Friday, December 30, 2005

The "Success" of our "No Dialect" policy

You know the "No Dialect" policy formulated by the authorities in the 70s has been a success when you tried explaining to a local medical staff the condition of your medical ailment in the hospital.

Yesterday, my mum complained of breathlessness and I brought her to the A&E of a hospital. She was admitted but, thankfully, was discharged today.

Upon admission, we were first attended to by a local Chinese nurse who started asking my mum her medical history in Mandarin. Not knowing Mandarin, my mum broke into Hokkien only to have the nurse looking askance at me. I asked the nurse if she was local. She replied yes but added that though she was not very conversant in Hokkien, she has little problem understanding the spoken dialect. But it was clear she was "struggling" trying to hold the conversation with my mum. I thought that situation in the hospital was potentially dangerous. A miscommunication could have given rise to a misdiagnosis, could it not?

My wife, also a nurse, told me that at the hospital where she works, many of the local Chinese doctors and nurses speak little dialect, if at all. Most of them are in the early 20s. These days, she not only has to translate the non-Chinese doctors' prescriptions to the elderly; she has to do the same for the Chinese doctors.

Surely, this is the consequence of the "No Dialect" policy implemented in the 1970s. I'm not about to embark on a tirade on why this policy of "No-dialect" on national TV or movies should be relaxed (some would say it already has – just look at Jack Neo's movies). There's no doubt that the gahmen has the best of interest of our country when they implemented that policy, the objective of which I have no desire to repeat here. But personally, I feel that it's quite a shame that our children should loss the heritage of their dialects. My mum, the care-giver uses Hokkien to communicate with my kids, whom I'm proud to say, speaks good Hokkien by today's standard. Many kids and young adults of today don't.

If you can recall the SARS days in Singapore, the authorities allowed medicorp artistes to make speeches on SARS awareness on TV and the radio. Of course, the targeted audience was the elderly, many of whom know only dialects and may be blissfully unaware of the peril of he SARS virus. But why should it take a crisis in order for dialects to be used on national TV?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Instant mee on my mestin tastes just as good

Like most parents, my mum was worried when I was about to enlist for NS more than 20 years ago. She spent sleepless night worrying about her "baby" leaving home for the first time. She worried about the physical training and hardship, about the infamous army food and basically about my well-being. Happily, I came out of NS none the worse for it. In fact, NS has done me, and I dare say most men, good. We learned about discipline, teamwork, physical endurance and yes, even racial harmony. If someone was out of line and had problem with authority, the whole platoon was likely to suffer and all would be punished. Sure, there was resentment against that individual who "sabo" all. But again, it made one mindful of one's action 'cause we knew that our action would result in consequences that would affect every soldier in the platoon.

The army is where all men (well, almost ALL men) learned how to handle their first "wife" - the rifle (sorry Victor, I'm not making fun of you 'cause I remember my new year resolution. LOL). It followed us wherever we went during deployment in the field. Even when we were catching our precious 40 winks, we took pain to ensure that "she" was close to us physically. Woes to the soldier who woke up and found his "wife" missing. He would probably get extra duties (weekend burned) or if the rifle was truly gone (a serious offence), court martial and sent to detention barrack.

On the flip side, we did have lots of fun with our wives rifles. We shot with them, clean them up after each shooting exercise. We were even tested on how fast we could "strip" and "assemble" the wives rifles. Truly and even at the risk of sounding "corny", I do feel that the army is where we boys turned into men, notwithstanding the fact that 18-year-old boys' entry to RA21 movies is still a no-go. Btw, I still couldn't quite get a handle on that ruling. So an 18-year-old is old enough to hold a rifle and kill to protect the country; but ain't matured enough to catch a RA21 movie? Dig that!

In a matter of years, Senior Junior, who's all of 13, would be going down the same path as his Dad and many Singaporean men before him. When that time arrives, I'm sure the Slim Lady (and I) will feel the anxiety the way my mum did. I always tell the Slim Lady - let's not worry so pre-maturely. My mum worried for me and look where I am now?

Fortunately (or unfortunately), life in the army has undergone tremendous changes. So much so that perhaps the worry and anxiety may not be necessary. For instance, the army has reduced the conscript term from 2.5 years to 2 years. The number of ICT has also been cut from 13 to 10 years. Why, it's been said that the next war (if it ever occurs, or has it started already?) would commence from the comfort of the armchair and with a press of a button. It seems life in the army is no longer as tough as it used to be. One begins to worry if it will churn out an army of softies?

It was reported recently that the army has just acquired a portable German-made Mobile Field Kitchens that could whip out chicken rice, nasi lemak, and mee goreng for 500 soldiers within hours. It claims the food is comparable to food-court fares. The Kitchen also provides fresh drinking water and water for shower, besides doing laundry, washing and drying up to 100 sets of uniforms at a time.

Imagine what this nifty gadget could do to the NS chaps having field training? Instead of bathing with talcum powder or going without bath for days during exercises, they can now have a nice shower right in the middle of the jungle. Instead of dry ration or instant mee, they are now served "food-court" food by army chef. And most thankfully, the ritual of digging a hole out in the jungle to cover up their poo may soon be a thing of the past.

Certainly, technologies have advanced our way of life in many ways, including that in the army. Back then, comradeship was forged while cooking instant mee the old-fashion way - a few rocks were simply gathered from the training ground and cleverly arranged like a mini stove. Mestins were used as "wok". Someone would start boiling the water with the mestin. Then someone else would throw in the noodle. And yet another person would open a can of braised pork and threw them all into the mestin. The resulting mee may not taste as delicious as those food churned out by the German machine, but boy did they taste good! The steaming hot noodle in the mestins was the product of our comradeship. What I'm trying to drive at is that technology may not always or necessarily be a good thing.

Of course, to progress, we should embrace technology. But if the army is all comfy, how do we expect our boys to face the eventuality of a war?

I have fond memories of my army days and platoon mates, some of whom were quite a character. Will blog about them one day.

Category: Musings

Monday, December 26, 2005

Making (and breaking) New Year resolutions

The day after Christmas and six days to 2006. There's still plenty of time yet to make that thing called “Resolution. To me, making resolution is a yearly ritual - not just making it; but breaking it as well. Why? Most people can't hold resolutions beyond 3 January. It has become a ritual of mockery. So why bother?

Truth is, a year without resolutions is a year without purposes or directions. Resolutions are like beacons, guiding us in the brand new year, giving us directions in the way we want our life to be. We make resolutions, trying to take stock of our life. But of course, staying on course to fulfill one's resolution is never easy. Or there'll be no necessity to make resolutions.

I've got a few resolutions for 2006. Whether I can keep them or not is beside the point. In order of priority, my resolutions are:

1. Spend more time with my family. The demand of work, hours surfing the net and blogging (looking sheepish) do eat into my time with my family. It's really hard trying to juggle everything. For a start, I will cut down working OT on weekend unless absolutely necessary. After all, what's the 5-day week for?

2. Shape up. Exercise more and eat less. The latter is going to be tough, what with lunch each working day of the week with BAGUS. Of course, if I fail in this resolution, I can always blame BAGUS.

3. Be a Flextarian. To the uninitiated, Flextarian is one who is mostly vegetarian but occasionally omnivorous. I really think I need to take in more greens and less meat. Again, with BAGUS, this may pose a challenge.

4. To be a nicer person. I'm 90% nice, and 10% nasty (some may say ‘bitchy’). Sometimes, you have to be nasty, especially in the office where we know “survival of the fittest” rules. The 10% nastiness usually applies to show co-workers (sometime bosses) that I’m no pushover, ok? But most time, I'm nice. I swear. :))

5. To learn to play the guitar. It's something that I've longed to do for years but haven't found the time to. My mind willing, I do think I can still learn to "strum" a tune or two, despite my fingers getting stumpy and stiffy even as I “age”.

6. Roller-blade. This is also something that I've always wanted to learn. Better get Senior Junior to show me the rope before my bones get all brittle. Perhaps Victor can teach me how? Victor's quite a roller, so I was told.

7. To stop reduce taking swipes at Victor (para 6 is NOT a swipe at you Victor) whose sporting nature and good humour has sustained our friendship thus far. Others would have fallen out with me long ago for the horrible things I did him. :P

8. To resist blaming BAGUS or anything (animated or inanimated), on my failure in fulfilling any of the above resolutions. :))

Wah, eight resolutions already? Hmmm... I'll be happy if I can fulfill half of them. See? I'm giving up already!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The meaning of exchanging presents during Christmas

I read "Sleepless In Singapore" blog today and learn a thing about the meaning of Christmas.

