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Monday, 31 May 2010

Indulge

Failed at both yoga & swimming... but there was this...


[dessert from the Sheraton Taipei]

Touched down

The flight was long and bumpy but otherwise fairly uneventful. I watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo mainly so that I will not be socially excluded from conversations regarding said film. It was ok.

Service on Eva Airways is pretty good and, in a way, very Taiwanese. The English announcements were torturous, and the staff were attentive though slightly jarring to anyone who's not quite used to it. Water was not so much offered as shoved into one's face on a tray. The staff seemed so much in control that for a moment I felt as though I were aboard a plane designated for the infirm and that plastic cups of water will soon be followed by little coloured pills.

Several times during the flight we seem to have collided with air pockets of immense proportions. Though I am quite a veteran of turbulence, it never ceases to strike me how strange and unfathomable it is that we are so far up in nothingness, and the plane's grip on the (vaguely recollected) laws of physics which keep us airborne always feels a tad tenuous.

The middle aged lady sitting next to me watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on my screen for a good quarter of the film. I wondered slightly at what she thought of the s&m scenes, and figured that she must have liked it in the end because she asked me to put the movie on for her on her personal screen so that she could watch it again from the beginning.

Now I am home. I've had a shower and some breakfast and poured myself a glass of water. Gonna catch me some zzz's and then do some yoga and go for a swim... Then my first meal in Taipei...! I'm looking forward to this.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Inside Out


I want to shower right here...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

OMG!



I used to go out with this guy!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Success!



I haven't blocked it yet and probably won't until I get to Taiwan... No sense in blocking when it's just going to sit for hours folded up in a suitcase, right?

Friday, 21 May 2010

All but one

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

- John Stuart Mill

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Song, by W. H. Auden



The chimney sweepers
Wash their faces and forget to wash the neck;
The lighthouse keepers
Let the lamps go out and leave the ships to wreck;
The prosperous baker
Leaves the rolls in hundreds in the oven to burn;
The undertaker
Pins a small note on the coffin saying, "Wait till I return,
I've got a date with Love."

And deep-sea divers
Cut their boots off and come bubbling to the top,
And engine-drivers
Bring expresses in the tunnel to a stop;
The village rector
Dashes down the side-aisle half-way through a psalm;
The sanitary inspector
Runs off with the cover of the cesspool on his arm-
To keep his date with Love.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Monday, 17 May 2010

ardent desires (yet unfulfilled)



... on top of being an accordion player...
also being a mime.
not sure how i will find the time to fit all this in.

Matt & Kim, Lessons Learned

I don't know why it took me so long to share this with you, because I love love love this video. Isn't she beautiful?

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The Constant North

Encompass me, my lover,
With your eyes' wide calm.
Though noonday shadows are assembling doom,
The sun remains when I remember them;
And death, if it should come,
Must fall like quiet snow from such clear skies.

Minutes we snatched from the unkind winds
Are grown into daffodils by the sea's
Edge, mocking its green miseries;
Yet I seek you hourly still, over
A new Atlantis loneliness, blind
As a restless needle held by the constant north we
always have in mind.

- J. F. Hendry

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Golden


[stackable rings from Iosseliani Jewelry]



[leather clutch from BiChen]



[found image via Definitely Golden]



[gilded blocks from Cabin 7]



[teacup from hkvam's flickr]




[Immortal Pendant from ManiaMania]

Janeta Samp by Kate Bellm for Style and the Family Tunes Summer 2010



Damson progress report


Absolutely ages ago I started knitting a Damson shawl (by Ysolda) for my mother's birthday. It was all going well until I got to the scalloped edge and somehow was five or six stitches short. I tried to figure it out myself but was totally flummoxed. I had to trip back quite a few rows. Finally I gave in and took it to Lettuce Knit, a lovely knitting shop in Kensington Market which I know carries Ysolda's patterns. A very nice lady there helped me work things out (I snuck in some increases on the 74th row), so now I am back on track. Phew. Now if I can just carry through and finish it off, mom might get this shawl some time before her next birthday!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Right back into it


