on distraction …

i’m designing my home
OK. Mebbe the operative word should be “trying – as in I’m trying to design my home.
Well, for one, I can draw floor plans with AutoCAD. 
This is a skill I had more or less self taught after being given a quick 10 minutes hands-on demo by a architect friend (or kindda colleague as I was kindda moonlighting as a visual merchandiser). 
And NO. I do not have a self inflated ego or misplaced perceptions on my abilities to think that I can forgo an architect and design my own home. Contrary to it, really, on all aspects, though I am still rather upset at H’s statement earlier this week of: common’ your feat was not in the same league as beating Raphael Nadali.e. in reference to Australian wild card Nick Krygios‘ mom’s lack of support or rather faith in her son’s ability to knock out the likes of Raphael Nadal at the Wimbeldon 2014
Well, my mom is much the same when it comes to me. And sure, I’ve nothing to shout about on the accomplishment front at the same league as that, but …yes, I was moaning about how under-appreciated I am vis-a-vis my sibling in the presence of both mom and H, rather playfully. It’s the truth though but I have long grown up and accepted it as is.
Truthfully, i’m designing my home coz I have trust issues.
Coupled with my OCD inclinations, I have to have it all nailed down before I start soliciting real professional help. I’m visual too – so having a plan in front of me would take away a lot of pain and frustration of trying to explain my brief to the architect.
So, how am I doing on the front of i’m designing my home?
First and foremost, does anyone know where I can get a bootleg version of AutoCAD?!?! 
The 3-year student FREE trial version from the official site does not permit downloads in my part of the world – not surprising given the rampant and what used to be lucrative bootleg business of software programmes, movies, music blah3 … not to mention we have one of the highest rate of credit card frauds as well.
I am not propagating and/or supporting the above, but honestly, we aren’t talking about buying an original movie/ music DVD or CD that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. An AutoCAD programme for someone who just wants to muck around and pre-design her home does cost an arm and a leg plus a couple of kidneys. What are we looking at here? A set-back of circa MYR12,000!!! Now, to put things into perspective, minimum wage is only MYR10,800 per annum – gottit?
Secondly, I am so obsessed, I am totally sleep deprived.
I’ve found a 7 days trial version of a simplified “autoCAD” floor plan drawing that has been designed to work on Microsoft Office – Smartdraw – and have been at it for 7 days. The results are 2 plans … and I’ve got a buzzing idea on my head for Version 3.0, but am still too cheap to pay close to USD200 for the floor plan programme (MYR625).
As for the 2 plans …
with everyone’s “wish list” included I ended up with Version 1.0 being at 16,000+ sq ft built up … only to quickly realised that neither the width nor the length of the house can be beyond 100 feet as that would be way beyond the parcel’s size.
Though at the back of the mind, a 16,000+ sq ft house is ludicrous for a family of two (+ possibly 1) … and perhaps a little Chihuahua dog named “frog” that currently resides in two adults imagination* … I didn’t quite scale the house down due to its sheer largeness and impracticality but rather worked on Version 2.0 on the guided premise of bringing both the width and length to below 90 feet!
And thus, emerged Version 2.0 at magically one quarter of its original size to a stunning 4,000+ sq ft! A much more realistic size.

* “frog” the dog does exist in a pet shop in suburbia Kuala Lumpur … the thing is I do not own “frog” though the thought of it has been tempting and haunting … “frog”, unlike his other friend, game us the Charles Dickens Oliver Twist look with his big eyes!

But more importantly i’m designing my home because I need a distraction.
whoa! Let’s start over with you holding back your judgments on my “rich-spoilt-brat” proclamation of “I need a distraction”.
I’m somehow going to say this as delicately as possible without offending anyone or any organisation, especially the one that I am currently attached to, which I have some grievances with regards to drawing a line between professional and private life and one’s visibility on the world wide web. My short and quick respond to that? I’ve blocked almost everyone at work from my sites post a conversation with HR!
So, I digress – back to the need for distraction!
The past two years in consulting can be summarised quite easily as the least productive years of my career.
I had left the bank in search of some peace and quiet. After 6 years, commencing with start-ups to cross-borders integrations, I was burned out and many had advised that I take some time off in a more relaxing environment. I did. I am.
On one hand, I have enjoyed the complacency and treasure the flexibility and freedom in terms of time and hours. On the other hand, I miss the “dog-eat-dog” culture of large performance-rewards differentials.
The “one happy family” superficial environment of everything and everyone is hunky dory irritates me to no end. The high tolerance level of varied performance and mostly mediocrity upsets me. Yet, I enjoy the time-off and lack of discipline that comes with it. The absence of corporate governance and enforcements. The lackadaisical attitude driven mostly by ignorance of HR.
So, what do I do?
Re-enter the “dog-eat-dog” world with way higher performance pay upside with commensurable stress?
Stay and enjoy a relatively high wage-per-effort/ achievement? (while missing out to my cohorts in the longer run?)
I am yet to decide. I do have a stressor that does make me consider leaving 3 out of 5 days. But this feeling goes away with the increasing absence at work.
With that, I decided I needed a distraction that would keep me occupied, if not obsessed for a couple of years … and so, i’m designing my home



