Monday, April 27, 2015

On local happenings

As you might have read, 12 would-be terrorists were arrested yesterday (?) before they could test their bomb-making skills. The initial news reports only stated the district in which they had been apprehended. Among the hiking/outdoor community though, the news was already circulating shortly after their arrest that they had been about to scale Gunung Nuang.

I haven't been there myself, but if you've been on any hike, you'd know there's nothing casual about climbing Nuang. It's not a nice little hill like Broga, where ~2 hours of steady climbing will get you to the peak in time for the sunrise, and there are hordes of other hikers along the way.

Whichever side you start on, Gunung Nuang is forested, steep, and a very long and arduous trip both ways. It's no coincidence you have events like the Trans-Nuang, where dedicated psychopaths run up and down the mountain without the luxury of sleep.

People have died attempting Nuang, presumably the way people have died when attempting hikes too much for their hearts to handle. In fact, a hiker did not survive his health emergency yesterday. Like the would-be terrorists, he was on the "lower" part of Gunung Nuang.

It's sad that this individual tragedy was overshadowed by the actions of 12 idiots. It's  clear that hikers need to know the following at least:

Mountain climbing for first-timers, or nubis kubis (cute slang for "newbies").
The intended hiking route.
What to do when a fellow hiker appears suspicious.
What to do when a fellow hiker requires emergency first aid.
How to administer emergency first aid.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The accidental minimalist

I'm staying with Enfant Terrible (AND HIS MOTHER)* while waiting for the construction of our house to be completed.

I miss my home, mainly because at home, I just need to unlock the front door and step outside the gate to get out, whereas here, I have to walk down the corridor, get in the lift, and go down 5 floors and past the guard house before I trip over a pothole. This disconnect makes it hard to remember that I'm still in the Klang Valley sometimes. (This might be why people are depicted in lacking in empathy and compassion in dystopian future settings.)

But my point actually is: space is a premium in this apartment. So, when I moved in, I decided to bring only the essentials. As it is, my belongings, including my laptop, clothes, toiletries, bags, footwear, occupy 2 drawers.

To be specific, I have about 5 shirts (for going out and exercising), 3 pairs of trousers, 3 sets of "house clothes" and pajamas,** and a week's worth of underwear.

More variety would be nice, of course, but I don't miss the stuff I left at home. I can't imagine going back to the old ways once the house is ready. Maybe I'll have a main wardrobe and rotate things from the auxiliary wardrobe. Who knows?

*This was to be ET's parents's retirement apartment, while his sister and her family moved into the family house.
**I could pare this down, but I really like my joke boxers and cheeky tank tops.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The anti-minimalist

It was cloudy this morning, the kind of weather that encourages and facilitates morbid thoughts. Enfant Terrible's laundry was drying on the balcony, moving slightly with the gentle breeze.

In the middle of my yoga warmup, I found myself thinking of how my mother-in-law wears my late father-in-law's* clothes sometimes, like when she goes for walks. I guess that's how she consoles herself.

I don't think I could do that if it were me and ET had died. Honestly, I think I'd probably give all his clothes away, save a few pieces. I wouldn't want any reminders of the yawning hole in my life.

*He died from lung cancer last year. It still feels unreal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Personal hygiene update: Part 2

Personally, "no poo" sounds ridiculous. Just say you're not using shampoo already! Honestly, saying you're "no poo" implies you have digestion problems*, and it too cutesy by half.

Anyway, as the price of my favorite "natural" shampoo has gone up AGAIN, I decided to go back to baking soda shampoo. One small container  of baking soda is enough to make a few batches of  shampoo hair wash, and costs about 7% of the price of "proper" shampoo.

I guess part of the fun is working out the baking soda to water ratio that works best for you. I thought I could get away with using way less than the half tablespoon I used previously, but 1.5 teaspoons is too little. And so on.

*If you have digestive problems, you should eat fewer of those lovely little biscuits, geddit?!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Personal hygiene update: Part 1

I don't care for the term "crunchy", which Google says means "politically and environmentally liberal" (whatever THAT is supposed to mean), but is usually used when referring to any alternative approach or thing involving personal hygiene.

Maybe it's because my recent reading experience has been saturated with crunchy blogger this and crunchy mama that. Seriously, there are hundreds of those, if not thousands, all professing to lead the crunchy life. Which is actually well and good as long as you don't brag about it. I guess coming across all of them at one go overwhelmed me.

