Wednesday, September 30

Antz ... Or how I turn into a killer

It all started when one small black ant made its way from the desk adjoining mine to my desk. It treaded lightly and was super shy, not wanting to disturb the world-changing research activity going on. I paused momentarily from the world-changing research activity and pondered my options. I was feeling super budhist that day, so I meditated on how actually it was us humans that were invading their habitat and not the other way around, and i picked up the piece of paper on which the small black ant was making its way and blowed gingerly towards the floor. After a successful landing, the ant continued on its merry way and I returned to the world-changing research activity. The process repeated itself for a couple of days, until more and more ants made their way to my desk, and I did my best to remove them without harm.

A weekend passed and I found them roaming on my desk like it was Ant HIghway 63. The first murder troubled me deeply but they were starting to get on my nerves. I squashed one that was moving on my hand and from then on I had no trouble squashing others. And swearing at them. And threatening them.

Today however when I came to work I found some outside the door (10 m from my desk). More importantly, they were in, behind, and underneath the boiler I use to boil water for my coffee. I can take anything except somebody MESSING WITH MAH COFFEE!!! A massacre ensured, and I did not clean the cadavers surrounding the boiler to send out a message to other brave souls. I also put "ant traps" on my things to do today list, which guarantees that the act of buying ant traps will be completed at most in 7 working days.

Tuesday, September 29

Like a princess

On Sunday I went to my friend's house to eat indian food, light candles, make wishes and eat indian food (wait, did i just say that?) and celebrate the battle of good over evil, light over dark, me over D (over poker) and eat indian food. More importantly, dear interwebs, on Sunday it was the first time in my life I ever wore a sari. It made me feel beautiful. It made me feel flowing. It made me feel like I could wear it Monday for my tutorials and not blink an eye (i guess THAT will wake my students up). I so want to get one. I so don't know how to wear it, but still, I so want one!

Saturday, September 26


A couple of nights ago was the first time I dreamed that I was smoking. I quit smoking about 4 years ago, on the 31 of December 2005, the day we left romania to come to singapore. I quit for two reasons: a) I wanted to pursue mountaineering and trekking and I knew that in order to do this properly I had to quit; and b) it was a much too expensive habit to sustain here. I did not use any special methods, I just quit cold turkey. And started running. And dieting (to prevent weight gain). Quitting smoking was the best thing I ever did for myself, surpassing trimming my eyebrows, drinking less alcohol (to almost none), rarely eating pork, and moving away from home. This is because it opened up a whole new set of things that I could do, like climbing, trekking, running, and sports in general, as well as the ability to be in control of my body again.

In the dream I was sitting at a table with an unknown couple. They were smoking and there was a pack of cigarettes on the table as well as an ashtray. I took one cigarette and lit up and almost drained the thing from two or three drags. I felt the tightness in my lungs and the smoke in my mouth like it was for real. In the morning i woke up with the bitter taste of nicotine in my mouth and a feeling of sore throat and tight lungs. I woke up because in the dream I was thrashing myself for smoking, something along the lines of "there you go, all this work for nothing, you go ahead and waste it in two seconds flat!!!". I was feeling super ashamed in the dream, and this feeling prolonged in the waking state. I have never felt more ashamed and more of a loser as in those few minutes after waking up. I felt a bit better once i realized that it was all a dream and I had not smoked the cigarette for real, but I still feel shook and utterly ashamed even days after that. I realize that the dream is maybe a consequence of the stressful current times, and i do feel better once I have finally managed to tell somebody write about it, but it was still a shaky experience.

It just goes to show that cigarettes, as with all bad things in life, leave a mental addiction that is much much powerful and ingrained than the physical one.

Thursday, September 24

In the dark

If you want to see how a vampire screeches when touched with garlic-infused holy water, you can turn on the lights while I trod around the house either late at night or very early in the morning. Ever since I was little and my mom had to drag me to kindergarten at 5am in the morning (literally drag, it was about a thirty min walk) I have developed this knack at getting some sort of ZZZ while still doing things with my eyes closed.