According to "Sleepless In Singapore" (he left no name in his blog and I'm tempted to call him "insomniac" or "zombie", hee), Christmas is NOT about giving; but about receiving.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” - John 3:16

I've never seen Christmas in that light. To me, Christmas is a day to honour the birth of Jesus Christ and on this day, we should perhaps act like He did, being kind, generous and forgiving. Out of this spirit perhaps sprung the custom of giving gifts to our loved ones, but the custom soon evolved into exchanging presents.

Of course, buying presents for our family members is a must. But when it comes to friends and colleagues, we only buy to those whom we care and love. Colleagues who are left out of the list may construe that we obviously do not love them, which may not necessary be the case. Sadly, political correctness has crept into this simple act of gift-giving which has become a tool to measure one's level of friendship to another.

But it doesn't have to be this way. For instance Victor and myself. We both agreed not to start this tradition of exchanging presents. Once started, it's difficult to break. But that doesn't mean we aren't good pals.

Then there are times we received gifts from colleagues whom we think are mere acquaintance. We always feel obligated to reciprocate with a gift, don't we?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I am sorry ...

Dear T. T. Durai,

Deja vu. Just as we thought the dust on the NKF fiasco has settled, the report by KPMG re-ignites the anger I feel about this whole saga and started my blood boiling again. I'm utterly disgusted with you and your cahoots.

I'm sorry about your downfall, Mr Durai. No, I'm not sorry for you.

I'm sorry for the withdrawal of donations by many Singaporeans following reports of your excesses.

I'm sorry for the many kidney dialysis patients who may suffer more because of the withdrawal of these donations.

I'm sorry for the misplaced loyalty of the misguided nurses and medical staff who cried bitter tears when you were told to vacate the CEO seat.

I'm sorry for the many Singaporeans who have been misled into thinking that our monies had gone into helping the kidney patients.

I'm most sorry to learn that only 10 cents out of a dollar is spent on the patients.

I'm sorry for the NKF driver who has never got a bonus for the 10 years he worked there, while you brazenly gave yourself bonus serveral times within a year.

I'm sorry for the NKF staff who were told that their unconsumed leave would be forfeited, while you shamelessly backdated your leave increment and encashed them for $73,000.

But most of all, I'm sorry that the word "Charity" raises a stink these days. Nobody trusts charity anymore. You've done the other charity bodies a big disservice, Mr Durai. All thanks to you.

What were you thinking, Mr Durai, when you decided to sue SPH? Did you think you would walk out of the court triumphant? The way you did years ago when you sued two others who accused you of fund abuse? Why, it transpired that their accusation against you was true, wasn't it? You did travel first class, didn't you? You and your cahoots.

This time last year, did you predict that your life would undergo a 360 degree change one year later?

If you feel like you're in the pit of hell, Mr Durai, be prepared that the worse is yet to come. The last I read, charges may be laid against former managers of NKF for having milked Singapore's biggest charity and that the scandal you created may become an issue in the general elections expected as early as next year. Now you've got BIG BROTHER pissed ...

Up Yours Truly

Pissed and disgusted

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Great Social Divide and Victor the jester

We had a little Christmas celebration today, one of two lined-up in the office. See, our office has become so "compartmentalized" that we usually have more then one celebration for a single public holiday. We have one on the section level; and another one on the department level. It doesn't really make much sense. So am I supposed to wish my colleagues "Merry Christmas" twice?

Of course, food, well-wishes and merry-making are important ingredients for a perfect Christmas function. But more often then not, something sticks out like a sore thumb during such functions in the office. It always does. I'm talking about THE GREAT SOCIAL DIVIDE. I don't know about your office, but in my office, I always observe that the bosses and the power that be usually huddle on one corner of the room, and the rank-and-file officers on the other. It's always the case and I never stop to wonder why. Some people are simply shy. But I suspect the reason why the employees do not mingle with the bosses is that we fear saying something stupid and thus leaving our bosses with a bad impression. So, we tend not to strike out a conversation with our bosses and avoid them like the plague in such social setting. As the saying goes, silence is a substitue for stupidity, is it not? And the bosses, trying not to make the employees feel intimidated, keep their distance. Someone ought to help to break the ice and break down this invisible wall...

That aside, Victor left me in stitches today, for the silliest thing he did in the office. I couldn't help myself chuckling away even as I write ... Wahahaha...

See, Victor was trying to get hold of one of our BIG bosses through the phone. However, what he heard when he dialed the number was a pre-recorded voice asking him to leave his message in the voice box. Ok, so our big boss doesn't exactly sound like an angle. But you know how it is each time you're asked to speak to a answering machine or trying to make a pre-recorded voice of you own on your machine. We get self-conscious and our voice turned out sounding very artificial. Which was what exactly happened to our boss...

Anyway, my dear pal Victor seemed to be blissfully unaware that the voice recorder was active and running and happily went on to imitate the voice of our boss, just for jest. It took him a while to realise that his voice was recorded and he panicked to the point of becoming hysterical! Heads would roll when our boss heard the voice mail on her return!

"There goes your promotion!" I jokingly told Victor. However, I was surprised when Victor's hysteria soon gave way to one of indifference. That was when he realised there was nothing he could do to undo what he has done. In the end, when he finally managed to get hold of the boss, he simply asked her to just erase his voice message saying that he was not even aware that his voice was being recorded. We were not sure if she'd heard the voice mail but she apparently bought his story! Cool. Must be his charm again. See, Victor is always so lucky. He could get away with murder. While mere mortal like me could only get away with manslaughter. Wahahaha...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What a "jerky" DAD!

I hate myself sometimes, for the way I handle relationships - relationships with family members, friends and colleagues.

Senior Junior (SJ) was angry with me for what his old man did yesterday. While bringing him home from a tournament, I had refused to give his friend a lift home. The friend stays at Tampines and was out of the way. SJ claimed that in his phone call to me about fetching his friend, he had told me that his friend stayed in "Tampines". I probably wasn't listening while driving. Anyway, it was drizzling slightly and I was late, rushing home with packed dinner in the car. Quite crudely, I told his friend that he has to go home by himself.

Today, SJ was all quiet and refused to talk to me. I didn't mean to take a peek at his cell phone which he has left it in my car after we came back from a trip to Bugis Junction for some Christmas shopping. In his "sent" folder, I noted a sms to Aaron the friend who started it all that reads: "Sorry about that just now. My Dad is a jerk".

Far from being angry, I actually burst out laughing. So is this what I am to my boy? Because of one incident like this? It wasn't exactly SJ's fault. On hindsight, I think I could have handled this incident differently and gave that boy a lift home. I think it's important to make our kids realise that we do care for their friends and that their friends are important to us.

As a peace-offering, I told SJ I would be buying chilli crab for dinner today. He shrugged nonchalantly but I know the boy loves chilli crab, unlike mummy and junior.

Eating crab with my boy is a great way to bond with him. Meticulously, I'd extract the crab meat out of the shell for him. Despite being 13, that boy can't handle a crab to save his life! I always tease him if he would do likewise for his old man when I'm old and invalid. He showed sign of "forgiving" his dad, and I asked him on a scale of 1 to 10, how much he would rate his old man as a Dad. He gave me a 7-8. Wow! Certainly not bad for a Dad who is a "jerk"!

Friday, December 16, 2005

A blanket strategy for economic gain

Where I'm staying is a shopping mall. Like most shopping malls in Singapore, on the top level is a food court. Years ago, the food court underwent a renovation and a change of ownership. What was once a food court that served both Chinese and Halal food was transformed into one that serves strictly Halal food. So we have halal Char Kway Teow, halal chicken rice and halal fish ball noodle. The food court even serves halal chicken cooked in "char siew" sauce. Basically, it's halal everything. And as if to assure consumers that the food served is indeed halal, the food court owner even took measures to ensure that each stall is being manned by a Chinese and a Malay. I'd like to think that is a great way to maintain harmony. But ultimately, the underlying message is for economic gain - pure and simple.

Now, people who know me know that I'm a foodie. I eat food of all ethnic types, and have a particular weakness for satay, the authentic kind. I love food and I live to eat. But when I eat Chinese food like the Char Kway Teow or Mee Pok Tah, I want it with lard, lots of it. Without lard, it's just not Char Kway Teow but fried Kway Teow to me, the kind that I usually buy for breakfast.

What the food court owner did, serving halal food across the board, is no different from what the various fast food restaurants like McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut have done. Getting a halal certificate for a restaurant is a strategy to increase the profit margin. But the fast food restaurants are quite unlike food court, for they serve only a peculiar kind of food. For instance, there are different flavors of chicken in KFC; but there's only so many ways to cook a chicken. Likewise for McDonalds - its business is in making burgers, nothing more, nothing less.