Anyway, I've been using the DIY deodorant I described previously, and I actually managed to get Enfant Terrible to try it too! (He's actually game for anything as long as it's not eggy.) It has been demonstrated in our sample size of 2 that the deodorant is 100% effective.

One limitation to this study is the size of the tubes used, which are actually lip balm tubes. I haven't found suppliers nearer to Malaysia who stock deo tubes, and shipping them from the US would cost more than the tubes themselves. Unless I buy more tubes, but then I'd be spending close to RM400 on plastic?!

The second limitation is that the powder portion of the formulation renders the mini deo stick slightly crumbly, so it doesn't glide on smoothly. Come to think of it, this is true of Nivea stick deodorant, but nevermind. ET manages to break off bits when he applies it, and just smoothes it in before dressing.

A third possible limitation is that people who don't like the smell of coconut might dislike it, which makes them monsters in my book. (There are also people who say sandalwood and coconut are "Indian" smells. Ya rly.)

Nevertheless, this deodorant is highly effective and efficacious (works when you apply it after sweating as well), is cost-effective to produce, and has its own pleasant smell.

*A portion of this work was styled as a scientific research manuscript. Because day job bleeds into nightmares sometimes.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Moment of self-aggrandization

At the risk of jinxing things, I actually quite like planning shit.

I like contacting people (though most times I actually loathe talking to people...) and asking them to come to a party. I like contacting vendors, getting quotes, and finding out how they run their shit and what they can do for me. I like thinking of details like the pattern on the dress and the complementing footwear. I even like entering the numbers into the spreadsheet so I know how deep a financial hole we're digging.

I guess I like assembling things, and a wedding is pretty much one of the biggest things you could ever put together.

So yeah. Colonel Fury, drop me a line the next time you're in town. I could give you a hand.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Making Emily Post proud

Mum received a wedding invite from her colleague yesterday to the colleague's child's wedding. The envelope was small (tiny) and flimsy, possibly made of paper under 60 gsm. The address lines were pre-printed and narrow. The couple had stamped their name on the top third of the front using what looked like a standard issue rubber stamp font.

The invite it held (I held it up against the light, ok) was just as basic. It would have melted in the rain. I'd had stared at the envelope for a few seconds, wearing a half-sneer before I realized what I was doing.

And for all that, they had to use an 80 sen stamp because of the envelope's non-standard size. The same postage I'd used, only my invites had been in "proper" envelopes on which addresses had been written freehand. I'd spent about 3 weeks getting my design to print properly on my 200 gsm card stock using a proper printer and not the xerox machine at the nearby stationery shop, where, no doubt using the on-site paper cutter, they had cut their B6-size invites from a larger sheet.


Both invitations are for a happy occasion that people will show up for,* eat till they're comatose, drink till they're unruly (maybe), cake till they're ill, catch up with each other and bitch about the idiots at the other table, and then leave, hopefully commenting about how happy and well-matched the couple looked.

Maybe this couple decided to apportion more of their budget for food and drink (always a good idea). Most invitations are discarded the instant an event is over anyway, so all the cutting and folding and gluing I see going into a wedding invite suite (I think that's what they're called) are pretty much a waste of time and resources.


If it makes you happy, why the hell not? It's your wedding. If some snooty fucker thinks your invites aren't "weddingy" enough, or overdone, fuck them. Seat them in the hottest area of the tent or beside the toilets. If they even show up.

For the record, I will use Whatsapp to announce my next wedding.**

*For fuck's sake, honor the fucking RSVP date. If you can't find it, just respond as soon as you receive it. It's only polite.
**Maybe for my anniversary.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Red carpet Z-lister

A photographer showed up at yoga class yesterday. She had been assigned to take pictures of activities to commemorate the club's 125th anniversary. She was loaded with camera gear and the accompanying saddlebags. She walked all her sneakers over the floor!!!

(I just realized this is what it must be like for anime characters when an interloper disrespects the dōjō by treading on the tatami/wood floor with their dress shoes. For a while, I did want to flip her out of the room.)

Sadly for her, attendance was kind of poor (about 7 students in a hall that can accommodate about 20). But yours truly* suggested that the beginner and intermediate students do the warm-up sun salutations together so that she'd have a decent-sized group in her shots, and everyone agreed!

