kiri win

Mostly public

This journal is mostly public with some friends-only entries that will primarily be visible to my close real-life friends.

I'm currently in the process of importing my thousand-ish entries from my mammoth Diaryland journal which I have decided to abandon because it's not letting me archive my entries. Hopefully that would be done sooner rather than later.

Leave a comment if you want to be added.
Charah coffee

34.

It feels appropriate to write an entry on my (34th) birthday even though I haven’t written in here for over a month. The good news is, the paucity of entries here is directly related to the near-daily writing that I have been doing. That is: I am (finally) writing a novel, a proper one this time, not the fanfiction crap I did two years ago. Having said that, there’s no good or immediate reason why writing a novel has to lead to my not writing here at all. Still: there hasn’t been that much to say, has there? It’s not like my life has been teeming with excitement, new opportunities. It’s still the same old shit; only difference being that I have Covid as a handy excuse for the complete non-event that my life has become.

In all honesty, my life has never felt as pointless and dull and empty as it does now. I have no career; as expected, getting the PhD lost its lustre the second it happened; and the realisation that I am 34, thirty-fucking-four, and have pretty much nothing to show for it, have done nothing of significance so far this year, is pretty damn depressing. Sure, I am playing the game, the academic game, but half-heartedly at best; and the paltry money I’ve made has only eased my finance-related worries somewhat. It has not made me happy. Finishing the novel might make me happy, but I’m certain that once it’s done - if it’s done – I will hate it and put off the revision until it becomes just another Word document in my hard drive. And I honestly don’t think it’s going to be any good anyway.

Clearly, I have not found the solution to my perpetual negativity. Sigh. I don’t know why I’m like this.

Here’s a tiny silver lining though: E and I are going to move into our own flat sometime around the end of the month. I can’t wait. It’s been trying camping out here in his flat, mostly because one of his housemates, this 20-something dude, is probably one of the most disgusting and dirtiest people I’ve ever had the misfortune of living with. He’s also rather socially awkward, and mumbles when he talks so I don’t understand what he’s saying half the time, so I’ve stopped trying to make conversation. I’ve even stopped saying hi when I see him due to the couple of times he’s said nothing in response when I tried to be polite. So why bother? Also, it’s already bad enough that he’s a carnist; but he buys these really crap, cheap meat and cooks them without seasoning and at a very high temperature, so the whole flat smells like burnt dead animal body part (which is fucking disgusting in and of itself) whenever he cooks meat. The smell even lingers until the next morning. And because he doesn’t wipe off the surfaces properly, the hob still smells like his cooking the next day when someone else (usually me) uses the hob. I really can’t wait until we move out.

This entry wasn’t supposed to be a complaining one about a person who will have absolutely no significance in my life very soon. But I don’t have time to get into the thing that has been troubling me for the past few weeks, and which provided the impetus for my novel, because I have to leave the flat in 20 minutes to meet John, who’s coming up from London just for my birthday. How nice. He’s forgiven for not remembering when exactly my birthday was, as Raffael revealed to me in our group chat.

Lastly: I am supposed to be in Singapore now. The plan was to return to Singapore in July. I am obviously not in Singapore. This Covid shit, the sin of ALL carnists, has fucked with my life so badly. Thanks to Covid, I didn’t vote in the General Election last Friday. I think my homesickness may reach a fever pitch that I would just risk catching Covid on a 12-hour flight and fly the hell home in December.

Have to go.
fuckyou

Angst

I had some white wine with E and his housemate last night while watching a film called Clemency. I don’t know if it was the wine, or the fact that I hadn’t been drinking very much at all; but two glasses of it caused my entire body to flush a bright red and some parts of it to itch. My desperately drinking copious amounts of water to stave off the physically painful effects of the alcohol (i.e. muscle aches in my legs) woke me up in the middle of the night. While floating in between deep sleep and no sleep, I tried to resist the pressure in my bladder because I knew that I would have immense trouble falling back asleep if I got up.

But it was irresistible. I got up, peed, and got back to bed. Then lay in the darkness, eyes wide open, mind filled with thoughts soggy with anxiety. Such as: it’s already May and I have done nothing to improve my CV. Such as: when was the last time I wrote? When was the last time I worked on any sort of writing? Such as: this freelancing shit is a waste of time, but what do I do for money if I don’t do this?

There’s also the perennial problem. The things that I feel like I ought to do are not certainly the things that I want to do. The things that I certainly want to do are not the things that I feel like I ought to do. And this seemingly unceasing conflict has produced inertia, a retardation, the opposite of drive; and so avoidance, stress, anxiety, confusion.

Four years later, post-PhD, a rightful claim to an ego-stroking title, and I still feel as if I am not good enough. I still feel dreadfully and thoroughly inadequate, like an abject failure, a pathetic and pitiful nobody.

I should take a break from the freelancing. But what do I do for money? Yet, if I keep doing this for the money, the things that I should do but am not doing keep me up at night. E said he can support me, but no. He can’t. Even if he could, I absolutely hate relying on someone else for basic things, let alone money. I already feel inadequate enough as it is; why exacerbate that? And yet, this isn’t sustainable, and it is meaningless. I don’t know what to do.

