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Monday, March 28, 2011

Dog in Heaven/Earth/Hell

I'm in Dog Heaven, Mommy.

I'm in Dog Earth 'cos My Heaven went to school.

I'm in Dog Hell, Mommy... Please may I come in?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Men Fix Things and Women Cook

Little Boy was 3. I had just discovered the pleasures of broadband internet connection and was foraging deep into cyberspace for news, gossip and interesting facts. I wasn't paying him much mind but somehow as he talked and played, something he said caught my attention.

"Men fix things and women cook" he commented.

"What? What did you say my love?" I looked under the table where he was playing.

"Men fix things and women cook" he told me. He then crawled out from under the table with his model airplane and went zoom-zoom-zoom around the study room.

When The Husband came home, I complained. "Your son is an MCP. He thinks that men fix things and women cook. Won't you please go and explain some important things about gender equality?" The Husband found it funny. I did not. Nonetheless, The Husband took up the challenge quite readily.

The Husband: Son, it is not true that men fix things and women cook.

Little Boy: Why? You fix things and Mommy cooks.

The Husband: Yes... that is true. But some men can cook very well.

Little Boy (looking sceptical): But you can't cook.

The Husband: I can't cook but there are many men who can.

Little Boy: Who?

The Husband: Errrrr... Men you don't know, but I know them.

Little Boy (looking sceptical): Is it?

The Husband: Errrrr... yes... But anyway, not all women can cook. Your sister can't cook.

Little Boy: She is not a woman. She is a girl. Zoom-zoom-zoom-zooooooom!

The Husband and I looked at each other. We decided that it was time to teach Little Boy to cook. So, the next day, I baked a cake with Little Boy. Hopefully, when he grows up, he will realize that as a man, he can cook.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Nuclear Pariah

Little Boy was 5. His Little Friend had diarrheoa and could not hold it in. After all, Little Friend was little... and his stomach was sick. Trickles of brown liquid flowed down Little Friend's legs and of course, there must have been some smell. Amidst a chorus of disgusted noises, the Teachers swung into action. They cleaned him and dressed him. Yet, for the rest of the day, no other child would play with him, even though he was absolutely clean. No other child except my son, with his cool logic and his soft heart. Little Boy said "He was poor thing. No one wanted to play with him, and he was sad. So I played with him the whole day. Anyway, he was clean."

We've been bombarded with videos and photos of Japanese pain, and many of us have indulged in these images of horror from behind our laptops. And then, terrified, we boycott Japanese restaurants and cancel all our holidays to Japan. I know I was afraid. Very afraid. I looked at the black clouds blowing in from the North East and worried that they might be radioactive.

Happily enough, there are voices of calm and gentleness in all this fear. Janice Tay's Letter from Kyoto (entitled Toxic Misconceptions) published in today's Straits Times is one. And here is another, written in both English and French. I think I was moved when I read how one Japanese asked whether the world would abandon Japan... and another bowed deeply in thanks to the tourists who had arrived to enjoy their holiday.

I must be more brave, and not fear. Fear is not of God. Especially since The Husband went blue in the face to tell me that since Singapore is on the equator, it's natural levels of radiation are already higher than what is currently in Tokyo.

Alright... I shall trust in God, obey and NOT fear.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


The word "khatun" in the Mongol language is today used to describe anything or anyone that does not break no matter how much pressure is applied. It is a word that conveys stateliness and strength. It symbolizes power, firmness combined with beauty and grace. It can appear in the name of either a male or a female.

And it means Queen.

Genghis Khan had a brilliant system of keeping his vast empire under control, starting with his own nomadic tribes. I would imagine that it isn't easy to unify nomadic peoples, because they're always on the move. You have to find them before you can fight them, and before they can yield.

Genghis Khan fought them and then he married them. And it was through a thick web of inter-tribal marriages that he did 2 things: (1) he kept the tribes loyal, and (2) he elevated the status of Mongol women. When he was born, women were bought, sold and captured. When he died, women ruled the territories their men conquered. "Whomever can keep a house in order, can keep a territory in order" said Genghis Khan, and with that he and his men left home to the women and went to conquer new lands.

