the dawn of a new year

We will open the book. Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.
~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce 

barney and the dyslexic alien

for the longest time, i have been busy.
no complaints mind you.  busy is good; i'd rather be busy than idle. and you know what they say about idle hands.

but being crazy-busy for extended periods of time has a way of turning people's brains into bowls of soggy raisins.  and i for one am just thankful for the (relative) period of calm this holiday season has afforded me.

this weekend in particular has been quiet. and i am quick to take advantage.
saturday morning saw me drag myself out of bed and out into the streets of my new neighborhood, sengkang: i had wanted to see what the place was like, and i haven't been on a photowalk in ages.

after a quick goodbye to my sleeping wife, i hurriedly made my way to a curious section of the neighborhood, through which i passed by daily.  the place intrigued me, because i had seen not one, but three temples built side by side in the same block.

we'll have to skip the first temple since none of the photos i took were useable: bad framing, underexposed, and just plain fugly.

photos of the other two however, are much better.

a resplendent, all-white temple, with an equally imposing gate

the big red sign is for those who can't read hanzi.
it reads, "forbidden temple"

the other temple seemed more inviting.  for one, there was no big red "do not enter" sign hanging right out the gate

beautiful temple but i think i'll pass on the discourse, thank you

across the temple was a large empty field, with some flats being built.

and even if i had gotten out of bed later than i shouldve (really, they should start selling alarm clocks that do not have a snooze button), i was still lucky enough to catch a bit of sunrise.  throw in some silky smooth clouds and already i'm glad i mustered enough will to get out of bed so early on a saturday morning.

there were curious marks on the ground in the empty field which reminded me of crop circles.  in fact, i was going to say that they *are* crop circles and then realized, i am in land-scarce singapore, so it's hardly a field, more like an empty block.  and the "field" i was looking at had no crops, just grass.  and if indeed an alien created this crop circle, the poor creature must have some severe form of extra-terrestrial dyslexia because these must be the least intricate, fugliest crop circles i've ever seen.

the truth is out there.

walking a bit further took me to even more empty fields

there's something sharp and stark about seeing a field of green on one end, and a pile of construction materials on another

and a tree-lined road leading up to a bridge

of all the trees along the road, only this one had a vine with heart-shaped leaves wrapped around it.
if anyone needs an inspiration for a story...

which overlooked a large highway

and beside the highway was a squat, windowless, industrial-looking building, which reminded me of an entrance to a secret underground laboratory.

don't let the flowers fool you: those are mega cyborg robot orchids guarding the entrance to a super secret laboratory.

by then, i realized that i was out and about, walking around in sengkang in clothes i had slept in, without a shower and a shave, nor any breakfast in me.

so i turned back, and meandered back the way i came, and encountered even more empty plots of land (something tells me we moved into the wilderness at the edge of singapore)

and a strange little road that lead to a tree.  

if i was a super villain, and my arch enemy was approaching my secret hideout, i would stand
beside the tree and in my most imposing and evil voice, i'd call out to him, "this is the end of the road for you".
"no really, it's the end of the road.  there's no more pavement. see?  keep off the grass, you caveman."

on the way back to the flat, a parking lot caught my eye

and a wall that reminded me of Barney.

finally, i find my way home.  i take a quick shower, washing away whatever thoughts of Barney and secret laboratories i had and go back to bed.

and that's how i spent the last saturday morning of 2011.

christmas 2011

december 2011.  our second christmas as husband and wife.
for some reason, when it comes to our christmas dinner, pasta and ham are pretty much standard stuff: we had pasta and ham last year, and it's more of the same this year (who can say no to pasta and ham anyway?)

this year, we're having glazed black forest ham with pineapples

and some linguine with tomato basil with swedish meatballs

what's christmas without some chocolate truffle log cake

and some cranberry and cashew cereal bars to round everything up.
(for some reason, this was on our dinner table this year. don't ask why.  i don't know either.  i just take the pictures.)

a modest spread this yultide season for the missus and i but certainly more than enough food for the two of us.  (look at all the chocolates: it was more of a sugar overload than dinner).

it's been a good year for us, and we have had much to be thankful for.
happy holidays everyone: a peaceful and joyous yultide season to you and your loved ones.

right on Q

sunday last week, the wife and i went off and visited her good friends Roger and Rina Quinapondan, off in Bukit Batok, Singapore.

over the years, Rina and Roger have grown tired of trying to teach people how to spell and pronounce their name (i have it on good authority that even their daughter can't be bothered to write down her last name), and so for everyone's sake, we just call them the Qs.

the Qs live in a far flung corner (relatively speaking.  we're talking about singapore here) of singapore.  after a long train ride where we (a) got lost; (b) got off at the wrong station; (c) got lost again near their apartment block, we finally arrive and are greeted by their youngest bundle of joy, Miguel Q.

precocious in his tiny, newborn sort of way, Miguel instantly charmed my wife who promptly took Miguel in her arms and oohh'd and ahhh'd and giggled incessantly.

