Monthly Archives: June 2009

And so it ends

There is finally a result in the Minnesota senate race. The elections were in November, and today is (well, over here in Southeast Asia when I got the news) the 1st of July. A senate term is 6 years, so more than 1/12 of the term elapsed while the politicians wrangled, the judges judged, the counters re-counted, and Minnesota sat with a single senator. Am I happy with the result? Yes, I grew increasingly disrespectful of Coleman as the charade wore on. Was I a huge primary fan of Franken? No, and I think the MN Dems could have fielded a stronger candidate in the first place. But at least this morning I wake to the news that the whole danged charade is over. It’s been a blight on American politics and a symptom of the modern era that a simple vote is no longer so simple. Now can we just get on with some actual law-making?

Sights of Singapore

When I was in Singapore previously, I was far west of the main part of town. This trip I am in the centre, if centre-east, and exploring a completely new set of neighborhoods. I love the fact that signs in Singapore are written in 4 languages. I love the fact that the MRT makes getting around town so simple. And I love the fact that this is, aside from the heat and humidity, a really walkable town, with many sights to just stumble upon. This set of photos still mostly relates to things I saw on Sunday, when I had free time, as opposed to yesterday or today, when I had work time occupying most daylight hours.

I spent quite a bit of time Sunday wandering through Chinatown

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At this point I realized that, although only purchased for my last trip here two years ago, my guidebook is sorely out of date. Such is the speed of “progress” and construction in Singapore. I stumbled on a Buddhist temple that simply did not exist in my guidebook:

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The temple was devoted to a relic of Buddha’s tooth. I stayed long enough to find the zodiac statue for my birth year (for sale for S$88!)

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I then spent a happy couple of hours in the Asian Civilisations Museum (their spelling, not mine!) where it was (lucky for me!) the last day of a special exhibition on the Kangxi Emperor.

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We have a family friend who has written a book on Chinese rank badges, and it felt really funny to be looking at such things without his guidance. I’m pretty sure the specimens there in the museum were outstanding, but I really needed some expert commentary. And dang it, they did not have his book in the museum shop, even though they clearly should have. Oh well. Singapore is proving to be great fun, and now I can start to plan my next return trip (this time next year) with a lot more information and local knowledge than I had when I arrived here on Saturday. Two more full days here and then off to the airport for the next leg of my adventure. But hey, really, how can it compare to this: what beats the sight of a gigantic spitting Merlion?

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Singapore arrival

I made it to Singapore last night, and managed to enjoy a cab ride that was much less terrifying than the near-death experience I had the last time I was here. Again I managed to snooze on the plane and I arrived in Singapore confused and tired, but not impossibly groggy. I was rewarded with this view on arrival in my room:


Much more centrally located than the last (and only other) time I was here, so this will prove to be a good trip. After making it to the hotel I had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. Wait, no criticism, I’m in Little India, it was a Tandoori place and quite good! In fact, I was the only “normal” paying customer in the restaurant, the place was heaving with bus tour groups, changing over every 35 minutes, and full of women dressed in Saris and with the dot on the forehead, and with accompanying men wearing what looked to me to be white pajamas. I had previously only had an “authentic” Indian experience at a wedding in Hounslow, and no one was wearing white for that. Not the bride, and certainly not the male guests. Regardless, I’m glad to be staying a bit away from the convention centre, such that I hit upon this interesting piece of town. I also have this directly across the street from me:


It’s a good reminder of the sort “Dorothy, we aren’t in Kansas anymore!”

I toured around quite a bit and saw lots of interesting things today, but I have to work tomorrow so I will hold back on the full run-down until after tomorrow’s lecture, when I can relax a bit. Many photos to come. This is a very cool place, aside from the temperature.

One of THOSE people

I am about to embark on a two week trip to Singapore and several places in Australia, all from my London base. And I realize as I do so that I am one of THOSE people. The business travelers that seem to fly in a world quite distinct from the norm. And I feel somewhat apologetic about the path that led me to this life.

Yes, I am one of THOSE people, the people that get off an airplane and look for a person holding a sign with their name written on it. I can’t imagine how I got here. I was raised to be a Super Shuttle girl, a girl who always spent an extra hour trying to get to her hotel after a long flight. A girl who almost missed her flight “home” to the midwest from SF when the driver was running around the town picking up others before going to the airport. I never took a taxi when a shared van would do. And now I look for a person booked by my car service. It’s somewhat discombobulating to realize how far I’ve come from the traveller of my early days.

