Wednesday, May 31, 2006


“Be strong! Do not give in! Do not buy anymore book!” I reminded myself like six times as I walked into the book fair last weekend.

“What else do you buy in a book fair? Why do you go to a book fair if not to buy books?” I hear you asking.

See, I might have bitten more than I could chew. I’m currently reading three books, on and off. First one is The Art of War by Sun Tzu. This one is a tough cookie as it’s in ancient Chinese, not exactly a page-turner. I bought it actually first to improve my Chinese pronunciation, second to learn and hopefully improvise the some of the war strategies and philosophies. Therefore, I always read this book out loud. That limits the venue to my room only, normally before going to sleep, ending up putting me to sleep.

I then started on Daughter of the Killing Fields by Theary C. Seng, the memoir of the author surviving the Khmer Rouge regime since she was four and ultimately confronting Pol Pot, the man she said responsible for the death of her parents and 1.7 million Cambodians, 21 years later. It should be a compelling and heart wrenching account of her struggles and sufferings during the dark period in the Cambodian history.

I say should because I barely made it past the author’s note before I bought and dived straight into a new book, The Snows of Kilimanjaro (TSOK) and other short stories by Ernest Hemingway. Though Hemingway is renowned for his simple, direct and descriptive style, I had to read TSOK twice, not because I love it that much, but because I could hardly grasp what the story was about. Well, second time reading of this hunting tragedy did reveal the brilliance of Hemingway’s mastery in descriptions and imaginations as well as his love for Africa and passion for big-game hunting. I want to go to see Africa, now!

On top of that, I have got two magazines to flip. I am a Men’s Health (international edition) regular as it has got tonnes of useful stuff written in simple and informative way with at times laugh out loud funny lines. Since I’m a photo-nut. I also read Practical Photography, almost religiously.

As I was packing during the recent move, I found out that I also have three new books waiting for me, two of which still in plastic wrap: The Republic by Plato, Between Blood and Bombs: A Journal of War by Shahanaaz Habib and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Of these three, I can’t wait to start cracking on Bryson. I think he’s absolutely funny. Between Blood and Bombs is the story of the author’s two trips to war torn Iraq in April and November 2003. Needless to say it’s going to be a heavy read. That will have to wait. The Republic, I don’t even know why I bought it. Was I feeling philosophical then? Or was I trying to get the tax rebate?

So many books, so little time to read!

I spent two hours at the book fair. In the end I succumbed to the temptations. I bought a book: The Art of Magic and Sleight of Hand.

What can I say? I’m weak!

Very Happy... Not Very Happy...

Today I received a care package from afar. It was a birthday present.

I was very happy as I opened the present. I was very happy as it was sent by someone so very dear to me.

I was not very happy as I read the card. I was not very happy as it was written by someone not so very dear to me.

I always believe that we both feel the chemistry between us. So what else has come between us?

About 22 hour flight time. About 4 years. 14 time zones. The Pacific ocean. The Rocky mountains. My sense of complacency. My fear of commitment. My stupid, oversized ego. Her readiness to move on.


So, what next? I don't know. I do know that we will remain the best of friends.

Well, life goes on.

Story of an Indonesian Maid

My sister hired an Indonesian maid after having her twins last year. The maid has been with her for a year and had just signed on for another. They are doing well. However the maid has been acting up lately. She has been slacking off and disobedient.

Why is the 180-degree turn? Well, she wants to go back home to Indonesia.

After the third degree and the heart-to-heart talk failed to persuade her to stay, my sister consulted a Taoist master and a psychic (We Chinese do this, A LOT). To her horror, and everyone else’s, she found out that the maid has been putting spells, some sort of verbal chants on her family, most likely on her twins, as the younger one is virtually inseparable from the maid. It can only get worse as the maid may step up a notch, feeding them magic potion or using voodoo dolls. Apparently the maid is keeping a spirit to do all her dirty work. ‘Beware of the maid doing a number on your husband, by then it’s beyond salvation.’ The master warned sternly.

As a result, a scramble to strategize a counter spell casting campaign is launched. My sister went for a holy bath. She prayed to the deities. She gave the twins amulets to wear. She plans to feed the maid blessed water so she will listen to her and be good. The best defense is a good offence!

Meanwhile, more stories came up from anyone and everyone. My mother said the maid been sleeping with her door locked nowadays (up to no good in the room). An aunt noticed the maid has got an attitude lately. My sister found her stealing. Suddenly, the maid goes from Mother Theresa to Monster Theresa.

But I can’t help thinking: A young lady in her early 20s, leaving her family and everything behind back home, coming to a foreign land alone with nothing, working to earn a hopefully decent living, is she really capable of such hideous acts, black magic and spells and curses? Why would she do those things? Are we not giving too much credit to the maid?

