Archive for November, 2003

tough going

Sunday, November 30th, 2003

Ha ha, I thought I could go to work, get a few quotes and finish the article, but it actually took 3 days to get those quotes. I finished the articles on Friday finally. Everybody is either on vacation, the banks are closed, or nobody know anything. A challenge. Wednesday I was at work all day, got home at 7:30 without having accomplished anything beyond getting to know my colleagues and getting our visas extended. Thursday I got an email account and a work station finally, just before leaving at 3 I got a quote for my Hong Kong article – FINALLY!! I also bought a Bjork CD (Greatest Hits), the first CD since Nick Cave in June. Wow – 5 months. Naoko went out with her co-workers in the evening, so I was with Zen having a nice time. We hung out, ate curry together, watched the Big Lebowski, played guitar, I did all the cooking and cleaning and bathing and reading of bedtime stories. Naoko came home at 2 AM. What a party animal.

Friday, Ralph coming in – I get up, go jogging, do interviews by phone and nail the other story down, file it, go shopping for stuff for when Ralph comes, pick up Zen, tidy and clean and get more prepared, then the sky clouds over utterly and it is like night out. Magnificent thunder booms, lightning fills the sky, making it hard to get that 3:00 bus to go to the MRT to get to the airport on time. Screw it, wait until 4:30 and let Zen sleep, then take a taxi. Got to the airport easily, find Ralph 30 minutes after he arrives, and we take a cab back home. Zen was good the whole time, but broke down 5 minutes before we got home and began squawking. Oh well. Had a cool dinner with Ralph – beer, prata, salads, tacos and dip, lovely. Had fun playing guitar, watching Zen’s favorite Japanese kids shows and explaining them to Ralph. Talked until 12:30, although Naoko was sleeping at 10:30. Poor, tired party animal.

Today we woke up, breakfasted, went to Bukit Batok park to clambor around. Bukit Batok park was nice, although the early morning cool had burned away and it was late morning mugginess. Saw a few lizards, no monkeys. When we were at the edge of the quarry pond, we heard something drop near us. We looked on a rock and spotted a small, think snake, bright cross-hatched colours. Wonder where it came from – blew off a cliff, or a tree, dropped from the Went to the shops to pick up groceries and Zen fell asleep. Had a tea, then got back home for okonomiyaki lunch. Yummy. mouth of a bird trying to fly away with it? Or do snakes fly? Ralph and Zen are already good buddies with Ralph reading things to Zen, playing with blocks and cars and all sorts of fun stuff. Hung around the apartment, exchanged gifts, went for a swim, listened to tunes, chatted, then off to IMM for pepper crab dinner. I think Ralph really LOVED that food, good thing. Took SIngapore’s slowest taxi back home, then Ralph took it on to the airport. Too bad, such a short stay. Hope he comes again for longer and brings Nicole and Evan.

Got to get some sleep – tomorrow I wake up at 4 to try running 20 kilometers.

Things Zen Does – He is finally getting good at saying his own name. Ralph taught him how to roar like a lion. Like a very very very little lion. He also poos just before we have to get into a taxi.

Bib guy smells the stink

Poo-boy gets attention

Things Zen does

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

Nice day today. It’s Hari Raya, a national holiday for the end of Ramadan which will be celebrated enthusiastically by Singapore’s significant Muslim population (20 percent or so?). Woke up at seven, had breakfast, went jogging at 8:45. Naoko and Zen came with me… sorta… we walked down to Jalan Jurong Ketchil together, then I jogged off to Bukit Batok Nature Park while they went walking off there as well. I did laps around the park while they went to relax in the park with the people practicing Peking Opera to the tune of an erhu. Lots of people around, very nice. I wanted to do 11 laps, which would have been 20 kilometers and the same length as a half marathon I am due to run on December 6th, but ran out of energy after 10 laps – approximately 18 kilometers. Still, the park course is hilly and the marathon course is flat, so I am confident I can finish it. I still have at least 4 or 5 more days to run, including a “dry run” next Sunday when I will get ready at the same time the run will be – 6:00 AM – and try a full 20 km. Yoiks!

