Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Now that our stomachs have finally got over the Christmas dinner...

...It's safe then to put in this gratuitous shot of the dressed Christmas ham straight out of the oven in my kitchen on Christmas Eve.


Impressive though it looked, I really mustn't claim any credit as it was all done by Marks and Sparks, from the sliced mandarins and cranberry dressing to the neatly scored ham fat to determining the actual length of its cooking time. (My excuse was that I was simply wayyyyyy too busy and disorganised this year on the home front to be doing all the prep work myself this year).

Anyway, it was indeed a beeeeautiful ham, tasted every bit as good as it looked. I will be using up the last of its remains as a risotto ingredient for this evening (with the stock being made from the last of all the leftover veg, which is bubbling merrily away in the background now). Am feeling rather smug that I've learnt from my mistake last year and have not been as wasteful this year in terms of food leftovers :)

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What Color Ideas Do I Have?


Your Ideas Are Blue



When you think, you tend to have very detailed, well thought out ideas.

You take your time with your thoughts. You are a deep thinker who likes to explore every possibility.

Your ideas tend to be very innovative and perceptive. It's amazing what your mind can come up with.

Your mind is energetic and alert. You are "always on" and thinking of new things. It's hard for you to relax.


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Monday, December 28, 2009

The noughties - a personal stock-take...

Not sure what kind of final judgement I would pass on my first decade of this millenium. I have grown older, surely, but have I grown wiser? From my 20's to my 30's, I feel I am still exploring the limits of my potential, my self a work in progress still. All the old certainties have gone, along with all my cockiness (good), perhaps even my confidence (bad). I have become humbler as a person, but no less impatient, and no less frustrated when faced with difficulties. Sometimes I still feel like a twenty-year-old, or a sixteen-year-old, or, heaven forfend, even a twelve-year-old -- my lack of maturity and social gaucheness a damning indictment of my overly idealistic, overly analytical self.

And yet. And yet. There are times when I have exceeded my own expectations in dealing with problems and with people. My relationship with my parents have gone a complete 180 degrees since the beginning of this decade. In family matters, I know I have become an adult, and I play a positive part in family affairs. I am setting an example for my younger siblings -- not necessarily for them to follow, but for them to see the possibilities that are out there, for them to see that it is possible -- through hard work, grit, and a bit of luck -- to make one's own way in this world. That one needs not be afraid to step out into the world and to boldly embrace change, at whatever age and without an apparent, well-trodden road-map. That one could learn to be resourceful and become self-reliant. Above all, to learn to hold one's own.

And yet. And yet. There are also times when I have let myself down -- and let others down -- in dealing with problems and with people. My self-discipline has steadily eroded over the last decade when it was actually needed the most, to the extent that I am nowadays merely fire-fighting, rather than be securely in control of my time and my life, as I have longed to do. As a corollary to this breakdown in self-discipline, I know that my personal life is a mess, to be perfectly and brutally honest. There are persons to whom I should have devoted utmost care and attention and time; instead, they are forced to make do with whatever scraps of attention I could spare them. The guilt for not making time for these important people in my life is a dull ache that has slowly but surely been eating away at me. I know that, if I don't get my arse into gear, very soon I will lose them. And I do NOT want to lose them.

My work should have been done. It is almost done. I need to make it done. I applaud myself for fighting to get it done, but the real thanks go to my long-suffering loved ones who continue to emotionally support me, giving me a shoulder and an ear when I felt the need to moan, and a rousing pep talk when I needed to go into battle and fight. Most of all though, I have been extremely lucky to have met my mentors. Their kindness and generosity of spirit have continued to be a source of inspiration to me all these years. I would consider myself a huge success if, after another ten years, I grow to be more like them in personality if not in actual professional achievement.

There were, if truth be told, an awful lot of self-sabotage in the past decade. That unhealthy trend needs to be stopped dead in its track. I need to re-focus in order to steer my talents towards realising my life's work, to repay the unstinting support of those I deeply admire; more importantly, I need to re-focus on my true priorities in life, in order that I could finally become an active, positive presence in the lives of those I love.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Three little rules...

...for happiness:

1. Something to do.
2. Someone to love.
3. Something to look forward to.

And may God/Goddess/Universal Life Force give us strength to weather the disappointments and betrayals - big and small - that inevitably come along the way.

