Saturday, 28 June 2008

How widely read am I?

Got this from Lisa's blog . . .

The Big Read (?) reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed. The instructions are:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicise those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE. (Will do this in a colour!)
4) Put an asterisk next to the books you'd rather shove hot pokers in your eyes than read
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them ;-)

Here's the list:

01. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
02. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
03. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
04. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
05. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
06. The Bible
07. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
08. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
09. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (I'm part way through this - have been for years now!)
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (I have this one ready to go!)
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (I've read part of this and it didn't grab me)
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet- William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

The tally: I 've read 32 out of the top 100 -- that's almost a third. Not too bad. But there are some on there I probably should read!

Icebreaker addict

Around five (or more) years ago I was introduced to my first icebreaker. It was black with a green stripe down each arm. It cost a fortune, but I needed it anyway. Desperately. Thus commenced a severe addiction that shows no sign of abating.

Icebreakers are thermal garments knit of fine-spun Merino wool. Made in NZ, they are machine washable and wonderful. Back then, they were mainly available in a mid-weight, 'jumper' style. As the years have progressed, however, the range has diversified. Now you can get just about anything in the icebreaker range -- from thermals, jumpers, long-sleeved tops, T-shirts, polo-necks . . . even underwear.

My first icebreaker was bought for a purpose: travel to cold climates, in this case Nepal. Icebreakers are notoriously warm and, being ideal for layering, extremely travel-friendly. However, they have also proved to be excellent casual wear.

My second icebreaker was a lightweight long-sleeved top, grey, with some geometric design on the front. This one is ideal for day wear, and has proven fantastic for early morning walks to work -- particularly when coupled with icebreaker #1.

The combination worked so well, in fact, that it spawned a need for icebreakers #3 and #4 last winter. Icebreaker #3 is a black long-sleeved lightweight top, while #4 is a dusky pink mid-weight 'jumper' in the style of #1. The lightweight tops in particular are just so practical that it simply doesn't matter how much they cost to begin with -- they're worth it!

Which brings me to today. Snowgum (shrine of icebreaker here in Australia) had them on sale. So of course I had to go so I could introduce myself to icebreakers #5 and #6. The fifth one is another long-sleeved lightweight top, this one in a soft faun colour. I have no doubt I will get heaps of wear from it. It joins icebreakers #2 and #3 in my everyday wardrobe.

Icebreaker #6, however is the ultimate in icebreaker. It's a zip-fronted, expedition-weight 'jacket' in the style of a close-fitting fleece. It's slimline enough to fit underneath my goretex jacket, yet will easily fit over one of the tops. It's designed for high-performance mountain sports (!!), but it's also smart enough to wear casually and even to work. It's oh-so-warm and, being ultra ultra-fine merino wool, breathes.

Unfortunately it was not on sale. But that fact was irrelevant. This was love, obsession, covetousness.

I had to have it. I succumbed. I am wearing it now.

I will probably wear it every day for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

High tea at Raffles

To cap off my week in Singapore, my hosts and I partook of high tea at the famous Raffles Hotel. This was an English style repast in an old colonial hotel. We were greeted with a three-tiered plate of afternoon tea delicacies: dainty cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, delectable custard-filled pastries, traditional scones. This was complemented by a buffet of local cuisine that included Asian style dumplings, savoury pastries and fruit.

We were booked in at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, ahead of my 11:30pm flight home. The theory was that high tea would serve as an early dinner. So we ate. And ate. I requested more custard-filled pastries and continued eating. Oh, and downed a Singapore Sling or two.

I ate so much last week, what with champagne brunch, high tea, and many more meals in between (including a seafood banquet at East Coast Seafood Park). This week I am compensating!

Monday, 23 June 2008

White tigers

These white tigers were the highlight of Singapore Zoo for me.

They are Bengal tigers with unusual genes to give the special white colouring. Beautiful.

They were amazingly active when I was there . . . one of the females was wading in the water when I arrived.

I could have sat there for hours.

