Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Could Be Anywhere, Really

I am in Barcelona and in Production Mayhem. It is relentless. And massive. With 20-hour days sometimes. For 4 days now, I have been within the 4 walls of the hotel business centre.

It's 1.06am.

That is all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blueberry Smurf Delight

By the time you read this, I'll be *HOPEFULLY* on a plane to Barcelona.

All trains were full, we couldn't get any tickets. The last flight out tonight was cancelled (no night flights in & out of the country coz of the ash situation). So I hope we make it there tomorrow.

Today feels like the longest day of my life, what with the travel situation adding more drama to an already tricky shoot. 15 - 30 minutes of yoga, pranayama or meditation is all I've got time for on weekdays. I need it.

BUT ANYWAYS... a while ago I mentioned the Beige Heaven versus Blueberry Smurf Delight neighbour's apartment. Since the hot water decided to blow early this week, I had to go back there again to shower the past couple of days. ANNOYING.

So I took my camera with me one day. Coz it's a funny apartment too. (Bear in mind this carpet is brand spanking new. It really reminds of the kind of carpet you have in an office. Not in a home!)

Er... I suppose this place makes me glad I got the Beige Heaven instead? (sinking floors, broken shower tiles and busted boiler motors and all...)

Ask me again when something else gets broken next week. Ah, the glamorous advertising life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cycling Around Amsterdam

As promised, here are the photos I took while cycling around Amsterdam over the weekend. We cycled for 4.5 hours!!

Of course, this was interspersed with about... oh say, 3 tea breaks in between with coffee and cake. :)

Amsterdam is BEAUTIFUL. I mean, my little world around the canals is just that - my LITTLE world. On the bike, you get to see so much more... A good friend of mine that I work with too decided that I haven't seen Amsterdam yet if I haven't seen it on a bike.

He dusted off a spare one he had, we went to the cycle store around the corner that had a bicycle pump to get some air in the tires, and away we went.

I can't remember the last time I was on a bike. Was a tad wobbly at first but I still managed to reach my hand in my pocket, switch it on and snap pix. HA!

Here's a fumbling-around shot which looks quite cool.

We rode through one of the parks that went through a lake and was surrounded by the Amsterdam Forest on the other side (5 minute ride out of the city and you're near the FOREST?!) ...We also saw some modern house-boats. These are the ones that are actually not really boats like the ones you see on the canals in the city - they're concrete barges cemented to the river bed. And they look like proper houses.

We passed by these really funny "concept houses". They're called "garden houses". Y'know... us city folk who live in the city who have no room to grow a garden? You can join one of these clubs where you get to rent a patch - complete with a little cottage on the premises and a garden out the back. So like how some people have a "beach house"... people in Amsterdam have a "garden house". It's hilarious.

I tried to take a shot of this stretch of garden houses. It didn't come out well as it's a side shot. The row of garden houses is behind the canal.

We then moved out of the lake/ country area and rode into the city. I actually rode a bike through the city. We went through major intersections, through the red light district, through all those people and cars... And I survived and didn't fall off my bike once!

In the red light district, I had visions of snapping photos of the ladies in the store windows while riding by on my bike (so they couldn't run after me with a bottle of pee coz I could out-pedal them)... But that was wishful thinking. It was too crowded to manouvre through the cars and crowds AND take photos with one hand too!

We rode through Vondelpark, Amsterdam's version of Central Park. It's huge, and there are many lakes running through it. Because it was a lovely day, people were having picnics all throughout the park. We had to stop for tea here, of course.

On the other end of the park is the Film Museum. So we stopped here too for another cup of tea on the terrace. Here's the bar inside. I really like its oldskool ceilings and photos of famous stars.

This is me by my bike and the Amstel River. The first thing I thought was "why does my face look so fat?!" (which explains why I've kept the picture small. Hehe.)