I wonder if I would be happier or less confused if…I don’t know, where do I start? Where should I start? If I hadn’t gone to law school? Am I really still harping on about that? If I hadn’t left the profession? Do I really think that I would have survived any longer than the time that I had given it? If I had been the type of lawyer that I had wanted to be? Do I seriously think that I have the emotional toughness and detachment to stomach endless disappointments? If I hadn’t done the PhD? But what would I have done? Do I really think that I would have abandoned the idea?

The conclusion is simple, isn’t it? My life has unfolded in the exact manner it was always going to. But then again, this isn’t accurate; this is question-begging. It assumes that I wouldn’t have chosen anything other than law school. So yes, I guess I am still harping on this. I am still naming it as the cause of my constant dissatisfaction, unhappiness, lack of fulfilment. How would my life have turned out differently if I had chosen differently? It is a fantasy to suppose that I would be writing if I had chosen differently. Because here’s the thing: what has the choice to write, or not to write, got anything to do with the decision as to what subject to study at university?

I need to stop faulting myself for the choice that I made. Not only is it useless, but it is also a cowardice: it allows me to shirk responsibility for my present failures by blaming it all on my past failure. But it’s past; it’s done; and I’m here now, with three fucking law degrees, and it doesn’t matter at all that perhaps I’d never really wanted them, or needed them. They are mine, and so is this shell, this void, this constant failure to be the person that I want to be.

Maybe things would change once I start seriously taking ownership for the things that are within my control, and letting go of the things that are not. One can always hope.
Charah coffee

Cold Weather is Running Weather

Now that we’re stuck indoors with nowhere to go, the sunny weather that we’d been having for the past week or so had begun to feel like a personal affront. As in: what right did the weather have to finally be pleasant when we can’t go out to enjoy it, such as on a tennis court? So I was really happy when the weather reverted to its default self: cloudy, cold and rainy. It’s comforting to be indoors when it’s raining outside; it’s soothing, for some reason. I don’t know what it is.

More importantly, the relatively warm (relative to Singapore, that is) weather had been messing with my running. I hadn’t felt like running because I don’t like the heat, and because I’ve been having some problems with my skin after I started using the Body Shop’s Drops of Youth range of facial products, I didn’t feel like going out to run under the sun. I didn’t want to put sunblock because it would clog my pores further and presumably irritate my skin even more, and obviously I didn’t want to be running under the sun for 30 minutes without any sunblock. So the sunny weather had not been good for my running.

Today, though, after I was finally done with another freelancing thing, I went out for a run at around 4pm. The rain was slightly heavier than a light drizzle, but not heavy enough to deter me from exploiting what was pretty much perfect running condition, save for the rain. As I hadn’t been running more than 7km max since the 21.1km I did earlier this month, I thought it was high time for a longish run.

Well, I ran only 10km. But I managed to set a new personal record: 52 minutes and 22 seconds. I was, however, shocked to discover that Garmin informed me that my training effect for this run was a measly 1.8 on a scale of 1 to 5; and an 1.8 training effect had only ‘minor benefit’ for my fitness. While I was not completely gassed or anywhere close to that during the run, it wasn’t a walk in the park either as the 1.8 score suggests. In fact, I cannot understand how my maximum heart rate did not go over 156bpm for the entire 10km because I was definitely pushing myself at the last 2km when I was trying to beat my previous PB of 53minutes something. My conclusion is that there is something wrong with my Garmin’s heart rate monitor because this run wasn’t as easy as the stats suggest.

I guess the good news is that I can be even better than this. But the cold weather definitely played huge role in this. I would take having frozen hands and actually be able to breathe over non-frozen hands and feeling like my lungs are about to collapse any time, any day.

*

In other news, my freelancing work has been…interesting. On second thought, I don’t really want to talk about it. The key thing is that it is taking up a lot of my time; that is, diverting my time from things that I ought to be working on, like publications, my book proposal, all these things. I feel a lot of pressure – from where, I don’t know; probably myself – to pretty much get another, better CV; and I’m not doing anything about it. It’s hard to believe that April is almost over and I still don’t have a second publication, let alone a draft book proposal. I really suck at this life shit. Sometimes I wonder why I did the damn PhD, for it’s not like anyone gives a shit, and sometimes I include myself in that camp.

Needless to say, I have not been writing. Ugh, this is all so annoying.

*

I’m still slowly but surely reading Bleak House. What I really want to read right now is Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth. It’s basically vegan story, written by a vegan writer, so obviously I must read it. Waterstones has just shipped it; the prospect of having it any day now is lighting a fire under me to finish, just finish, Bleak House. Alas, I am only at page 538 of 989…
Charah coffee

(no subject)

I have spent the last two weeks, including weekends and evenings, working practically non-stop on my freelancing work. Today was the first day I finally had a bit of a breather, though I have deadlines coming up again soon. The plan was to make substantial progress on my other freelance job which I find dreadfully boring and thus cannot motivate myself to do; further, it doesn’t have a deadline, which doesn’t help at all as I work best when I have deadlines. Anyway, the plan was also to revise an article based on a chapter of my PhD that I want to publish, in view of comments by Raff and John.

Alas, I ended up spending about two hours this afternoon baking my first cake ever, an incredibly sweet chocolate cake that is, of course, 100% vegan. These two hours include the washing up which was just…I mean, I’m someone who quite enjoys doing dishes because it can be quite relaxing, but washing up after lunch, then after putting the cake in the oven, then after removing the cake from the tins—all of that was a bit much, to say the least.

