Sunday, April 28, 2013

Morons: Blessing in Disguise

There's this TV show called Anges de la Télé-réalité in France which chronicles the day-to-day happenings in the life of a group of young, relatively attractive but extremely stupid people, not unlike MTV's Jersey Shore. Nobody I know has any kind words to say about this sad excuse of a TV show, but almost everybody knows it. This show has spawned some catchphrases which, ironically, are mainly used by the same people who hate the show.

It made me wonder: how is it that a dumpster of a show ridiculed for its sheer idiocy can get such high ratings? This must mean that people are still flocking to watch despite all the negativity surrounding it. There must be a whole lot of them who actually like the show for whatever reason and watching it becomes a guilty pleasure. So I decided to dig deeper, going on to internet message boards, talking to people around me, and tuning in to talk shows which are bound to discuss this show. The hatred towards Anges de la Télé-réalité is unanimous, no doubt. So at first I concluded that fascination was the main reason. People are just fascinated by wreckage (in this case, the presumed brain damage suffered by the cast), the exact reason why we can't look away from a car crash.

But is that all there is? Fascination gets old fast. I was fascinated the first time I saw a sword-eater doing his trick on the street, but would I watch a TV show of that guy doing the same thing every day? Definitely not. After a while I'd just secretly wish the guy would choke on his sword already. So fascination is too flimsy a thread to sustain an audience of a TV show.

What is it then?

I decided to dig even deeper into the psyche of the French in general, what they like and what they don't like, what unifies them and what divides them. (Spoiler alert: Sweeping generalisation of the French coming up!) One thing stood out: their love for sounding intelligent which may stem from either a staggering superiority complex, or self-doubt. Many times I have been confronted with people who would used the entire Obscure Obnoxious French Words Dictionary in the hope of shutting me up. It's like they are born with Schopenhauer's The Art of Being Right pre-installed in their heads. The French have chauvinism and sarcasm down to a science, and damn do they know how to be sassy. In short, arguing with them sometimes feels like listening to a repeated chorus of "Look how smart I am!".

That's when it hit me: the French innate belief that they are all naturally smarter than everyone else still needs polishing sometimes, and shows like this make them feel better about themselves. It's really reassuring to see certified morons broadcast their lives on national television because it provides a huge ego boost for everyone. It's like the whole country is circle-jerking while watching the show, finally convinced of their superior IQ. As much as they hate the show, they wholeheartedly love the morons for merely existing and making everybody else look better.

I don't know if I hit it right on the nail, but I'm pretty sure that's it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Badge Conundrum

At work everyone has a personal badge used to enter the buildings, use the elevators, basically to have access to anything. The smart thing to do is to have it on you all the time which is why they also provide us with lanyards so we can have our badges around our necks. Surprisingly, people prefer keeping them in their pockets or just holding them in their hands because, you know, wearing your badge around your neck is "nerdy".

I still remember in high school, people would only put their name tags on display during morning assemblies or spot-checks, while the rest of the time people would bend over backwards just to hide their name tags for fear of looking like nerds. Some would turn their name tags around so the names weren't visible, and some would just keep them in their shirt pockets. The coolest guys already had their names etched on everybody's mind anyway so wearing name tags was beyond redundant to these people. Breaking rules, no matter how petty, was an essential part of being accepted by the cool kids. I had friends whose stationery sets consisted of a single pen because apparently having a pencil case was uncool. Why walk around carrying unnecessary stuff like rulers and erasers when you could just mooch off of the nerds who had them?

I, on the other hand, was already a huge nerd back then so I didn't bother breaking simple rules because I reckoned they made complete sense. I always wore my name tag with pride, never went to school without socks, never kept my hair long, never had 'cool' off-coloured pants that were not quite as olive as they needed to be, always had my shirt neatly tucked in my pants, so on and so forth. I figured that breaking rules was really more of a hassle than anything else and I was too lazy to go out of my way to look cool.

Fast forward 9 years, I am now working amongst highly intelligent adults and high school inferiority complex is way behind me, so it's still bewildering to see people trying their hardest to conceal their badges like it's some sort of skin disease. You can't spell school without cool, so it made sense back then. But now it just seems utterly stupid. In a company where high-tech airplanes are the default screensavers and everybody could spit out Star Wars quotes on command, it's safe to say that everybody here is already a bona fide gigantic nerd. We were hired because of it. If you think wearing your badge around your neck would make you a dork, well sorry but.. that ship has sailed long ago my friend. You can hide your badge all you want, but your fluency in at least 5 programming languages is proof enough that you're one of us.