May peace be with us, one and all.

Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year to all my casual and long-time blog readers :)

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Everything's Just Wonderful!

Oh I'm so so so happy!! Gosh it's past 2am but I'm still hyper, haven't been feeling like this since, like, forever! (And no I'm not on drugs!)

The reason for my bonhomie? Well after all the crap that I went through recently, today a lot of things worked out for the better, both at work and in my personal life. I don't want to delve too much into work-related news, except to say that a cloud's finally been lifted in relation to resolving the bad feelings around a colleague, and to top it off, I was really chuffed to be getting recognised for the pioneering work I did on the research front. Oh it was WONDERFUL!

... Indeed, EVERYTHING'S JUST WONDERFUL, which rather befits the music that I was enjoying earlier this evening (or technically last night). My friend and I went to see Lily Allen in concert at the newly-revamped O2 this evening (it used to be known as the Point - the area's still called the Point but the venue itself's been re-branded with the name of the mobile operator giant). This is the first time I've stepped into the Point (alright O2) since its rebirth and gosh, I'm quite impressed with the spanking-newness of it all. Apart from the O2 mobile sales booths on the second level which are just plain weird and out-of-place at a concert venue, everything else about the revamp I like. Very much. Like finally giving us an amphitheatre layout rather than the rectangular cattle-shed layout the old Point was saddled with. Like properly-layered seating a la Croke Park so that your view is in no way obstructed by the people sitting in front of you. Like the ample toilet facilities and indeed, hot-dog and popcorn stands on every level and DRINKS DISPENSED ON THE PREMISES. In addition to the beer stands (with proper people flow management!!), they even had a guy donning a backpack-cooler-type thing traipsing up and down the seating areas selling bottles of white or red wine!! My god, I felt like I was in a Carlsberg ad where they designed "probably the best concert venue in the world" - especially given that such a claim would be considered similarly inappropriately hyperbolic. (And yes, I confess, the plug stemmed from the fact that I was downing Carlsberg during the warm-up acts, not that I am in any way shape or form endorsing Carlsberg as being anywhere near a fit beer).

Anyway, one of my favourite songs of Lily's, which I blogged about back when she was literally just starting to get recognised, is this cheery but cheeky song (the line "everything's just wonderful" is meant to be sarcastic in the context of the lyrics, but TONIGHT, TO ME, everything's indeed just wonderful!)



But just a note about her singing. Lily confessed to the unfortunate fact of having a sore throat, and maybe because of the relatively poor acoustics (which I guess is the only thing that the revamp didn't quite managed to address, as the sound is just louder but not much improvement in terms of tonal clarity), her words came across a little slurred at times and didn't have the clear singing voice she had on records. But she still hit all the right notes and more importantly (especially compared with the likes of say, Amy Winehouse), she turned up for her concert in good spirits and loads of enthusiasm and really got the crowd going.

Indeed, she giggled at the sight of so many people turning up to see her (the O2 was packed) and says that it's the biggest crowd she's played to so far in her career (not sure how true this is though to be honest, probably just to flatter us Irish fans). This is the second time Lily played Dublin (the first time I think she was at the SPI venue which is more wine-bar-gy than pop concert) and she joked that, because of the big increase in numbers, the producers granted her one wish to have anything she wanted on stage and she, like any sensible visitor of Ireland, asked for Guinness on tap, and lo-and-behold, the girl got exactly what she wanted. It was really fun seeing Lily poured out pints after pints on stage and handing them out to security (she passed the three-pints-at-one-go test) to pass to those lucky (but probably under-age, more on this later) fans standing right up to barrier in front of the stage.

And talking about the audience, I'm really glad to see that Lily attracts fans right across the age and gender spectrum. In addition to the crowd of college age kids at this type of concerts, there were sprightly couples in their 50's cheering her on (yes I'm NOT kidding, as one such couple sat right in front of us!) as well as hordes of youngsters in their 80's revival gear. (My God I remember the 80's the first time round and have to admit that it was indeed the decade that taste forgot, especially when confronted with all these so-called cool young 'uns parading their madly-teased-and-blow-dried-bouffant-hair, shiny leggings and QUILTED HANDBAGS, the latter of which I hated back when MY MUM was parading hers in the 80's!!!).