But a food court serves a variety of foods that cater to the different taste buds of the various ethnic groups. Don't get me wrong. I'm not against food court serving halal food per se. A food court without halal foodstall is wrong, but making it halal across the board, rather then having different stalls selling halal and non-halal food doesn't sound right to me either.

Of course, one can argue that it's a free market and I can always look for my lard-laded Char Kway Teow elsewhere...until the transformation of the next foodcourt or hawker centre.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A short trip to Langkawi

I'm not one to travel much. If I do, more often than not, it's for work. In fact for the past few trips that I have gone overseas, it was ALWAYS because of work. That little time for leisure I have. And whenever it's work, the trip takes away half the fun. It always does.

I was at Langkawi at the invitation of a client over the weekend. Together with four other colleagues, our host put us up at Kampung Tok Senik, a rustic and sleepy resort comprising chalets and bungalows set in a kampung style amidst a lush natural backdrop. It's a nice change from the usual 3 or 4-star star hotels we got used to.

What would one expect on a working trip like this? Other then work, it's pretty much what a tourist would do in a foreign land - lazing around by the pool, enjoying the sun, the sand and the sea, and retail therapy, of course, to blow away our money.

Our host, instead of bringing us to the usual Underwater World or cable car ride, took us on a boat ride to Sungei Kilim. The idea is to feed eagles out in the wild. Quietly, I was pleased because though I'm hardly the out-door type, the thought of the Underwater World and Cable Car didn't exactly appeal to me. After all, these two attractions could be found in Singapore too.

The journey on Sungei Kilim would have pleased enthusiasts of Chek Jawa to no end. Living in the mangrove swamp of Sungei Kilim are numerous flora and fauna such as the long-tailed macaques monkeys, iguanas and the Tree Crabs.

Langkawi is actually an acronym for "Lang" which means Eagle in English, and "Kawi" meaning Brown Stone. Is it any wonder than that the Reddish Brown Eagles could be found in the island?

When time came to stop the boat to feed the eagles, we realised that the only souls besides us were a group of tourists on board another boat anchored about 200 meters away from ours. Within minutes of our arrival and as if on cue, the sky was filled with about 30 to 40 eagles circling and waiting to be fed. Somehow, these creatures could sense that we mere mortals were there for a mission - to feed the eagles. It was magnificent, the way these majestic looking creatures swooped down from high above to feast on the feed we threw into the river.

Our host told us that the Malaysian government has endorsed the feeding of the eagles. The reason is pure and simple - the lure of the tourist money. Unfortunately, this tourist attraction is doing more harm then good to the eagles, which are slowly losing their ability to hunt for food naturally. The feed that we threw into the river, comprising chicken entails and rotten fish aren't exactly healthy diet for the eagles. In fact, he added that the long-term effect of feasting on such diet has begun to show its toll on the birds, with some losing their feathers and some laying eggs with shell that was weak, resulting in the eagles becoming endangered. The lure of the tourist dollars is irristable. One can only hope that these eagles, pretty much like the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs, will not go the way of the dinosaurs.

Along the way, we passed by Bat Cave or Gua Kelawar in Malay. The sight of the many bats hanging on the ceiling of the cave sort of made my hair stand on end.

What's a holiday, albeit a working holiday, without shopping? I was happy shopping, more so because I was really touched by the warmth and friendliness of the sales people at Langkawi, both at shopping mall or even at the humble family-owned kedai-kedai in the rural areas. They are always smiling a genuine smile. I felt the same warm when I was in Bangkok. Though we are ahead in so many fields, I feel we Singaporeans have a thing or two to learn from our neighbours when it comes to giving good service and hospitality. We're really unique in that sense; hence the phrase "Uniquely Singapore" coined by the STPB.

I also got to know my colleagues a little better over the weekend. You know what they said if you can "survive" a trip with a friend and come home remain as friends, that friendship will last forever? Guess what? That "crap" is true!

Two more last shots I took of Sungei Kilim. I like these two shots best 'cause they project an image of calm and tranquillity...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The pop icon that she was

She was in her early 30s. I was a lad of 23. I got to know her through a camp mate while on an army training stint in Brunei. The year was 1987.

She was not a beauty, at least not in a ravishing way. Nor was her voice sweet as an angel. But I was taken in by her, no less. There was something about her that drew me to her. Each night, when lights were out at 2359H, I slept with her close to my heart and her voice close to my ears. Such was her hold on me. Long before the advent of the American Idol or the Singapore Idol, I already have my idol. Her name is Madonna.

Over the years, I became her greatest fan, buying almost every single that she made, every album that she recorded. She was at her raunchiest when she sang "Like A Virgin", and her most rebellious when she kissed a black saint in her MTV for "Like A Prayer". There was uproar from the Roman Catholic Church which branded her a sinner for her blasphemous act.

Still, she survived, and went on to scale greater height in her singing career, always reinventing herself, but never shied of controversy after controversy. My love for her never faltered. I continued to buy her remixed singles and MTV videos. Then she tried her hand at acting. And made quite a spectacular of herself, other then playing herself in 'Desperately Seeking Susan".

She got married to the British guy, her second after her divorce from the much under-rated American actor Sean Penn. She seemed to be settling down to being a dutiful wife and doting mum, while at the same time dabbling in Kabbalah, her new-found religion. I realised, to my consternation, that Madonna is slowly losing her appeal to me. Domesticity and Madonna were something that I find hard to connect. But I guess people change. Why, she even penned a couple of children's books; two to be precise, amidst accusation that the books were written by someone in her Kabbalah clan. Who in their right mind would let their kids read Madonna's book? This is the same Madonna who also came out with a pictorial book called "SEX", considered pornographic by many earlier in her career.

I decided I didn't care much for Madonna anymore.

Then she released a new album last week titled "Confessions On A Dancefloor". I bought it anyway, more out of sentimental reason than being a fan. Admittedly, I didn't think much of the album on first spin. And she looks really like a 70s disco-queen in that album cover, to put it mildly.

Happily, like most of her albums, Madonna's songs always grow on you. People who don't appreciate her songs failed to understand that it's an acquired taste. And I also realised that her vocal, used to be rather limited in range, has improved a fair bit. Yes, at 47, this grand old dame has come a long way. Love her or hate her, she has this rock appeal that has made her one of pop great icon. Yes, I'm still a fan and it should have been "the pop icon that she IS" instead of "the pop icon that WAS".

Friday, December 02, 2005

House-Painting is (never) fun, work from morn till set of sun ....

House-painting is (never) fun, work from morn till set of sun,
Cannot stand, cannot sit, cannot rest a little bit.

So, the song which I remember having sung it during my primary school days goes... Just that instead of "house-painting", it's "planting rice"....

The Slim Lady and I have finally given our house a new coat of paint, all 122 sq meter of it and single-handedly, too. It's the first time in six years that we've repainted our house without any professional help.

Doing it ourselves has saved us about $1200. But house-painting is no kid's play, even though Junior might seem to be having a lot of fun in the pic. It's really a lot of hard work. Our legs were sore, having stood on our feet for almost the whole day. And the arms and wrists have started to ache to. The paint was everywhere, landing itself on animated and inanimated objects alike, and I was worried sick that my fish would die! We also took this opportunity to do some spring cleaning, might as well, considering that the Lunar New Year is just about a month away. And to top it all, I was left with no access to my PC for the past two days :(

But it's a small price to pay. Not just the $265 we paid for the four buckets of paint and the brushes, but also, it helps to bond the family. The whole family went shopping for the paints, the kids got to chose the colours for their rooms, and how they wanted their furnitures to be arranged after the painting was done. Granted, the Slim Lady and myself did the bulk of the painting, but the kids were also told to paint their own rooms, too, at least in the initial stage when we started. They enjoyed the painting at first, but as with most kids, the novelty soon wore off and then it was left with mummy and daddy to finish the job

The Slim Lady and I agree that we will do it again. Thankfully, that would be FIVE years later .... and never fun :))

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sitex, "Lies" and Gizmos

Sitex, the computer show that ended its round on Sunday has proven yet again that the service standard in Singapore leaves much to be desired.

I didn't set out to visit Sitex on Thursday. It so happened that I was on leave. I had planned to spend the day at home, "doing-nothing-but-lazing" around, you know, surfing the net, taking catnap, watching videos... But it was not to be.

Talk about good timing, my neighbor living directly below has to choose this period to renovate his house. The Triple D (Drilling, Din and Dust), was more than I could bear. I ought to get out of my house and get out fast or I'll go crazy! Sitex sounded like a good place to be, and it's just a stone's throw away from my house.

