Thursday, July 27, 2017

LES MILLS GRIT™ Strength

These Les Mills people must be minting it. So many gyms and studios offer take their workouts. They've got good instructors with great form, and the instructors are of course super fit. It took me a few months to muster enough courage to sign up for a GRIT™ Strength class. Courage. And it helps SOOOOOOooOOOO MUCH when the friends took turns to gleefully scare the shit out of me with vivid descriptions of how tough the class is.

That triceps strain sustained two weeks ago has definitely kept me on my toes. It's all fine now, but it means I'm extremely aware of future strains. This means my lazy right shoulder blade is forced to work properly. There were some planks + lunges + press-ups + jumps in all variations. Mad cardio in 30 minutes. BEST. I'm not interested in powerlifting per se. The weights are just to aid the workout.


Of course I'm not ambitious. That SMARTBAR™ weighs 3kg. The instructor already rolled her eyes at me when I took the 1kg plates. Hahaha. Okay, she did that only because she knows me very well, and sees me in her other classes; she totally knows the amount of resistance and weights I can do. Carrying 1kg on each side isn't going to effectively work any muscles. Hahahaha. I know lah. Swopped them out. No matter what, I wasn't going to add more than 5kg on each side for a start. Light means 3.5kg on each side.

These f**kers frightened me so bad that for this first class, my total bar weighed only 10kg. 😑😏✌🏻 It's light enough to feel a bit of burn but not heavy enough to exhaust me. Whewww. The stronger people in class easily ply on between 13kg to 28kg. 13kg seems to be the standard. No, I'm not adventurous enough to double those weights for the next class. My priority is to maintain good form and stay injury-free. I'm keeping this 10kg total till I can breeze through the class before adding extra plates. 😃

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lunch at Muji Cafe

I remember being shocked at how horrible the food at Muji Cafe was when they first opened, and didn't dare venture near it again. By and by, the food improved and I'm much more open to lunching there now, especially for a fuss-free and healthy-enough meal.

I'm not sure I like Muji Cafe's one-dish meals. The cheese-baked butter curry chicken rice or some pork katsu-don served at its flagship don't sound appetizing at all. I prefer their rice and bread with a choice of little dishes. I don't eat here often enough to be bored with their selections. It's also fuss-free to opt for a vegetarian meal if I so choose, which was my lunch at this visit. A savory mushroom-tofu patty, pumpkin, nuts and rocket salad, and a mushroom omelette, accompanied by multi-grain rice.

Since I needed to retrieve Ed the Bear, Y and I decided to fix a timing in the afternoon when Missy could join us. Importantly, it gave us the morning to clear work deadlines so we could linger over lunch and a coffee. Missy was thrilled to come downtown to Muji Cafe after school. Poor girl ended school so late though that day; she was super hungry. She picked bread over rice and slurped up her soup. I was so pleased to see Missy for a hug, and get in a chat with Y.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

MATTER Pants


Glad I listened to my body to give it a rest from cardio intensive stuff over the weekend. There would be enough grueling classes in the week to warm the muscles. Crashed S and H's brunch instead at Grain Traders. It felt great to sit down with the girlfriends to chat about topics of concern in one another's lives.

Then we strolled over to MATTER to check out its open house before they move to Bukit Timah. It wasn't a sale. It was exactly an open house- more of letting us check out their office and a chance to try on the stuff before you buy online, although returns within Singapore aren't inconvenient. But yes, you could buy stuff. However, it's an office, so aside from the display pieces on the rails in sizes 1 and 2, they don't stock new pieces and such. Picked out what we wanted, paid up and the purchased items were delivered to us in a few days.

[If you'd like a 15% discount that's valid till 31 December 2017, and don't mind me benefiting, here's the link to discount code.] 

I like their stuff and the easy sort of look. Don't mind their prints either. But was hesitant about buying online till I try them on, especially the pants. I'm not tall, so I wasn't sure if the pants would seem more comical than casual. Thankfully, they didn't. Each pair of pants in different cuts fit fine and easy. Needn't have to get the hem altered shorter. The signature 'Sideswept Dhoti' pants in cotton and silk are really fun and comfortable! Their sizes are fairly coherent and kind to all body types. Skirts aren't common in my wardrobe; these pants are great for my every day wear.

Monday, July 24, 2017

19th Century Rural Ireland


Scanned through Emma Donoghue's 'The Wonder' (2016) that's set in 1859 rural Ireland. It's a story that takes its influences from the era's 'fasting girls'.  I didn't mind the story, but the pace was rather slow. The suspense wasn't duly held, and the twist at the end felt hurried. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)

Twenty-nine-year-old English nurse Elizabeth 'Lib' Wright took up a weird commission in a little Irish village for two weeks to watch over little Anna O'Donnell who had apparently not eaten for four months after her eleventh birthday. The nurse's job was to keep a medical journal and check on whether she was a fraud or she really could live on light, air and the love of God.