Fast forward twenty-three years later (OMFG?!?!?!? TWENTY-THREE?!) and I still have it in me. Like for example I can dress in pitch dark without opening my eyes when I have to leave the house at 550 am for some yoga classes. This of course leads to some accidents that get me heavy stares in the well-lit MRT only because my blouse is put on inside out. Or when a window reflection tells me that because i put on my hair clips in the dark I have a big strand of hair just hanging loosely when it should be tight.

In the past few days I had to be stuck in the lab at 10 pm because I had to call the US to make a hotel reservation (no, I couldn't do it online). The first night (tuesday) I stayed late only to realize that my calling card had no more cash on it so I had to stay yesterday evening in the lab as well. Now yesterday I also climbed during lunch with the team and unfortunately I wore shorts. I say unfortunately because the dust in the gym and my skin are very very good friends. I do not know how it happens but it is always me that the dust sticks to more- tried and tested, Sandra is nowhere near as dirty as I am when we finish climbing. I sometimes even have black rubbery smears on my face (my face!) as if I crimped with my teeth or something.

So last night I reached home at around 10:30 plus plus, which is way past my bedtime these days, and to protect the sleepy mojo I took a shower in the dark. Brushed my teeth and then jumped in bed for some well deserved ZZZ (still recovering from monday). Woe and behold what do my eyes see when I glance furtively towards my feet this morning? A big patch of blackish rubber+dust smear all over my left calf. I did not have time to shower again and thus I neatly covered it with a pair of jeans and scrubbed it out when I reached school. Definitely a habit i need to improve on.

Tuesday, September 22

Running in the rain

The time for procrastination and self love has ended. The marathon is looming, the new zealand trip is, urm, close? (in december) and gone are the days where a simple rain would stop me. Last night I ran 11 km to yoga. I did two hours of yoga (the second only because my friend asked, granted - she had also eaten some slices of pizza which needed wiping from the "guilt slate" - who am I to resist such a mission?) and then I ran back to school. To ensure that I would not quit or give in to any excuses, I also told said friend that I would run back, and furthermore asked her to meet me for dinner. The first running stint was quite nice, even though a bit hot (I ran at 3pm). I especially liked the fact that there was nobody on the streets (it being holiday and all), and I barely saw (or inhaled) any cars until I reached Alexandra road.

Going back, I ran at a slower pace than coming in but I am very proud of myself because, although I was tired like a dog, I did not quit!! A wet dog at that, because it started raining when I reached Queenstown MRT and continued to rain until I reached NUS. Mind you, it was not one of those typical singaporean storms where if you are not paying attention you DROWN, but still I had to keep wiping my face or else i would not be able to see in front.

The toughest part was coming into Buona Vista where the promise of the 95 bus (albeit a cold, air conditioned one) to take me straight to NUS was very very tempting. Nonetheless, because I had told my friend that I will run to NUS, I resisted and continued to slug my led-like legs (hm, a new word! LEDLEGS!) towards the ultimate target. Reached the lab, changed into some clean(er) clothes and by 830pm was having dinner.

What is important about this saga is a) I am still super tired today - i look like I have parteeed the whole long weekend and, more importantly b) rain is no longer an reason not to run - it has become an excuse :)

Monday, September 21

Because in life,

let's be honest, you can't really have a nice warm/hot shower without receiving a very cold one afterwards (and vice-versa), here are some quotes.

This first one sent me cringing and nearly (NEARLY!) crying:

"... and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name. I've thought maybe after the war ..."

But I was giggling ten pages later (I am reading "Breakfast at Tiffany's on my iPhone and the pages are small):
"She stooped toward O.J. Berman, who, like many short men in the presence of tall women, had an aspiring mist in his eye. "I'm Mag W-w-wildwood, from Wild-w-w-wood, Arkansas. That's hill country."

It seemed a dance, Berman performing some fancy footwork to prevent his rivals cutting in. He lost her to a quadrille of partners who gobbled up her stammered jokes like popcorn tossed to pigeons."

Sunday, September 20

All by myself

You can tell that I am all alone (literally, i haven't had a confirmed sighting of our flatmate in about 2 weeks) by the fact that it's Sunday, 11 am and I am in school. Also by the fact that I woke up at 07:30 am, cleaned the room out of sheer boredom. And the bathroom too!

And by the fact that I cooked myself the most awesome, guilt free, girly lunch by 09:30am: steamed brown rice with asian style green beans (green beans, half orange bell pepper, 1 medium size onion, 1 garlic clove,1 thumb size ginger, soy sauce, chili powder) mmm!