I tolerate cooking, sometimes enjoy it, but mostly cook because I want to eat the foods that I like. Baking, however, has always seemed very complicated and not worth the effort. That’s why I’d never attempted anything more complicated than a banana bread or some crappy brownies with banana as the main ingredient. But the lockdown has denied me the freedom to go into a shop and order a slice of chocolate cake when I want to, and I’d been craving chocolate cake for a while now. As such, I was compelled by circumstances and my avarice to attempt baking a two-layer cake, with frosting, for the first time ever.

Thankfully, it turned out not disgusting, even rather nice, albeit too sweet; otherwise, I would have been really angry to have wasted all that effort and, more importantly, time. I was a bit worried at first when I removed the cakes from the tin and one had broken into discrete chunks. I also almost made the mistake of using the broken piece as the bottom layer, as I’m not sure it would’ve been very stable. In the end, I used the piece that was intact as the bottom one, and placed the broken one on top like a jigsaw puzzle.

But oh my god, the amount of sugar that went into this. I didn’t reduce the sugar because I’d never done this sort of cake before so I wasn’t confident of it turning out okay if I mucked with the recipe. Knowing exactly what is in there, though, especially the goddamn icing, is having the very annoying effect of making me not want to eat it…when, obviously, the whole point of spending all that time making this cake was to bloody eat it. Thankfully, one of E’s flatmates likes it quite a bit. He had a slice after dinner, then came back into the kitchen and asked for another. That was quite cute. As I’d known he would, E said it was nice but too sweet. I told him that I found it too sweet, and since I have way more of a sweet tooth than he does, he’d get diabetes from it.

Another thing: baking isn’t as easy as cooking. I had to sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. I couldn’t find the baking soda so I didn’t add it, and added baking powder despite using self-raising flour. I also didn’t know what the point of sifting was; no matter how I sifted and how I crumbed the hard bits left of the sieve, there continued to be hard bits. In the end, I was fed up of sifting and threw the rest of the mixture away, including quite a bit of sugar. That part really annoyed me. Actually, that was the only part where I was completely clueless. Measuring the ingredients is annoying too, but that’s because I don’t have a method for it. My point remains though: baking is harder than cooking. That said, now that I’ve baked a pretty good chocolate cake, I wonder if I’d be willing to spend a few pounds on just a slice of chocolate cake when this lockdown ends and life goes back to normal.

*

On another note, I’ve been having skin problems ever since I switched my skincare from Shiseido to the Body Shop for ethical reasons. There’s something about the latter’s Drop of Youth range that’s caused spots to break out continuously on my forehead and red patches to appear on my cheeks. This is really distressing as I haven’t had skin problems since the obligatory adolescent acne. The obvious solution is to go back to Shiseido, but I don’t want to fund companies that are not certified cruelty-free, so I’ve been looking for cruelty-free, preferably vegan, Asian skincare companies. I found a few Korean ones and almost dropped 100 pounds on six products from Klairs, but was shamed by E into not doing the smart thing and asking for samples first. In the end, despite asking for samples, I didn’t have the patience to wait for a response, and bought some products anyway, albeit not entirely the ones that I wanted (two of them went out of stock). In any case, my request for a sample was denied, as expected.

This isn’t very interesting, is it? I thought I might write a deeper, more reflective entry, but having just re-written the introduction of my article, I wasn’t in the mood for anything serious. But I do need to seriously say that I am absolutely slogging through Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It’s slowing down the amazing speed at which I was reading books up until now because 1) it’s over 900 pages long and 2) it is so meandering and full of random characters and scenes that make you go what the fuck is the point of this? As Dickens is one of the few writers from before the 20th century whom I enjoy (or enjoyed?), and since this is a book about the law, I wanted to like it. I still do. But the truth is, I can’t keep track of the ten million characters in this book, and it’s frustrating when new characters are introduced 300 pages into the book because you don’t know why they’re there, and it’s hard to keep reading when you’ve already guessed the obvious plot twists 200 pages in and the conflict isn’t very clearly stated. Obviously, I should try to read it for its other merits, like Dickens’ satirical eye for the ridiculous things that society does, such as its class divisions, its laborious legal processes, etc. And I do enjoy the satirical bits, insofar as I understand them. There are also a few passages of literary genius in terms of the prose style, so there’s that.

But there’s also his famed sentimentality towards the working class. (When I said this to Ivan, he said, ‘That’s such a middle class thing to say.’ But he hasn’t read Dickens so…) There’s also the black and white nature of his characters: either good or bad, no nuance whatsoever. There’s also these long, random scenes, these conversations between characters, some of whom I barely remember, others whom he introduces 300 pages later like I’ve said. There’s also the question of why I ought to care about any of these people when it’s still unclear, after 300 pages, what’s going on with them, and what the story even is. Of course, I have a vague idea of all that, but this book is really way too long.

