Friday, September 9, 2011

House and Home: The Move to Perdana Emerald and a Trip to Colorado

A snow-dusted Lookout Mountain seen from my mom's neighborhood
Well, it was a great two weeks back in Denver, despite the wacky weather. May is late spring in the US, and as a transitional month, Colorado's weather, which is subject to wild changes at any time, is even more difficult to predict. But usually, this time of year is pretty warm if nothing else. Not this time! It was cold and rainy almost the entire time I was home... when I was picked up at the airport, it was about 6°C/43°F and raining. That was to be the theme for nearly the entire stay. People were wandering around in a daze, mumbling, "It never rains this much in Denver!" In the two weeks I was there, we literally had rain, snow, slush, hail, thunderstorms, and even a few small tornadoes just north of the city. Went out with my friends... rain. Went to a Rockies baseball game with my mom... rain (and cold... and windy). Even when I went to the airport to leave... yup, more rain. We had roaring fires in my mother's fireplace, marveling that it was just on the verge of summer and we were all freezing to death. Crazy Colorado weather.
Brrr! 4°C on May 20th... insane!

Yeah, it was every bit as good as it looks.
On the day after the Rockies game, we went to this great restaurant in downtown Denver called Rio Grande (or "The Rio," as everyone calls it), a place that has not only great Mexican food, but is justifiably famous for its margaritas. They limit you to three during any one visit, and with good reason: these bad boys are strong! They're the classic recipe made with quality tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice (not sweet and sour mix), so the finished drink is a totally transparent yellow-green color. Delicious! And take a look at that steak tostada... and the mounds of fresh guacamole on the plate behind it (this is a seriously great photo to click on and enlarge)... ahhh, I do miss good Mexican food. I've managed to find two places in KL where I can get decent Mexican food, but obviously there's no pork (no carnitas, no carne adobada, no chicharrónes... sigh, now I'm drooling), and it's even less authentic than America's version of Mexican food. So basically, the US has fake Mexican food, and Malaysia has fake Americanized Mexican food. Talk about diminishing returns. If I get really desperate, I can go to Chili's here for fajitas. Nothing says fake-but-delicious Mexican food like a sizzling iron plate full of fajitas.

So while I was in Denver, my mom put me to work, as usual. She typically has a list of things for me to do when I am there visiting. This time it was digging up hundreds of pounds of rocks from her back porch and replacing them with bricks, which was complicated by the incessant rain and cold. However, we got it done, and the finished product looked much nicer than it had looked before, but a noticeable dip in the field of bricks might necessitate a fix on a later visit.

So it was a fun trip, and as always, great to visit with family and friends... and stock up on all that great stuff I can't get in Malaysia. Hehe.

Move-in day: 1/2 misery, 1/2 excitement
Almost immediately upon getting back to KL, I had to start wrapping up things with my job and prepping for the big 1-km move to my new place. Even though I consciously avoid acquiring stuff, I still have managed to accumulate a fair bit of it in the time I've lived here, so I got some empty boxes from the supermarket in my neighborhood. (It looked like I was running a small retail operation for cat food and eggs, I think, since those comprised most of the boxes.)

Evening at Perdana Emerald
So the move has now been completed and I'm slowly but surely getting settled in the new place. I definitely like Perdana Emerald. The facilities are great, the pool is gorgeous, and the unit is considerably larger than my other one. Truth be told, it's not quite as nicely fitted and renovated, but it's still very much acceptable. I had to look at nearly twenty units before settling on this one. I actually even have a dryer, so for the first time in over two years, I won't have to hang my clothes out on the balcony every time to dry them.


Nearly three months later...

Yes, I suck, I know. I think the only reason I'm so sporadic with these updates is because putting photos in this stupid blog is such a pain. Seriously, if you ever want create a photo-heavy blog, look elsewhere. is definitely not the best choice. [Edited to add: Actually, they've completely retooled the interface now, photos seem easier to insert, and there's even apparently the option of adding captions to photos... functionality I have longed for. However, after publishing, it still looks pretty crappy, doesn't it? And it seems I can only insert photos where there's a paragraph break, rather than in the paragraph, as before. Sigh. Curse you,!]

The last few weeks have been remarkably dry overall here in KL, even by the relatively dry standards of June and July. We still get rain, but it's pretty infrequent. As a result, and because of all the construction in the neighborhood, I have to mop my floor in the new condo at least twice a week to keep it from getting too dusty. (I open the windows pretty frequently to capture the nice breezes... so it's a trade-off.) It's also been pretty hazy these last two weeks, which is pretty uncommon this late in the dry season. Hope it subsides soon, because I don't like hazy skies at all. Here's a shot of my new living room, shortly after moving in. The sofa is vastly more comfortable than the one at my previous place! It doesn't really come across in this photo, but the thing is huge, too. I can lie fully and comfortably on it, and I'm six feet tall (183cm). Awesome.

