Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bring on the firecrackers

I don't know when or how it happened. As I mellow and grow in age, I realise that I actually like Chinese New Year (CNY). When I was just a kid, I detested much of CNY, other than the "angpow" it brought me. There was only one word in my vocabulary when it came to CNY - "cheena". I remember preferring Christmas with all its magical lighting and the many presents I received. I guess the influence of the western culture has a lot to do with it. The young me just wanted to be hip and fashionable and to be associated with anything that was western. Then I accepted Christ into my life. And Christmas took a new meaning.

But let's come back to CNY. Quietly and slowly, my love for the CNY evolved through the years, and catching me by surprise. I'd never imagine the things that I do for CNY. I made lanterns out of 红包, bought CNY couplets and 春联, all these just to decorate my home into one that looks really "cheena", much to Senior Junior's consternation. He was just like me when I was his age. I could almost hear him say, "The decor is so "obiang" Dad, please take it down!"

I look forward to the reunion dinner with my extended family each year. The renewal of family ties over steamboat dinner always brings lot of warmth. A foodie, I'm always attracted to the spread of goodies on the dinner tables and coffee tables alike. And I'm quite intrigued with the significance that each food represents. Yes, you can say some of the traditions of the CNY border on superstition, but what's so wrong with superstitions that bring about good health, wealth, happiness and good fortune to mankind so long as one doesn't go overboard? The abundance of food for instance, what's the significance in eating sweet stuff like the "Pineapple Tart" or the 年糕 during CNY? And what does eating 瓜子(Melon Seeds)symbolise? And the exchange of oranges?

Along with the love for CNY, I'm also more aware of the richness in the Chinese culture. The Chinese Language by itself is a beauty. Just look at some of the CNY greetings and I'm sure you'd agree how catchy and melodious they sound. They almost make me want to pick up my Chinese books to master the Chinese Language.

However, there are aspects of CNY that bore me and visiting relatives is one. These are relatives I'd hardly recognise if I were to run into them in the middle of Orchard Road. Each year, our conversation during CNY is just limited to three or four words depending if it's in English or Chinese - "Happy New Year" or "恭喜发财".

Then there are relatives like my cousins whom I was close with while growing up in Club Street, but nevertheless have grown apart when our respective families shifted to different parts of the island. Usually, the topic in our conversation is the same year in year out, and sounds pretty much like a broken record:

Cousin: Chris, you still working in the same office ah?
Me: Ya, same as last year, and the last last year (mumbling in my heart: I told you last year, and last last year wat)
Cousin: Oh, still on shift?
Me: No, working five-day week leh (working shift? that was so many moons ago and I've told you so many moons ago each CNY I visited)
Cousin: You should visit more often, and not just CNY, you know.
Me: Sure, sure (hesitated to add: and this broken record will be broken no more hor?)

My elder sis, who is unmarried, dreads CNY and it's not difficult to understand why.

Aunt: So got boyfriend or not?
Sis: No leh. No time.
Aunt: Aiyoh, don't be so choosy lah. Your biological clock is ticking away, you know.
Sis: Er... 没缘份leh.. not say I don't want (mumbling inside: why so kaypoh? None of your business wat)
Aunt: I recommend you one lah. How?
Sis: (getting quite pissed and wanna shut her off) Er... rich or not? Also don't want someone your age one hor.
Aunt: :x

I also cannot understand some of these visits. For instance, on the first day of the Lunar New Year, all of us gathered at my mum-in-law place, and all of us wished one another Happy New Year. The next day, my Goddaughter (actually more of Slim Lady's for the daughter we never had), would come visit us again with her parents. Why the double wishes? Is it because she's our Goddaughter and she's expected to pay us a visit even though we've met the day before? Some of these visit just do not make sense.

There is one CNY tradition that I miss most - Firecrackers. When I was growing up in the 70s, I remember having played with firecrackers. With a joss stick on one hand and the firecrackers on the other, we simply lighted it up and just hurled the firecrackers on a distance with a loud bang. Sometimes, we would mischievously throw the firecrackers near one of the neigbhour kids who would jump up in fright when the firecracker went off. Some of these kids even burst into tears. That was lot of fun! But alas, firecrackers were eventually banned by the gahmen for safety reasons. I was too young to understand then. Perhaps people got badly injured or houses were gutted down because of firecrackers.

The several CNY that followed the firecrackers ban were really quiet. Most people felt that without firecrackers, the essence of the CNY was gone. But I guess we got used to it, like most other things banned (such as the chewing gum). Many of our kids today have never experienced playing with firecrackers. While not advocating lifting the ban totally, perhaps the gahmen can consider setting designated places to allow firecrackers. Perhaps the compound at the Community Centre can be such area to allow such activities during CNY. And of course, the CC should be the only authorized places to sell the firecrackers.

Category: Policies

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sexiest mid-lifer-bloggers alive

I took a double-take when I saw this in today's ST, thinking I caught Victor in there. Hehehe..

Uncle Lam, is your picture somewhere there as well?