Okay, E is back from watching some crappy 80s B-movie called The Fly with his other housemate, so I’m just gonna post this now.
Charah coffee

(no subject)

I spent about 45 minutes this evening writing my first entry in a while in Notepad, just to lose everything save for the last bit which I took a picture of, when I pressed ctrl+s by accident and the programme froze. The reason I write my blog entries in Notepad is because the LJ text editor crashed one too many times in the past, and I liked the simplicity of Notepad. If my memory serves, this was the first time it’d crashed on me, and it had to be my first blog entry in a while. So that kind of sucks, and I’m writing this on MS Word now. I’m going to try to rewrite what I wrote, but it’s common knowledge that rewriting, trying to recreate something, is more painful than the original process. As such, this entry is probably going to suck. But I’ll try to make it less painful by trying to avoid consciously rewriting as such, but writing a new entry on the same subject.

This subject is the virtual half-marathon that I ran yesterday. I was supposed to run my second half-marathon in March, at the London Landmarks Half Marathon, which would have taken place on 29 March but for Covid-19. The organisers called off the event (without quite cancelling it) and in its place, called for people to run a virtual half. That is, run 21.1km anywhere you want (around your local landmarks, they said, since we’re in lockdown) and at anytime before sometime in May; I forget the exact date. I’d wanted to do it sometime last week but I was too swamped with work, so I put it off. Or maybe I used work as an excuse to put it off. Whatever it is, I’d been putting it off…until two factors finally pushed me off my ass, out of the door, and dragged me to my usual starting point on my casual runs and forced me to do it.

First, the weather. I did not bring any of my running shorts to Cambridge, as I couldn’t be bothered digging them up from wherever I’d packed them when I went back to London to pack things to lockdown in Cambridge. As the weather has been taking a turn for the better and hotter, it had been quite a challenge running under the sun in my running tights. Sometime last week, I checked the weather forecast for this week…and was alarmed to see that BBC Weather had forecast sunny days with 20+ degrees every day this week—except Monday. When I checked, Monday was forecast to be slightly drizzly, but more importantly, cloudy and without sun, the normal amount of wind, and 10ish degrees. In other words, almost perfect running weather.

Second, there were reports over the weekend about a possible ban on outdoor exercise due to the absolute fucktards who are a combination of illiterate, deaf, stupid, selfish, and pure assholes who have taken the liberty to sunbathe in public parks over the sunny weekend, and basically demonstrating their lack of comprehension skills and basic humanity. As it was too uncertain whether we’d still get to go outside for exercise this week, I decided, fuck it, I’ll bite the bullet and do the damn run on Monday.

Before the race report, as it were, I would like to preface it with some relevant information, which probably acts subconsciously as a shitty excuse for my disappointing performance, but whatever. The longest run that I’d done since the Cambridge half was a 10km run—that is, a grand total of one 10km run. I’d done a few random 5, 6 and 7km runs here and there, but nothing serious at all: no interval training, no long runs, no recovery runs, just random runs at a pace that aimed to achieve nothing. Granted, I did clock my personal best 10km of 53min and something seconds; but that required some effort. I’m still waiting for the day when I can run a longish distance at an average pace of, oh, 5 minutes and 25-30 seconds effortlessly.

The point is, I didn’t train seriously at all and was hoping that the training I did for Cambridge had not completely disappeared. Still, despite my low expectations, I nevertheless seemed to have expected some sort of miracle, or magic, from this unremarkably average body and fitness, because when I finished the 21.1km in 1:57:31 (Garmin) or 1:57:48 (Nike Run Club), I was disappointed.

Why disappointed? The real question is, why be surprised at the disappointment? I have always been hard on myself for no reason whatsoever. The quickest way to diminish the value of a thing in my eyes is to achieve it. Once I have the coveted thing that was x, x ceases to have any value; x becomes attainable, easy, worthless. It was true for the PhD, for anything that I’d ever done in my life. I wonder if it’ll ever stop being the case.

In all honesty, I should be happy to have finished it in the time that I did because it was a real slog. Don’t get me wrong: the first 45 minutes were great. It was cloudy, there was no sun, it was cooling, and because of the grey skies, the guided bus way (on which I ran up and down for most of the 21.1km) was mostly empty. But then the sun came out, and along with it, random people emerged from the woodwork, presumably to take advantage of the sun. Fuck the sun, I say. Fuck the sun because it made my tights cling to my legs, my long-sleeved running top stick to my arms. It was hot. It wasn’t boiling, but it was hot enough that, at around 15km, I started to lose motivation; I started thinking, why the fuck am I doing this? Why not just stop now and end this torture?

I also thought, No bloody way in hell I’m going to do this again, so just finish it and get it over with.

But boy. What a struggle it was, the last 3km. Although I put a bottle of water under E’s car, I made the probably dumb decision of not running to his car for a drink because I didn’t want to disrupt my rhythm. So I ran 21.1km without any water whatsoever, and under the sun—partly filtered at times, but at other times, unfiltered and with no shade whatsoever for 2 or 3km at a stretch—in long sleeves and long tights for almost two hours. Was this why I struggled so hard during the last 3km? Was this why the last 1km felt like, and probably was, one of the longest and most gruelling kilometre I’d ever run? Now I finally understand why some people don’t dash the final few hundred metres of a race with everything they’ve got—because it takes everything they’ve got to keep running, no matter how slowly.

I really should be proud that I wasn’t slower than 1:57:xx. Still, I’m quite bummed that, for the first time in six half-marathons, I didn’t improve on the previous timing. Maybe I’ll try this again; maybe I’ll the effort to run longer distances. It’ll require me getting out of bed at least an hour earlier though because I’m doing these law essays (don’t feel like going into details) and they take up so much time. It’s also because of these essays and how I felt like I was on the verge of a burn out this evening that I took time for myself and wrote the entry that I went on to lose.