I've made peace with my geekiness and now I embrace it fully, so it's hilarious to see others still struggling with their inner nerds. Or maybe, just maybe, they are so afraid that displaying their badges would burst their nerd-o-meter and they would be catapulted onto Nerd Planet with no way of getting back down. In that case, I hold nothing against them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Sweetest Mother of All Evil

Sugar is evil.

I've phased out sugar from my diet almost two months ago, and it feels great. Well, technically I still get sugar from my daily intake of carbohydrates (I make sure to keep carbs at a minimum), fruits and milk, so I'm not exactly sugar-free. But I've managed to stay away from sweet cereal, dessert, sugary drinks, sauces, vending machine junk items, and I drink unsweetened coffee, dark as night.

For the longest time my staple breakfast menu was sugary cereal at around 7.30 a.m, inducing an insulin spike in my body. This, in turn, would drive me into a trembling fit at around 11am and I'd find myself racing for the cafeteria. On several occasions, I got dizzy during afternoon classes due to sugar crash, resulting in a trip to the vending machine for a quick sugar fix.

Cutting back on sugar has been a wise decision. I now find myself rarely hungry, and more energetic than before. I can now survive on as low as 1400 kcals per day, and my bowel movements have never been more luscious. I also drink a shitload of water every day, making my pee look like a glistening stream fit for salmon rearing.

Now that spring has finally graced its presence upon the city of Toulouse, I make it a point to go cycling any chance I get and to go for a run every day. I've been doing a 5km run every day for the past week by the Garonne river where the air is pure and the view is just lovely. Toulouse is such a beautiful city with its old, pink buildings and sunny climate, it's a shame that I didn't take up running earlier.

This is Pont des Catalans, the bridge I cross on my daily runs. It's hard to feel tired when the view is this amazing. As much as I'm thrilled that my sojourn in France is coming to an end, mundane stuff such as this bridge always makes me think twice about leaving this country for good. Besides, I'm pretty certain that once I set foot on Malaysian soil, sugar is going to get to me and never leaving.

Given my genetic predisposition for diabetes (both sides of my family have had a history with this bitch of a disease), I can't help feeling that unless I do something about it, sooner or later it's going to get me.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I've been watching a lot of messed up films back-to-back this weekend so I thought I needed to watch something more mellow, maybe a comedy, to retrieve my faith in humanity. A quick search on Google returned a lot of recommendations for Ted, one of the highest-grossing films of last year. Yeah, why not. A story about a good-for-nothing guy whose best friend is a vulgar pothead teddy bear. Original? I think so. Even Roger Ebert, I mean, the late Roger Ebert thought it was pretty damn funny, and I've always trusted his taste in movies.

Well, big mistake. I found Ted neither funny nor original. The script is lazy, at best. Too many references on today's pop culture is the quintessential attribute of lazy writing. Yeah, poking fun at Justin Bieber and Katy Perry might be somewhat funny now, but I doubt these jokes can stand the test of time, and I'm not talking about decades to come. I bet in 5 years, people will forget who these people are and the jokes will become obsolete.

Then again, it's a Seth Macfarlane movie. I should have seen that coming. I've never found Family Guy particularly funny, and the running gags get old really fast. Ted sometimes feels rushed and lost in its own mediocre storyline. Whenever that happens, they will resort to cheap non sequiturs like the flimsy filler subplots of Patrick Warburton's and Ryan Reynolds' cameo as a gay couple, or the appearance of Sam Jones from Flash Gordon doing shots and snorting coke.

To be honest, the reason why it took me this long to finally give Ted a watch was because I knew exactly how the story was going to unfold and I didn't find the original idea appealing. But again, I was beaten by an overwhelming majority of people who enjoyed it, so I finally thought yeah, let's give it a go. Disappointment ensues. Even Giovanni Ribisi can't save it.