But what shocked us was the fact that there were seriously ICKLE CHILDREN at the concert as well. Like, five- or six-year-old past-their-bed-time young. In fact, the woman who sat next to me looked like a mum and there was a little boy sat beside her who must be NO MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS OLD. And he was not in any way a rare sight among the audience. It seemed quite a lot of young parents brought their kids along to this concert, in addition to tons of teenage girls (a bunch of whom were screaming non-stop right behind us, so perhaps it wasn't the acoustics that was the problem but that our eardrums had been burst early on).

AND THEN when the music started up and Lily's hit numbers began to play... my friend and I couldn't help but giggle as the mother who sat beside us was SINGING LOUDLY ALONG to the lyrics, seemingly oblivious to the actual meaning of the songs!!

Like the one below which Lily, bless her heart, dedicated to none-other-than-that-ignominious-cheat Thierry Henri (and received a very loud cheer from the Irish crowd for doing so - those of you who didn't know why, hint, it's something to do with him having a hand in Ireland's not qualifying for the World Cup):



Fuck You (Very Much):
Look inside
Look inside your tiny mind
Now look a bit harder
Cause we're so uninspired, so sick and tired of all the hatred you harbour

So you say
It's not okay to be gay
Well I think you're just evil
You're just some racist who can't tie my laces
Your point of view is medieval

Fuck you
Fuck you very, very much
Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please don't stay in touch

Fuck you
Fuck you very, very much
Cause your words don't translate
And it's getting quite late
So please don't stay in touch

Do you get
Do you get a little kick out of being small-minded?
You want to be like your father
It's approval you're after
Well that's not how you find it

Do you
Do you really enjoy living a life that's so hateful?
Cause there's a hole where your soul should be
You're losing control of it and it's really distasteful

Fuck you
Fuck you very, very much
Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please don't stay in touch

Fuck you
Fuck you very, very much
Cause your words don't translate and it's getting quite late
So please don't stay in touch

Look inside
Look inside your tiny mind
Now look a bit harder
Cause we're so uninspired, so sick and tired of all the hatred you harbour

Fuck you
Fuck you very, very much
Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please don't stay in touch

Fuck you
Fuck you very, very much
Cause your words don't translate and it's getting quite late
So please don't stay in touch

I still cannot believe I witnessed an otherwise very respectable-looking young mother (in her early to mid-thirties) singing "FUCK YOU VERY MUCH" at the top of her lungs beside her eight-year-old son!!

But, on balance, despite all her swearing, I really have to say that Lily Allen is a great role model for boys and girls - especially girls - in her fearless attitude towards facing the often harsh realities of life and calling out injustices in the world. Like her feminist, tell-it-like-it-is uncompromising lyrics in her song "22", an anthem for the modern-day woman straight from the heart, a perfect antidote to much of the saccharine girl-pop out there by the likes of Taylor Swift who is still promoting the false religion of knight-in-shining-armour:




When she was 22 the future looked bright
But she's nearly 30 now and she's out every night
I see that look in her face, she's got that look in her eye
She's thinking how did I get here and wondering why

It's sad but it's true how society says her life is already over
There's nothing to do and there's nothing to say
'Til the man of her dreams comes along
Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

She's got an alright job but it's not a career
Whenever she thinks about it, it brings her to tears
'Cause all she wants is a boyfriend, she gets one night stands
She's thinking how did I get here, I'm doing all that I can

It's sad but it's true how society says her life is already over
There's nothing to do and there's nothing to say
'Til the man of her dreams comes along
Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

It's sad but it's true how society says her life is already over
There's nothing to do and there's nothing to say
'Til the man of her dreams comes along
Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age.


Anyway, I guess men could do worse than to heed the lyrics of her songs as well, and it's heartening to see that she also attracted a legion of male fans. Lily encored twice (her dresses were the most daring and sparkly at the encores, as she wore black for the whole of the concert proper), and the concert finally closed with this cracker of a song (though you mightn't have guessed it by simply listening to the version on record rather than a live atmosphere)- literally everybody stood up, we were so hyped up by then and of course, the chorus lines in this easy-sing-along ballady song really got everyone going!



