Saturday, April 21, 2012

Carry That Weight

The Singaporean Chinese owner/manager (which? both?) of a certain riverside bar in Singapore was sitting with The BiTP* at one of the aluminium (or are they wood?) outdoor tables, sporting a blue baseball cap that he kept adjusting on his head, and wearing a pale tee-shirt with a small Manchester City FC logo just above the left breast. The BiTP (Bruce and E@L in this instance) were closing the place, as they say, at just after 3am.

E@L didn't take in all the initial conversation, not completely (it was 3am after all), but he believes insert name, (also forgotten) splits his time between here and, was it Toronto? [Jesus, did E@L get anything?] The manager, let's call him Terry, didn't seemed fazed by the time, so Bruce and E@L were able to cadge yet another last G&T before the bar-staff pulled the shutters completely down and all left. (Bruce was on the verge of getting one bar girl's phone number, but another had him well pinned for the cad he can be [is].) The bar manager, a narrow thing who always wears a bikini top under her dark singlet, was languidly perched on the back of a chair she had reversed on the fourth side of the table. She was listening in and laughing at Bruce's lines and rejoinders to Terry's, and, with that bright grin and attentive nod and conspiratorial eyebrow raise, E@L was in no doubt she was wishing that we would all just shut the fuck and go home. But as Terry was with us, she had no option but to join and wait it out.

They kept chatting about things E@L has no knowledge of, nor opinion on, such as English football (soccer!) and, with Bruce being a mad Manchester United fanatic, and with ManU and City fighting it out over top spot in EFL... When he says 'they were chatting', E@L really means Bruce and Terry were good-heartedly (but teeth-clenchedly) jousting with each other about the season's up and down, highlighting the other's Downs and promoting their own Ups.

Maybe, at one point, the topic had turned to the FnB business, because something roused E@L enough for him to interject a line on how he is poised to become a squidillionare, if his private shares in Wooloomooloo (opening soon in Singapore, folks) keep capitalizing up. This turned Terry's attention to him for the first time. Terry paused.

(Fat chance of E@L becoming disgustingly rich. Some may consider him halfway there already - he's got the disgusting part down nicely.)

"Look at that belly, man!" says Terry, reaching from where he was perched - fit, alert (maybe a little bit pissed) and erect - on his aluminium (or are they wood?) chair to where E@L could barely maintain any plane approaching the vertical on his, and he patted the protuberant magnificence of the legendary E@L paunch, thrice. "You gotta do something about that belly.

"You gotta lose some weight. You are carrying too much weight. It's bad for you. Man! You gotta lose a lot!"

E@L knows what you are all thinking, that this is going to be a blog post about the difficulties of disposing of the bucket of crunchy pulp that was all that remained of Terry after E@L responded to his comments, but rest assured. E@L is used to this stuff. It's water of a fat duck's back now.**

(T'was not always thus. E@L is not going to rehash the arguments and elaborations and the multiple diversions in that post. OK maybe a bit...)

So E@L just nodded and smiled and said, "Yes, don't I know it!"

Yeah, of course E@L knows. As if E@L wasn't told a hundred fucking times a fucking day in a fucking hundred different fucking ways. Get over it, E@L thinks. I'm fat, I know, I know I'm fat and I know you know I'm fat. Just shut the fuck up about it. You have terrible teeth. You have a tic whereby you can't stop touching your baseball cap. Shut the fuck up.


Do you know why E@L mentioned this incident, and the one linked to above, among the many others like them in his eight (8, count 'em) years here? Before he be accused of being specifically anti-Singaporean let it be known that the only place no-one comments on his weight and/or shape in is America, and not because Americans are inherently more polite. But because they are FUCKING FAT SLOBS, like E@L.

Why mention it? Because it contrasts quite well with the comments he has been hearing from his friends in the last few weeks.

"You're looking good E@L, You lost weight, yeah?"

"Girlfriend says you are looking well, and wants to know if you have lost weight."

Three or four times, with slight variations, on that theme. Yes, E@L has lost weight. Quite a substantial amount. Well, 'substantial' is a relative term.


Jan 2 2011. That's kgs folks, not lbs.