Two guys weren't interested in having their mugshots in the club magazine though. So, one did his sun salutations away from the photographer, and the other... left the room after asking the photographer to  inform him when she'd finished.

Our instructor said, "Ignore the camera." Easy to say when you're not in the front row and facing a flash that's going off every minute. No wonder people get angry with the paparazzi.

*It's not as if I ordered her to photograph only my good side.

Monday, April 13, 2015

End of one thing

Guys, I finished that online course. It was supposed to span 4 weeks anyway. The assessment closes in 2 days but I did that last night. Needless to say, I passed

I'm still not sure how basic bacteriology and virology segued into an introduction to forensic science and methods in molecular biology, but eh, it was free. And I got a bunch of badges. And a statement of completion for display.

Obvious as it sounds, listening to a lecture is entirely different from reading a textbook.

PS I have signed up for an introductory course in psychology. Because while I can spot nutty people, I don't know what to do with them. Maybe I should stop looking in the mirror.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

DIY: Intentional deodoration

Leaving aside the idea that "commercial" deodorants contain harmful and potentially carcinogenic chemicals,* making your own deodorant is cost-effective and, it must be admitted, self-pleasing.

The active ingredient is baking soda,** as it absorbs odors. In excess amounts, it can also cause skin irritation. Fortunately, you can use reduce the amount stated most recipes without adverse effects.

The moisture absorber is cornstarch (or cornflour) or arrowroot powder. The latter is more popular because it's "non-GMO", but what else do you really know about the arrowroot or its cultivation processes? If you can only find cornstarch, use it. Maybe try and support a local producer if you can.

The third ingredient is coconut oil, touted for its antibacterial properties. You can buy it in bulk and not feel the pinch so much as compared to, say, jojoba oil, and it smells nice. No, it won't go rancid in the deodorant. I used Country Farm Organics coconut oil because that was all I found in the supermarket.

You don't need that much of everything, and given the price, I don't see the point of getting 1 kg of "true" organic coconut oil from the health food shop.

Anyway, beeswax (from Beauty360degrees) is what gives you a solid deo stick. I read an evaluation of oil to beeswax ratios that concluded that the best ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part beeswax. This is actually too soft for our weather and this purpose (and including the powdery components), so I'm going to remelt the original batch and increase the beeswax to a 2:1 ratio.

This is the recipe I used: Homemade Summer Deodorant. The weather described seems closest to ours, but as with all experiments, optimization must take place before you obtain the desired results. I actually halved the amounts, and I still have a lot of the first batch waiting for its day in the sun (so to speak) in a reused mustard jar!

Speaking of desired results, this stuff works. In detail, I used less than the stated amount of baking soda, and preliminary tests indicate this can be increased somewhat. Pouring it into the twistup containers was fiddly (pipettes needed), but given the small amounts of everything used, the batch I made cost about RM2.50. So yes, it's worth the effort and time (which wasn't a lot anyway), and it's a keeper.

*There are chemicals in everything! Why target just deodorant?
**A chemical.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Aging gracefully

A sure sign of maturity is when you're just quietly unpleasant during PMS week, and not a raging scream monster.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Food tasting tips

Short story: Enfant Terrible and I had a food tasting at out wedding venue. I had a nice time, ET less so. Here's why! /terrible clickbait lede.

1. Have a copy of the agreed-upon menu with you so you can make notes and check discrepancies. Ingredients might get substituted without prior notice, or a dish is entirely different from expectations although all components are present.

2. Don't starve yourself beforehand.* You'll just show up famished and gobble the first thing you're   served without tasting it, defeating the purpose of attending a food tasting and leading to the next point:

3. Don't clean your plate. Seems counterintuitive for most guys, but I promise you won't feel hungry after a food tasting even if you have just a few bites/one serving from each dish.

To illustrate my point, you have a 10-item menu (appetizer, starter, and dessert included) and the food is served shared platter style at the tasting. Each platter is as big as your face.** Are you really going to eat every last bite of it? If you're 15 years old, feel free to try, but I guarantee you'll feel ill by the end of it all.

4. Be direct with the food coordinator. You won't love everything, which is why food tastings are held in the first place. At the same time, don't be rude (or "straightforward" or "direct", as some people like to say). Insulting the food, the chef, the coordinator, or the venue is unhelpful. While it's not as if you'll have your event cancelled, you might miss out on other value-added benefits due to the loss of goodwill.***

We had the extra food packed, and I swear it all weighed 2 kg. I thought it would last at least 2 days, but we're down to our last box (containing the salad) already. Also, we got a parking ticket, without which the experience of dining in downtown Kuala Lumpur would be incomplete.