Spent the afternoon hanging out and watching kids videos, also writing articles for TAB. Good research materials, no problem, I will be calling authorities tomorrow to spice up the articles and they will be done – sweet.

Things Zen Does: Zen seems to have a French accent, or at least he doesn’t pronounce his “h”s yet. He says “hello” as “ello” and some others. Today Naoko was sorting laundry, he lookes at bras and panties and said “mama,” then at briefs and undershirts and said “baba.” Smart kid. I also noticed that he understands more now – I mentioned that some puzzle pieces he was looking for were behind him, he turned his head and looked. That means he understands abstract concepts like “behind.” He likes playing with his toy cars and lining them up in a row. He always wants to flip through an exercise book they made in school about continents, and every time he sees the yellow map of Asia he tries to say Asia. He repeats a lot of words we say, or things he hears, like “see you” at the end of Eigo To Asobou. The red Adidas shoes that Mrs. Fujino bought for him he was always refuisng to wear, today for some reason he brought them over to us and asked us to put them on him. When he was sleepy before his nap he refused to take them off, kicking and making a fuss. Funny. Oh yeah, he also likes eating corn (see below).

Corn Boy!

busy day

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

Off to Tanjong Pagar for the first day on the new freelance job at the Asian Banker. Got up at 6:20, out the door by 7:30 – early! Crowded bus, crowded MRT, but got to TP right on time for the 8:30 meeting, which is good. Long morning meeting to talk about banking issues, then talk about getting me a computer and an email account, all of which can’t happen until the tech guy comes back on Wednesday. Tomorrow is a holiday – Hari Raya, the end of Ramadan. Had lunch with intern Andrew, then back home with two assignments. TP is a cool place, right on the border between corporate and banking Singapore (the glass skyscrapers) and local Singapore (the 20 storey HDB government housing flats and wet markets), i.e. IBM across the street from a fish market. It was incredibly humid when I got out of the building, walking to the MRT at 1:30, very hot, just like Singapore should be but isn’t always. Got home at 3 and finished reading the marketing book I had to read for a review (got the review done tonight too), took a nap, went cycling with Zen before the rain hit. Nice day. Watched a bit of the Big Lebowski together with Zen, then some kids stuff. At 9:00 he seemed he wanted to read in bed. We hoped that this meant he would get sleepy and drop off, but instead we were the ones that got sleepy. He was full of energy, rolling around on top of me, jabbing me with elbows as I tried to snooze, fetching more books and asking to read. Ugh… From now on, we wait until 10 when he is sleepy, no more spending over an hour reading in bed with him – 15 minutes, max!

Zen can play guitar too!

Hazy Sunday

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

Anothe hazy day. Fun weekend – yesterday morning I was looking after Zen on my own because Naoko has to work Saturday so she could have Monday off to look after Zen so that I could go to a meeting at TAB since there is a teacher’s meeting on Monday and no school all day. Whew! So I took Zen to the pool, first time in a while. He was so happy playing there, squealing with delight, I couldn’t believe it. Got him home at noon and started to prepare a pasta lunch for us, 5 minutes later I looked at him and he was sleeping! Spent the afternoon hanging around, took Zen cycling when he woke up, and took him down to the bus stop to meet Naoko when she came home. We all had a baguette dinner, quite nice.

This morning I went for a jog. I wanted to do more than last time, which was 12 km., but I only just managed to do 12 before I pooped out. Uh oh, I hope it isn’t like that on race day. I took Zen swimming again, it was good. He still loves the pool so much. He used to be reluctant to spend much time in the water, but that has all changed. The water is cool, though, it hasn’t been too sunny recently. Had lunch, napped a bit, and now we are watching sumo – last day too, and a showdown between Asashoryu (the strong one) and Tochiazuma (the compassionate one). Then off to Holland Village to meet Ailing, do some Christmas shopping, and have dinner together.