Miguel, apparently, was used to and bored by all the attention and shameless fawning, and promptly started giving us hints that it was his nap time.

and with a quick lullaby, Miguel was soon sleeping like, well, like a baby.

at which point it was time to oohh and ahhh and fawn shamelessly over their daughter, Yezabelle, instead.

children are smart.  i'm sure she knew it was her turn.  but she played coy at first, pretending to prefer to watch TV over speaking to us.

but soon, she realized that a photo op was in the works, and ran off to her room.
i thought she was shy and did not want her photo taken (because pictures take away people souls!).

it turns out, she wanted to get herself ready and looking like a proper young lady and had run off to her room to comb and brush and preen and groom and put on some bling.

after some minor coaxing to stop being so shy (a true diva does not throw herself at the camera.  she will be ready when she's good and ready), Yeza immediately got in the mood and gladly posed in front of the camera.

everybody soon got into the act (Miguel had woken by then) which allowed us to get a nice family picture too.

Thank Q, Roger, Rina, Yeza and baby Miguel for a wonderful sunday afternoon.

It was a great way to spend our time: myself taking pictures, my wife catching up with old friends, both of us getting a chance to meet new members of the Q family.

two of fifty two - 2011.12.25

i spy with my even bigger eye
my project fifty two

after cutting my teeth on the nifty fifty with (approximately) a year of adventures, and after an agonizing amount of research, i finally decided on my second lens.  canon's 17-40 4.0L.  i haven't spent a lot of time with this baby yet, but i certainly am looking forward to it.

[the tragedy that is sendong]

my thoughts and heartfelt sympathies go out to the people affected by typhoon sendong.  what an unspeakable tragedy, made all the more bitterly cruel as it happens just a week before what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.

one of fifty two - 2011.12.18

i spy with my little eye

my first dlsr lens.  canon's 50mm f1.8.  nothing teaches you better about composition than a prime lens.
i've taken more than just a handful of memories with this lens and it has more than opened the world of photgraphy for me.
it's been a great year, nifty fifty.  here's hoping we have several even more awesome years to come.

[fifty two]

nothing gets us started on a new project like the way a new year does.  new years resolutions are a perfect example: they start out fine the first couple of weeks, and then all enthusiasm just slowly, inexorably leaks out and escapes like air out of a balloon.

my blog too is a good example: i had started it in January 2011, religiously posting entry after entry until it fell into a coma and all but died in September.

not that i do not have excuses (i have all sorts of excuses if you have the time), but i guess that is just the way things are: we start something but lack the will to see it through.

this year, i am going to try again.  i've restarted my blog, swapped in a fresh new look and spent hours wracking my brain thinking(!) about what to do with it.

the result of all that nosebleed inducing activity: my project fifty two

that's right folks: i've bit the bullet and made public my plans to do something i have horribly failed in in the past: to finish something that i started.  truly, i am lousy when it comes to following stuff through.

on pain of online embarassment and at the risk of further sullying my already terrible reputation: i've embarked on a photography project to post fifty two entries, each containing at least one picture taken on each of the fifty two weeks of the year, no rehashes allowed.

in one of my future lucid moments, i am sure i will wonder, "what was i thinking?!".  maybe that is the problem, isn't it?  maybe i shouldn't have thought in the first place, and left my poor comatose blog alone.

at least it wasn't a project 365.

wish me luck, hope you're still around after 52 weeks.

[it's not dead, jim]

a quick post today, after ages and ages of silence.

i've been busy: certainly that much is clear.  it's been an insane-kind-of-crazy past few months for me: lots of changes, resulting in lots of work, which meant a lot less time for lots of things.  this hiatus has been an unintended one: i could have used the distraction of a blog, but just really did not have even the time to catch my breath.

the past few days i have been trying to build up momentum and started looking at my blog, or what has become of it.  the bright orange that it once was is now gaudy and painful to look at.  and as with most things, i have been meaning to change it, without actually daring to.

sometimes blogs change in mysterious ways: i actually clicked a wrong button, and saved when i should have cancelled, and now we have this: a bright, new, white slate.

not quite tabula rasa: i did not want to throw away what the year has been (it's been a paltry 44 entries, i know; i manage what i can), but i did want to move forward and sometimes a cleansing of sorts is just the way to do it.

a new year, a new look to what has been a welcome and much needed source of no-thinking-time for me.

the new year is half a month away, and it is great to be celebrating it in advance with a new look, and half-dreamed promises of new adventures.

see you all in 2012.

at a snail's pace

to be with myself and center

If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,
I'd spend the end with you.
And when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would all go out,
Then you and I would simply fly away.
~ Bread, If

The world just went to hell today: as if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Japan earthquake were not enough, there's a massive, incomprehensible riot in the UK, and the US stock market short circuited and went haywire.

Coincidentally, today is Singapore's 46th birthday.  It's tough to celebrate though, given the turmoil.  Sure, we had the day off, but it's not much of a day off when your entire day is spent watching and waiting and biting your nails and just trying to hold on to whatever has not collapsed yet.

