19h and 12 time zones away

I had that dream again, of an impending flight to USA, the anxiety of my unpreparedness. “I have to fly tomorrow, there should still be plane tickets right?” The dream me thought, when in real life I would never be caught so naked, especially with such an upcoming displacement of self (guess this is my version of the naked dream that other people have. except never actually getting on the flight.)

Dream me also wondered why I was heading to Pittsburgh. “I have to finish my masters?” was my own reply. “Wait, I don’t need to finish it to get a job there,” I responded to myself. “Are you saying you don’t know why you’re going to Pittsburgh??” I spurted in surprise. My subconscious returned a 404 upon realizing it didn’t have an answer and expelled me to my conscious. After washing up and while on my way to the MRT, I remembered I already completed my masters.

Never got used to the idea of how far USA is from Singapore, and as if the amount of preparation one has to do is proportionate to the distance to the destination, I still have that overwhelming feeling of having missed something in my packing, two years after returning home. What did I forget? What will I regret?

On my first night of landing in Pittsburgh, I stayed in a Super 8 motel, waiting for the next day to get my apartment keys. Everything looked detached. Big, with so much sky. Zipping across and back for a quick burger at Arby’s, I tried to reconcile myself with all that space, felt it expanding the gap between my heart and organs. I’d forgotten something at home. Admission letter, rental agreements. Papers holding my identity into a semi solid form on this foreign land.


the stars in santa cruz, the wives in california


Currently riding on the happiness of finding a band I kept trying to hunt on Spotify, but failed to do so until just this night. Back in the days before Spotify took over my music-listening habits, I used to have a local library of about 30GB, and would listen to that whole library on shuffle on my commutes to and from school, and during nights where it was just me and the streetlamps outside.

This album I would loop while furiously trying to finish uni coursework. I first heard this band while attending a Stars concert in Santa Cruz; they were one of the bands travelling with Stars, and were so obscure (still are?) I couldn’t even find much of an online presence. Nevertheless I bought their album on the spot, after they played just 3 tracks in that concert. For me this album will always remind me of cold Santa Cruz nights, rainy nights heavy with fog, 5am nights walking back from a good chunk of life debugging C code in the lab. Being utterly, deliriously happy by myself, sometimes missing vestiges of romance I left behind in Singapore, what with the upside down topsy turvy time zones.

It feels like the people closest to me are so different from me. Where will I find my fellow literature/game/english-and-mandarin-music/art/nature-loving BFF? Or maybe Santa Cruz was teaching me to find some of my most memorable experiences through venturing out by myself… To remember queueing for an hour for a front row standing experience rocking next to my favourite band with a $30 ticket.

singapore, ltd

One reason I stopped writing was because I didn’t feel I had the right to — because the period I truly discovered writing was also my most heartbroken — also ecstatic — the lower you go the higher you fling up to on the rebound. If writing is catharsis, I don’t deserve to write, because I have nothing to confess and make sense of, feeling around with blind hands for the right words and objects.

I have also begun to feel how limited my experience is, yet am unsure how to reach beyond. It is true that I am entrenched in my comfort zone, and for as long as I am in this country, will remain so… I have gotten the rhythms of my city down pat. The furthest I go, I reach through books (I don’t delude myself that my kind of traveling expands horizons.)

In an episode of The Art of Design, Tinker Hatfield said that experiencing life is how he creates his designs. The episode is spliced with shots of him skateboarding and driving his van to the beach with his surf board. Is that the life he’s referring to, to experience? No domestic scenes in that episode; he talks about how tired he was, 20h work weeks, hardly any time spent with his wife and children. We only see them in a photo. Could be privacy reasons, or a true reflection — life to experience is very much exterior… I suppose when you consider success on a scale as his, which is defined by the exterior, you cannot expect that he is referring otherwise.

The novels I enjoy reading the most navigate the reader through thick thoughts, motives or lack thereof, constantly balancing on the fine edge of plausibility (in the sense of whether it’s possible for character A to do this, given what we know of their personality thus far).

Yet there is a jaded sense within me, that any new Singaporean I get to know cannot be too different from what I’ve known already or can expect.

Pickerel smile

Wanted to share this poem by Sarah Howe that caught my heart — it’s really about the joy of poetry interpretation.

Sarah Howe

pickerel, n.1 – A young pike; Several smaller kinds of N. American pike.
pickerel, n.2A small wading bird, esp. the dunlin, Calidris alpina.

