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Just the other day, I managed to smoosh my left ring and pinky in between a couple of 45-pound weights while unloading the plate press at the gym. Admittedly, 45-pounders are pretty good implements where tenderising meat for hamburger patties is concerned... though not so much the Ethical Treatment of Personal Digits. And then, of course, my left thumb decided it wanted in on the fun and jumped into the kitchen drawer as I was shutting it, that same night. Final score: Fingers 3, Far 0.

I wouldn't have mentioned it, but for the fact that said thumb and pinky have had no time off because obviously it is not possible to practice the french horn with only two fingers. (If anyone knows of a way to get an A flat without using the third lever, please let me know). On the plus side (I think?), said pinky is now quite thoroughly numb from tonight's practice, and so does not feel like it's about to explode like an overcooked sausage. Har har.

In other news, a friend just linked me to the following awesome video:

History of the Soviet Union to the theme tune of Tetris!!!! <geeklove> Now, if only high school history classes had been conducted in a similar fashion, I might have been far more interested in the subject. (Though I did still get an A for my O levels-equivalent, which is probably the biggest mystery in the history of my education since I distinctly remember cooking up the entire Meiji Restoration bit).
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I got sabotaged at orchestra practice tonight, by an adversary too fast for me to handle:

At the climatic build-up of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, a small insect flew straight up my right nostril, right at the moment I was inhaling.

No need to elaborate on where it went.


At least my partner got a laughing fit out of it? I'd have laughed too, only I was busy hacking into my polishing cloth at the time.

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We played Johann Strauss II's Vienna Blood waltz tonight. Oh, there was blood all right: *MINE*. My trombone bit me.

You ask how this could possibly happen. If you were asking such a question, you would doubtless also be asking how the same person could have, the the past, hit themselves very hard in the *teeth* and the *head* with same instrument. (And the answer would be: Because it's *me*).


I can't begin to tell you just how much I love Text Twist. So when I found out that Yahoo had released a *sequel* to my favourite word game, well. Let's just say that I got absolutely no drawing done last week. (And very little of my dad's accounts either).

Ooh, shiny.

This second game features not two gameplay modes, but *five*: in addition to the classic Timed and Untimed modes, there's now Word of the Day, Lightning and Crossword as well. Word of the Day is exactly what it says: every day you get one new word. The Lightning mode challenges you to unscramble single long words (called "Bingo words" in this sequel), with five words to each level. And Crossword is pretty sweet: it's a crossword with a twist. The bingo word is right smack dab at the centre of the crossword (which you have to unscramble, of course); radiating from the bingo word are a bunch of shorter words that you make from the long one. Of course, the trick is figuring out which goes where, which isn't always as easy as it sounds. Oh, and the game now has 8-letter words as well. Awesome.

Also, in the tradition of so many of the latest games, Text Twist 2 has trophies, ranging from the easily achievable (solve 5 bingo words without twisting) to finger-grinding (complete a Lightning round in 3 seconds or less) to sheer doggedness (twist 10,000 times). Of course, you realise that these trophies and achievements are what make games like Left4Dead and Half-Life 2 so addictive. Goddamn you, Yahoo!

Is there anything I don't like about this sequel? I mean, it's shiny, it's pretty, it has so much added gameplay... and of course, it comes with a price. Namely, 157MB RAM to juice it. (For a word game?? When *Portal* takes takes under 120?). Not to mention Text Twist 1's orderly tracking of your found words (in alphabetical order) is now gone, and your words are arranged in the order they're found, which looks hideously untidy to me. You no longer have the maximum number of words to find either: the number of 3-, 4-, 5- etc letter words are now limited, which I suppose makes it easier for people who can't solve the puzzles fast enough, but it's frustrating to bang out words at a frenetic pace, only to be repeatedly told that "You have enough words of this length". GAH.

Still, the Good is enough to make up for the Bad, and I've been enjoying myself pretty thoroughly. The only problem is: now how do I unhook myself so that I can get some work done?
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I tried to run on air today. I failed. Quite miserably.

Went to the park this evening with my parents (or they'd never get any exercise). My mother fell in with a good family friend; they weren't done talking by the time my dad and I got back, and I still felt as though I hadn't used up *any* energy, so I decided to run one last round, in spite of the fact that the sun had already set. I mean, hey, I'm way familiar with this park; we go there every week. Piece of cake.

