow, long time no write. Zen was “sick” this week. I say “sick” since he was infected with hand food and mouth disease, which meant that he wasn’t allowed to go to school, but luckily it was a mild strain and he didn’t suffer at all. Naoko took the week off so that she could look after him, and they did a few things together like go to the park nearby, go downtown, take the LRT train around Bukit Gombok, and other things. On Friday, she took him to see King Kong, the new Peter Jackson version, which he enjoyed and didn’t find too scaary. He’s long been a fan of the 1933 version. For me, this week was intensely busy – well, not intensely, but I didn’t do much except make a couple of calls, have a bunch of meetings, write many articles, and go home late. Tuesday night, after many long meetings at work and late nights coming home, I decided to veg out and watch a VCD, Pirates of the Carribean, and drink gin and tonics. Blah blah blah. Thursday was my colleague’s birthday (happy 27th, LWC), so we wished her well and ate cake, boss called an impromptu office party for Friday night, which would be a farwell party cum birthday party cum Christmas party. Yay!!! Friday was a moderately more fun day as a result, except for the fact that we got called into a meeting at 6:00 (yes, that’s right – a meeting that started at 6 PM on a Friday night). After the meeting ended, we turned off our computers and got to the place at 9:10, which was near the 9:00 designated meeting time. We were the first ones there, thirsty and starving, so we ordered beer and nachos. People trickled in, fashionably late, and before long the tables were filled up and we were all drinking beer or margeritas, chomping on pizza and other junk food. The menu wasn’t so great, but I determined that the super burger might offer the best possibilities. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make any burgers that night, so I ordered fajitas (yuck!) instead. Oh well. Went off to the next stage of the party, which was at Gold Dust, the cross-dressing comedy dance venue from the legendary Kumar who used to run the infamous Boom Boom Room cross-dressing comedy dance club. Whatever – it was good fun, first ’80s music (what else – it’s Singapore) DJ and dancing, then this ugly cross-dresser from Malaysia came out and did dance, then standup. S/he was quite funny, although none of his/her jokes were actually that memorable. S/he came up into the audience area and was uncomfortable close to my colleague, who is rather nervous, pretty conservative – s/he looked at my colleague who turned tail and ran off to another part of the room, that got a chuckle of disbelief out of him/er. Then more DJing, and this time I heard Prince (1999), which I had requested, and a lot of crappy songs. Some of the average-looking guests there were really getting into the “It’s Raining Men” song, which was… interesting. Kumar came up next, dancing a Bollywood number in a sari, then coming out with a mic to do lots of “Ms. Thing” stuff, and some pretty good jokes (“I just heard about the gay terrorist who got killed trying to blow up a bus – he burned his lips on the tailpipe”) although his/er deliver was just so-so and the set uneven and drawn out. Oh well. Lots of stabs at “racist Singapore society,” the government, the Lee family, the military, and all sort of other taboo topics you usually only hear in Singapore from taxi drivers and foreigners. Left after the second set, took a cab home. Since the place was in Orchard Towers 2, near the legendary “four floors of whores,” there was plenty of action. What I saw mostly was very pretty mainland Chinese, very short (and sometimes fat) Filipinas, and some rather old women hanging around on their own. Weird. The guy behind me in line in the taxi queue was with this really pretty girl with a nice chest who probably wasn’t his steady girlfriend. Four very old tourists were trying to get in a cab that was rolling up to the taxi queue, I yelled out “hey, there’s a taxi queue over here, folks!” I guess they don’t know how it works here, probably don’t have common sense either. Got home, Zen was asleep in my bed, I thought it wasn’t a great idea to move him to his bed, so I slept in the guest bedroom. Weird. Saturday Zen woke us up at 7:30 (he had fallen asleep at 6:00 the night before, meaning that he slept nearly 14 hours!), Naoko went to work, I did housework, then off to the clinic to make sure that his stuff checks out, i.e. that he’s over his hand food and mouth disease and can go back to school on Monday. That worked out, bought some groceries, then back home, wait for Mitchan to come, then head downtown. A bus went past us as we were heading down the drive, which means we would have been lucky had we left the house one minute earlier, but were now forced to either wait 20 minutes of fork out for a cab. We got a cab, expensive – it cost me $6.60 to get home from Orchard last night (with $3.30 after-midnight surcharge), and ove $12.00 to get there mid-afternoon on a Saturday. Mysterious. Walked around, saw the Christmas trees at Ngee Ann City and Paragon again, then the Mandarin hotel, and into Isetan, met Naoko, went to Cuppage Place for Ramen at Gyoza no Osho, then down to see Raffles Hotel, Raffles City, and CHIJMES, then a cab home, bathe the kids, get them to sleep, chill out…