So, I was forced by circumstance to be at Sitex, and I wasn't even there for a specific purpose or to buy any thing in particular. Upon entering the hall, I was met by many sales promoters, many of them SYTs, prowling around the hall, pushing flyers and brochure right under my nose and trying hard to make me part with my money to buy things I do not need. Their enthusiasm was a refreshing change from what I often experienced at the shopping malls where the attitude of the sales staff is often one of indifference. Impressed, I thought to myself - Hmmm... there's hope yet for service standard in Singapore.

Unfortunately, I was soon to find out that the reverse is true. I had, in my haste to convince myself that the service standard in Singapore has indeed improved, mistaken the sales promoters' enthusiasm for good service. For one, I discovered, to my dismay, that many of them know nuts about the products they were promoting. For instance, I was looking at the latest SONY "Bean" MP3 player. The gal who served me had no idea how the gadget works. What's more, when I wanted to try out the player, no song was uploaded into the MP3 player to begin with! She was CLUELESS and she offered no apology.

Another sales promoter tried recommending me a cordless phone. She could not even tell me from where the phone was manufactured, for crying out loud! She scampered away, looking for her colleague and returned to tell me it's MIC (no prize for guessing the country!). I simply walked away in disgust.

As I've said, I'm not in need of any gadget or gizmo. Erm.. ok perhaps subconsciously, I was looking out for something - a "wearable" MP3 audio portable player, despite already in possession of two MP3 players, one being the ubiquitous and popular iPOD.

Frannxis, a blogger I met in Blogosphere and who had wrestled with the decision to purchase a cheaper rice cooker, would have called me a spendthrift. If that is so, then I put the blame squarely on my iPOD which has let me down one time too many. Since I bought it last Dec, I had had my iPOD serviced twice and it seems there's no sign of letting up. It's still acting quirky and I'm getting tired of having to send it for further service, despite still under warranty. I've said it before - iPOD sucks. It's over-priced and is all hype, mainly because it was entirely "MIC". And so, I began to toy with the idea of getting a new MP3 player, a smaller one perhaps, one that's wearable and comes with a clip that could be worn around. And most importantly, it must not be "MIC". Sitex had seemed like the right place to start looking!

It didn't take me long to look for the MP3 player that I wanted. And I found it at the Samsung booth. Introducing Samsung YP-F1, it comes with inter-changeable cover and I got 5 extra covers instead of the usual 2 as a result of having made the purchase at Sitex. And best of all, it's entirely "Made In Korea".

Ok, enough of the gizmo. Back to the service standard in Singapore. While making payment, the sales promoter handed me a "life-long" COURTS card that gives me 5% off on all purchases. It then dawned on my that the Samsung booth actually belonged to COURTS, the megastore that I've sworn off as a result of past poor service experience. Well, there's no way I could back out the transaction so I asked the sales promoter if there was a lucky draw for purchase made during Sitex. She gave me a couple of coupons from COURTS and added that only purchases made on IT products are eligible for Sitex Lucky Draw. I made a mistake by not checking if what she told me was true.

The next day, Victor who had also been to Sitex and was all excited like a school boy over the "free" HP computer he got from StarHub told me that there was no restriction on the type of products purchased and one is entitled to a lucky draw for every $50 spent! That means I have 6 chances of winning a plasma TV 'cause my MP3 player cost me $319. Though my luck has never been good in lucky draw, I remembered what Victor wrote about Murphy's Law in his latest entry - that the more you think something would not happen, the more it will. Who knows, I might get lucky this time round. So, I was compelled to make a 2nd trip to Sitex just for the lucky draw. Granted, I should have checked out the details myself, but I would rather the sale promoter at COURTS told me she did not know than to give me wrong information. NO INFORMATION is definitely better then WRONG INFORMATION.

Enough said. It's time for my evening jog, made more interesting by my new SAMSUNG YP-F1 MP3 player. I feel so motivated maybe I'll start jogging on a daily basis!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Half-day trip to JB

I'm not much fan of our neighbour up north, for reasons I would rather not disclose for fear of sounding politically incorrect.

But I surprised myself today for taking leave and going on a half-day shopping trip to JB. It was, believe it or not, my first trip in more than 10 years to JB and it's all thanks to MJM, a colleague of mine. You see, MJM is a regular in JB and swears by all things MIM (Made In Malaysia, not to be confused with MJM). Why, he even drives a MIM car, the Proton Waja, something I would not be caught dead driving. I tried getting Victor to tag along. But he refused, for reason I suspected is quite similar to mine.

MJM told me he needed to make an urgent trip to JB today to replenish the fresh milk, fruit juice and other groceries for his wife and 三千金 (his three daughters). It's a trip that he makes almost every week. Never mind the long jams at times (well, most of the times) on the way back to Singapore from the Causeway, MJM is mostly motivated by the cheap price of petrol in JB despite the 3/4 full-tank ruling by our Singapore government. I've always wondered how much one can really save and if it's worth the trouble of having to go through the traffic jam. Well, I don't have to wait long to find out the answer.

And so, at his insistence and promise that he would fetch me back to the office to collect my car (I refused vehemently to drive to JB), I gave in and found myself the front-seat passenger in the Proton Waja, heading to JB at 12 noon.

Everything was a breeze, despite the persistent drizzle. We reached the custom by 12.45pm and by 1pm, we were at a quaint coffee-shop near Plaza Pelangi, having laksa for lunch. The laksa, at RM3.50, was nothing to shout about, even though MJM has earlier raved and ranted about how fabulous it was and the generous amount of cockles that came with it.

Because of the drizzle, I was in no mood to roam about the streets. But the whole area around Plaza Pelangi has a very 60s-70s feel, like what it was in old Singapore with a variety of shops on what one would called 五脚街 or "5-foot path". In a span of 15 minutes, I spotted a bridle shop, car-servicing workshop, shops specializing in pewter and of course massage parlour. Too bad I didn't snap any photo of it, other than the laksa seller. Why, she's not even a SYT! What was I thinking?

Then, we were off to Giant, a shopping complex housing, of course, Giant the Supermarket, and many other retailers and restaurants. That was when MJM went into turbo mode, picking up fruit juice, vitagen and fresh milk off the shelves into the shopping cart. I too did some shopping and we were done by 3pm.

Well, shopping can really make you hungry. So we decided to take a bite at another coffer-shop a stone's throw away from Giant at the recommendation of MJM, no less. There is nothing extraordinary about the "mee-kiah" soup really. In fact I was disappointed to find that there was only ONE fishball in the soup, which was too salty for my liking. I discovered, to my chagrin, that MJM actually rates his food according to price. His philosophy seems to be - if it's cheap; then the food must be good! That's when I came to the conclusion that MJM can never make his mark as a food-critic.

So how much can we stretch our dollars doing our groceries shopping in JB? Quite a fair bit, I must admit. Considering my expenses in JB within the three hours I was there:

That's about $30 in Singapore currency. I'm convinced. Must ask MJM when's the next trip.... But then again maybe not. The trip back home was a torture. We didn't expect to be caught in a jam at 4.30pm, but we did, probably because of the school holidays. By the time I reached home, it was 6.30pm. Next time, I'll get MJM to do the groceries for me. Ha.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The true meaning of Christmas

While pondering over the meaning of Christmas, I stumbled upon this piece of writing. It has Santa describing quite eloquently the true meaning of Christmas ...

Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed, when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree.

"What are you doing?" I started to ask. The words choked up in my throat and I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement . . .

"TEACH THE CHILDREN!" I was puzzled. What did he mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood bewildered, Santa said, "Teach the children!"

"Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that now-a-days Christmas has forgotten." Santa then reached into his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it before the mantle. "Teach the children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind, all the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven."

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR. "Teach the children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of His promise."

He then reached into his bag and pulled out a CANDLE. "Teach the children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness."

Once again he reached into his bag and removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree. "Teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the real nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection."

He then pulled from his bag an ORNAMENT of himself. "Teach the children that I, Santa Clause, symbolize the generosity and good will we feel during the month of December."

He then brought out a HOLLY LEAF. "Teach the children that the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent the blood shed by Him.

Next he pulled from his bag a GIFT and said, "Teach the children that God so loved the world that he gave his begotten son." Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a CANDY CANE and hung it on the tree. "Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherds' crook. The crook on the staff helps to bring back strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper."

He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL. "Teach the children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men."

Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulled out a BELL. "Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring mankind to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.

Santa looked back and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw that the twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the children the true meaning of Christmas and do not put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the One that is, and I bow down to worship him, our LORD, our GOD."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

It's that time of the year again... CHRISTMAS! Time to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Time to be merry and jolly. And in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, I've decided to revamp (yet again) my blog a to give it a "Christmas" feel.

