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.