Jogging back up the trail to the carpark after the run, I decided to test my ability to walk on air stumbled upon a step that had obviously, sneakily shifted a few inches forward, and realised belatedly that I was not meant to fly landed rather heavily on my ankle at a very odd angle, causing the muscles and nerves in the affected to region to scream bloody murder. Even more embarrassing was the fact that the guy behind me noticed my inability to defy gravity mishap, and very nicely stopped me to advise me to rotate my ankle and keep it elevated tonight.

The final score:

Night visionNone
Ability to flyNone
Ability to walk/run on airNone
Geographical/navigational prowessAppalling

For goodness sake, Far, the next time you feel compelled to test yourself for superhuman abilities, try walking on water first before you do air.

Ow. Ow. Owie. Ow.
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I am only slightly less mimsy than a borogove,1 thanks to a string of very amusing (minor) events that are at least partially my fault:

1. After the stress of the previous night's rehearsal, I decided to go jogging yesterday afternoon, to take the edge of said tension. Which was all well and dandy, and left me absolutely refreshed... until I started walking to the car, and Mr. Sky decided I was saturated with salt (and thus exerting high osmotic pressure in my immediate locality), and that I NEEDED TO BE DILUTED BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Score 1 for Mr. Sky, 0 for this sorry, soggy borogove.

2. The clarinets, who have been keeping silent all this while throughout this one utterly nefarious little passage of our finale, suddenly decided last night, OHAI LET'S JOIN IN THE PAR-TAY!!! - and proceeded to crash said party by coming in wrong. And because yours truly the soggy borogove has been practicing to a concert recording at home (in which the clarinets rightly led the passage), I also managed to screw up my first entry in the most spectacular manner, for the first time *ever*. Which is a hideously embarrassing thing, when Enjolras!Conductor is staring at you, knows all your notes and entries, and undoubtedly knows you blew it.

3. Oh, and I think I inhaled a rather healthy lungful of carpet fibres in the hall, because

4. Today I woke up sniffling and sneezing, with a nose that admitted even less air than the late Douglas Adams' honker.2 And the concert is tonight, and I have all these garlands of pretty, pretty, and deadly nefarious harmonies and countermelodies to play. What ho!

Uh... wish me luck? LOL.


1 And probably as slithy as a tove as well, particularly if you go by Sir Arthur Eddington's likening of Jabberwocky to quantum physics. Har de har har.

2 That is to say, no air at all.
darthfar: (Default)

So I was at the gym yesterday, doing crunches on the bench with a lat bar attached to one of the cross cables - and, because it was rather chilly yesterday (it was raining!), I was wearing track bottoms for once. Everything was going fine until I got to my last, 50kg, set. I pulled down the lat bar, knelt down on the bench, and... all of a sudden I lurched forward. In alarm, I managed to lock my feet under the bench, and thus narrowly avoided the embarrassment of sliding off the bench and dangling in midair. Phew.

Lesson learnt: If you're going to be pulling your weight (or almost) on a bench, don't wear track pants. >.<


Since my mother's been banished from the kitchen by her bionic foot for two months, I've been doing the cooking on Saturdays, which is probably one or two Saturdays too many of my cooking, where my parents are concerned. (Thank goodness said cooking is always supplemented by leftovers - my uncle brings over vegetarian food five days a week). Given that my unsurpassed genius always results in culinary adventures that wind up on the funny side of disastrous (I was, after all, responsible for the Amazing Exploding Microwaved Egg and the Scalded Eyebrows), I thought I'd maybe share my Recipes for the Week.

Today's menu: Far's Utterly Bizarre Casserole Thingy


1 packet ramen
4 eggs
Butter to grease baking dish


1. Bung ramen into a bowl, with hot water. Bung bowl into the microwave, and cook for two minutes.
2. Throw eggs into a baking dish. Discover that one is starting to look funny. Swear, and replace. Beat eggs into submission.
3. Drain ramen, then toss into dish with beaten eggs. Disentangle ramen.
4. Add enough salt to bring onset of hypertension, and pepper. Add some more to be sure.
5. Try to open can of spam. Break implement halfway through. Swear. Use up half of profane vocabulary. Find new can opener.
6. Slice up spam. Throw bits of spam into dish, minus the blood.
7. Cover top generously with cheese, to hide the monstrosity beneath.
8. Bung into oven. Set to some arbitrarily high number.
9. Keep checking oven.
10 Welcome guests who suddenly show up at door.
11. Run back to kitchen every five minutes to check.
12. Decide it's going to take a long enough time. Stay to chat with guests. Run back to kitchen when guests point out that something smells funny. Use up other half of profane vocabulary.
13. Take out dish. Top should have the consistency, contours and colour of alien volcanic landscape. Serves three (who have suddenly misplaced their appetites).
14. Realise belatedly that you forgot the butter, and there's now a thick layer of gunk at the bottom of the baking dish, that'll never come out. Use up remainder of profane vocabulary that you didn't manage to abuse earlier.