Recent pics:

Nice pic of the full moon, from our window at 7:00 AM; Zen doing the leg twist; view of the Christmas tree at Ngee Ann City – Zen, Manae, and Mitchan are specks at the bottom of the tree…

nice full moon view from our window, 7:00 AM Zen on couch Ngee Ann City Christmas tree

A strange picture from the nativity stuff in front of Ngee Ann City. Am I mistaken, or are the organisers predicting the Second Coming?

born... strange sign...  Wee three Wee four Wee four

VCD review – Pirates of the Caribbean: Finally got to see the blockbuster of last summer, the film made from the Disneyland attraction (?!?) that I guess has influenced a few screenwriters. The happy news is that the screenplay is fine, as is the casting and the special effects. Hits buttons in an Indiana Jones-like way, although Johnny Depp’s over-the-top acting like a drunken buffoon (who is also a master swashbuckler) is a bit much at times. Still, he’s clever, he has great delivery, his accent works well, and it’s pretty good fun. Plus, Gareth from classic, cultish, dark TV series “the Office” is seen as a ghoul, proving the point that the producers of “the Office” are quite right to play off of his morbidly creepy sensibilities, because he can actually be scarier without fright mask make-up given the right prompts.

Pirates...

Ralph’s kids

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Sunday, not much to do but sit back and watch penguins, take care of errands, nap. Zen seems to have gotten hand foot mouth disease again (apparently there are 20 strains, so if you get all of them you build up 20 immunities), so although he’s quite fine we’ll have to keep him out of school for a week and make him rest. Yeah, big bummer…

Intentional or unintentional ironies? – some things just make you wonder:
- Nike Free – Nike has noticed the trend of “barefoot running” and has designed a shoe that they can sell to people who want to run barefoot. Sure, it sounds retarded selling shoes to barefoot runners, but that’s what they’ve done, by cutting deep ridges into the soles of the shoes so that they become ultra flexible. Of course, they would also get jammed with small stones and be quite fiddly. I wonder if this qualifies as Engrish?
- “Run Around Naked” t-shirt – Similarly to Nike Free’s shoes for barefoot runners, how can you wear your “Run Around Naked” shirt and actually run around naked? Or is it one of these stupid things where other people do it and you just watch?
- The Darkness’ new CD “One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back” – How can anything be “one way… and back”? I know that the Darkness have made their name out of being intentionally Spinal Tap-stupid, but isn’t this just retarded?

Here are some cute pics of my brother’s kids in Japan:

Anpanman girl sibling love... running girl Prodigy haircut

DVD Review – March of the Penguins: Sweet documentary about mating season in penguin country, where males stand all winter long to keep the eggs from freezing. Naturally, eggs are lost, adults keel over, younglings die off or are attacked by auks, seals devour adults scavenging for food, but it’s a family affair and penguin love is enduring, as is the scenery, the relationships of the penguins, baby penguins that are cuter than anything, and the great underwater cinematography that shows the birds moving elegantly and like jet fighters – cool use, also, of a penguin-cam. Infact, the brief underwater scenes are more technically excellent than anything in the Battlestar Galactica mini-series, for all of its CG (actually, I suspect some CG in those scenes with the seal). But still a great 80-minute film (I don’t think I could have taken two full hours of flightless birds…).