Well, Kayo beat Chiotaikai, Tochiazuma beat Asashioryu and stands a better chance to be a yokozuna some day. Great bouts. Went to Holland Village and saw a bunch of stuff, bought a cute toy for Evan, DIDN’T see any kanji t-shirts, then took a cab to Clementi to have a lovely dinner with Ailing. YUM. Zen was so good, and he had a great time laughing with Ailing, as always. Zen kept wearing his sunglasses for most of the late afternoon, it was funny. Got him home, gave him a bath, called Mum and Dad, got Zen to sleep by 10, now it’s time to tie up those loose ends before my big day tomorrow. Had to think about the banking scene so that I can contribute to the general meeting tomorrow, the only trends I see is China focus (loosening the yuan coupled with more Taiwan trouble, increased focus in the international spotlight, things like that) and the face of Asian banking – who do you meet when you walk into a bank with your life savings? Not a pretty picture.

Is this Elton John?

Mother and Son pair look

good news!

Saturday, November 22nd, 2003

After I wrote the blog yesterday, I got a phone call from the Asian Banker, and it looks like they want to hire me as a writer – freelance to begin with, and most likely a full time position by the spring of next year. I could use En Ideas, my company, and be a contractor, so that works out well, yay. Good news. I start on Monday with freelance assignments and a general meeting. Monday happens to be a school holiday for Zen, PD for the teachers only three times a year, rotten timing I guess. Naoko will look after Zen, so that is OK. Anyway, again – yay! Then some of the usual, and we watched 24 at night. Nice, after missing 1.5 episodes.

Today was a mellow day of relaxing at home – drawing, writing emails, surfing the net, and reading a book on branding. Finished half of it, maybe I can get through it all before my new assignments start. It all makes me wonder – will I ever write for any of the other magazines editors I have met so far? Silence from quite a lot of them. It rained a lot today. I wanted to go for a jog, but at 9 this morning huge black clouds hovered overhead, it was like 9 at night almost. Light rain fell all morning and part of the afternoon. Picked up Zen and he slept for 3 hours. Talked to Danella on the phone for 30 minutes this morning, that was fun. Long time, long time. There is a new Yahoo groups for SIPS, my old high school, all sorts of people getting back in touch with each other. I hope it doesn’t lead to a lot of spam – I have already gotten at least two useless emails from people who went to school there after I left. Watched the Big Lebowski again tonight. We really still can’t get enough of that film. Even Zen likes watching it.

Hey, Pretzel!

mad ten days

Thursday, November 20th, 2003

What a mad ten days. From December 7 to 18 I have entertained 2 guests, been around various parks and shopping malls, been sick twice, worked on at least 3 assignments, had a birthday for Zen, started a company and applied for an Employment Pass (which required three trips downtown), and gone to two interviews for a job (which included a two-hour written test). Glad I survived it.

So yesterday was my first mellow day in quite some time. Went jogging in the morning – the half marathon is about 2 weeks away! So I ran 7 km. It was nice. It had rained all night, so it was cool in the morning, but by 10 it was already getting warm. The sky was full of dark, fluffy clouds, with patches of sky between them, windy and cool all day really, very strange weather, although it never actually rained. I turned in an assignment to Terry, then lay down to read the paper, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, and also the branding book I am reviewing. Whew! Not much time to play guitar, but that’s OK. Zen has been quite well behaved for most of the day, although getting him to go so sleep is still a maddening ordeal. When he finally gets sleepy, he drops off in about five minutes, but before that there is a lot of energetic rolling around in the bed as we try to read to him, and sometimes a lot of wailing and fussing. Sheesh.

