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Record My Mind: Banal Records of a Pedestrian Life

Suffering and evil overwhelm me and I stew in my own juice. 

Thursday, December 30, 2004

12/30/2004 09:50:00 pm - Tales of A Recovering Amnesiac

I spent most of today alone. It was wonderful. I needed a break from the group and some personal space and time.

I went to the Albert Cuyp market today. Things there are much cheaper than in the touristy area I was staying in. I was tempted to buy a winter jacket for 10 euros. But it didn't make sense to add weight to my luggage and have it take up space when I don't use it anymore in Singapore.

I have to write this down so I don't have to relearn the same lesson I learnt four years ago: buy stuff from the markets e.g. markets at Waterlooplein and Albert Cuyp Straat.

After lingering for hours at the Albert Cuyp market and buying some Ibrahim Ferrer, Curtis Mayfield and Omara Portuendo cds (it was the same shop I bought a Nina Simone cd four years ago, I recognise the bag), I walked back to the tram stop and suddenly realised that I was looking at a familiar street scene along the Westinde centrum, a scene I had totally forgotten. So, this time round, I took pictures of the street scene and am blogging it so that I won't forget again. I'll post the pictures when I return to Singapore.

I suddenly remembered a route that leads back to where I used to stay. So, to test the reliability of my memory, I followed the route that suddenly surfaced in my mind. I passed by the Amstel Hotel and took some pictures (to be posted later). I reached the metro station at Weesperstraat and took pictures of a building and a convenience store that I used to see so much but had forgotten. I was strangely happy to see and recall the sight of the convenience store. Part of the happiness was in knowing that it's still around.

I continued along Sarphatistraat and turned right into Roeterstraat. I took a pictures of Cafe De Roeter, a cafe that I visited several times four years ago, I especially remembered one time there with a Romanian girl and another Macedonian girl plus some others. I tried taking a picture of the Kriterion Cafe, a film cafe but the pictures didn't turn out well.

I returned to my original route along Sarphatistraat to look for Valckenieerstraat (where I used to leave) but got thrown off when I saw Pancrasstraat at where I thought I would see Valckenieerstraat. I walked further down, concluded that my memory was faulty and turned back towards Roeterstraat. I will go to Valckenieerstraat through Plantage Muidergracht; I can't miss Valckenieerstraat by that route.

I passed by one of the University of Amsterdam buildings and a convenience store that my housemate used to frequent to pack away dinner. I had the same feeling of happiness when I recalled those memories.

I walked along Plantage Muidergracht and observed myself being pleasantly aroused at reliving the same sights I saw four years ago. I crossed the bridge I crossed many times four years ago and took a picture of the same thing at the exact same spot four years ago. I finally reached the place where I used to stay. I walked out from Valckenieerstraat and saw Pancrasstraat. I was confused and asked two Dutch ladies whether Pancrasstraat used to be Valckenieerstraat. They told me that Valckenierstraat was perpendicular to Pancrasstraat. My memory was reliable after all.

I think I was thrown off in exactly the same way four years ago at the exact same spot while reading the map and trying to find Valckenieerstraat. Talk about the inability to learn from history. My memory was not so reliable after all.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

12/28/2004 02:30:00 am - Snowing, Andre's arrival and Dinner at Christophe

It started snowing today.

I have a throat infection.

Andre arrived this morning with Jane. Despite our last unpleasant exchange, we put things behind us and behaved as if nothing bad had happened, which is good and to our credit. Guys shouldn't behave any other way over small quarrels. He was very nice to me; he picked up my camera battery charger for me and gave me some "expired" antibiotics for my throat infection.

We hung out at a coffeeshop in the afternoon. Because I wanted to maximise the value of my Amsterdam pass, I took a canal cruise alone while the rest slept at home. After that, I rushed home to meet the rest for dinner.

We had a gourmet dinner at Christophe. The food was very good; it has a rating of 1 Michelin star. But I won't return because no five course dinner is worth waiting for four hours.