The End.
PS. I might have to jump on a train this afternoon to get to Barcelona 16hrs later for tomorrow morning. Damn Volcano!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mother Nature Blows Off Steam

This volcano situation is completely unbelievable. Europe has pretty much ground to a halt because of all these cancelled flights. The ash gets into jet engines and reacts to become glass, shutting off all engines. It happened to a BA flight a few years ago - ALL 4 engines shut off mid-flight when they got too close to volcanic ash (plus, the electronic equipment can't pick up that anything is wrong before it's too late). So, to be safe, all of Europe is now banned from flying.

At this point, produce is rotting in warehouses, medicines with short shelf-lives have to be destroyed coz they can't get to their destinations, and even people waiting for donated organs are dying.

It is unbelievable how much we rely on planes for daily living.

On a more "trivial" scale... I am now stressing about how to get about 40 - 50 people... clients, agency, talents, crew from all over Europe to Barcelona for the shoot that will be taking place next week. A 1-hour flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona is now 14 hours on a train. That is, if we can get any train tickets since everyone else stranded by the flight situation has the same idea.

Propellor planes are still OK to fly, provided they can find any airport in Europe that's not been shut. Besides, which celebrity is going to want to get in a prop-plane for what should be a 1hr flight that's now 5hrs?

I've done more fun things over the weekend - like bike all over Amsterdam, with some great pictures too (one-handed riding while taking photos!) But there's still something wrong with my internet connection at home, so at some point I'll find a way to get this uploaded.

PLUS... Get this. Now that the shower tile has been fixed in Beige Heaven, guess what decides to bust up now?!

I have no more hot water.

I give up. Is there a ghost living in the apartment that's playing tricks with me? It's back to showering in Blueberry Delight - the Smurf house next door, AGAIN. Good thing I brought my camera with me too. Got some shots of the blue place to share.


Now back to my mayhem of a day. Hope you have a good week.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Practice: On My Mat & In My Head

I came home from work at midnight last night, and though I'm back at my desk at 8.30am, I wanted to write a little bit here about what I've been working on, yoga-wise.

Not much.


Not really... I've not had the time to have full-on practices. On Wednesday, I was up at 6am and flew to London just for the day, taking the last flight back that same day arriving home at 11pm. It's been lots of early mornings and late nights like this. We are prepping this big shoot in 1.5 weeks, so the heat is ON.

On top of this, sometimes the insomnia strikes as well... which pretty much cancels out any hope of waking up early to get any yoga practice in, if I've been tossing and turning all night. Well, at least not a FULL practice anyways.

So I have been doing short forms. Not DS' short forms from his book, just whatever I feel like after a few rounds of sun salutes in the primary series. Some days I've done some pranayama and meditation. And even these short 15min or 30min sessions help to centre and focus my mind. But some how I seem to just dismiss these little sessions as "not a real practice". It's all I have time for really, and it does help to centre me, so what's my problem again?

This is the thing with an Ashtanga practice I need to be mindful of... so much of it seems like attaining the next goal "When can I get the next pose?" ...But really, that isn't the be all and end all, is it.

Just do your practice.

So much wisdom in that simplicity.

There've been some interesting Twitter comments on people's thoughts on short forms - that it's not authentic, that it's not yoga, blahblahblah. I mean... Really?! Some practice is better than NO PRACTICE. It's all yoga, no matter what form you're into (asana and beyond). And the way I see it, this is my short-term plan for the state my life is at the moment. I'm not planning on doing a 15min practice daily forever. And even if I do... how is that "not yoga"?

ANYWAYS... Yesterday morning I had time to practice the full Primary series. I've been watching more Kino workshop videos on ArkieYogini's site. This video's the same one Arkie linked to, and because it's so great, I'm re-posting it.

Kino's breaking down jumping back from Padmasana, but the first half of it is pretty much breaking down a regular jump-back. The good thing about me not having a full practice in the past week means that I've been THINKING about the practice a lot. This is one of the videos that has been re-playing in my mind.