Boiling water and a happy ice cube on the
same cooking element. Magic!
So I bought a new induction cooker quite recently. These haven't really taken off in North America (for reasons unknown), but in Asia and Europe, especially where kitchens tend to be smaller, they're quite popular. They're also quite cheap here... at least mine was (RM179... US$60). I knew a little about them, but only after purchasing one was I aware of how radically different they are from conventional ways of cooking. They may look like a regular smooth-top stove, but that's where the similarity ends. The element, when turned on, generates a strong electromagnetic field. When a pan is placed on the surface of the cooker, that field induces an electrical current inside the pan's metal, stimulating the molecules, which vibrate at some 30,000-50,000 times per second. Since iron is a poor conductor of electrical current, that resistance is (rapidly) converted to heat energy, so the cooking vessel actually becomes the source of heat. The induction cooker itself does not generate heat at all. I snapped a picture of a small pot sitting off-center on the element, water boiling merrily away and an ice cube sitting unscathed on another part of the element. Very cool (literally and figuratively). The only real potential drawback is that not all pots and pans work. They must be ferrous; that is, containing iron. So usually, anything cast iron or stainless steel (which is an alloy composed primarily of iron) works brilliantly and most of my cookware here works with it. A couple (aluminum) don't. I tested the efficiency and speed of induction cooking by heating a liter of cold tap water to a rolling boil in an uncovered pot. In the induction cooker, it took 3 minutes and 30 seconds. On the gas cooker, at high, it took 5 minutes and 40 seconds, and the handles of the pot were scorching hot afterwards because of all the heat that radiated up the sides of the pot. No such problem with the induction cooker. I've become an instant fan of this method of cooking. It doesn't heat up the kitchen the way the gas burners do. (About 45% of the energy produced by a gas burner is wasted, while only 10% of induction-generated heat goes to waste.) So there ya go... you probably never thought you'd learn something about induction cooking by reading a blog about life in Kuala Lumpur.

So really not much to report. I went down to Singapore for an overnight trip last week, and will be going to the east coast of Malaysia for the first time soon... a three-day trip to Cherating Beach, about a three-hour drive from KL. Really looking forward to that! I'll definitely post photos.

Professional medical bandaging, KL style
One other saga that seems to be nearing resolution is with my eyes. I thought about writing an entire entry about it and calling it, "A not-so-jocular case of the ocular," but that just made me a little nauseous, so I'll just regale you with the story here. Many moons ago, back in November of last year, I had a stye on my left eye. Though quite common, simply resulting from blocked oil glands on the eyelid, I had never had one before. So I went to my regular doctor to get it tended to, but he was out of the office that day, but had a guy filling it. I assumed he was an actual medically trained physician. My mistake. He first tried to anesthetize my eye by spraying some sort of local anesthetic directly in my face. It was cold as ice and caused far more discomfort than it ever could have precluded to begin with, but to make matters worse, it didn't really even work. The guy next took a needle and punctured the stye, which hurt like all hell, and then pinched the thing to squeeze the pus out. Can't tell you how wonderful that felt. Then he half-assedly taped some gauze to my face and sent me on my way. Good lord. A ringing endorsement for medical tourism in Malaysia this was certainly not.

I Only Have Eye (drops) for You
While it did indeed relieve the visible symptoms of the stye, it wound up causing far more long-term problems. Lancing and draining a stye like he did is the first thing you're told specifically not to do with even a cursory check on Wikipedia, so I have to wonder what little backwater kampung he got his medical training in. So yeah, with the stye punctured, the bacteria that caused the thing to begin with were free from the corral, so to speak, and ran willy-nilly all over my eye. A rub, a poke, and the bacteria spread to the right eye, too. Now this didn't cause blindness or any major trauma, just months of dry eyes, watery eyes, sometimes one of each, itchy and tired eyes, you name it. I went to one specialist who gave me a vial of expensive eye drops (from Germany) and a bottle of fish oil capsules. That turned out to all be utterly useless, so thankfully the company paid the bill on that one. For months, I tried one sort of eye drop and/or antibiotic topical ointment (for the skin surrounding the eyes) after another. Look at this pharmacy full of empty containers I amassed over time! I set them all up on my coffee table and took this picture just to highlight how insane this has all been... and this honestly isn't all of them. Add about five or six more dropper vials, plus a tube of Neosporin ointment, and that would be complete. Finally, a few weeks ago, I went to a different eye doctor in Damansara Utama who prescribed a good (US-made, hooray) antibiotic eye drop and a lubricating gel to replenish the corneal fluid. Apparently, the anesthetic that the quack of a fake doctor sprayed in my eye damaged the cornea of my eye and the subsequent staph infection made it near-impossible for my eye to heal itself properly. So anyway, it's on the mend now, and hopefully it will be back to full normalcy soon — a year of eye-related misery. The moral? Don't ever let idiot substitute doctors treat you.

Dear Humans,

Psst! Hey there. We can't read.

Sincerely, The Dogs
Finally, on a lighter note, I always snap pictures of funny signs around town when I have my camera handy. Given the propensity Malaysians have for doing odd things with the English language, there's not a shortage of subject matter. I'll try to include these pictures here and there. This one was taken at a playground in Bangsar recently. I was meeting a former business contact for lunch nearby, and parked my car near the playground. When I was walking back to my car, this sign caught my eye. I looked at it, and as the definition of "stray dog" crystallized in my mind, the humor became evident. I usually have to explain it to my local friends here, who never see any problem with the sign. A stray dog, by definition, I tell them, is a dog without a human owner. They're strays. Street dogs. So unless these owner-less dogs can read (and read English, no less), this sign is completely pointless. Ha ha! So if you see any illiterate stray dogs out there, be sure to tell them: Stay away from the playground in Bangsar!


Book A Cake said...

hi there, i read yr blog related to a stye on your left eye. I have a effective way to get rid of it. All you need is a raw garlic. Peel off the garlic skin, slightly pound it (crushed). Rub it onto the stye, you will feel the hot/heat but it will works. Do it for few times/days (2/day) I apply that to my daughter (6 years old). Without go thru a doctor. This is an old traditional treatment by old generation. Try it next time if you have it.

Chad M. said...

Outstanding, wish I had known about this remedy a year ago. Thanks! Usually, whatever the question, garlic is a good answer, eh? :)