Monday, April 25, 2011

Reading Music

Just a quick (maybe not so quick) post just to inform everyone/anyone who reads this blog that my blog posts will be slowing down for this week or two because:

a. I ran out of books (although thankfully, I borrowed two more today, although it's negated because:)
b. I'm going to focus on that book review that's long overdue for Into The Book.

Plus, I'm supposed to be really busy, but I'm just trying to find the time. It's all about priorities after all(:

I also re-started piano lessons today, and it's rather scary how accurately Aunty Florence can read my character from my piano playing. Today's lesson was half pep talk and half scales(: And I realised how much I miss scales, because they're so constant for me.

One thing that I really remember, is that Aunty Florence was telling me how I'm not an emotional person, which is why I can't play romantic pieces like Chopin and Debussy. And she's totally right, and probably the first person to realise it without me telling them.

I suppose it may be because I'm the first born (Compliant First Born?) and I'm really scared of being reprimanded, so from young, I've more or less trained myself to try and behave 'correctly'. And I realise it, because when I'm angry, although I do blow up sometimes, I normally just scold the person in my head. And whether I do lose my temper depends on how well I know the person (Which is another point she made, that I'm easily thrown by unfamiliar environments and situations).

But if you tell my friends, they're probably going to go into shock. Because I behave in a very affectionate, emotional way. I remember once last year, when I was simply thinking on the way to a Church camp, but my fake brother thought that I was depressed because I was neither reading nor talking. Weird how you can classify behaviour isn't it? But I really think that it's my MG training, because honestly, I prefer solitude. Yet, I crave affection. It's a paradox isn't it? But whenever I wonder about paradoxes, I'm reminded of GK Chesterton, who wrote something about how Christianity is born out of the paradox, the clash. I'm pretty sure it was him, who made the difference between the Buddhist symbol, which he described as a snake with it's tail in it's mouth, in order words, a never ending circle that it stagnant and cannot change. And the cross, which at it's heart is a clash, but has the potential to continually grow outwards.

But back to music. I haven't played in very long, and it feels so good to touch the ivory keys again, even if it's only scales. Or maybe because it's scales, because I've always found a comfort in it. I have problems with my pieces, to be specific, with the expression. I think it's because reading music requires you to give something of yourself when you play it, and because I'm innately reserved, it's hard for me to do. Reading books, while require your involvement, don't seem to require so much of me as playing the piano. Perhaps it's because when you play, you're revealing part of yourself, even if no one is around.

So yes, I'll be away for a short while. But I hope to be back soon(:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Orlando, Florida

I came back from the States a few days ago, and weirdly, adjusting to the jet lag here was much harder than adjusting to the jet lag there. But once I finish playing catch-up to my work, I can finally focus on writing that test review for Into The Book(:

The funniest part about being in the US was all the places that people though Singapore was in. (If you don't know, Singapore is in South-East Asia, just below Malaysia, but I'm sure you knew that already). The most common response was "Oh, so you're from China", although there was a person who thought we were part of Africa, then the Middle-East. I'm not too sure how to respond to that, but then again, Singapore is a very tiny island-state.

Much more flattering (at least to me), was being mistaken for a Japanese, although I have a feeling it's because I don't speak with a Chinese accent. After all, the teams from China thought I was from Hong Kong (Although I feel that my Chinese is too poor for that!).

The trip there was very uneventful, and very long, which meant that I finished Mansfield Park before just randomly walking about on the plane, eventually giving Literature and Chemistry lessons to my juniors. Hence, when I was getting ready for the trip back, I bought many books (7 to be exact) from Target and Page One, Hong Kong. They aren't very thought-provoking, but they are fun to read. Although, I still had too much time left on my hands.

The trip back was more eventful though, with a baby throwing up on Shahdan, and then, Shahdan spilling a cup of coffee on himself. I was also prevented from returning to my seat for about 3 hours, so I sat at an empty chair and read/re-read my books(:

I had planned on writing a very long piece on my trip, but now, I don't seem to have any inspiration. I do, however, have snippets that I wrote while in US (on my iPad), when I assumed I could work them into this post. But I think they sound rather cliched, but you can judge for yourself:

The first thing (and only complete prose) I wrote was when I saw the sunset from the plane. I really recommend everyone see a sunset from that altitude at least once in your life:

The sunset from the airplane is breathtaking, perhaps more so than the sight of the sunrises. The bottom layer of blue, which seemed more like purple (at least to me) melded with a lay or pink (coral pink?) and a final layer of yellow. As I paused from reading Northhanger Abbey every few minutes or so, the purple-blue gradually swallowed up the pink and yellows, til the sky was a deep, beautiful blue; not the dark of night, but neither the warmth of sunset.