I see it clearly, as though I’d known it myself,
        the quick look of Jane in the poem by Roethke –
that delicate elegy, for a student of his thrown
        from a horse. My favourite line was always her
sidelong pickerel smile. It flashes across her face
        and my mind’s current, that smile, as bright and fast
and shy as the silvery juvenile fish – glimpsed,
        it vanishes, quick into murk and swaying weeds –
a kink of green and bubbles all that’s left behind.

I was sure of this – the dead girl’s vividness –
        her smile unseated, as by a stumbling stride –
till one rainy Cambridge evening, my umbrella
        bucking, I headed toward Magdalene to meet an
old friend. We ducked under The Pickerel’s
        painted sign, its coiled fish tilting; over a drink
our talk fell to Roethke, his pickerel smile, and
        I had one of those blurrings – glitch, then focus –
like at a put-off optician’s trip, when you realise

how long you’ve been seeing things wrongly.
        I’d never noticed: in every stanza after the first,
Jane is a bird: wren or sparrow, skittery pigeon.
        The wrong kind of pickerel! In my head, her
smile abruptly evolved: now the stretched beak
        of a wading bird – a stint or purre – swung
into profile. I saw anew the diffident stilts
        of the girl, her casting head, her gangly almost
grace, puttering away across a tarnished mirror

of estuary mud. In Homer, the Sirens are winged
        creatures: the Muses clipped them for their failure.
By the Renaissance, their feathers have switched
        for a mermaid’s scaly tail. In the emblem by Alciato
(printed Padua, 1618) the woodcut pictures a pair
        of chicken-footed maids, promising mantric truths
to a Ulysses slack at his mast. But the subscriptio
        denounces women, contra naturam, plied with hind-
parts of fish: for lust brings with it many monsters.

Or take how Horace begins the Ars Poetica,
        ticking off poets who dare too much: mating savage
with tame, or snakes with birds, can only create such
        horrors, he says, as a comely waist that winds up
in a black and hideous fish. The pickerel-girl swims
        through my mind’s eye’s flummery like a game
of perspectives, a corrugated picture: fish one way
        fowl the other. Could it be that Roethke meant
the word’s strange doubleness? Neither father

nor lover. A tutor watches a girl click-to the door
        of his study with reverent care, one winter evening –
and understands Horace on reining in fantasy.

Here are some pickerels for you:

Credit: Charlesjssharp (Wikipedia) Credit: North American Native Fishes Association / File Photo

For completeness, here’s Roethke’s poem, which I hadn’t read before Howe’s:

Elegy for Jane
(My student, thrown by a horse)
Theodore Roethke

I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,

A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing,
And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.

Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw,
Stirring the clearest water.

My sparrow, you are not here,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiney shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover.

La belle dame sans merci

Was watching Season 6 episode 5 of Downton Abbey, and I feel just as intensely towards the show as in the beginning.

Mary Crawley’s my favourite, and I would love to be more like her — sure of herself, commanding, ambitious. This episode there was a moment that could have changed her entire family’s lives, and the conclusion she got out of that was — she had to be ready to lead. Then a scene of her, alone, framed by the columns of her house, her estate, her empire.

Perhaps I’d write a longer post on the richness of this show, how much there is to love about it. Part of it has to do with my fascination with the lives of the old English upper class (which came first, my enjoyment of english lit or my fascination?), but more than that, this show just expresses so much love towards all the household members. It doesn’t hurt that everything is gorgeous in this show — the house, the land, the costumes, and the cinematography showing the best of it. The beauty makes me ache.

The motley of characters in our LoL gang

As I grow older, the urge to express diminishes, especially when I have this convenient vehicle (cough lcy cough) to dump all my emotions and opinions on. It’s great for my mental health, but clearly not great for my creative output, which is approximately 0 at this point in time. Evidently repressed emotions are great for producing some form of art.

I’ve also grown more private, which I think stems from the utter security I feel with regards to where I am in life right now, in terms of social and material needs, etc.

In a conscious attempt to share more about my life, I’m going to introduce everyone to my league of legends gang, which claims the dubious award of being the group of friends I spend the most time with, by virtue of our shared interest/obsession, whichever way you wish to look at it.

#1 lcy
Our resident jungler and peanut-wannabe (SKT’s, best team in the world, jungler). Since he is after all my husband, he needs no introduction. This man has been playing for 6 hours straight today; his stamina is wondrous. But then again, you’re looking at Singapore’s pro-bridge player who just endured a 9 day bridge marathon (matches starting at 9am and ending at 7pm every day) with Asia’s best, so mental stamina is a given.