Well, this entry hasn’t turned out as excruciating and gross as I’d expected it to be. The truth is, I really miss writing. I obviously haven’t been writing in here, and I haven’t been writing any fiction at all. I joined a writing challenge for April and I did manage to write one short story thing. It sucked, but it reminded me, yet again, of why writing is a need. So why don’t I do it? Why am I such a loser? When will I stop being such a loser?

I thought I might type out the part of the lost entry that I managed to take a picture of, but I’m too lazy, so I’m just going to post the picture.





I will try to write more often, even if it’s to write about inconsequential things. Writing is truly the only thing that keeps me sane. The only problem is, I spend way too much time sitting at this random desk that E’s landlords left in his room and which he’d stored outside in his balcony for the past few years, such that I suffered a cramp in my neck for a few days last week. Now I’m starting to feel some pain in my lower back. Even though I actually have home exercise equipment and have access to Les Mills on Demand, working out as regularly as I did when I was going for gym classes is REALLY BLOODY CHALLENGING, mostly because I’m lazy.

I’ll go for a run tomorrow. I’ll try to get up earlier. But I say that every single day and it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps some things just aren’t meant to be.
Charah coffee

Covid-19 Blues

As I'm not one to go into a panic about things that cause panic in many others, I haven't been too worried about the Covid-19 situation. I ran the half-marathon in Cambridge against my parents' pleas for me not to; I took the Tube without a mask (though wearing a mask doesn't help that much); I basically lived life as usual.

As of yesterday night at 11.30pm, I have freaked out. And it's all thanks to the UK government's ridiculous and irresponsible 'herd immunity' response to the crisis. If the government were doing rigorous testing and contact-tracing like all right-minded governments around the world (including Singapore) are, I wouldn't be worried about being amongst asymptomatic sufferers and catching it myself, and neither would I be worried about unwittingly passing it on to someone at risk: the elderly, someone with underlying health conditions. But apart from this, even though I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't suffer too badly from it given that I'm relatively young and have a pretty excellent immune system, I can't be entirely about this. No one can be. No one can know for sure what would or would not happen if someone like me, supposedly not at risk, caught the virus. And the last thing that I want to happen is to fall seriously ill in the bloody UK, and have to rely on the NHS. That would be my worst nightmare. All I have been hearing about in the news over the last four years or so that I've been living in this country is that the NHS is chronically under-staffed; and now apparently there are only 6,000 ventilators in the entire NHS. I have no interest whatsoever in adding to the burden of the already buckling-under-stress NHS; more importantly, I do not want to find myself in a situation where I'm seriously ill and there aren't enough equipment, and the NHS starts prioritising patients because they have to make a choice. They have to choose who to save. And I may be paranoid, I may be underestimating the professionalism of NHS professionals; but I can imagine a situation where I'm up against someone just like me and being in the same critical condition for scarce resources, and they choose the other person over me - because I'm not British. And since I do think that nationality has normative significance, I wouldn't really be able to begrduge them for it (not least because I might be dead).

I have been feeling rather down the whole day. I suppose I shouldn't have spent an hour reading about this herd immunity bullshit last night before I slept, for I had a nightmare in which I was more or less seriously ill with Covid-19, and I knew it, and I knew exactly how much time I had left to live. That was some harrowing bullshit. I spent my morning raging at the UK government, even while at gym class. The Body Pump class had a bit of a weird, subdued vibe; and noticeably absent was this elderly lady who usually stood at the top left corner of the studio. Core conditioning was good; the trainer said he was pleasantly surprised at the turn-out. So was I.

In between Body Pump and Core Conditioning, I requested to have my gym membership frozen. 'How long? the woman asked.

'I don't know, I'm doing this because of the virus. Can I suspend it indefinitely?'

'The longest is six months,' she said. 'Do you want to do that?'

So I arranged for that to be done. And I know it's utterly insignificant in the grander scheme of things, of people dying, but the thought of not going to my usual gym classes for the foreseeable future was (and still is) kind of sad.

I did, however, buy a pair of 2kg weights so at least I can work out at home. But I have no discipline whatsoever, and I give up too easily when I'm by myself with no one around me to push me (if only because I don't want to look unfit and weak in front of everyone. Not that anyone cares, but still). Since I don't want to lose whatever muscle I've managed to tone, though, I'll do my best.

And I think I feel a bit sad, too, because the severity of this pandemic has finally sunk in. And I can't help but wish I were back in Singapore with family and friends. I won't see friends, but with parents, so that if something bad does happen...but I can't imagine it would. I can't imagine it would. And neither could the loved ones of those who have died.

And perhaps the worst part is that we're not going to learn from this, or any of the diseases that have gripped the world in the past decades. The lesson, that is, that shit fucking happens when we treat animals as commodities, as things, as food, and not as beings in themselves. What this pandemic should alert in people is that we need a complete paradigm shift in the way we see animals. But of course, the carnists all over the world know only to condemn China's wild life trade, as if there's any morally relevant difference between eating a bat or pangolin or whatever, and eating a cow or a pig.