And by the fact that it's Sunday, 11:41 am (wait! I just said that!) and I haven't said a word to anyone today.


Friday, September 18

I am turning into Marian!!!

I swear there's something about those things. After Marian got his iPhone 3GS as a birthday, xmas, anniversary, any other -ary you can think of, and so on gift from me (more or less), I got to purchase his old 1st gen iPhone for only 200 sgd (i drive a hard bargain what can i say). The first days i ignored it pretty much because we went trekking and i left it at home. But now after I came back!

Oh now it's totally a different matter. I find myself texting unusually wordy messages. Checking to see if anything is up. Taking the phone with me! (This is a real improvement) wherever i go - except for restroom, I still haven't reached that stage. Thinking about what cool apps I can put on it. Thinking about implementing my game! Coming to school to retrieve it after running to Raffles Place again*. Omg omg! pretty soon i'll grow bald and start fingering the iphone on mountain summits instead of taking in the view. The end is near, I tell ya!

*Granted this was because my students have a deadline today and I'm afraid they will call me and as such I can't afford to leave the phone in school.

Wednesday, September 16

Gunung Ledang - Mt. Ophir

Yes! We went to Gunung Ledang and despite everything, we managed to get to the top as well! As in all "expedition" stories where a lot of people say they are coming, in the end for various reasons it was just the two of us, Marian and I that is. Oh well, you could say the three of us because I swear he fondles his new iPhone 3Gs more than ... erm, he listens to me!
This trip had two purposes, other than just going in the hills, yay!!: a) to test our new boots, and b) to introduce urban friends to the art (and it is an art, people!) of camping. Point b) having failed as mentioned, we were down to point a) only. And test our boots we did. And our patience. Before we go on I want to say that Marian was in charge of planning this trip - how we get there, where we camp, when we trek, etc.

Day 1
We left home at around 6:30 am and finally left JB at around 9:30 am. We took the bus to Segamat from Larkin, and amazingly, it started almost on time. The bus ride took about 3 hours during which time I finished "The Kite Runner" which I had just started. I get a lot of negative points for this because a) I had tears flowing down my cheeks and booger marks on my pants (figure it out how it got there) for the entire bus ride, and b) I didn't have anything else to read for the entire trip (except food wrapping, but i've read that on previous trips so there are no surprises there, baby!)

From Segamat we took another bus towards Muar and ask the driver to drop as at Gunung Ledang. Marian volunteers that we should be there soon because there are about 5-6 km. After 40 minutes or so he takes out the map for the first time since he had started to plan. I gasp "what do you mean there's a 3 km dirt road from where the bus leaves us?!" at which point Marian quickly hides the map away. Ah well, to make a very long story short, the bus driver left us at the entrance to Gunung Ledang Resort (Pintu A - or gate A) which was about 1 km asphalt from the main road. After we got to the resort, we found out that we were supposed to be at the other entrance, Pintu B, which involved either a) a strong right turn through the palm tree forest (it had No trespassing! signs with one stick figure shooting another) or b) going back to the main road, walking for 2 km on it, reaching Pintu B and then going for 3 km on the dirt road. We toyed with option a) for a while including a stop in the palm tree forest to have a good refreshing fight, and then decided to try our boots on asphalt.

I know this is a picture of my back, but can you see that I am fuming? I calmed down in the end because last time when I did the planning I DID lead us to an uncrossable river.

And below is the palm tree forest.

We finally got to the Lagenda trail entrance at around 4pm. To make a long story short, the rangers told us that camping is STRICTLY prohibited at CP4 where we planned to camp. Instead, we camped at the foot of the mountain, near a creek.

We settled all our debts: 140 RM for the guide omg omg, 70 RM for the car that would take us back to Segamat (for this money i would have walked the 5-6 km except that in reality they were FORTY km), 20 RM per head for camping, 40 RM deposit for the trash etc etc. All in all the fabulous sum of 304 RM. We only had 300 RM so Marian gave the guide 2 SGD. By 5 pm the tent was up and i brewed us each some cup noodles.

By 6:30 pm dinner was ready - mashed potatoes with salad - so we stuffed our faces and retired for the night.

