ad astra per alia porci


[nice dream]
May 31, 2008, 4:20 pm
Filed under: diary

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Ok it was not exactly a nice dream, but rather an extremely weird one, one of the weirdest I had in a while. It reeks of some trash that appeared in a B-grade sci-fi horror film, but I will write about it nevertheless.

The entire dream was set in the context of a doomsday situation, with constant dark clouds and sunlight that was a sickly yellow in colour. Doomsday was coming and humans were facing the prospect of annihilation. By who? I do not know.

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western dinner
May 30, 2008, 5:07 pm
Filed under: diary, training and nutrition

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I made my first full dinner course today. Caesar salad, fettucine carbonara and roast chicken with olive oil and paprika. Making the pasta was tiring and time-consuming, and the end product was too thickly cut, but the sauce turned out alright. The chicken was tender too, although I should have marinated it more. I need to note these.

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training 290508
May 29, 2008, 2:50 pm
Filed under: diary, training and nutrition

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I had to modify the regime to cater for my sore Achilles tendon. I probably got the injury because of running and swimming on the same day for consecutive days last week and the soccer match last Saturday aggravated it. The 8km run on Tuesday totally destroyed it. Hence I need to recover now, but this does not mean that training is completely cancelled.

Training is modified. Jumping jacks are out, and replaced with arm exercises and crunches. There is no warm-up run.

On a more positive note, the first set of 25 pull-ups seem a lot easier compared to the first time I tried 300. But my performance at the end was not as good as the previous session. Floor wipers remain the bottleneck exercise. Give and take, give and take.

Pull-ups x 25

Crunches x 50

Box jumps x 50

Dips x 50

Floor wipers x 50

Squats x 50

Pullups x 25

Crunches x 50

Pushups x 50

Leg raises x 50

Wide pushups x 50

Side crunches x 50

Diamond pushups x 50

I am confident that recovery will be fast. Swimming in the morning tomorrow, before shopping for groceries for dinner.



Indi memories
May 29, 2008, 2:41 pm
Filed under: diary | Tags: ,

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Watching the latest installment of Indiana Jones reminded me that my childhood dream was to be an archaeologist. Or to be more specific, an Egyptologist. I was fascinated by ancient civilisations when I was younger and I still am, only less so. All the intricacies of alternative histories and theories regarding the origins of civilisations and lost civilisations like the Mayans and Aztecs combined with the illusory allure of a life of adventure and immersion in other cultures had quite an effect on my young mind.

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E’s Tom Yam Soup
May 28, 2008, 1:31 am
Filed under: food

As promised, the recipe for Tom Yam Soup. Note that there are probably 1 million ways to prepare this dish, and my search for recipes on the web unearthed gazillions different recipes. There are some essential ingredients missing like galangal; this can’t be obtained in an average Fairprice supermarket. The soup turned out fine without them though.

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270508 training
May 26, 2008, 4:19 pm
Filed under: diary, training and nutrition

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300 workout again. Or rather, 600 workout. Swapped exercises around for more challenge and to increase adaptability. Improvement in chinups is remarkable; I do sets of 5 now at the second set of chinups. Might have been the weights training about three days before. I feel stronger and better. However, floorwipers remain a challenge and a bottleneck.

1.2km run for warmup

Pullups x 25

Floorwipers x 50

Box jumps x 50

Squats x 50

Crunches x 50

Dips x 50

Pullups x 25 (5 of which are super pullups i.e. burpees plus chinups)

Jumping jacks x 50 (4 counts each)

Normal pushups x 50

Crunches x 50

Wide pushups x 50

Crunches x 50

Bicep curls with log x 50

I think recovery should be very fast this time. Time to increase intensity?



thinking too much
May 26, 2008, 1:14 pm
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“People like us will never be killed by anything. We can survive anything. But not ourselves. The only people who can kill us are ourselves; we will kill ourselves thinking too much. It is tragic, you know.”

