Why not leave it at that?

I have been very busy which I guess, is a good enough excuse to miss blogging. At some point I begin to question the whole point of this, and then ultimately, to question every other thing that I do that is not about work, or living (like eating properly, exercising, taking your meds, putting on moisturiser followed by a serum and then another moisturiser). I am after all, my work and I think, isn't that enough? It puts food on my table (good food), guarantees some security in my old age, makes me smug in the belief that I am actually happy.

So why don't I just leave it at that?

Dinner in the middle of nowhere (#werk #trip #DaySix

We arrived in Ranfurly at 6pm, but it might as well been after midnight as the town was effectively asleep as the winter darkness had fallen fast. Tick off the usual suspects- Four Square, the local pub, the hotel restaurant, a small Indian place- they were all deserted.

We dropped our stuff off at the motel (amazingly well-appointed, the Hawkdun Lodge) and accepted the reality that we would be trying to organise dinner from stuff at the supermarket. The Ranfurly supermarket was also empty save for the lone person/cashier/attendant. She was nice enough to suggest Naseby which was a few kilometers away. The directions seemed straightforward enough but I trusted Google Maps more.

It was total darkness all the way and 12 minutes in, some houses came into view, their lights dull. Was there really something in this place?? We drove silently into the centre of town and the few buildings there- the post office, the museum- were art deco and the road lamps were replicas of gas lamps like you would find in Victorian England. It looked to me, so Jack The Ripperish except that, why would Jack go here? Condemned perhaps to a town in the middle of nowhere where he could do little mischief once he dispatched what few residents the town had?

As it turned out, Naseby has only a population of 100.

We find the pub called The Ancient Briton and actually had a pleasant evening...one more day to go and snow forecast for the morrow...

#werk #trip #DayFive

Strangely enough, the most interesting things of the day were dead and stuffed.

Bored out of our wits driving for hours on end between stops, we happened to see in Pleasant Point in Canterbury, a brightly-lit room filled with a menagerie of stuffed animals so we stopped.

The O'Rourke Brothers taxidermy has been doing taxidermy for almost 60 years and of a quality that is high enough for their work to be contracted by the likes of the Auckland Museum and the Department of Conservation.

The new owner (who still employs one of the O'Rourke Brothers) Rob Morrison has a direct connection to the business- he is an avid hunter- which is really the first stage in someone wanting an animal (which they have shot) to be stuffed. I guess you either eat it or put aside some serious cash (prices start at $1000 for game heads) to have it stuffed and mounted. Rob took me to the back to see how it's all put together and it's not pretty. But then there is nothing delicate about hunting, or even the processing of meat for food.

The back-end of the shop is literally a sort of butcher-shop; the animals after all, like any shot game, have to be prepared and prepped. For a moment, I thought I would puke at the smell of flesh, sinew and blood, but then I think- it's like when I was 15 again and my dad was teaching me how to de-feather and dress a snipe.

I expected to also smell again, the last part of that process when you singe the skin over a flame to burn off the nubs from where the feathers had been plucked. But there was none of that bitter, acrid fume. Instead, the smell was of cold death- he opens a walk-in freezer the size of a shipping container and brings out a fish waiting its turn to be reincarnated, the sallow flesh, resilient and shiny again like something fresh out of water. The container is filled with wrapped dead animals or parts of them as far back as I can see like some serial-killers grisly cache of unfortunate victims.

The waiting time to get a medium-sized animal done is 10-15 months.

Back in the front of shop, I spy a small fawn in a sitting pose- prices are also determined by how an animal is posed- and it looks unequivocally lifelike, perfect and immortal...I think we should consider ourselves lucky if we had the same fate.

#werk #trip #DayFour

Dear Lei; so basically going around New Zealand for a work project (never mind what it is exactly) which started up north and slowly making our way south. Our routine for the last four days is this; we wake up at 7am and get on the road by 8am or 8:30. We drive (well, the driver does, not me) an average of 200kms between places and it's equally exhausting just sitting down and making conversation (it's inexplicably getting harder trying to communicate with 30-year olds these days). There is nothing much to see in the interior of New Zealand; at some point, the endless stunning landscapes cease to be stunning and just become this blur. Read what you will of what it means to you but really it starts to mean nothing because there is no one there. Suddenly, the idea of someone actually living in the middle of this desolation is an exciting, disruptive prospect (I have fantasized about this so many times). Sorry, but I think I'm convinced that nature is NOTHING without humanity's touch, destructive or otherwise. 

