31 December 2009

2009 in Review

I missed doing my annual review last year. I think annual reviews are important to help one reflect on his achievements, and notable events. We'll then be able to move on and be better the next year. Since no one at the office is really doing anything worthwhile anyway, here's what I remember most from 2009:
  • Beijing: This working trip really opened my eyes to the idea of living outside Malaysia. Before this I've only had overseas vacations, but never to live or work. Though it was only 3 months, it did spark some nomadic tendencies of me moving to some faraway land to start anew...
  • Work promotion: I remember when I first joined this company, my boss at that time told me that on average, it takes 2 years to move to the next level. It took me 2.9 years and I wasn't really happy with that. But hey, it did arrive and I got a pay raise from that so I'm still thankful nonetheless.
  • Broke up: We had a strong 2+ years together, but I decided I had to be the bad guy before I really became the bad guy. (Heh, it's only something both of us would understand.) The biggest lesson I learned from this is to never be complacent. I'm now enjoying singledom and meeting people again.
  • BodyJam: What should have taken 2 months took almost 2 years instead. But it was good - questions of unfairness aside, it did help me become harder, better, faster, stronger. Beforehand, getting an International BodyJam Certificate seemed an enviable goal. Now, it's just another step in the Everest scheme of things. Came so far, got much more to go.
  • Cardio Fit: As always, I keep improving. I now have the confidence to say that my latest release could actually qualify as one of the weaker BodyJam releases. Call me out for a demo! Unfortunately, my stage charisma is nowhere near Gandalf 'G' Archer's.
  • Family: Relations with Dad has improved this year. I believe he has softened with age, which does help smooth disagreements over. At the back of my heart though, I've begun wondering how life would be when he's gone? Relations with Mom has stayed positive throughout 2009. And she reads my blog so I'll refrain from commenting any further. Hi Mom!
  • Ballroom: Took up basic ballroom latin classes to expose myself to partner dancing. I enjoyed it! There's a different feel to it compared to freestyle hip-hop. More importantly, it showed me how important it is to work closely with your dance partner. The lead cannot look impressive without his follower, and the follower can never do impressive tricks without the lead's support.
  • Bangkok: My 2nd trip to Bangkok this year in November was really enjoyable. Besides the free entrance to the Asia Fitness Convention, I really felt comfortable moving about in a foreign country alone. My nomadic tendencies were honed from a lonesome childhood, and now they've made me strong enough to really survive elsewhere by my self.
  • Lecturing: I've had an ambition to be a lecturer since college. And I finally got that opportunity this year! I'm just about to complete my first semester there and I can say that I really enjoyed myself. Unfortunately, I'll be turning down any lecturing offers next semester. Notes preparation and assignment marking does take its toll on my weekends. Actually, it usually eclipses my entire weekend! So while I've identified lecturing as a possible retirement career, it is not possible to fit it in my life right now without sacrificing my social life.
  • Friends: While I'm surrounded by many sincere, good friends, I realized that I'm not really close to any of them. Once again, I'm like a nomad ready to move on.

I believe 2010 will be another exciting year for me! For better or for worse. I hope 2009 has been good to you too. Happy New Year!

21 December 2009

145 Years Later

If you haven't caught Avatar in the cinema, don't miss it! I watched it in 3-D and it passed my Entertainment Rating* with a perfect score of 0!

Anyway, the most memorable scene for me has nothing to do with the war battles, alien lifeform, or eye-popping 3D. It was a short scene less than 5 seconds:

Sam Worthington's character, who is wheelchair-bound, was temporarily out of his avatar. He had been spending the whole day in his alternate character and had a short window to rest and recover.

In that scene, Sam was quickly wheeling himself away when Sigourney Weaver's character (the lead scientist), quickly pulled him back to his meal. She chastised him and made sure he ate, while both smiled sheepishly.

But why was Sam smiling sheepishly? What was he embarassed about? And then I saw it. In his other hand, he was holding.... *suspense*...... a Tenga Deep Throat! Though it was unlabeled, I knew what it was because I have one :$

In a nutshell, James Cameron managed to sneak in a scene to explore how soldiers of the future would satisfy their sexual needs. And also to show that Sam's character is a normal hot-blooded male who would prioritize a quick wank over eating.

James Cameron, I give you a standing O.

On a related note, would Tenga really still exist 145 years in the future (Avatar is set in year 2154)? Would it become standard issue equipment for men flying on deep space missions?

P.S. I did a rough Google search and I might be the first one to actually blog about this observation. Digg me up! :P

* Entertainment Rating: The number of times I check my watch, out of boredom. The lower the better!

14 November 2009

Stranded

I'm supposed to fly back from my ZhangJiaJie vacation on Friday morning, but I'm still stranded at Guangzhou at the moment. And the flight home has not been confirmed.

Details later!

09 November 2009

Facebook Withdrawal Symptom

I'm currently somewhere in Hunan Province, China on a holiday. Managed to get internet connection in my hotel room via Dad's netbook, but I couldn't find a working web proxy to access Facebook! SneakMe.net which worked while I was working in Beijing, is sadly out of operation here.

Must... read... status updates.... ugh.

04 November 2009

Thank You, Enjoy Your Meal

Last night I visited a food court and ordered Chicken Chop from the Western Food stall. After the lady served the food and collected the RM7, she said, "Thank you, enjoy your meal."

I was literally stunned for a second! It's just so rare from a hawker stall, heck, even *any* stall for that matter. Goes to show how rare pleasantries are in our culture.

(Unless you're a foreign tourist.)

28 October 2009

Achy Breaky Legs

Phew!

So glad I completed the 5 replacement classes for BodyJam! Thankfully I had Pauline's help for most of them, so it's less of a burden. Still, it felt exhilarating to be able to dance for 6 days straight especially after the back injury episode 2 months ago.

The teaching experience culminated in me recording my BodyJam international certification video on Tuesday morning. A rite of passage for every Les Mills instructor, I think I did good enough to clear even with the following mishaps:
  • I forgot to ask some of their names, so I could not call out names during class for CRC. I did give general feedback like, "You gals look hot!" though. (I did consider calling out a fake name, but decided against the dishonesty)
  • The microphone went kaput doing the 2nd half! I bought a new battery just to prevent this from happening. As I found out after the class, the battery was working but I had disrupted the wire connections. Therefore, I had to reduce music volume and shout louder so that the video assessor will be able to hear me.
  • I was supposed to wear a jacket for the warmup to look "cool", but forgot all about it as I was running late after setting up the videocam myself.
  • Small little mistake in the final breakout but managed to correct myself quickly.

And now... the wait for results!

21 October 2009

It's A Good Start


Sure, it's just a replacement class, but hey, it's a good start.

I'm replacing BodyJam classes while resident Jamsters Chris, Alan, and Terence are on a vacation.

Join me and Pauline at Fitness First Island Plaza for the following classes:
  • Thursday, 22 Oct 2009, 6.25pm
  • Friday, 23 Oct 2009, 9.30pm
  • Sunday, 25 Oct 2009, 10.55am
  • Tuesday, 27 Oct 2009, 10.30am

And also Fitness Studio Gurney Tower for BodyJam on Saturday 11.30am!

15 October 2009

BodyJam 51 Sizzler



BODYJAM® 51 is here to drop a funk bomb on the floor in your club! We’ve got hits from T-Pain and The Ting Tings, the best Gloria Estefan track ever and the hottest House anthems of the year! Track 1, Scared Of Me from Fedde le Grand, is so funky it should be illegal. The first combo comes back strong in the second half of the class, so feel the correct flava from beat one. T-Pain’s track, Freeze, will take you through the Isolation block. This is about feeling your hips from the beginning. Sing along while you get your class to “dance like me”.

Get your Swag Swag on to The Ting Tings’ Shut Up And Let Me Go – one of the hottest tracks from 2008. So what is Swag? Swag is your flava. The style is purely you, and you know you are all over it! Make it oversized and Swagalicious, baby! The new Tribal Salsa routine is a cosmic concoction of Latin styles. It’s going to fire up your floor and push your heart rate through the roof. Are you ready for the hottest, nastiest Recovery Track ever? Missy Elliott’s anthem One Minute Man is Hip Hop 101. Get yo’ Bounce Bounce on with the Kick Back Step. Surrender yourself to the rhythm and Leave The World Behind! This standout anthem of 2009 is so phenomenal that we’ve included two versions for a full 11½ minutes!

Want more jammers on the floor? Use the two complexity levels to grow your BODYJAM® class. Teach the low-complexity version for at least three weeks before adding in the advanced options. Get your class comfortable with the release as a whole, then start throwing in the advanced options over the next couple of weeks. Save some of the trickier options for later to keep your advanced class participants on their toes.