His daughters married men from the aristocratic lineages of the steppes. Mongol sons-in-law perform bride service in order to prove their worth. In any other family, it involved herding. But if you married one of Genghis Khan's many daughters, you proved your worth by fighting. Tribes looked forward to their sons marrying Genghis Khan's daughters because it conferred status and wealth. However, these sons were immediately enfolded into Genghis Khan's personal fighting corps and were sent on the most dangerous missions, from which they often did not return. This was not a problem because in the interests of tribal relations, the tribe simply sent another aristocratic warrior son.

What an ingenious way of keeping down rebellion. The best of the sons from other tribes were thus separated from their own people, and sent into the service of the Great Khan. None could emerge as a strong enough leader, with a strong enough power base to threaten the Great Khan from within the steppes of Mongolia.

Sons-in-law of Genghis Khan gained no title, only glory in certain death. Very raw deal indeed!

Daughters that married the Great Khan's sons however, gained a title "beki" (princess), or "khatun" (queen). Each khatun served her tribe at the court of the Great Khan representing her tribe in all the important decisions taken at court. The status of each khatun in court rituals reflected her relationship with her husband as well as the diplomatic importance of her tribe.

Genghis Khan's first conquest of the rich kingdoms of China was preceded and greatly facilitated by his daughter Alaqai Beki, who became Alaqai Khatun when she married into the ruling family of the Onggud, a country which controlled the swathe of land between the Mongolian steppes and the rich countries of the south. Alaqai Khatun's rule in Onggud provided her father richly provisioned access to the Turkic and Chinese worlds. By controlling the Onggud lands Alaqai Khatun supplied the army with provisions and new horses while acting as a buffer from counter attack. From this springboard, Genghis Khan leapt to conquer an empire that stretched from sea to sea.

When he first became Great Khan, he did not divide his lands amongst his generals or his sons. He gave a quarter of all Mongolia to each of his wives. Each wife was given military might (which he often borrowed), a vast retinue and herds. The thought occurred to me again... What an astute man!! In giving away power and wealth to his wives, all still were his because women would never challenge his military might. Women fight only to defend. It is men who fight to offend. A woman's strength is felt only when pressure is applied. A man constantly seeks to test his own strength on another.

Genghis Khan built his empire on the soft, inviting and yet unbreakable loyalty of women - his mother, his wives and his daughters. He is quoted to have said "My wives, daughters-in-law, and daughters are as colourful and radiant as red fire... It is my sole purpose to make their mouths as sweet as sugar by favour, to bedeck them in garments spun with gold, to mount them upon fleet-footed steeds, to have them drink sweet, clear water, to provide their animals with grassy meadows, and to have all harmful brambles, and thorns cleared from the roads and paths upon which they travel, and not to allow weeds and thorns to grow in their pastures" (pg. 39, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, by Jack Weatherford).

Genghis Khan's empire was built with the iron strength of men, and the silk strength of women. His daughters administrated his vast empire for him. Under their rule, the Silk Route moved goods faster, more safely and more efficiently. Through the control of the Silk Route, his daughters managed a global financial institution of unparalleled importance. In their own vast tracts of land, Genghis Khan's daughters administrated policies of religious and inter-racial tolerance. These were the Margaret Thatchers of their day.

Even more shockingly for us today, no one ever questioned a child's paternity. Genghis Khan rescued his wife, Borte, 6 months after she was kidnapped by another tribe. When she gave birth to a son some time later, Genghis Khan insisted that it was no one's business apart from the mother, how that child came to be. This son was accorded full princely honours because Borte the Great Khan's wife, was his mother.

More generally, children were blessings and it didn't matter who conceived them. Genghis Khan's mother ran an orphanage for children whose parents were killed (even enemy children). When the Alaqai Khatun married her Onggud in-laws, her new husband had to divorce every other wife he had but Alaqai Khatun adopted every child from his previous marriages. This makes sense. You need to have numbers when you fight a war. No sense killing potential killing machines eh?

It would seem that the Mongols (of Genghis Khan) unlike many chauvinistic cultures, cherished their women and their children. No wonder they vanquished all in their paths for it is women's love and loyalty that make men and nations strong from within, and their ill will and insecurities that weaken men and nations from inside. And so it was that the Mongol Empire began to fall apart when Mongol men turned against their women... And it started with the mass rape of 4000 of the Mongol Empire's daughters from age 7 up, on an open plain. A son of Genghis Khan was atempting to take the lands of a daughter of Genghis Khan by force. Soon, control over the Silk Route ended, and without the Silk Route, there was no Mongol Empire, and for the next 3 centuries the Mongolians reverted to barbarism. It was only when Queen Manduhai the Wise (whom folklore held to be the reincarnation of Genghis Khan) took power that Mongolia was united again. More about this queen in the next post.

