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Monday, January 31, 2011

recent Reading

A lot of free time on my hands lately has meant that I’ve needed to find ways to occupy it, other than being in front of my laptop screen all the time. I guess the boredom forced me into doing something that I hadn’t done in a while, read a book.

Now, obviously you know I don’t mean text books, I mean something like a novel. A long time ago, I blogged about starting on a second hand book I’d bought even longer ago here. It was strange, I did take the time to read, but for one reason or another, I put it down again until recently.

I started reading it again while pulling registration counter duty at church on Sunday. No, I wasn’t slacking off, I just went to church early before the counter opened. I didn’t finish it there, but I was a little reluctant to read at home. You see, during the day, the house is pretty much dead so I thought I’d try out something I hadn’t done before, although its probably very common. 

 

I took a couple of books I got down to the Coffee Bean about five minutes drive from my place. As I mentioned earlier, I am quite free at the moment so I decided to spend my afternoon there. It’d be pretty ridiculous not to mention a little ineloquent though if I just marched into a cafe just to read a book. I got myself my favourite Pure Chocolate ice blended drink: 


This without cream is like brownies without ice-cream, cream’s not entirely necessary but still a missed opportunity.

I got the largest size so I had to break the bank a little, but places like Coffee Bean and Starbucks don’t get visits from me often so it was alright. No harm treating yourself every now and then right? 

 

I brought a few books along, just in case I’d finish the one I was currently reading over there. HALO: The Cole Protocol is something I picked up for a real bargain, which I’ll write more about in a later entry. The other white and brown book hidden by ‘Lessons of a Sunday Father’, a novel I was reading at the time is actually entitled ‘The Starbucks Experience’. I know, it’d be pretty funny to read that book inside Coffee Bean right? Actually, with a title like that, it’d still be funny if I saw someone reading that in Starbucks, after all, isn’t being in Starbucks a Starbucks experience?

Within an hour, I think I finished off ‘Lessons of a Sunday Father’, a little surprising. I had no idea I’d read that much before then. At least I came prepared, so I put that down and got straight into ‘The Cole Protocol’.

I bought that because I’m a HALO fan. I played the first game on PC but nothing else from the series since then. I guess that’s partially due to the fact I don’t own an XBOX but I’ve been awed by all the cut scenes of all the games that some people have generously uploaded on YouTube, not to mention a really good Animatrix styled series called Halo Legends. Of course, there’s also the hilarious parody series in Arby n’ the Chief on YouTube. 

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever read a science fiction novel, like ever. Friends know I’m a Star Wars fan, but I’ve never read a single Star Wars novel. If there’s any novel I’ve read about Star Wars, it’d probably be a graphic novel (a fancy term for comics which seems to be in fashion right now). There’s a first time for everything I guess.

The Starbucks Experience isn’t entirely new to me actually. I saw it in Borders at The Curve a few years back and used to go there all the time just to read that book but of course that didn’t work out for very long. Why didn’t I just buy it? Well, being the person that I am, I thought RM 100 was quite expensive for a relatively thin book and it was hard covered too. Until today, I haven’t seen a single copy in paperback, which I guess was part of the marketing strategy.

In fact I blogged about the book here and the author even commented on my post (he did a little highlighting on the fact I didn’t buy the book too)! However, the book reappeared on MPH shelves recently at a 30% discount. That, combined with my new found eagerness to read caused by recent boredom finally got me to get that book.

There're few more books waiting for me to open actually, but I’ll focus on the two for now. They’re two different books by nature, but both a good read no doubt. Actually I wonder if I’ll be diligent enough to spend good time reading those books, because I’ve been playing a lot of Star Wars: Republic Commando recently.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

transit Life

When a convicted man is released from prison, one would think that at the moment he leaves the fortified gates of the place he didn’t want to be that an overwhelming sense of happiness would come over him. Freedom after all, is quite a precious thing. Time and again, I’ve heard about my university being a ‘prison’ and in a few ways I don’t deny it. Even so, I don’t label it that way. However, it still is a relief to have finally ended my varsity days.

Whatever restrictions university life imposed on my fellow batch mates have been lifted and we’re free to do as we like. As I said, the moment we’re free, we’re all happy. That’s where movies usually end. It’s all over after a country finally achieves independence or a guilty man on death row has been ruled innocent in a dramatic turnaround. The question is, what happens after that?

A new lease on life is given, a restart if you like. Personally, my own restarts happened at any time I moved to another school or college. It was easy to restart then, because there was always something solid in front of me. Wherever I was, I knew I just needed to study. Being someone who’s completed university, that’s not an option in this case. What do I do now then?

