Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Irony

What a difference three weeks make. Irony is what I feel right now.

Exactly three weeks ago, the picture painted was bright and rosy, all planned to draw the viewer closer in, to take a better look at the beauty of it all, to savour it and be part of the composition. It was without a doubt, a A+ masterpiece.

Three Sundays later, while the picture did not seem to change much from the viewer's point of view, the artist has decided that the work is no longer a masterpiece. In fact, there was just something wrong with the composition, just that one can't put one's finger on it, to say why the painting just doesn't work. Is it the light, the colours, the subject? One just can't say conclusively. As such, it was better to destroy the work right now before more time was spent on refining it, because afterall, fundamentally, there was a flaw, an unknown flaw, and hence cannot be remedied.

So the work was destroyed, with all the same certainty it was a failure, as it was a masterpiece three weeks ago.

The abruptness. The finality. The irony.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lazy Australia Day

Now that the weather has started to warm up for the summer (ok, at the time of this entry, the weather's dipped back down to 20C in the night), it's a really nice time to experience Sydney's outdoors. Last weekend was spent in Palm Beach, this Friday was Australia Day and we went to Centennial Park for a picnic. Although many people and their dogs had the same idea, the park was huge and there was plenty of room for everyone without having to picnic anywhere near other people if you choose not to. Dogs ran freely everywhere and came right up to our cooler bag (after packing 2 picnics in the last 2 weeks, I thought it was time to invest in a cheap cooler bag) to sniff, explore and even lick it, in the hope that they would be able to get to our food.

I had packed:-
a. a sweet chilli tuna and avocado spread over walnut sourdough loaf;
b. salad;
c chocolate chip rock buns;
d. savoury biscuits with an eggplant dip;
e. a mango;
f. virgin pina colada.

Tossing a frisbee (frisbee ring rather?) around was plenty of exercise especially if one keeps missing it and has to run all over the park to pick it up. It was pretty sunny, I made sure I had slapped on plenty of sunblock and kept my shades on. We didn't even get round to the mango nor the biscuits with the dip. It was altogether an extremely lazy and pleasant day out.

I am getting used to this laid-back great outdoors option that this city has got to offer. The nice weather and the numerous parks and beaches all within easy reach by public transport really make it conducive to just do as much or as little as you like outdoors without busting the wallet. More lazy summer days to come I'm sure...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Erratum: Palm Beach

Apparently a news article today reported that the temperature yesterday at Palm Beach was 41C while the water was 18C. And I'll bet the sand was 50C.

Absolutely crazy.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Palm Beach

I have been unusually slack in blogging recently, I realise that. Just that I have suddenly been drawn more into the "real" world vs the "virtual" one which I have been inhabiting over the past year. By choice in both situations, just that now I think it's time for me to re-join the real people, have real social interactions, interact with friends of flesh and blood rather than spending all my time chatting on the IM which served as a good distraction for most part of the year just past. I guess in a way it is a new year's resolution, to live a more "real" life. I feel somewhat like a prisoner being re-integrated into society, not seriously so, but in some ways, and without even knowing it myself. Maybe not harshly thrown back into society, a little more like cruising in on a wave, with some smooths and some bumps, like the body boarder in the photo.

Anyway, this week has been the first real hot week since Spring started. Well, there was really no Spring actually, it just went from Winter to Autumn again and then skipped into Summer finally. It was 37C today, we were going to Palm Beach. We stopped for coffee and grabbed some food and finally arrived. Staggering into the sand was a shocking feat. The sand must have been about 45C or more. Even wearing thongs (as they call slippers here) was not protection, a bigger mistake was removing them as they got sucked into the sand as I tried to scurry as quickly as I can to get to cooler ground because, without the little rubber between the heat and my soles, I think I've got some blisters forming now. My feet felt prickly and painful after I completed my trek, I had to run to a tap and run water over them, like a burnt victim. Even now some 5 hours after, my soles still feel prickly. I think I now know what the devotees who walk/run on hot coals at the Hindu temples go through during those festival days. Except they probably feel no pain because of their undying faith or whatever it is that keeps them safe. I, on the other hand, felt like instant blisters were forming on my soles with each painful step I took on the sand. The sanctuary of the cooler sand looked so near, yet so far from my sufferings.

The water strangely, was icy-cold, about 20C I would say. The news had reported a cold current this weekend and boy, was it cold. I probably got up to knee deep (and that was not by choice either, but to retrieve a frisbee that I had thrown accidentally into the sea) before I decided I should get out of the numbing waters with the pounding waves and strong current pulling me in. It was so icy your feet actually hurt from the cold. Of course that didn't stop the guys, including one who was not even wearing a protective suit, from getting into the water for some action.