Marian stayed outside to read while i killed time in the tent.

Guess who's the tidiest walker ...

Day 2
This story is actually not very long... We woke up at 06:30 am to pack up camp. Declared everything we were taking on the mountain (including underwear) at the ranger's office, got a little briefing from one of the rangers - he said the trek took 6 hours to go up and 4 hours to come down - but that generally smaller groups made it faster, and then we were off.
We managed to reach the summit and be down in 5:40 hours to the dismay of our guide who was coming down with a cold - he had to stop from time to time to cough his lungs out. The trek was ok, with some steeper portions but very tamed with ladders and ropes.

Reached a cave (Goat cave i think) which is again very tamed with plenty of ladders and ropes.

Then a sequence of rock faces the last of which was the most serious.

The last rock face has maybe five meters of vertical wall and then about 6 more of a slab.
Very nice views and at the top you reach a bonsai forest.

Next up was Botak Hill (Bald hill - i know because there's a food chain here called Botak Jones) which, you got it, was totally bald.

Some more boulders, some more rocks and we were on the summit. No exciting views because everything was super fogged.

Marian as I said, was busy with his new iPhone.

And down we went. I spotted a lot of plants and insects and animals this time!

Nepenthes rafflesiana - giant raffles pitcher plant:


Unknown phallic flower Ginger flower (thanks doris!):


Unknown bug

Malyasian horned frog:

On our very fast descent we met some singaporeans that were descending also. We had not met them on the way up and one girl did say that they had camped but I did not ask how come (too shy). The rangers again stated after we asked that you cannot camp, so i don't know the story of this. Ah well ... at least the mountain is super clean! Chop chop again and we were back in Singapore by 7pm eating at Botak Jones of course!

The rest of the pictures, as usual, are here.

Monday, September 14

It's simple

BIG bags can be cumbersome because you put stuff in it and you forget they are there. Or you put a lot of stuff in it and when you accidentally (well not really and accident, just a sign that you are, well ... you) put half a liter water bottle WITH NO CAP in it, all that stuff that you had gets soaked. All of it. Including your tights. And your sports bra. And your singlet. Basically, your entire running attire. Yup.

And then later, in the canteen, when you tentatively put your hand inside your bag to see what else might be soaked - you are very panicky by now because you remember that MAYBE you have your ipod in there - you touch some mushy, gooey, textury thing. Using your index finger and your thumb you slowly pull it out of your big bag, and what is it?!?! A rotten papaya slice of course! Probably there since last week by the looks of it. And because there is no trash can in sight (and you want to photoblog it as well), you keep on standing in line for your food, while holding the rotten papaya.


Friday, September 11

Ok, my right buttocks hurts

Yesterday, Marian and I ran 8 km to vivo city. It was a slow run because my ankle hurt in the beginning and totally ruined my rhythm (note to self: warm up before running). We shopped in giant for the upcoming trip to mount Ophir this weekend, and then lucky Marian went home with all our purchases - we bought 10 (TEN) snickers bars because hopefully we are going to be a big group - and I continued to a very nice and very long yoga class. One hour and thirty minutes of ashtanga to be exact. The first half an hour of which you basically do a series like: push up, come up, jump front, look up, look down, jump back, push-up, repeat. It does feel like you are some poor solider in some deranged platoon directed by this maniac who is definitely out to get you. YES, YOU! The inflexible, cannot twist my right ankle, wearing a ghastly orange and black running singlet and dark blue running shorts (thank god the lights are dimmer). You are not in a platoon in the jungle, simply because it's indoors, and you do chant three "Om" before you start which I guess is supposed to quiet your mind before the onslaught. Other than that, you do sweat like a pig and your mat is booby trapped because of that sweat - one insecure jump and you fly Claudia, fly!

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the class very much! Except that I was home at 11:10 pm. And because this pain in my right buttocks (I think it's the right hip though, because I can't massage it away), I slept at 3am - i like to sleep on my back or on my right side, ha! Thus today I am a bit of a grumps, but am looking forward to the soup Sandra is bringing tonite! I have so far been initiated in:
- pork ribs lotus soup - loved the lotus! but otherwise too porky for me :)

- ginseng herbal chicken soup - this one was gone in 30 seconds!