Well I don't have the full track list yet, but I've checked out some of the songs referenced there and I'm expecting great things! First of all, Scared of Me is truly funky - I hope it reverses the trend of overly-laidback warmups (think Saturday (50) and Closer (48)). And obviously I'm a big fan of any long Latin block - especially since Cha Cha Heels (34) was the last release to mix Tribal and Latin together (correct me if I'm wrong). Leave the World Behind is a stomping, trance-like track. I can definitely imagine breaking out to this! But I'm witholding judgment as to whether it's wise to put 11.5 minutes of it! I hated 43's second half because there's only so much "Please don't stop the music..." that a sane man can take. I'm ready to be proven wrong though.

Perhaps the best part of this release is that I'll get to see Rachael Cohen herself presenting it. First in Bangkok's Asia Fitness Convention, and again the following week (if I decide to go LM Quarterly in KL).

29 September 2009

Lucky

I might have mentioned it more than once that I'm never lucky in Lucky Draws. Especially at dinner functions, it's either the table I'm in gets neglected, or many people at my table wins something except me.

Well, I guess this makes up for all those disappointed times!

Recently, top Malaysian fitness blogger DailyMuscle ran a lucky draw for passes to the Asia Fitness Convention in Bangkok, held from 27-29 November 2009 and valued at USD399 each. It was so simple - just complete a slogan! I was kinda half-hearted due to my previous experience with draws but I figured it wouldn't hurt so I entered my half-assed attempt at a slogan.

Long story short: I won one of the 3 passes available! I was shocked watching the drawing process as I was more interested in seeing how he would conduct the draw, rather than praying for my name to be on it. So when he revealed my slogan as the second winner I sat there in stunned silence.

I'm currently awaiting e-mail confirmation but I've already started planning my trip there. This will be my fourth time to Bangkok so I've seen most of it all. My focus is on the exciting group fitness sessions where I'll get to see international presenters rip it up on stage! Hopefully get to learn some new moves to incorporate in Cardio Fit. Oh, and "wardrobe upgrading" with help from Chatuchak Market.

28 September 2009

Cikgu Zemien

In 2006, I wrote a post about sending an email to the future. I've forgotten most of the contents in that email (have to wait till 2016 to read) but I do remember one question that I asked Future Me: "Have you become a lecturer?"

The passion to teach has been in me for a long time. I'm not interested in dealing with young brats so that rules out school teaching. That leaves the young (and not-so-young) adults, hence the desire to be a college lecturer.

Well, that dream is now a reality!

Starting next semester I'm taking up a part-time lecturing gig at a private college. To protect myself and the college, I will not mention which college or what subject I'll be teaching. This way it's easier for me to blog about interesting students or office politics without courting controversy.

What I can reveal is that I'm teaching a software-related subject, and it will be two evening classes every week. So right off the bat the students already hate me for taking up their evening time. Luckily the course content is filled with practical work so this should prevent them from dozing off.

I'm very excited to take on this challenge, even though it cuts down my leisure time. And even if they only employ me for one semester, I can say that I have achieved my goal of being a lecturer. So that's 1 dream down, 227 to go!

21 September 2009

Refreshing

My head felt a little dizzy from the nutrients after juicing:
  • Carrots
  • Green Apple
  • Fuji Apple
  • Lemon
  • Celery
  • Ginger
  • Cucumber
Slightly diluted with water and honey.

Yum!

17 September 2009

Meme: Save Yvonne's Eyesight


How much is your eyesight worth? Dare you put a pricetag on your eyes? Sadly, Yvonne is losing hers and the pricetag for the surgery is almost RM16,000. She's raising the funds for the surgery not by begging for it, but working for it. She's published a book (see above), maintains a blog, and sells merchandise. You can support her by buying something (I plan to get the book from MPH, btw) or donating to her fund directly.

You can also help by sending on this meme. If you do, please follow these meme rules:
1. Create a blog entry titled "Meme: Save Yvonne's Sight"

2. List three things you love to see. Add in the picture of Yvonne's book cover. The URL is http://www.yvonnefoong.com/images/banner/my-story.jpg

3. End with the line, "Yvonne Foong is in danger of losing her eyesight thanks to neurofibromatosis (NF). Please find out how you can help her by visiting her blog at http://www.yvonnefoong.com.

4. Tag 5 blog friends. Be sure to copy the rules, OK?

5. If you have a Facebook account, please check out Ellen's new invention, a "feme" pronounced FEEM, a meme designed for Facebook here. And if you want to blog about NF, that would be great too!

The three things I love to see are:
1. A beautiful beach
2. A genuine smile or laughter
3. Dancing

I'm tagging the following blogger friends to ask them to help out:
1. Freedom09
2. Mark the Pooh
3. William
4. Silverhaze
5. Khwai

Anyone else interested in passing on this meme is more than welcome to do so. Yvonne (and I) will very much appreciate it!

16 September 2009

What the Hell..?!

As I mentioned in my previous post, my back gave way about 2 weeks ago and I have stopped all physical activity except for some light walking/hiking and my ballroom class (more about ballroom next time). Most of that time was spent catching up on downloaded TV shows and resting. Basically inactivity lah.

Before the injury I weighed about 75kg, my new weight after all the rich foods I ate in Beijing (along with some muscle I put on at the gym there). It stayed at that level even when I went back to my previous activity level (3-4 classes/week).

However, I weighed myself this morning and was shocked to see the scale read..... 71.5kg! Huh? I was expecting 75kg or even more, because my food intake remained consistent while my activity level dropped off a cliff. So where did the 3.5kg go?

The logical deduction is that I lost most of the muscle gains I made in the past 4 months. A quick check with my Body Fat % gadget (hardly accurate) shows that I have reduced my fat % too. So the real answer is probably a bit of both.

In addition, I'll be taking the upcoming long weekend to do a 3 day detox. Besides cleansing my colon, it will inevitable obliterate some fat storage and (unfortunately) more muscle mass. Based on my detox experience last year, I should go back to my original weight of 70.5 to 71kg.

This post is an extremely long way of saying - Operation: Eat has been reset. I'll have to start Season 2 after the detox and I've recovered from my back. Sigh.

15 September 2009

Stubborn

I was stubborn, I didn't listen to my body. I thought it was a normal sprain, something that passes with time. Even after I suspected it to be sciatica, I hot headedly rushed back into teaching. That's the thing about fitness instructors - we believe in stretching beyond our limits in our quest to get fitter and inspire others to do the same.

That was probably why, 2 Fridays ago, I felt a sharp intense cramp in my lower back when I bent down to pick a sock off the floor. I had even bent my knees so it wasn't exactly bad posture but the intense pain told me, "This is serious, this is different." I struggled to stand up and paralyzed on the spot as I tried to breathe through the pain. Heart beating wildly, I sought to calm myself down, "I'll be fine, I'll be ok, this is just a normal cramp."

I slowly walked up to my room to do some stretching, as that's the best thing to do for cramps even though it hurts. But this time it only had a temporary effect as my whole left butt cheek area was burning with pain. I shuffled slowly to my father and told him I would need help going to the clinic. All the while worrying, "Will I be able to teach again?"

At the clinic the doctor gave me a painkiller jab and more pain pills to swallow at home. My perspective on western medicine is this: they're great in fixing many problems, but pain is not one of them. Pain killers reduce inflammation and numb the pain, but something wrong had to have happened, and no amount of medicine can fix that.

In the afternoon Dad drove me to a Chinese traditional massage centre. Tit ta (literally, "iron hit" in Cantonese) , though I don't know why it's called that. It was my first time doing this, so I had my reservations but the situation was too dire to worry about the sifu's qualifications. The waiting room was already full of injured persons, and I took my number (22!). I waited for about 90 minutes before being called in, and the sifu proceeded to work his magic.

He immediately identified the errant nerve (or muscle?) that was swollen and cramped up. Surprisingly, though the pain is in my lower back, the problem was in between my butt cheek and my hamstring. The moment he started stroking that area - wow! - I knew it was the right spot. The session lasted about 30 minutes and RM40, and I felt an immediate improvement. Before treatment I was inching forward like an 80 year old. After treatment I was shuffling about like a 60 year old. Amazing, if you ask me!

I stayed in bed for the rest of Friday and Saturday, as any movement reminded me of the cramp. I was more mobile on Sunday, and it got progressively better after that. However, as of this moment, 12 days after the injury, there's still a little nagging tightness/soreness. I allocate 20 minutes before bed and after waking to do stretching, but I'm slightly worried about the persistent discomfort.

I am taking an extended break from teaching or participating. Will I be able to teach at 100% again? I'm worried, but this is just another hurdle in life. And there's only 2 ways about it: give up or jump over it. I'm jumping!

27 August 2009

Hair Length

I heard an interesting 'factoid' being quoted frequently when I was getting my hair done at the hairdresser's.

"Men's hair always grow faster than women's."

Huh, I didn't know! Could it be true? Is there something in our DNA that determines hair growth?