It occurs to me that today, in countries where women's rights are consistently violated, there is bloodshed and violence. Perhaps it is true that harmony and health result from the fine balance between the male and female essences of our universe. After all, the peace and prosperity we enjoy in Singapore was built on the equilibrium found in the relationship between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mdm Kaw Geok Choo, no?

And if there was any woman in recent history who deserved to be called "khatun" (power, firmness combined with beauty and grace), it would have to be Mdm Kwa Geok Choo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Genghis Khan in Singapore

Mongolian Warriors

Bactrian Camels of the Silk Route

Silk Route Market Stall in Turpan

Replica of Turpan's Karez Water Distribution Tunnels

The Hold of a Merchant Ship Built with No Nails

We went down to the ArtScience Museum today at Marina Bay Sands. Apart from noting that it must be the most expensive place in Singapore, and that everything (from casino to food centre engage in legal daylight robbery), we quite enjoyed ourselves.

There were videos aplenty, and exhibits to touch and feel. I, for one, didn't know that Genghis Khan's empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean (i.e., the ocean around Japan) to the Mediterranean Sea (i.e., the waters around southern Europe). The Mongolian armies were poised at the doors of Austria and Italy when Genghis Khan died and every single military commander was recalled back to Karakorum (the capital of the Mongol empire) for the kurultai (a gathering of tribes) to choose a new Great Khan. History might have been very different had he not died when he did.

We saw their bows and watched as 5 year olds dominated stallions 10 times their size from the saddle and with only a pair of reins. And I was amazed that Genghis Khan wrote a manual for moral living, and in it, he said "When speaking to the Khan or to anyone else, address him simply by name." I was amazed that he actually promulgated this because to me, Genghis Khan dealt death from sea to shining sea, in the same way that Petunia washes plates or cuts vegetables. So... he was a humble man too, was he? The greatest men in history (like everyone of us) are a bundle of contradictions and it is ourselves who simplify who they were for our own understanding.

Then, we walked through the Silk Road Exhibition, which took us from Xi'An (in Shanxi), to Turpan (in Xinjiang), to Samarkand (in Uzbekistan) and finally Baghdad (in Iraq). We saw and touched silk cocoons in Xi'An. In Turpan, we peered into undeground tunnels carrying water from the mountains to the desert, and we saw the lush vines and heavy grapes hanging from trellises in a town that should have been sand and cactus. We even went to the market and took in the smells. I kid you not. Smells are a big part of the exhibition. The market had rose oils, musk oils, patchouli oils... everywhere you walked you were assaulted by fragrances that tugged pleasantly at the corners of your memory, stimulating half forgotten memories from stories of a Sinbad the sailor, and visions of a Caliph's harem.

In Samarkand (Uzbekistan), we saw glass works and learnt the difference between a Bactrian camel (2 humps and resilient to extreme cold) and a Dromedary Camel (1 hump and better for warmer climes).

In Baghdad, we saw water clocks and astronomer's charts. We learnt that the Arabs invented numbers, geometry and algebra. We saw how the Arabs were people of refinement, of good taste... connoisseurs of music and poetry... and erudite scholars. I couldn't stop myself from feeling a little stab of pain, to know that all that was once precious and beautiful in Baghdad has been desecrated by war.

In one afternoon, we travelled the world, Little Boy and I.

We ended the afternoon looking at the treasures from a shipwreck in the waters of Southeast Asia. White ceramics and celadons. I particularly loved the celadon exhibits, but that is because I have a soft spot for celadon - the pale green pottery with cracks in the glaze. I think I will get me one stunning piece of celadon for the new house.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ayam Penyet

Last week, I met a chicken dish to die for. Our new maid/helper loves spicy food and so I detoured to FoodFare at Choa Chu Kang's Lot 1 to pick up packet of something covered in red hot chilli sauce. In Singapore, we have a bewildering array of spicy chilli sauces each with its own unique combination of spices.