I have slept in about four different motels/hotels. My single piece of luggage is open like a disemboweled thingy on the floor and who brings these many creams and shit?? (I do) Not to mention my normal medication and vitamins (there's this new thing with Garlic combined with zinc, vitamin C and horseradish to stop allergic reactions- seems to work because my nose has stopped itching).

In the next few days (we fly out, the rental SUV ditched, on Thursday), I might see snow and I'm looking forward to that. I have this belief that I have this affinity with the cold, with winter.

I am I think, trying hard to convince myself of that. I look in the mirror and see my skin struggling- needs more moisture I think; thank God I have enough creams in the world for that...

xx

#werk #trip #DayThree

Rain, rain rain. We should have sacrificed a lamb or something for better weather.

#werk #trip #DayTwo

In a small country like New Zealand, it's harder to see the class divisions. The man in the nondescript simple merino top and cords may be seven-figures richer than the man in the slim-cut suit and well-worn Ferragamo shoes. Or vice versa- merino tops and corduroy pants may also mean what it looks which is a modest retirement and a worry about that hip-replacement surgery waiting list. When we passed by opulent small homes in the Bay of Plenty with their long driveways and architecturally landscaped grounds, I couldn't picture what kind of New Zealanders owned them or what jobs (or businesses) they had. What's even more confounding was when we got deeper into the interior where the small towns are, so small, that even the smallest of fast-food chains (a good indicator of population) are non-existent, and I think, how do people in these places make a living? 

I mean, list up the usual suspects- farming, livestock, repairs, medical- aside from these, what else could one do?

Every time I pass by a particularly desolate looking place I think, if I lived here, what would I do? And I imagine these scenarios where I conveniently take away the problem of what to do for a living and I think I would:

1. Try my hand at gardening
2. Finish three books a week
3. Start long-distance running again
4. Learn a new craft like sewing
5. run for office or apply for a community position or something
6. keep a pet like a big dog

Mining old stuff

It's been a long, long time since I last felt literary. Lately, it's all been about work content; videos, marketing pitches, social media (ugh). So I logged back into my old Blogger account which is like going into that old room, that upstairs attic or basement and rummaging through 'old files'. There's not much there- the longest one is a mere 1,400+ words- but it gives me a picture of myself that I ironically, don't see anymore even with an almost daily record of photos.

I currently have over 23,000 images, a few thousand of which even pre-date the launch of Apple's iCloud (2011) and my suspicion is that when someone rifles through them, they would find someone utterly normal; someone who clearly has mastered the art of taking food photos, has good shots of everyday things, is not really vain (and because I'm not photogenic)  and... nothing much else. There is nothing wrong with normal- the problem is that I'm actually not. I believe I'm not. And I hate being just normal.

The photos don't do me justice in the sense of showing something other than the obvious. But I take them because it's easy- so in a sense it's somewhat true- it is an easy life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the easy life- the problem is that I know nothing is ever easy.

When you rest on easy, that's when everything starts to get fucked up.

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Red-Letter Day

Don't you hate it when how you feel doesn't match what is actually incontrovertible fact? Like your actual age. It could be plain denial, or worse, some sort of delusion.

My question is, when will both actually match-up? If ever. Does it happen naturally (didn't happen when I started medicating for blood pressure, cholesterol), or do we make that effort to somehow make peace with things we can't change? But in my defence, I'm not changing anything that I know I can't alter. 

I am simply living my best life, which sadly, does not merely involve affirmations of positivity, faith and a leave-it-to-God-kind of mentality. You need to exercise. You need to eat good, nourishing (and consequently expensive) food. You need to protect your skin, to dress comfortably so as not to be judged by an always judging world (and I do care about being judged).

You need to work at life, to develop and take advantage of the gifts and passions and flaws that were given to you. 

You need to ALWAYS give your best

If You Can’t Love Yourself How In The Hell Are You Gonna Love Somebody Else
— RuPaul

I did (inadvertently) gift myself last year with Apple products that totalled a low five figures so I don't think I can afford the same this year- there's always that year for more 'meaningful' gifts...

?

When I was a younger, I took New Year resolutions very seriously. One year it was, 'learn French' (never happened) and another year it was, 'change your body'- something which at my age, I am still learning how to do. I never look back which explains why there are literally years in which I have little memory of anything (like between 21 and 30?).

But really, all you need to remember about the past are the things you shouldn't be doing ever again. Always look ahead because that's the only direction you're headed.

The year of the Apple

If there's one thing I've learned to be true is that you should take care of yourself first because if you don't, you won't be any good helping others. I think though that when this is extended to the issue of gifts-to-oneself, I have to admit that 2017 was pretty extravagant. So take me off your Christmas lists because I have that covered! 