The answer, simply, is that they were looking at the wrong number. Instead of looking at absolutes, they looked at relativity. And it's true - human brains are qualitative, not quantitative. So we say things like, "My house is bigger than yours", but rarely "My house is 200 square feet larger than yours".

Assume hair growth for both males and females is 3cm per month. On a guy with 3cm of hair, it would look like his hair has doubled in length within a month. But for a girl with 30cm hair, it would only appear that her hair has changed 10%, a slight change to the casual observer. So it's only natural for our flawed brains to perceive men's hair as growing faster than women's.

-------------------

Thank you, I just saved you 60 minutes of watching Mythbusters.

26 August 2009

Under the Weather

There are instructors who can teach 3-4 classes a day and survive with a smile on their faces. Maybe I have to concede that I'm not one of them. On Friday evening I taught 2 classes, and I became quite lethargic on Saturday and Sunday. Monday I began to have cough. Monday night the fever came. I stayed in bed on Tuesday, and this morning I began to have some slight runny nose. The fever is under control, but because of that the doctor would not issue an MC for today. Damn her.

Anyway, I doubt it's A(H1N1), but I'm taking necessary precautions by avoiding contact, wearing a face mask, and upping my supplements. I am currently:
  • Taking at least 3000mg of Vitamin C a day (spread out over 3 doses)
  • Taking NoCo, a herbal supplement
  • Making lemongrass + ginger tea everyday
  • Constantly drinking warm fluids (green tea, for all its antioxidants)
  • Gargling with salt water twice a day
  • Avoiding exercise (say bye to my stamina!)

Anything else to add?

Sciatica

I have sciatica. Ouch.

In the latest in my long list of health problems, I did a particular nasty pull when teaching BodyJam one day. Normally sprains or muscle pulls resolve itself within 3-4 days, but when the pain intensified on Day 5, I knew this wasn't normal.

Modern medicine is surprisingly useless in resolving pain, so I decided to consult the Almighty, All-Knowing, All-Encompassing Google. Self-diagnosis has led me to conclude I have a mild form of sciatica. There is no modern cure but I found some effective deep stretches that will really relax the muscle causing the pain.

It has worked well so far, but I'm still left with a dull pain - that last stubborn 10% that won't go away! I'm now considering whether to visit a Chinese traditional sinseh, those specializing in sprains, dislocations, etc. I've heard many good things about them, but I'm reluctant to go because I have a persistent trust issue. How would I know if they cracked my back and I'd end up paralyzed from the waist down the next day?

Deep stretches for now.

25 August 2009

New Room

I'm moving to a new room! No, not a new house, but a new room!

My house has an under-utilized guest bedroom. Well, guests rarely stay over at my place. I don't blame them - my house ain't exactly a fun fair of exciting experiences.

Anyhow, the air-con in that room malfunctioned recently. My father changed it, along with the 20 year-old mattress. So now the room is actually better than my own. Therefore, the decision to switch rooms.

I've spent the last couple of weekends just cleaning up the room. You won't believe the amount of lizard excrement in that room. And the spiders I had to chase out. Eww. Mildew was the last of my worries.

Still, I managed to air out the place and now it's ripe for moving in. I just gotta decorate it a little and beautify the place. Then, I'll finally get to enjoy that nice queen-sized bed! That's the chief advantage - I can now accommodate another human being on the bed (wink! wink!). My old room only has a single bed and it's IMPOSSIBLE for 2 people to sleep on it (trust me - I've tried).

Pictures will be up once I've touched up the room with some lemongrass (nice color, easy to grow, and natural mosquito-repellant) and other as-of-yet-undecided decorations.

24 August 2009

Knock You Down

I just love love love this song from Keri Hilson, Ne-Yo, and Kanye West! It's so hopeful, optimistic, and it really gives me hope that love is still possible. Somebody, knock me down!

"Sometimes love comes around,
When it knocks you down, just get back up!"

19 August 2009

Phone SMS Usability

When looking for a new phone, my father will only insist on Nokia phones. "Superior usability," he says. I know a lot of people who are reluctant to switch away from Nokia because they really do interfaces quite well. But my Motorola phone has a little usability trick that is so effective I'm surprised I don't see it in Nokia phones.

My phone (Motorola ROKR E2) keeps a list of 5 Most Messaged numbers. So after I type my SMS, it's very likely my recipient is already at the top of the list. That's way more convenient that searching through the entire list for your friend's name, or (like what I did with my Nokia last time) append a special character in front of their names so it will appear first.

What can your non-Nokia phone do that Nokia should learn?

01 August 2009

Final Tally

Throughout my stay in Beijing, my weight has fluctuated wildly, no thanks to the constant intake of rich foods. Just before I left, the apartment's electronic weighing machine was screaming "78kg!!!!!!!!!!!' mockingly to my face. Sometimes even 79. And there was once it read 80.0 after a particularly heavy lunch.

But now that I'm back, I can re-calibrate with my own weighing machine. And that one reads 75kg this morning. Whew! 3kg, I can deal with. I have a little small tummy protruding out that I'm keeping where it belongs by sucking my breath in. Rather die from asphyxia than embarassment. Anyway, once I'm back to my usual diet and schedule of workouts, I hope to slowly burn that 3kg of fat away, and replace it with 2kg of muscle.

This would be my Operation: Eat Stage 3!

27 July 2009

BodyJam 50 Track List

Looking forward to a great DVD release, featuring one of my Jam trainers - Fetty Fatimah! I think she's gonna be hot up there!



Warmup/Isolations
1 Saturday (Fedde le Grand vocal mix main) - Cunnie Williams feat. Monie Love
2 Love, Sex, Magic - Ciara feat. Justin Timberlake

Mambo Extravaganza
3 75, Brazil Street (original club vocal mix) - Nicola Fasano vs Pat-Rich
4 I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) - Pitbull
5 75, Brazil Street (Steve Forest & Paul Simon mix) - Nicola Fasano vs Pat-Rich

Cardio Funk
6 I Wanna Rock - DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
7 Voice of Freedom - Freedom Williams
8 Set it Off - J. Williams

Recovery
9 Blame It - Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain

Tribal House
10 Pictures (tonite only remix) - Sneaky Sound System
11 Suburban Knights (Steve Angello & Sebastian Ingrosso mix) - Hard-Fi
12 Finally 2008 (Kam Denny & Paul Zala remix) - Denzal Park

Groovedown
13 Spotlight - Jennifer Hudson

23 July 2009

Belacan in Beijing

Last Sunday I was walking around looking for a place to have lunch when I came across.... a Malaysian restaurant! Looking at the menu, I knew I had to try it. Not that I was pining for Hokkien Mee or Or Chien (after all, I'll be back in 8 days), but I really wanted to see how well our cuisine is represented here.

Entering the tastefully decorated place with Malay wood carvings and motifs, I was seated next to the window in a comfortable sofa. The waitresses wore tight and glittery baju kebaya, but I didn't check if they knew any Malay. Some generic Malay pop music was playing in the background, but it wasn't anyone I recognized. Certainly nothing as old as P. Ramlee, but nothing as recent as Siti Nurhaliza either. I proceeded to scan through the English/Chinese menu (what? No BM?).

Here's what I ordered for my lunch:
  • Otak-otak: The taste is too mild and it was a bit too dry/hard. So it tasted more like fish cakes than the mushy and soft versions.
  • Kangkong Belacan: The star of my meal! The belacan taste is authentic, and brought me back to choo char outlets back home. However, the Chinese are not known to be big fans of spicy dishes (except their own Sichuan cuisine) so the kangkong wasn't fiery at all.
  • CKT (Char Kuey Teow): Ahh... I consider this the gold standard of any Malaysian cook! And the CKT here wasn't up to par at all. Alright, for someone who hasn't tasted home for 3 months, it was passable. But thinking of it with a critical tongue, the rice noodles were too thick (twice of what it should be), and it tasted mostly of soya sauce with not enough depth or crispiness. Still, a commendable effort since it has large prawns and lap cheong (no cockles, though I'm not a fan anyway).
  • Ais Kacang: I'm still unsure if it was meant to be ais kacang or ABC. The glaring difference: gula melaka is used instead of sirap ros dan sarsi. Ice was blended in a machine, so lacked the fine shaves of true ais kacang. FAIL.
Here are the prices of some of their dishes. There is a wide variety of multi-cultural cuisine. If I weren't dining alone, I would have tried one of their rendangs or curries.
  • Otak-otak: RMB32
  • Rojak: RMB28
  • Satay (6): RMB42 (WTH?!?)
  • Kangkong Belacan: RMB26
  • CKT: RMB36
  • Laksa: RMB38
  • Hokkien Char (Penang style): RMB35
  • Char Koay Kak: RMB35 (WTF?!?!)
  • Nasi Lemak: RMB42
  • Nasi Goreng Melayu: RMB32
  • Chinese Chicken Rice: RMB42
  • Roti Canai: RMB18 (Holy mother of ....!)
  • Bubur Cha Cha: RMB18
  • Ais Kacang: RMB28
  • Teh Tarik: RMB18
  • Tom Yum Soup: RMB25

I've started to compile what I'll be eating on the Saturday and Sunday after I return. Hokkien Mee, Char Koay Teow, Loh Mee, here I COME!!!