As luck would have it, I found "ayam penyet" or "bashed up chicken" at the Nasi Padang stall. Everything there looked delicious but the ayam penyet seemed in a class of its own. It was still early and there was an alluring display of ayam (i.e. chicken) thighs and wings... and some furry thingamajig sprinkled all over the pile. I assure you that those thighs and wings called out to me in unison, and sang a chorus to my stomach. The thighs sounded like alto... and the wings were very much soprano voices. Together, the harmony was irresistible, even for someone who had had dinner.

The fellow before me ordered ayam penyet and when he carried off his order on a pretty wooden dish decorated with salad leaves, a crimson splash of chilli sauce and a lot of furry stuff (actually I found out that it was deep fried shredded lemongrass), it was all I could do to stop myself from gawking, mouth open at the departing dish. I ordered a packet of ayam penyet to go, and had to avert my eyes when our maid relished every bite of her dinner.

I promised myself that I would return for my own ayam penyet. I did that today. It really is the best ayam penyet I have ever had.

The spices came together in perfect combination, and the deep fried shredded lemongrass infused the whole dish, making even white rice come alive in a moment of jazz. The meat was tender and moist, and the 2 bits of greens explained carefully to my grumbling conscience that I was still eating SOME veggies, if not a lot.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Little Shed/Shit

Little Boy was 6 months old. The Daughter had endured 6 months of maternal neglect. I looked upon my forlorn and skinny Little Girl... observed her fits of temper and her face all scrunched up with frustration. If you had put her in rags in the middle of winter, with a box of matches, she would have been the picture perfect Little Matchstick Girl.

I wanted to make her smile again. We left Little Boy at home and went out, the 3 of us. Mommy, Daddy and The Daughter. We ate, had ice cream, laughed and chatted. Then we rented bikes and went around the park.

It was a hot day and the sun's rays crackled on the bicycle path. The Husband said to me "Shall we stop at that Little Shed for a drink of water?"

Of a sudden, even as the sun shone all about us, the sunshine went out of our day. The Daughter cycled quickly ahead of us and kept at an unfriendly distance. Her pout returned and her forehead looked like an ox had just gone through it with a plough. The lower lip came right out and she wouldn't look us in the eye. "Come babe! Let's stop here for a drink of water." She shook her head and looked up at nothing in the trees.

I made her drink water because it was really hot and I didn't want her to get sunstroke. She sulked through her drink and then stalked off back to an unfriendly distance from me. This continued for the rest of the afternoon.

I was disappointed. Back then, I was still working full time and inflexible hours. Taking an entire afternoon off was a rather big thing for me. Arranging for The Husband to be off at the same time was twice a big thing. We had hoped to see her smile. Instead, she was simply tiresome in her bad temper. She also refused to explain herself. I was disappointed that we had wasted an afternoon of precious time.

I blew up. She broke down. There we were, 2 unhappy females in the same car, each looking out the window. Only then The Husband asked "Babe... When I told Mommy to stop by the Little Shed to give you water, did you think that I asked her to give The Little Shit some water?"

She turned around with stricken eyes and a nose as red as Rudolph's. And she nodded her head. There was the sound of one forlorn sniff. Well... I suppose I too would have been miserable had I thought that The Man I Loved Most in the World had called me a "Little Shit". But why in the world would she think that? And we wasted a whole afternoon of annual leave just because one little girl was deaf, and had not enough faith in the love of the man she calls her father.

Sigh! But I guess the 6 months of maternal neglect had taken their toll. She really didn't know whether she was still precious to us or not.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Soap and Cleansing Mask

The last time I saw an Imperial Leather soap bar advertisement was in the 1970s. Back in those days, it was a mass market high quality soap bar on par with Lux. The Lux brand has reinvented itself. It runs sexy advertisements to the present day, and when I shop for groceries, the beautiful bottles of Lux Liquid Soap are placed at the coveted eye level.

The Imperial Leather however still exists only as a soap bar. It's packaging has changed zilch since the 1970s. The product itself has not changed. It is of the same quality, and the same smell. I love this soap bar, and when I married The Husband, I introduced it to him. For him, it was love at first wash. For some reason, it performed as well as Clinique's face soap bar, at the fraction of the cost. The Husband has really bad acne, and this soap bar did wonders for him.