Anyway, if I keep going on about this, I'm never going to stop. So it is with a heavy heart that I am going to take a shower and go to bed (and hopefully finally finish Anna Burns' Milkman, which I've been struggling to get through for two weeks now, therefore slowing down my reading progress that was going along steadily).

Oh, and I have to add: This probably wasn't the best year to read two post-apocalyptic novels - Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. That's all.
Charah coffee

Cambridge Half Marathon 2020: SUB-TWO FUCK YEAH

On the one hand, I achieved my goal, broke the two-hour barrier.

On the other hand, my finish time of 1:56:32 does not reflect the effort that I'd thought I put in. In other words, given how fast I thought I was running, I thought maybe I'd finish slightly faster.

Also, why is it that, even though I achieved what I set out to do, it still feels a bit disappointing? This malaise isn't confined to running; it seems as if it's a general attitude that I have to, well, life. Passed PhD without corrections? Oh okay, but examiners' report wasn't glowing. Finally ran a sub-2 half-marathon? Cool, but why wasn't I a minute or two faster?

I guess I really am doomed to a life of perpetual dissatisfaction.

Anyway, now that I've got the required negativity out of the way, on to the run. The organisers changed the route from last year, and I must say that I much prefer this year's route despite some awkward sudden narrowing of the running paths at the start, and some parts that were too narrow (e.g. running through King's College: yes, super pretty, but a bit too narrow as we approached and went over the bridge; and running up the Orgasm Bridge and then through the super narrow lanes to King's Parade wasn't great). The main reason? There was no horrible run up the bridge at the last few kilometres of the race. Last year, I couldn't keep running when I had to run up the bridge; I think I walked for a minute or so. But this year, the last few kilometres was flat and therefore humane, even if it took us down Thompson's Lane and its uneven, badly paved roads. So for this reason, the new route was awesome.

Speaking of roads, though: I don't know if it was my shoes (bought the same pair of shoes in another colour after my experiment with a Saucony pair left my feet in pain), or my comfy but old Reebok socks, or just the harshness of the road's surface; but about halfway through the race, somewhere in Grantchester, my feet were absolutely on fire. And it wasn't an awesome 'omg I've totally got this' on fire; it was a 'omg why are my feet burning omg why is it only 12km omg I want to die' on fire. I don't think I'd experienced this burning sensation in my feet on my long runs - which I guess points to the harshness of the road's surface being the culprit. So I began to run on the pavements whenever I could, and I think it helped a bit.

The weather was a lot better than last year: sunny, with some wind, 13 degrees. I was a bit overdressed; wore way too much black: black pants, black long-sleeve base layer, and black Vegan Runners vest. I definitely felt the heat while running under the unfiltered sun in Grantchester. And I was stupid enough not to take water at the halfway point. My thinking was, I didn't have water when I went on my 18km run (also my fastest run ever; even faster than today's half), so why did I need water now? Well, because the sun is out and bearing down on you, that's why, stupid dolt. I also did not take water at around 11miles. I also regretted this.

I only started consuming my energy gel around 15, 16km, and slowly nursed it for the rest of the run. It took me a lot to keep hanging in there when I was running the last bit, maybe the last 4 or 5km. At around Lion's Yard, I was thinking about how much more distance I had to cover, also thinking that there was no way I could maintain my pace; when running through Jesus College, I thought about the fact that I didn't even know where the fuck the finish was, and so I didn't know how much more there was to go. To get rid of these unhelpful thoughts, I told myself to just keep going; the end was near; just keep going.

I didn't want to sprint until I'd seen the finish. Perhaps I might've sped up a bit if I'd known it was just 1km left. Be that as it may: when I finally saw the finish, I sprinted towards it like there was no tomorrow. There was no euphoria, like I'd imagined, when I saw that I'd finished under two hours; but there was a lot of relief -- relief that the damn run was finally over!

I began the race keeping up with the two-hour pacer. I overtook him sometime around 3 miles or whatever (I hate this miles shit). I was afraid that he'd catch up with me, overtake me; if he had, I would have been super demoralised. But he didn't. I just tried to maintain the pace, tried not to weave through the crowd too much, tried not to let others affect me. And in all honesty, I don't know how I could have ran this any faster -- and yet, I know that it wasn't the fastest that I can run at this stage of my training. It was challenging. A part of me cannot believe that I managed to maintain a decent pace over 21.1km. Another part of me knows that this is the logical outcome of all the training I've put in over the past months. And there is yet another part of me that's simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the London Landmarks Half Marathon in three weeks. Would I be happy with just shaving off a minute from today's time? Should I aim slightly higher?

I will decide in a few days.

In any event, maybe the LLHM will be cancelled because coronavirus. (A part of me wouldn't mind this too much because, at present, I can't bear the thought of running!)

Oh, and we got to the race at around 8.40am, and I spent almost an hour queueing for the toilet. That must have been the reason we're told to arrive at 8.30am. Yay!

One last thing: super happy to have broken the two-hour barrier as a vegan. The two men behind me while waiting to enter the pen started talking about Game Changers, and this shitty Men's Health article that 'debunked' the science in the documentary. There's no point to me mentioning this. But it was nice that I saw two other runners in the club's vest, and one of them said something encouraging to me (she also finished before I did). A few people in the crowd shouted something positive about vegan runners too. And when I finished, this guy who was running at around the same pace as me came up to me and said that he didn't know about the club and he's vegan. How nice! It was interesting that he said he was using me as a pacer...because I kept him in view too!