I took this picture a couple of months back.  The bench sits in Fort Canning park, one of my favorite places in Singapore: it's a park in the middle of the city, just off Orchard Road.  When I first saw Fort Canning Park, it blew me away.  Stepping into the park felt like stepping into a sacred place, where all activity ground to a halt, and everything slowed down to a manageable pace.

As I walked through the park however, I couldn't understand, for the life of me, how busy, expensive Singapore, could spare the space in a prime district to build a park.  Surely, it made more sense to build more commercial buildings which would generate income and make everybody more money.

Years later, after bearing the scars of going through the rat race that is a corporate career, I have come to realize: how can busy, expensive Singapore, indeed, how can anyone, afford not to have such places of quietude, given just how maddening life can be.  Without such quiet episodes and places and moments of serenity, everything would just unravel.  The frenetic pace of living would pull us in a thousand different directions. and we would surely come undone.

In a world as mad as ours, we all could use a quiet little corner of the world where for just a minute, all is calm and at peace.

Why we have two kidneys

Cricket to us was more than play, it was a worship in the summer sun. 
~ Edmund Blunden

Over the weekend, I had an excellent opportunity:  there was a company staff event, a cricket tournament no less and everyone was invited (otherwise it wouldn't be much of a staff event, now would it?).

While it's been a while since I played cricket (read: never), and my knowledge of the game has since become rusty (i wouldn't know a bowler from a batsman from a wicket), I was interested in attending for a variety of reasons.

First, it was a good chance to finally understand what all the fuss was about (my indian colleagues swear it's bigger than religion).  Second, I get to try my hand at sports photography (something i had never done).  And third, a colleague tempted me: he was willing to lug five back-breakingly heavy lenses if i was willing to come along and sort of quietly volunteer to cover the event.

Naturally, I asked what the lenses were and he obliged: a Tamron 17-50mm 2.8, and four Canons: a 55-250mm,  a 24mm 1.4L, an 85mm 1.2L, and a 135mm 2.0L.

Where do i sign up, indeed.

Over the course of an afternoon, I sweated, ran, grunted, and stumbled my way across the cricket field in blistering singapore heat, sunburned both arms and legs and my back, questioned my sanity and the wisdom of trying to voluntarily kill myself with heatstroke while wiping drool off my face as i tried out the lenses.

It was worth it: I took about 500 pictures, and thereafter threw about 150 away, and could barely keep my finger off the shutter release.

Of course, I have such a lousy reputation:  I haven't gotten around to completing my Bali posts, and have gigabytes worth of pictures quietly gathering digital dust in my pc, unprocessed, unposted.

so you just know i will not post 500 pics. i will not post even 2% of the 500 pics that i took.  not so much from lack of effort or desire, i can assure you.

A couple of pics here and there, though, is something i can manage completely.

Tamron 17-50mm 2.8.
For someone who saw the world through 50mm eyes,
it certainly offers a whole new way of seeing things

Canon 85mm 1.2L.
The bokeh is so smooth, it could have been a field of butter.

Canon 85mm 1.2L
Sharp as a tack, I can make out the white stubbles, blinding 1 megawatt smile notwithstanding.

i wouldn't quite call it an ultrazoom but it certainly does have reach.

Canon 135mm 2.0L + AI servo mode = OMG what can i sell to buy one of these? 

I couldn't believe my eyes while I was chimping and looking at the pics using the camera's lcd.  

when the day was over and it was time to go, i barely knew the score or who won, and still knew nothing about cricket other than that it is played with a ball and a bat.  i composed myself and said my curt goodbyes to the lenses and started on my long journey home, made longer by the fact that i was dog tired, sunburned, and aching all over, and missing lenses that were never mine.

the following sunday saw me being barely able to get out of bed and walk.  with every groan and aching muscle i wondered, why on earth did i subject myself to this kind of punishment.

still, i managed to prop myself up on the bed, open my laptop to go through the pictures, and when i saw them, i was just blown away.

Canon L series lenses, where have you been all my life?

Probably in a store somewhere, just a few thousand dollars out of reach.

Anybody got a spare kidney?

finally, my ship has come

Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering. 
~ Paulo Coelho

My wife and I were on a trip to Bali, Indonesia, and I took this just before dawn, before any of the hundreds of other tourists took to the beaches or occupied the pagoda.
The ship is actually an oil tanker, but from this distance, i thought it looked like a 16th century schooner and the scene made me think of maybe what Asian sentries ages ago witnessed on their lonely vigils, as Europeans discovered trade routes into Asia.
Then my mind wanders some more and i realize this could have been a scene straight out of Tristan and Iseult.  I can almost imagine ailing Tristan, lying on a cot by the pagoda, staring at the horizon, and waiting for the ship bearing his Iseult to come in.
Poor Tristan; he never found out that his ship did come, flying the whitest of sails.

the look of bridges in the morning

Human life is as evanescent as the morning dew or a flash of lightning.
~ Samuel Butler