over the hill

Now, that phrase can be rather misleading.

And this is something I had come to learn last November 2013 as I made my way by foot from the junction of South Terrace and South Street where the free Fremantle Blue CAT bus service had let me off (bus stop #7) towards the Challenger Institute of Technology.

Stopping every 500 metres or so, I was greeted with the same response, “over the hill. To your right, across the oval”.

Well, what would have been helpful was if I had been told that it’s a BIG hill – somehow the art of describing how strenuous and challenging the different hills one has to encounter on foot is something only the residents of San Francisco has it refined to the ‘t’.

What’s interesting is my mother has over the course of 5 years or so been trying to make the ‘perfect’ San Francisco sourdough bread.

Having left the ‘brick’ stage some time back with the help of online forums, countless of hours spent on YouTube videos, and many, many guinea pigs who has been or lived in San Francisco as testers, the phase of inconsistent results of ‘blisters’, ‘open crumbs’ and ‘ears’ continues to haunt her.

This resulted first with amassing a collection of sourdough or levain publications by the “who’s of who” of baking, followed by stalking self-proclaimed local artisan bakers, to eventually combing farmers markets of Europe and begging strange Swiss, Italian and French men covered in powdery white substances to Pilates professional moonlighting as organic artisan bakers for private lessons.

Almost giving up hope, a lovely Australian man – Derek – responded to her email queries, agreeing to provide her with some lessons one fine day.

The respond was timely with a last minute visit I had planned for after receiving news of an old family friend who is terminally ill in Perth.

Needless to say our laborious hike up South Street was well worth the visit and the very fact that we had traveled all the way from Kuala Lumpur gave us not only automatic access to the Challenger Institute of Technology premises after hours but an escorted tour around by the security personnel on duty.

Derek on first impression was unassuming and friendly.

While waiting for the rest of the ‘friends and family’ who would be joining the baking session that evening, I went about taking the roots off some onions that would be used later, while he went about answering my mothers ‘technical’ questions.

With the party ensemble at the agreed upon time, class started with Derek explaining the lesson plan for the night and put a batch of flour, sourdough starter and other base ingredients for the white bread with tumeric, feta and onion sourdough; one of three breads that we would make that evening, into a larger mixing bowl.

As the dough was getting a good workout in the industrial sized stand mixer, Derek produced loaves of risen 50% wholemeal with home brewed stout and torrified wheat that he had made earlier in the day, and went about describing the technique of slashing. Once we had all had our rounds of slashing 2 to 3 loaves each, Derek went about preparing the loaves with a glaze before baking them.

Between sips of the left over home brewed stout, the feta cubes and diced onions were folded into the tumeric dough over three intervals of stretch and bench rests before being shaped and dropped into foil tins that allows easy transportation, as they were to be baked on our own the next day.

With drinks drained very quickly from the plastic cups, Derek then got us busy with a quick rise white bread with black sesame which were eventually shaped into numerous shapes and sprinkled with not only black sesame but white sesame and poppy seeds.

Smelling of earthy fresh baked bread, we returned to the hotel renewed with energy and hope.

Here’s a BIG thanks to Derek for his generosity and kindness.

But more importantly for showing that when it comes to sourdough, you can’t seem to be over-the-hill – it takes little strength and effort, and it can be one of the most forgiving bread to make.



why i love plane rides

My day-to-day 6am to 12am life is hectic. This includes the weekends where time is split between family, passion and giving.