Today is a quiet day with just a few chores to finish. Emails to write, that sort of thing. Took Zen to school, he seemed reluctant to go into the school (like he has been on and off these weeks), but two older girls were there inviting him to come in. I think they both like him a lot, it was really cute. Went for a 12 km jog this time, the sky dark and gloomy. When I got back and took a shower, I looked out the window – oh, raining lightly. I guess I got back just in time. I love it when that happens.

near Raffles Hotel

tests and interviews

Wednesday, November 19th, 2003

Spent the morning reading back issues of the Asian Banker Journal, then at noon left for my 1:00 appointment with a test and an interview at TAB. The test was 2 hours, than an hour meeting, then home. Missed my bus in Clementi by seconds (tried running after it, that didn’t help), but got home OK, only a little tired. Nice okonomiyaki dinner – mmmmm. Zen spent a longer day at the school, but he only napped an hour there. Thought he would be sleepy by 7, but he made it all the way to 9 with lots of crying and fussing. Lots of “no”s. He likes to say “aaa” in front of everything now, like “aaa-bus” and “aaa-car.” He also loves wearing sunglasses. We tried to get him to wear his new shoes, but he is adamant about not putting them on. Yeesh. Finished off Terry’s proofreading, that is nice…

Cool kid!

Brading in Asia

Tuesday, November 18th, 2003

Hey hey ho ho. Yesterday was a mellow day of hanging around the house mostly. I took Zen for a bike ride at 11 to the park, on the way home he fell asleep in the bicycle chair! Got him home and let him sleep until 2:30. During the time I went to Courts to settle some of those silly computer monitor issues, shop around for some other things like printers and such. Rained later in the afternoon so we just hung around the apartment more watching kids videos. Zen went to sleep at 9:30 so Naoko and I watched One Million B.C., the old Hammer classic from 1965, starring Raquel Welch and her neandrathal bikini.

Today was a busy day – get up, get dressed, eat oatmeal, bring Zen to the kindergarten and then rush off to the interview I had at the Asian Banker down in Tanjong Pagar. The interview with big boss David Emmanuel went really really well, although I eventually exposed my general misknowledge about the state of banking today. What he is really looking for is good writers, and if I am good enough… it looks promising. Seems like a nice working environment with cool, young people. An exciting place, and just the type of company I was hoping to find my way into. Do a writing test tomorrow, and have another meeting, so am keeping my fingers crossed. Got home just at 12:30, cycled off to pick Zen up. He fell asleep when we got home, so I had the afternoon to eat, then write a quick article for Motherhood. The fun never ends. Now I am taking a break from another proofreading job for Terry, more economic papers. Zen has been very well behaved. Everybody is in a good mood. I rained super heavily at 6, amazing…

Movie Review – One Million B.C. - Filmed in 1965, before they started using the term B.C.E., this caveman drama has virtually no dialogue. A sort of primordial Romeo and Juliet, there is all sorts of tribal expulsion, tribal infighting, fighting between tribes, volcanic explosions, and attacking dinosaurs. Watching films made these days with casts of thousands of CG characters (or bugs, or robots, or whatever) really makes you appreciate the old plasimation days. One of the monsters is just a lizard, its footage superimposed on the film itself to make it appear that the lizard is huge. But it works! Not much can be said about the acting, but Raquel Welch sure did look good in a leather bikini. No council meetings, and blessedly short at a good 90 minutes.

Uncle Ralph and Aunt Nicole and Cousin Ev sent something...