Remember how I'm working on getting rid of that foot tap on the mat as I'm jumping back? It clicked a litte bit more after watching Kino break it down.

IT'S WEIGHT-TRANSFERENCE. As you're swinging back, you're transferring the weight into the upper body.


I've been focussing on trying to clear the feet through, so I've been thinking "shoot the feet back!" When really, at the same time I should also be leaning forward more too. I've been dreaming of these jumpbacks in the past week and it felt so logical, so easy. So when I finally got to practice fully yesterday, I realized how much harder this is in real life. HAHAHA. As I'm swinging back, my arms are almost straight. In order to transfer the weight forward MORE... I need to bend the elbows pretty much to 90 degrees - hence tipping the weight forward. I had visions of smacking my face flat on the floor as I was doing this. And I actually grazed my chin slightly on the floor.

Also, the other thing is the feet need to be tucked in really, really, really close to you THE WHOLE TIME (extreme core!)


Makes sense. Why are my feet tapping/ dragging on the floor? ...coz they're not tucked in close enough to the body. DUH.

The practice continues...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Descending into Beige Hell

Radio silence on this end because:
1. The internet was busted at home over the weekend
2. Work is getting helluva intense (more waking up after 2hrs sleep to be insomniac the rest of the night)
3. Home practice for the past week has died (because of erratic sleep patterns too)

I know this is a time when practice is just what I need but I honestly haven't got the time in the mornings nor in the evenings. I've only managed 3 sun salutes most days. Some days adding Prasarita A and C (my faves in that sequence) and then some forward bends.

I was almost going to say "bad yogi" but stopped myself there coz hey - at least I try to get on my mat. :p

In other news, Beige Heaven is not so heavenly. After returning from Easter in London, I stepped into the shower only to notice a crunching under my bare feet. A couple of tile bits had chipped off.

On closer inspection, there was a hairline crack in the tile!!

So then I call the landlord who calls his builder "The bathroom, it's recently re-done!" Long story short - it wasn't just a HAIRLINE crack, it was a crack. Period. Something about the previous builder not glueing down the tile evenly or something, leading to uneven er... something (weight distribution?) which led to the crack.


This meant waiting for the builders to come today to hack out the shower floor "It's all wet underneath!!"

Yeah, this meant a soggy, wet, messy trail from the bathroom through the kitchen out onto the balcony outside.

OK, at least they used trash bags to line the khaki shag carpet. I was too upset to think to take pictures of what was going on outside.. they had an entire tile cutter machine thing and were mixing putty outside. The whole balcony is F*&#KED.

So now I've got new BEIGE tiles (of course, what other colour could it be) and a new shower floor.

BUT... I can't use it yet coz... they have to come back tomorrow to silicone-seal the whole damn thing. No shower till end of the day tomorrow? Time to get a day-pass at the gym (just to use the shower).


Good thing as I was on my way out after the builders left, I bumped into the landlord and his wife who were... er... "redecorating" the flat across from me (Yeah, this guy owns all the flats in this building) He is the absolute sweetest landlord EVER! They were extremely apologetic for the inconvenience and mess... And gave me the keys to the flat they were doing up next door since no one is living there yet - so I can use the shower there.

I was ever so grateful. :)

And OH BOY! If my apartment is Beige Heaven, wait till you get a load of the neighbouring flat. I hereby declare it: BLUEBERRY HEAVEN.

Brand spanking new blue carpet (perfect for an office!) and blue everything, everywhere. I'm secretly glad I got the Beige Heaven with RED accents now. It's like they wanted a girl-tenant for one apartment, and a boy-tenant for the other. HAHAHA! Now I'm trying to scheme a way of trying to check out the upstairs flats and see how gender-neutral/ specific they are.

Incidentally, the internet was busted coz the carpet guys installing the new blue carpet next door had unplugged the wireless router (the whole building's wireless is routed to the box in Blueberry Heaven.) Ha! I dunno why you needed to know that, but it gave me great satisfaction to get my internet back.