Even though my sister launches her multi-prong counter attack out of the love for her twins, I think we are guilty of stereotyping from all the horror stories we heard. More often than not we focus on the negatives only and paint the worst-case scenario in our heads up front, which then lead to an irrational and emotional reaction.

See threat. Eliminate threat. Kill first. Think later!

The only solution now is to replace the maid ASAP. But then there are the risks of not getting a replacement in time, the family will need re-adjustment, especially the twins, and God forbid, getting another spell-casting maid! The list goes on and on.

But then again, would you rather keep the current one?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Smoky Smokerson

Smoky smokerson, a name I call the smokers. To me, smoking is simply disgusting. Yuck! I have always been swift to express my utter disgust and loathing whenever I see people smoke. I would give them that ‘you-bloody-idiot-suicidal-fuckwit-dragging-us-non-smokers-down-with-you-while-you-slowly-burn-your-sorry-ass-to-death’ dirty look. I would tell them to their face:” You are super duper disgusting!”

Ironically, I have too always maintained that I’m a social smoker. I smoke after having a couple of stiff ones, as it slows down my imbibing rate. I smoke after dancing so I won’t look stupid standing around. I smoke while I’m on vacation. Hey, I am on vacation! But these occasions are somewhat rare. It’s ok to indulge once in a while. I’m all right.

Until lately, I’m afraid I'm turning into a disgusting smoky smokerson. Whenever I see anyone lighting one up, instead of the caustic tongue and the dirty look, I am actually thinking of lighting one up myself! Oh damn, I am addicted!

But how?

No stress at work. No strain from relationship. I’m not trying to look cool. I don’t have that much money to burn. It does not get me high.

What exactly is it then?

Or have I lost all my senses? Have I lost my self-control? Have I succumbed to peer pressure? Have I finally surrendered to the tobacco devil?


It was boredom that drove me to do something new, somewhat new to me.
I was relocated to the big city for work and have been putting up in a hotel for the past 2 months. After the gym, the bar, the TV and the books, after the luxury of the posh hotel wore off, I found myself returning to a sterile and artificial room every evening. It’s not homely. It’s cold. There is not much to do. I’m bored to the core.

“Ahhhh… Why not go for a puff?”

So I started off buying a pack, smoking one at the hotel lobby (I specifically requested to stay in a non-smoking room).

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Ahhhh… Kill time? Yes, those 5 long minutes. That got my fix of doing something different. I did not even finish the pack. They turned stale and I binned them.
I was doing ok, before I knew it I got another pack of fags, unknowingly, innocently. Now the urge of lighting up is getting ever stronger!

In the past I couldn’t comprehend how those smoky smokersons got started on this disgusting habit or how they continue doing it. Bad breaths, smelly fingers, yellow teeth, ashtray lips, not to mention high cost.

Perhaps it’s just as innocently and as easily. Just for fun, we simply dig a hole without realizing how deep, how easy and how fast we are going. In split seconds, we effortlessly dig into a hole that is way too deep. We can’t climb out by our own. We then tell ourselves that there’s no turning back and convince ourselves to keep digging.

Caution: six feet under isn’t that deep!

Good thing I was not in that deep and I managed to climb out on my own.

Phew, close call!

Happy Birthday to Me

Someone once asked me how long do I want to live. I would be happy calling it a day at 60. Well, last week I turned 30, the big three O! It got me thinking: What have I done for the last 30 years? More importantly what am I going to do with the next 30 years?

While it was easy to answer the first question (the answer is well, nothing much really), I had a tough time nailing the second one. I thought long and hard, yet came out with nothing solid.

The reality is life on the farm, cubicle farm that is, is quite a struggle. Struggling through the jams, struggling through the long hours, struggling through the files and proposals and struggling to make a decent living. Along the way, the monotony of the struggle turns us into dull ‘grown-ups’. We forget about all our childhood dreams, or worse still, undermine them. We are so busy chasing after nothing and that we lose sight of everything, especially the important thing.

What happen to the childhood dreams and youthful ideals? What happen to ‘the plan’? Working my craft, serving my profession, getting my own place, living life large, buying stuff that I like, buying stuff for people I like, traveling, taking pictures, writing, volunteering, doing something meaningful, leaving a legacy.

I want to do something good, something meaningful with my life. But what exactly is that something good, something meaningful thing? Now 30 years had zoomed by, I still haven’t a clue. I simply do not know! (Read: suggestions are welcomed!)

Coincidently a friend emailed me a checklist of things to do in life a few days ago. As I had a good laugh reading his, it brought me some sort of direction and with that some sense of relief.

Top of my to do list: Extend my life to at least 80 years because I can’t do all the stuff on my to-do list by the time I hit 60.

Happy birthday to me!