The next day, Andre remarked that Chris has been so far removed from the group that no one thought about him during the dinner despite dining at Christophe.

It's sad how group dynamics can evolve for the worse and make everyone drift apart from each other when we no longer hang out as much as we used to, when we no longer are as easy going or as carefree as when we were teenagers, when our respective central concerns, daily routine, environment, pursuits and context are so different from each other's.

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Monday, December 27, 2004

12/27/2004 08:39:00 pm - Museum visit

We bought the Amsterdam Pass yesterday from the Tourist Office near Central Station. 51 euros for a 3 day pass. This is a good deal as it includes unlimited travel on the trams, metro and buses and museum visits.

We spent 5 hours at the
Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. I'm totally exhausted now.

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

12/26/2004 01:15:00 pm - Here in Amsterdam

I have arrived safely in Amsterdam as scheduled. It's not as cold as I expected. Stuff is really expensive here, one can of Redbull costs 2.50 euros. A bottle of water costs the same. If I keep converting back to SGD, I'll never buy anything here.

I also managed to get in touch with some people I met in Amsterdam in 2000. I hope to meet both of them next week. Im looking forward to meeting Brigitte, the last Dutch person I saw before I left Amsterdam in 2000. I still remember the cafe we went to before I left Holland.

It's a strange experience remembering certain experiences that have been buried deep in my mind since four years ago. To relive certain sensations for the second time in your life is really weird, especially when those sensations were so vivid the first time but have faded due to time. It's scary how little of my life I remember, especially those moments that I have experienced most vividly and intensely. I recalled walking and cycling routes and how on the first day of my arrival, I helped a Korean girl lug her luggage for almost an hour to where I lived.

I hope this holiday will turn out well. I enjoy taking a break from the worries, stress and routine of life and work in Singapore. It's great to be with my best friends and clear my mind in a foreign place. We are staying in a very nice (and expensive) place in Nieumarkt, a very central and convenient location. The history of the apartment goes back to 1619. It used to be a place where sailing ropes were made.

Final random things that I wanted to record but had no time to:

Anyway, I doubt I'll have time to update this blog till I get back. But I'll try.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

12/22/2004 11:30:00 pm - Balancing my brain

Did I tell anyone that according to an online personality test (link to be uploaded if and when I can find the site again), I was diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (Adult ADD)?

And surprisingly, I have a friend who had the same online diagnosis too. What's more, we have been scoring almost identical for the online personality tests that we did not score identically!

One friend says that people with ADD can't sit through such a test. I agree to some degree, but I'm tempted to believe that I have some form of ADD, maybe very mild. In fact, my best friends observed some ADD symptoms in me and asked me to go take a test.

So there, I've taken a test. I hope the results make them even more tolerant of some of my peculiarities, like the inability to pay attention to people talking for long periods of time.

Not to say that one should take online personality tests too seriously, but in my case the results made sense to close friends of mine.

Here are the results of another online personality test I took here:

You exhibit an even balance between left- and right- hemisphere dominance and a slight preference for visual over auditory processing. With a score this balanced, it is likely that you would have slightly different results each time you complete this self-assessment quiz.

You are a well-rounded person, distinctly individualistic and artistic, an active and multidimensional learner. At the same time, you are logical and disciplined, can operate well within an organization, and are sensitive towards others without losing objectivity. You are organized and goal-directed. Although a "thinking" individual, you "take in" entire situations readily and can act on intuition.

You sometimes tend to vacillate in your learning styles. Learning might take you longer than someone of equal intellect, but you will tend to be more thorough and retain the material longer than those other individuals. You will alternate between logic and impulse. This vacillation will not normally be intentional or deliberate, so you may experience anxiety in situations where you are not certain which aspect of yourself will be called on.

With a slight preference for visual processing, you tend to be encompassing in your perceptions, process along multidimensional paths and be active in your attacking of situations or learning.

Overall, you should feel content with your life and yourself. You are, perhaps, a little too critical of yourself -- and of others -- while maintaining an openness which tempers that tendency. Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity may not be in keeping with your potential. Being a pragmatist, you downplay this aspect of yourself and focus on the more immediate, obvious and the more functional.