I like Christmas better when I was a kid. But the ugly face of commercialism has given Christmas a bad name. It's really sad but I'm afraid the meaning of Christmas is lost on our kids these days. They are so enthralled by the light-up, the Christmas trees and of course the presents to care about the real meaning of Christmas. Likewise my kids - they LOVE Christmas, more so then the Lunar New Year. Still, the message behind Christmas for me is that of HOPE - the hope that our good Lord brings... that he loves us so much that he sent his only son to save us from sin...

I suppose Christmas means different things to different people. What's your definition of Christmas and what does it mean to you?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wife Vs. Mistress

No don't get me wrong. I do not, I emphasis, DO NOT have a mistress. Not that I lack the opportunities... Just that I think it's quite an expensive "hobby". Even if I have the money to blow, I also don't think it's morally right to keep a mistress. Sorry, this is not a post on moral issues. Nor is a post to chastise any man who has a mistress, nor any woman who has a toyboy... When a marriage reaches a stage when either the man or the woman has to seek solace in the comfort of another person, there's always different stories to tell on both sides of the coin. No, I'm not gonna play the moral judge. Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone ...

Anyway, let's lighten up .... what I'm gonna blog today is something quite funny and light-hearted. Sometime ago, I attended a talk on "Thinking On Your Feet" of which I posted an entry. The talk was basically a training session organised by my company to help employees to acquire the ability to make snappy decision on the spot, as the title suggests. We were taught various methods to collect information, organise the information and then having to present the information to the class. One of the methods is known as "Opposites". We were asked to spell out all the opposites of two variables; for instance, Life vs death; Light vs Darkness, Man vs Woman, etc..

I was particularly amused, likewise the trainer, by a group that chose to write about Wife vs Mistress. Predictable mortals like those in my groups had choosen to scrawl about "Man vs Woman" and how "Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus". How boring and predictable, right? I must take my hat off to that group for their wit and ingenuity. What they wrote was really quite hilarious, and in some ways, true!

The Slim Lady must NEVER EVAR read this .....

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kids are smart; we must be smarter!

I discovered, to my dismay, that my 8-year-old Junior has the making of a con-artist. He really takes me for fool. (Ya, go on Victor, go take a swipe at my nick foollie...).

Junior called me today while I was in my office. The conversation went something like this.

Junior: Hello, Papa. Tomorrow "Show & Tell leh".
Me : What show and tell? (imagination running wild and horrible images of a pervert teacher lurking in his school begin flashing in my mind...)
Junior: Teacher said one. "Show & Tell".
Me : What?
Junior: "Show & Tell". Must bring a toy and talk about your toy.
Me : Oh (feeling relieved)
Junior: But teacher said cannot bring old toy. Must bring new one."
Me : Oh? Meaning papa or mummy must bring you go buy new toy this evening, is it?"
Junior: Ya.
Me : Are you sure? How would the teacher know if your toy is old? Unless you tell her?"
Junior: Dunno lah, but she said must bring new one (voice getting soft).
Me : You lying right? Huh?
Junior: No lah (voice barely rose above a whisper now).
Me : Still want to lie?!!
Junior: Ok bye bye (almost inaudible) -click-

Hng! 敢玩你老豆!Lucky for me... he smart; but I NOT STUPID, ok? The Slim Lady always says: The kids are smart, but we parents MUST be smarter than they are.

This is the 2nd time in as many weeks Junior has told a lie. While taking him home from school one day, he told me his teacher has asked the kids to buy presents for the mummies and daddies for Christmas, and that the presents could only be bought from the school bookshop. I saw through his lie immediately. No teacher worth his salt would ask the kids to do that, knowing full well that the kids are not financially independent to have acquired the purchasing power of their own.

See, Junior doesn't even know how to tell a good lie. So, I take that back - Junior DO NOT have the making of a con-artist; but I reckon with constant practice, the way he's doing now, he soon will. And that is want I find most troubling.

Regrettably, I do take responsibility for the behavior of Junior. Sometimes, much as I hate to admit it, we parent's just aren't the best of role models to our kids, for the fact that we lie openly in front of them. For instance, I would allow the boys an hour or two playing games with the SONY PS2, sometimes over-ridding the mummy's order, and when mummy queried if they have played the PS2 when she returned from work, they lied and say no. So, perhaps they thought it's ok to lie because I "conspired" with them.

But when are kids ever gonna learn the old parental saying: Do as I say; not as I do??

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Secret of Qiqong

Each morning, at the crack of dawn, they would gather at the basketball court down my block. Taking their positions, the "uncles and aunties" would go through their slow and fluid motions, their arms and legs moving in unison to the oriental music coming from a portable CD-player by the corner of the court. A piece of modern technology in the heart of a "centuries-old" art known as Qigong. I'm sure there're benefits in Qigong. But was I surprised to read that there are more to Qigong then meets the eye. Maybe the uncles and aunties know something that we don't?

A colleague in the office recently sent me an article on "The Secret of Qiqong". That article, if it were to be believed, is quite telling. Written by a non-Chinese 师父, who professed to be a medical specialist in holistic medicine and has been teaching Qigong for more then 10 years, the article says that one of the best secrets of Qigong is that it can improve our sexual health. Laugh if you want, it goes on to recommend some exercises with names sure to raise an eyebrow or two:

1. Sexual/pelvic rock
2. Sexual squat

Amused? Wait, it gets better....

3. Dragon Breathing Fire. This one must surely take the cake. The instructions say, and I quote: "Do chest-breathing and fill your chest fully. Finally, the male dragon thrusts his pelvis forwards as he forcefully breaths out the "fire" through his mouth (with a "huh!") and pulls his arms back down in a forceful motions. He feels sexually powerful, macho and dominant. Repeat this six to 50 times."

There are more....

4. Penile and vaginal weight exercise. For the men, weights are attached to jade rings (do they sell them in Chinatown? hee), which are worn on the penis to ascertain the strength of the erections. For the women, heavy metal balls are used to gauge the strength of the vaginal muscles. These are inserted into the vagina and the women had to prevent the weights from falling out by squeezing their vaginal muscles tight.

Ok, I shall spare you the agony (and embarrassment) of having to read the other sets of exercises, the names of which get more preposterous and ludicrous then the predecessors.

I'm sure proponents of Qigong swear by their practices. But admittedly, I have a little problem taking that article at face-value... Besides, my sexual health is fine and dandy, thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A sentiment journey

In one of many exchanges with Victor, I told him that MAN are sentimental fools. We are always reminiscing about the good old days, holding on to our past and memories and attaching much TLC (Tender Loving Care) to our prized possessions - the first model plane we assembled, our first walkman, the trophies we got from the track and field championship, and perhaps the love letters from our girlfriends (who might or might not have become the Significant Other). In one hilarious scene from "Meet the Fockers", the mum of the male-lead proudly showed off the foreskin of her dear son like a family heirloom to her prospective in-law-to-be on their first meeting. Of course that was reel-life; but you got my drift...

One of my most treasured possessions is a watch that my Dad bought me when I was just a kid. It was a reward for having passed my PSLE. For a family that used to live from hands to mouths, Dad, a former forklift driver, must have loved me a lot to buy me a watch with his meager salary.

It was a PAGOL watch with a luminous brown face. What I like most about the watch is that it's fully automatic. As I grew into adulthood and started working, I started pampering myself with other watches that caught my fancy. No, not those time-pieces that only the rich and high-society folks could afford (What? $1m for that timepiece? Are you nuts?). But there was a time when I was head over heels with SWATCH watches. I own about 10 of them, some of which were purchased while on holiday in Australia. The sad part about having these battery-operated watches is that I never got round to changing the batteries once the watches stop "ticking". That makes my PAGOL watch the more endearing, 'cause I never have the need to worry about changing batteries since it's fully automatic.

Though it looks kinda outdated (I much prefer to use the term "retro-looking"), my timeless piece of treasure is still pretty much alive and kicking. Like a faithful spouse, it has stayed with me for the past 29 years, never once let me down and is always truthful when it comes to time.

Yes, men can be such sentimental fools, but how could any man not be, unless he's totally devoid of feeling? Ever wonder why we enjoy listening to old songs from Class 95 and Gold 90? A familiar old song always bring back sweet (and sometimes not so sweet) memories. Like a time machine, it transports us back to our yesteryears - our childhood, courtship, when we were just "a bacholer boy", our first time, first love, NS stint, the wedding, honeymoon, fatherhood and the list goes on... An old song has the power of evocation. Till today, when I hear the song "Stand By Me", it evokes memories of my courtship days with the Slim Lady. That was also the title of our first movie date.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The true meanning of blogging

I have a most interesting chat with Victor yesterday, mostly via sms (and part MSN). Victor's has been pretty prolific in his blog entry of late; no doubt encouraged and buoyed up by comments to his blog he had received from other bloggers (beside me). From what Victor said was a "challenge" to prove that an old dog can indeed do a blog, and a pretty good one at that, Victor has turned blogging into a passion (of sort), touching from poor services in Singapore, to his pessimism in life, his childhood and his first car and camera.