D said that when S, D and I had lunch at Thomson Road. Our conversation revolved around finding purpose in our lives and the dynamics of relationships, before it turned to how people from our former secondary school class (we are former classmates) are similar in the sense that our intense need to ponder and think predisposes us to melancholy, unhappiness and a general inability to connect with others except for those within our class and people who are largely similar in this respect.

D talked about how his friends from Medicine never talked about issues as deeply and intellectually as we do when we converse. I pointed out that the people in his faculty are probably some of the smartest people around. He pointed out that they are not intellectual per se; they had textbook smarts but not lively intelligence.

I can see where D is coming from, and I tend to agree with him, judging from my experiences. The people that I know and talk to are generally disinterested in talking deeply about heavier issues. Most conversations were mostly social banter, revolving around the mundane and unimportant. Personally I seek a deeper connection with the friends I have outside of my secondary school friends, but it is hard to bring up serious conversational topics in a social setting like a school day lunch with 19 year old girls. And I might just scare people off too.

D was quite surprised when I told him that I find the same problem in law school too. D had the impression that law students are the ones that are deeper and genuinely smart, with strong views and propensities to engage the hard questions. I told him that from my experience this is not so. I was quick to state that my experience might be wrong, given my small circle of friends and general unsociability. My general experience is that law people tend to be too caught up with the mundane, like appearances, dressing up, money, false courtesy, pointless cheerfulness and having fair-weather friends.

What I see is rigidity as opposed to fluidity. A preoccupation with the surface as opposed to the deep implications and significance of external circumstances. An unhealthy preoccupation with practicality as opposed to intellectual honesty and a desire to understand something for the sake of it and not the dollars in the wallet at the end of the day. It has always been my belief and desire to study for the sake of knowing more and understanding better the entire corpus of human knowledge, but the way I view some students do it at my school, it breaks my heart at times. And this translates to the kind of conversations and connections that I get.

S chipped in and said that he had much reservations about being “mainstream”. He found being sociable equivalent to bringing himself down and diluting his individuality, because it involve being like others and imbibing their values and their customs and ways. He never saw himself as an “ordinary” person in that he, like us, is never able to fit properly and click well with others.

Is this elitism at work? Is this about being self-indulgent and harbouring delusions of grandeur about our uniqueness? The so-called GEP, holier than thou attitude? I don’t feel that way; rather I see it as an acknowledgment of our common difference from others. I doubt that this difference is a good one to have, and hence all notions of elitism is blown out of the water.

Why is it bad? Well, for one, we feel isolated. We just don’t click well with others. This is different from being socially adept. We can still communicate properly and interact and work with others, but this is where it ends. There always remain a invisible and impenetrable barrier between ourselves and others. We can’t reach the level of intimacy we want with others, other than amongst ourselves.

And much of happiness in life is achieved through intimate relationships and genuine attachment. The sense of isolation is pretty much unbearable at time, for me at least, and it is usually the source of a degree of anxiety, desperation and disappointment. Our minds are hermetically sealed minds. We are doomed to be alone.

I asked S how he can square this need to be true to one’s differences with his desire to work in public relations and marketing, where contacts and sociability are everything. S didn’t pretend to know. He found that much of socialising is pretty empty and to force himself to make friends and act friendly would be exactly that: a forced action. Artificial, fake, contrived. Not being sincere to one’ own inclinations. This is almost Holden Caulfield-ish. Phony.

This is when D quipped that while people like us will never find ourselves destroyed by external circumstances, we will probably destroy ourselves because of our propensity to think and ponder the validity of our actions and our lives. We are our own worst enemies, to use the hackneyed and cliched phrase.

I think this is true. Introverts like us tend to find motivation from within, without much care for public opinion (which inadvertently affects our sociability and the perception others have of us). More “normal” people find motivation from external circumstances. Hence external difficulties, especially social barriers, seldom faze us; we can press on through much difficulties and yet maintain our headstrong demeanour and composure.