The Husband is a loyal man. He is loyal to his soap. If something works why change it? Whilst I have myself moved on to other types of soap with alluring smells and luxurious textures, The Husband sniffed at any soap dalliance. He is a one soap man.

Lately though, this soap has been difficult to find. Cold Storage has never stocked it, nor has Guardian Pharmacy. I used to find it in NTUC Fairprice, but no longer. For a time, I could find it in this dingy cosmetics shop that sells no brand perfumes. But no longer either.

I tried to explain to The Husband that only very very old people or those who can't afford more chi-chi soap bars, still use Imperial Leathers. Over time, as the old people pass on and people become richer, the demand for Imperial Leathers wouldn't justify the supermarkets' efforts in stocking them. "My love" I said "It is a POOR OLD MAN'S soap. Our best bet is to find it at Sheng Siong. I notice many aged bachelors shop there, whenever I shop there."

Never mind the fact that Petunia shops at Sheng Siong. What is important is that aged bachelors do. The Husband gave me a look. Then he kicked into action. He found an even dingier shop in the middle of a row of HDB factory units which stocked ONE pack of 5 bars. I was somewhat pessimistic. What'll happen when the 5 bars are used up?

The Husband gave me another look. He disappeared into NTUC Fairprice at Lot 1, and came out triumphant. He was lugging a whole pile of packs of 5. My eyes opened wide and I said "You cleaned out the whole shelf?" It turned out that he had swiped half the shelf. Enough to last one year. "What'll happen next year?" I asked "You should buy enough to last you till you die because this soap is gonna be impossible to find next year."

But The Husband didn't believe me because his shopping experience has been so different from mine. I went to 3 shops and found no Imperial Leathers. He went to 2 shops and both had them. Yet I remain convinced that he should have bought enough to last the rest of his life. That was what I did with my Grandma's face powder. See picture below.

I remember how my Grandma (who would have been 111 years old this year if she were still alive) would rub the white cake and pat the white powder on lightly her face after her bath (with a huge clay urn and a wooden scoop). I bought the first cake because I missed my Grandma, and I used it on my face. Lo and behold, I discovered that it soaked up oil and removed black heads. I use it as an oil removal mask... and since no one sells these cakes anymore, I am so glad I bought enough to last me till I die.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Honest Men in Government

We have honest men/women in government who listen and respond with hard data and numbers. I am referring to Ng Eng Hen's revelations about the PSLE scores of those from lower socioeconomic groups. Children who score in the top 30% in the PSLE do come from lower socio-economic classes. I do have still have some concerns that these scores are lag indicators however, and that the inertia in social movement via education won't translate into numbers till a few years later. But at least the government has heard, and has responded... and I am confident, will continue to track the numbers describing social mobility.

We have intelligent men/women in government who know how to make sense of the streams of internet invective sloshed all over public internet forums and in blogosphere. There's been so much poison dripping all over the internet about foreign talent, lack of work-life balance, concerns about childcare. Many of these issues are related and people have had a field day slinging acid word bombs at the government. However, recently, there have been measures to up productivity, force the employment of low-skilled locals, push for work-life strategies. I do have some concerns about whether work-life strategies will take hold in organisations, but I think it is a good start because the Singaporean workforce (without the pressures of cheap foreign labour) would now be in a better position to negotiate better work lives from their employers... and doing so will benefit the family unit. Even without the implementation of paternity leave.

We have men/women of courage and integrity who aren't afraid to admit they've been wrong... after all, there has been a tacit admission that there was a lack of co-ordination between the various government initiatives with the creation of a new post in the PM's office (just to look into co-ordination issues).

It just needed a bit of dialogue, is all... and mutual understanding. Instead of telling us we're lazy and uncompetitive, there really has been an attempt to listen and understand. That's a good thing. Not many governments are like that.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


"The family functions as a democracy" said The Husband as we gathered the family to discuss the June holidays. One kid wanted to go to Turkey/Nepal/Bhutan. Another decided that Singapore was best. The Husband voted for Vietnam/Penang. And I wanted Tasmania because someone has a beautiful house with sheep, chickens and ducks.