Always a peak period, post Xmas, etc... but scarey enough to set E@L on a something of a mission. He has spoken to you guys about negative incentives before. Not disincentives, which necessarily demotivate you, but incentives which are stimulated by a tangible, painful, negative outcome.

"Lose weight or you'll die", might be considered to be one? Right? No.

"Yeah, sure Doc, fatty liver, yada yada, heard that one before." But it is too vague and generalised a threat. The empirical cause-effect link, while undeniably there, is just not specific enough.

Lose weight or you will die, but of what? Of old age? Of necrotising fasciitis? Of your car getting stuck in the middle of a level crossing as a train approaches and a flaming plane plummets from the sky right at you carrying Al Queda terrorists, one of whom unbeknownst to his terrorist allies, not to mention the crew and passengers, accidentally contracted Ebola virus while training the Congolese Rebel Army only last week... Yeah, OK, I'll watch out for that, says E@L. Thinks: and so those people all had to die because E@L didn't lose weight? Oh the humanity!

Stay the same weight, get heavier, lose weight, watch Final Destination III, and guess what? You're still going to die. Everyone dies in the long jog, no news there.

However, "Lose 15kgs by the end of April or I'll kill you with this formidably large weapon", that is more what E@L is talking about. It sets a specific goal and ties it to a specific, um, reward - brains splattered everywhere.

In his present case, the less violent negative incentive is some cash, currently held by Bruce, and if E@L fails to loose those 15kgs, that cash, S$5,000, will go to a Traditional Chinese Medicine hospital or university of Bruce's choice.


The prospect of such a heinous anti-Enlightenment forfeit has sent E@L running moving quickly to his cupboards and fridge in order to discard everything vaguely carbohydrate-based into the recyclable waste disposal bins, conveniently located for E@L to increase his activity quotient in the car-park down two flights of steps - good exercise. No rice, no spuds, no white bread (he never eats white bread anyway, soft and mushy - yuck!) and, shudder, no alcohol.

No white rice, and E@L lives in Asia? Tough, yes, it is tough. Some places do serve brown rice as an alternative to, well, to none.

No alcohol, and E@L is an Expat? Tough in-fucking-deed!


The date for this 15kg loss has pushed back to his birthday, late June, on the not unreasonable grounds that too rapid a weight-loss might reflect an unsustainable period of deprivation and starvation that would quickly end and the weight would yo-yo back up, and even higher.

Whereas a six-month plan could promote a more moderate and sustainable change of life-style.

E@L spend most of February on a zero-alcohol binge. March, a few wines here and there, April, not so much on the wagon and running behind it, but hand on the rail, ready to jump back on at any time. It was in this period that E@L realised a strong association with alcohol and some gastrointestinal problems which, unlike his normal oversharing attitude, he is unwilling to explain - not time for the gory details. He was pleasantly surprised to find these chronic issues disappear for the period in question. Okay, E@L is allergic to alcohol. His intestines don't like it. Lesson there. Can E@L learn it?

The knowledge that he will suffer more than just a hangover has had a considerable impact on his ability to keep the frequency of boozing with the BiTP down. It has helped immensely that many of the other BiTP were on a quiet February as well. E@L generally doesn't drink spirits, beyond the "I'm too distended for more beer, I'll have a G&T" stage (such as 3am. Hey, we've all been there) so even though he has a duty-free store full of spirits in his Antique(tm) Chinese (tm) shelves, these offered no great temptation. Wine? Well, he's just come back from a Barossa wine splurge, so this was tough, wine fridge full to bursting with amazing old vine Shiraz's and GSMs, and you name it. Let them age a bit more, let's pick one every now and then, for a special occasion.

And he has stood his ground. Running behind the wagon while standing his ground, note, and not running to the loo.

So was E@L taking commercial so-called diet-drinks for his social fluids instead? When his former flatmate Izzy send him a link about the counter-intuitive dangers of his favorite low-calorie, non-alcoholic imbibement, Coke Zero (and its ilk), he has gone off that sort of stuff as well. More tea, (green, ginger, English Breakfast), coffee no change, and at the pub it was lemon, lime and bitters with soda water. To drink at night, lime and bitters in soda water.


And Mademoiselle, the envelope please...