Not Fair:
Oh he treats me with respect
He says he loves me all the time
He calls me fifteen times a day
He likes to make sure that I'm fine
You know I've never met a man
Who's made me feel quite so secure?
He's not like all them other boys
They're all so dumb and immature

There's just one thing that's getting in the way
When we go up to bed you're just no good it's such a shame
I look into your eyes I want to get to know you
And then you make this noise and it's apparent it's all over

It's not fair and I think you're really mean
I think you're really mean
I think you're really mean
Oh you're supposed to care
But you never make me scream
You never make me scream

Oh it's not fair and it's really not ok
It's really not ok
It's really not ok
Oh you're supposed to care
But all you do is take
Yeah all you do is take

Oh I lie here in the wet patch
In the middle of the bed
I'm feeling pretty damn hard done by
I spent ages giving head
Then I remember all the nice things
That you ever said to me
Maybe I'm just overreacting
Maybe you're the one for me

There's just one thing that's getting in the way
When we go up to bed you're just no good it's such a shame
I look into your eyes I want to get to know you
And then you make this noise and it's apparent it's all over

It's not fair and I think you're really mean
I think you're really mean
I think you're really mean
Oh you're supposed to care
But you never make me scream
You never make me scream

Oh it's not fair and it's really not ok
It's really not ok
It's really not ok
Oh you're supposed to care
But all you do is take
Yeah all you do is take

. . . . . .

There's just one thing that's getting in the way
When we go up to bed you're just no good it's such a shame
I look into your eyes I want to get to know you
And then you make this noise and it's apparent it's all over

It's not fair and I think you're really mean
I think you're really mean
I think you're really mean
Oh you're supposed to care
But you never make me scream
You never make me scream

Oh it's not fair and it's really not ok
It's really not ok
It's really not ok
Oh you're supposed to care
But all you do is take
Yeah all you do is take


(But unfortunately yes, you guessed it, the mother sang along to "giving head" too right beside her son!! I wondered though perhaps she wasn't too sure of the lyrics herself and thought she was singing along to something else altogether?!)

Anyway, this is the first concert where I really felt like an adult compared with much of the rest of the audience (I really could have even brought my little sister along and this would have been right up her alley, except of course I didn't and now I'm really glad I didn't because of the potential under-age drinking I witnessed, not to mention the risqué content of some of her songs). The disco music played by the DJ at the very beginning of the concert really made me feel like I was back in secondary school days going to pop concerts with friends, and I can really see traces of my old self in these young ones, especially how they desperately fix their make-up in the toilets and how they tried to look cool standing in little groups... ah, those were the days!)

(It's a pity my mobile's battery gone dead so I couldn't take any pics and had to rely on my friend's phone (the resolution of which isn't great either), as I'd love to be able to upload the pics on here. If only I brought along my Hong-Kong-bought DSLR which has been sitting in my study gathering dust. Oh well. Perhaps I'll upload some of my friend's pics later.)

Finally, I want to record that the evening was rounded off beautifully with a leisurely stroll along the quays. (Well we had to take a stroll as the Luas queue was unbelievable, and in any case, the night was still young and beautiful). The weather was amazingly mild, with a lovely light breeze bringing the ever-so-lightly-salted air of Dublin harbour (for we were near the mouth of River Liffey, after all). More importantly, the whole Docklands been done up almost in exactly the same manner as the Victoria harbour promenade on Tsim Sha Tsui, but with trees dotted with beautiful Christmas lights like in uptown NYC at winter time. It made me miss both Hong Kong and NYC simultaneously. And then, out of the blue en route to our bus stops, we even witnessed the turn and removal of a bridge to let a barge pass through, which isn't something that you'd see everyday.

All in all, it's been a WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL evening. Thank you goddess.

Gosh it's PAST 3:30AM ALREADY MUST GET TO SLEEP AS HAVE TO GET UP IN LESS THAN FOUR HOURS' TIME FOR WORK AGAIN.

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Viewfinder...

Where are you from?

Que sera sera...

Feed my pet!

Currently getting stuck in...

Have just finished...

Me, Anime...

A bunch of snowdrops by any other name...

SNOWDROPS
S is for Sweet
N is for Natural
O is for Open-hearted
W is for Worldly
D is for Dedicated
R is for Romantic
O is for Original
P is for Perfectionist
S is for Special
What Does Your Name Mean?