19 July 2009

How Many...

How many engineers do you need to buy food from the wet market?

Three.

One to select and pay for the vegetables,
One to carry those vegetables, and
One to note down the price of those vegetables for the purpose of expense claims.

15 July 2009

Lulling You to Sleep

From making all my "Banana in Beijing" vlogs, I confirmed what I have suspected for some time - I have the vocal range of a damp sponge. If I were asked to make an audiobook of the Harry Potter books, I'm sure it would top the bestseller's list under the "Best Audiobook to Cure Insomnia" category.

So I guess this strikes out an acting/singing career?

13 July 2009

Crap

I just recently bought a RM430 Nike iD dance shoe, but my other athletic shoe (for non-dance classes) have shown signs of wearing out. I have a feeling I might have to buy another pair of shoe before the end of the year! Damn... what a shame I can only claim up to RM300 for sports equipment in tax relief.

Facebook Cold Turkey

(Update: Found a way that works! Back on Blogger and Facebook!)

:(

My company has installed extra content filtering on its firewalls, preventing me from using a US proxy to access Facebook and Blogger. Argh!

I'm able to post this via e-mail, but for the next 2 weeks I'm forced to be Facebook-free. Wish me luck.

08 July 2009

Damn It!

Last night we had dinner at a Belgian restaurant called Morel's. Reviews highly recommended their mussels so we ordered that. Little did I know it would change my life forever.

You see, it was the best ****ing mussels I've ever had in my entire life!

I'm kinda angry now because the bottomline is: every mussel I have from now on will be compared to Morel's. And then I will get even angrier because I know Morel's is a 6.5 hour flight away, not exactly someplace I could go on a whim. I didn't even feel this strongly about Peking roast duck, so you know this is special.

I know what most guys think - mussels are like a poor man's version of oysters. A large shellfish as well, but it's a bit more chewy and less flavourful. Well, Morel's is different.


Imagine: boiled mussels so soft it offered no resistance when plucked from its shell. Merely a few bites later and it's sliding down your throat, making you lunge for the next mussel before everyone else finishes it.

Imagine: the smell and taste of fresh seafood without a sandy aftertaste.

Imagine: leftover jucies that are clear and tasty enough to be made into seafood chowder or a seafood broth.

THAT'S Morel's.

The mussels are imported, and I can see that they've cleaned each mussel individually. That's why there's no icky membrane and sand/mud deposits within the mussel. So there's none of that black stuff mucking up the taste as is common with other restaurant's mussels.

So that's why I say: Damn it!

06 July 2009

Under Control

At my last weigh-in, I'm hovering around 75kg. This is good - at least I know I'm not balooning uncontrollably! With less than 4 weeks before I return, it's time to shake off unresponsible eating behaviour and get back on the fitness circuit!

03 July 2009

Changing Tides

Well! After my previous outpouring of negativity, things have certainly looked up! I think writing all those thoughts down really flushed it out and prepare me for the awesomeness about to happen.

I finally attended a BodyJam class in Beijing last night and it rocked! They went through BJ48 one last time, and it was interesting to see how they taught in a smattering of English and Mandarin. Basic cues alternate between languages (one, two, three is usually followed by yi, er, san), while motivational cues are usually in Chinese.

One thing to note is that their DVDs are not localized. So all the cueing and booklet is in English. I think this slightly hampers their repertoire of Flava cues as some cues in English just don't sound right in Chinese! So it's up to the individual instructor's ability to formulate new Flava and Breakout cues. Luckily the instructor I met (Johnson) knows how to bring out the fun out in Jam.

Anyway the good news is that they're launching BJ49 next week and I was invited to join them on stage! I kept warning them that my banana-ness might cause learning problems with the members, but they insisted on me teaching a track or two. Since they've been such gracious hosts, I'd be rude to turn them down. So I agreed to teach the Latin and Recovery tracks.

Only three things to do now: practice, practice, practice! I won't let Malaysia down, I promise! :)

You got me burnin' up!


Womanizer (Benassi Radio Edit) - Britney Spears

01 July 2009

Save Me, I'm Lost

A wonderful song you probably have not heard:


Show Me What Im Looking For - Carolina Liar


The music video on Youtube.

Carolina Liar - Show Me What I'm Looking For
Wait, I’m wrong
Should have done better than this
Please, I’ll be strong
I’m finding it hard to resist
So show me what I’m looking for

CHORUS
Save me, I’m lost
Oh lord, I’ve been waiting for you
I’ll pay any cost
Save me from being confused
Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for…oh lord

Don’t let go
I’ve wanted this far too long
Mistakes become regrets
I’ve learned to love abuse
Please show me what I’m looking for

CHORUS
Save me, I’m lost
Oh lord, I’ve been waiting for you
I’ll pay any cost
Save me from being confused
Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for…oh lord

Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for

CHORUS
Save me, I’m lost
Oh lord, I’ve been waiting for you
I’ll pay any cost
Just save me from being confused
Wait, I’m wrong
I can’t do better than this
I’ll pay any cost
Save me from being confused
Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for
Show me what I’m looking for…oh lord

Tired

(This post reads like a cluttered mess because that's what my mind is at the moment)

Last night I had one of my rare emo moments.

I was practicing BodyJam in front of the mirror and as usual I video-ed myself. My thoughts during the session:
  • Why can't I feel the bounce in my feet?
  • Dammit, where's the twist in the body?
  • Argh, I keep forgetting to lock my arms!
  • Where are the hips? Twist it, twist it, twist it! Bigger! More hips!
  • Remember to walk on your toes in Latin!
  • I'm starting to cue like a droning robot again
  • Oh, I will cringe when I see these armlines in the video later
  • Point your toes dammit! Point them!
  • I need to drop down lower, bend my knees more, get my butt close to the floor...
  • Sigh... my weak center of gravity is killing my turns
  • Ah... I'm already panting so much when I'm only halfway through!
  • I'm supposed to jump - why do I feel I'm just hopping?
After my session ended, a wave of disappointment washed over. Was that all I could do? After more than 1 year of BodyJam, and 1 year before that of general aerobics, I'm left wanting more. I don't expect perfection, but everytime I review myself I'm so upset. And the feedback I get reflects that.

I usually get two types of feedback. Members of my class usually praise me. They'll say I'm good, I move well, etc. One even proclaimed loyalty, saying she'll never miss my class no matter what. They're good to hear, and I appreciate them, but they're just members, y'know?

On the other hand, I have rarely received true compliments from colleagues or other instructors. We have higher expectations of each other, and we can spot many more things than ordinary members can. And so, I know, whether they say it out loud or keep it in their hearts, I know their opinion of me is, "Meh... he's just ok nia."

At the heart of the matter is the issue of instructor clearance. In certain health clubs, every new instructor has to be mentored by a head teacher, who will 'clear' that trainee instructor upon satisfying certain criteria.

And 1 year on, I still haven't been cleared. Is that a failure on my part or my mentor's? No joke, I'm tempted to blame my mentor for holding out the clearance, but I know in my heart that it's mostly my own failings. Looking at my own video, I feel such a discontentment that it borders on disgust. No wonder I can't get cleared - even such a simple acknowledgement by peers is out of my grasp.

And I'm tired. I'm really, really exhausted. I've been travelling so far on an empty tank I'm amazed at my own perseverance sometimes. Or is it actually foolishness?

I want to be great. I want to be a good role model for *other* instructors, not just to the members. But I'm thinking maybe I'll never be good enough. I only started enjoying dance less than 3 years ago, and I have no basic dance training to fuel my technique. So I feel like I'm a paralympic runner sometimes. No one expects a paralympic runner to outrun an Olympic runner. Maybe I shouldn't expect a weak instructor like myself to outdo my peers?

Adding to my current frustrations, I had hoped that coming to Beijing will give me much needed time to improve my dancing. This is my opportunity to come here and then go back as a better instructor. But from last night, it's clear I haven't moved an inch from my spot.

I'm sick. And I'm tired.

There's a difference between being too hard on myself, and just being frank. I'm not going to delude myself into thinking I'm already good enough. And 'good' will be far too much of a compliment to give!

So, after all this ranting, now what? Now I keep going on. Am I giving up? No. Am I dispirited? Yes. But I know, though I'm moving at a snail's pace, I will get there. I must! This is my passion. Though it may not manifest on stage, and others can't see it, I know the flame is in my heart, and it burns brighter everytime someone tries to throw water on it.