Lib had been hired by the local committee made up the town's prominent men who seemed to really want Anna to be a miracle and draw in visitors and pilgrims and their money. Anna was very pious, and claimed she survived on water and "manna from heaven". Lib was a woman of science, skeptical and rather contemptuous of the Irish and their beliefs; she didn't know what to make of it. Which child would choose to starve?

Science versus faith, superstition versus traditions. Then there was this reporter at the local paper William Byrne who later helped Lib. I suppose in that era, someone male always needs to appear to help a damsel in distress. We see Lib wrestle with an ethical dilemma. The final chapter, the epilogue held the twist to the whole novel, and shed new light on Anna's eventual death. Australia is also mentioned.

For a moment, Lib pictured the child's treasure chest, and then she realized he meant a coffin. Forty-six inches, she remembered from her first measurements of Anna. Barely more than four inches of growth for each year on earth. 
"I've been lying on my bed in there wondering about you, Lib Wright." 
Lib bristled. "What about me?" 
"How far will you go to save this girl?" 
Only when he asked it did she find she knew the answer. "I'll stop at nothing."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

At 'The Other Crystal Jade'


The girlfriends and I were bitching about some other matter amidst suggestions of dinner venues. Stared at the texts coming in for a decision on where to eat, and started chuckling. Did she really type that?! The mildest-tempered girlfriend admitted to a 'quarrel' with the staff at a certain Crystal Jade outlet?! What is this?!

She refused to elaborate on what happened over the phone. We coaxed it out of her later on at dinner. No it's got nothing to do with the restaurant charging S$0.70 for a glass of water. It's one of those incidents whereby the restaurant's ideal policies don't square with their on-the-ground implementation. And it doesn't help when miscommunication happens when the staff refuse to budge from black and white rules because they don't know how, or they haven't been given clear enough directions.

Anyway we went to the "other crystal jade". It was a crowded evening, but we had a corner table, so it was rather comfortable. Somehow I also prefer the food at this Crystal Jade. They've always been pretty nice to us. Kept our orders conservative again. Hurhurhur. None of us were in the mood for much carbs. So the three of us shared a bowl of congee. The spinach in superior stock was deliciously dependable. There was more than enough food to fill our tummies, and plenty of good conversation and laughter to nourish the soul.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Thucydides and Hegemony

All day at work and while leisurely reading online and catching up on news, Thucydides keeps turning up. Poor chap. He's suddenly become superbly relevant and highly quotable in the 21st century, like 2350 years after his death.

There's Qatar's diplomatic crisis with the blockade led by the Saudi-coalition. This White House keeps raising the points of 'Thucydides Trap', and our side of the world keeps using it as a stern warning, or to highlight risks over the delicate issues of South China Sea. We also have our own largely academic debate on foreign policy ignited over the past month, no thanks to our thought leaders' war of words.

Well, we are not Sparta. We also can't live in our own happy bubble. At this rate we're going, we'll probably let (have to, rather) the political ruling elites lead the way, instead of getting populist opinions or movements across. Sometimes, I'm not sure which is better, or even if there's a right or wrong to either position. As a citizen of a tiny nation-state, all I want is for our political leaders not to lead us into any sort of war or allow hubris in any form to ignite a tiff with a neighbor.

Some people have suggested that Singapore lay low and “suffer what we must” as a small state. 
On the contrary, it is precisely because we are a small state that we have to stand up and be counted when we need to do so. 
There is no contradiction between a realistic appreciation of realpolitik and doing whatever it takes to protect our sovereignty, maintain and expand our relevance, and to create political and economic space for ourselves. 
~ said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs Singapore, in a speech at a MFA Townhall on 17 July 2017.

I lost it at a work meeting when a work associate likened our positions to said Trap. Let me clarify, I didn't lose my temper; I simply laughed out loud. Like couldn't stop giggling. I refused to let the meeting turn into a book review, critique or debate. Said work associate brought out eminent Harvard scholar Professor Graham Allison's explanation in 'In Destined for War' (2017) on why 'Thucydides Trap' is the best scenario to understanding current foreign policies. The Harvard scholar is also the one who popularized the concept of 'Thucydides Trap' in 2014 and 2015 till world leaders and academics alike are all talking about it.

Since we're on this subject of history, philosophy and political science, let's also not forget the Melian Dialogue and the ensuing siege of Melos in 416 BC. There are the theories on a hegemonic war, which will characterize a potential World War III, if the hegemonic stability status is upset. I'm going to lean towards the optimistic view of finding a balance between neoliberalism to help to balance out the hegemon, and not have that as a synecdoche against liberalism or the center left. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

'Grace and Frankie'

If you don't already know my preferences for sci-fi, fantasy, B-grade horror flicks, politics, crime and such for films and books, you'd know by my aversion to certain book titles and television sitcoms and all. I try to avoid saying 'I don't like ABCDEF-whatever'. I swop it out with 'I don't watch it', or 'it's not for me'. I find myself saying 'I don't like...' rather often, and if I find it grating, others would too. Sometimes, I choose not to mention something at all or participate in a topic of discussion to indicate zero enthusiasm.