Friday, 20 June 2008


I'm going to deviate from the norm and write a work-related post. Because what I have been doing this week is networking. Not networking of computers and the like, but communications of a different kind.

As a company, we are putting ourselves out there, making ourselves known in the industry, preparing for a bright new future. This means talking talking talking to a lot of people who might be interested in what we do.

At first I was really nervous, having not a great deal of networking experience. So I decided to treat it like a social situation: have a chat, find common ground, be interested. Eventually at trade shows like the one we are attending the question will come: "where are you from?" and "what do you do?".

So I have talked talked talked to multitudes of people this week, some interested in what we do, others not so much. It's difficult not to come across as though we are seeking work -- for in truth we are not really able to take on new clients just now, being extremely overloaded already. But we are looking towards a bright new future, one that has an expanded team of brilliant people and some new clients as well.

This week has been all about laying the foundations.

Monday, 16 June 2008


It's the last week of the "Great Singapore Sale", so this afternoon I thought I'd check out what it's all about. Orchard Rd is evidently the place where it's at, so . . . there I went for what I expected to be the ultimate Singapore shopping experience.

I have to say it was a bit of a let-down.

I found the shopping malls OK. Orchard Rd is lined on both sides with one shopping mall after another. It was busy without being packed, so no true crowds as such. But I just didn't find what I was looking for.

What was I looking for? I suppose I thought I might have purchased some clothes for work, maybe some shoes. But I didn't recognise many of the shops, so that put me on the back foot. Neither did any of the clothes in the windows really appeal too much. Moreover, so many of the shops were clearly designer shops, so how was I supposed to tell which were the affordable ones? And finally, how could one tell what was on sale? It really wasn't very obvious to me (in the one shop where I tried stuff on).

I went into three shopping malls in total, and they all seemed very much the same. After an hour and a half of patrolling sleek white-tiled surfaces and riding escalators I was fairly bored.

One thing there's no shortage of here is coffee. There are numerous franchises -- Starbucks, The Coffee Bean and Tealeaf, The Coffee Club -- some familar, some not. So at this point I had a coffee. After which I ranged rapidly through a supermarket and then made my way back to base -- the "Costa Del Sol" condo complex.

Thus endeth my Singapore shopping experience. Items purchased: one reusable shopping bag, some fruit, a box of breakfast cereal. Not quite what I had in mind when I set out!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Champagne brunch

Feeling very full just now. Today I experienced one of the great Singaporean institutions: a champagne brunch. Traditionally experienced on Sundays. Ergo very full -- Still. And "brunch" didn't end until around 4pm.

After a healthily modest breakfast of muesly and strawberries, we arrived at Singapore's Fullerton Hotel shortly after 12:30, rather hungry. A good thing too. A veritable feast lay in wait. The Town restaurant had space available, and we sat down at a nicely set table and the first of many glasses of champagne.

It took me a full ten minutes, plate in hand, to survey the full extent of the spread before us. There were many options: Japanese sushi, Asian-style dumplings and stir-fried dishes, Indian curries, an extensive selection of cheeses, various salads, a carvery and breakfast table, and of course a vast array of desserts and fruits.

I decided to begin with "breakfast", which included poached egg on a muffin, hash brown and some delectable fillet of roasted beef. This was followed by some dumplings and other tasty pate-like morsels smeared on pita bread. (More champagne . . .) Some fruit and salad next. Then some sushi. After that we gathered plates of cheese and desserts and contemplated them for a while. Decided to eat the sweet stuff first with a coffee -- among them a palate-cleansing fruit-cake-like slice, coffee-chocolate cream, creme brulee and sticky date pudding (only tiny amounts of each -- I promise!). Then smatterings of cheese with some red wine.

I don't know how many glasses of champagne I drunk, and I must have gone through at least five sets of cutlery and even more plates.
We felt like we might explode.

In the end we fell into a cab and rolled back up to the 29th floor of the condo and are still sprawled on sofas indulging in a LOTR marathon, which is about the only thing we could stomach (pun intended!).

Saturday, 14 June 2008

what a week!