March of the Penguins

CD Review – Bruce Springsteen “Born To Run,” 30th anniversary edition: I was never much of a Bruce Springsteen fan growing up, although I did hear plenty of his songs on classic rock radio, remembering also when Nebraska just came into the station. Of course, it was the followup to that album, Born To Run, which blasted him to superstar fame (among real people and not just critics) and irritated the rest of us non-Americans with its anthemic title theme (at least those of us that took it for flag-waving, not realixing it is actually quite critical of what was going on). Some of his songs I liked enough, and knew all about Thunder Road, Born To Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, and Jungleland, half of the songs on the album. It’s interesting now to buy this 30th anniversary edition for an album that came out when I was six years old, an album dedictaed to driving (I only once owned a car, and then just for nine months), but it was such a good deal – S$32 (about US$19 – I found it going for US$32 on Amazon) for the CD, the booklet, and two DVDs, and beats my previous best score – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Rarities and B-Sides (three full CDs, but no booklet or DVDs) for the same price. What happened this time around was that I found out that I enjoyed the song Thunder Road even more than Born To Run (great beat, fantastic lyrics), and found some other nice songs I didn’t know before, namely the spooky, rockin’ “She’s The One.” I also realized that the E. Street Band was less of a rock band and actually quite a bit of a jazz band, with its emphasis on saxophone and piano. Nice, wheezy backing vocals by Miami Steve – they make a lot of the underpinning of some of those songs, most notable Thunder Road and Badlands (from another album), even if they don’t work out sometimes like on Atlantic City (from Nebraska). Inside the pack was a DVD on the making of Born To Run, which shows Bruce as he looks now in all of his 56-year-old glory, starting to look more and more like Keith Richards, wearing shades and driving around New Jersey. I also noticed that he has a narrow upper lip, compared to his lower lip, which makes it almost seem like he has a harelip, something you didn’t notice in the archival footage from 1975 where he looks quite middle-eastern with a scruffy beard (he’s not Jewish, as his name would indicate, but Irish-Italian, like my best friend growing up), and narrow eyes that looked almost Asia. Short, scruff, skinny, but powerful, wearing a leather jacket and a goofy hat, very different from his eventual blue jeans stage look. The documentary provides quite a lot of in-studio stuff, with Miami Steve VanZandy (soon to be a member of the band) drifting in and out. Lots of pressure, agonizing, and it’s shown just how very very very produced the album actually is, displaying all the layers of sound, and an alternate (and very pretentious) intro to Jungleland. Wow, weird. Then there’s Patty Scialfa, marriage-wrecker to Bruce and Julianne, talking about the meaning of the album, despite the fact that she only entered the picture nine years after Born To Run. Well, whatever – she’s his wife… now. Interesting to see his guitar, which he’s been playing since the early ’70s. That one instrument is practically like a real person right now, with the events bound up in it. If it could talk… The documentary DVD is capped with three live songs from 1973, when barely anybody in New Jersey had even heard of this 24-year-old guy, that are kind of like avant garde jazz, and kind of wonky. Weird also, to hear the stupid in-song banter, “you gotta buy stretch socks. There’s nothin’ worse than playin’ with your socks down.” Whatever rock band code that is… The DVD recording of the band’s 1975 London Hammersmith Odeon concert, their first time playing in the UK, is much much better. In fact, it could be one of the best concert videos I’ve ever seen. Great quality, colours, and there are fantastic shots like four band members lined up along the stage, each illuminated by a different colour. Great stuff. Starts off with a spooky, haunting version of “Thunder Road” that is just Bruce on Vocals, and the piano guy on piano. Aces. Then, there’s this weird thing where he crawls into a crack in the stage and disappears during a particularly dramatic part of the strange Spirit in the Night when he’s singing about “Crazy Janey.” Great jam on “She’s The One” with the band shouting out “hey,” a skinny Miami Steve looking nothing like Sal from the Sopranos. Cool band jam on “Moonbeam,” showing that the band can stop on a dime. The picture below is a rough collage of the front and back cover (the front cover part is a bit smaller than the back one, but it matches fairly well), that shows the comeraderie that Springsteen has with Clarence Clemens, a legendary saxophonist and probably the most important/distinctive element of the band. Cool how Clarence and Bruce always bow to each other. Springsteen had a lot of black musicians in his band at the start, interesting…

Born to Run1BTR2

Book Review – Anton Chekhov short stories: Chekhov, for our generation, may be the navigator of the U.S.S. Entreprise, but his elder namesake was one of the greatest short story writers and playrights that ever lived. This slim 300-page volume of two dozen of his short stories is a great intro to the man, as it goes from short 4-page bits of satire like “the Confession” (which is a prototype of the sort of satire that still lives today, even in the publication I work for), to longer in-depth pieces such as “Peasants.” While it is hard to get the point of some of his stories, many of them are enduring and sweep all elements of Russian society from the time.

Chekhov

December

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

December has started and it hasn’t really been so great, although it has been eventful. Don’t remember what I did on the first and second, but on Saturday the third of December, a crappy overcast cool day, I went with Zen downtown to Suntec City where Standard Chartered Bank was having a sports expo for their marathon event, of which I was signed up for the half marathon. Took the bus down, snapped nice pics of Zen in an oval statue of sorts, waited until 11 for Adidas to open so that I could get in on their 20 percent rebate for runners, but the staff didn’t know what they were doing, so that wasn’t a great experience. Went up to the exhibition area, hung out a bit and watched the goofy people going to booths, climbing walls, etc. Some guy in water tank too, took a pic of that with Zen!