Sisig

We went to the Auckland Night Markets over the weekend and a Filipino food stand was back selling beef kaldereta, laing/Bicol Express and pork sisig. I got the sisig ($7) and didn't really care about the kaldereta or the laing. I don't want to brag, but our family does better Filipino food than most; the kaldereta didn't even have olives.

But it's not easy making sisig so I grab any chance I get to buy it ready-made. It's not always guaranteed that it's made according to how I normally like my sisig. As it turned out, the sisig I bought could have done with a few other additions, but the familiar chewy, sticky texture was there along with that porky-sour-creamy taste, and that's just what you need really when you don't have the time to make it yourself. Heck, I get so desperate sometimes I even buy the canned sisig from the Asian store.

The great thing about sisig is that it comes with so many tweaks and I actually like them all- toasted, so that you get the crispy bits that stick to the pan; slightly moist and gelatinous punctuated with the nutty creaminess of the pork brain (gross to some, but the taste is sublime); intensely sour from a dousing of vinegar; or even westernised with slashings of mayonnaise.

I remember $2 pig-heads at the butcher in my first two years in New Zealand- you bought one, seasoned it, roasted it in the oven, chopped it all up as fine as you can, added onions (I would use both red and white) and seasoning, and grilled it just before serving. Obviously it's great with rice, but I can honestly eat it in spoonfuls just by itself, hot or cold.

I ate mine mixed with a kale and savoy cabbage salad.

The Carnival

Today we went to Chini's school for their annual fund-raising carnival and it was bigger and better than I expected. Everything was there, albeit on a smaller scale- food, rides, entertainment, a pit full of donated toys for sale that Chini was crazily digging through for that perfect toy (each one being perfect until you find another one and then another..) and kids. Chini has an easy, confident friendliness that is so grown-up, calling out school-mates not for attention but because she was simply glad to see them.

I don't have fond memories of childhood school carnivals. The one memory I have was being held in the carnival jail and because I didn't really have any friends who could come forward to bail me, the jailers grudgingly let me out. Funny thing is that those childhood experiences of loneliness and of being bullied didn't really affect me at all. I knew innately that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me, that the world was composed of friendly people and assholes and that at some point, you had to choose which of the two was most likely you. 

I looked around at all the kids having fun, enjoying the uncomplicated, carefree concerns of childhood and thought, it was really good while it lasted.

Eye test

Beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer. This is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60. This normal change in the eye's focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time.

My first memory of my mother reading anything other than her teaching stuff was in elementary school when she came home one day with a whole stack of paperbacks from the book-bargain bin Book Sale. By the time I was in high school and she was in her early 40s, she had started wearing glasses. She blamed her deteriorating eye-sight on those paperback books and cautioned us to never read in dim light; to never go to bed with wet hair (not sure if she really said this lol) and sealed the argument with the claim that blindness ran in the family (I actually only know of one, my grandmother's younger brother Ely who had been blind for as long as I can remember growing up).

Initially, you may need to hold reading materials farther away to see them clearly. Or you may need to remove your glasses to see better up close. Print in the newspaper or on a restaurant menu may appear blurred, especially under dim lighting.

Over three years ago, I started having problems focusing on my computer screen. I even blamed it on the fact that it was a PC and even requested for a new one, a bigger and brighter 27-inch iMac. But the problems persisted. There were times later in the day when I would feel slightly faint, my vision blurring. One day my colleague asked me why I was adjusting the distance between myself and the computer screen and I told her that the screen didn't seem to be that clear as I thought it would be. Really she said surprised. Could it just be the fact that maybe you might need glasses? The thought that it was probably my eye-sight all along didn't occur to me at all. You watch out for wrinkles (a good 10 years away I think) or that tell-tale shot of pain in your joints, but you never quite realize that your eye-sight is getting bad, dismissing it as simply part of your exhausting day's side-effects. So off I went and had my first eye-test with local optometry chain OPSM. I remember the day I got my first 'proper' glasses. We went to a cafe for brunch after picking the glasses up and there was that startling moment of realization staring at the food in front of me looking as clear as an HD image, that you hadn't been really looking at the world the way you used to. Something had irrevocably changed and it didn't need your permission or approval. I felt a bit sad but comforted myself with the thought that at least, I got a really great-looking pair of Rayban frames.

During these years, schedule a comprehensive eye examination with your optometrist at least every two years to check for developing eye and vision problems. Don't rely on the limited driver's license vision test or other insufficient vision screenings to determine if you have an eye or vision problem.