It's been a ve-rr-y long week, this one, with long hours and lots to do. Tomorrow (or later today!) I'm on a plane to Singapore. I must say I am looking forward to sitting down on that plane tomorrow and watching a movie or reading a book!

Will check in later . . .

Monday, 9 June 2008

This used to be my life . . .

Someone just e-mailed me the link to a site called PHD comics (piled higher & deeper - a grad student comic strip). The strip above rates as the second most popular in its ~ten year history and I can see why. Priceless.

Feeling sorry for myself

It's depressing how easy it is to fall out of the habit of writing. When I have good momentum, I seem to have so much time for it. Every free hour is put to good use. I even seem able to get up early and write before work. I can sit down at 10pm at churn out words for a couple of hours.

But when I have no momentum, there seems to be no time whatsoever. I know it will take a couple of hours to 'get back into it' and finding such a slab of time seems nigh on impossible. I wouldn't even contemplate starting at this time of night, and am certainly far too tired to consider a session before work. The perspective is completely different.

I have a couple of friends participating in the '50K in 30 days' challenge, which sounds rather like NaNoWriMo. They are putting me to shame. I cannot honestly see how I could do 50K in a month, given my current workload, but that doesn't give me an excuse to write nothing at all.

I confess I think I gave up on June before it had even started. I had engagements for much of this past weekend, and the next two will be spent travelling to and from Singapore. And so I look ahead to July, which will be an entire year after I finished my draft, and reflect that I have really wasted a helluva lot of time!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Page Turners: A new episode of Buffy

I am a big Buffy fan. It's been a while since I watched any, since the series finished five years ago (hard to believe, but true), but this week I indulged in a dose of the seventh and final season, just to get prepared for a new season. Yes, there is a season 8!

You see, our Page Turners 'book' for this month was a graphic novel of Buffy: Season 8, The Long Way Home. In addition, we also read a graphic novel of Angel: Season 6, After the Fall.

Each of these continues the stories of Buffy and Angel after their respective final episodes. In both cases, some time has passed (maybe around a year), but most of the old characters are back. How exciting.

In the Buffy comic, the gang is running some form of hi-tech operative group/army, filled with slayers. (Remember all the potentials who were made slayers inthe final episode?) Buffy becomes the target of a plot to kill her by a mysterious marines-type group bearing a strange, undecipherable symbol etched into their chests. These bad guys are camped on the edge of the Sunnydale crater, probing its depths, and they find . . .

In the Angel comic, Wolfram and Hart have sold LA into hell (somehow) and the place is overrun by demons. Not really sure where the plot is going in this one, as we only covered the first installment (and I don't want to give away any surprises).

Experiencing Buffy and Angel as graphic novels is actually rather cool. They require quite a deal of concentration to follow, as Buffy in particular jumps between scenes/characters/dreams with scant 'signposting'. But, with care, the storyline can be followed.

I find the way graphic novels unfold events -- as in which angles and closeups and actions are selected to depict emotion and mood -- really fascinating. I think it must be more like directing than writing, because the focus is very much on the visual. With the right 'shot' selection, a comic is really dynamic.

It's great to know what happens next, and to know that it's legitimate as well, since Joss Whedon (series creator) was involved in the scripts for both. So Buffy and Angel live on!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Found my study again

Progress this evening. After over a week of coffee-table computing I have relocated the new computer to its rightful place -- the study!

It has been a lovely indulgence to sit in front of the TV and read blogs or send e-mails. I've been kidding myself that it's multi-tasking. But in reality I've been deluded. Hunching over a computer on the coffee table, or perching it on your lap even, is simply not conducive to proper productivity.

It has been 2 months since I made any real progress on the novel and it's time to get serious again. I need to avoid switching on the TV, a feat I've managed this evening, and get back into writing.

The first step to achieving this was setting my computer up properly in the study, with files copied across to the new computer and software loaded. This is almost complete now and I feel a great sigh of relief about to wash over me. I desperately need to get away from the couch! What's happened to the person who sits at her desk all evening, every evening?

She's back!!