Currently, Victor is waxing lyrical about the "vanishing scenes" of Singapore. You know, the historical buildings such as the National Theatre and the National Library that were torn down to give way for the modernization of Singapore.

Well, his pet topic has attracted comments from fellow-bloggers alike who share Victor's passions and sentiments on all things old and over the hill - old buildings (not necessarily those that have been torn down), antiques camera and his first car, and yes, memories of yesteryears. Man can be such sentimental "fools", don't you agree? And I don't mean this in an insulting sort of way. I myself am guilty of being a sentimentalist if you were to read my blog on Club Street, the place where I grew up. Old things always hold dear to us, like how old songs and movies evoke memories of friendship, childhood and yes, even romance.

But Victor missed the point when he told me having a central theme on your blog is essential if you want others to read and comment on your blog. I don't dispute that. But blogging to me is not about attracting comments. Blogging to me is a form of self-expression; just like when a pianist plays his piano. I blog whenever the moods call for it, whether I'm happy, down or out. I blog anything I want, anything I like and dislike, as long as I don't hurt anybody willfully. It's a therapeutic outlet for me to express the joy, disappointment and meaning of life. Surely, if Victor has read bloggers like Mr Brown, Caleb Cowboy and Rockson, he would have also noticed that they have no theme whatsoever on their blogs. They blog just about anything under the sun (Rockson also blogs about everything under the blanket cover .. hehehe). And their blogs have attracted comments like bees to nectar.

So Victor, way to go man on your blog! But I'll stick to my style, comments or no comments, thank you very much. Well, I guess it's different strokes for different folks when it comes to certain things...

A revamped blog

I decided to give my blog a new look today. The sky-blue background was fresh and cheery when it started; but it was beginning to look kinda boring and worn-out, though not spider-web covered like what Vic's blog used to be...LOL.

The original sky-blue background was chosen not without a reason. The sky, like the ocean, depicts openness, freedom and happiness. This translated into the openness and freedom in the way I blog - anything I want, when I want and how I want it (more of this later in my next entry). Of course recent events have shown that, like the print media, you could be held liable for your writings that may have the potential of causing social "upheavals" in our society. It calls to mind the "seditious" charges against some young punks whose blogs on multi-racial Singapore got them into hot soup with the law-enforcers recently. It goes without saying that we have to take responsibilities in what we write. And in this age of political-correctness, there're certain issues or OB markers that we should be mindful of and never ever think of crossing the line.

Anyway, back to my revamped blog. The new background looks kinda like a galaxy out in space. The main clipart at the top with a scene of what looks like autumn is something I ripped of the net. Pretty as a picture, isn't it? I know the background looks kinda moody, brooding and dark; but you can be assured that it's not an indication of how I'm feeling with my life right now. The galaxy, like the sky and the ocean, also depicts openness and freedom. Now, if only I can get my hand on an animated GIF of autumn leaves falling, ever so gently and gracefully, all over the monitor, even as I surf.....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It was not my fault that I missed a turn. The road-directory was.

It's one thing to get lost on your way to nowhere land, knowing you'll eventually reach the destination, no matter how long it takes, be it half an hour, one hour or one and a half hour, and quite another to have a non-license-holder front-seat passenger sitting beside you, lecturing you on why you didn't check with the experts on the best route to take, sulking throughout the journey and threatening to call off the outing altogether and wanting to go home. Why can't the women understand that when it comes to map-reading, it's a matter of pride to the guys? You can say it's an "ego" thing. We men are supposed to be better at map-reading! (even though Victor has taunted that I'm an exception!)

I was on my way to The Chevron, a chalet at Jurong at the invitation of the Slim Lady's sister. It's also a celebration of sort for Senior Junior's birthday, which is tomorrow. Despite checking the route on the directory, I got lost after a right-turn from PIE into Toh Tuck Road. My sis-in-law had told me to look out for Toh Guan Road but as I drove on, I ended up at Bukit Batok. The Slim Lady started nagging me for not having the sense to check out the route earlier with her sister. Instead of helping me to look out for the chalet, she sat there, pulling a long face and yakking away. Ok, so I tend to get lost travelling in unfamiliar roads(which driver has not?). But it got worse each time the Slim Lady was at the front seat. In the end, when we finally arrived at the chalet, I was in no mood whatsoever to even relax!

That said, it's true that I'm quite muddle-headed with it comes to direction (ok, I swallowed my pride). But I have a valid reason for being so. Other than using the car to travel to work, home, my mum's and in-law's house, I don't use my car much cause we don't go out very often, not even on weekends. And those damn road directories! They just don't seem to portray the roads accurately! I suppose the only way to get myself familiar with Singapore's road is to change my job to become a taxi driver! Maybe that's a little drastic. Either that, I should spend my weekends travelling to all corners of Singapore, just to get myself familiar with the roads (never mind the petrol!) Better still, convince the Slim Lady to take up driving! Then I can just sit back, relax and yak at her to give her a taste of her medicine! Aarrgghh!!

Monday, October 31, 2005

A mobile phone to bridge the gap

Two years back, when Senior Junior was in P5, I bought him a brand new mobile phone and gave him a spare SIM card that I hardly used, much against the Slim Lady's better judgement. The idea was to make him contactable when he needed to stay back in school for after-school activities.

Mindful of abuse, I drew up a "contract", stipulating various clauses such as Senior Junior having to pay up the difference should the bill exceed the monthly subscription of $9. The contract also stated that the mobile phone would be confiscated if it became an obsession. By obsession, I meant catching Senior Junior fiddling the phone during meal time, study time and sleeping time. Well, it did become an obsession. But that was not the reason why the phone was eventually confiscated.

What ultimately did Senior Junior in was the bill he chalked up. In just two months, he ran up a bill of $400, and all for downloading games and ringtones. And this despite repeated warnings from me, even though he naively told me that the downloading was free, or so he said his friends told him!

He protested when I took back the phone. But I told him the contract is legal binding. It took him about a month to get used to the idea of not having a phone.

Since then, Senior Junior has never ever pestered us for a phone. I think the time is right to give him one, now that he's in secondary school. He stays back often in school and sometimes, he simply didn't call back to tell the Grandma, the care-giver to let her know that he has to stay back in school. The phone is also our way of keeping tap on his whereabouts, to put it honestly. The Slim Lady apparently supports my decision this time round.

Actually, there's another more compelling reason why I decided to give him a phone. When I confiscated Senior Junior's phone years ago, I realised that he had been storing some of the smses the Slim Lady and myself sent him. Such smses contain messages of endearment like "Daddy and mummy love you", and encouragement such as "You're a bright boy and you can do it". Kids do treasure such messages from their parents. How else do you explain it's in the "archive" folder? It made me realise that somehow, we are more forthcoming with our affections and encouragement to our kids when it comes to smses or writing, more so than in person. Perhaps this has something to do with our up-bringing and our Chinese culture. We're just not that demonstrative when it comes to expressing our love, even to our kids. No, correction - we do hug and kiss them but that stops when the kid reaches 13 and above.

Sadly, as Senior Junior gets older, I too find that I'm communicating less with him. Smses is a gateway of sort, for me to reach out to him and perhaps bridge that little gap between son and dad. Of course, I'll be naive to think that sms is all it takes to bridge that gap. How else do I explain the constant "bickering" I have with Victor, a good pal 9 years my senior, all via smses no less! And we're no where near bridging the gap between us! Of course, Victor will argue that no generation-gap exists between us... But that's another story, another time ...

And so, Senior Junior got his new handphone today. It's also a birthday present considering his birthday this Wednesdy. That reminds me .. better go draw up THAT contract again ....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Retreat for team-building

Retreat and team-building. These are buzz words in the corporate world today. But I would never have thought that a Retreat is possible from the place where I work! It makes me realise how much my workplace has evolved! Yes, it has become more employee-friendly and people-oriented. I'm most glad.

When my boss told me to organise a retreat for my department, I must admit I was at a total lose. None of us have had a retreat before, at least not my department. A committee was thus formed but we soon discovered it was no easy task. We had plans to engage a professional psychologist from our office to assist in facilitating the retreat, the theme of which was on "Team-building". Unfortunately, the psychologist has tight schedule and in the end, the inexperienced foursome in the committee has no choice but to organise our very own. Left with our own devices, we met, planned and sourced for materials to make the retreat a reality.