My theme song for the moment is Hairspray's "Come So Far (Got So Far To Go)":


Come So Far (Got So Far To Go) - Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron And Elijah Kelly

29 June 2009

Choreography Epiphany

I just had an epiphany about choreographing routines. Throughout 2 years+ of choreographing classes, I had no fixed method of creating a track. It felt more like an alchemy experiment, throwing things into a pot and hoping something good comes out. More often than not (especially in the early years), things turned out mundane and unpalatable. I can easily count up to 10, the number of tracks that I dare not teach again!

But over a quiet lunch today I concluded that most tracks (I'm referring to my own cardio/dance classes here) consist of:
  1. Movement
  2. Direction

Movement is of course, the basis of the track itself. Within it, there are many parameters to tweak, most notably:

  1. Body positioning (where are your arms, feet, body)
  2. Weight transference (how does the weight move from feet to feet?)
  3. Speed (the speed in which the movement is executed)

From these 3 simple parameters it is already easy to create tracks of varying difficulty. Easier tracks have simpler body positioning (e.g. march on the spot), while difficult tracks might have higher speed (double-time).

But I find that movement itself is pretty easy to catch, until we add Direction into the mix. This is where I see a lot of beginners trip up. Their brain can only keep track of one or the other. Either you do something on the spot, or you change direction without any complex movement. Once we add any reasonable amount of the two together, the complexity rises significantly. This can easily cause a mental overload in new members and by the time they catch up we're on to the next move. Fun for experienced members, but frustrating for the newbies.

BodyJam instructors who have witnessed the evolution of BodyJam and BodyJam+ can attest to this. More often than not, Gandalf just added a direction change (usually a turn) to the exact same movement in the Base option. A good example is the jump in the Street Jazz block (BJ49). Sometimes, one of the Movement parameters is changed instead. E.g. the double-time samba in Smooze Salsa (BJ49).

Following this relevation, I think I can apply a more scientific process to choreographing future classes. Instead of throwing random moves on the wall and praying it sticks, I should break it down into its Movement and Direction components. Then I can decide what parameters will be tweaked to make a fun, but doable track.

This also applies to how a move is introduced. I should start with the basics of Movement, preferably in a slower count. Then I can start to add Direction to that Movement. Depending on how complex I wish the track to be, the type of Direction can vary (walk instead of turn). Though, I have to be careful of breaking things down too much. It's no fun learning everything from its atomic structure - sometimes the fun is in doing the move just as it is and let the members go, "What?!? I *gotta* learn that."

I hope this blog post proves useful to budding choreographers out there! If you are a choreographer and you have something to add to this, drop a comment.

28 June 2009

Timely Advice for All Men

Spotted in urinals at the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace:

Is It Finger Licking Good....

... if it's in China?

Apparently, no. I just had dinner at KFC in Beijing and here are my 10-minute observations:
  1. The fried chicken is not the main attraction! There are about 7 types of various burgers and tortilla wraps featured heavily on the menu. Fried chicken is relegated to a corner and I had a hard time finding it initially!
  2. The fried chicken is *meh*. The skin is not crispy, and I could really feel the fatty chicken skin swimming in my oral cavity. Ugh! They got the Colonel's 11 secret spices right, but I think they amplified the amount of salt in there. And, there's only O.R., no Hot & Spicy.
  3. Their default set meal comes with a small corn salad and a glass of orange juice (more like cordial, actually).
  4. Coleslaw? What's that? Mashed potatoes are available though.
  5. Where can you find the best egg tarts in China? Why, in KFC of course! Their egg tarts (RMB5.50/pc, not cheap) are absolutely heavenly and has a creamy and egg-y taste. It's very similar to Portugese egg tarts, with a crispy crust and cardiac-arresting filling.
  6. For dinner I had a New Orleans Roast Chicken Burger. I think New Orleans should be offended.
I guess it's safe to say that Malaysia still holds the title of Best KFC in the World.

27 June 2009

Arty Farty

An in any large city, Beijing has a vibrant arts and culture scene. Plus, it has some of the most modern places to stage such events. So early this month I made a resolve to check out some shows and pretend to be all high culture.

Tickets are relatively cheap and there are many shows running throughout the year (unlike the odd musical or two every 5 years in KL). I bought mine from Piao, which is the usual tickets distributor for most shows in China. I decided I will feign appreciation of abstract dances, music written by dead men, and epic Chinese operas with the following shows:

  • Swan Lake (ballet) at the National Aquatics Centre (a.k.a. Watercube)
    • I'm looking forward to this show the most, because the stage is set around the swimming pool instead of a usual stage. With this it becomes a full-vision ballet, unrestricted by the 2 dimensions of a normal stage. (I'm not sure what that means either.)
  • Summertime - Gershwin's Works Concert at the NCPA (a.k.a. The Egg)
    • A collection of works by George Gershwin (tak tahu siapa itu), which includes an orchestra and a singing chorus. I'm only coming for this because this was the cheapest show that is held in NCPA's Concert Hall.
  • Peking Opera - The Red Cliff at the NCPA
    • You might have read the novels or watched the movies, but have you watched it in the form of a Peking Opera? I'm looking forward to this because its last run was all sold out. Plus, it is directed by Zhang Jigang (asst. chief director of the opening/closing ceremonies of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games) and performed by leading Peking Opera actors. And all for only RM40? You can't get it in Malaysia even if you paid RM400.

I will post my thoughts and reviews about each show after I watched them.

26 June 2009

Abso-freaking-lutely Hot

Last Wednesday, the temperature in Beijing touched a high of 40 degrees Celsius.

I'll give you a moment to imagine that.

Imagine standing in front of an oven and feeling the heat wave sting your face. That's how the wind felt like. So although the low humidity makes our perception of hotness lower, the sheer intensity of the sun literally burns my skin in prolonged exposures. Have I also mentioned that the sun rises before 5am and only sets after 8pm? hot Hot HOT!

On the bright side, I've got a good tan.

The End of an Era

David Carradine, Farah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson in the span of 1 month.

Who will be the legends of my era?

R.I.P. to the 3 of them.

25 June 2009

Yogurt Sorbet

I just learned a quick and delicious way to enjoy yogurt when I ordered this at a local fast food restaurant.
  1. Pour yogurt into an ice cube tray and let freeze. You may consider thinning the yogurt with very little milk or water, in case the yogurt is too dense to freeze.
  2. Put yogurt ice cubes into a bowl, and drizzle strawberry sauce over it. Hershey's syrup would make a more sinful substitute. For health-conscious fun-spoilers, I guess chopped fruits and nuts won't be too bad either (I'm thinking raisins, diced apples, and crushed cashews).
  3. Lick your lips (optional) and eat.

19 June 2009

Observations on Hospitality

2 things:
  1. I saw an old man struggle to climb up the bus (the step is about 1 foot off the ground). The female bus driver immediately got out of her seat to assist the elderly man.
  2. At the subway, I witnessed a little girl of around 8 or 9 get separated from her mother because the mum was rushing for the train, and the doors closed before daughter could get in. She started bawling her eyes out as the train pulled away from the station. A bystander quickly went to comfort her, and almost immediately a subway warden walked over to escort the little girl to the office.
Malaysians are known for their hospitality. I have never seen those two event play out in Malaysia before. Hmm.... I wonder indeed.



(On the other hand, I was at Ikea on Sunday and I saw a father asking his young son to pee at a corner of the restaurant because the son couldn't hold it much longer. He scolded off the Ikea staff who asked him to go to the toilet instead. So yes, the boy actually left a puddle of pee right inside Ikea while the poor staff had to mop it up afterwards. The outrageous part is - Ikea's toilet was barely 20 meters away. Major -_-" moment!)

18 June 2009

The Wait Begins

On the 1st of June, I placed an order for my most expensive shoe ever - a custom Nike iD Air Troupe Mid dance shoe. It costs RMB840 (around RM450). Believe me, I'm still trying to justify it! All logical reasoning has been thrown out the window when I keyed in my credit card details. I can only hope that it allows me to leap building in a single bound or walk on ceilings.

Anyhoo, after patiently waiting for 2+ weeks I finally received an email saying that it has been shipped out and I should receive my custom show within 2-7 days!

Commencing: Project "Nervously Pacing The Room and Gripping The Telephone Till My Hands Turn Blue". I'll definitely do an unboxing video for my next Banana in Beijing episode!

troupe.jpg

Curse You, Uniqlo

I've entered Uniqlo thrice, and I've never once left empty-handed! Curse you, affordable-yet-trendy clothing! How dare you tempt me with your last-season clearance sales of more than 50%. Don't get me started on the 100's of unique t-shirt designs in your UT range. I hate you!

Uniqlo is Japan’s leading clothing retail chain. They have branches in several other countries including Singapore (but not Malaysia).

*sigh*, like they say, hate is just another form of love, not the absence of it. I'll be visiting them again before I come back.