*

I should write about other things. But I'm really tired and I don't feel like it, so I will end with two pictures:


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Charah coffee

2019 in review

So. I had forgotten about this. Or rather, I remembered that I hadn't done it in moments when it would have been inopportune to sit down and do it; and when I was sat down, I forgot to do this. Since I don't feel like doing anything brainful tonight, I thought perhaps it's finally time to get round to this.

1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
- Submitted a PhD thesis
- Attended and passed a PhD viva
- Wrote a sustained and long-ass piece of fanfiction
- Seriously feared for my personal safety
- Ran two half-marathons in a month!
- Did a writing challenge; wrote every day for 30 days
- Taught some law stuff to a kid
- Met E's mom and kids
- Went vegan
- Met Charlie Cox!
- Went hiking on a volcano; Mount Etna in Sicily
- Went hiking in the Calanques National Park
- Started going for Bodypump classes (I think this was in 2019)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
It seems like I didn't make any resolutions last year. We're already in March, so is there even a point in making resolutions?

Oh, why not: I resolve to start (just start, dammit) on the novel that's festering in my mind at some point this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister-in-law! Can't remember if Rui gave birth in December or January. (Really should've done this shit earlier!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What countries did you visit?
Italy (Florence, Sicily), France (Paris, Brest, Saint Malo, Arles, Avignon, Cassis), Vietnam (Hanoi, etc), Singapore

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
A freaking income! I'm glad, though, that I finally have my PhD.

Also, a stable, probably married life. :D And I want to stop living in fucking houseshares. My current one will be the absolute last one.

7. What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
29 November 2019; date of my viva. 5 September 2019; date I submitted my thesis. It's so sad that the thesis pretty much dominated my life, such that nothing else stands out as much in my mind.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Passing my freaking PhD viva without corrections. In all fairness though, this was probably the achievement of the last four years combined.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not finishing the thesis earlier; not submitting a journal article that I'd finished a year ago earlier; not writing enough. Basically my life.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes. I fell on a training run and injured my right knee about six weeks before the Cambridge Half-Marathon. That was not fun.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I honestly can't think of anything.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
E, for being patient enough to put up with m.e

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Probably some annoying housemate or other. And definitely the homeless dude who chased me on my run. Also, E's kids, momentarily.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Definitely food. I don't spend on much else these days.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Watching Betrayal and seeing Charlie Cox! My roadtrip in France with E. And going to Sicily with E. Oh my god, we had the most amazing parmiggiana in Sicily, in this place called Razmataz...fuckssake, why is milk evil? Why?

16. What song will always remind you of 2019?
Shrug.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
a. Happier because the PhD is DONE! Now I just need to revise it to publish it as a book! Yay! (Goddammit when I can finally be rid of this thing?!)
b. I think I'm thinner but fitter.
c. Poorer by logical necessity: still no income, still spending money; QED. <<< Same as last year. <<< Same as last year, and therefore same as two years ago.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
My PhD. Haha. Also wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends more, which I'm actively trying to do this year. I just really dislike using my phone. I don't know why.

I also wish I'd gone vegan earlier.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Nothing much, really. I think 2019 was my first year of stability (apart from the seemingly never-ending PhD angst) in a long time.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Feeling extremely uncomfortable whilst surrounded by the body parts of dead animals at my uncle's, and balking at the blase manner in which my relatives discussed which part of the dead cow they were consuming as though the cow was never a living, sentient being. I had to make food (a badly done ratatouille) to ensure that I'd have things to eat over there. Bleah.

21. Did you fall in love in 2018?
Still in love.

22. What was your favorite TV programme?
There were a few good ones: Unbelievable, When They See Us, Quicksand. Wasn't super crazy about anything though.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I honestly can't be arsed to hate people.

24. What was the best book you read?
A three-way tie between Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo & Rose (the titular story is fantastic), and Zadie Smith's White Teeth and NW.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Not much, really.

26. What did you want and get?
I wanted to pass my viva without corrections. Done!

27. What did you want and not get?
A job, though I wasn't actively hunting.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I would say Joker but it's primarily because of Joaquin. Since I love him so much, let's go with that.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Fucking 33.

It took me a while to remember, but wow...so E and I went to a pub to watch the Wimbledon final. We left the pub to go to dinner at a restaurant in the Shard. The match, between Roger and Djokovic, wasn't over yet. At the Shard, I pulled up the stream on my phone, saw that Roger had two championship points in the fifth.

Then he lost.

And then I lost interest in tennis. More accurately, I lost the heart to watch it because having your favourite player, someone who's inspired you in some ways, lose in such a spectacularly painful fashion on your birthday does something to you. It was gut-wrenching and I haven't watched another tennis match since then.

On the bright side, the food was good, though I don't remember what I had. I do remember that E ordered me a pinot noir, knowing full well that I don't like pinot noirs. I forgive him, for he was distracted by the bloody tennis too.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
PASSING MY PHD.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
Same shit.

32. What kept you sane?
Knowing that, this time next year, my PhD would be over.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Charlie Cox and Joaquin Phoenix. I love Joaquin though; he's truly the vegan king.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Animal ethics, veganism, etc.