Okay, so I made up the last part of number 13. My parents actually ate quite a lot of it, and claimed it tasted pretty good. Of course, I should point out that it took my *mother* ten years to break it to me gently that the hot chocolate I kept bringing her back when I was a kid and she was sick in bed for a week had the overall consistency and appeal of drain water, so I don't know how much of what she just said today can be believed...
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So I said I'd be back on the 30th of December. Yet here I am, typing away at my computer like there's no tomorrow. What gives?

Well, it's "gave", actually. And it was my mother's ankle.

Here is a brief recap of our vacation:


Flight to Macau was delayed for over an hour - which was of little surprise, considering the budget airlines our tour group was taking - but no matter, because (1) I was armed with a thick Michael Shermer book, and (2) the tour operator had gotten somebody at the office to fill in all our immigration cards for us. Unfortunately, said person was probably educated in Martian, because said person managed to mess up half the passport numbers (I swear, the guy must have been channelling the numbers for Alpha Prime Green Guy because none of us knew where the hell they came from), made up bizarre occupations for half of us (clerk??? what the...), and produced two different signatures for each of us on two different sets of documents - which wouldn't have passed inspection anywhere else but Macau.

Thanks to the delay, though, we arrived at our hotel at ten pm, which I suppose is the perfect time for people to crawl from out of the cold into the many, many casinos on the island to worship the One Arm Bandit God of gambling, but my dad and I were exhausted (and personally, I think it's more fun to set fire to a wad of money, anyway), so we decided to stay in. My mother, on the other hand, wasn't about to waste the night cooped up in her hotel room, and went out with a bunch of friends and the tour operator.

Two hours later, she returned to the hotel - limping. Witness accounts are hazy, but it would seem that, while descending a very short flight of steps, my mother managed to subluxate her left ankle. As in, it totally popped out of place when she applied weight to it (whether or not she accidentally twisted it while placing her foot down is anybody's guess), but then boinged right back in place on its own a moment later. Mum was annoyed, but figured hell, she just wouldn't be getting as much sightseeing done on a sprained ankle.

[Yes, my mother's friend's husband went out and gambled and won $16,000. My mother went out and won a leg injury...]


Made an amazing discovery at breakfast time: cafe chairs in Macau can walk. One of our chairs mysteriously walked away from our table to a nearby one occupied by a group one can only charitably describe as "vocal yokels"; a second one tried to walk away, but was impeded by my foot, which was tightly wrapped around it, and so was apprehended in time.

Our breakfasts were very nicely homogenised in our stomachs by the hydrofoil ride into Hong Kong. ("Monty Python" and "bouncy bouncy" spring to mind). Upon our arrival at the Hong Kong immigration, we quickly discovered that queues - and, indeed, order in general - was pure fiction, only believed by people whose IQ scores are surpassed by oysters. In other words, it was total chaos in there. Here, we found, were people who had not only never heard of Miss Manners, they'd have trampled her to human grits if they'd met her. Harhar.

The day's tour covered the Golden Bauhinia Square, named for the 6-metre-tall gilded sculpture of a Bauhinia blakeana (apparently an important symbol for the Hong Kong people after reuinification with China), Repulse Bay (where old men in "tea bags" are said to terrorise the sands), Aberdeen Harbour and Ladies' Street. (No, it's not what you think. Seriously).

The Tsing Ma Bridge, the seventh-longest suspension bridge in the world.

Gilding a Bauhinia...

Watching two children watch an artist at work at Repulse Bay.

We went on a sampan ride around Aberdeen Harbour. On one end you see luxury cruisers and the gigantic Jumbo Floating Restaurant (whose past diners include Queen Elizabeth II, John Wayne, Tom Cruise, Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li); go around the river bend, however, and you see a very different side of Hong Kong: the "village" of fishing boats huddled together, inhabited by people who spend nine months of every year at sea, whose wives are illegal immigrants, and whose children are unregistered, and spend only three months a year at school. It was an eye-opener: Hong Kong isn't just a city  of rich people.



See more photos of the village

Ladies' Street. The market here is clothing (and electronics, and food), not humans.