And so it was that the past two days, my colleagues and I were holed up in a secluded colonial bungalow for the Retreat, engaging in games and activities to improve teamwork. The idea was to hold the retreat away from the office premises, out of the confine of the place where we work to make us forget about our "work", to let our hair down, engage in games and activities to promote team work, learn more about ourselves and fellow colleagues and hopefully, to work towards achieving a work team that's cohesive, dynamic and productive.

I know the concept sounds rather simplistic; and team-building is not something that could be achieved overnight. But having a retreat to improve team work is definitely a step in the right direction. What I like most of the retreat is that all of us had the chance to share our thoughts about work and the impressions we have of one another. It's most encouraging to see colleagues who hardly utter more than 10 words a day engaging in activities and suddenly becoming "animated".

We'd like to think that the retreat is a success, if not at least a memorable one. We're happy to receive little notes of appreciation from some of our colleagues telling us how much they'd enjoyed the retreat and the sharing. Surely, these are indications that the Retreat has been positively perceived :)

We have a long way to go in our team-building. But having a Retreat is definitely a good start. Kudos to the management - we heard the retreat will be an annual affair. Hurrah.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I should be so lucky


My heart almost sank when I received a letter yesterday that marked "Urgent Notice". Such letters usually come from two sources - the financial institutions for the money you owe them; or the Army calling you up for reservist training.

I'm one of those who are not a "valued" customer of the banks, not because I owe them money; but because I do not roll over my credit card balances to allow them to earn interest. So that rules out the bank. I have had completed my reservist liability a couple of years back; so the Army is also very unlikely.

The letter turned out to be from a private company telling me that I could drive away with a new Hyundai Accent or receive $10,000 cash. All I have to do is to pick up the phone, dial a toll-free number and make arrangement for a time to collect my "choice awards". For good measures, the company also "showcased" the "lucky winner" of the previous draw. To make the draw more authentic, the letter also came with "Terms and Conditions" to qualify for the draw. It also added that "unclaimed awards are to be donated to charity" after the promotion ends and that S$32,130 worth of prizes in previous promotion has been donated to charity.

Anyone in his right frame of mind would have smelt a rat immediately. Firstly, I have no recollection of having entered any lucky draw organised by the company concerned. Secondly, the letter was not dated nor signed.

This ploy engaged by companies out to fool "gullible" and "greedy" Singaporeans are not new. Just like the telephone calls I received from telemaketeers telling me that I've won prizes from their lucky draws and requesting me make a trip personally to their office premises to collect the prizes. When I told them I've never entered the draw, they said the draw was "auto" and they got my mobile number from purchases I made from shopping centres. After one time too many of receiving such calls, I usually told the party at the other end that "I don't think I'm so lucky, thank you very much". They would usually hang up the phone immediately.

I've also learned a lesson never ever to give away my contact numbers no matter how innocuous the requirements to do so might be. You know sometimes when you make a purchase of more then $30 at the shopping malls and you're entitled a free give? Usually, the information counter staff will ask you to furnish your contact number when you collect the gift. I once refused to reveal my number and the counter girl insisted that I do, saying that it's "company's policy". So I simply gave her a fictitious one.

Fortunately, I've never fallen victim to ruses described above. But I've heard of people who have. Thinking they've really won a prize, they actually took time to meet the "tricksters" only to be pressurised into making purchases of merchandises they did not need. Some of these involved timshare holidays.

If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Nothing in life is free. Unscrupulous retailers abound, and there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A belated birthday celebration

MM, a very dear friend and colleague of mine decided to buy me lunch today. It was a treat for my birthday, which she had cleared forgotten.

She, a kind and gentle soul, ALWAYS remembers birthdays. She is the kinda gal who thoughtfully makes lovely and personalised birthday cards with meaningful hand-written messages for the birthday guy or gal. The kinda gal who has never failed to remind me of the birthdays of other colleagues, year in year out. She has never evar forgotten my birthday. Until now, that is.

Of course I was disappointed. But I don't hold it against MM, really. Life's hectic as it is. We are all so caught up with our own lives, both at work and at home. Is it any wonder that friends drift apart?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

2nd time Dad-to-be

My bro Nick is going to be a Dad. He was close to being a father once. That was last year. By a cruel twist of fate, the foetus was aborted five months into the pregnancy, after a hole was found in its heart.

We have never stopped wondering why the hole was not detected much earlier in the ultra-sound scans. Five months is a long time, long enough for the mum and the foetus to begin their bonding process. It's easy to blame the gynae for not breaking the news to Nick and his wife, May sooner. We just wished that he has done so earlier, then aborting it will be less of an emotional trauma to the Mum-to-be.

It was a tough decision. In the end, Nick and May decided to abort the foetus. It is a personal choice. Nick and May, much as they loved their unborn child, did not want to subject it to endless pains and sufferings. There'll be frequent visits and stay in the hospital, disruption of work and daily lives, not to mention medical expenses. A life like this is not only hard on the child, it's also extremely painful to the parents, watching their child suffer. Ultimately, it's the quality of life that matters. And in the end, that is not the kind of life Nick and May want for the child, nor for themselves.

According to Nick, the gynae told him that one in 5000 (or was it 50,000) foetus is afflicted with hole-in-the-heart condition. But my mum has her own theory. May had been consuming come concoction of Chinese herbs supposedly good for pregnancy on the advice of her mother and mum thought this was the likely cause. Nobody knows.

This time, mum, longing for another grandchild, has lay down rules and warned May against consuming anything that may cause harm to the foetus. She's even threaten to throw away any herbs she sees in the house. Superstition aside, I think this time round, I'd agree with my mum. What we don't know can't hurt us. But sometimes, it also won't hurt us if we just listen to those who are "older" but "wiser".

I've lost a nephew last year. Next year, like Nick and May, I'd want to hold the bundle of joy in my hands. And I pray to God that Nick and May be blessed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


The office is a jungle; that much I know. It's a place all creatures great and small, preys and predators gather, 9 hours a day, 45 hours a week. Much as I hate to admit it, we do have the tendency to stereotype people in our office, or was it just me? We have the "hardworking" along side the "lazy bums"; the "easily-satisfied-live-today-for-tomorrow" along side the "ambitious and far-sighted", the "humbles" along side the "arrogant".

I should be so happy today, having presented the last of my presentation to the big boss in the morning. But my day was almost ruined by one of the "arrogants" today. Why do they always behave the way they do? Or was it in the blood? No this is not a post about colours. It's about being kind to your co-workers, about being tactful in your dealings with them and ya, about being congenial with each other. All is asked for is a fair degree of decent courtesy. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

S.A.R and a tribute to my colleagues

Oh... that stands for Staff Appraisal Report. It's something practiced by most companies and it's definitely the THING that determines if you would advance in your career.

My boss met me today to talk about my SAR. I came out of the meeting feeling, well, pretty "happy" after being told about my performance. Well, nothing earth-shaking, but my boss said something to the effect that my performance has been more than "mediocre", for want of a better word. But then my boss is ever sooo diplomatic - a great guy. No I'm not going to dwell into the that taboo thingy 'cos that's something that's 可遇不可救。 Sorry...

Truth is, I enjoy my work. And I love the challenges that my job brings (no kidding). I'm also lucky to be working under leaders who are both task-oriented and compassionate. The colleagues whom I work with are fun-loving, and are dedicated in their work. We play hard and work hard, fooling around at times, cracking jokes at each other expenses and have no qualms about laughing at themselves. Laugher is a must-have recipe in the office. It's what makes us happy workers; and we know happy workers equate productive workers, don’t' we? So, if I'm happy, I must definitely be productive. Maybe productive enough to warrant a score of "above-average" in my SAR. So, in a way, I owe it to all my beloved colleagues and I should give them due credits. Hee!

We all heard about Monday Blue, haven't we? But have you heard about Weekday Blue? That's when I miss my work and my co-workers over the weekends and couldn't wait to get back to the office on Monday. It's weird and I wonder just how many people feel the way I do....

It must be the interaction and the challenges in the office that beckons... I have no other explanation. Or... maybe it's the domesticity of life that bores me?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Life at 41

Today, 9 October 05, marks the 41st anniversary of my birth. To be very honest, my mood is far from being "joyous". I'd wish I can say I'm older but wiser. Time has ticked by, much of it wasted. There's so much left to do, and yet so little energy to do it all. The impact at 41 is none as great as being at 40. I remember feeling a little sad and scared when I hit the BIG 40. Sad because it's like you just woke up from a dream and realise 40 years of your life has passed and to your horror, it dawned on you that you haven't achieved much in life or be the man you want to be. Scared because time is ticking even as I write and really a life-time is just too short, even if I were to live to 70...