The only redeeming factor of Ted, and also the only reason why I didn't turn of my VLC player midway through (the internet pirate equivalent of walking out of the movie theater) was Mila Kunis. She's just really, really, really, really hot. And she speaks fluent Russian too, which for some reason amplifies her hotness. To top it off, she's also a good actress. I have to salute the producers for casting her, it's as if they knew that the storyline was sub-par so they needed an American-Ukrainian bombshell to distract the male brain and keep it from thinking straight.

I give Ted 7/10, with a breakdown of 0.02/10 for the storyline, 0.08/10 for the fact that Ted looks extremely lifelike, and 6/10 for Mila Kunis. I'm pretty sure this is exactly how it got the 7.1/10 rating on IMDb anyway.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Today I Am No Longer A Functional Human Being

I'm a sucker for graphic horror movies. Gore, chainsaw, decapitation, sick cannibals, you name it, I've seen it. I've seen them all.

Well, at least that's what I thought.

Tonight proved otherwise. I just went through the most disturbing, gut-wrenching, mind-numbingly sick and twisted cinematic experience. It was so disgusting I think I officially just became dead inside, more so than I ever was. This movie is so fucked up it makes The Human Centipede look like The Sound of Music.

I can't believe I let myself watch the whole thing. For the entire duration of the film I was like a deer in the headlights, can't keep watching but can't look away. I am now just a hollow shell of my former self. I doubt I can ever recover from this.

Serbians are just... fucked up.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Brain and I

I used to have an incredible memory. I had this ability of finding space in my brain to store the most trivial stuff I came across, and because of that I think I'm running out of memory space. Sometimes I wish I could delete some stuff in my head to make room for new stuff. It is frustrating when I keep forgetting super important things like deadlines and meetings, all the while still remembering stupid rubbish I committed to memory 11 years ago such as all the names of the women in Mambo No. 5 with their respective attributes, and in the correct order.

Sometimes I don't even understand my own brain. I could be analysing super complicated numerical analysis stuff for a whole week to get a full grasp of it for work purposes, but comes the weekend, my brain would conveniently forget everything I just acquired. But of course, that embarrassing thing that happened to me a billion years ago? Yeah, still remember every detail of it like it was yesterday. Get your shit together, brain, and sort out your fucking priorities.

Maybe this is an early onset of Alzheimer, in which case I'm screwed. But I really just think that I need to free up some space up there.

But my fucked up memory could also be awesome sometimes. The other day a colleague asked me to help her with a German technical document about composite materials (she doesn't speak any German). So I went over, had a quick look at it, and somehow my brain managed to dig up a lot of German vocabulary that I thought was already history. I was especially surprised when it managed to correctly translate the word Rücktrocknung because honestly, I don't remember ever having learned the word. Yeah, I speak of my brain as a detached part of me because most of the time it truly feels like it's controlling itself and I'm just in for the ride.

Now if only it could ignore stupid trivia and focus on things I actually need to remember, that would be great.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Iron Lady

I watched The Iron Lady on a flight last year, and didn't like it one bit. Yeah, yeah, Meryl Streep is a great actress, what else is new? The woman could play a kitchen sink and everyone would be in tears. She should be given a lifetime achievement award of some sort already and then we could all move on. The movie itself was a drag.

Well I might have been a bit biased when watching the movie because I already established a strong dislike towards Margaret Thatcher since I read about her a couple of years back. I don't really remember what good things she did while she was in power, but she used to be a supporter of the Apartheid in South Africa. To me, that one detail about her eclipses any good thing she ever did, if any.

And I don't really get how people say she paved the way for female leaders everywhere. If anyone should get that accolade, it should be Hatshepsut, the first and longest reigning female pharaoh, and that was over 3500 years ago. And she did a damn good job governing Ancient Egypt. There has been a lot of great female figures ever since, so why are we fixating on this one woman as though she changed the face of the Earth?

I'm not trying to be disrespectful, because a life is a life and her death (or anyone else's for that matter) shouldn't be celebrated. But I've been seeing a lot of Tweets and Facebook statuses praising this woman in the wake of her passing. Just because she was the longest-serving British Prime Minister and a woman doesn't make her the greatest one. Well, to be honest, I don't really understand British politics that much and I really couldn't care less about the debates on Tory or whatever the hell the Brits always yap about. One thing I do know is that Britain is one of the most powerful countries in the world but as of late, their Prime Ministers have all been unremarkable on the world stage. It's safe to say that 10 Downing Street has merely turned into a cross-atlantic extension of the White House.

