So many things have happened in this past week! It feels like two weeks, or maybe three.

Touched down in Tokyo (OH I LOVE TOKYO) on Sunday night, three days of orientation in Keio Shinjuku. One of the highlights was meeting Captain for lunch! Been six years since we last met and he’s as funny as ever.

Kyoto Orientation was from Wednesday to Friday. We stayed in a hotel in Kyoto City and had a pretty enjoyable party on the first night, presumably one of many more to come.

Friday, off to Sonobe. Saw my apartment, my school, people whom I’ll be working with. Everyone’s great, the school’s great and I’m really looking forward to starting the school term. Only thing is, the apartment’s not as clean as I thought. At first glance it looks clean and neat, but zoom in and the dirt and grime really really gets to me. I’m also really paranoid about bugs and the tatami (please don’t get moldy!!! oh how I wish I had tile flooring, never mind I don’t need the traditional Japanese feel). Have been spending a small fortune on every cleaning product imaginable to keep my futon closet dry and bug-free, to keep my tatami mats clean and bug-free, to keep my kitchen insect-free, to keep my drains unclogged, to keep my tiles clean, to keep my bathroom clean… I never knew so much cleaning is needed!!! Oh the comfort of living at home. 😦

Highlight of the week: Fireworks at Kameoka, about 20 min away by train from Sonobe. The fireworks were about an hour long, and it was simply lovely to see everyone on the streets with their friends and family, enchanted by the fireworks and enthusiastically clapping whenever there was a particular impressive burst of colour and light. Strangely, fireworks always make me feel emotional and this time was no difference.

Shall end this post while my Internet connection is still here! (I need to wait at least 1-2 weeks for my own Internet.)

Everyone take care and stay cool!

We don’t have summer camp here but I guess we have all had school camps at one time or other. And yes, there are indeed different types of “camp people”. The part on journalists made me laugh… maybe cos I find I have what the writer termed “an outsider mentality”. Although I used to enjoy some camps, I now seem to belong to the group which has “a problem engaging in organized activities of all kinds”.

Article from Slate.

Which type are you?

“Summer camp is a rite of passage for many American children, whether they enjoy the experience or hate it. Four years ago, Timothy Noah dissected camp culture and found that adults will never escape the patterns they exhibited as camp-bound children, no matter how many years removed. The article is reprinted below.

If there’s a more reliable Rorschach than sleep-away camp, I’d like to see it. How you responded to being shipped off (often at an appallingly tender age) to a cluster of cedar cabins beside a mountain lake; to being taught Native American crafts, chants, and songs of dubious authenticity; and to being subjected to various painful hazing rituals—many of them involving underwear—reveals an awful lot about your fundamental character. If, as the Duke of Wellington claimed, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, then the psychotherapy bills of our own great nation were run up on the tetherball courts of Camp Weecheewachee (or whatever the hell your summer camp was called).

Let’s begin with the people who didn’t like camp. I was one such person. The first camp I got sent to was Camp Lenox, an establishment in the Berkshires that is still in business. During my summer there, in 1966, it was run by and for males who thrived on athletic competition. I did not. My older brother was an enthusiastic jock, and it was his love for the place that landed me there. I don’t remember seeing much of him after we got off the bus—he was seven years my senior—but he’d occasionally appear in the distance, wearing the black beret that marked him as my enemy in Color War. I was assigned to the orange team; our symbol was a baton. To this day I shake my head in disbelief that a responsible camp director would set brother against brother in the name of competitive sport. Perhaps you find my thinking on this point a little rigid. Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not the sort of person who can alter his loyalties so easily, even within such a character-building realm. (I would have made a terrible Kennedy.)

Observing my perplexity with mild concern, my parents shipped me off to a different camp the following summer. This was Camp Arcady, in the Adirondacks. Now defunct, it was co-ed and less single-mindedly dedicated to sports than Camp Lenox had been. Arcady had other advantages over its predecessor, the most memorable being a waterfront counselor named Doreen who had once been a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club. Visions of Doreen (who in the decade since her TV stardom had filled out quite satisfactorily) haunted my prepubescent dreams. Even now, in my mind’s eye, I see Doreen emerging, like Botticelli’s Venus, from a clamshell perched on the shores of Lake George, a whistle nestled chastely in her cleavage. It was probably because of Doreen that I learned to water-ski. Water-skiing is the only camp sport I remember enjoying. Otherwise, I was pretty miserable. For the evidence, click here (center row, fifth from the left).

People (like myself) who didn’t enjoy camp tend to have a problem engaging in organized activities of all kinds. Later in life we often become criminals or sociopaths. The more respectable among us often become journalists. If we’re extremely bright or creative (or aspire to be), we may become writers or scholars or artists. The common thread is an outsider mentality. A self-flattering analysis, I know, but such is my privilege as author of this article.