souvenir for Zen

Sunday, November 16th, 2003

Another nutty day – Saturday. Woke up with Zen at 7, then went downtown to meet Patrick Godin for breakfast at the Orchard Hotel on Orchard Road. My first creature comfort in a long while – nice coffee too! Pat didn’t eat much, but I sure did. Cool to see him again. We hung out and talked a lot about life, fatherhood, and music. Pat’s daughter Emelie is 6 months old. We walked around to Isetan to exchange a keyboard for Zen (the one Naoko and her mum bought the day before was in a disgraceful state of disrepair, and when I saw where they bought it I could see why – the Isetan toy store won’t be winning any service awards) and then got lost trying to find our bus stop to go home. Met Shide and Moe and kids on the bus at the same time, how funny. Got home and Patrick met Naoko and Mrs. Fujino and Zen, it was nice. Zen turned very moody, though, he sucked up to me and I held him in my arms, he was sleeping in no time. It was noon. We let him sleep for an hour, then had to wake him up to take him to the school for his kiddy performance. Of course he was sucky and cried a lot when we got to the school. What has gotten into this kid? He didn’t do his first song and dance, then he wandered out into the other kids’ performance and stood around, then later for his second song he stood around for half of the show and then went offstage looking for us. Oh well, he still did quite well. We stuck around briefly for juice and some snacks, then headed back to the apartment. Patrick and I took some beers and snacks poolside for a chat, that was cool. Then later all went off to dinner at the Muslim Indian place. It was very interesting – as it was near sundown and still during Ramadan, all of the Muslim families were waiting for the fast time to end properly, the food all prepared and ready in front of them. Then the sundown call for prayer came on over the shop radio and when it was over everybody slowly started to eat. The guys in the kitchen were very very busy getting everything ready, amazing. It was very interesting to be near to. We had a bunch of food, not too much since nobody was starving hungry or anything. Mrs. Fujino had Indian food for the first time, although actually curry rice is a popular dish in Japan (of course, there is no such dish in India or anything…). Patrick seemed to be doing all right, but the spicy food made him turn red and cough a lot. I hope he was OK. Got Patrick to his bus OK, then went home. Zen fell asleep in my arms. The poor baby was tired! This is the second time today – there’s really something special about a child falling asleep in your arms… Got home and Mrs. Fujino made her final preparations for the trip home. Quite sad. I wanted to give her the drawing of we three that we had made together last night, but she didn’t want to take it. Went through some old drawings of mine and she found one she really liked and she took that one instead. Funny. She tried to wake Zen up to say goodbye to him, but he was sleeping soundly, so she gave him a nice kiss on the cheek. There will be a lipstick mark there for him to see in the morning if it doesn’t rub off on the pillow. So sad, we will really miss her around here.

Zen in his costume

Naoko supports Zen

how we spent the evening


Saturday, November 15th, 2003

more stuff going kaplooey. I just turned on the computer and the monitor is all messed up again, this time it has become super wiiiiiide. It goes off both sides of the screen to the left and right. None of the controls that change this will respond. As a result, I am working with my applications reduced to small windows, then dragged to fill the screen, which now looks somewhat hourglass shaped. This sucks. Shall I get a new monitor… again? My third of this year?

Yesterday was kind of barfy. Naoko has a sore stomach in the morning, so she and Mrs. Fujino hung around here all day. I did a bit of work and a few errands. In the evening we went to IMM, but by this time my stomach was also feeling bad. We found a watch shop and there was a watch I liked, so Mrs. Fujino bought it for me. Thanks, mom. It’s a black Swiss Army Victorinex sports watch, black rubber band, non-digital face with bold white numbers and arms. It sits on my wrist like a piece of obsidian, or like an Egyptian sacarab beetle, one of those flesh-eating things. Very nice. We ate a nice black pepper crab dinner there, in the Long Beach restaurant, near the front entrance where there is a fish tank for Zen to stare at, although it didn’t fascinate him for very long and he was running out the door to see the toy rides outside there.

Today was a day of running off to the Ministry of Manpower. After getting all of my errands done at home, it was off to there I went. Things went smoothly and the application is in. Now just sit and wait, the next things happen on November 26th when I go down there to extend my visa for another 2 weeks. Got back at 12:15, played a few songs on the guitar, then off to pick up Zen from school. He slept from 1 to 4, so I could hang out, read emails, do a bit of this and that, take a nap… Tonight we had pizza dinner in front of the pool and hung out, it was fun. Drew pictures of each other sitting on the couch, even Zen did his bit…


loitering in the lobby of a five star hotel