Well maybe I read the wrong book about her where she was portrayed in a bad light, and I let myself be influenced by the author's own inclination. But for a person as influential as a British Prime Minister, it's one thing not to step up to combat a policy as hideous as the Apartheid, it's another thing to fully support it. To be fair, she did a complete turnaround and opposed the Apartheid towards the end, but only after extreme pressure from all around the world. That's like apologizing for something only because you got caught: it doesn't count.

So there is my opinion about the late Margaret Thatcher. I might be oversimplifying things and I certainly overlooked a lot of great stuff she did. After all, you cannot maintain power in a democratic country for 11  years without doing something right. But I'm pretty sure she doesn't deserve all the credit she's been getting.

For what it's worth, rest in peace Madam Thatcher.

ps: Apparently I've written about her before, also in a relatively bitter tone. Yea, I might need a Thatcher chill pill.

Monday, April 08, 2013

My friend, the Autobahn Gonzalez

I saw this video at work today (yes, my office doesn't block any websites) and couldn't help laughing. German dude went up to almost 150km/h on an American highway and got busted. Serves him right. Like the officer said, they weren't on an Autobahn. The officer was a complete tool, though.

But anyway, the Germans do drive like pumas on Epinephrine. That's what you get when the national automobile industry is so awesome that people trust car makers with their lives. Back when I was working there, my daily routine included working late (sometimes till midnight) with my office mate so what we did was we would order pizza for dinner, watch a TV series, and called it a night when our codes were done compiling. He would then proceed to driving me home and that was always the moment I dreaded the most.

This dude was borderline crazy (which might be why we got along very well). The moment his car engine started roaring, he would already be flooring the gas pedal and pulling a Hamilton in the parking lot. Never had I thought I needed more than one seat belt in a car, but the first time he drove me home, I remember frantically reaching out for a second seat belt that wasn't there. And I held on to the grab bar so hard my knuckles hurt. I even rehearsed my last words in case the paramedics had a notepad with them.

Even after a month, I still had trouble getting used to his demonic driving. Once, we were so sick of eating pizza that we decided to go to McDonald's Drive-Thru for something to eat. We drove off back to work and I was thinking we were going to wait till we reached the office before working on our fries and burgers.... until I saw him reaching out for his Big Mac and fries with both hands, while driving, at a speed of 120km/h on a 40km/h street. I started freaking out so he said, "Relax, I'm driving with my knees, I do it all the time." I looked down and saw his knees just maneuvering the steering like pros (this dude was at least 1.90m tall). That completely reassured me.


But still, there we were, two kids having dinner in a car that was going at a speed not meant for such a narrow lane, both gobbing down on our burgers and none of our hands were on the steering wheel. I have to give it to the guy though, knee-driving looked awesome.

Oh and wait till I tell you about how he handled highway exits. He would go as fast as his VW Polo could take it down the highway, and 10 meters before he had to take an exit he would do the brake-and-drift like it was nothing. Meanwhile on the passenger side, on top of hurting knuckles, insufficient seat belt protection and my head going numb from the car vibrations, I also had to endure extreme centrifugal force pushing me against the passenger door all along the highway exit curve. If Tracy Chapman is still looking for a fast car, I'll gladly give her this guy's contact number.

It wasn't all bad though. In fact, looking back, it was the most fun I've had on the highway. We would go so fast everything else looked like molecules in a hadron collider, all the while having Herbert Grönemeyer's Bleibt Alles Anders playing full blast on his MP3 ("Es gibt vieeeel zu verlieren, du kannst nuurrr gewinneeeeen.....").

I've never really understood what the song is actually about, but every time I listen to it now, it takes me back to all those late nights I risked death on a German highway.

Who would have thought risking death would be so much fun?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

I just finished watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And it is a humongous snoozefest.

I used to be big on high-school/teen angst/coming of age books and movies. I've grown out of it, though. The only reason I watched The Perks was because I wanted to see Emma Watson playing anything other than a budding witch. She's cute as a button, but sucked big time as an actor in Harry Potter. Every time she delivered a line it would seem like she didn't know how to feel about it, hence she always ended up looking like she just poopfarted and was waiting for the smell to arise.