Adults over 40 who have the following health or work issues may be particularly at risk for developing eye and vision problems:

  • Chronic, systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
  • A highly visually demanding job or work in an eye-hazardous occupation.
  • Health conditions related to high cholesterol, thyroid, anxiety or depression, and arthritis for which you take medications. Many medications, even antihistamines, have vision side effects.

So I'm like over a year overdue for the required two-year re-test and at the back of my mind, it's the same strange consistent denial of those little signs- the eye fatigue, shot proof-reading levels as you miss out on words, little twinges in your head at 4pm. So after two cancellations, I finally made it back to the OPSM branch in Papakura which is easier commuting to than the other branch where I had my first test. I've only learned recently that when you go for an eye-test, your results- or your script- is yours; you're not obliged to order your glasses from the tester. OPSM has always been the most expensive one of the chains because they carry high-end labels. Woe to you if you're a label whore. Woe to you if you couldn't afford it. But I can- and would I wear anything else but Raybans??? I must admit though that after two glasses with them, I could feel a slight burn in my pocket (each pair with the lens cost well over $500). 

I've discovered that there a million cheaper but stylish frames out there. There is a site called clearly where you simply send in your script and they make your glasses for you with nice frames starting at under $65. I got a pair from them once, but either I got bits of my script entered incorrectly (I'll make sure I get the script typed as opposed to written down by hand and then photographed with a phone camera!), or the quality was simply not there because the lens view was all wrong. Plus, I chose a frame shape that I later realised didn't really fit my face shape. 

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I've been asking around and I think you get what you pay for. The very thorough 45 minutes I spent at OPSM was apparently vastly different (according to co-workers) from the hurried, somewhat fast-food orientated operation of the other competitor chain (Tommy Hilfiger, honestly?). There were a lot of steps- photographing, examination of the inside, heaps of quick-flashing lights; the eye-ball pressure test involved a slightly stinging application of a desensitising liquid followed by yellow dye which I feared, dyed my eyeballs an alarming shade of hepatitis-yellow. 

And when it was all done, my eyes rested on a pair of frames I was actually praying not to see in the shop- Rayban Wayfarer frames; a perfect match to my Rayban Wayfarer sunglasses. 

Now that's a sight for sore eyes...

Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/8843453/Eyeglass-Frames-(GIF)

X and the 6th

Some people are one or the other and in my choice of phones, I have always been the Apple other. I started with the 3Gs, then the 4s, the 5, the 6 Plus, the 7 Plus and now my 6th one, the X (ten).

I had a brief fling with Android for a bit (for research purposes only lol) but it was more for nostalgia (remember Sony-Ericsson? They had the dopest phones back in the day when the word dope meant something else) and the camera (which was 50-50 for me).

But I'm a creature of habit so I've gone back to Apple, will stay committed to it and will continue to buy every worthy new iteration that comes out because that's just the way it is. 

My thoughts on the new iPhone:

1. Just when you thought they couldn't make it any more beautiful, they do. The trade-off with its looks is that it's fragile. It has never been a phone you can use sans case without risking scratches and dents. I ordered a case and a screen-protector prior to pre-ordering and put them on the phone the moment I took it out of the box.

2. I hate dimmed devices and I sometimes become a source of distraction when riding with friends in darkened cars as I would have my phone at full brightness. But maybe its the OLED screen? Or the so-called True-Tone display? But at something like 40% brightness, text has never been truly crisper, more well-defined which makes me think, Retina display was never really what it claimed it to be; that this is the true superior display.

3. People complain about the lack of this, or what Apple has taken away and I think, they've probably haven't used Apple devices enough. I've had Apple devices for over a decade and the evolution of their ecosystem has been so consistent and controlled that changes improve your experience and use of them. Sure, there will be the odd annoying feature, but overall, the change is tremendous but never announces itself in an unnecessary aggressive fashion. Just barely half a day since I started using the iPhone x, handling my iPhone 7 Plus seems like several steps backward. The home button proved itself to be a significantly unnecessary tedious step. To be able to simply swipe away app windows within the screen area itself makes for a faster, smoother control of the phone.

4. Even before I realised it, my main phone usage is photography. I have taken to picture taking as my de facto note taking, my daily journal. I had high hopes for the camera, especially for the front-facing ones. But the promotional photos aside, photos taken from the rear of the camera are better. I have this beef with iPhone cameras, perhaps my only beef with it- I don't think I ever looked good in photos taken by them, hence the lack of selfies even if I am apparently, super vain.  But I'm not vain enough to ditch it for Android just because I'm not happy with how I look.

5. I love the animojis!