April 21 2011

Yeah, the other scales died in the interim (did not break apart, smart-arse!) so one can't be too exact about the delta here, but the irrefutable fact is that E@L is down close enough to 12kgs. That's 26lbs for the two readers E@L has in the States. Another way of looking at it is that he is down by 10% on his previous weight. This is lowest he has been since a drastic reduction (to 114.5kgs) for his 30 year school reunion in 2005. He was still told he was fucking fat though, by someone who was a fatty at school, now thin - rudeness is not exclusively Singapore thing after all.)

Probably that loss is bit faster than the revised plan, but he has plateaued for a while, so it remains encouraging that, come "all the fives", E@L might be able to purchase some clothes off the rack.

E@L won't bore you with any more details of what he is eating more of and less of, but one of the big surprises for E@L in all of this, is that he does have the will-power after all to do something... something at all.

He just has to make the decision, finally, then believe that he made the decision. So often it is a pretend decision, one he knows he will break (write that novel) like a traditional New Years Resolution.

But anything he wants to do, he can, if he does, as they say, set his mind to it. And now he knows he can follow through on it. This is not Tony Robbins bullshit here, this is E@L learning the hard (and cheaper) way of what great achievements he is capable if he could just shut the fuck up and do them.

Two months to go.



* BiTP = Boys in The Pub. One of Indy's. Remember Indy?

** His favorite incident was back in 1998. E@L was probably the largest man in Vietnam at the time. As he got out of the taxi at the gate of his designated hospital, he saw that an old man, who had been sitting down doing nothing (maybe playing checkers with bottle tops) like the twenty thousand other people along the streets they had driven, was looking back at him in the car window. The man arose from his stunted, square, blue-plastic stool (you know the ones, right?) and, still in a slight arthritic stoop, opened E@L's door for him. He was smiling toothlessly. E@L thanked thanked the man as best he could: "Cah-mon, cah-mon, thank you." But that is not the incident...

A woman and her children were negotiating the path of chairs and old men and irregular paving as E@L alighted, when one of the children stopped. In awe, his face a picture of wonder and disbelief, he instinctively moved towards E@L as if in a trance, with his right hand forward... he rubbed E@L's belly in a circle two times before his mother dragged him away by his other arm. He must have thought E@L was the Buddha made incarnate. 5555!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cash Cow Shit

Those of you with your fingers on the pulse, your noses to the grindstone, your feet on the ground, your heads in the clouds, your eyes on the the prize, your tongues kept civil in your heads and yours heads not halfway up your arse will be aware that E@L has a controlling small interest in a steakhouse restaurant group in Hong Kong called Wooloomooloo. This is not a party political broadcast, whoof, me?, but please go to the restaurants and bars there and spend your entire life savings at your earliest convenience. Take a loan, spend more. Speak to our financial consultant.

Anyway, point of story. (Anyway, any sentence that begins with "anyway" shows sloppy, sloppy, sloppy thinking. AKA: too much red wine.) Point of story.

E@L was in Hong Kong last week (working hard, hush your mouth) and enjoyed himself immensely. Please don't start E@L on his preferences between Hongkers and Singapore. (Ten blogposts started and abandoned in frustration already this week.) On any given hour of any given day, the answer might be 180deg from what it was last time you asked. So what did he do?

He had a quiet night in Wanchai with Bruce(!)...

He took a stroll up the gweilo, ahem, friendly region Queens Rd West in of Sai Wan (did anyone even notice there was Westerner there? No. - c.f. The Glamour, Christopher Priest, 1984) and took in some the hectic, hectic, no-time-to-think ambiance of that part of town.



Anyway (oops), he visited several (3/4) of the Woolies (as we affectionately call the money-spinning cash cow) over the course of his five day stay on the barren little rock (as we affectionately call Hong Kong) and has some more photos to share...

View from the rooftop at Woolies at Wanchai, on Hennessy.

View across to Hong Kong from Woolies Prime in The One, Nathan Rd - E@L and an old HK friend, MJ. View is bit misty, you can't see the top of IFC2, but still, pretty frackin' awesome, what? Fireworks and light-show every night at 8pm. The bar area, with it's jaw-dropping balcony view seems very popular for some reason, and we couldn't get a seat there after our meal. Great! Spend more money!