I was asked if I could sub for the mighty Kebelles just as I was leaving my house in Toronto. On the bus ride from Gatwick to Oxford I kept up a series of mime-rowing motions that must have seemed strange and disturbing to other passengers. Touching down at St. Clement's, Rich and I walked to the main gates of college and we ran into the boy-Kebelles (I think of them as the Ke-boyz). I also saw Ross, DG and Ricklef in the lodge as I went to pick up a mobile phone and Chrissy B's bodcard. Then it was time for Rich's outing with the boys, while DJ and I got caught up over a cuppa at the new Missing Bean on Turl street.

Shortly thereafter I charged down to Godstow and jumped in at 2 on the mighty Kebelle boat. Strangely enough, though I could not mime the motion of rowing, everything did come back to me instantly - like riding a bike. In fact, it was easier than it had ever been before, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable outing. Dan reckons that it's because my bad habits have 'atrophied' while Ross's hard work of drilling correct procedure into me have stayed on. The mighty Kebelles are in fine fettle:second time on the river and the girls are already rowing all eights. We are mighty indeed. Peppers Burger afterwards too, of course, followed by election cocktails at the MCR. There were cocktails in three lurid colours - all of which tasted very peculiar. I managed to get Rick to give me a yoga mat and as an unexpected consequence, he drunkenly followed me to the gym (in his jeans and gown) to try ashtanga. Two sun salutations finished him though, and I did the rest of my routine undisturbed.

Day two: getting up early to go to the gym with DJ. He said that the sound of my ashtanga breathing is like a very noisy sleeping baby. I'm not sure what the rest of the Keble gym users thought of it, but as usual I'm not one to get overly fussed by such things. After a shower at the comlab, I met up with Toph for lunch at the Nosebag and it was nice to see him and get all caught up on Edinburgh news, as well as a bit of climbing chat. In the afternoon DJ and I went to Bicester Village, ostensibly to shop for him, but I promptly lost control and bought (oh such a wonderful dress) at FCUK.

Instead of hall that night we decided to order curry from Jaipur. This lead to a mix up with the number of rice orders and a comparison of phone manners between JMac (polite and ineffectual) and Lucy (no-nonsense). There was G&D ice cream afterwards (had to try the Qcumber sorbet, of course - I found it refreshing but strange). JMac's interesting encounters in Edinburgh were trotted out for our consideration. Richard, DJ and I agreed that it probably meant trouble, whereas Mandeep seemed much more predisposed to give benefit of the doubt.

Day three was the day of the ball and we awoke to freezing cold weather with lashings of rain. Boo. We stayed in bed real late, until Sarah arrived, and then went together to collect wrist-bands. One of our spare tickets were given to Oli, which I think was an excellent decision, considering that he seriously puts his back into ripping it up on the dance-floor. I did my yoga session in the afternoon, walked to the Missing Bean for a pick-me-up, and then trundled all the way back to Marston on foot. By the time I got home DH and Dip had joined the party. They ordered pizza and Richard made me some spicy tomato pasta in order to prepare ourselves for the inevitable queues for food at the ball. There then followed a frenzy of preparations on all sides, with me glued to my make-up mirror and stabbing myself with an eyeliner while Sarah debated tights versus nude legs. The highlight though, was when I usurped Robbo's position and as the official bow-tie-er for the lads.

Highlights of the ball include: Dapper Dan's success with the ladies, watching Oli break out his moves in the silent disco, managing to be the first to snatch two Mission burritos from the food stall, and rocking out 'Like a Virgin' at the Rockeoke. I think I will practise that tune in preparation for the next ball, and change the lyrics to 'I like a virgin.'