And here are the results of that friend who took the same test:

Your hemispheric dominance is equally divided between left and right brain, while you show a moderate preference for auditory versus visual learning, signs of a balanced and flexible person.

Your balance gives you the enviable capacity to be verbal and literate while retaining a certain "flair" and individuality. You are logical and compliant but only to a degree. You are organized without being compulsive, goal-directed without being driven, and a "thinking" individual without being excessively so.

The one problem you might have is that your learning might not be as efficient as you would like. At times you will work from the specific to the general, while at other times you'll work from the general to the specific. Sometimes you will be logical in your approach while at other times random. Since you cannot always control the choice, you may experience frustrations not normally felt by persons with a more defined and directed learning style.

You may also minimally experience conflicts associated with auditory processing. You will be systematic and sequential in your processing of information, you will most often focus on a single dimension of the problem or material, and you will be more reflective, i.e., data in as opposed to it.

Overall, you should feel content with your life and yourself. You are perhaps, a little too critical of yourself - and of others – while maintaining an openness which is redeeming. Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity is not in keeping with your potential. Being a pragmatist, you downplay this aspect of yourself and focus on the more immediate, the more obvious and the more functional.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

12/21/2004 11:45:00 pm - Papadams from Amsterdam

I'm so excited! I'm going to Amsterdam. Listening to the yearning rock ballads from the album Soundshake by the Thai rock band Clash (I don't understand Thai but they sound like ballads of yearning) and reading an email from my best friend really sets the mood.

I was finding it such a drag to frantically run errands, schedule appointments and plan for the trip that any feelings of excitement have been muted, until now.

Although I'm not travelling to Indonesia and won't be staying at the Hilton, paranoid me thinks it's a bad time to travel since this is the best period for terrorists to make a high profile attack. I expect security to be tight at the airports.

In any case, I'm going to blog down the itinerary of my flight and that of my best friend's:

I depart from Singapore at 9:20 pm on Thursday, 23 Dec 04 on MH610 to Kuala Lumpur. From KL, I take MH 16 and arrive in Amsterdam at 5:55 am.

Best friend and wife depart San Francisco at at 3:40 pm on Thursday, 23 Dec 04 on Northwest/KLM flight NW8606/ KL606. They will arrive in Amsterdam on 24 Dec 04 at 11:15am.
We will be staying in Nieumarkt.

It's been four years since I last visited Amsterdam. The last time, I didn't get to spend New Year's there. This time I look forward to losing my senses at a New Year party. Although I'm not looking forward to freezing my balls off.

I just found my Amsterdam contact list and was supposed to email the people I met four years ago but this stupid blogging business took time from all that. I'll have to do it tomorrow and try my luck and see whether anyone I met four years ago is still in Amsterdam, still remembers me and wants to catch up. An aside: Surprisingly, I remembered most of the faces behind the names, emails and phone numbers written on scraps of paper and beer coasters and the circumstances which contact information was exchanged.

And while trying to find some people I really want to contact (like a really cute Japanese-Dutch girl called Sonoko and a cool Italian guy called Giacomo), I came upon so many old letters addressed to me and got reminded of so much past foolishness. But more of that another time.

Oh yes, the title of this post came from a reply by Chris when I asked whether I could get him anything from Amsterdam. Thanks for lending me the winter clothes and luggage, Chris!

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Monday, December 20, 2004

12/20/2004 01:00:00 am - Relationships need to be more than constant conjoining

Philosophers' break-up lines is quite funny. But you need some Philosophy background to appreciate the jokes. The Humean break-up line v 2.0 "Relationships need to be more than constant conjoining" made me laugh and reminded me of Joey's honours thesis on backwards causation.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

12/19/2004 05:30:00 am - Paul Edwards is dead

Read from Brian Leiter's
blog that Paul Edwards, the editor of The Encyclopedia of Philosophy is dead. The New York Times obituary is here.