However I think D, S and I are introverts with a twist: we think and ponder a lot about every step we take in life. We think about a particular line of speech we took with particular friend, we think about whether a relationship with a girl is appropriate and what exactly we want from it. We ponder the implications of every action we take. We search for meaning as oppose to cursory glances at the surface.

Therein lies our Achilles heels. Thinking too much. It is not merely analysis paralysis, it runs deeper than that. Melancholia, a sense of dissatisfaction with life and relationships and maybe even cynicism follow. We have wills as hard as steel and we probably will never be fazed by much things in life, but we are in conflict with ourselves.

Maybe that explains my tendency to flit towards suicidal thoughts. I enjoy doing things that bring me to the edge. The will to death at work? I also hope to sacrifice myself for a greater purpose, a concrete but inhuman goal. Instead of devoting myself to the benefit of other humans, I prefer to pursue intangible, abstract goals. This probably stems from my periodic misanthropic thinking and my general lack of faith in others, which are consequences of my inability to connect well with others.

Sad? I seriously do not know. But what I know is that I am like that and nothing can change what I am. What I need to do now is to cope and deal with it as best as I can.



purchase progress and cooking success
May 24, 2008, 2:35 pm
Filed under: diary

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This week has been a good week both on the shopping and culinary front.

I bought a total of three jeans from the GSS. Two are from GAP at 40% off, one in dark blue with distress and one plain dark blue neat jeans. One pair (the CATCH) is from FCUK, a light blue jean without distress that sold at 70% off for 41 dollars only. The only problem is that it is bootcut (a trip to the tailor is in order). Otherwise it is light and extremely comfortable, and looks great on me!

On the sweater front I bought 2 more sweaters on top of my RL black sweater from GAP. One in dark blue and another in brown. Worthy investments at 30% off.

I could only find one pair of berms that fitted be at GAP and it sold for 30% off. Khaki, cargo berms. On top of that I also bought two polos from GAP.

On the culinary front, my Tom Yam soup was a success! Could have been more sour but it was a hearty meal. Lots of ingredients and very satisfying. It is a plus that it doesn’t take much preparation and cooking time. I will post the recipe soon.



food ambitions
May 22, 2008, 1:21 pm
Filed under: diary

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I am going to learn how to cook better this holidays. And I hope by writing it here for all to see, I will be motivated to do so.

Syllabus:

1) A pasta dish, with sauce that is not canned but made

2) Roasted chicken

3) Steamed fish, chinese-style (preferably Teochew)

4) Tom Yam Soup

5) A Chinese veggy dish

Yes. I shall persevere.



fate
May 22, 2008, 3:53 am
Filed under: diary | Tags: , , ,

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If there is any reason to believe in predetermination and fate, this is it. The Champions League Final of 07/08. Destiny called for the winners and fate denied the false pretenders. Chelsea struck the post twice and went forward on penalties only to lose their lead and subsequently the cup. Chelsea’s captain aptly missed the crucial penalty, while the record-breaking veteran and legend Giggs scored the winning penalty. It was 50 years after the Munich disaster, 40 years after the first European Cup win by United, and the Man United team of this season played scintillating football with Ronaldo at the helm fetching a whooping 41 goals. This had to be the year, and it did indeed became the year for us. The question that remains now is whether Giggs, Scholes and Fergie will retire on a high.



favourite sad songs
May 20, 2008, 2:23 pm
Filed under: diary, soundtrack, the arts | Tags: , , ,

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I have a preoccupation with sad songs, especially songs about love and how things never turn out well. Songs about unrequited love, spurned love, impossible love and the likes. Hence in Hornby-esque style, I will list some sad songs that occupy a special place in my heart and have a special meaning to me.

In no particular order of merit (I just can’t choose between them!):

Jimmy Eat World – Last Christmas

I never fail to listen to this song whenever it is Christmas season. I am not Christian and I don’t attend Christmas parties, and hence most Christmas nights (actually all i think) are spent at home alone. I will play this song and think about opportunities lost.