In The Perks, her acting has improved by leaps and bounds. To be fair, her acting talent was dismal so the room for improvement was enormous and she could only get better, which she did. Unfortunately, her casting was a huge miscast. She didn't have any gritty edge needed to portray a girl who has a slutty and rebellious reputation. She was just too prim and proper for her role. And the fake American accent didn't help. She just came off as a sweet girl next door with a confused exotic accent and a made up reputation peddled by bitter dudes who tried hitting on her but got turned down. Well maybe that's the effect the producers were going for, maybe not. Either way, I didn't buy any of it.

I am also getting tired of the recycled theme of there being 4 types of American high school kids: the jocks (or jerks) , the bitches, the nerds and the misfits. And heaven forbid that any of them downplay their role. According to Hollywood, jerks are first-class bullies who trip you at the cafeteria for fun when you're holding a full lunch tray. This, of course, followed by a douchey evil laugh and all-around high fives and the whole cafeteria laughing and pointing at the fallen victim (nerd/misfit) and the bully's hot cheerleader girlfriend (the bitch) just jumping on the bully's laps for a full-fledged impromptu make-out session. I've never seen this happened in real life, ever. No one trips anyone with a tray full of food just for the hell of it.

The bitches are always the prettiest and the sluttiest, and the nerds are always bespectacled fashionably-challenged kids with big crooked teeth who are so smart they can build a spaceship just with whatever they find in the high school science lab. And the misfits are those who don't really belong to any of the other groups, but they all have seem to have one thing in common: superior taste in music and literature that others just don't get. If I had a euro for every time a high school movie starts out with a "great 60's song" with an awkward misfit walking to school holding a book by Salinger/Fitzgerald/Steinbeck/Rand or any of the famed English authors...

One of the supposedly obscure great songs used in The Perks to further alleviate this whole "great taste" agenda was David Bowie's Heroes. Okay, since when is David Bowie obscure? Heroes is one of his most famous songs so it doesn't make sense to use it as a song "only appreciated by those in the know". In fact, some of the songs used in the film were chart-toppers like Come On Eileen and Temptation, so the whole hipster act didn't really pan out well for the characters now did it?

I don't really know who the target audience for this movie is (I'm guessing the Harry Potter fans given the fact that they chose to put Emma Watson in a role she's the worst fit for), but I'm pretty certain I'm in the overly-critical demographic group this movie is not suitable for. Seeing that it got a rating of 8.1/10 on IMDb, it seems like I'm beaten by an overwhelming majority, so this movie must have a certain appeal unbeknownst to only myself.

I hope the book is better than the movie because I've heard great things about the book and that incited me to see the film adaptation. If the book is just as bad, then I seriously have to reevaluate the whole paperback industry and its purpose.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

War and turning 25

I'm starting to get interested in war.

Or the ideology leading up to war, to be exact. I've been reading up a lot on all the major wars in ancient and modern history. I suddenly find it fascinating how millions upon millions of people would throw themselves on the front lines, risking imminent death just to protect their motherlands, knowing mighty well they might not live to see the fruit of their labour.

My ex-roommate was a war freak. He was obsessed with World Wars and Hitler and the army, and I didn't really understand that obsession. If it weren't for the government scholarship, he would surely have applied to join the army. Of course, every boy at one stage of his life has dreamed of being a soldier. I had the epiphany when I was around 6. But then I switched to wanting to be a police officer, then a firefighter, and then for the longest time I wanted to be Prime Minister. None of those ambitions got to see the the light of day, so I really admire those soldiers who stick out their childhood dream to the end. It's a noble profession.

I thought war was completely unnecessary and stupid, thus needed no glorification. It's always the same shit. War is declared, both sides get badly hurt, the whole world goes into recession, cities are destroyed, people die, both armies get weakened, an embargo is imposed, a peace treaty is signed and that's it. Why can't they just skip the whole bloody process and go straight to the peace treaty?

Little that I knew, mass civilian killings are not merely byproducts of wars - they are part of the multipronged objective. Hitler was accused of genocide, but aren't all wars about a group of people hating another group of people wishing they were dead? The Pan-Arabism movement in the Middle East was basically the Arabs wanting to get rid of Zionists and Shiites, either by ousting them, converting them into Sunni Muslims or annihilating them altogether (the latter evidently being preferred). Of course, annexing new lands seems like the general goal of a war, but the acquisition of new territories also means having to find a way to earn the loyalty of the occupied groups of people. It would be much easier just to wipe them out in the first place.