Sunday was a write off. Rest day from yoga, dropping in (unannounced) to St. Mary Street to catch up with Inga and Yukie and Ashley and Pete and Maria; tea and cakes in the afternoon (Oli's delicious spread); the first GM I ever attended (Ouldo proposed an addition to the MCR boardgames collection, and another attempt to impeach Ricklef); and of course Sunday hall. It was slightly surreal to be back in Keble again, watching the faces of my friends in lamplight as the choir sang grace. Sunday night film was Annie Hall, which I have to say was a very good recommendation and well-received all 'round.

By this time I had only 2 full days left. I still had so many things I didn't do yet (go walk around the covered market, visit the Bodleian just for old time's sake, have a bbq, go punting etc.) Unfortunately the weather was always freezing cold so out-door activities were generally discouraged. I spent the remaining two days catching up properly with friends (Bence, Oli, Maria, JMac) and getting to know some of the new MCR folk (Photo-knee and Ben). According to Bence, he can get more caught up with MCR gossip by spending one hour with me than by spending a day in the MCR by himself. I was much amused (though not surprised) by this observation. Between all this catching up there was lazying around the MCR watching Back to the Future III with Bob, lunch in hall (Gerard remembers me!), and going to Ross's to wrap up my beautiful new blade in bubble-wrap and cardboard so I can take it home on my flight as sporting equipment.

Richard and I also managed to go on two dinner dates, to Sojo and Branca, both of which gets my recommendation. I generally have very low expectations of Chinese food in Oxford, but was pleasantly surprised at Sojo. We had some fried noodles, duck braised in soy sauce, spicy beef and aubergine and some stem broccoli. Though I wouldn't describe it as exceptional, these dishes can certainly hold their own in Toronto or even in Taipei.

Branca on the other hand is an old favourite. Richard always gives it understated ratings, but I'm very fond of it myself. They use lots of local ingredients (including asparagus from Medley Manor Farm!) and also run a lovely delicatessen just next door called Gluttons. While I lived at 68 Walton street I used to go to Gluttons almost everyday to buy ingredients for lunch - their staff are always lovely and the quality of stuff is top notch (though pricey). About a year ago Rich took me for a date to Branca and I wore my bright red jersey dress with the silk ribbon-tie shoulder straps. It must have been a Sunday because after dinner we went to the MCR and watched Punch Drunk Love. This time we went on Tuesday, my last night in Oxford. It surprises me that after eight months apart, Richard and I sat down to another meal together and it was just like old times. Oh, except this time I wore my new FCUK dress and of course we ate different things (we shared calamari for starters, then Richard had the Italian sausage and polenta for main and profitarole for dessert, and I had smoked haddock risotto and grappa to wrap up).

Now back in Toronto I'm happy to say that my visit to Keble was thoroughly enjoyable. I had been somewhat worried that I might find it to be either less wonderful that I remembered, or that I would be so happy to be back that I would find it impossible to leave. Though there was a bit of the second, the first was never really a concern. In fact, I just kind of got right back into the swing of MCR life (minus the workload, which is nice).

Being at Keble always made me happiest because it's a stimulating environment full of interesting people and good chats. In my absence I have found new friends whom I enjoy hanging out with, but the environment of an Oxford college is irreplaceable. When I'm in that environment I feel excited everyday to be encountering new ideas and thinking new thoughts - being made to feel stupid and challenged all the time actually becomes quite addictive.

But I can also see the benefit of leaving a comfort zone once it becomes a comfort zone. My next challenge is to be able to remain in that energized and motivated frame of mind without the imposition of academic structure (deadlines & feedback = productivity) and the need for a physically present group of intellectual peers. Is this going to be doable? I don't know. Even Bence and JMac complain that they become unmotivated and unproductive when they go home for a vacation, so it's hardly surprising that I've suffered from Keble withdraw since I left Oxford.