Neil Young – Heart of Gold

There are varying interpretations of this song. Some suggest that it is about the struggle to find expression for one’s desire to do good, while others say that it is about love and how it is hard to find love. The second interpretation resonates more with me.

Nothing beats watching Neil Young performing this song alone live, without a backing band. The earnestness, sense of solitude and emotional intensity is all there, like a open wound with all its vulnerability.

Everclear – Wonderful

This song followed me all the way from secondary school till now. It has danced its way in and out of my CD and MP3 players so many times it is now a permanent fixture in my MP3 player now.

I listen to this song whenever things go wrong at home (especially when my parents fight). The song doesn’t help matters but at least I feel that I have a kindred spirit in Art Alexakis.

What this song stands for is the gradual realisation as we grow older that the past, like scars, cannot be erased. We cannot close our eyes and hope everything will be wonderful again, because it just won’t happen, as much as we like it to happen.

Nirvana – You Know You’re Right

Ok this is not a song about love, but it remains a sad song nevertheless. This song, to me, is the best Nirvana song ever written. The sheer anguish when Cobain screams the single word “pain” into the mic is astounding. And like a knife, it tears and rips through one’s psyche and soul, and I suspect, stands as an omen that Cobain would than take his own life.

Massive Attack – Teardrop

I just love that single line that Elizabeth Frasier drops: love, love is a verb/ love is a doing word. Doesn’t that succinctly sum up the situation that anyone who pines after another? If you love someone, you have to let it show. Otherwise you will never get it.

Fleetwood Mac – Dreams

Stevie Nicks was fantastic in this song. And the song is so meaningful. One of the songs that I will play to myself late in the night, while I think of the past.

Johnny Cash – Hurt

This song is unique because it is one of the few songs that I will think twice before playing it. Such is the power of this song. It depresses me utterly.

Cash conjured up an ocean of emotions with just a simple guitar and voice. This is a song recorded just before he passed away, and he was well aware of his impending passing when he wrote this song’s lyrics: and you could have it all/ my empire of dirt/ I will let you down/ I will make you hurt. The video is even more arresting; we see a Johnny Cash stripped of all makeup and hair, at the brink of death. However lest we lapse into total negativity, this is at once a song about rebirth and life as it is about death: if I could start again/ a million miles away/ I would keep myself/ I would find a way.



200508 training
May 20, 2008, 12:16 pm
Filed under: diary, training and nutrition

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I ran through the same gauntlet as before (see previous post on training). The heart is beating less, and towards the end of the chinup regime I was pushing about 2 chinups in between rests. This is an improvement from 1 in the previous session. Box jumps and squats are easy; floorwipers are an entirely new sensation. I need to do more floorwipers. However my performance at the last 300 reps was not as good as before; pushups were more laboured than previously and I took longer and performed smaller sets to hit the same number. This must change. I hope to improve upon my recovery period, but this, only time can tell.



wardrobe updates
May 19, 2008, 3:41 am
Filed under: diary, fashion and grooming

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With the Great Singapore Sale and my impending foray into Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam coming up, I have decided to take the opportunity to revamp and change aspects of my limited wardrobe. I need to spend more on less in order to obtain quality clothing that are versatile and which I will wear all the time instead of letting them languish in my closet.

Here’s a list:

1) A fragrance – clean and fresh-smelling (I need a complement to the musky DKNY I already have)

2) 2 pairs of clean jeans – no distress and acid washes, for wearing with shirts and sweaters, preferably indigo or a deep shade of blue and the other in light blue.

3) A few shirts – most importantly, a white casual shirt at least.

4) A few pairs of sneakers – I need one all-white (Purcell?), one in dark blue, one in brown. And I would love to get my hands on a pair of Adidas Sambas.

5) One pair of brown leather loafers

5) Two leather belts – one in brown and the other in black, no fancy belt buckles

6) Two V-neck sweaters – one brown and one blue. I saw a nice brown one at GAP.