Yes, I know the Encyclopedia set looks impressive. Unfortunately, that's all I have done since I bought Paul Edward's Encyclopedia: take a picture of it.

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12/19/2004 01:24:00 am - Blackie's visit to the vet

I brought Blackie to the vet again today. The last visit was 9 days
ago. She's been feeling very lethargic lately, sleeping a lot. Her eyes are still red, the left eye doesn't open fully and she doesn't always finish her food.

The vet said that her legs look better than the last time and after examining her abdomen, recommended an X-ray, which was not taken the last time. The X-ray revealed severe Spondylosis (arthritis of spine) and mottled bones. The mottled appearance of her bones can either be due to a tumour or arthritis.

The X-ray revealed that her bladder was tilted upwards and pressing on her colon. This could be due to scar formation from her being neutered or a tumour. Her bladder pressing on her colon could also be the reason for her constipation. Although I forgot whether Dr. Boon said the X-ray revealed that Blackie had constipation.

Blackie is obviously not well but the tests cannot pinpoint what is exactly wrong. The next step could be to do an ultrasound to further determine whether she does in fact have a tumour. However, Dr. Boon (who was quite cute by the way) had to perform a surgery then and this Boon didn't think an ultrasound was necessary after consulting Dr Boon.

Dr Boon told Boon that the ultrasound scan would be slightly traumatic for Blackie and that as Blackie had to be on her back, she worries that this would exacerbate Blackie's spinal problems. This Boon told Dr Boon that he won't do the ultrasound scan now and that he'll hope that she gets back to her normal self in a couple of weeks so that she doesn't have to undergo the ultrasound scan. Dr. Boon had the same hope as Boon. This Boon decided not to perform the ultrasound scan because this was not a medical emergency; he would not be negligient if he did not let her undergo an ultrasound scan; he did not want to stress Blackie further; or risk her back.

The tumour, if it exists, would be a random factor, i.e. it just happens. The arthritis is due to old age.

Dr Boon prescribed more steroids for Blackie and increased the dosage by 50%, from 1 tablet a day to 1.5 tablets a day. My mum feeds Blackie her medicine faithfully and coaxes her to eat by letting Blackie eat out of her hand and mixing her food with medicine.

We've spent $250 at the vet for this and the last visit. My mum and I took turns paying. I'll be bringing her back to the vet when I return to Singapore from Amsterdam. I bought some snacks for Blackie too. She has been sleeping in every night.

Oh and by the way, Dr Boon said that if Blackie is really 20 years old she's doing very well for a 20 year old dog. 1 dog year is 7 human years, she told me. She also said that Blackie seemed to know when we were done better than us, she got up just before the exact moment Dr Boon and this Boon ended their conversation. I responded that Blackie was a very smart dog, recalling how many times CC and I failed to trick her and instead have her trick us. For the second time, uncontrollably, I felt very proud of Blackie. The first time was when a very sweet looking girl thanked me for letting her pat Blackie.

Other things that happened at the vet's:
I saw a cat being hooked up to what I presumed was life support. A man chanted from a book and seemed to be performing Buddhist/Taoist last rites. I saw Buddhist monk pictures on the bed where the cat was lying on. My sense of the absurd was tempered by my respect for another's grief. I asked myself why it was so absurd to see last rites being performed for animals but not for humans. We don't think animals like cats have an afterlife. But many believe that humans have some kind of afterlife. But if we are animals too (this seems true to me), like cats, and only different in degree but not in kind, then why should we be so privileged to be the only ones among animals to have an afterlife? On the other hand, saying that all animals have an afterlife seems a bit too much. A human corpse seems not much different from an animal carcass.

While taking Blackie to the X-ray room, I also saw a couple grieving over their pet. It's terribly disturbing and sad. I dislike this experience: grieving over the parting from an animal you have grown attached to. I was also reminded of my last pet, which always makes me feel guilty for not doing enough and not doing what should be done. Still, I try not to be affected by the grieving couple because their experience was not mine. All this while Blackie seemed oblivious to the grief around her and was sniffing excitedly at the bags of food on the floor.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

12/18/2004 03:02:00 am - At Phuture

At Phuture, I was feeling really dowdy and unhappening and too old. But I'm glad these pictures with Cheryl turned out nicely. Cheryl's blog is found here. It's always an honour to take a picture with a cute girl. Heh. It's obvious I need a haircut too.