I do get depressed sometimes at the futility of life. Achievements? Well, if you can consider these - holding a steady job, two sons, a couple of good friends, not to mention BAGUS, of course. It's my birthday and as I get on in age, I can't help but reflect a little about my life. This has become a yearly ritual...

Happily, life is not as depressing as I made them to be really. But it sometimes get down to you when things don't go you way... But I was determined to make today an exception, though.

Brought the kids and the Slim Lady to Seoul Garden Restaurants at TM, nothing fanciful. Victor warned me too late about overeating at Seoul Garden. But what a heck, how often do we eat out as a family?

The spread at the Buffet table was just as great as the branch at Jurong Point. Slim Lady, hardly a lover of steamboat and BBQ, told me the food was "quite nice". Junior loved only the fries, ice-creams and the drinks. Senior Junior seemed to be enjoying his food though. He's got big appetite and is growing and growing and becoming taller then me. Yeah, a great bonding time with my family today...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Birthday lunch treat from the gang of BAGUS

I'll be lying if I say I'm surprised at the BAGUS team for having pulled off something like buying me lunch for my birthday. I knew the guys and the lady were up to something and the anticipation grew as the days past last week. Hahaha.. Anyway, members in the Bagus team have started a tradition of sort, buying lunch and celebrating the birthdays of the members. It started with VT's birthday on July, then JO's and Lest's on Aug. This month, it's my turn to get pampered. Hee.

Well, birthday lunch was at Seoul Garden Restaurant in Jurong Point. Something quite unexpected because who would want to have buffet during office lunch when time is limited and you can't eat to your hearts' content? But I'm glad the guys brought me to Seoul Garden. I've wanted to dine there on a few occasions with the kids and the Slim Lady but never really got round to it. The spread at the restaurant ain't bad at all, especially the many different kinds of marinated beef. Service, though not outstanding, was ok. Beat the time we celebrated JO's birthday at Green Brew. In fact, the food tasted good enough for me to convince Slim Lady to try the restaurant at TM's branch this Sunday, my actual birthday.

Yesterday, my boss and colleagues also bought a cake to celebrate my birthday and that of another colleague's. Quite unexpected. But I guess it's gesture like this that makes your colleagues and bosses endearing to you and makes you realise that your existence in this world (or rather in the office) really means something to someone. If the cake and good wishes aren't "a celebration" and appreciation of YOUR life, I don't know what is.

OKD, a dear colleague of mine, also surprised me with a box of Chocolates. How sweet.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

我 的 农 历 生 日 - 九 月 四 日

Mum cooked me "mi sua" or what was known as vermicelli for me today. She always cooks "mi sua" for her children on their birthdays. It's standard fare, and the mi sua is garnished with pork kidney, minced ball and 2 hard-boiled eggs. Though simple, the dish is tasty and delicious. What's more significant is the message behind the mi sua and the two eggs. The former represents longevity; and the eggs symbolise that one is now a year older.

Anyway, mum, getting on in years, somehow got my birth date wrong. My birthday is actually on 九月四日 (tomorrow) and not 九月三日.

That bowl of mi sua sure brought back memories of the time when I was just a little boy. Those days, Mum not only cooked mi sua for us, she also wrote numbers on little scrap of papers, crumbled them into little balls from number 0 to 9, placed them on our head and made us shake them. She would then collect the last two numbers remained on our head and bet in a game known as 十二字。 This is really a form of gambling but the stakes were much lower then 4D. Those were her simple pleasures.

She no longer makes us shake our heads for numbers but I savoured her mi sua with much appreciation, knowing that she would not be around to cook for us forever....

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Say NO to iPod

I don't know about Apple's other products, but Apple's iPod sucks and sucks big time. Ya I know I've posted an entry against "whining" but what's a man to do if Apple gave him reasons enough to do so??

Since I purchased the iPod last December, I've had visited the Apple Care Centre twice; and it seems very likely that I'll pay Apple a visit the 3rd time, and all for the same problem - the iPod freezes for no apparent reason.

Inexplicably, we continue to get good reviews on the iPod and Apple's latest baby, the NANO. To me, it's all commercial hype. Some may think that perhaps mine was just a case of hard luck (Victor would have called it "ARSE" luck). Apple gave me a "new" iPod each time I sent the faulty one for service, as long as the gadget is still under warranty. So, being struck by a streak of "arse" luck three times in a roll is just too much of a coincidence.

IPod may have scored on its look - and the latest NANO is no exception. But what's the point of shelling out more then $550 for a gadget that looks pretty but breaks down often?

In the effort to stay competitive, companies such as Apple has shifted their operations to countries such as China where labours are cheap. Unfortunately, the products produced are also short on quality. Indeed, the fine print at the back of the iPod has the inscription "Assembled in China". Therein lies the problem, I suppose...

Admittedly, I've been eyeing at the "iPod-to-die for" NANO until my iPod decided to act perculiar again this time round. A resolution has been made - when it comes to Apple products, it's gonna be a BIG and definite NONO instead of NANO as far as I'm concerned. Maybe it should be renamed NABEH, pardon my language. I've had it with Apple.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A dreadful time to be down with fever

I was at home today, on Child MC, spending my day nursing Junior who was done with fever and flu. With the dengue pandemic, I wasn't taking any chance and brought Junior to a doctor who assessed that the fever was probably viral in nature. There was a small ulcer at the back of Junior's throat even though Junior complained of no pain. That probably caused the fever. There were also no rashes on Junior's body. According to the doc, a person who is inflicted with the dengue virus is often lethargic and with mild temperature, quite unlike Junior who is active as ever and whose temperature was high at about 38.2. The doc also said flu and cough do not usually precede dengue fever.

It started with a runny nose on Tuesday night. The Slim Lady thinks this was because he refused to wear the sweater while he was at his Maths tuition at one of the shopping malls. She reprimanded Junior, while at the same time blaming her mum in law, my mother, Junior's caregiver, for not ensuring that Junior put on his sweater. But then again, Junior could have picked up the virus anywhere - in school, at the playground, etc. You simply can' talk sense to someone who don't see eye to eye with their in-laws ....

Then last night, Junior started coughing. It always follows the same pattern - you get a runny nose, then the mucus flows from the nose to the back of the throat, and that's how the cough begins. At least that's how my nurse wife the Slim Lady explained it to me. And at about mid-night, came the fever. It's dreadful having a fever at this time, what with the dengue pandemic in Singapore.

But one can never by 100% sure. Happily, his temperature has gone down to about 37.4 last taken at 9 PM. But we'd need to monitor him for the next few days. Let's hope the doc is right.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A city of whiners

White men have it easier in Singapore.

Being taken for a ride by taxi-drivers.

Retailers who do not know their products well.

The lack of service standard in Singapore.

A writer in the Sunday Times today griped about how Singapore is developing into a whining nation. On the same paper, a woman wrote to whine about how the MRT is not "baby-friendly". She complained about the lack of "space" to breast-feed her baby onboard the train and how some men looked at her leeringly when she was doing so. What? She expects a special carriage for mothers to breast-feed their off-springs? It also reminds me of how another woman wrote to bitch about how she was stopped by staff at the Esplanade when she was breast-feeding her baby at the Durian.

The gahmen has my sympathy - it is a daunting task indeed running tiny Singapore. In this politically-correct age, the gahmen not only must be sensitive to the "less-fortunate" (read handicapped), and make public transport friendly to them, they must also ensue that the amenities are "baby-friendly". With due respect to these mothers, I'm sure they have other resources when it comes to breast-feeding their off-springs. For a start, how about collecting the milk in the bottle in advance before they set-off in the MRT? Or, get off the station, find a comfortable and quiet spot at the platform and do what she has to do away from men who give them dirty looks.

As for white men having it easier in Singapore, I myself was at the receiving end of the "shabby" treatment at a petrol kiosk recently. The cashier greeted the Caucasian man who was standing beside me with such warm and friendliness and made me feel as if I was invisible. The white man was equally friendly, asking her, "how do you do?" I was a little pissed for being ignored at first but soon realised the different treatment was really more cultural than racial. Caucasians are by nature gregarious and friendly people. But we Chinese are more reserved and have no time to make small talk with strangers. It is true we Asians tend to look at strangers with suspicion. Admittedly, we don't have the habit of saying good morning to cashiers or sales people, much less ask them "how do you do". It's just not in our culture to do so. We also tend to avoid eye contacts.

White supremacy is a myth. So just stop WHINNING just about anything.