Sunday, August 31, 2008

Very miscellaneous

Just arrived in Penang today after four nights of blissful island resort and HORNBILLS HORNBILLS HORNBILLS! I have some fabulous photos. Or at least I think I have. You never can really tell until you get them on the computer, can you? I might have a bunch of blurry birds.

But that's all right because we had a lovely time. I ate far too much (those buffet breakfasts and dinners were irresistible) and swam every day in the sea, and The Man had a good rest. We are ready to tackle the rest of our trip.

This afternoon I headbutted The Man accidentally while we were riding on a very bouncy bus. This bus had squeaky springs, took the long way to Penang, and a lot of the road was quite bumpy. The bus rocked, easily, squeakily and extravagantly, and at one point when I leaned over affectionately towards The Man and we went over a bump at the same time, the inevitable happened. He was not hurt, however, although he did yelp a bit. He seems a little accident prone today, come to think of it. In our hotel the lift door closed on him and almost squashed him flat. We have stayed in this hotel before, and we are generally very wary of that lift. It is old, so you think it's going to be slow and creaky, but instead it is fast and has powerful doors that close quite suddenly without warning. You have to get on FAST. But having just arrived, we forgot. Now we will remember.

Also today, we witnessed a spectacular thunderstorm through the bus window. Malaysia does brilliant thunderstorms.

And now I think it is time for a cup of teh tarik.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


We are now comfortably installed in our new hotel, and liking it very much. It is one we have stayed in before, just after it opened, and things have actually improved since then. It is a budget hotel, and at that time it was lacking such essential features as places to hang things, and also, as I think I mentioned, the water pressure was awful. I don't know whether the plumbing has been fixed or whether it's just that we're on a lower floor, but the water pressure is now fine. Well, not exactly STRONG, but fine. And it's generally clean and convenient.

We have not been doing much, but that is what we're here for. The Man doesn't have the energy he usually has, which means that instead of galloping all over KL we are taking things easy. This is, as far as I'm concerned, a good thing. I am perfectly happy to be lazy. That's what holidays are FOR.

I am determined, however, to pay a visit to the bird park at some point. I'm not sure when yet, but either before Tuesday (when we're planning to leave for the beach) or at the end of the holiday when we're back in KL. I am ashamed of myself. I have been to KL many times but have never visited the bird park.

The island resort we are going to next week has hornbills. I am looking forward to the hornbills.

I didn't realize quite how much I had acclimatized to the weather in Japan. When we left the temperatures in Japan were around 33 - 35C in the daytime and 27 - 28C at night, and it had been like that for several weeks. Here it is 31C in the daytime and a chilly 24C at night. It is also less humid. Right now it is about 8.30 pm and I am wearing long sleeves and feeling perfectly comfortable. I don't get it. I am nearer the equator here than I was in Japan. Shouldn't I be sweatily hot and complaining about it?

Something exciting is happening right now outside the Internet cafe, down on the street. There are sirens and police shouting through megaphones. I cannot see outside the tinted windows, but it all sounds terrifically dramatic. I expect that when we go out and back into Chinatown all the sellers of pirated movies will have disappeared.

How inconvenient.

Can you believe I have not taken a single picture yet? Nor can I. I don't know what's wrong with me. Perhaps I am feeling too comfortable and relaxed to bother.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A bad start that got better

I jotted down a few notes last night because I didn't trust myself to remember the first hideous day of travel. I was so tired I was fairly sure my brain would go into automatic erase mode. Before I start, let me tell you we had a lovely day today, aside from being too cold most of the time, so don't worry about us. We are just fine. At least we are now. Yesterday it was a different story.

Here are my notes.

Hideous thing #1:
I teach The Man (and myself) about something we didn't know before. We learn what happens to a foreigner if she turns up at the airport without a valid re-entry visa. This turns out to be no problem at all, because they simply issue another one, but it gives us some VERY BAD MOMENTS. The Man does not appreciate these bad moments. Neither do I, but since I caused them I am apparently not allowed to express my feelings. Offering to commit hara kiri does not help, and there is no sensible response to "YOU SAID YOU CHECKED!" when the the answer, "I thought I did, too! How could I be so stupid!" is not acceptable.

Hideous thing #2: We had decided to try out a different hotel in Chinatown, which opened a month ago. We thought that since it was new it would probably still be nice. Arrive at 9pm, go to our room. It is all right without being all that wonderful. Go to have a shower. Been traveling all day and want to feel refreshed. Four taps in bathroom. Two for shower, one for hose thingy next to toilet, the other in basin. I turn a shower tap. It falls off. A little water dribbles out. Pick up bits, carefully put them back together. Turn the second tap. It falls off. Replace carefully. Try turning both taps the other way, very slowly. Water continues to dribble out. Nothing changes.