Some people hated camp so much that they made their parents bring them home. These people should not be confused with the outlaws described above. There is nothing outré about not being able to endure summer camp. The come-and-get-me set grow up to be neurotic and needy. These are people who can often be heard on C-SPAN’s early-morning call-in program Washington Journal, filibustering from a time zone still blanketed in predawn darkness, until the host says, “Please state your question.”

Some people enjoy camp. These people grow up to be normal. My own two children, I’m pleased to report, belong to this category, assuming the blasé letters I’m receiving (“Pringles would taste pretty good right about now”) reflect sincere contentment.

Some people really, really enjoy camp. I wish I could tell you that these people grow up to be really, really normal, but they don’t. You know who I’m talking about. These are the ones who wept uncontrollably when the papiermâché numbers spelling out 1967 were set ablaze on a little raft that a camp counselor, under cover of darkness, towed stealthily to the middle of Lake Weecheewachee on the evening of the last group sing. These are the people for whom childhood represented the zenith of human existence and everything that followed an anticlimax. The women—they’re mostly women—usually end up in abusive relationships with pathologically angry men who eventually abandon them and pay child support erratically, if at all. If the person who really, really enjoyed camp is a man, then he is unlikely ever to develop an intimate relationship and on occasion may be spotted in the back of a police cruiser speeding away from a grade-school playground.

The final category is people who really, really, really enjoy camp. These are the camp cultists. You probably expect me to say that these campers grow up to be utterly incapable of functioning in a noncamp environment, and end up sleeping on the streets in cardboard boxes. In fact, the opposite is true. Camp cultists grow up to be chief executive officers of major corporations, name partners in Wall Street banking firms, Cabinet secretaries, governors, and presidents of prestigious foundations. Their universities invite them to serve on their boards. Their home towns name schools after them. They are the Establishment. Longtime Disney CEO Michael Eisner is a camp cultist, having published, in 2005, Camp, a memoir of his bygone days at Vermont’s Keewaydin Canoe Camp, which bills itself as the nation’s oldest continually operating summer camp (it was founded in 1893), and whose Web site invites alumni to donate securities to something called the Keewaydin Foundation. I haven’t read Eisner’s book, but according to Amazon.com, its “statistically improbable phrases” include “winds ceremony” and “Indian circle.”

For camp cultists, summer camp is an experience that lasts a lifetime. When they’re too old to be campers, they come back as counselors. When they’re too old to be counselors, they send their children in their stead. When their children eventually succeed (on the third or fourth try) in getting themselves thrown out of Camp Weecheewachee, for infractions too ghastly to contemplate, camp cultists send money. Lots and lots of money. If it weren’t for camp cultists, half the summer camps in the United States would be forced to close their doors, depriving today’s campers of this essential early exercise in psychological sorting.

Or perhaps not. Montana Miller, a folklorist who teaches a class called “Summer Camp Ethnography” at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, insists that even children who don’t attend summer camp subject themselves to the same psychological sorting process by imagining that they did. In an e-mail to me, she elaborated:

There have been so many movies and books and TV shows—not to mention the stories told by friends who return from camp—that kids internalize whether or not they went to camp themselves. … I had [my students] do an in-class writing assignment in which they recounted an anecdote from camp—presenting it as a personal-experience narrative, but not necessarily real. It could be fictional or something that happened to someone they knew. They read their anecdotes out loud to the class and we tried to guess whether these were real experiences they had had themselves, or constructions from their imaginations and their pop culture educations. You know what? In almost every case, it was impossible to tell.

The summer-camp ink blot, then, is universal. You are how you camped, even if you never camped at all.”

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Trying to finish reading all my library books before I fly…
So grateful for NLB’s free renewal service!

Eating for England, by Nigel Slater

First, a picture from a delightful book about food, perfect for Anglophiles.
I happily munched on the writer’s musings on familiar foods like Marmite, the Polo Mint, Quality Street and bread and butter pudding… and new findings like Jaffa Cake and Eating Soldiers, all served with a crisp dose of dry British wit. I like!

Was amazed by how some foods I see as local apparently are British in origin? Like iced gems (麺包花) and lemon puff biscuits (think Khong Guan!). British foodstuffs like Marmite and Polo mints are also part of my childhood memory…

Some parts I enjoyed:
“The French cook with their senses, the Italians with their hearts,
the Spanish with their energy, and the Germans with their appetite.
The British, bless them, cook with their wallets.”

“I have always found a bar of Toblerone almost as difficult to conquer as the mountain peaks its design so clearly represents…
Whatever way you try to tackle it, a Toblerone is an obstacle course.
It can take a few attempts to break a triangle from the nougat-speckled bar without actually hurting your knuckles, and then, when you finally do, you have a piece of pointy chocolate slightly too big for your mouth.”