PS. yes, the picture has nothing to do with the post. We just got caught in the rain this morning and this is what I wore for protection.

Wednesday, September 9

A geeky way to waste the day

Title in verse too!

Being relatively brain washed after a mediocre submission on Monday, I slacked the whole day yesterday and prepared our schedule for the New Zealand trip (more coming soon). Today I decided to be (a bit) more constructive so I wrote a crappy abstract that my supervisor trashed in 2 seconds flat and! spent about three hours coding a simulation to see how my 1 HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES waiting time to register for RUN NUS could have been improved. Possible candidates were:

  • A single queue with two laptops

  • Each laptop with its individual queue

  • Manual - since what the people servicing the laptops were doing was to write your number down (signifying that you are there) and then quickly assign you a wave number - no algorithm for that, they could have just walked among us with a clipboard and do that

The first approach got an average waiting time of 6.21 min with a maximum waiting time of 97.38 minutes.

The second approach got an average waiting time of 7 minutes and a maximum waiting time of 109.09 mins (provided people queued at the shortest queue - which i didn't).

Conclusions: a) the manual approach would have been better.

b) After wasting another day on this, I know I will not run RUN NUS next year.

c) There are better ways to slack than this pseudo-science. Pfft.

Saturday, September 5


I would just for once like to go in that climbing gym and finish ONE hard route. Is that too much to ask? I mean, seriously. ONCE. PUHLEASE. Anybody?!?! I haven't finished any route (other than the easy warmups) in about 1 month or so. And I am growing old so chances of improvement are slim. My honest evaluation is that "It's all downhill from here baby!" [climbwise i mean] On the other hand, it's a bit difficult to go downhill from Z.E.R.O.

Signs of irreversible aging are all over the place and my problem is where to look first. Let's make a list (we're good at that):

  • Dementia - clear evidence of that from the fact that I am starting to speak in the first person plural when referring to myself - e.g. "Let's make a list (we're good at that")

  • I sprained my ankle in February and it still hasn't healed. I haven't helped it by running and sort of training for 1 marathon and 1 half marathon -> again a clear evidence for the above point

  • After a somewhat serious climbing session like last night's one, I have to ice my fingers. If I forget (which I did - again, look at the first point), my fingers will be stiff the next day.

  • My elbow injury is acting up again. This is because after a somewhat slacking summer I jumped straight into doing a lot of pull-ups, locks, campusing, etc. The first rule in Geezerhood is not to jump into strenuous activities without proper warm-up.

  • After not being able to finish any route, the resulting frustration makes me think in a looi-esque manner, "ah, forget it, let's go eat!" - It doesn't help that Adrian actually says that either. Previously, I would just grind my teeth and try and try again. Granted, the difficulty of the routes makes it such that you can't really try and try and try without resting, but the attitude, it is gone. Or maybe the routes are too hard. Or maybe not.

  • Kamikaze attitude - I still feel young inside but physically, it's not that obvious that I will be young forever like it used to be. Enough said.

Friday, September 4

His and hers

Marian's: (on sale, 220 SGD)

Mine: (on sale, 125 SGD - Woo hoo!!!!)

New Zealand tickets - Bought!
Trekking boots - Bought!
Fitness - cannot buy unfortunately :((

Thursday, September 3

Tough love

Strike 1: Last night, before training. Somebody approaches from behind and slams a super slap, the mother of all slaps, on my neck. Was wearing a singlet and thus I had no protection. I had instant tears in my eyes. Doris yells from behind, just as I was thinking that only Doris would miss such a shot: "IT'S NOT ME!!" I turn around slowly still trying to contain my tears. It's Sandra. Apparently not only Doris can miss such a shot :)) Sandra, beware!

Strike 2: Last night, during training. Doris throws a climbing shoe at me (sorry, I can't remember why) which hits me right smack in the middle of my left boob. Amazingly though, for such a small target. Memories when i was last hit in that area (when I was 8, maybe?!) start coming back to me.

Strike 3: Well, thank god there wasn't a third strike, because I was close to snapping point by then. I know on the outside it sounds like I'm being abused, but I seriously think that this is the way they express their love. It's either that or i've been too soft lately, which only means that's it's time for an attitude change. The next one to angry me will end up in the bushes in front of the gym. ROAR!