I don’t hang-out (for the heck of it). I don’t space out (you get to do that when dementia sets in). I don’t watch the idiot box or the big silver screens. I don’t admire the work of visual merchandisers – I shop only when I absolutely need to. I don’t read novels or newspapers, and almost never leaf through coffee table books and leisure/ hobbyist/ fashion magazines.

Everything for me is delivered in summaries – ESPN highlights, TIME/ Newsweek (which is presently on the back burner due to their pro-US news and nothing else – much the same case as National Geography which I have stopped over the last 3 years when I was fed-up of reading the 50th version of the Pharoah in Egypt over the last 20 years of my life), RSS feeds of all news channels and Tweets of select authors, economists and anyone who has something useful to say. If I need to know more if something intrigues me, I deep dive.

So plane rides are liberating experiences for me. It’s the only time I sit back and catch up on movies.

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I’ve had this Yann Martel‘s book for a few years now. One of those RM14.99 bargain bin finds. Flipped a few pages and thought, yes, I could read this, not knowing whether it was more Indian, British or French judging by the author’s name and the story of a boy from Pondicherry.

Speaking of names, just so you know Piscine Molitor exist for real – it is an abandoned swimming pool complex located in Porte Molitor, 16th arrondissement of Paris, Île-de-France. And Richard Parker is by far the most famous (as in frequently adopted) name by authors in shipwreck related stories; victims mostly.

I never got around completing the Life of Pi, even on long road trips or train trips, simply because I’ve taken on the bizarre (by my own standards) taste for Robert Ludlum‘s thriller novels, day dreaming of a career as a spy. In addition, (and if I could say more inline with my character of being a  masochist) I’d bring along boring, outdated classical literature by the likes of Leo Tolstoy, J.D. Salinger, Emily Brontë,  Fyodor Dostoevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald,  Charles Dickens, Anton Chekhov … trudging along in most cases, determine to complete the books before the trip is done and dusted.

It also never crossed my mind once to even watch the movie; figuring it will be in the same league as the Flight Plan (although, I’ve not watched Flight Plan either) from the perspective that one involves being film on an airplane and another on a lifeboat floating adrift.

But with nothing really exciting to watch – I typically go for drama (if audio is good), romantic comedy (coz is fluffy and entertaining) and action (only if there’s a Gerard Butler, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino …) – the Life of Pi was a no brainer choice.

Ang Lee did a good job injecting surrealism along the way by means of projecting Pi’s thoughts that otherwise would not have been possible. Since it’s really a story of questionable realism with heavy theological undertones throughout the length of the story – I can’t tell if “god” was said more than “Richard Parker”  though this seems academic as Richard Parker symbolically represents something larger than life, and definitely more than a Bengal tiger.

In any case, I somehow felt that M. Night Shyamalan had a hand in creating the twist at the end of the movie; perhaps as a creative director/ consultant. This is me and my own obsession with M.Night Shyamalan of course, that brought me to Pondicherry pondering what’s so cheery about a place with some remnants of French architecture on one side of a typical Indian town divided by a huge garbage choked monsoon-like-looking-drain, some years back.  Without digressing further, I took it upon myself to find a copy of the Life of Pi in a bookshop in Subiaco, plonked my ass down and read the last bit. The end, was not a Yann Martel thing. And definitely not an Ang Lee movie director thing – from as far as I can tell.

Being the geek I am (and thanks to free wifi), I promptly google-d reviews which appears to be like me, fixated with the ending. However, unlike me, the fixation is a tat different, taking on the theology course, daring us humans to make a choice that has a direct reflection on how we as individuals view the world, our lives and issues that are larger than life.

The end for me on a personal level was when Richard Parker proceeded on without even a backwards glance or an ear twitch when they both landed on the Mexican beach. By then, I’ve had my glasses down on my lap, shamelessly wiping my uncontrollable tears with the back of both my hands!

I started crying (not sobbing) publicly when Richard Parker laid limp on Pi’s lap as he coax the poor furry bugger to have a drink of fresh water.

I have to say I quite like how the end ended, save to the point where Pi’s woman (of his dreams) appears with their children! which by the way I don’t recall him having a love interest in the book before his family set sail.

Oh well, it was a good break from my normal routine. As for the movie, I won’t necessarily rank it high. It really doesn’t matter since it’s moons now and most would have watched it.

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courtesy MAS inflight entertainment KUL-PERTH

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