17 June 2009

Flexing Some Culinary Muscles

I have a very simple kitchen in my home. We don't do much cooking, so we only have a small portable stove, a medium-sized pan and pot, and basic low-quality knives. We have a small toaster oven that's perfect for toast, potatoes, reheating, but not much else!

I like to cook once in a while (main masak-masak?) so I was practically in heaven when I saw how well-equipped the apartment kitchen is. Good knives, oven, microwave, and a great selection of pots and pans allow me more freedom in cooking my dishes.

Here's what I cooked for lunch on Sunday:


First up is a cold dish heavily inspired by a similar Hors D'oeuvres we ordered at a Yunnan restaurant. It's a vegetable roll with: Italian herb grilled chicken, black mushroom, and shredded carrot. It's swimming in a diluted soya sauce base with mashed ginger.


The restaurant we went to wrapped everything with the flesh of a plant that tastes almost like cucumber. I'm not sure what it's called, but we managed to get it at the wet market. It's freakishly difficult to slice the flesh thinly! I'm amazed at how the chef could make large, thin slices while I routinely cursed the gods for making a slice that is either too thick or too short. As a result, 1 hour of hard work only yielded 17 servings.


But it tastes pretty awesome! Still, this will be the last time I attempt such a crazy dish without proper equipment to make nice vegetable slices.

The next dish would be impossible without a proper oven: Baked mashed potatoes!

After mashing the boiled potatoes, I added in the following: Italian herb mix, pepper, salt, butter, and half an egg. Scooping everything into a baking dish, I added the magical touch: Chopped garlic sprinkled over the top.

And in it goes to the 175F pre-heated oven for 45 minutes! A bit salty (I'll skip the salt next time) but otherwise the herb-y taste sets it apart from KFC.

The last dish I cooked is a simple vegetable stir-fry with french beans, carrots, and black mushrooms:
Before throwing the vegetables into the pan, I sauteed some dried shrimps until fragrant. Though the dried shrimp here is not as pungent as Malaysia's, it still added a nice kick to the dish, along with the generous amount of oyster sauce I used (oh, the MSG!).


Overall, a roaring success!

I also cooked Thai-style stewed pork ribs with mushrooms (not spicy, but sweet type) which turned out swimmingly well, getting a rare thumbs up from my housemates.

Murdering the 3 Click Rule

I don't do much web design, but I can certainly understand and relate the following articles to my work in software UI design. Some people fret over the number of clicks to access a feature, which is actually irrelevant! There are more important issues to consider.

Reading materials:
  1. Testing the Three-Click Rule
  2. Stop Counting Clicks
I'm gonna start forwarding these articles to whoever keeps insisting on vomiting all the features in the first window, in order to "improve usability". I know, if all interaction designers work together, we can kill it!

16 June 2009

75.5 kg

My weight is now around 75.5 kg. This is a number I haven't seen for many, many years. Have I gained more lean mass? Yes, but I won't be certain until I get home and use my body fat percentage gadget.

I can certainly say my belly is a bit rounder (even after framing myself in the best possible angle), and it's a bit more jiggly (oh no!). I'm mostly walking around with my stomach sucked in to prevent an unsightly bulge.

On the other hand, the endless walking I'm forced to do has firmed up my quads, and I'm also gaining strength from my weight training. The question is: what's the ratio between muscle/fat gain?

One thing is certain though: I'll need a short detox when I get home to clean out the junk in my digestive system! I can't ever remember a time in my life where I regularly and constantly consumed so much food!

15 June 2009

Banana in Beijing Episodes 2, 3, 4

Thanks to the Great Firewall of China, I have not been able to update my blog easily. So just to remind you that the latest 3 episodes of my vlog (and all future episodes) is up on my Vimeo page.

For your own sanity, I recommend viewing only 1 episode per day. The sheer boredom of some of the episodes might make your brain want to crawl out from your cranium - so you've been warned!

BTW, there will not be a fresh episode this week, and probably the next. I have nothing worthy to vlog about - and I'd rather skip a skip instead of posting something empty!

Comments are always warmly received!

05 June 2009

Pop My Cherry

For most of my life, my only experience with cherries are the ones found on cakes. I always find them funny tasting, but I guess that's expected because they are sweetened, coloured, and preserved. I also can't fathom why it has a funky after taste that turns most people away.

But today I've finally tasted freshly plucked cherries and they are a MILE away from what I've had. It tastes a lot like grapes, except it only has one big seed in the middle instead of several small ones in a grape. Also, cherries grow on tall trees, unlike short shrubs as with grapes.

If you have never tasted real, fresh cherries before, you owe that to yourself. Look for the dark maroon ones as those are truly sweet. Red cherries are still quite sour. Pop a cherry today!

04 June 2009

Pulling Some Noodles

Back in Penang discerning diners are willing to pay extra for 'la mien' (literally translated as 'pulled noodles') for their freshness and taste. For the uninitiated, la mien is basically noodles that are prepared on the spot. The chef will knead, massage, and pull huge mounds of dough and transform them into delicate strings of noodles, without all the boric acid and unsavoury chemicals found in conventional instant ramen and yellow noodles.

What is premium and rare in Penang, is common in Beijing. It's actually harder to find yellow noodles in restaurants than la mien, so those that appreciate fresh noodles will be in heaven here as they are considered common food and are quite cheap.

Too bad I'm not a big fan of la mien.

02 June 2009

I Feel It in the Air

The difference was apparent - I could feel it in the wind. What was once refreshing or sometimes even shiver-inducing, has become unbearably warm. The winds of change are blowing; summer is here!

Yesterday we experienced Beijing highest temperature since 2005, a run-for-the-shade and smack-on-some-sunscreen 38 degrees. I thought I managed to escape Malaysia's tropical heat and haze, but seems that the hot weather is catching up to me...

Makan Makan Makan

Operation: Eat is becoming a huge success over here in Beijing! I'm now around 75kg, which means I gained almost 3kg within a month! This is getting very near to my goal, so now I'm beginning Phase 2 and started regular weight training at my apartment gym.

I'm thinking this last minute business trip is becoming a huge blessing in disguise. First, my meals are paid so that can only mean one thing. I eat buffet breakfast every single morning, plus a huge lunch and hearty dinner. The gym is just a lift ride down to the basement, so there's no place for excuses like "... but it's so far....." The gym is deserted most of the time so there's no rushing for equipment and self-conscious feelings.

So far... me likey. Let's see how much muscle I can gain before I return and resume a poor diet...

31 May 2009

What A Shock!

Thanks to the super-dry weather here, I've lost count of the number of times I get shocked by static electricity when touching metal handrails. You would think I'd learn my lesson after the 5th shock, but no, it's more than 10 times and counting. Dammit!

Also, the dry weather is such that most any moisturizer I apply on my skin is dried out in mere hours. I had to buy a good Nivea body milk lotion to combat premature skin aging! And the thing is foreign brands are more expensive here than home, so I've been wasting my yuan on unnecessary things like moisturizers and face masks.

26 May 2009

A Goal We Can All Aspire To

I've decided to become an alcoholic. Let me explain.

I'm not a big fan of alcohol consumption, what with following my Buddhist 5 Precepts and my low tolerance for it (a sip of wine and I'll turn maroon). I've recently been more interested in cocktails but that is a very rare occasion.

However, here in China the government doesn't impose a sin tax (I think) on alcohol and tobacco. That's why beers and cigarettes are so DAMN cheap. A local pack of cancer sticks is less than RMB3, which is roughly RM1.50. Similarly, a 355ml can of imported Heineken is around RMB3.60, which is only RM1.80. Local brands like Tsing Tao run even cheaper!

So can you see why I'm looking forward to indulge my senses and stress my liver? I'm only here for 9 more weeks - it's time I let loose a little and made new friends with names like Tiger, Budweiser, Carlsberg, and Tsing Tao.

Cheers!

17 May 2009

Banana in Beijing, Part 1

As promised, the first episode of my vlog of my experiences in China:

Banana in Beijing (Ep 1) from Zemien on Vimeo.


A little background on the production process: I took all the videos myself. When doing the self interview I have to extend my left arm all the way out to the front, resulting in a tired left arm by the end of filming. The cam has a flip-out LCD that allows me to frame myself in the video. That's why you will sometimes see my eyes gaze to the left as I check myself out in the LCD (just to make sure I don't chop my head off in the video, ok?!)

I spent about 4 hours putting all the clips together in Sony Vegas 8. I had no experience with it whatsoever but I found it a joy to learn and use. It is pretty lightweight, fast on its feet, and does what it needs to do well. I can foresee this software being a strong contender to iMovie '08 on my iMac.

I had planned to write down the topics I wanted to cover but I completely forgot and just started talking on my feet. There were a few segments that were re-shot, and some embarassing mistakes were edited out. There was one shot where the sweet I was sucking on fell out of my mouth and I quickly looked into the camera and said, "You didn't see that." I thought that was charming, but I removed it from the final product.