Anyway (FUCK!), we they are opening a Singapore Woolies in June, our their first international venture. Tell your friends. E@L went today to the third floor at the Swissotel (The Stamford), at Raffles City (not Raffles hotel, not Raffles Shopping Arcade, not Raffles Hospital, not Raffles Place) to observe the current state of affairs. At the moment, it's an area of concrete and brick and steel pipes and open windows. (Thankfully it doesn't rain much in Singapore... Yeah, right.) But mid-June or so... look out!

Here are some shots out of the window. Mmm, not bad.

That road you can see next to the sports ground transforms into part of the racing circuit for the Singapore F1 GP every September. (Damn. Was hoping for a nice quiet venue. Bummer. And no, we are not taking booking yet, even for the ownersshareholders.)

That crazy what's-that-on-top-of-those-three-buildings thing is part of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, next to the casino integrated resort on, well, Marina Bay. Fireworks and light-show every now and then. Theatre complex, convention centre, 2,000 plus hotel rooms, etc... all right there or just a small walk away. Very good spot in other words.

OK, good view but it's not as spectacularly brilliant as the view from TST to Hong Kong Island, even so it's not that bad. For Singapore.


So anyway, after all this, E@L heads out for dinner at another restaurant to meet up with some friends, Jennifer and David (real names, to indict the innocent). We went to Balzac, new place in The Rendezvous. French place. Absinthe cocktails sort of place. Beef cheeks in red wine jus sort of place. Incomprehensible French word for soufflé (already a French word!) sort of place.

We knock back our cheap Côtes du Rhône vin ordinaire (still quite nice, Grenache/Syrah) and chat with each other and with the staff (quiet night). Jennifer is in Singapore for the Food and Hotel Association expo at Changi and she notices that the chef (walking past) has a halyard around his neck from that very same FHA exhibition. She calls him over for une petite conversaysheon and things start rolling from there. A little bit of extra service, some more bread, please try the absinthe cocktail, have the unpronounceable chocolate soufflé...

Then David gets a phone call - "Yeah, sure, bring them over..." A friend of his, who doesn't drink, has been at a French wine thingummie. He drops by a few minutes later with three bottles of already opened but barely tasted French wine - St Julien, etc... Not crap at all. Well into three figures, each bottle.

The sommelier, after seeing this impressive delivery, and noting that we hadn't fallen over unconscious after several of those absinthe (they were 99% cognac, it turned out, pfft!) cocktails, opts to bring over three clean glasses for us. But wait, there's more. With the first bottle done, the St Julein, the sommelier tempts us with a taste of some of his biodynamic French wine as a comparison.

In fact, fuck it, he leaves the remaining 3/4 of the bottle with us. This wine is from the biodynamic Rhone vineyard of the dynamic M. Chapoutier. Last time E@L tasted one of these was at a degustation at the way expensive but impressive Andre restaurant with the Asia manager of M.Chapoutier, Stephane, sitting at the table next to us. (One of the drops we had that night was $750 a bottle, E@L found out later!)



E@L thought, like you, that this is some fancy way of saying organic. Right? Sure, I'll drink, thought E@L. They finished the free bottle, David was leaving with the other two (also Bordeaux or that ilk) bottles to take home as some of us (not E@L obviously) have to work on the morrow, so we settled the bill and left.


Biodynamic: 9 points...

1: Bury cowshit in a cow's horn in the soil over winter. Add to compost.
2: Bury ground quartz in a cow's horn over summer. Add to compost.
3: Hang yarrow flowers in a stag's bladder though summer and bury them over winter.
4: Chamomille, ditto in cow intestine.
5: Stinging nettles, bury in summer.
6: Bury oak bark the skull of a farm animal over winter.
7: Hang dandelion flowers in cow mesentry over summer, bury over winter, dig up in spring.
8: Spray valerian flower juice into the compost.
9: Give vines a nice cup of tea. Put fermented common horsetail (equisetum arvense) directly on to the vines or use a manure.



Heard enough?

E@L's opinion of this bioinsanity and its biodymaniacs? Have a guess. Why not have the vines do yoga? Why not give them coffee high-colonics? Why not allow them to discover themselves in an ashram in Goa?

Take E@L back to the plain old vinodiversity of the Barossa, please, please, please.