So I went for a bit of political reform and proposed "Parents get 2 votes and children get 1". And the kids put up a protest (with pickets and all) saying "What sort of democracy is that?" The Husband, mostly quiet, was fast on the draw. He said "It's a managed democracy". And since the kids don't know much about political systems, they bought it. Anyhows, we decided to give the issue a few days to rest and come back for a managed vote.

Then we had to decide whether to play music in the car this morning. It's morning for goodness sakes! Don't you want peace and quiet in the mornings to soak in the sunshine and listen to the birds... and to each other talking in the car? Apparently, not. Without much managing, the democracy voted for music in the car. I protested and promptly changed the political system to a Mommarchy.

Nice system, this Mommarchy thing.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

House Construction 12: Me, My Ceiling & My Glass Door

In keeping with my notion that less is more, and that nothingness is the ultimate declaration of having arrived, I had this idea that I would decorate my new house with air... and a lot of it. To this end, I contrived to fashion the maximum ceiling height allowable on the 1st storey. It's 4 m high (even after the addition of a false ceiling panel).

To get the ceiling, I begged The Ex-Architect for it. It would cost more, I was told. Pleeeeeeeeeze, may I have it? **Batting eyelids** It would be difficult to change the light bulbs, I was told. Pleeeeeeeeeze, I would like to have it. **Bat eyelids some more** It would go against some building regulations, the Ex-Architect lied.

Oh good golly! Just do it! And that was when the Ex-Architect became an Ex.

Now, a semi-detached house has windows only along one side of the house. This is because the other side of the house is joined to the neighbour's and so, both families share a common party wall.

When I divided the 1st storey into 2 parts to carve out a self-sufficient apartment dwelling for Grandma and Grandpa, I gave away all the 1st storey windows along the side of the house to the old folks. This leaves me with the other half of the 1st storey that is pretty much a dark tunnel with natural light only at the 2 ends (back and front of house).

In essence, with its 4m ceiling, my half of the 1st storey is something of a dark cave. And like any self-respecting cave woman, who believes that less is more and that nothingness is the ultimate declaration of having arrived, I wanted a cavernous opening (filled with air and open to the light). After all, the front of the cave is where cave people do the hunga-hunga... and it really is more pleasant to do the hunga-hunga in a cavern than a hole.

And so it was that I begged The Husband for a 3.9m tall by 4m wide sliding glass doors. It would cost double, I was told. Pleeeeeeeeeze, may I have it? **Batting eyelids** It would be heavy, I was told. Pleeeeeeeeeze, I would like to have it. **Bat eyelids some more** It would be quite unstable and would come off the tracks, I was told. Pleeeze, I WANT it. **Level stare** No ball bearings can stand the weight of such a big door, I was told.

Oh good golly! Just do it! But this time, The Husband didn't become an Ex. Phew!!

And I am looking forward to a suite of tall sliding glass doors at the entrance to our cavernous hunga hunga place. And it turns out that there are engineering solutions that can build such large glass doors for strength, robustness and ease of use. And I want them because it is the ONLY luxury in the house that I have allowed myself.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I have an award!! Actually, t'is a double award, thanks to OpenKitchenConcept and Malar!! To pass the blessings around, I gotta give this award away to SEVEN people. So here they are!
and TWO more..
Happy happy blogging people! Thanks for being a part of my life!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Story of Ramba

The Daughter went to visit ACRES yesterday and came home brimming with stories about abused animals.

10 years ago, a little chimpanzee called Ramba was separated from her Mommy and Daddy because she needed to make money. For a fee, Little Ramba was rostered to sit on zoo visitors' laps for photo sessions. The little chimp didn't much like climbing on the laps of every Tom, Dick and Harry she was forced to hug, so she peed in visitors' laps and kicked up a stink. It became a battle of wills between the human trainer and the baby chimp. And so the human trainer punched the baby in the face, for human pride cannot tolerate the independent spirit of a dumb animal. Confused and hurt, little Ramba ran to her friend Louis. She pulled out her lower lip with her tiny fingers and showed him her bleeding lip.

And Louis' heart broke. He stormed into the offices of his zoo, and as one thing lead to another, Louis was fired. And so it was ACRES began - to save animals like Ramba.

The other story The Daughter recounted was even more heart wrenching. It is the story of bear bile, a prized substance in Chinese pharmacopeia. Bears are kept in cages that can scarcely fit them, and invasive methods are used to harvest the bile from their gall bladders. Petunia has no words to describe the horror of bear bile farming and so readers can click here to know more.