Try hose thingy tap. It falls off. Look around nervously. Is there a hidden camera? Water now dribbling everywhere.

Plumber comes. Replaces all taps. Does something complicated in ceiling and leaves, telling us to wait 20-30 minutes for tank to refill.

Go out to eat. Wander around, decide don't like hotel much and want to move tomorrow. Check out hotel we used before, negotiate good price. Drink teh tarik, go back to hotel, go to check water. Taps no longer fall off, but there is no water.

Have discussion with receptionist, then manager (via phone) and eventually move to other hotel, around midnight. Prefer to forfeit some money than to find out what other bits of the new hotel we can break.

Sometimes we are not adventurous AT ALL.

As I said, things have improved. We are now comfortable, slept well last night, and have had a lovely day.

More soon. I have some more notes but they are not about hideous things, so they can wait for another day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I hate packing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A couple of excuses

This summer I have not been blogging much, have I? I can't think of any reasons for this – or rather, I can, but they are excuses rather than reasons. One excuse is that it's too hot, and I can't be bothered doing anything much so there is nothing much to write about. Another is that I have actually been doing quite a lot, because I have written my first ever paper for publication in a scholarly journal, or at least a pseudo-scholarly journal, and submitted it, even. Now I just have to wait until they reject it before sending it off again to some more established scholarly journal. Or maybe they'll accept it. Who knows?

But anyway, it is an excuse I'm offering for not blogging. I have been writing OTHER stuff. Actually, I finished it a week ago, but never mind that.

I say 'pseudo-scholarly' journal because this particular journal just started last year and doesn't have any sort of reputation yet. It is an in-house publication at one of the universities where I work part-time. It is peer-reviewed, however (in-house publications often aren't) and looking at the previous issues (there are only two) the standard seems to be reasonable without being particularly wonderful. I had thought about submitting elsewhere first, but there are people at that place I want to impress. My NEXT paper will go elsewhere.

In any case, they do have SOME standards – another part-timer who submitted last year got his paper rejected. They told him it wasn't relevant enough. Considering what they have already published it must have been pretty damned irrelevant, but still, I took note of this when I wrote my paper. Mine is MORE relevant than most of what they've published, and easier to read. Some of those papers read like nobody bothered to edit them much. My paper, at its longest, was about fifteen pages, but reading it through I realized it was a bit sloppy and needed tightening up. I then tightened it up so drastically it ended up being only seven pages. My paper is so tight it SQUEAKS.

Now I am worried they will reject it because it is too short. Maybe they LIKE long, somewhat rambling papers.

Actually, my paper started off being one I wrote for my MA several years ago. I was going to just submit it as is – after all, I got a 'high distinction' for it. Surely that would be good enough? But then I decided it needed some more recent references, so started a little research, to update things. Then I got sidetracked, and added great chunks about something related to the original argument but not quite on topic. Then I decided the sort-of-related stuff was actually more interesting, found some more research about it, added more, and changed the argument. That meant I had to change the introduction and conclusion to fit the new content. Then I removed the bits that were too much about the original topic and not really related to the new introduction and conclusion. Finally I went through and did the tightening-up thing, thus removing almost all that was left of the original content.

It felt a lot easier than writing a paper from scratch, but I can't say I understand why.

Next week The Man and I are boarding a plane for Malaysia once again, where we will be for the next three weeks or so. We had been talking about going somewhere different this summer, but he is still not feeling a hundred percent so we decided a relaxing holiday in a familiar place would be the best medicine. We are looking forward to some time at the beach.

Just thinking about the food we're going to eat is making my mouth water already.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The headline of this story grabbed my attention. You don't expect to see 'Winnie the Pooh' and 'cunning' in the same sentence.

Now I'm wondering whether the victim was offered counseling. It must be fairly traumatizing to be mugged by Winnie the Pooh. The responses from workmates and friends to your story wouldn't help either, I imagine.

I wonder who the 'other characters' were. Eeyore? Roo? Tigger?

Addendum: Here is the story again, with a little more detail. The other characters were a mouse and a panther, and they "donned the unusual garb because they had run out of clean clothes."

Oh. That clears EVERYTHING up.


Can you read this story without yawning?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Serial fainting and competitive sleeping

Yesterday at the supermarket an elderly woman standing in front of The Man at the checkout at the supermarket suddenly collapsed. She was holding out her money for the checkout woman to take when her hand shook violently and she went down like a bowling pin, totally rigid. It happened too suddenly for The Man to catch her, and the sound her head made hitting the floor is not something I will not forget in a hurry. I didn't see it happen. I was occupied with staring mindlessly at a display of toothbrushes at the time, and just heard the awful thud when her head hit the floor. To give an idea of what it sounded like, at first I thought someone had dropped a heavy carton. That's what I heard. And this woman was tiny, one of those old ladies who is nothing more than a twig. It turned out she was 86 years old.