Wars are more complicated then I previously thought, which makes it a lot more fascinating. I love how twisted wars can get, how hatred ends up prevailing and trumping all logic, to the point where people just forget what they actually set out to fight for and just continue killing or getting killed thinking they are already in so deep and have nothing to lose anymore. The war in Syria started as a revolution of a people against their oppressor, and now it's an outright civil war between the different ethnics. How did they even get there?

I pity them as much as I applaud their bravery. I now understand more about the importance of war and at the same time bewildered by the stupidity of it all. I am enlightened and saddened by all the war stories I've been reading and war movies/documentaries I've been watching.

I should give up engineering and be a war anthropologist. If there's even such a job. That would be awesome.

ps: I'm turning 25 today.

Monday, April 01, 2013


Ten food items I'm going to miss once I leave Europe:

1) Scallops

Sure we have ten thousand types of shellfish in Malaysia, and they're delicious and dirt cheap too. But none of those come close to the succulent God creation that is the scallop. I've been in Toulouse for a month now, and scallops here are quite cheap compared to the north, so I make it a Saturday ritual to get 250 grams of scallop from the local fishmonger also known as the fish section at Carrefour. A dab of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, 1 minute on the skillet each side, and your scallop is done. Well, when I'm feeling particularly fancy, I'd go to restaurants for a scallop risotto (did that just last night and all in all set me back 30 euros. In my defense, I just got my pay last week). 

2) Salmon

In Malaysia we are blessed with a lush selection of lean, tasty tropical fish, so I shouldn't be complaining about our fish department. If you go to a French fish market, all you can see are huge fishes with scary faces and slimy white bellies. Even their stingrays aren't as juicy as ours, and they cost a bomb too. But then you have the salmon. Now that fish is certainly a bug in the system, because it's just as beautiful as it is delicious. And very cheap too. Just last week I bought three slabs of fresh salmon for 5 euros, which is practically a steal. I used one to make salmon sashimi, and grilled the other two for Monday and Tuesday lunch at work. Paired them with fusili and red pesto, and I was good to go. (Of course I bring my own meal to work. Lunch at the canteen costs 8 euros, and it's pretty much shit on top of shit on the side of shit with shit for dessert. And my red pesto fusili with grilled salmon costs me under 3 euros to make, a no brainer. Yes I have to wake up an hour early everyday to prepare lunch, but a good healthy and cheap meal is worth waking up early every day for).

3) Foie gras

I don't eat this a lot because it's super expensive and I'm dirt poor. But every time I get to, I'd thank God for all that is good and holy in the world, which this thing definitely is. For those of you who have never tasted foie gras, I'd compare the taste to dark chicken meat ground in Parmesan cheese, with the texture of soft butter. Usually people eat it with fig jam and spiced bread, but being fancy is not my primary concern, so I just put my foie gras on a toast. Just as good, and ten times cheaper. Besides I'm not a fan of spiced bread because it's more sweet than it is spicy, and it overwhelms the foie gras flavour. A lot of people have an aversion to the way the ducks and geese are being force fed until their livers swell and they become sickly. But if the end result of the process is a sumptuous fatty liver then I say force feed away. Some studies show that ducks and geese don't have gag reflex, so the whole force feeding process is painless to them and we needn't worry. Brought this up to an anti-foie gras friend, and he asked me, "Painless? How do you know? Are you a goose? Or did a talking goose come to you and tell you that?"

Good point. But then again, these geese are fed delicious, high quality corn all day. If I were a goose and all I had to do was laze around while constantly being fed good food, why would I be complaining? That is my idea of heaven anyway: a fat me in the middle of a Coca Cola pond being fed scallop and tuna sashimi by angels all day long.

