On discipline and Deprivation

I made a decision to change how I eat and what I eat about two years ago.

I didn’t treat it like it was a huge decision-making process. There wasn’t a prep talk to myself in the mirror or promising myself this is the last week I gouge on fried chicken before I start the change.

It’s easier to just say, “I ‘ll start from….now.”

Make it a simple decision and don’t prolong the start date.

The motivation was for both health and vanity, although I have to admit it was mostly vanity.

No,no, I did not go on a diet.

Diets do not work, a determination to stay slim requires an equal determination to change your lifestyle or at least your eating habits.

It was difficult the first three months. I cut down food intake by almost half ( I went to a nutritionist to get a food plan to follow) and I  felt hungry most of the time . People around me were not helpful by trying to make me eat foods I should be avoiding saying “A little is okay.”

I think secretly people want you to fail, that way they feel less guilty while chomping down huge quantities of food and titbits while looking at your bird – sized portion and your ability to say no to cookies.

“A little is okay.” rings true only when you reached your desired body size.

With the success of my dieting also came the success of changing how I eat and what I eat.

I no longer salivate when someone puts  fried chicken/french fries/chocolate/large quantity of meat in front of me and there is hardly any reluctance when that “No’ rolls off my lips.

There was also an unexpected boon gained through the new disciplined desire.

Once in a while when I let myself indulge, the enjoyment of that meal/dessert/buffet is more intense, more satisfying and less sinful.


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Travelling- going at it alone

There’s a saying that God protects children and fools.

I wonder whether women traveling alone classifies them as fools.

If I have a choice, I would prefer to travel with friends , but often when you are single and most of your pals work in media production, you tend to end up making travel plans alone.

I have a number of guy pals that like to take trips alone.

They are compelety baffled when I tell them when I travel alone, there are places/countries which I can’t go and things I can’t do.

They will be waving their hands at my concerns and insist the whole planet is safe.

Its understandable, since they are not born with a sign on their body brightly indicating to criminals that they are easy marks.

There are several disadvatages when travelling alone.

1) Obivious point would be your lodgings are much more expensive.

2) You need to reserach everything yourself.

3) You tend to end up looking at groups and couples milling around you at the tourist sites.

4) There’s only so much food I can eat in a day and when you travel alone, it cuts down the variety and choices, which means you miss out on so much more interesting local cuisine.

5) You are lugging around your 50 litre backpack and you need to go to the toilet. Need I say more?

It’s not all bad though

1) You get an intineary that is completely to your liking

2) You don’t have to worry about other people you know seeing you buy tourists tack

3) You don’t have to worry about taking a dump in the shared toilet

4) Other travellers tend to approach you to chat if they see that you are alone

5) No need to deal with sulking friends (reasons for sulky could include not a morning person, hate the weather , hate the people they are travelling with)

If you decided to take the plunge and make the solo trip, here’s some tips base on personal experience.

Top 5 tips on Travelling alone (mainly for women)

1) If you are lazy to do too much research like me, just get a general knowledge of which areas you want to visit or things that you want to do. When you stay at a hostel, you tend to be able to chat up other travellers and they are a good source of which places are worth visiting and what food to try and avoid. I tend to find hotel travellers a bit more formal and stiff, but the hotel lobby tends to be a good ice-breaking locale.

2) I keep a list of emegency contacts of the country like the embassy, the airline, the hotel,the hospital and the police telephone numbers. I also keep some sort of identification as well as family contact numbers on my person that can be access.(keeing them in your smartphone and locking the smartphone is not considered accessible)

3) Bring along something that can occupy your time, there will be moments you need to while away time. I usually have my tablet or a sketch book.

4) Food is an issue, it feels strange to dine alone. But no matter which country I visit there are  always small cosy cafes/shops of sorts that makes eating alone poetic rather than pathetic. These are also excellent places for observing local customs and even chat up some local people. Worse comes to worse, most countries have Macdonalds.

5) Don’t take any unnecessary risks. Includes taking cab rides alone in a country or city known for high crime rates.

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On Lifts

I take the lift everyday.

lift bij Den Haag centraal

lift bij Den Haag centraal (Photo credit: Gerard Stolk (peint la maison))

You probably find this statement mundane and bears no mentioning, but I don’t take the lift everyday when I was in London or Japan.

Living overseas made me realised just how much lift-taking I do here in Singapore.

Intelligent Lifts

The building in which I work is pretty ancient.
I heard they upgraded the lifts a few years prior to me joining the company.
It still takes forever to get down 32 floors especially during peak hours (lunch and end of the day).

