30 April 2021

Lamingtons: The story behind that heavenly Australian(?) cake

lamington (ˈlæmɪŋtən)
1. (Cookery) Australia and NZ a cube of sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing and desiccated coconut.

(Photo credit: Ganache Patisserie)

God, I wish there were lamington drives here - you now, where kids go from house to house selling lamingtons for fundraisers.  I had my first taste of this divine cake in 1995 in Melbourne and have fallen in love with it since.

As Aussie as Vegemite and the baggy green, lamingtons come in various shapes, sizes and flavours.  But because I'm not really a fruity jam person, I much prefer them in their traditional form, i.e. slightly stale spongecake with chocolate icing and heaps of desiccated coconut.  Over tea, every cube carved out of a whole square-foot serving would go down quite nicely, thank you.

22 September 2020

Travel is education; learn to see the world differently

 "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness,
and many of our people need it solely on these accounts.
Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things
cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner
of the earth all one's lifetime."
- Mark Twain
I first came across this passage years ago while reading Mark Twain's travel chronicle, The Innocents Abroad.  Frankly (and as they probably would to most 14 year-olds), the words meant zilch to me at the time - so much so, in fact, that they came across as little more than a mouthful of masterfully-penciled literary jargon.

14 June 2020

No history on History (Channel)

Anything that's ancient will likely have some element of history (and possibly even some degree of historical significance) attached to it.

Is that a fair statement?  

By every conceivable academic and social norm of understanding, I'd say yes.  I mean, if a subject is ancient, chances are it's historical, right?  And if it possesses especial historical value, one could reasonably assume that it may even feature on the History Channel (or simply "History" as it's known these days).  After all, isn't that what history's largely all about?  Ancient civilisations, ancient cultures, ancient battles, ancient artifacts, ancient folklore, ancient aliens; historical things and events which we ought to appreci....  Hang on!  Ancient aliens?!

1 May 2020

We live, we die; but how prepared are we to go?

Remember that scene from the 1994 romantic comedy-drama "Forrest Gump" where Forrest returns home to Greenbow, Alabama in the autumn of 1975 to visit his mother who was dying of cancer and where this exchange between mother and son took place?

Mrs Gump:  I'm dying, Forrest.  C'mon in, sit down over here.
Forrest Gump:  Why are you dying, mama?
Mrs Gump:  It's my time.  It's just my time.  Oh, now, don't be afraid, sweetheart.  Death is just a part of life; something we're all destined to do.  I didn't know it, but I was destined to be your mama.  I did the best I could.
Forrest Gump:  You did good.

21 April 2020

What is "Aotearoa" and what exactly does it mean?

AOTEAROA (pronounced "aO-tay-a-rOa") is the Maori name for that beautiful, pristine island nation we know affectionately as New Zealand.  Several meanings are attached to the name but, as is the case with many Maori names, its supposed true meaning and origin is found in both mythology as well as in historical fiction.

Essentially, there are two schools of thought with regards the origin of the name. While some believe Aotearoa is made up of two words, i.e. Aotea and roa, others suggest this number to be three, i.e. Ao, tea and roa.

16 April 2020

The ups and downs of travel (Port Campbell, Australia)

"You were pushing 131 km/h back there", said the tall patrolman.  He was so brawny I swear he could easily break me in half if he'd wanted to.  His cool Ray-Bans aside, I'd just been speed-trapped and pulled over by the Victorian Highway Patrol in the middle of some of the lushest eucalyptus forests in the world.

"You can get away with it in South 'Straya but not on my turf", he went on.  Not wanting to get into deeper trouble - certainly not on foreign soil - I offered a meek apology, explaining we'd been in a rush to get to our destination before nightfall.  My wife's face had by now turned markedly pale.  Mine must have as well, I think.

8 April 2020

Carry on, Jo: Jo goes to the supermarket (Covid-19)

"Of course I know what shallots are!", Jo snaps into his cellphone.

"And cumin?", his wife went on, worried.

"Look, I've consumed more cumin in my lifetime than you have rice!", retorted Jo loudly as he struggles to manoeuvre the rusted shopping cart with his other hand, not realising how imbecile he'd sounded to the other midday shoppers.  "And stop calling; you're embarrassing me!"

31 March 2020

A true Malaysian ghost story

Most of us who are born - more so bred - in Asia will tell you how hard it is to completely detach ourselves from the supernatural.  In a culture where the belief in ghosts and ghouls is as prevalent as it is deep-rooted, any unusual incident that cannot be scientifically or plausibly explained is almost always attributed to the paranormal, regardless of faith or piety.

I was born into a reasonably well-read, church-going Malaysian family - so when it came to strange occurrences, goosebumps and all else in-between, my father would always tell us to first seek a rational explanation.  While, more often than not, his stance would prove prudent, there have similarly been a handful of strange events that were as inexplicable as they were curious.

18 March 2020

COVID-19: 5 things you can do while under quarantine

Let's be honest; none of us could have imagined that it would come to this. This Covid-19 pandemic has blindsided us with such ferocity that, before we could say "novel coronavirus", many familiar things around us have become, well, unfamiliar.  In just a few short weeks, the world as we know it has seemingly gone from frenzied to snail-paced.  It's become so quiet.

As I write, many countries have shut their borders; air travel dwindled to a trickle.  And now countless of us the world over are told to STAY AT HOME in an effort to break the chain of infection.  Under the circumstances, I suppose that's hardly an unfair - if somewhat unpopular - directive; after all, drastic times call for drastic measures.  And whilst isolating oneself isn't exactly the most thrilling prospect on anyone's bucket list, adhering is the least we could do to help stem the spread of this bad, bad virus.

13 February 2020

Look up; learn to coexist

“Look Up” is a short, 5-minute film that explores, through a movingly powerful narrative poem and a cinematic love story, the real science involved in the use - or rather, the mis-use - of social media as we know it.

It boldly speaks of the negative as well as anti-social aspects of social media in our world today and overtly describes how ours has really become an age of "idiots, smartphones and dumb people" - an age where we've become "slaves to the technology we've mastered".

18 January 2020

Rethinking aging: The fine art of aging gracefully

I've always wondered why so many people resort to spending megabucks on Botox trying to look younger than they really are.  Or willingly go under the knife - with no recourse whatsoever against the surgeon - and risk looking like the caricature that is Donatella Versace after it's done.

Although I know modern society is insanely-quick to point out the negative aspects of aging (even having us believe aging is taboo), I feel that us 50- to 60-somethings shouldn't allow ourselves to get drawn into this cruel hype - we're far too wise for such things - because once we start losing sleep over aging, it will consume us at some point and drive us up the cuckoo's nest.

1 December 2019

How reliable is travel insurance? (A true story)

So, exactly how reliable is travel insurance?  Very, actually - at least most times it is. What is certain is that travel insurance has become absolutely essential these days in view of the multitude of very real risks associated with modern-day travel - from missed connections due to industrial action to contracting a flu strain while abroad to having some crazed fanatic hijack the flight you're on.

And so it was that one such misfortune should befall my wife and I in the spring of 2010.  We'd just arrived in London, England by train when we learnt of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption in Iceland the previous day and, consequentially, the potential closure of airspace over vast parts of western Europe.  At the time, we didn't for a moment think that our travel plans would in any way be affected.  After all, such things only happen to other people, right?