This reminds me, I also finished Northhanger Abbey on the plane, which means the next ebook I'll be reading is The Mysteries of Uldopho.

Then next thing I wrote was on the last day, and is more of a list of ideas/points/guidelines (I'm a terrible packer, and I had to 'force' my friend, who is a guy, to pack my luggage)

Thoughts while packing/Packing rules:
1. Pack the absolute minimum, then pack some more
2. If you know you are going to shop, or even if you don't, it's a good idea to leave some luggage room, about one quarter, although some of my teammates left their luggage three quarters empty, which makes a half-empty luggage the norm. This helps when you're packing on the last night.
3. Plastic bags are essential for storing dirty clothes, and they don't take up room
4. Bring an expendable bag to use as hand-carry luggage
5. Never wear contacts on long flights

As you can see, it gradually deviate (I don't know how, there are only 5 points), to a list of things to do on long flights. Most of which, I learnt the hard way (especially about contacts). The last thing I wrote, and which I'll end of with, deals with time (but not in a deep, philosophical way)

The nice thing about Florida is that it has exactly 12 hours time difference with Singapore, so there's no need to adjust your watch, although it makes it rather confusing when you're trying to figure out what day of the week it is.

Monday, April 11, 2011

East and West

I managed to finish the two books before I leave, so there's a good chance I can send a audition post to IntoTheBook by Easter! Anyway, I read two radically different books, well, more of finished two books today, which makes me so happy(:

The first book Dear Jane Austen takes a "What if Jane Austen was an agony aunt?" approach. Although, at first, the tone of the book is annoying, since it takes a rather weird first person approach (which is fine for letters but not for reported conversations), and although it stays annoying, the book does gradually grow on you, and I really enjoyed it.

The cool thing is that I picked a book mark at random to place in the book, and it turned out to be the Jane Austen Bookmark I had, that declared that "There is no enjoyment like reading", which is from my favourite book Pride and Prejudice(:

The other book is called Kickboxing Geishas, and is probably more of a sociology book than anything. It aims to examine the changes and the driving forces behind the modern Japanese women. I have to say though, this book was very enjoyable and informative, although I do wonder how accurate it is coming from a gaijin. Or would a book written by a gaijin be more accurate?

That's a thought to consider.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

8 Sandpiper Way (Cedar Cove) by Debbie Macomber

I've been so busy this past week, getting ready for competition and trying to finish all my work at one go. But, at least I've finished another book, and with any luck, I'll finish another two by tomorrow (if I can finish my work in time), before my flight on Tuesday 6am.

This book is another Debbie Macomber, but it isn't one of her Blossom Street Books. I couldn't find one that I hadn't read at the library, so I choose a book at random and found this.

The blurb is quite interesting, since it's written in a form of a letter to the Reader herself (assuming no guy ever reads this book). The plot was quite interesting, with the Pastor's wife suspecting her husband of having an affair. As usual, the book is very believable and the characters interesting.

The only thing I don't really like is that the characters aren't connected sometimes, unlike Blossom street where though they have their own separate stories, there is an overall thread connecting them (such as the love of knitting and the shop). And if the book focuses on one of the characters, well, the others do appear, but they don't take up much space. In this book, I didn't see the link between all the characters, only a few, which was a bit disappointing.

However, it was still a very good read overall.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Grammar Ninja

Just a little bit of background: STOMP is having a grammar ninja contest, which I alerted the ninja's (ninja) in my HL3 class too, and we found an error.... in a user submission. This is the short back and forth between STOMP and me (And the original letter is not by me, obviously. My linguistic capabilities are far from this)

Dear Eustacia,
Please note that the sentence you have picked out is part of Azmiah's entry to the contest.

As such, his suggestion might not necessarily be correct.

This is why it is labelled 'correction suggested by Azmiah'.

2011/4/7 eustacia tan <>
To whom it may concern:

I write to bring to light an error on the "Grammar Ninja" competition page of STOMP, which I do believe may be considered a public place for all relevant purposes; after all, the page is readily accessible (and hence public), and -- although clearly incorporeal -- one is said to "visit" the page, allowing it to be considered as a 'place', albeit perhaps not a physical one. 

It is all the more pertinent that mistakes on a page pertaining to a contest whose participants so clearly purport to "fight against bad English" be quickly identified and corrected. While browsing the entries -- and the relevant suggested rectifications -- I noticed a somewhat ironic error on the submission of one "Azmiah". For elaboration, refer to the attached image.