It's a goal worth striving for though, and I am glad that my feelings towards my friends and Keble seem to be transforming from homesickness into something more positive - a reserve of good memories that I can draw on and be continually inspired by.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Jason Freeny


Plunger Monsters



Noose



Gingerbread Man Dissected



Domo Qee Anatomy

[more @ Moist Production by Jason Freeny]

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Dew



[more @ Naupe]

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Birthday Presnts, Yoga & Podcasts

For my birthday way back in January Topher gave me a one week pass for unlimited classes at the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto (AYCT). It took me a long time to find a week where I'd be free enough to take full advantage of it. I went on Monday and did a led ashtanga class and since then I've been going every day. Today is Friday and instead of doing a led ashtanga class I joined in with the led primary series. Obviously there were many poses that I could not do, but I kept up with the vinyasas between poses to keep warm, and felt like I learned a lot just from watching the other practitioners who could (and did) do the full series. I was mildly miffed with myself though, because I didn't even think of bringing a towel. The result is that many of the moves that I think I could have attempted, I didn't - because I was too slick with sweat! I'll definitely be back though. I intend to go tomorrow and sunday also.

It's been a long time since I did yoga regularly (about 2 years). While I was still living in Taiwan and doing yoga at Pure, I could feel myself slowly improving. Binds that just didn't happen the first few months slowly became not only possible but really easy. Going back to ashtanga, on the other hand, is the reverse. Things that I was able to do have suddenly become
intensely challenging and more often than not, impossible. Can't even remember what it was like to be able to do it.

For the first three days of consecutive ashtanga, every part of my body whined and whinged at me. I learned to move carefully and gingerly through simple movements like putting on and taking off my jacket in order to minimize the wincing in between. By day four though the pain subsided somewhat, and today (day five), it doesn't hurt at all!

Recently listening to Radiolab's episode on lying to yourself (I think that's the episode) I heard an interesting snippet about how athletes psych themselves up before a competition. I think the gist is that top athletes are convinced that they can win. This sounds kinda stupid - but there is a big difference between thinking that you are definitely going to win and thinking that you might or might not win, depending on who's in the competition with you etc. The former is almost certainly over-confident, while the latter is more rational. The point though, is that athletes who win are those who manage to deceive themselves into believing that they will win, not those who take in a rational and balanced view of their chances.

This reminded me of doing acro with Iain back in Edinburgh, when he was basing me in a candlestick. He then got me to pike and come down, as far down as I can go without touching the floor with my toes, and then pull myself back up to candlestick again with my core. I think I managed it a few times, but then eventually I just kind of flopped down. At the time he said to me that I could do it, even though I think I can't - whereas I was convinced that I simply can't. In retrospect I now think that my losing faith in myself is a contributing factor to my inability to continue.

So now when I do yoga I don't ever allow myself to think 'I can't do this.' Nor do I ever allow myself to picture coming out of a pose ahead of time (and the relief it would bring!). Instead I think: '5 breaths? 10? 20? Fuck yeah. I can totally do this' (yes, in my mind the word 'totally' is bold and italicized, sometimes even underlined). I think this has changed my attitude and my practice a lot. Obviously this doesn't mean that I can always make my body do whatever I want it to do without fail - but it has helped.

Another thing that has helped: David, one of the yoga instructors at the AYCT, encouraged us to not think about 'where we need to be' but to enjoy 'where we are.' Sounds kinda trite, I know - but it makes a hell of a lot of sense when you're trying really hard to do this sort of thing (struggling with your own extreme discomfort):


I think this might actually be a picture of David though I can't swear to it. Anyway, the important thing is that I realized that it doesn't matter if I can't get into the full pose. What matters is that I was there, doing what I was doing.

It made me think about how I've often felt since I moved back to Canada - like I ought to be somewhere else, doing something else, something better, somehow. Sometimes I get positively depressed, just by not living up to some kind of imaginary expectation of my own. Now it doesn't seem to matter quite so much. Or maybe I just feel like a hero because I've been going to ashtanga five days in a row?