35. Who did you miss?
My parents.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Probably my housemate, Georgi. She's a runner too and she cleans. It was funny that it was the first thing she said about me as well. Probably won't ever be close friends, but she's cool even though she eats dead and dismembered animals.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.
Life fucking goes on and no one cares, so stop caring so much and chill out. (Yeah, if only I could remember this when I next feel like the world is crashing down on me and I'm the biggest failure alive.)

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Don't give a shit.
fuckyou

Joaquin Phoenix is My Vegan King

This morning, I sat through three hours of the Golden Globes just to watch five minutes of Joaquin Phoenix. While his acceptance speech for Best Actor (Drama) was simultaneously everything and nothing that I'd expected, I did wish, when it was past noon and I'd done nothing, that I'd had the sense to turn on the telly at, oh, 11.30am, given that it was more than likely that his category would be announced close to the end of the show.

Then again, if I hadn't sat through the whole thing, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to roll my eyes at the 'celebrities' (what a stupid word) who banged on about the bushfires in Australia - sad, no doubt - but didn't make, or didn't mention, the connection between that and the plant-based dinner that they all had (though the Lindors on the table probably weren't vegan). And Joaquin's epic speech, while epic in its own right, would have seemed less epic without the context of the seeming obliviousnes of all who came before him.

The point of this entry is to capture what it'd felt like when my favourite actor of the past twenty bloody years, whose vegan world view I finally share completely, stood on stage in front of virtually the entire world and said the crucial thing that needed to be said. It had felt like he was speaking on my behalf; that's what it'd felt like. While I had an inkling that he'd mention veganism (though he never said the word explicitly), I didn't know where he was going when he began by thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association; I didn't know that it was going to be the first thing that he would bring up. 'First, I would like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press,' he said, 'for recognising and acknowledging the link between animal agriculture and climate change. It's a very bold move making tonight plant-based and it really sends a powerful message.'

If only more people picked it up. If only the press focused on this part of his speech instead of the 'f-bombs' (for fuck's sake, are we in primary school?) that he dropped in his speech. At least they picked up on the last part of his speech that he managed to sneak in before he was rushed off the stage. And if I hadn't sat through the preceding 2 hours and 55 minutes, I probably wouldn't have picked up on the subtext of what he said:

Contrary to popular belief, I don't want to rock the boat. But the boat is fucking rocked. And--it's really nice that so many people came up and sent their well wishes to Australia, but we have to do more than that. [...] And I've not always been a virtuous man, and I'm learning so much and so many of you in this room have given me the opportunity to try and get it right... But together, hopefully we can be unified and actually make some changes. It's great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves, and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives, and I hope that we can do that. We don't have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards sometimes and back. Please. And I will try to do better, and I hope you will too.


In the broader context of the impact of animal agriculture on climate change: what's the point of sending useless well wishes to Australia, apart from a brief feel-good moment and scattered applause, when the most obvious thing that anyone can do probably isn't being done? If the HFPA hadn't decided on a plant-based menu, the hypocrisy of these 'well wishes', uttered while people in the room feasted on dead flesh, would have been even more stark. So well done on the plant-based menu; this is the way it should be everywhere, all the time, for the animals and for the planet.

But more importantly, well done Joaquin for saying what desperately needed to be said, which no one else had said. I had never quite understood the concept of someone else giving me a voice, for I've always felt like I express myself pretty well, and that no one else can express what I think and feel better than I do; in fact, I've always been pretty full of myself in that regard. But watching him fumble through his awkward acceptance speech and listening to those words, it'd really felt as if he was speaking on my behalf...and plausibly not just my behalf, but for all committed ethical vegans who have made the necessary changes in their own lives and habits, in hopes of delivering a better world for all, human and non-human animals alike.

I'd wanted Joaquin to win for two reasons: I love this man, and I have loved him on-and-off for the past twenty (fucking) years; and I knew that he would say what he said, which, I repeat, desperately needed to be said. It's become a point when veganism isn't just about saving the animals (though, for me, it's primarily about that); it's also about the planet. Ditching plastic straws and plastic bags is great, but it literally does not have the same impact as going vegan. It's a mere pat on the back to make ourselves feel better, as if we're doing something good for the planet that we profess to love. I'm sorry to say that it simply isn't enough; in fact, in the grand scheme of things, it's as good as nothing. It's as good as carnists going on stage at the Globes and sending their shitty well wishes to Australia. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change; this is a fact. It is obvious, then, that the solution, easily done by anyone who is of average health and who lives in a modern society, is to go vegan. Let's stop this meat-free Monday bullshit, let's stop telling ourselves it's okay to consume animal products as long as we're making the effort to reduce. It is not enough; it has to be all or nothing. That is how serious the climate emergency is.

And of course, think about the animals. All the animals who don't want to die, but die needlessly anyway to provide the food that we don't need, the suffering they endure, the trauma, the pain. I would go into details but thinking about all this is emotionally exhausting, and the facts are all out there on the Internet. In fact, Joaquin has narrated two documentaries on the subject: Earthlings and Dominion. They're the Joaquin films I will never watch because they will fucking destroy me, and I do not have the emotional stamina and hardiness to sit through four hours of footages of animal abuse.

But let me end this on a positive note: yay Joaquin!