I have no idea why I started using an awful sounding accent. I think it's because I tried to speak proper English. Believe me when I say I am more relaxed when you talk to me in person. In this video I sound like I have a large carrot stuffed up my you-know-where and had a gun pointed to my head.

Do drop a comment to tell me what you think and what topics you'd like me to cover in the upcoming episodes. I plan to film this weekly and set it at various locations. So keep yourself tuned in to "Banana in Beijing"!

14 May 2009

Beijing-style Lok Lok

Though I'm all for local integration, I don't think I can bring myself to eat anything bought from this stall.

13 May 2009

Sunshine

Back home in Penang, waking up to see sunshine means I'm going to be late for work.

Here in Beijing, waking up to see sunshine probably means it's 5am and I have an hour more to sleep through.

Cultural changes...

My Apartment in Beijing

Argh there's some technical difficulties in converting and editing the video from my camcorder, but here's a tour of my apartment unit.

Oakwood Serviced Apmt Tour from Zemien on Vimeo.



When I return home I'll make a better compilation of everything, so what you see here is pretty rough.

12 May 2009

Blue

Like yesterday morning, we took the taxi to work. On our way there MK (my female colleague) had to shield her face from the glaring sun as it's really burning her up. I gave her the newspaper to cover her side.

I began wondering, why did this not happen yesterday? We were using the same route but we didn't have such a bright sun getting us all hot around the collar.

Then I realized: Beijing is having a blue sky day!

For those following the Olympics last year a lot of brouhaha was raised surrounding Beijing's dismal air quality, wayyy above the WHO's safety level. And it's true. For most of the day all we see is smog in the air and the sidewalks are very dusty.

But today we got to see the first blue sky since we landed here. And the air quality is so much better, plus we could see further. Without a cloud in the sky it can get hot, but at least it will make a great outing to parks.

10 May 2009

Leaving

In a few more hours I'll have to wake up and get ready for my business trip to Beijing. So many things to worry about that I haven't had time to reflect. But here are my general goals during my trip:
  1. Improve my spoken Mandarin
  2. Thanks to the paid meals, I can afford to eat heartily everyday. So gotta take this chance to bulk up. Operation:Eat ain't over! It's just going international.
  3. Visit some tourist sites, though I don't know how much free time I actually have.
  4. Learn up some old BodyJam releases. Free from the pressures of clearance and 2 classes/week, I should spend time becoming a better dancer.
Stay safe till I'm home!

07 May 2009

The Fear

My mood is exactly like the one portrayed in Lily Allen's "The Fear" right now. Nice, haunting song.

Yesterday my manager called me to his desk and dropped da bomb on me - I'll be joining 2 of my colleagues to Beijing for a technology transfer.

Shock #1: I'll be leaving in 3 days time!

Shock #2: I'll be there for almost 3 months!

The thing is, I am a last minute replacement. The person meant to go had a valid reason (I won't dive into that) to stay in Penang, so backup plan was activated, i.e. me. Therefore it never crossed my mind that I could be selected for the flight, since the transition team has already been chosen.

Compounding the shock, my concerns are:
  1. My skill, or lack thereof, in spoken Mandarin. Beijing itself has its flavour of Mandarin so it'll be an added layer of challenge to comprehend them.
  2. My technical skills may not be up to requirements. Even when this epic journey was announced I counted myself out because I didn't believe I had the required skill sets that they needed. Well, whether I have it or not I'll need to get it soon!!
  3. The people whom we're learning from are being laid off. Erm, can anyone spell "hostile"? Will they be willing to part with their valuable knowledge (that ultimately didn't save them from retrenchment)?
There's also the matter of just dropping all my plans here and getting ready to move to Beijing for three months. There's a lot of upheavels going on - I'll have to skip the Les Mills quarterly and also forego a planned excursion into Gua Tempurung. The moment I was out of meeting I started sending messages and planning farewells. So without allocating time for packing I've filled the next 72 hours with quick meals with loved ones.

Thruthfully I'm still absorbing the impact of the news. There's so many things I should do before I go but I just can't remember them. What are the things I should bring? How will I stay fit and keep updated with BodyJam when I'm there? Questions! Questions! And no time to answer them!

I'll be bringing my videocam there though, and I'm seriously thinking of video blogging. I won't have time to edit them - just plan my episode, shoot, and upload; so it'll be rough. I'm thinking of calling it "Banana in Beijing". Whaddya think?

06 May 2009

1BlackMalaysia

Wear black tomorrow (May 7th) if you want to oppose the unlawful Perak State Assembly sitting. A representative from Bersih suggested that and was subsequently picked up by the police under the Sedition Act.

Wow.

I'll be in black. You?

04 May 2009

BodyJam 49 Tracklist

Can't wait for it!

Warmup/Isolations:
Sandcastle Disco (Freemasons Club Mix) (Solange)
Smooze Salsa:
Shake Up The Party (Joy Enriquez)

Ricky Revival:
Loaded (Ricky Martin)

Street Jazz:
RoboCop (Kanye West)
Party Like A Rock Star (Shop Boyz)
One Night Only (Disco Version) (Anika Noni Rose, Beyoncé Knowles, Sharon Leal)
Turnin' Me On (Keri Hilson feat. Lil Wayne)

Recovery:
Return The Favor (Keri Hilson feat. Timbaland)

Burnin' Up Ze 'Ouse:
You Got Me Burning Up! 2008 (Cevin Fisher's DNA Mix) (Cevin Fisher Feat. Loleatta Holloway)
3 Minutes To Explain (Fedde le Grand & Funkerman)
Womanizer (Benny Benassi Mix) (Britney Spears)

Groove Down:
See You In My Nightmares feat. Lil Wayne (Kanye West)

Yatta~!!

I did it! April 2009 was the first month I spent more than I earned in 30 days. I also withdrew a lot of spare cash to be deposited into the sukuk (Islamic bonds) scheme. Two days before my salary was banked in, I only had RM15 in my bank account.

Yatta~!! Say yes to retail therapy.

01 May 2009

Side Effects

At my last weigh-in, I've gained another kilo to settle at 72.5kg with 16.5% bodyfat.

It's not without side-effects:
  1. I can't fucking wear my skin tight Nike Pro Fit top coz of the slight bulge in the tummy. (Tummy!! Tummy! Not the pants!!!)
  2. My stamina is blown to hell. Getting sluggish. Last night I could barely survive though my tracklist which was only 50% dance and 50% cardio. How the hell am I gonna survive my next 100% cardio release?
Action plan:
  1. Hit the weights more often!
  2. Make the time to practice my class and BodyJam more

23 April 2009

Over the Moon

From May onwards I'll start going to a Latin Ballroom class (more on that next time). Due to that, I had to reschedule my Thursday Cardio Fit class to Mondays. As usual when changing class times, some members cannot make it due to their own schedule conflicts.

Last Thursday, one of the aunties came up to me and said, "I usually go to a Line Dancing class on Mondays, so you've put me in a difficult position because I've joined them for more than 8 years. But between Line Dancing and your class, I choose yours la. I feel I get a good workout here!"

*brimming with pride*

22 April 2009

Why Should We Pay Income Tax to BN?

An interesting article from a libertarian over at Malaysian Insider. Malaysians need to start thinking logically like him rather than spouting rhetoric and emotionally-charged squeals.

BN has no qualms about using state machineries for its benefits. They consider – without guilt – government machinery as their own private property.

There is a tendency among BN politicians to obfuscate the difference between the State or the government and the political party. This tendency can be seen during by-elections when the BN unabashedly spends millions of ringgit of public money as part of its campaigns, be it in the form of direct cash handouts or newly paved road.

During the last Umno General Assembly, a delegate made parallel the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to a dog turning around to bite its master's hand. That is a highly inappropriate statement and yet, it is hard to imagine if Umno members attending the assembly saw any problem with that statement.


FYI, I've already paid my taxes for 2008. Have you? My company's automatic PCB deductions ensure that I've already paid most of it by April anyway.

21 April 2009

Who Needs Express Buses Anymore?

Next month I'll be heading down to KL for the Les Mills Quarterly Workshop where we'll get to preview the latest releases. I've gone for the last two, so I hadn't planned on going for this one. But when I saw the cheap Air Asia flights available, I whipped out my credit card faster than you can conjure up dirty thoughts related to the phrase "whipped out".

I paid a total of RM91 for the return flight + SkyBus transit. If I were to take Konsortium bas ekspres, it would cost RM70. For an extra RM21, I...:
  1. ... don't have to fear for my life every time the driver speeds or encounter heavy rain. Seriously the accident rate is worrying horrifying, not to mention that I lost a friend to a bus accident.
  2. ... enjoy a tiny bit more comfort. Sure, AirAsia can teach sardine-packing companies a thing or two, but at least the leather seats are clean. In contrast to (1) that rash I got from a bus seat armrest; and (2) that baby cockroach scuttling across the window pane on a Transnasional ride.
Now all I need is a nice place to stay and I think I've got that covered too.