Anyone who has worked on the upper levels of a tall building will know what it is like to squeeze into a lift and see at least 10 buttons lit up beneath your own floor.
Old buildings are being torn down and new buildings are sprouting up all around our building.

A visit to some clients recently brought me to some of these shiny new symbols of modernity. Security for new buildings appear to be pretty tight.

Most require identification cards with a photo and all information are scanned and saved.

Some even require the employees of the company to come down to the lobby to escort guests up.

But what has amazed me thus far is how the new lifts are built for effiecncy and speed.

New intelligent Lift systems has a keypad instead of a up or down button.

You press the floor that you are going to on the keypad and it assigns a lift number to you.

The next person might be assigned a different lift number depending on the floor he/she is going to.

To further impress guests, the receptionist at the lobby can also pre-press the floor for you at the desk and inform you which lift to take.

The new lifts are not only efficient (since you bunch up people going to certain floors together) they are also extremely fast getting to the top floors.

Most of these new lifts also comes with television screens to entertain you so that you don’t have to just stare at the digital numerals changing as the lift takes you to your designated floor.

When I first saw the keypad system, I thought about the sweet old lady who lives a few floors beneath my flat.

Although lift technology has been in Singapore for quite a few years, there appears to be a group of people that thinks the lift will come up faster if they press the up button even if they want to go down.

Due to this novel way of using the lift, I often see someone in the lift when it comes up to my floor and follow me down to the bottom and vice versa. And when the lift stops at again at the floor which this person came up from, it often closes again with the culprit acting puzzled as to why the lift stopped at a floor with no one at the landing.

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Traditional Japanese Cuisine – Dozeu Nabe

I first discovered the shop during one of my frequent walks from Okachimachi to Asakusa.

The two storey building looked impressively traditional and the sign 駒形どぜう hung high in a banner next to a more modern neighbor.

Photo taken from Trip Advisor

When I met my Oji-san friend a couple of days later,  I asked him about the restaurant and what exactly is a どぜう . I have eaten several different kinds of Japanese cuisine both in Japan and abroad,watched several Japanese food shows but do not recalled a どぜう dish before.

His explanation basically was summarized to be “its a traditional dish, only old people want to eat it.” He even frowned while saying it, probably hoping to dissuade me from going to eat it.

Hearing that, of course, made me want to try it even more.

He made reservations (apparently that restaurant is pretty well known and requires reservations) for lunch. We arrived around 10.45a.m for our 11 a.m reservation (only slot left) and already a crowd of elderly and middle aged people were gathered at the front of the store.

Seriously, I was the youngest member there.

My Oji-san friend was very excited, when he made the reservation, he was informed that the restaurant was serving the first batch of 新米 (shinmai) or newly harvested rice.

He was probably more excited about the Shinmai then the dish itself

The  Japanese are crazy about Shinmai, they go into ecstasy  thinking of eating Shinmai.

Finally, we were ushered in. The other patrons chattered cheerfully and the sparse restaurant quickly filled with people who took up the cushions on the tatami mats and started on the entrees that were already placed on the long wooden plank on the mat acting as the table.

The second floor had about the same arrangement except they had low lying tables.

I really like this kind of traditional decor, there seems to be an atmosphere of communal dinning when seated like this.

The mysterious dish arrives!

Dozeu-nabe is essentially loach fish cooked in a shallow metal plate on a small flame with sake.

Taken from Foodjapan.net

Then LOADS of negi is placed on top of the fish and slowly simmered.

This is a dish that is said to date back to the Edo period and the restaurant which I had stumbled upon is a very famous one which history goes back to 1801.

One thing I noticed about this restaurant is the lack of tourists.

Personally I loved the dish, but it’s definitely an acquired taste.

I brought two of my friends to eat there a few months later, they were glaring at me after and complained about paying 3500 yen for mud tasting fish.

Komagata Dojo

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On Newspapers

I work in an industry that many have described to be following in the footsteps of the dinosaurs.

Slow, clunky , resistant to change and inability to change is slowing and surely rushing it to its certain death.

There’s even this website.

A dying Trade?

Apparently people are no longer willing to pay for news and advertisers are leaving as readership drops.

It doesn’t help that the shift to digital is inevitable. Newspapers that are shifting to the Internet and successfully moving  their readers to the digital platform are not making as much revenue from advertisers per reader as compared to print.