A little petty squabble with a work associate that day led to her calling GoT 'childish' and me calling her type of shows 'sappy'. Hey, I was provoked. A polite answer was supplied to her question of what I would be doing that night. (Staying in to catch the season premiere of GoT.) Her reaction was to say that we're 'idiots' for dedicating so much time and brain cells to GoT and its details. You don't want to know what I replied to that, or what another associate (who's an ardent GoT fan) yelled out. I'm not proud of it, and a lack of coffee for three consecutive days couldn't really be blamed for snide remarks. Anyway.

I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed 'Grace and Frankie'. There're only 13 episodes in each season. Devoured all three seasons within a week. The scriptwriters weaved in great jokes, and the actors carried them off with panache. For many moments, I forgot the actors' actual names, and only remembered their characters. Such wonderful acting. Every episode left me convulsing in laughter. Can't wait for Season 4 next year.

Created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris for Netflix, I love how the lead actors are all of the silver generation. 79 y.o Jane Fonda (as Grace), 77 y.o Lily Tomlin (as Frankie), 76 y.o Martin Sheen (as Robert) and 76 y.o Sam Waterston (as Sol). The comedy traces how the women (who never really liked each other) became unlikely friends and allies and eventual business partners after divorcing their respective husbands who came out as gay. Then the men got together and married each other.

Since it's a sitcom, we can suspend disbelief. The heavy and grave situations are still kept light, in spite of how the divorce and coming out gay and marrying each other (the men) threw two families into emotional upheaval. There's always humor in each issue that plays out in each episode, and each human being always comes around to being magnanimous, and loving.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Baybeats 2017


Esplanade's Baybeats is an indie music festival that ought to be lauded for having persisted for beyond a decade; it's awesome that people are making some good independent original music. The younger generation should set the pace and tone for the next decade, and not let a great start languish.

Mainly shuttled between the Arena (normally known as Outdoor Theatre) and the Powerhouse. Esplanade always organizes the Festival pretty well. This year saw many food stalls set up with tons of choices of snacks, food and drinks. Dinner was sorted out at these stalls. Those tofu fries were delicious. Plenty of non-alcoholic choices for hydration. Coconut soft serve sprinkled with gula melaka was fun.

I didn't know a single band that played on the first night when it rained out half the sets. Came away mildly bemused with not much interest to find out more about the bands. The older I get, the more I feel removed from Baybeats. :P I'm just not very in touch with the scene or that keen to hear new music anymore. I'll still pop by the next Baybeats, but I won't bother to hit all three nights of the Festival anymore from like 6pm to midnight. Tiring sial!


The second night fared better only because there were some bands I wanted to catch. Tides, Amateur Takes Control, Rag n' Bone (Perth, AU), and new songs from Obedient Wives Club. Happy to have heard them. Nice to hang out with the various groups of friends between sets.

The third night was a mixed bag of music genres. Surprisingly enjoyable. The F16s (Chennai, India), sub:shaman, and Generation 69. Plenty of drinks went around while we hung out before and after the sets. A lot of Asahi orbs (three litres of beer in each orb...) were ordered and polished off. Watched Astreal play, and we were saying they'd probably not play live for another 10 years, and we wouldn't be actually joking. Hurhurhur. They played such a wonderful set! Sound was so so good.

Thanks for another cool Festival, Baybeats team. Your efforts are super appreciated. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lunch with a Pint of Guinness


Haven't been drinking very much recently. When the girlfriend sent me a photo of her gorgeous creamy pint of Guinness inhaled in a London pub, I had to go look for a pint here too. It wouldn't be great, but it would be okay.

Sat down for a pint of Guinness late afternoon at The New Harbour Cafe & Bar. S$10 for a pint at this hour! Yayyy. The friends strolled in one by one and all needed food. It's a strange little place. Feels like a neighborhood bar with a temperamental Hainanese kitchen. You wouldn't really expect the menu to include Hainanese fried mah mee, roast pork (sio bak or siew yoke) or yaki udon, but it does, and these dishes are quite delicious. So yeah, pub grub at this place is pretty all right. Not sure I like it at peak hour though. Too noisy and too warm to be comfortable.

The table ordered lamb shank (came with brussels sprouts and mash) and burgers, which turned out fine. Nothing mind-blowing, but nothing disappointing either. Super edible. I stuck to the Hainanese fried mah mee. It has always been dependable. No idea what it really is, but it seems to be another version of stir-fried prawn noodles. Works for me! There's bits of pork in this dish, along with prawns, squid and clams. I'm really only interested in the carbs- the noodles. The sambal belachan served with it was fabulously spicy and tasty.