My mother's ankle was rather badly swollen at this point, and so she decided to remain in her hotel room at dinner time, leaving me to gallivant on my own. Found a toy store selling action figures and collectibles at ridiculously low prices, and did myself proud by managing to carry out an entire conversation with the shop assistant (who was dressed as Sailor Moon) on the subject of Star Wars - in Mandarin. (Or should I say Mangledarin?)


My mother's left leg had become worryingly swollen and bruised, and so it was decided: (1) the tour operator and my father would take her to see the doctor, and (2) we would all go home on the next available flight. Thank the Force for travel insurance.

Because it was also determined that I would be of more hindrance than help, I was promptly dispatched to continue the day's tour with the rest of the group. Everybody else of my age in the group was paired up and I didn't want to be a third wheel (or worse, a lamp post!), so I wound up with two of my mother's friends, both of them senior citizens. Of course, age is never an indication of compatibility, and the minute I discovered one of them was a video games nut, we just totally hit it off.

Arrived at Disneyland at lunchtime (made two stops at two Sponsor Shops first) - and, because a number of people in our group were massively smart enough to bring food to the park only to be stopped right outside, there was a fifteen minute picnic just outside the gates. We wandered around Main Street for a bit, watched the Christmas parade, and then I made a beeline for Space Mountain - which my two elderly companions, in spite of their enthusiasm, were unable to ride due to medical conditions. (So while I was zooming through the darkness of space, the two old ladies went and had themselves a grand train tour of Disneyland). Because wild rides were out for them, we went to It's A Small World and two shows (Mickey's Philharmagic - a grand 3-D experience, complete with gusts of wind, splashes of water, and the welcoming smell of pie - and The Golden Mickeys)... before one of the women spotted the Jungle River Cruise and exclaimed, "Hey, let's go on THAT!" ... only to spend the better part of an hour in the queue, due to technical faults. We did eventually get our ride.

Bambi, Thumper and Flower.

The Little Mermaid float at the Christmas parade.

Space Mountain boarding area.



See more Disneyland photos

Returned to the hotel with Disney merchandise and a grandly pounding head to find my mother in bed, a walker jammed in the corridor of the room, and a doctor's report that said she had not one but three fractures - which meant absolutely no weight on that foot, or it's surgery for you! The tour operator was looking decidedly ragged around the edges from running around making travel arrangements and insurance claims for us (he managed to book us a flight out of HK on the 26th - and messed with the accounting a little so that my ticket would be covered by my mother's travel insurance), so we took him out to dinner by way of thanks.

Memorised William Ernest Henley's poem, Invictus, because I had nothing better to do.


Our tour group left for Shenzhen in the morning after breakfast, leaving my family to spend Christmas in Hong Kong. Because my mother was immobilised and my father was in no particular mood to go out, I went out to explore the neighbourhood alone, armed with my reasonable(y atrocious) Mandarin and a smattering of perfect(ly hideous) Cantonese. Walked several blocks north of the hotel, across the highway, to get the folks lunch, then walked a fair way south, where I stumbled upon just about the most amazing thing: a Park. In the middle of the 7-million-people insanity that is Hong Kong, there was a walled-in Park. With gazebos, and artificial rock formations, and huge trees, and waterfalls. And clusters of old men playing (or watching each other play) chess. It was just amazing.





I stood there, staring at them for a long time, then sneakily took the shot - and ran.

Came back, reporting to my mother that I'd spotted a banner advertising Portuguese egg tarts around the corner. She was absolutely delighted, and dispatched my dad and me to buy a couple of boxes to bring home. So we went after dinner, discussing exactly how many we could fit in our carry-on luggage (and each probably entertaining the idea of eating a couple at suppertime)... only to discover that what I'd mistaken for Portuguese egg tarts were actually... Pacific abalone. EPIC FAIL. >.<


Aside from a number of minor snags we ran into at the airport (delay in locating a wheelchair, in fixing a minor booking problem, and getting hold of our tour operator for the check-in staff to verify his credit card info), the trip home was largely uneventful. My mother warned us that riding a wheelchair might become a habit, given how comfortable it was being waited upon hand and foot - although she had to remind me at one point that she was neither a trolleyful of goods nor a Formula 1 car. The airport service staff did just about everything for us, right up to the door of the airplane, where the flight staff took over and totally indulged my mother. Thank the Force for business class.


The rest of the family wasn't notified of our premature return until this morning. My mother's plan was to sort of keep the whole thing a secret for a while... only we know all too well what happens when you try to keep things from your own family. ;) But that's another story for another time.

July 2016

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