This whole building makes me laugh. If I have time tomorrow I might just snap some sneaky pix to show you the Smurf Flat. Hehe.

Friday, April 9, 2010

RIP Malcolm McLaren

I will always remember the day you were yelling like a mad man down the phone at me. And then I put you on speakerphone for the entire office to hear your tirade. HAHAHA! (Yes, try negotiating money with Malcolm McLaren. Tough.)

You were Rock & Roll to the core. :)
PS. He also invented everything from the '70s onwards.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Handsome Man Fest

Another flat-out day at work = Time for a brain fart. An ogling-at-handsome-men brain fart. Excuse me, but I've been working out the budgets on this job for A WHOLE MONTH now. Let's just get this show on the road already!!!

"I'm Handsome Hawke."

"He's wearing Spanx."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

London: In & Out

London is an amazing city to visit. Every single time I'm there, I can't help but feel all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the sensory overload I get from the place. BRIGHT LIGHTS! BIG CITY!


I've been fortunate to have been there quite a few times over the years - my sister went to University there, so did one of my best friends, and my brother and another best friend are currently living there. So there was always a reason to visit. I've pretty much done most of the "touristy" things already, so I'm sorry if this post ain't as juicy with the touristy things to see and do. :p

I literally went to London to hang out with my little brother and his wife, whom I haven't seen in TWO YEARS!! As luck would have it, one of my besties, Oi (y'know, the one whose wedding I went to in Bali last year?) is also living there.

Since I was early to Schipol Airport, I had another little wander around - they've got part of the artworks from the Rijksmuseum AT THE AIRPORT!! It's in this interesting-looking box that sits on top of the rest of the airport. You can kinda sorta see the artworks through little window slats from downstairs.

I flew the budget airline, Easyjet. Er... this is the first time I've flown on an airline that has... NO ASSIGNED SEATS?! When I looked at my ticket, I was like... "eh? Where am I sitting?" As you can imagine, it's a mad rush for people to be first in line when they open the queues to get to the airplane. I dunno man, these budget airlines make travelling extremely affordable, but they've really taken the wonder and glamour out of air travel. This was just like a glorified bus ride. POO!

I rather enjoyed the ride on the Gatwick Express into London though. It's a half-hour ride into the city, but it really felt like 15 minutes just coz... well, this country-bumpkin was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the "sights" outside. (There really isn't much to see. It just felt different. Haha.)

The rest of the weekend passed rather uneventfully... it was extremely nice and chilled out to hang out with my brother and his missus. They took me out to one fancy restaurant after another, and even went to the trouble of cancelling and re-booking places when they realized I'd turned mostly vegan ("mostly vegan" coz I have the occasional croissant. Heh.)

I would've taken pictures of the places (and the food!) but er... I didn't want the posh places to turn their noses up at this bumpkin. HAHA! My bro & missus kept insisting that the restaurants we were at weren't the posh places at all... but I guess it's coz in Europe, everyone DRESSES UP to go anywhere, and places are all decked out (we spotted Bill Nighy in one of the Italian restaurants we were at!) Here's a picture of him, all scrubbed up and in his glasses. He looked like this in the restaurant, not like the ageing popstar he played in "Love, Actually".

(Picture credit here)

No wonder Lululemon didn't do well when they tried to enter the EU market. HAHAHA! No one dresses up in their sweats here like they do in the US or in Australia! (Juicy Couture jumpsuits are only used as PJs in Europe, I'm sure.)

As my bro's still recovering from quite a bad illness (wiped him out for 3 weeks), the most he could manage was to go out for a meal but then he'd be tired again afterwards, so we spent most time hanging out at home, playing video games. Just like when we were kids.

On this trip, I played Guitar Hero for the first time on the PS3.

WOAHHHHHHHH!!! Now I see what the fuss is about this game. It's extremely fun, although I really suck at it.