20 April 2009

Fresh, Home Baked Porn Movies

I finally got my own video camera! Say hi ("Hello!") to the Panasonic SDR H-80:

Delicious specs: 60GB space, 70x zoom (you're lucky you're not my neighbour), and optical image stabilizer (its peers only have software stabilizers). Those are the 3 distinguishing features of this new model. Battery life is average, and so is the video quality (low-light sucks) but I'm pretty happy with the sleek black and lightweight body.

Actually this post is not to talk about the camcorder. Being a Mac user, I wanted to try out the iMovie application to edit my *ahem* home videos. I got my iMac late-2006, and it came with iMovie HD 6. I found out pretty soon that my model is not supported! I paid a visit to the friendly DVD pirate and bought myself iLife '09 (the Mac software section is pitiful, but does exist). Sure, I could get it via BitTorrent, but I have no patience to download 4.5GB via a 1Mbps Streamyx line (Streamyx users should empathize).

To my disappointment, iLife '09 only supports Leopard, the latest OS from Apple. I am still using Tiger and was reluctant to upgrade for fear of breaking all my working apps (I have never reformatted my Mac since I bought it - suck it Windows!) but it seems I have no choice now. Worse, my friendly DVD pirate was not as friendly with Mac OS X Leopard - they've stopped selling it because too many people were having problems installing it on their AMD PCs! HELLO!!! There's a reason why Mac OS X is supported on Apple computers only!!

Long story short, I spent the last 21 days downloading a torrent of Mac OS X Leopard. It was a painful experience downloading the 6.7GB disk image with my meagre connection and starved seeders. But, it finally completed this morning, and I'm going to do the jump tonight!

This, along with my new 1TB external hard drive and iMovie '09, is how I will welcome a new age of multimedia computing and, might as well just say it, home made porn.

16 April 2009

Operation Updates

[Corrections 20/4/2009: I got different measurements over the next few days and the actual update should read "gained 0.5kg and currently 16.3% body fat". Oops.]

On Tuesday I weighed myself and I've gained 1kg and currently around 14.5% body fat. I think this is a good start - my digestive system is behaving normally (though I'm visiting the toilet very frequently!) and I have no problems getting the urge to eat.

The focus now is to maintain course and keep close watch on my body fat percentage. I know it's impossible to just gain pure muscle when putting on mass; I just need to make sure it's a sensible gain! For me, that means not exceeding 16%.

13 April 2009

Guilty Pangs

In my quest to gain weight by consuming more food, especially quality protein, I hope I don't forget why I was once vegetarian-inclined: animals do feel pain when killed to become our food!

Lobsters and Crabs Feel Pain, Study Shows

Excerpt:
Elwood and Appel gave small electric shocks to some of the crabs within their shells. When the researchers provided vacant shells, some crabs -- but only the ones that had been shocked -- left their old shells and entered the new ones, showing stress-related behaviors like grooming of the abdomen or rapping of the abdomen against the empty shell.

Grooming, as for a person licking a burnt finger, "is a protective motor reaction and viewed as a sign of pain in vertebrates," the researchers wrote.

It has been thought that the behavior of crustaceans is mostly reflexive, but the fact that they showed signs of physical distress at the same time they changed a behavior -- in this case, moving into another shell -- suggest they feel pain as well, according to the researchers.

...

In the past, some scientists reasoned that since pain and stress are associated with the neocortex in humans, all creatures must have this brain structure in order to experience such feelings. More recent studies, however, suggest that crustacean brains and nervous systems are configured differently. For example, fish, lobsters and octopi all have vision, Elwood said, despite lacking a visual cortex, which allows humans to see.

It was also thought that since many invertebrates cast off damaged appendages, it was not harmful for humans to remove legs, tails and other body parts from live crustaceans. Another study led by Patterson, however, found that when humans twisted off legs from crabs, the stress response was so profound that some individuals later died or could not regenerate the lost appendages.


Say a prayer for that delicious shrimp salad you're about to bite into, mm'kay?

Elsewhere: "Do fish feel pain?"

11 April 2009

Slow Dancing in a Burning Room

Excellent track from John Mayer, especially when I'm feeling moody.


It's not a silly little moment,
It's not the storm before the calm.
This is the deep and dying breath of
This love that we've been working on.

Can't seem to hold you like I want to
So I can feel you in my arms.
Nobody's gonna come and save you,
We pulled too many false alarms.

We're going down,
And you can see it too.
We're going down,
And you know that we're doomed.
My dear,
We're slow dancing in a burning room.

I was the one you always dreamed of,
You were the one I tried to draw.
How dare you say it's nothing to me?
Baby, you're the only light I ever saw.

I'll make the most of all the sadness,
You'll be a bitch because you can.
You try to hit me just to hurt me
So you leave me feeling dirty
Because you can't understand.

We're going down,
And you can see it too.
We're going down,
And you know that we're doomed.
My dear,
We're slow dancing in a burning room.

Go cry about it - why don't you?
Go cry about it - why don't you?
Go cry about it - why don't you?

My dear, we're slow dancing in a burning room,
Burning room,
Burning room,
Burning room,
Burning room.

Don't you think we oughta know by now?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
Don't you think we oughta know by now?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
Don't you think we oughta know by now?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?

10 April 2009

Cyberspace Adventures

I was researching something for work and I Googled "usability dimensions".
Everything was cool until I saw the last entry and did a double-take:

"The Full Stroke male and female masturbation sex machine delivers a 2-1/2 inch stroking hands free hand job with suction."

Wha...?

But It's An Awfully Robotic Country

Should I emigrate to Singapore? Their forward thinking policies are certainly enticing. I especially like the simple way Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew puts it:

“For the last 44 years since 1965, we have assiduously insisted on 'regardless of race, language or religion' in everything we do: schools, housing, health, jobs, education, promotions. So we are becoming an integrated society.”

The emphasis on English as a common language created a slightly more cohesive society in Singapore, although Lee was unsure it would stay so in a time of stress.

Malaysia, by contrast, had segregated vernacular schools, which meant communities grew up separately, and had differential yardsticks for jobs and contracts.

“It's openly a Bumiputera country,” he said, referring to the preferential treatment of indigenous groups.

“I've often said this about Malaysia ... If you would educate your Chinese and your Indians like we do our Malays and others, you will equal if not surpass us.”

Can the countries simply acknowledge they are organised on different principles and yet seek to work together in areas where their interests converge?

Replied Lee: “You are assuming they can have two compartments in their minds.

“With the Malaysians, if you read the Malay papers, there's a certain regret that they allowed us to be independent.

“They didn't expect us to succeed. But we have, and our very existence is a challenge to their policies.

“And so they say, look, our Malays are dispossessed, are oppressed and so on. But they come down (to Singapore) and they know it's not true, that the Malays are completely part of our society,” he said.

“They share the same benefits in housing, health, education, everything. They have their mosques, they're not deprived of any freedoms as Malays. So the angst is there (in Malaysia).” — The Straits Times
>> Full article (Rhetoric from KL not official stance)


On the other hand, from my travels there I have an opinion that Singaporeans are too closely sheltered by the government and certain liberties are not there. Plus, they all seem like robots working in a clean, sterile environment. It's like a whole country of Stepford Wives!

I also wonder how Singapore can do without MM Lee. Will scientists clone him or preserve his consciousness, so that he can continue advising the government 500 years in the future?

09 April 2009

Razzle Dazzle

One of my favourite songs from the musical Chicago is Razzle Dazzle. Watch the clip from the movie adaptation on YouTube.

As we head into a new dawn for Malaysia (or is that dusk?) with Najib as our 6th Prime Minister, I'm sure he will take the advice contained in the song to heart. I expect to see more razzle dazzle to the public while the backroom politics continue at a fever pitch. But hey, 98% of the public will be hooked by the three ring circus to even care! Question is: are you in the 2%?

Lyrics (emphasis mine):
Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?
Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll never catch wise!

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous
Row after row will crow vociferous

Give 'em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture 'em
How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Throw 'em a fake and a finagle
They'll never know you're just a bagel,
Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll beg you for more!

Give 'em the old double whammy
Daze and dizzy 'em
Back since the days of old Methuselah
Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

Give 'em the old three ring circus
Stun and stagger 'em
When you're in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder
They'll let you get away with murder

Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

Give 'em the old
Razzle Dazzle

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Show 'em the first rate sorceror you are
Long as you keep 'em way off balance
How can they spot you've got no talent
Razzle Dazzle 'em

Razzle Dazzle 'em
Razzle Dazzle 'em

And they'll make you a star!