An ambulance was called, and there were plenty of staff there taking care of her, so after making sure they put something soft under her head we left. At that point she was capable of giving her name and age, so at least she was conscious, even if she couldn't get up.

Today we were back at the same supermarket, so asked if anybody knew how she was. They told us she was fine, and looked a little puzzled. The Man explained that he'd been standing behind her when it happened. They thanked him for asking. I thought they seemed a little casual about the whole thing, but then they added,

"She does that all the time."

A serial fainter! How worrying. I don't suppose you can expect everything to be functioning perfectly when you're 86, but still, I hope someone is taking care of her.

The Man's health is slowly improving. He is still sleeping too much, and has problems with his stomach, but all the tests the doctors have done have come back showing that he is in perfect health. One of my friends suggested that he might be depressed.

"Depressed people sleep a lot," she said.

Later, I told The Man what she'd said. That made him snarl a bit, so then I told him what I'd said next.

"Yes, but depressed people don't get grumpy and bite people's heads off!"

In any case he is much better than he was before (and more cheerful). He is now only sleeping ten or so hours a night. And instead of lying perfectly still and corpse-like, as he was before, he is now sleeping more actively. He has become a competitive sleeper. Last night I got elbowed in the ribs, kneed in the bum, rolled over, shouted at, sung to, and eventually shoved out of bed for a little while. Through all of this he never woke up.

It's been far too long, but I think he's finally on the mend.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Olympic hero

Today I have discovered my new Olympic hero. Henry Pearce died in 1976, so obviously will not be competing in the Olympics starting today. Also, he was Australian, so I am being a little unpatriotic.

But never mind! This man had his priorities right. He thought there was a place for ducks in any Olympic event, and so do I.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ribbet (ribbet ribbet ribbet)

The other day I was in a bookstore, up on the third floor, when I suddenly heard this sound.

That was surprising, to say the least. I looked around wildly, trying to figure out where the frogs could be. It took a couple of moments to realize that the sound was coming from my bag, and to remember that I had changed the ringtone on my phone to this sound file after recording it one evening down by the paddy field. I usually have my phone set to silent, and had forgotten.

It is not a very loud recording, and is not really suitable for a ringtone if you actually want to hear it, but that's all right because most of the time I don't. In any case, it turned out to be the perfect volume for a quiet bookstore. Only a couple of people noticed it. They glanced around, looking vaguely puzzled, and then when it stopped they went back to their browsing.

The frog chorus is what we hear at night after the paddy field is flooded, if our bedroom window is open.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What's climbing YOUR trellis?

And here's another one, because it is, after all, the Year of the Frog.

Monday, August 04, 2008


The other day I met two friends, both American, and learned something new. Two things, in fact.

The first thing was when I was telling them about a recent meeting I had with Mrs Malaprop, another friend, who occasionally comes out with the most fabulously mixed metaphors. I liked her latest one and was telling my American friends about it.

"She said she had to pay through the teeth for something," I said, and laughed and laughed.

My friends didn't. They stared at me.

"What's wrong with that?" one asked.

"Well, you pay through the NOSE," I said, "and you LIE through your teeth."

"'Pay through the teeth' is used, too," she said.

"Maybe it's not RIGHT, but it's become common usage," added the other. "It doesn't sound strange to me."


I came home and did a search on Google. Pay through the teeth got 1830 hits. Pay through the nose got 221,000.

I think that just proves is that 1830 people got it wrong, and there are more Mrs Malaprops out there than I imagined.

The other thing I learned was when I was telling a story about something. I can't even remember the story now, except that it was not a funny story, so I was surprised when I got to the bit where I said that someone had lost her rag and my two American friends choked on their wine.

I could not understand why they were laughing. "What? What?" I said. "What did I say?"

After they calmed down they told me they had understood from context what I meant by lost her rag, but had never heard it before and wanted to know where it came from.

I didn't know. To me it was just one of those idioms that you use but never think about. It had never occurred to me to wonder about its origin, or to think that it might be funny. Also, I'd thought it was a fairly common expression.

I looked that up when I got home, too.

It turns out that 'rag' is old slang for 'tongue,' at least according to the entry here. (Check under 'chew the rag.') I guess it must not be used in America.

It was a fun evening, even if it was a little disconcertingly educational.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

What's in the garden at this time of year


"It would work better if you put the food directly into our beaks."