My bro & missus have THREE guitars AND A DRUM KIT!!! So we could play like a proper band. Him on the drums, his missus on lead guitar, and because my hand-eye-rhythm coordination was so crap, I got stuck on the bass guitar (but still failed the band repeatedly, even on the "beginner" setting).

The funny thing about this game is... you get so sucked into it, thinking that you're really playing the songs as they're coming out from the TV volume, but when you really take yourself out of it and look at what's going on in the living room, all you really hear is the clacking of plastic bits as people are "strumming" their guitars. All in our PJs. It is the most insane phenomenon.

The one major outing we had was to Harrods. I always end up there every time I'm in London. And I never end up seeing the whole store. It's just so big, with so many different rooms you just get lost.


The sign at the bottom says:

Everything about the place is so over-the-top. It's like a museum and a store at the same time. The escalators have an Egyptian theme to them, with lots of little over-hanging balconies. My bro says on some days, they have an opera singer on one of the balconies singing opera songs as people traipse up and down on the escalators. (WTH?!?)

This is the first time in the store that I've been to the pet dept. The entrance to the pet dept:

I'm NOT for puppy mills at all, and don't agree with selling pups in stores... and guess what Harrods sells? But of course, all manner of designer dogs. (A chihuahua costs £2,000!)

This was my favourite section though... the blinged-out dog collars. Gold collar with gold diamantes for Hank?

Then of course there's the infamous Food Hall in Harrods. I've always loved these fruit & vegetable chandeliers. Funny thing is, I'm looking more at the decor of the place than at the stuff they sell! (My bro had never noticed the chandeliers till I pointed them out)

Macarons from Laduree, bro's missus' favourite!

And amidst all of this OTT opulence, right outside the store, there were people picketing for shoppers to boycott Harrods because they sell fur.

I wandered around the streets for a bit on my own, and while walking home, I came across this sign that made me laugh and think "Hey! That's where Borat is from!" (Poor Kazhakstan, I think that's the only thing they're known for now, and even that is fictional!)

On Sunday morning, I took the Tube to YP to practice with the highly-recommended Cary. I met Globie there... so nice when blog-life and real-life meet! While practising, I was so thankful that there is a lineage to this practice, that the teachers authorised or certified by KPJAYI all teach from the same page, with a similar outlook and philosophy. So I could just rock up to a shala in London, unroll my mat, and VOILA! Everything is as it should be.

Cary knew my teacher in Sydney and Singapore, and it's nice what a small world the Ashtanga community is. She let me practice my usual up to Laghu. I got a nice assist in Supta K... after I bound my arms behind me and scooped my feet together, just as I was getting my right foot to cross on top of the left (before ducking my head under), she helped me get both legs behind my neck, then lifted them up after 5 breaths - absolutely ZERO-FUSS, and done just like my Sydney teacher used to do it. I LIKEY!

The one "new" thing for me was in Mari D - after I bound my arms together, she came over and rolled me backwards and down so that both sit-bones were flat on the floor. On the right side, this meant that my left knee (bound in half-lotus) was sticking up in mid-air (psoas too tight for it to lengthen down to the floor?) I realize now that I'm only sitting in the pose on one side (on one sit-bone). But this has always been the way I've been adjusted by all other teachers before - almost like you're leaning forwards, which causes you to sit on the side that is bound into the lotus. See, like Sharath here:

(Photo credit here)

See how his right sit-bone is slightly off the floor? Mine's like that too... and Cary rolled me down onto it. I'm not sure if there's a "right" or "wrong" way to be in the pose... it just felt different sitting in it this way, with both sit-bones on the floor. Very interesting and different shift. I guess this is how one can keep refining the asanas.

The one thing that really got to me was earlier in the morning, the Tube was EMPTY. It was ghost-town, like in the movie "28 days later".

However, after Globie and I had had post-yoga coffee (coffee for me, tea for him. How English!) ;p it was like the whole world had come to life and the trains were stuffed to the brim.