#2 HRHritaaa
The platinum-ranked player that looks down on us golds/silvers/bronzies from her lofty throne. The three of us — lcy, rita, and I — started playing league at the same time, but rita has left us in the dust of her heels (I’m last in the race, unfortunately). She likes playing support best and mid second. Always disconnects at the start of the game and reconnects within the next three seconds, as a sort of ritual to the internet gods. So far it has worked. When we queue and the accept phase fails, we shout “RITAAAA” even when she’s not queuing with us. Because 100% of the time she’s the one who failed to accept. Or so we say.

#3 lightningcrab
He has an assortment of weather-seafood accounts, like fogfish, thunderclam, etc. More than half the time he can be found on the TW server, performing the role of uncle agony. Mains support and top, the same roles as me. If the two of us are playing in the same game, he will pretend to ask me what role I want, to which I will answer “support”, and then proceed to reply, “Actually I want to play support today”. The question is a lie.

#4 wacqy
Our ADC. Besties with #3. Once he gave an ultimatum to crab to choose between TW server and him; TW server was chosen, so they were ex-besties for a night. When I support him, it sometimes happens that he dies, I remember I have a skill that I haven’t used, and I get the kill after using said skill. Lcy thinks that’s my strategy for not being accused of KSing, since it’s not KS if your adc is dead. Lcy is paranoid.

#5 weedee
Our mid. He used to be a one-trick pony with a godlike malzahar, but he has since added two more champions to his pool, syndra and ziggs. (I freely confess I am a zero trick pony.) Once a salty yasuo on the other side said “PRESS R ONLY I ALSO CAN” (R is the key for a rather long suppress, equivalent to a stun). I guess the yasuo can only press R and not the number key for the qss, which is an item he can get to cleanse himself of the suppress. Regularly cycles 30km in an hour, except today, when the 3pm time he gave us for being back at home to play ended up being 6.30.

#6 lelouch
He quit for a while, but it seems he’s back. Doesn’t have a mic, so is more mysterious than the rest. Can be put at practically any role. We haven’t tried having him as support, but that’s cos we have an abundance of those, if you couldn’t tell.

And so that’s the league bunch. We actually only knew rita and weedee in real life before this; weedee knew crab, crab knew wacqy, and I think crab and wacqy knew lelouch?? Anyway this is the magical power of multiplayer online games. The first time all of us met was in lcy’s and my house, because we decided to invite some random strangers. Our origin story is the stuff of animes. Probably.

Sanitary pads vs tampons vs diva cup

The title is descriptive, so if you’re not interested in the practical going-ons of bleeding down there, it’s a good idea to press the back button. Otherwise it’s a journey of TMI all the way.

1. Sanitary pad

Like most Singaporean (Asian?) girls, I started off using the pad. It’s very beginner-friendly — just paste it on your underwear. No instructions needed. That’s its only advantage over the other two products.

First, the dripping sensation is extremely uncomfortable, which distracts you from normal life. It makes you feel perpetually dirty down there. Whenever you go to the toilet, you spend a significant amount of time wiping whatever blood you see. If your flow is heavy, your pad won’t be able to absorb it fast enough, which makes you feel like you’ve peed yourself, and insecure that you’ve already leaked.

The leaking! That’s the dumbest part of it. You can be having an okay flow, but spend a couple of hours sitting down and the blood’s going to drip right down your butt, which presumably is not where your normal-length pad covers. You might as well be wearing a diaper when you go to sleep. God forbid you move around in bed.

On less significant issues, some people seem to think that the sanitary bin has a magical surface that repels the sticky side of the sanitary pad. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, it doesn’t, which means that everyone else is greeted with three soiled pads when they open the lid of the bin, because the pads are all stuck to the flap. Science.

For the less informed, this is what a bin looks like. There’s a flap that, if used properly, means that other sanitary pads are hidden from your sight and smell.

Sadly, it would be almost a decade before I started experimenting with other products. And I never looked back.

2. Tampons

When I was using the pads, I felt rather fearful of the other product, namely, tampons. It’s not exactly something I can see being demonstrated, and it’s rather different seeing anatomical diagrams on how to insert it, and gazing from above at your crotch.

Yes, this is what I see when I look at myself.

I had the good fortune to be given three samples of the tampons with plastic applicators, Tampax Pearl. In my opinion, it’s the best product to start with as a beginner. The applicators act like an injector, so all you have to do is find the correct hole down there, and shoot it in. (That’s what she said.) The plastic material makes the applicator slide more easily into that channel. Then you pull the applicator out and dispose of it.