“While the rest of Europe breathes hot summer colours of ripe, red peppers, garlic and thyme, deep purple aubergines and grilled lamb over each other, we paint an altogether more delicate picture.
One of gentle flavours and pale hues,
of poached salmon and watercress,
cucumber and mint,
strawberries and cherries,
gooseberries and broad beans.
Our summer cooking has none of the rough edges of that of the rest of Europe or Australia,
whose flavours are loud and proud and edged with enough salt to make your lips smart.”

—–

Two other food books I read: Wrestling with Gravy by former New York Times food columnist Jonathan Reynolds and Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef.  The former is a memoir of “food-worthy anecdotes… seasoned with the zest of cooking, family, eating, and lounging around various tables in tryptophanic stupors.” The latter tells of how Ruhlman enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America with the intention to write the book, offering a good look at what it means to be in cooking school. It was a little weird going in reverse, since I’d read his second book earlier, but still interesting nonetheless.

Wandering further away from the cookery shelves…

Mall Maker by M. Jeffrey Hardwick,, is a biography of architect Victor Gruen, the father of the modern shopping mall. “Throughout Hardwick illuminates the dramatic shifts in American culture during the mid-twentieth century, notably the rise of suburbia and automobiles, the death of downtown, and the effect these changes had on American life. Gruen championed the redesign of suburbs and cities through giant shopping malls, earnestly believing that he was promoting an American ideal, the ability to build a community. Yet, as malls began covering the landscape and downtowns became more depressed, Gruen became painfully aware that his dream of overcoming social problems through architecture and commerce was slipping away. By the tumultuous year of 1968, it had disappeared.”

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion by Holly Brubach. “This collection of 28 fashion essays previously published in “The New York Times Magazine”, “The New Yorker” and “The Atlantic” examines clothing and fashion as part of a larger cultural debate and as a barometer of social and aesthetic change. In essays published during the 1980s and 1990s, the author reflects on a broad range of fashion subjects, from famous designers to designer eyeglasses, from the elegance of a Chanel suit to the decline of elegance itself in the 1990s, from Gianni Versace’s legitimisation of vulgarity to the advent of athletic clothing as a fashion uniform.” Some articles were a little more lengthy than I preferred…

Another book for Anglophiles:  Queuing for Beginners by Joe Moran. “Joe Moran takes a simple but wonderfully imaginative idea, following an ordinary working day from breakfast to bedtime, and uncovers the twentieth-century history of the mundane rituals through which we structure our lives. Nothing escapes his gaze, from cereal packets to chain pubs, and the result is a deft, clever and endlessly fascinating example of social history at its best.” Truly, simple things show so much.

For dessert! I Love my Cloth, a children’s book by Amber Stewart and illustrated by Layn Marlow. A sweet and thoughtful story about Bean, a little rabbit, and her favourite piece of cloth.
(Took some pictures of the book but I can’t find them!)

From Ashin’s blog.

“「社會的遊戲規則,是由壞人來訂,由好人來玩。」

這句話,就寫在1989年超人巴力入的初版前言中,
20年間,我成長、我感受、我體驗,發現那是2010年的今天的一則精準預言。

但,我不接受。
我不接受這個預言,將永遠是這個世界的真理。

改變的方法很簡單:
努力當好人、努力變強、努力掌握重訂遊戲規則的機會,
然後努力確保自己依然是好人。”

Woke up at 5 (!) to take a train to Malaysia last week.
It was okay once I got out of bed.
I like morning air and light.

On time for the 745 train.  (I love platform clocks!)
Unfortunately, the online ticketing system is down…
and you can only purchase tickets half an hour before the stipulated departure time.
We had more than enough time for breakfast though.
It was too early for me to feel like eating…
but it’s never too early/late for teh tarik~

Malaysian customs at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
Only noticed afterwards your passport doesn’t get stamped.
But you get a special stamped white card.


Early sunlight.
Sit on the left if you don’t want to be in the sun.


Bukit Timah Railway Station. I wonder if we can get off here?
No one did, but a lady wandered on with a basket of vegetables.
The train stopped here for… 20 minutes?


Off we go!
He smiled and waved at my camera before the train rumbled off.
People seem more friendly around trains…
Spotted at least 5 people near the tracks, looking out for the trains or just staring into the distance.
Very surreal.


Is it just me, or do trains make everything seem more romantic.. somehow?


I’m usually on the waiting side.


I’m afraid the windows are rather grubby.


Past the Woodlands customs, past the Causeway and we arrive at JB.

to be continued…

This photo makes me smile.
They all look so happy!

From Slate.