Now I’m one of THOSE people. I try as best as I can to take a direct flight to my final destination. Of course, I never took a direct flight in my past life. In the US, the cheapest flights are often those that involved a lay-over in some place like Detroit or Atlanta. I certainly never prioritized a flight directly to the place I was going. I spent lots of time in St. Louis or wherever I had landed, but carried around a certain pride about the low plane fare I had won by booking this itinerary. But years of travel have taught me that the best plan is to fly direct into the closest major port: with a driver’s license, you can make up more time by giving up and driving to a connection a few hours away rather than waiting for the (near-bankrupt) airlines to provide you with a shuttle prop-plane with a potentially missed connection.

Now I’m one of THOSE people. I was always a member of a frequent flier club but it never mattered too much. Now I fly almost exclusively across major oceans. The miles add up faster than I could have dreamed as a young girl living in Minnesota, and thinking that San Francisco was the height of travel exoticism. This is the blessing and the curse that comes with living on an island in the eastern Atlantic. I have not graduated to the true life of luxury, in traveling business-class in any of my flights. But I have been upgraded to business-class twice in the past year, because I spend so much time on the road, I suppose, and because I have also been lucky.

So I prep for my trip in the knowledge that I am one of THOSE people. I have a card that gets me into the “club” lounges of the major airlines even when I am flying economy. I have changed from the days when I was living in America, when I thought that traveling 500 miles for work was a long distance (and perhaps involved a stop-over). I have changed from the person I was when I never had to carry my passport whenever I packed my bags. I am no longer the girl who thinks of travel for work as fun, but merely as a necessity of the job I have.

One never expects to be changed, to become one of THOSE people. I can see how it has happened without fully comprehending the transition. And yet, I prepare for my next trip, safe in the knowledge that I will be gathered by a car service on Friday afternoon, to start my latest adventure in Asia.

I hope, selfishly and as one of THOSE people, that the flights will be comfortable and the trip overall will not be too distracting, such that I will be able to see some sights on my visit. And that, on my return, I will be gathered into the back seat of a car to take me straight home, if only for a short visit before the next trip.

Queues and Kids

I know that some wonderful stores have a single queue, usually snaking back and forth a few times, and then many registers that call the next person forward by register number. WH Smith, Boots, and the bank branch near my flat all seem to follow this very fair system of queueing. (I can’t believe spell checker is not flagging those five vowels in a row, U-E-U-E-I!) However, not all stores have this sort of arrangement, including grocery stores (except the express line) and a few others. So the experience I’m about to relate has to be considered unique to stores with individual check-out lines.

I had my basket of goods and was looking at the three open check-out lanes to try and optimize my store-exit strategy. Lurking behind one of the lines was a woman with a baby in one of those car seat-carriers stuck in a cart and there was also a little girl running around her. It was actually not clear that she was in line, but I still avoided that one and got into another line. Suddenly I hear this voice behind me, “Ma’am, Excuse me but I was already waiting for the next available cashier.” I turned around, I’m guessing that my jaw was dropped in shock and that I gave her one of those “You’ve got to be kidding me!” looks. She said, “Give me a break, I have an infant and a two-year old here.”

I let her go. I was not really in the mood for a fight, but now I’m sorta peeved with myself for allowing this obnoxious woman to redefine the queue structure from individual lanes into she-moves-around-and-gets-whatever-comes-up-next. I might have felt differently had she said, in a polite tone of voice, “I’m sorry but is there any way possible I could take the next lane?” but she did not actually ask me. And her tone of voice was neither sweet nor polite, and it only got worse with the comment about the kids, as though she was somehow entitled to special treatment by virtue of being a mother.

I admit it, I do not have children (nor do I intend to, but that’s a different story). So I don’t know if I’m somehow violating a universally-acknowledged right of motherhood by feeling ornery about this particular altercation. But admittedly I do get a bit stroppy when someone tries to get special treatment. I kinda feel like most of us have difficult lives, and are tired, and overworked, and so I don’t see some sort of totally non-level playing field based on to be or not to be a mother. Of course, my cashier in the queue in which I landed was very speedy and I was actually out of the store before the Holy Mother, so I did not have to look at her again, which was probably a good thing. But I’m interested in opinions here, was this particularly brash or am I being sensitive? Should this type of attitude be justifiable solely on the grounds of being out in public with small children?