The photos were taken by Chris using my Ricoh Caplio G4. I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of the pictures. I must get Chris to teach me more about the manual settings he uses.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

12/17/2004 03:16:00 pm - Best Blogs in Asia

I'm always a bit slow on the uptake. Took an interest in this contest only recently and only because I wanted to vote for Daryl's blog; recently got into all this blogging business; and wanted to read more Singapore blogs. I really like the stuff Daryl links to and if anyone reads this, I urge you to go and vote for him here. Voting closes on 31 Dec 04.

Shit, I need to get some work done. Got to stop procrastinating and do like the Nike ad, as my Margoliouth friend tells me.

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12/17/2004 10:30:00 am - Too fast

Life passes by too quickly for me to blog. And I find myself constantly backdating all my entries. But let me try nonetheless to make current records of my life and mind.

I just wrote and sent some thank you cards after buying some gifts last night. I always find shopping and sending such cards a chore. And I always feel that I don't devote enough time to doing these things. Still, I'm always glad that I got them over and done with. Sometimes, I need an occasion to push a lazy person like me to thank people for all the good things they've done for me.

A big thank you to J who helped me (after beer and dinner) with choosing the gifts and suggesting people whom I can borrow winter clothes from for my trip to Amsterdam. She's such a big boon to me when it comes to stuff like this. She offered small but materially important suggestions while I was frantically running errands.

After the shopping, we headed to my place for more alcohol and chit-chat. I still feel the heady effects of the wine from last night and woke up feeling great. It's amazing what alcohol does to me. My friend says it's the sugar and carbo. Maybe I'll post pictures of last night later.

Back to last night: J saw me in a state that I rarely experience and that few have seen (this is misleading and it's not what you think). I read her well and she confessed her secrets to me knowing that I would not form moral judgements based on prejudice, bias or close-mindedness. Sigh, I'm the keeper of secrets for my friends.

I really hope that J takes my advice not to destroy the good things in her life and to contain her venom. I really enjoy hanging out with her.

Random Attention-Deficit-Disorder (ADD) comment: I found out out that G was back. Been trying to call her for months to see whether she has returned to Singapore and finally got her during dinner last night with J. I strongly feel that we have unfinished business, karma to burn that we should have burnt a long time ago. I want to finish the unfinished stuff once and for all so that we can get on with each other's lives.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

12/13/2004 10:45:00 am - Old content and other stuff

I'll be importing some journal entries from my old website. These entries are all dated before 01 Dec 04. So, don't be confused when you read that my virgin post was dated 01 Dec 04.

And in my typically honest fashion, I must confess that I backdate many of my posts.

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12/13/2004 01:32:00 am - Clapton is God!

I'm learning how to play All Your Love from this album. I never knew Eric Clapton sounded so happening in his early days and I've never been turned on by his playing until I heard this album.

As Chris said, Clapton now and Clapton in his Bluesbreakers days are essentially two different players. And I prefer the earlier Clapton!

The solo to All Your Love is damn steam!

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

12/12/2004 07:20:00 pm - Recommended: Pirates Choice

Bought this double-cd album last month. Very laid back and groovy. Consistently good songs on both cds.

Wish I had seen them when they came to Singapore.

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Friday, December 10, 2004

12/10/2004 09:15:00 pm - Setting Mathematical Proofs to Music

Ever wondered how a mathematical proof sounds like? Find out
here and listen to how Russell's Paradox, the Schroder-Bernstein Theorem and Zermelo's Well Ordering Theorem sound like when set to music.

