November 28th, 2008

Don’t Skirt the Issue

I was barely 20 and it was my first “real” job. After receiving the letter of appointment, I had to read a set of company rules I had to adhere to, one of which outlined the acceptable dress code for women.

Me: “I have an issue with one of the rules written here. It says here that all women should wear skirts.”
Mr. Manager: “Well, we’ve always had that rule. Just follow it.”

At that point in time, I really, really needed the job, so i didn’t argue. The problem was, I only had two office-worthy skirts then — a poorly-cut tulip skirt that made my bum look big and a frumpy brown pleated one that will make anyone‘s bum look big.

I didn’t have enough money to get a new wardrobe, so I worked out a schedule of sorts — I’d only wear skirts on days where I had to go on a meeting with the big bosses.

This went pretty well and the numerous times I got “caught with my pants on” were non-issues with the heads, all of whom were males (well, except for one lady who was rarely in the office) so after awhile, I stopped my skirt timetable altogether. Some of my longer-serving female colleagues initially questioned my brazen non-skirt-wearing attitude but then went into an “I wish I could wear trousers too” mode.

A few months after I started work there, the company appointed a new HR director. One of his first exercises was to talk to each and every employee.

Mr. HR Director: “… anything else you’d like to clarify?”
Me:”Um, there is this small thing… about wearing skirts. I don’t see why I have to conform to it.”
Mr. HR Director: “And I don’t see why you should!”

That dress code was apparently written when the company was formed in the 60s or 70s. And since no one had raised concern over it, it remained on the list 30 years later. Mr. HR Director said he’d see to the abolishment of the dress code (for both men and women) and though I didn’t really believe him then, I was quite happy to finally be able to talk to someone who wasn’t from the Dark Ages.

Weeks after that, one of my female colleagues was seen in a smart pair of slacks excitedly announcing that “it’s okay for women to wear trousers in the office now.” Well, well.

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June 11th, 2008

Reboiling Points
Boiling Water Multiple Times Not As Harmful to Health As Thought

There was an elderly tea lady (let’s call her Mrs D) at the place I used to work. She wasn’t a tea lady in the traditional sense who’d wheel her trolley of goodies at teatime — she prepared refreshments for our weekly meetings — but she loved observing me while I brew a cuppa in the office pantry, which made me slightly nervous at times.

I was about to make myself a cup of instant coffee one day when I found the electric kettle filled with enough water to make a warm cup of coffee. Because of the ridiculous subarctic temperature of the office, I preferred my coffee tongue-scalding hot so I did what I thought was the obvious thing to do — I turned the kettle back on.

Shocked Tea lady Already anxious by her mere presence, I was startled silly when Mrs D boomed, “What on earth are you doing?! Why are you boiling the water again? You’re not supposed to do that!”

I told her about my coffee temperature preference but she continued disapprovingly, “but you’re not supposed to reheat water that’s already been boiled!!!” When I tried asking her the reason why she kept saying that I wasn’t supposed to. I asked another colleague who happened to be there and she said the same thing, “you’re not supposed to boil water multiple times because it’s not good for you!!!”

Outnumbered with no desire to argue, I left the scene with a less-than-hot cup of coffee.

Being the naturally curious person that I am, I decided to ask the rest of my colleagues about this. The consensus was nearly unanimous(a few had never heard of it) — you shouldn’t boil water more than once — the reasons were similar – reboiled water is not good. Why exactly? They didn’t have an answer.

I wasn’t convinced and brushed it all aside as old wives’ tales. However, despite my numerous make-coffee-while-no-one-is-around attempts later, I kept forgetting to research the reasons and origins for this theory.

Coffee Beans

5 years later

I was at a coffee house while waiting for my camera to be serviced the other day when out of boredom, I decided to read all their coffee and tea leaflets. There was a section devoted to the importance of using fresh water for brewing coffee and tea. I didn’t think much about it until much later when I was making meyself a cup of coffee at home.

Remembering the Water Mystery from half a decade ago, I consulted my friend Google: Reboiled water causes cancer? – not true unless your water is already toxic to begin with. Reboiling causes water to harden? – not true either. Then I found this:

10 Tips for A Better Cup of TeaTea Leaf

The more oxygen that is dissolved in water, the better it tastes. So, to make sure you use water with the maximum amount of oxygen, don’t re-boil any leftover water in your kettle. Water that is boiled too much becomes poorly aerated because oxygen atoms escape in the form of steam. By always filling your kettle up afresh, you are ensured fully aerated and tasty water.”

Ten Tips for a Betta Cuppa-Fresh Water, Best water MSN Encarta

Mystery solved.

Edit: Thanks to the comment by Mihai, I suddenly remembered learning about water aeration in school. Here’s a bit more on that:

Aerated water is, correctly speaking, distilled water to which purified air is added to improve its flavor. Wikipedia”

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April 25th, 2008

If You’ve Never Failed, You’ve Never Lived
An Inspirational Video About Famous Failures

I was lucky to be taught by an exceptional teacher in school. No, she was not exceptionally good. In fact, she was the direct opposite. For some reasons, I was always one of the few people she constantly picked on, but that day was the culmination of her greatness. [Read more....]

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April 4th, 2008

Gently, Quietly

The weather is cooler today.

I’m transported back to the time we were walking along the tree-lined avenue of Omotesando, near Harajuku Station. We strolled, in the gentle autumn breeze, all the way to the end of the road, where it got quieter and less crowded. At one point, there was only us and the trees; the luxury stores literally minding their own businesses, behind their imposing facade. A beautiful place, a beautiful moment.

I took in the majesty of that delicious solitude with a tinge of fear. I was afraid I’d never have that feeling again. In a few minutes, we’d be met with the bustling, Blade Runner metropolis that is Tokyo. But what was worse, in a few days, we’d be back home, pining for a little bit more time to satiate our wanderlust.

Tree-lined avenue

The weather is cooler today. As I saunter back home on a busy street that has mysteriously quieten, I feel as though I’m back at Omotesando, just me and the trees. :)

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March 29th, 2008

Ants in My Pants

I was out all day today.

Fire AntIn the morning, while waiting for a cab at a very crowded area, I felt a tingling sensation running up my legs. After awhile I realised I had my feet just an inch away from a mound of large, red ants and, predictably, a few had crawled up my feet! I started stamping about like a mad person in the middle of the crowd. Amazingly, I managed to shake every last one of the angry looking ants without getting a single bite! I did however, squash one particularly big one to its death. I’m so sorry ant, it was a reflex reaction.

The rest of the day went by quite uneventfully until the time I had to go home. Bigheaded AntsI was happily hippity-hoppity-hopping way down a long stairway when I decided to skip a few steps. This proved to be a good move as I would have plunged my feet straight into a colony of big-headed ants otherwise. What are the odds of my narrowly missing stepping on an ants’ nest twice in a day!? Counting my blessings, I continued walking down the flight of stairs with trepidation.

A few minutes later, I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green when I thought I felt something crawling on my feet again.Crazy Ant Obviously after two encounters with different groups of ants, I was extra sensitive today but what I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that I had my feet, once again dotted with ants — this time fast-moving orange (red? yellow? crazy?) ants. And once again I had to do my crazy dance to get rid of all of them. After moving away a safe distance, I noticed that I was standing just a mere inch away from a very bustling ant highway, 3 inches wide. An inch away! Again! The third time today! Thankfully, I didn’t get bitten at all! Phew!

Too much ant drama for one day.

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