New business models for News companies

The crunch appeared to have churned out three new business models for the news industry thus far.

1) The pay wall model

The two most “successful” implementers of this model has got to be The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Their increasing digital readership show that people are willing to pay for news.

One thing to note though, these two news publications are the creme of the crop in the news business, it’s not just ANY news the public will pay for , its quality news.
But the companies may have to look at other sources of income or change the way their operation works instead of depending on digital advertising revenue to cover the lost revenue stream.

2) The survival via charity model

If running it for profit does not work then what about running it as non-profit?
It’s not known conclusively if this is feasible in the long run.

Ford Foundation recently pledged 1.4 million to the ailing Los Angeles Times and the term philanthrojournalism is not a dirty word whispered by the capitalists around water coolers.

3) Make it free and they will come model

Across the pond, newspapers like The Guardian and *The Mail have decided that they will take the opposite route from their U.S counterparts and offer their digital news for free.

As a fan of Guardian’s news reporting, I support this decision by visiting their site almost daily. I sincerely hope that their strategy of offering quality content for free in exchange for a huge readership and thus translating to advertising dollars plan will work.

Thus far, the company is making a loss.

*The Mail has moved to a Paywall model.

It’s not Dying, its Evolving. But the dinosaurs will have to become extinct.

Everything evolves, nothing stays the same.

But the newspapers that did not, refused to or simply unable to change their business model are dropping like flies.

In a way, culling is occurring and whatever value is being said about content, people DO appreciate good content and news reporting.

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On Women and Baskets

During the last Xmas corporate party, I won a lovely Marks & Spencer‘s hamper along with some colleagues.

One look at the hamper filled with organic tea, chocolates and egg rolls, and I called chops on the basket instead.

There’s something about a nice free basket that makes women want it.

Evidence of point, my colleague who had to bring back the hamper, since he was the only one who had a ride and will not need to lug the hamper back to the office in public transport, said the basket wouldn’t made it to the office if his wife saw it.

The cleaning lady who later in the week saw the basket on my desk , asked if she could have it , my boss who saw it also wanted it.

So women of all ages and backgrounds desired the magical lure of the free basket.

Its not just the basket, but apparently nice tins have that effect too. Whenever I buy cookies to share with my colleagues, someone will ask me if I want to keep the beautifully designed tin or not. It’s a useful gimmick used by food manufacturers, spend more on designing the tin so that people would buy  your not so tasty cookies for the tin.

There are quite a lot of psychology studies on packaging and its influence on women as well as vice versa. Businesses use these studies to find out how to get women to buy more or pick their brands. But I have yet to see anything about the psychology of why it is mainly women that have this tendency to keep boxes,tins and baskets. Could this desire actually come from a mild hoarding behavior that leans mainly towards things we deem pretty.

Yet, we seem to reach out mostly to things that has a storage capacity, no matter how big or small. Could it be that hidden amongst this need to keep that pretty garbage, we need to convince ourselves that it is useful and thus justifying what is simply a hording behavior.

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Daikon/Radish Compote

I saw this being made on a Japanese show called Pussuma.

It was during an episode where celebrities recommended by other celebrities, cooked their most skilled home cooked meal.

One of the celebrity cooked several interesting dishes with daikon.

The dessert dish came out so pretty and looked so delish that I decided to give it a go.

Since it wasn’t really a cooking show, there was no information about the measurements for the ingredients.

The directions are pretty simple

1) Cut out the center part of the  daikon/radish into cubes. (Its said to be the sweetest part)

2) Cook the daikon/radish in water for about 30 minutes. (leave it to cool for a bit)

3) Pour in red wine, sugar and water and cook the daikon/radish for about 10 minutes.

4) Pour in some lemon juice and put the whole concoction into the fridge to cool

5) Serve with vanilla ice cream

Soooooooo, it really sounds and looks easy right?

Alas, although I  have gotten the compote to look right in terms of color and shape, the radish was not as sweet as I had envision. I suspect that i should probably have used a sweeter red wine and more sugar. I’m going to try with sherry the next time I make this.

But its a pretty healthy dessert and it looks great and doesn’t take a lot of time to make, easy to impress guests with.

P.S The radish used is the white longish version as opposed to the small pink ones.

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Getting Sick of Being Sick Part 3 – Getting nowwhere with my Asthma

Be content.

Its a common advice I see and hear from time to time, especially from my christian friends.

In my constant battle with my asthma and my super-sensitive respiratory tract that schedules to hijack me once every two to three months, it is difficult to follow that advice.