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

12/05/2004 08:10:00 pm - Record My Mind

In case anyone is wondering, I got the title of this blog from a comment on another blog. And the description is from a quote by Plotinus:
"Mankind is poised midway between the gods and the beasts."
I've always felt torn between two directions: upwards and downwards.

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Saturday, December 04, 2004

12/04/2004 01:14:00 am - The appeal of Zen Buddhism

During another lunch with Chris, I told him about a funny passage I read in another book. The passage describes the routine hardships Zen monks undergo. Because it is so funny, I'll quote it at length:

"Living a life of such physical deprivation, sleepiness is like a chronic illness, and the stomach is hungry year-round. Even the person of considerable desires undergoes a simplification: his craving is limited almost entirely to the desire for food and for sleep.

Elderly ladies, especially, would bow with respect when they saw us out with bare feet in straw sandals, making our begging rounds over icy winter streets. To be frank, though, after the first year or so, most monks become accustomed to monastery life, and the physical rigors cease to be of much consequence. Indeed, the most distressing aspect of training is not the physical suffering but the spiritual agony that invariably accompanies the private dialogues with the teacher. This distress decidedly does not disappear after a year.

...If one looks at the pillars between the zendo and the interview room, one finds numerous scratches. These are the marks of desperation left by those monks who, lacking an answer to their koan, tried to cling to the posts when they were being dragged by their seniors to the private interview. Many times the monk who tenaciously refused to be torn from the post had his hands slapped with the keisaku. Feeling the sting of pain, he would involuntarily let go and be pulled away to meet the roshi."
In between eating lunch and being accused of being an ascetic-wannabe, Chris asked me some very probing questions about Zen Buddhism, questions that I've never asked, questions that made me think about Zen Buddhism's appeal to me.

Question 1: Why is suffering bad? (This was asked after I tried to explain
the four noble truths)

Question 2: Why the self-deprivation and all the hardship?

Question 3: Why the riddles?

I can't recall all my attempted answers to his questions and am too lazy to try and write them down now. Chris is also too busy to help me complete the post. Maybe he can post in the comments field at a later time.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

12/03/2004 08:20:00 pm - Play The Man, Not The Hand

During lunch many weeks back, Chris lamented how his bimbotic colleague would always get her way with the boss and have all her lousy stories published in the paper while he would be having a hard time with his boss over his proposed stories.

A line from a book I read came to mind and I told him about "Play the man, not the hand". Not everyone is persuaded by reason and the best way for you to advance your interests when you deal with such people is to exploit their weaknesses and vanities. Deal with the person and not the position or argument he takes. It's also not about what you say or the merits of your position but how you can exploit the opposite party's personality to endorse your position.

Unfortunately, I'm a pretty bad story teller and nothing in this post does justice to the amount of fun and laughter we had discussing "Play the man, not the hand". Chris was telling me how the pithy quote reminded him of a TV show.

Ever since that lunch, he was so enamoured with the quote that Bel, his girlfriend, tells me that he would bang at her toilet door in the morning and shout it at the top of his lungs. I wish they would send me a video clip of him chanting "Play the man, not the hand" while clapping his hands! He looks like he's singing hymns in Church. It's absolutely hilarious.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

12/02/2004 08:25:00 pm - Some History

Daryl turned me on to blogs in a big way and Chris encouraged me to blog all my random thoughts down so that the world will not be a poorer place. Yeah right!

But I procrastinated and took the longest time to actually start posting. Three weeks ago, I signed up with Typepad and spent most of the free 30 day trial period designing my Typepad blog and not even publishing a single post! Being indecisive and unsure whether I could commit enough time to justify paying for a blogging service, I took Daryl's advice and am going to experiment with Blogger and Blogsome first.

Before all this blogging business, Mark helped me to set up a website in January/February 2004. I stopped updating that site and decided to experiment with blogging instead because it seemed simpler.

Well, the next few posts will be belated records of some of my conversations with Chris, stuff which I've been wanting to blog for the past few weeks.

Welcome world!

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

12/01/2004 01:12:00 am - Virgin Post

I've lost my virginity. It wasn't what I expected. But this is it - my first post

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