I still can't get over how London is so over-populated. Globie says it's like this everyday. And the trains come every 3 - 4 minutes, so it's not like there aren't enough trains. There are just too many people! And it's EVEN MORE packed than this on weekdays. No wonder people here are so aggro and stressed out. As my brother was driving us around to the different fancy restaurants, there were so many aggro drivers on the road... even my brother himself was really aggro. If I had to be packed like this on the train EVERY SINGLE DAY, I too would become a walking stress-ball. Ah, big city living.

Here's me and Globie, packed on the Tube:

And then I found the most delightful... er... restaurant? A vegan one in a double-decker bus.

There are so many pretty patisseries in London. Even the local deli round the corner has a beautiful pastry display:

I had my fix of hot cross buns (er... 5 buns in 4 days!)

I spent Sunday night at Oi's place, just catching up on life since her wedding. It was really nice to connect with friends and family again - especially since my life in the past few months has been pretty topsy-turvy. It's been a little bit solitary in Amsterdam - which is nice coz it lets me get into my head a little bit, but after this weekend I realize how it was great that I could finally talk about all the other things I've been thinking about with friends and family.

The one thing that got me riled up was the information counter ladies at Gatwick Airport. Because I had checked in online, my boarding pass didn't have the flight gate info. It wasn't up on the board either, so I made my way to the counter that said very clearly: FLIGHT INFORMATION. And I went to the lady at the counter who had the: EASYJET sign behind her.

So when I asked her very nicely "Excuse me, pls would you tell me which gate my flight is at?" She asks "Which airline are you?" And I reply "Easyjet". She gives me this dirty look and says "I'm not with EASYJET" ("EASYJET" said very condescendingly... like in a "you bloody riffraff" tone) I was like "Oh, excuse me, I'm sorry but the sign behind you says clearly "Easyjet". She was nice enough to take my ticket and look up the gate number for me in any case.

She wasn't the problem. The problem was the British Airways counter lady right next to her. She looks at the security guard standing next to me and says very loudly to him "Why don't people just look at the BOARD for their gate information? It's all there!"

I was like... WTF?!? You passive-aggressive witch! So even though she wasn't speaking to me, I shot back at her "Excuse me, I'm sorry but the info wasn't on the board, which is why I came here to ask!" And you know what this FLIGHT INFORMATION COUNTER LADY says? "If it's not on the board that means your flight isn't ready for boarding".

I'm sorry, but that's just CRAP SERVICE. You are clearly working at an information desk and you will expect to get LOADS of morons asking more silly and inane questions than the one I've just asked. It is part of your job to provide FLIGHT INFORMATION. I bet she's part of the BA union who keeps striking. Pffft! If it's so unpleasant for you to be nice to clueless tourists, THEN QUIT!!!!

*End of Rant*

That was what I really wanted to say to her, by the way. But since I didn't, it's here on the internet, for all the world to see. Oh, I even took a picture of the counter. HAHAHA. This is as close as I can get to "name and shame". The BA Lady is the brunette one in profile with the white long-sleeve shirt. :p The lady who wasn't with Easyjet managed to get me my gate number very easily and without fuss. She's the blondie in blue jacket. (see the orange sign under the sign for Menzies? The orange sign says Easyjet. So... what's a clueless tourist supposed to think if you're standing in front of it, right?)

On my way to the gate, I came across this ironic poster - highlighting Gatwick Airport's service standards. I tried to look for the row on "Customer Service", but it doesn't exist. There's only a row on "Flight Information". For "accuracy and ease of finding flight information" they were ranked 4.3 out of 5 for the month of February. I would have agreed with that if I hadn't come across the BA Counter Lady. She alone pulled my ranking of the place down to 1 out of 5. FAIL.

Beware if you have crap service, I have a camera in my pocket! HAHAHA!

Hope you had a good break too, and wishing you a good start to this 4-day work week. :)
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