4) Tuna

Okay tuna might sound like a generic fish. I associate tuna with camping trips, because every time I go camping I'd bring cans of tuna spread in my backpack. If you go camping with me, I'd be the dude with the God-awful tuna breath. But I shit you not, fresh tuna is actually a magnificent food. The red tuna flesh is a tantalizing sight in itself. Just make sure to go to a good fishmonger, though. I had a few food poisoning episodes with not-so-fresh tuna slabs, and I had only myself to blame for having prepared tuna sashimi with tuna sold in styrofoam at 50% off. Tuna is a lot more expensive than salmon, which is justified by its heavenly taste. So I decided to skimp on cheap tuna and God paid me in cash right there and then. Never had my toilet bowl gotten so much business in one weekend, and I'm lactose intolerant.

5) Milk

Good milk is expensive in Malaysia. Very much so. A liter of milk costs around RM5, and the good ones even more. In Europe however, milk is disgustingly cheap and surprisingly good. Growing up, I was used to the taste of HL milk and I loved it because of the slightly sugary vanilla taste. Now I know that milk should not taste like that. And in France, they have this milk campaign where every milk brand uses milk from the nearby region, so you can be pretty sure that your milk is fresh and it benefits local dairy farmers.

6) Baked goods

If you've ever been to Delifrance in Malaysia, you would know how... bad their croissants are. Croissants should never be dry. And they should be warm. And buttery. The one from Delifrance are none of those. To compensate for the sub-par quality of their baked goods, they stuff their croissants with chicken or tuna with three tonnes of mayonnaise so you'll have a heart attack while also getting ripped off. I'm surprised Delifrance is still surviving while it should have gone under years ago. Baked goods in France is a different story. I'm not a pastry person, so I don't really buy them. But I'm glad to be in a country where, no matter where you are, you don't need to walk more than 10 minutes to find a good bakery that sells buttery croissants for 90 cents each. Malaysia is still way ahead of Europe when it comes to white bread, though. Gardenia bread is just unbeatable. Try spreading peanut butter on Harry's bread here, and you'll get a flaky peanut butter sandwich that tears in the middle.

7) Duck

I hate duck taste when I was in Malaysia. To me it was just a greasier, fattier version of beef. And they tend to overcook duck in heavy sauce, so in the end you'll get chewy red meat bathed in its own fat and an overpowering sweet sauce. It was not good. Coming here, I've learned to appreciate the taste and texture of duck meat. I don't have it often because it's still very greasy, but if cooked and drained right, duck meat is very crispy on the outside and extremely juicy on the inside.

8) Asparagus

Asparagus is very picky for a vegetable. It only grows in a short period between May and June, it needs to be cooked right, and it needs to be eaten very fresh. An old asparagus would be hard and chewy. I don't usually give my veggies a 5 star treatment because well, they are just plants. You can stir fry any edible plant and it'll taste good. But not asparagus. During the asparagus season, you'll have to go to the market early in the morning or you can be sure to see only shitty asparagus left on display. People go crazy over these long green things, and it's perfectly understandable why. Try steaming fresh asparagus and eat it just like that, you'll never get enough. It's crunchy and juicy at the same time, and it goes well with any sauce as long as you don't drench it lest it'll become too soggy.

9) Aurora sauce

Aurora is the best Italian sauce, hands down. The first time I tasted it, I went to heaven and back. During my month-long backpacking trip to Italy a couple of years back, in every city I'd look out for restaurants with aurora sauce on their menu. To this day I still don't know what exactly is in aurora sauce, but I'm pretty sure it's the same ingredients used to make the Powerpuff Girls: sugar, spice and everything nice. (Okay a quick Google search told me it was tomato concentrate, cream and garlic.) Aïoli is another good sauce I'm going to miss, but not that much because it's just basically mayonnaise with garlic, and is jam-packed with cholesterol.

10) Firm cheese

I am a big cheese fan. The stronger the taste, the better. In small doses, of course. Given my lactose intolerance, ten trips to the bathroom after dinner are not worth any cheese except for the comté. It trumps all the other cheese in existence. I remember going skiing in the Jura last year and we had a cheese night with different types of cheese from around the Jura area. The Jura comté was so exquisite, I wasn't even sorry for what the toilet bowl had to go through afterwards. However, I'm not a fan of soft cheese like the ones they have in the north. Now that I am in the south, I'm going to stock up on cheese and eat it like it's Doritos.

So there you go. Except for foie gras, everything else on this list is cheap everyday stuff that comes by easily in France, which is the main reason why I'll miss them. Of course, you can get them in Malaysia too, but I'm pretty sure it's unaffordable.