Dear so-and-so take 2

My second go at the dear so-and-so format started by Kat at 3bedroombungalow.

Dear dude in a restaurant,

I’m sure you had a very urgent need to top up your mobile phone, or you wouldn’t have been doing it from a table in a restaurant. But did it really not occur to you that those of us sitting near you could hear every detail of your credit card information? And once you did it the first time and it didn’t work, and you switched to a second credit card, did it still not occur to you as you read out another set of credit card details in public? Seriously, do you understand the word “fraud” or know how lucky you are that I am a law-abiding citizen and not using either of your credit card numbers for random purchases right now?

Good luck, dude. Me thinks you’ll need it with that sort of “security” attitude. NFAH

Dear dude in restaurant (again),

Oh yes, I forgot. Aside from the whole credit card thing, why on earth were you sitting there on your phone when you had a totally gorgeous female dining companion? How sad was I to see BOTH of you chatting on your phones instead of to each other. Those of us who frequently dine alone would kill for a companion, and you were just ignoring her. WTF?

Again, good luck. You clearly need it. NFAH

Dear iPhone creator,

You rock my world. I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

Grazie mille, NFAH

Dear me-ten-years-ago,

Wear sunscreen. You’ll thank me for it later. Or you’ll regret it if you don’t.


Dear PETA,

I hope you know how ridiculous you sound, going after President Obama for killing a fly. I have been battling flies in recent years and I salute Mr. President for his fast reflexes and sensible policy on fly viability.

Disgusted, NFAH

Dear Kat,

Thanks for starting such a fun game. I swear I’ll do my best to keep at it for Dear so-and-so Fridays.

Best to the gang at the Bungalow, NFAH

And now I have no flies

I am so very happy with the portable fly-screens that I got last week:


I have now solved a problem that is over two years old by finding appropriately sturdy, removable and effective fly blockers for my flat. With the actual summer weather we have been having here in the UK, this became a necessity, not a desire, as there was something odd about the light in my main/living room that seemed to attract a large group of the annoying, buzzing insects, who liked to fly around the room in circles. Hooray for (rather primitive) technology, as for approximately £50 I got three screens for the old-school sash windows in my living room, and can now enjoy the summer breezes without losing my sanity or needing to continually spray toxic poisons around my living space. Good for expat life? You betcha.

Dear So-and-so

As I have been goading Kat into keeping her “Dear So-and-so” letters a regular feature on her blog, I somehow volunteered to take a stab at it myself.

Dear British Boys,

Seriously, cropped/capri linen trousers? Not a good look on boys. Fine on girls. Sorry, I think it has something to do with the footwear. Stick to shorts.

Yours helpfully, NFAH

Dear Mean Blog Commenter,

Why bother to go to the effort of posting mean comments on a blog, when you know they are unlikely to be approved and ever show up on the post? And seriously, you might want to get some help for the anger problem. It’s a lot of effort wasted to hate someone you don’t know.

Happy trails! NFAH

Dear Clueless people wandering the streets of England,

Has it never occurred to you that if you stop abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk/pavement it just might have consequences for those walking (quickly) behind you? I hope you don’t do that while you’re driving.

Bruised, NFAH

Dear British flies,

You are no longer welcome in my home. I will not wake up to your buzzing again. I have conquered this situation with my new adjustable fly screens.

Peacefully yours, NFAH

Dear people having alcoholic drinks sitting outside in the sunshine on a Friday afternoon,

Seriously, who is your employer? Are you hiring?

Jealous, NFAH

Tubes and drinks

The tube strike caused ‘chaos’ this week around London but appears to have settled down early, I had a visitor from the states today who was right on time for our meeting when I frankly was not expecting him to be, given the alarmist news from yesterday. Regardless, Mentalfloss has a great summary of the strike alluding to the “Keep Calm and Carry On” theme of Britain, while at the same time linking to a brilliant “tube strike drinking game.” Apparently the best cure for a transport strike is

“work from home”, crack open the drinks, and play a little drinking game.

I had no idea that’s what the Brits meant by “work from home,” they must think me quite the lush!

My new bathroom floor

Last week, when I was in the midst of work chaos and busy-ness, the naff green carpet in my bathroom magically disappeared, to be replaced with a gorgeous, neutral solid floor. Before and after:



Now if only I could do something about the hot pink carpet in my living room….