Fucking bionutters. Wine was OK, but fuck, do you really need this bullshit to wash down the cowshit?


p.s. eat at Wooloomooloo any chance you get. E@L wants to be a money-spun cash-cowshitillionaire!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Hongkers Time

E@L feels comfortably at home with the jarring discomfort as his rattling red taxi bounces from tram-track to barely-repaired pothole down Queens Road West towards his hotel in Sai Wan. (Sai Wan? you scream, WTF are doing out there?).

He is trying to get a 3G signal is what. What is with this place and roaming?


E@L may have time to relate somethings about this breif sojourn to his old stomping grounds tonight (it is lunch-time now, nearly the hour upon which he has to turn up at work - a seminar in one of the big hospitals just up the hill.)


Time. How to measure it? Why to measure it? E@L was on the walking machine thingie at the gym for the last 4000 drops of water, half an incense stick and several cms fall in a iron ball attached to an escapement mechanism listening to this...

IOT with Melvyn Bragg

Measurement of Time 29 Mar 12
Thu, 29 Mar 12
42 mins
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, then mechanical clocks emerged in Europe in the medieval period. For hundreds of years clocks were inaccurate but now atomic clocks are capable of keeping time to a second in 15 million years. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Kristen Lippincott, Former Director of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich; Jim Bennett, Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford and Jonathan Betts, Senior Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Podcast - 20MB)


Horology. There's a term to conjure with.

OK talk to you a leap-second later, your favorite horologist,


Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Bruce Bits, etc...

I am currently trawling through my old blog (again), as well is this one, looking for bits and pieces I can cobble together - not necessarily into anything coherent or internally consistent - something about Bruce, and/or taxis, and/or the Mouse, and/or Kopi, and/or hotel breakfasts and toast...


There are maybe 700 posts and perhaps 250,000 words over there place (approaching 2 milllion hits btw) and with the 740 post here, god knows how many words.

There must be something I can do with it all (as people have been saying for years) rather burn my few remaining hours over something new that is not taking the shape I want it to.

I will need to redo a great deal of the earlier risqué E@L stuff retrospectively as Bruce stories, to give a semblance of character continuity.

Plot? Don't make me laugh.

Watch this space. (If I don't run out of steam...)


Do you think I should I should charge you guys for the effort I am taking to do this, as Dick Headley does, or let it run free amongst the wolves on the internet marketplace, as Mercer Machine does?


Monday, April 02, 2012


My occasional flatmate C, a lady-friend from HK, [settle down troops, nothing going on] keeps a cartoon journal. Everyday she draws hilarious little doodles in a notepad given to her by her daughter for Christmas. Nothing much, just fifteen minutes of cute cartoons inpired by her day. A funny pic of C with an appropriate emoticon face, a talk bubble with an explanation or an exclamation, and the day has been analysed, sorted.

Nothing necessarily big. Just something, every day.


She has not missed a day since the beginning of the year.

Wish I had that dedication.


And as my attempts to play that $180million app Draw Something have shown, I can't draw cartoons either.



No examples of either, sorry.


In other news, my favorite opening few lines of a novel have changed. No longer are these classic vying for top spot: "It was a starkers night in the dorm;" "riverrun, past Eve and Adams from swerve of shore to bend of bay brings us by a commodius vicus of circumnavigation back to Howth Castle and environs" (or something like that); "Listen. Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time;" "One morning Grigor Samsor woke from a night of restless dreams to find he been transformed into a giant cockroach;" etc...

All are usurped by Robert Walser's opening two sentences of his 1925 novel, The Robber.

"Edith loves him. More on this later."

How awesomely fuck-you-literary-conventions-creative-writing-101 is that?

According to the blurb, Walser wrote this in almost indecipherable microscript. A first draft presumably; but Walser never bothered to transcribe it into a fair copy because he did not plan on publishing it. It was not "deciphered" and published in German until 1972 and finally translated to English in 2000 (review linked above).


He was confined in a mental institution for the last 30 years or so of his life, at first of his own volition, as they say (which he says a lot), but latterly by Doctor's orders - although perhaps undeservedly. He went for a walk, and wrote something, every day. One day, on his walk, he fell dead in the snow. He didn't write much that day I guess.

You might recall that I had this beautiful Walser quote on my old blog: "We don't need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much."


(I have blogged about him once before (back when I was funny) when I was in Zurich on the way to a ski holiday.)

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