*Also if you're a guest, because you'll probably wind up legless after the cocktail hour.
**They served the two of us enough food for 6 (six) people. Our venue coordinator claims his chef just can't get to grips with the concept of cooking smaller portions.
***We didn't do this, but having seen how some Malaysians "bargain", I wouldn't put it past them!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Inadvertent deodoration

Guys, I did a salt and honey scrub yesterday morning. It still feels subversive taking kitchen ingredients into the bathroom, even though I've been using grapeseed oil for about 2 (?) years now.

Anyway, it's a 1:1 combination of salt and honey, and you can add a bit of oil* to make it more spreadable. Oil makes the floor slippery though. The salt can be coarse or fine, sea or table, and the honey can be raw, organic, organic and raw, or pasteurized.

I doubt most people care about these details though. I think it's entirely up to you if you're fine with having premium ingredients wash down the drain instead of, I don't know, eating them.** But you know, you're washing it off pretty quickly, so it doesn't make sense (to me anyway) to use the fancy stuff.

For me, a finer salt + runnier honey = nicer scrub.

Besides the exfoliation, the scrub actually left a faint honey scent after being washed off! Other than that, the major, unexpected, effect appears to be this: complete absence of sweaty smells for about 24 hours on a warm and humid day.

Lesson: Salt-honey scrubs dull your sense of smell. Probably. Or it has something to do with the anti-bacterial activity of honey. Maybe both!

*You probably won't need to moisturize if you do this.
**Salt and honey is actually a good marinade/basting solution for roasts and whatnot. But you knew that.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Short one

I forgive myself for not writing on Friday. No wait, life is too short to beat yourself up over missing a post, although continuity is always nice.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Allow me this

Neil Gaiman likes to present himself as a quiet, slightly awkward and sometimes self-effacing writer. Amanda Palmer's occasional comment on how he's grumpy when writing/waking up/sleepy/cold/trying to write adds to the image of a man just trying to do what he's decent at, dammit, and just write.

At least, that's what I always thought until I saw a post on Facebook announcing the redesign of his site and a request for visitors to report anything broken. The webgoblin* (formerly elf, I think) is answering queries through Gaiman's account, so it looks as if the man himself is checking replies just like one of us thirsty mortals. (Webgoblin signs off as webgoblin, though, so you can't claim they're fooling you there!)

If that isn't dashedly clever way of getting many more site visits and increasing web visibility even more, I don't know what is. Amanda Palmer should take notes here, because the King of the Internet is in town.

*The least known member of the Osborn family.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Minding others's business

I wonder how Victor Chia's wedding planning is going. I heard about him on radio about 2 weeks ago: he won a contest to plan his own wedding with a budget of RM30k.

The catch is, the wedding is in 9 days from today?! So it's less of a wedding planning thing and more of a get as much done as you bloody well can or so help you, everyone will be deeply unhappy. No pressure.

There was some piss-taking when he announced the theme (Pokémon-Gundam). The radio announcers wondered whether it'd be considered a lame idea. Not that it's anyone else's business, and it's not as if the radio station gets to make any planning calls in this regard. After all, they gave him the money. They helped create the monster!

I think it will probably be cute. The bride and groom parties will have killer anime hairstyles. Sharp dressing will abound. If all goes according to plan, Victor will have the head of a mecha on the stage!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Another one down!

I've been anxious about the cake. The quotes I've received have been from both ends of the cost spectrum (per slice, according to size, etc.), and most of these bakers work from home; some quite far from where we are, so flavor testing would have been an adventure. We might have had the chance to meet some hobbits along the way, but eh.

Except, we tested some flavors today, and booked a baker!

It went so smoothly I'm actually a bit suspicious, but everything is to be paid on the day, so the worst thing that can happen is that they don't show up. Though she did say she'd send us a picture the day before.

Suddenly I'm terrified.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Quick exercise move

I realized yesterday I hadn't done butt clenches in a while. As the name suggests, you clench your butt to the count of 5, release, and repeat. The article I picked it up from suggested doing it every hour when you're in the office (10 reps, then 20 quick clenches) or when your car comes to a halt when you're stuck in traffic. Either way, it makes you feel worked out, so thumbs up from me!