I had a bit of difficulty figuring out what worked for me at the start, so I wasted a tampon before I succeeded. The diagrams don’t help much with that process, because when it comes down to it, you can only feel around to see which way your tube goes. For those who played my period game, yeah the second scene was how I felt.

(My period game:

So, slight learning curve. After that it changes your life. Say goodbye to drippy feeling, say goodbye to sanitary bins (you should switch to the cardboard applicators, which are more environmentally friendly and can be flushed down the toilet), say goodbye to wiping furiously. It’s great! You can even forget that you’re having a period!

Except don’t, because tampons come with this huge warning on every instruction sheet: TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME. Namely, don’t leave it inside for more than 8 hours, otherwise you might die suddenly.


Damn! You might think. That sounds like way too much risk! For periods?? And you’ll be right. But hey, just don’t lie in on a saturday morning, don’t use super absorbent tampons when your flow is light, and you get to reap the benefits of this glorious product without dying!

But how do I tell when I need to change my tampon? You might be wondering. You can’t really tell with confidence, at least in my experience. If you feel like it’s heavy, or if you see stains on the tampon string, those are good signs to go by. Nevertheless, if you’re worried, it’s a good idea to just line your underwear with a pantyliner.

If your flow is super heavy, it’s more reason to use a tampon! You can use a pad on top of (or should i say below) the tampon, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll leak.

You never have to worry about how you’re sitting or sleeping!

Um, can you lose your tampon inside your vag? I’ve to say this is highly unlikely. It has a very long string.

And no, it doesn’t hurt.

3. Diva cup

After gaining confidence from successfully trying the tampons, I set my sights on the cup for a good few months.

I was in the states by then, and they were charging $30 at the time, which made it an investment of sorts for something that might not work in the end. Of course $30 is not that high a price to try something out, given that you pay that amount for a restaurant meal, but everything is relative and I was thinking about how a box of tampons was only 1/5 the price… ANYWAY, eventually I got around to seeing the value of this investment — no more worrying about whether I had tampons with me! No more spending money on tampons! ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TO THE MAX! So that’s how I ended up buying it.

Even then, I only used it sporadically until a couple months later.

The learning curve of this is steep, baby. They have so many youtube tutorials advising you on the various ways of folding it when you insert it, and then letting it pop out after that, and it’s still hard. It hurt when I didn’t do it properly (eg, it prematurely pops out, or you pinch your insides), it hurts when it’s not deep inside enough… but once you’re past that, boy is it the best product.

It (so far) doesn’t run the risk of TSS. Laze all you want on Saturdays!

No monthly installments to sanitary product companies (and the government, if you’re in a country that calls your tampons a luxury item.)

Fantastic at dealing with heavy flows — it holds about 25 ml. Apparently a regular sanitary pad holds 5ml? If you don’t leak at some random spot.

Because it can hold so much, you can wait till you’re back home to take it out and wash it. If your flow is too heavy even for that, wiping it with toilet paper in a public toilet is a good temporary solution.

Bad part: you have to deal with cleaning it. Duh. Emptying the cup is actually quite interesting (a sort of satisfaction?), but it can be quite messy when you remove the cup, because blood is gooey. It’s ok once you get past the initial aversion. Just part and parcel of being a woman. Babies are grosser.


I’m using the diva cup now, so clearly I prefer it to the other two. I worry the least about leaking with it, and I don’t need to keep an eye out on my supply of pads/tampons. I also feel good about its environmental impact.

Here’s a handy table summarising the pros and cons of each product:

Sanitary Pads Tampons Diva Cup
 Learning Curve  Low  Mid  High
 Sensation  Worst: drippy feeling all day  Great: normal life proceeds! Great: normal life proceeds!
 Frequency of changing  High  High  Low
 Hygiene/smell  Worst  Best: pull it out and replace it. Don’t even have to look at the tampon.  Great when you’re just doing your normal toilet business. Emptying it brings you face to face with the menstruating demon, but that’s just two minutes of staring into the devil’s eyes. It doesn’t smell either.
 Risk of leaking
High  Mid: no need to worry about body posture, but you won’t know for sure when to change it. If you add a liner/pad, you’re pretty much invincible.  Low: can hold so much blood you probably don’t have to change it.
Health risk Probably none  Significant if you can’t remember to change your tampon  Low
Long term cost
Mid-high: cheaper than tampons in SG, at least when I was still using tampons two years ago High Low: you can use the same cup for years. I’m not even sure if there’s an end-date. Just factor in the cost of the soap used to wash it.
Environmental Impact
High High Low

That’s all, kids. Sanitary Products 101.