Zen and balloon Statue Zen scuba guy ready for the run

Went home, chilled out for the rest of the day, took Zen to see the Malaysia train, went to sleep early. Sunday was the big day – woke up at 4:30, ate two bananas and drank something, took a cab at 5:30, got there at 6:00, which was a good time – had a dump in the port-o-let, and then queued up in the big bunch. 6:30 start, we all ran as a bunch over the line, less than five minutes in I saw my first walker. Sun getting ready to come up, it’s going to be a hot one, although I do see flashes of morning lightning off in the distance. Very quickly, see the lead marathon runners going past us going the other way and all let out big cheers – these guys are going to run 42 kilometers as fast as I will do 21 kilometers, i.e. they are twice as fast as I am. Get going doing to Marina Bay, I feel pressure on my bladder (why didn’t I do this in the port-o-let?) so I ran off into the bushes, had a pee, and kept on running. Passed a one-legged runner, and after 50 minutes saw the first half-marathon dud running past in the oncoming lane. Notice a lot of people are going into the oncoming lane so that they can pass people. So kiasu!! When I hit the u-turn and am runnning back towards the starting point, I run close to the dividing line and begin intimidating and body-checking the median-jumpers from the slow pack behing us (and the 10 kilometer runners), which is kind of foolish, but fun. It also kicks in the pissed-off adrenaline, perhaps a bit early to get this energy boost. Saw people at a bus shelter, yelled out “the bus will be latte today, you’re going to have to wait a long time.” No smiles, but some guy running next to me though it was funny. Ran, ran, ran, thought about giving up, thought about walking, thought about turning around, ran on and on, thought a lot about Zen and Naoko waiting there for me, on and on I ran, then I passed the Oriental Hotel, the Esplanade, then to the Padang and I turned up the juice, passed a girl I thought was Naoko (didn’t this happen to me two year ago too?), then over the line. Not sure what happened next, but I was suddenly having weird dreams – I was downtown with no money, and the police were going to punish me by making me walk home, I made a mistake and was left with an impossible math problem to solve, then I woke up – and realized that I had passed out, I was on a chair in the shade, drenched in sweat, and I couldn’t move. Millions and millions of thoughts went through my head, including the absurd thought that Naoko and Zen had abandoned me, or that my desire to run 21 kilomters was going to be my undoing. I figured I had heat stroke, so I asked the person next to me if he could help me. He looked at me funny, and suggested I get something to drink but wasn’t willing to do more for me than make a suggestion. Some people, so willing to make suggestions and promote their ideas and advice, but will not lift a finger to help. So he walked away from me. I asked other people to help me, but they also walked away. Other people passing by wouldn’t help either, nor would a little kid (don’t teachers drill this sort of thing into their students?), so I stafted knocking chairs away and yelling for help, finally somebody with the event came over and took me to the first aid tent. Got there and people asked me if I knew my name – I was fairly lucid, oddly enough, but I could barely move. They loaded me up with ice cubes, and gave me water and isotonic drinks, then water, always reminding me to drink more and more, because it was too easy to space out. I was confused about what time it was – I saw 9:30 on my watch, but I thought that it was broken, had stopped, since I figured it was late afternoon, it was so hot and sunny. But actually it really WAS 9:30!! Got a chair, they asked me if I could move, but I wanted to stay there. Tried to stand up, but was too dizzy and weak. After about an hour I took a few steps and I was OK, but it was just like I was a little little baby. Jeez… Tried to call Naoko on her cell phone, but I couldn’t remember the whole number – yeesh!!! Rested some more, then on to the Padang to look for Naoko and Zen, but of course there were people everywhere and I just couldn’t find them. Had to stop once to throw up into a trash bin. Got my trophy, got my bag, shuffled off to the MRT station, got to Redhill, had to get out of the train to throw up again. Then to Clementi, then by bus home, Naoko and Zen weren’t there, called them and found out that they were on their way. I lay down and slept 4 hours, then got up, shuffled around, took Zen to see the Malaysia train, then back home to sleep. I think that, including the hour I was passed out, I had slept 16 hours since my 21 kilometer dash. Wow.

Lovely day at the Standard Chartered marathon!