The implication made in submitting said entry, that the statement "our business are closed from..." might be even remotely grammatically correct, is a grave affront to the sensibilities of anyone with even a rudimentary command of English grammar. The noun "business" is clearly singular, and hence -- in keeping with the building block of grammar, subject-verb agreement -- must be paired with, in this case, the singular intransitive form of the irregular verb "be"; that is to say: the word "is". Using the plural form "are", as Azmiah has, should under no circumstances be allowed.

Applying grammatical principles in the manner suggested above, the actual correction should thus be "our business is closed from...". 

Thank you.

Yours truly -- and with no small amount of concern,

Eustacia Tan

Vienna Blood (Frank Tallis)

I've actually read two books: The Japanese Money Tree and Vienna Blood, but I have a feeling that The Japanese Money Tree, being a book about investing in the Japanese market, isn't going to interest anyone, except me. And now, I really really want to buy GLP, and Japan REITs. Sigh, not enough cash sadly.

Going back to the topic, Vienna Blood is another book in the Dr Max Liebermann series, this time investigating a serial killing that begins with the murder of a snake. It's a giant snake, but I can't remember the exact species -.-

But anyway, considering that this book is fiction, and the book where I learn the most about Jung and Freud (At least until I read Dream Psychology), it's really educational. And exciting. Two things that rarely go together. The best part (or, at least, a really good part) is chapter 30, which is a conversation between Freud and Liebermann, which explains a bit of Freudian theories. There's another chapter, but I can't recall what it is. But it's fun because we're learning Siddhartha in class now, so most, if not all, of HL3 can relate to the terms in the book.

I had fun reading this book(:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Night Shore (Kristin Hannah)

At my trip to the library on Saturday, I managed to borrow another book by Kristin Hannah, called Night Shore. It's a story about finding yourself, like the other books I read, yet it managed to maintain it's originality.

Basically, the story is about a couple, specifically Birdie (Elizabeth), who feels "empty"about, well, her whole life. And to make things worse, she doesn't know what she wants. But when her husband lands his dream job through a lucky break, she knows that she definitely doesn't want to go to New York with him.

And she does something that really is 'shocking'. She decides to separate from him. Unlike most American novels, where separation=divorce (because the woman 'finds herself', which is really bad morals), they get back together at the end, even more in love than before.

That is truly a happy ending(:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Leading with Kindness(:

Today, I managed to sneak a book into my reading, and I realised that there were many personal applications possible. The book, Leading with Kindness, is basically about CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) with regards to the workplace. But, even though it's for management (I'm reading because it's interesting, and it's related to BM anyway), there's one or two key concepts that we can learn from. One of them, is the age-old "failure is necessary and inevitable", the other, is interesting...

Basically, it uses the concept 39+1>40+0. And even though mathematically, it's not true, what it means is that in a 40 hour work week (which I understand is the standard amount of time), a person who spends all 40 hours just working isn't as productive as the person who uses 1 hour plan ahead. It's actually very true, and really illustrates the basic concept of time management: you need to plan ahead if you want to manage your time effectively.

But all this aside, I realised that the "Lead with Kindness" concept that they were talking about actually reflects very closely, if not identical to how the Bible we says we should treat workers. Like Jesus said "Love your neighbour as yourself", and this is one of the two commandments that all the Law and Prophets hang on. And what is loving your neighbour as yourself? Isn't it treating people with kindness?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Warning signs):

I saw a book a while back, called Twitterature. When I went onto, I actually saw a fairly lot of negative reviews, but for some reason, I ignored them. Well, I borrowed the book from the library and read it today, and I wish I listened to the reviews.

The main point of contention is the liberal use of vulgar language throughout the book, and for some reason, my borrowed copy didn't have 50+ pages because one set of pages was printed twice -.-

Other than that, I did have fun reading through the "tweets", although the books were really really different from what I remembered. I'm pretty sure that they changed the plot quite a lot, adding anachronisms and 'metafiction' elements. Sometimes, they worked well, sometimes they didn't.

Well, this time, I learnt my lesson. Now, I want to read "Ophelia joined the group Maidens who don't float: Classic Lit signs onto facebook". From all the reviews, it looks really amusing and expletive-free, and actually 'follows' the plot more(:

The other book that I read was called "Leadership". And, well, I'm not going to say too much about it, because I read it as a supplement to BM Class. It's a good 'theory' book with applications, and fairly interesting to read. But, there's not much I want to say bout it.....

(Darn, for some reason, I can't think of what to post about the books. Sorry for all the boring posts guys/gals)