For the most part, I sat under a big beach brolly on a chair, with my cotton long-sleeved shirt on. I got some sun and some colour but not burnt which is good. I got up after lunch to throw a frisbee around and after that, retreated back to the cool protection of the brolly. It was a pleasant, lazy day. I should able to sleep well tonight, after almost 2 weeks of very bad, fitful nights of insufficient sleep.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Second Christmas

I had another Christmas lunch with MLA's family on 7 Jan, the day which Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas, according to the Julian calendar. It was another feast but this time I exercised great restraint since one of the ER doctor's thought that my chest pains could have stemmed from stomach acid reflux. I just overate enough to have to miss dinner that night. *burp* The honey and soy sauce chicken drumsticks done Chinese style was really something, MLA's mum had learnt that from a Chinese co-worker.

The girls started reminiscing about the spring rolls MLA's mum used to make and she said the recipe was coming back to her although she hasn't made them in a long time. She needed someone who knows how to roll the spring rolls to help her roll as her arms were giving her problems, so I jumped to it. And got myself another invitation back for a spring roll party. Being adopted by them is a great thing, they have made me feel so much part of the family.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Pleasant Day Out

Today was nice and sunny. It was hot, hot, hot for the first time in months. It was even a little humid. I ambled down to my old neighbourhood and had a quick wander round the Surry Hills market, looking out to see if anyone had that old retro glass juicer resting on the measuring cup that I am hoping to find. I had seen a emerald green one at the Antiques Centre and was hoping to find it cheaper at a weekend market or opp shop. So far no luck.

The day passed pleasantly with a stop at the cafe for a latte, then to a contemporary art gallery. I didn't like most of the works except for 2 very minimalist paintings. After that, it was lunch time and lunch was at the cafe at the swimming pool near the AGNSW. It was a very nice cafe with a gorgeous view of the wharf and the inviting blue of the swimming pool beneath us. Interesting views also of bodies of various shape, size and colour baking on the pool deck. Lunch was a duck salad which was pretty good with the rocket leaves and a generous sprinkling of nuts which added to the layering of textures of the dish, there was no pungent "ducky" smell. I enjoyed the salad and the view very much.

Had a good look around the AGNSW, I think I had missed several of its galleries the last couple of times I had visited. I particularly like the 3 large Cy Twombly's "Three studies from the Temeraire, 1998-99" panels displayed in the main lobby. They were my favourite in the whole gallery.

After the art gallery, another coffee stop on the way home. All in all, a very pleasant Saturday.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Live Now, Live Well

I'm still trying to recover from the chest pains, occasional sharp stabs, not much of that, but still some. This morning when I reached my arms over my head to lift the family-sized Nutella bottle off the high pantry shelf, I must have strained myself cos the sharp pains returned after having subsided a bit yesterday. I realised I mustn't laugh cos that hurt as well. I did the lie-on-the-left-side test this morning before getting out of bed (and that is the most sadistic thing to do cos it brings on the pain like you have never felt it) and it didn't hurt so much. Hence, my conclusion is I'm getting better. Or rather I am willing myself to believe in that and THEN I can get better.

I had gone into work this morning, so many things to do. But I know all that is not important compared to what I've been through and I've decided to try to take another week off and tag that to my home trip. I'll see if the airline would let me change my flight without a surcharge. I think not having taken any time off last year and coupled with this health scare, I am entitled to 3 weeks off. And I've worked my tail off resulting in my accumulating all those excess work hours the last couple of months. And speaking of working hard, I had put in 7 hours at the office today and then had come home and done another hour on the phone with India. I just feel I'm quickly sucked back into the full-time routine rather than my supposedly focused project work on a part-time basis. Well another term of uni and I'll be back to full-time employment I guess.

Since in this ironically scientifically-advanced time and age, death and age no longer have a direct relationship, we should never postpone our living. Live now, live well.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My New Chair

It was another case of memory being better than reality.

I went back to that Vinnie's shop where I saw that chair which I (had earlier convinced myself) absolutely must have. This time the wooden legs and back look less sleek. The hard leather upholstery was actually PVC. It didn't look like a designer chair from the 60s after all. I looked at it from different angles, placed it in front of the mirror and looked at the reflection (in case I missed something). I sat on it a couple of times again. I mull over whether I should part with A$25 for this chair, when I've been picking up good, functioning chairs for free off the streets. More than that, I had intended to ship this chair home with me when I'm done here. Now do I still want to do that, having to factor in shipping charges as well?

I sat on it again, the back support was still very good. I think that was the factor that swung the vote. It didn't look as sleek but it still felt as comfortable. And it was obviously made of good, hard wood which had lasted well over these years, it was still in really good condition. It may not be a designer 60s chair but it was probably still at least a couple of decades old. I envisioned having different mismatched chairs around my dining table in the future, each with a piece of personal history behind it. Not 4 matching chairs from Ikea.

I like that idea very much.

Monday, January 01, 2007

My New Year's Day

How did you spend your New Year's day?