Zen and the StanChart balloons corner balloon running guy coming into the home stretch Zen makes new friends

Monday was a pretty regular day, I wasn’t even very sore. I went off for a 3:00 meeting, which was good, then off to do some more work, then then then preparing for the trip to Shanghai, then home, then hanging out at home, goodnight to Zen, then packing and sleeping. Tuesday I woke up early, got ready, went by taxi to drop off Zen, pick up Benny, then drop off Naoko, then go to the airport. The flight was OK, got there, got our bags, took the Maglev into town. This was probably the highlight of the trip. I’d heard all about the train, which is the fastest in the world, from my dad and my boss – it does the considerable distance from the airport to the city in under eight minutes, it just hits its top speed of 430 km/hr when it already needs to reduce speed. It’s not a convenient train, since the end station is nowhere near town centre, and you still need to take a cab to wherever you’re going after that, but since it ends in Pudong, and our hotel is in Pudong, I thought it would be a great opportunity. The station is not far from the airport, trains are every 15 minutes, it’s not crowded, it’s cheap, there’s a discount for people with flight tickets of that day, and it’s clean and comfortable. In other words, it travels four times as fast as a cab, but is 10 times better! Nice, the train travelled near the highway, and the cars that were travelling 100 km/hr looked like they were standing still the way we were whizzing by them. Nice day, good weather, crispy cold, we got to the train station, got a cab, went to the hotel, met colleagues for dinner at 6:30, actually went to eat at 8:00, then I can’t remember what was next but we got to sleep well after midnight. Tuesday and Wednesday were the conference itself, and were characterized by yer typical business – no time to eat, grabbing people for interviews wherever I can, trying to be as helpful as possible, and in all of the sessions absolutely always taking notes, helping out, watching for problems, and anything possible. Lots of people, lots of ideas, lots of language, lots of work. At 6:15, thirty minutes late, we took a bus to Three On The Bund (the Bund is the riverside part of Shanghai that is a row of old colonial bank buildings), only 500 meters away on the other side of the river from us, but it took nearly an hour to get in the underpass under the river to the Bund. Nice drinks, good friends, good conversation, great food, then back to the hotel to work work work until 2:00 on my e-newletter wrapping up the event for the next day. The second day was the same as the first, except that I didn’t go to a lovely dinner, instead I ate dumplings and noodles by myself, then took five hours to write 700 words. Naturally, that was too long, but I was pretty burned out. Yuck – up at three in the morning no fun. Friday, woke up at 9:00, went off to eat breakfast at Starbucks with the snooty staff which served me collapsed quiche on a dirty plate. Went to the Super Brands mall, built by Thai investors but apparently a flop, and found a nice train souvenir for Zen. Back to the hotel to chill out, checked out, waited for my colleague who was to meet me at 1:00 so that we could go out to the airport and be on time to check in to our 3:40 flight, but she was nowhere to be seen. I experienced deja-vu – how many times has this happened to me? Spotted her hurrying by, at 1:30, and she had things to do still, so I ended up going out to the airport on my own anyway. Got to the Maglev station by taxi, no time to see the free Maglev museum – I had also wanted some Maglev souvenir for Zen – and then to the airport. Nice, check-in OK, delay delay delay, four queues to go through, then more waiting outside the aircraft, more waiting inside the aircraft, then when we finally lifted off I was too engrossed in my Economist to notice. One crappy meal in flight (rice with ketchup sauce and pieces of ham, with a few pieces of brocolli – yuck!), two round of drinks, no in-flight entertainment. Got to the airport, there were Zen and Naoko waiting for me. Zen should have been happy to be at the airport, but he was very quiet – he had a bit of a fever, so he was quiet in the airport and in the taxi and we went home. I should have gone to sleep right away, since I was bored and tired and frustrated and my body ached, but I spent three hours unpacking and getting my computer updated, reading emails, all sorts of jazz like that. Crazy.

Lovely Shanghai business trip

view from room view from 19th floor elevator lobby Maglev and Peter

430 km/hr full train airport roof

While I was in Shanghai, apparently Zen was very well-behaved. Naoko and Zen went downtown one night with our new neighbours, the Gotos, with mama Goto and little Akane.

Zen and Akane have become good friends

Zen and Akane with hats Zen and Akane at tree in the palm of Kong

Saturday woke up at 8:00, Naoko and Zen getting going, Naoko off to work, I let Zen watch TV as I proceed to do all of the housework – folding clothes, doing laundry, cleaning the toilets, sweeping the floor, wiping the floor, the dishes, buying some much-needed groceries, taking Zen to see the Malaysia train, taking him to the doctor when he complained of a tummy ache, as well as trying to keep myself in good mental health – really all the cleaning up you need to do on your first day back from a long business trip. Not just Zen is sick, Naoko is also suffering from aches and pains and a cold. Staying up late to fix the blog, gets pics up, and return – finally – to a normal human state.