Of course, getting employed is always the next logical step. Earning a living is crucial, much more so to those who may not have the support of a family behind them. However, there are still more important things to consider as well. There are questions you will definitely ask yourself. What do you want to do, where do you want go, who do you want to be? Summarised, what do you want to do with your life?

Its an important question. After all, who cares how much cash you have if your life is pure nothingness? If people are employed straight after finishing their studies, I don’t think they think about that question so much because their enthusiasm for the new job will overwhelm their brain although we all know it would catch up to them sooner or later. Where do you think the term mid-life crisis comes from?

Being unemployed and with a lot of time to myself, that question is something I’m posed with now. At the moment, my life isn’t that much different from what it would be like during a semester holiday but the problem is that I don’t have a university to go back to after that. My holiday needs to end soon and I need to face up to the reality of my new ‘restart’ that is no longer the same like what I had before.

In some ways, I’m already facing some challenges to this new season of my life that I need to confront. Even in church I’m still confused as to whether I should stay with my college group or move right into the young adult group I’ve visited. Where do I belong? Its all quite unclear to me at the moment. That’s just one matter, and there are others, but I haven’t given them much thought. A neutral reader might think I’m just being emotional and that I’m overthinking and worrying too much. That opinion could be right. I’m not sure myself. However, this is important to me because my identity is at stake here.

What I decide to do, what I decide to want, to pursue for this next part of my life is important. Sometimes, races are used to describe the journey of a person to achieve success. I’ve heard the one that goes, “Fight the good fight, run the good race.”

When you run, naturally the place you’ll go to is the direction you’re facing. That’s why its important to face the right way before you start anything. Here’s the thing, I don’t know which way I’m supposed to look.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

stuffed Crab

Sometime December last year, I followed my parents down on a trip to Terengganu. My father was there for a meeting, but my mother and I went down to enjoy the food down there and get away from the big city for a while.

My parents were a little familiar with the small town we went to, since they’d lived there before. That was before I was born even. I guess its rare for things to change in small places. They wanted to go to this small Chinese restaurant for dinner but when we arrived it was closed, so we went to another one nearby and the food wasn’t half bad really. Its nice to be able to eat good Chinese food at a price cheaper than most places you’d find around the Klang Valley.

We weren’t there for too long, we only spent a night there. No, I didn’t go to Terengganu for one night just to eat ‘cheaper’ Chinese food. We were staying nearby a golf resort so I went a couple of rounds at the driving range. Its fun to see your golf ball fly more than a hundred yards, but its getting a little boring for me nowadays. Perhaps its because I don’t actually go for lessons. I just know how to hit the ball. Even so, I’m not even sure if I’m doing it properly.

The bigger reason we all went down to Terengganu was for the famous stuffed crab. If you didn’t know that, well now you do. From the hotel, our destination was Chukai, a small township close to the eastern shore. There’s one small shop lot there that’s all the rage. Its packed on weekends, so it was just as well that we went there on a weekday. The place is none other than Tong Juan.



Walking in, I discovered something interesting. Right at the front was a Malay family getting into their stuffed crabs, so the place must be halal I suppose, or pork free in the very least.



I don’t know about Halal, but the menu was certainly pork free. The interesting thing is, the menu is all in English, which definitely suits people like me that can’t speak any of the Chinese dialects. Other than the stuffed crab Tong Juan is famous for, there are a variety of other dishes to try that include prawns and cuttlefish among others.



One thing that’s a little funny is that on the menu and on the wall, they showed this website url. Type it into your browser and press enter, you’ll find out it doesn’t exist. I guess its an old thing they didn’t maintain for long, so don’t get your hopes high on placing an order online. You’ll still have to go there yourself.



As I said, its a small shop lot, so there isn’t room for a hundred people at one go. From what I saw, it’d probably be a challenge to seat fifty people there. I won’t even go into the fact that you’d probably have to wait longer than what people term as ‘quite a while’ for your food. 

What I’m saying is, if you plan to go there on a weekend, make sure you go in early. By the way, for those who don’t know, weekends in Terengganu are a little different from the rest of the nation. That’s because weekends start on Friday, and not Saturday over there. That means Sunday is a working day, so I don’t think it would be a bad idea if you plan to go there on a Sunday.



One of the dishes we ordered was the fried asparagus, which I personally enjoyed and that’s a rare coming from me, a person that gives a lot of bias to meat over green. Crunchy and savoury, there’s can’t be much to hate about it. It’d be the kind of food you wouldn’t mind having with your rice if you don’t want to contaminate your favoured dishes with it.



Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with prawns when it comes to seafood. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t. Only God knows why I suppose. I didn’t particularly enjoy this one, but it wasn’t bad. If you can’t see, the prawns are skewered right through and sprinkled with a little garlic.



This was of course, the most anticipated dish at our table. The top of the crab shell removed and replaced with a layer of fried egg covers a whole lot of awesome crab meat inside. The last time I had this was many years ago, so it was like tasting something new again and it was simply very good. I guess I was too focused on eating that I forgot to take a photo of the crab meat inside.

It takes a lot of hard work to make this. Just imagine the restaurant workers having to go through all the crabs to extract crab meat for the sake of this dish. If you eat crabs, you know it isn’t exactly easy, using all sorts of tools just to crack crab shells open to get just a little bit of flesh for yourself.

Not your average seafood dish or afternoon snack, this unique food comes at a bit of a premium price. It’s not cheap stuffed crab, and RM 8.00 is quite a considerable amount to let go for just one stuffed crab. It is worth the price nonetheless, because it is that good. Needless to say, we bought quite a lot to bring back home, for ourselves and friends as well. Maybe it’s time for a food trip up north.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

random Items

Sometimes, its nice to walk around a place and find something new and interesting. People are always looking forward to find out the latest gadgets or current fashion trends. Personally, I’m not such an active pursuer of either, I can’t say I keep up with either. I usually discover things by stumbling upon them, not so much hearing about it. It does happen occasionally when people tell me about a new band or a good eating place. Still, its just kind of cool when you discover something yourself.

Things that are noteworthy don’t always need to come from trendy concept stores like ROOM and the like. You can find these things in departmental stores at times, which is why I like to walk around in them occasionally.

DAISO is one such place I should frequent more often because as ordinary a five ringgit shop as it is, I sometimes see things that I probably wouldn’t have thought of myself. A simple example would be rubber holders matching the colour of your furniture that can be attached to chair legs so that they don’t scratch the floor if you drag them across instead of lifting them.

Although not so useful, something I hadn’t seen before in there did get me to take my camera out for a moment:



I know, it’s not exactly an original piece of art, but it got my attention because I couldn’t figure out what it was for! If you observe the photo carefully, there’re a number of back scratchers and back massage related items so you’d immediately assume that black bamboo stick would be one of those things. I don’t know, I took a look at it and I couldn’t figure out how it’s supposed to be a back aid. Then I looked at the label:



Bamboo slap?!? All right, so it is a massaging tool, although looking at it again I haven’t a clue how to use it. Even the French looking inscription seems to describe it as how I think it really is, a gift for uniformed security personnel from mother nature.

Another thing I did find kind of cool was when I was walking by a large hardware store and I saw:

 

What do you think this is? Again like before, from first glance I had no idea what that was or what it was supposed to do. When you step closer though and turn it on, you’d definitely go, “Ohhhh, so that’s what it is.”

Well, if you’ve had a guess, you should know its not some kind of giant bubble blower. Its actually a fan, bladeless at that. The first thing that came into my mind was, “This is so much easier to clean.”

I thought it was brilliant, although a little old for the times, now that we have air conditioning. To be fair though, not every household will always use air conditioning and table fans are not yet a thing of the past so this is a welcome household innovation. 

It wasn’t the last thing I’d notice of that week, thanks to a trip down to Czip Lee at Bangsar. Its probably the largest stationery shop around. There’re tonnes of pens and pencils there of course, full range of papers, envelopes and the like. There’s also loads of notebooks of different proportions and even has some random things like unpainted party masks. Its the one place where if you need a specialised piece of stationery you don’t think your local bookstore has, Czip Lee’s bound to have it somehow. That’s the kind of place it is.

I didn’t see something awfully breath taking in there, but a small innovative product, which I personally found very useful. Well, you know how the brand Artline is famous for its whiteboard and permanent markers? Well, they made something that’s useful for people a little rough with wooden furniture in the house:



Some time back, I damaged my study table. The top of the study table is actually a laminated layer, not the same wood as the rest of the table. As the word laminate suggests, its quite thin and twice with my roller chair I knocked onto the table, chipping twice at the edge. The gaps looked bad and rather obvious because the inside had a much lighter wood colour. The furniture marker made quite a difference, and the good things is there are different wood colours. I got the oak coloured marker, but there are others, both light and dark ones.

Looking at everything I found, none of them came from a particularly fancy place or anything like that. I guess sometimes, cool stuff can come from pretty normal places.