I seem to have exhausted all forms of medication or treatments that I can find to help stave off an infection or reactionary attack.

Nasal sprays, medipot, gingko biloba, Quercetin, tumeric, Serentide……

The financial burden of the illness would not be so stressful if it bought me relief and control over the asthma, but no matter what I do or take or not do, the weeks in misery seemed destined to happen.

I am currently recovering from bronchitis and had been to the doctor twice in 5 days, plus a trip to radiology. My coughing now has been reduced to a dry, itchy cough that persists 24 hours and is refusing to let up and allow my chest some time to un-tighten.

I did more research online and come to a conclusion that the current syndrome is still being caused mainly by the respiratory tract  continuing to be sensitized and excreting excess mucus  and thus causing that dry itchy feeling.

I can’t seem to find any advice that is foolproof in helping me right now, which is to normalize the upper respiratory tract such that it will stop throwing out mucus to save itself from some imaginary allergens…

If anyone reading this article have any suggestions, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me.

Any advice on how to keep the asthma at bay will also be greatly appreciated.

P.S  I have a cough variant asthma coupled with allergic reactions.

Getting Sick of being Sick Part 1

Getting Sick of being Sick Part 2


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Getting Sick of being sick Part 2

I managed to get by four months this time before getting seriously ill again.

The bronchitis timing was extremely unfortunate as I was planning to board a 6a.m flight to HK for holiday (my first one this year). At 1 a.m , the tightness of my chest, symptoms of a fever appearing  and incessant coughing warned me logically that no matter how much I want to go for a holiday, it is no longer possible.

I ended up wallowing in self pity and depression at home. Instead of the 5 glorious vacation days I had been looking forward to, I secluded myself at home venturing out only for food and medication.

There is nothing worse than getting sick than getting sick no matter how much you do to prevent it.

It’s depressing enough that I get sick all the time, but when I am seriously ill like I am now, with no one around to take care of me and still having to do everything for myself despite feeling doozy and weak, one ventures into a certain realm of darkness.

Clinical Depression

Clinical Depression (Photo credit: Alaina Abplanalp Photography)

As I lay on the cold tiled floor ( the high fever makes laying on the bed too hot), I wonder if this is what single old people feel like on a daily basis. Especially those that are not pink with health and are bed-ridden and dependent on others. I wonder too, what it’s like if that person is not able to afford health care, medication or someone to aid him/her. It is a troubling and upsetting thought to have while being despondent about life in general.

There’s not much pity to had from people around me either. The meritocratic society has breed values into people that the poor and the sick choose to be poor and sick and they should pull themselves out and not depend on welfare or people around them.

It is not just society on a whole, but it is also difficult to express to family or friends the state of depression that I get into on a regular basis. The sort of despondency I am vulnerable to is not something that most people would understand unless they themselves have been through something similar.

Let’s face it, in a world where people are increasingly being caught up with their work, their facebook update status and their own lives, there isn’t much space for empathy or attempt at empathy.

Getting Sick of being Sick Part 1


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On Travelling

Whenever I travel, before even planning, I first decide on which category this trip will be falling under.

So far my categories include

1) Culture and People

2) Nature –Scenic value including World heritage sites

3) Arts and history

4) Sit back and enjoy.

I usually associate sit back and enjoy as trips in which I have money to indulge in a really nice hotel or resort with accompany spa and massages included.

Thus far I had only ventured to Banyan tree at Bintan for that pleasure.

For the first category, trips to cities like New York or Tokyo comes to mind or what I call the “post modern cities”.

People, culture, food and shopping is the priority of the trip.

Tuscanny, Shangri-la (the place in china not the hotel),Nepal,Cambodia and New Zealand are some of the destinations that I had yet to explore for the second category .

I still tend to incline towards the West and Europe when it comes to Arts and history, not so much as an elitist reasoning but more due to the fact that these countries had the financial means to conserve and preserve better than Asia and South East Asia’s museums. In time, I hope countries nearer to me will offer such visual splendor too.

Of course, there are also plenty of countries that offer more than one of these categories, it usually gets very expensive for me when that occurs, point in mind, Japan….

That lovely contradicting country comes with  beautifully well maintained historical sites (Kyoto’s temples), lovely landscapes, mountains, sea, lakes, AMAZING food, Interesting people, and did I mention the SHOPPING???!!

Of course, zipping cross country from 県 to 県 makes one’s pocket much lighter, but a bit of planning beforehand will help save a lot.

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