I spent the first day of 2007 in the ER. 10 whole hours. Yes, I finally decided I would go and get myself checked out. The ongoing chest pains was not a good sign coupled with the tingling pain radiating down my left arm. The doctor ordered a slew of tests: ECG, blood, urine, chest x-rays. I was hooked up to the machine, getting my heart rate and blood pressure monitored, wires coming out of me seemingly from several places on my body. (The photo shows an example of all the sticky gel thingies they stuck on me to attach all the leads from the machine, not the exact spots of course) Additionally, in the afternoon, when my chest pains which had subsided in the late morning, returned after a trip to the bathroom (maybe the short walk there was exertion enough), the nurse hooked me up to an oxygen tube as well (pure oxygen is so... icy cool, a bit like toothpaste). Man, I had the full works, it's a good thing my mum wasn't there to see me, she was already sounding tearful when she rang me earlier. And this was serious, mum rang me about 7 times in less than 24 hours (and before this, she'd never rung me).

But before all that, I had a "real" ER experience. About half an hour after I was admitted (they were pretty efficient, got me a bed within 10 minutes), the paramedics wheeled a man in. I could only see his white distended belly from my cubicle. I remembered thinking "did he fall into the Sydney Harbour and swallow a lot of water?". I could see a doctor's rhythmic pumping from where I was, all the ER staff were either helping him (going "1, 2, 3" and lifting him off from the stretcher to the bed) or standing and watching the resuscitation efforts. I see the doctor's movements, I see the distended belly, I see the flat line from where I was. "Call it, call it" I was morbidly saying in my head, one of those "Grey Anatomy's" moments ringing in my mind. He did call it - "11.20". It was over. They drew the curtains around him and the crowd disbanded. A staff came and drew my curtains around me, before I could even wonder, someone opened them again, I see that the man's body has been wheeled out of that cubicle, he was no longer in there. They were trying to "protect" us from the unpleasant sight. I wonder if he did fall into the water and that's how he died.

I didn't see much (or any) gore or blood (apart from my own IV needle they left in my arm for the whole 10 hours, "just in case we need to give you medicine through there". When the nurse finally removed it from my sore arm, the needle head was about 5 cm long and covered in my blood, I was shocked it was so long and thankfully I didn't attempt to remove it myself when the nurse who was supposed to do it disappeared - I had started to peel the adhesive tapes off but left the needle in) today, for that I'm thankful.

I heard a lot of stuff though. Thomas on my right, was apparently covered in blood, from falling down and hurting his head after drinking 24 beers on New Year's eve. I think from what I can hear and piece together, he's probably a homeless person. The nurse took a urine sample from him, which I inadvertently saw (the sample not the procedure) because the nurse took the container of blackish liquid and said in a loud whisper to the other nurse, "look it's so foul and it stinks". I couldn't help but look as she walked past my bed holding up that container. Argghh. And then I heard someone suturing his head which was bleeding and they told him he's got blood in his brain and they cannot release him. He sounded like he was in a bad way, but probably best he was in their care than out on the streets. He kept trying to climb out of bed and they were so gentle yet firm with him, and they had to clean him up when he dirtied himself, and they were kind to him too. The nurses really have a good bedside manner at this hospital.

Later that evening, I also heard some violent shouting outside the ER security doors. Some guy was freaking out and peppering every other word with f*&^(%$#. The staff who was talking so calmly to him was a woman, I was surprised they didn't send a man to deal with him, but maybe a woman would appear less threatening and calming to a nutcase. She was cool and collected talking to him, he continued shouting. I couldn't tell if he was a patient or a visitor. Thankfully, they didn't let him into where we were all lying helpless. I half expected someone to blaze in with a gun.

Apart from the excitement of listening in on other people's woes, I was pushed in my bed to the x-ray room. I wasn't allowed to walk there myself! It was a strange perspective looking at things from lying down in a bed, being wheeled around.

And finally the doctor came in to talk about my problems. It wasn't the same doctor as the one who first saw me, it was the obese doctor who had been lumbering around the floor. He turned out to be a gentle giant, again someone with a wonderful bedside manner. I got a little worried when he reached out to pat my hand, when I asked him so what was wrong with me, after we had talked for ages about my pains, and other symptoms and activities that trigger them, family history, lifestyle etc. I immediately thought of the worst, but he actually reached out to take my pulse, why he had to do so, with the heart rate monitor in front of him, telling him exactly what my pulse was, I don't know. But he had ruled out heart problems, said all the blood tests showed that i didn't have damage to my heart from a heart attack, the ECG was normal. My family history (or lack thereof rather) and healthy lifestyle do not put me at any risk of heart problems (he acknowledged HE was more at risk than I was, and he was the same age) although he did qualify that anyone could also drop dead from a heart attack. He thinks the most probable cause was stomach acid reflux, which can also cause symptoms similar to a heart attack, like the chest pains, tingling in the left arm and pain between the shoulder blades (which I subsequently had while in the ER). It could also be an inflammation of my lung lining from a viral infection. But he is betting on the reflux and prescribed some really strong anti-acid medication and gave me a letter to go see a GP who can prescribe a stress test and a referral to a heart specialist if necessary.

Well at least that puts some concerns to bed, even if there is still some remnants of the pain in my chest and left arm. And the hospital food wasn't half bad, in fact I thought the meat loaf for dinner was pretty good.

And I'm leaving you with some nicer images of New Year's eve. I had glimpses of the fireworks from my balcony, just above the trees and the street light (that's what that white spot is).