When the bears are close to death, they are taken out of their cages and left to die. After a short lifetime of captivity and unceasing pain, one such bear died with Louis holding its paw. When God made animals and put humans in charge, he meant for us to look after them, not create a hell on earth for them.

Then there was the snake story. You see, when you see a snake coiled up nicely in the drain, you tend to think "Aaaaah! Snake! It's gonna hurt me!" But the snake also thinks "Aaaaaaah! Thing! It's gonna hurt ME!" And when the snake stands up, all he's thinking is "Is the THING still there?" 'cos it has to stand up to have a look eh? And then you go "Aaaaah! The snake is poised to strike!"

And then The Daughter did this funny imitation of a snake who slithered along and then stood up to look... and slithered along and then stood up to look... and then slithered along and then stood up to look. And the THING was still there, running after it, trying to catch it because the THING somehow had got the idea that the snake was plotting to get into the THING's bed, toilet, sofa... whatever.

And then there was Scrappy (a dead ringer for Milo I am told). A dog whose hind legs are outta action. He crawls along using 2 front legs. He had somehow had the wisdom to crawl to the gates of ACRES and got himself adopted. Scrappy tries his best to gambol after his best friend, a black and white dog called Sunshine (who has bald patches). Sunshine does not at all look down upon her friend's infirmity. She comes over rather often to playfully nibble at Scrappy's everywhere and cover him with affectionate licks.

You know what, I have been looking for a charity to adopt, and I have decided that ACRES is it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An Oopsy Daisy on Slab Coring

The power of the internet lies in access to information. At least, that was what I thought. Now, I think that the greater power of the internet lies in the access to PEOPLE.

R had been a surveyor in a past life, before she went into semi-retirement to pursue other interests, and follow through on other responsibilities. By choice and by profession R has an affinity for the building process that I don't have. She actually likes these construction-y things and because of long years of experience, she seems to know an awful lot.

R read my post on Coring the Slab... and couldn't help herself from dropping me a note on my phone "Nobody..." says she "but nobody... but nobody cores a slab unless they forgot to cast the hole in the first place. Ya gotta go correct that post 'cos it's misleading."

So here it is. For others reading this blog, let Petunia not teach you the wrong thing. Coring of the slab does not give more accuracy in positioning a hole in a concrete slab. People generally don't do it unless it were to correct an oversight. See what I mean by access to PEOPLE? Real, living, breathing and caring people who will reach out through the virtual space of what is the internet to make a difference to another's life. Thank you J!!

The thing is, R and I met through HER blog. I went there and nosed around... saw enticing snapshots of her Haven of Peace and marvelled at her hydroponic vegetables. Then we bonded over Heirloom Tomato seeds. The tomatoes never grew for me but I made a new friend. We further arranged to meet to exchange sweet potato runners. And then one day, Rude Petunia invited herself to R's Haven of Peace for tea, no less because the pictures on her blog promised an afternoon of Zen-like calm in green leafy surroundings, touched by the tendrils of a cool breeze.

Reality was quite that I assure you, and the experience was much enhanced by yam cookies and artichoke tea... plus a blue cat which behaved like a dog, and only stopped short of wagging her tail.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

House Construction 11: Coring the Slab

When you build a house, you realise that all manner of pipes snake all about in hidden corners bringing you water, electricity, data access and refrigerant gas. Some of these pipes and conduits snake between floors. Mr Grizzly, my main contractor decided that coring the slab was better than setting a hole in the slab before pouring the concrete. He explained that coring the slab gave him greater precision when it came to positioning the hole vis-à-vis walls and such because one can decide where the holes in the slab would be.

It's a bit more work but it gives better accuracy. Mr Grizzly is very conscientious in what he does.

When you core the slab, you get this machine that spins a sharp cutting edge onto the concrete slab, and slowly cuts right through it from the 2nd storey floor slab, to the 1st storey ceiling slab (which is the same slab really).

When you set the hole in the slab before the concrete is poured, you simply put a round pipe there where the hole should be and so the concrete flows around that aperture, and a natural hole appears in the slab when the wooden formworks that mould the concrete slab are removed.


Postscript: There is a mistake in this blogpost that is addressed here. Apologies for the confusion.