7) Plain tees (lots) – all must fit well, at least one in white and one in black.

8) Polos – yes. lots. and I swear never to again buy polos that are too long for me. Lacoste, PRL.

9) Bermudas – good-fitting ones – khaki, brown

Yes. My bank account is calling for help.



Control
May 16, 2008, 12:21 pm
Filed under: the arts | Tags: , , , ,

Control

Director: Anton Corbijn

“I’ve never meant for it to grow like this. I have no control anymore.”

Ian Curtis was only 23 when he took his own life. That is just one year older than me. Having listened to Joy Division before this movie was made and released, I always wondered what drove rock stars like Ian Curtis and his more prominent counterpart Kurt Cobain to kill themselves just when their popularity and achievement peaked. This movie shed some light on this enigma.

Control is above average aesthetically speaking. Filming the movie in monochrome enhanced the sense of brooding and simmering depression and tension below Curtis’s veneer and complements the overall moody tone of the movie. Curtis was well-played by an excellent Sam Riley, whose performance during the acted concert performances scattered throughout the movie was polished and felt like the real deal. The lack of public crowds whenever public settings like the streets are portrayed in the film accentuates the loneliness and emotional claustrophobia that Curtis endured.

What moved me most was the overall treatment of the subject and my interpretation of it. While Corbijn is a fan and this translated to probably a overly sympathetic portrayal of the tragic frontman, I remain more ambivalent about whether Curtis is truly a tragic figure. He was at the height of this career, and he had a loving wife, but he chose to engage in an illicit relationship with another woman. But on the other hand, his struggle with epilepsy and the outpouring of nihilistic emotions which he had to submerge his entire psyche in in order to pen such powerful songs as “She’s Lost Control” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” earns much sympathy. Perhaps this is why he remains an enigmatic figure. One can never hope to decipher fully what ran through Curtis’ mind as he slipped on the noose and hanged himself.

In a sense Curtis is a romantic figure to which many aspire to emulate. Doesn’t it make sense to bow out when one is at the top? Everything that comes after one’s magnum opus will just seem like an anticlimax and letdown. Contribute what one has to the world, and when the work of one’s life is done, make a graceful exit and seal one’s immortality. Personally I hope to achieve that. I want to find my purpose, fulfill it, and end things at the peak.



pollan’s latest book
May 14, 2008, 1:23 pm
Filed under: training and nutrition | Tags: , , , , , ,

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

The core of the advice that this book has to offer can be distilled into the first few words that Pollan used in the book itself. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Seemingly simple but hard to fulfill in the modern lives that we find ourselves unconsciously living.

The dominant concept in our choice of diet in this day and age is nutritionism. Thanks to the food scientists and government we have began to see our food in terms of its molecular components instead of food as food itself. This has led to the various industrial products that pass themselves off as food and unhealthy diets that most people living in modern societies experience.

Eating food seems like simple enough advice to follow but it is surprising how many of us do not actually consume real food. Instead, as Pollan puts it, we consume imitations and food products. The reductionist nature of nutrient science has led to a spread of a extremely narrow view of food and nutrition, and as we strip our food of its seemingly useless parts, we make our diets even more unhealthier. There is much complexity and synergy to the whole foods that we eat that are yet to be explained and what the industrial complex has done is to make “frankenstein” food while oblivious to the unrevealed benefits of eating whole foods.

Regarding overeating and the lack of plants in our modern diet, Pollan makes a very interesting point about how the convenience and availability of “rich” foods inadvertently caused this phenomenon. For example, it takes a lot of effort to make french fries at home, and hence it is less probable that a normal person would eat it often. However with the invention of frozen foods and the explosion of fast food restaurants, we are now able to eat it more often and in fact we do. This has caused the gradual deterioration of our health.

Pollan has done a good job summarising the essence of what he wrote about in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but it remains that his earlier book is a much better and more substantial read.