I come in peace, my friends...just horsing around...



Friday, January 27, 2006

A marriage that rocks from the start

Coming from Victor, I would have said it's a worrying sign of old age, or amnesia. Thankfully, Victor has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

It was reported in yesterday's ST that the Malaysian government has plans to embark on massive projects in Johor, including building a high-speed train line between KL and Singapore to the tune of RM5 billion. I'm quite sure the decision to do so has a lot to do with Singapore's decision to build two IRs in the republic. If Singapore can do it, surely, MALAYSIA BOLEH, never mind that Malaysia already has a casino in Genting that's rolling in lots of money for the government. It seems the "kiasu" syndrome is just as palpable in Malaysia as it does in Singapore. The paper went on to add that "... the two projects .. highlight the warming of bilateral ties since Badawi assumed the premiership in 2003." How odd. "Competition" and "warming of bilateral ties" don't exactly go hand in hand, do they?

If that is odd, then what I read in today's paper is weird. Apparently, Malaysia has decided that it would go ahead with plans to build its half of the crooked bridge, renamed the "scenic bridge" to replace the causeway unilaterally. The decision so delighted Vintage Mahathir that he was reported to have quipped "CYNIC bridge? Is that how you spell it?", a "cynical" remark aimed obviously at Singapore. Don't you just love Dr M? His wry sense of humour is second to none. But one wonders why an ex-stateman is given a platform, time and again, by the media to air his view? Certainly, he's not helping in improving bilateral ties.

The announcement has caught the Singapore government by surprise, more so because discussions about the bridge and other bilateral issues are said to be on the cards. What "warming of bilateral ties" are our neighbours exactly talking about? Why the cold and hot treatment? A case of amnesia, perhaps? Or schizophrenic?

It's been often said that our relationship with Malaysia is like that of a husband and wife. We bicker and quarrel a lot, only to kiss and make up eventually. But I do worry that one day we would come to a blow.

The last anyone needs is a chauvinistic spouse who has no qualms making decision without considering the feeling of the other party. It's a pity that just as our relationship is on the mend, some smart alecky politicians have to spoil it all with the announcement of the "scenic bridge". We didn't ask for this marriage. Who needs a spouse like that?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

No more oily food and giving Bagus a miss?

My aunt, who is in her 70s, suffered a heart attack while on holiday at Bangkok two weeks ago. She passed out while stepping out of the plane and her heart stopped beating for 20 minutes. Miraculously, she survived, but not after having undergone a by-pass surgery.

She's back in Singapore, recuperating at home. I paid her a visit today. Sitting on a wheel-chair, she's a shadow of her former robust and healthy past. I remember her as the aunt who was full of life and energy. Despite her age, she took the public transport, often travelling alone from Onan Road where she lives to Chinatown to do her marketing.

It was truly remarkable that my aunt survives the heart attack. According to my nieces, the doctors in Thailand tried more than 30 minutes to get her heart back to pumping again. One would have thought that she would have been brain dead for the lack of oxygen but she could still recall my name.

I remember too, that my aunt was extremely careful with her intake of food, or so I thought. It transpired that she was extremely fond of pig trotters and fatty meat. From this episode, my nieces have taken upon themselves to ensure that my aunt consumes only steamed food henceforth. There'll be no more fried chicken, Char Kway Teow and anything that's oily. This despite the doctor's assurance that my aunt should be able to revert to eating anything she likes upon recovery. Doctors sometimes don't know better and my nieces aren't taking any chances. They themselves have also sworn off anything that's fried, and advised me to do the same. How pleasurable can life get?

I've been pondering hard since about my lunch with Bagus. To say our lunch is sinful is an understatement. Just to name a few - roast duck, Char Siew and roast pork, nasi bryani, prawn noodle and Char Kway Teow. How can life's little pleasures be life's greatest perils all at the same time? Why oh why?

A couple of moons ago, I told myself I'll eat more greens. Sometimes, I'd go on a lettuce-tomatoes-fruits buying spree, making my very own salad for breakfast and lunch. This usually happened when someone I knew met with some unfortunate incident, like my aunt (Yes, I've just been to NTUC and bought lots of veggie for my salad tomorrow!) Unfortunately, my affair with my salad is rather platonic. It comes and goes and does not seem to sustain for long. And before I know, I'll be lunching with Bagus at various eateries and the 1000-people restaurants again.

Of course, to be really honest, the problem lies not so much with having lunch with Bagus, for I have the freedom of choice when it comes to hawker food. But it's hard to resist the temptation if you see one of the Bagus chaps like Victor eating Char Kway Teow and I have to be contended with a bowl of congee.

Life's never fair :((

Category: Health

The real winners of American Idol

The new season of American Idols, one of my favourite shows, kicked off on Wednesday. I watch AI for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it's for the entertainment value, not just from the singers wannabes, but also from the "judge, jury and executioner", collectively known as Randy, Puala Abdul and Simon respectively in the show.

I especially love watching Simon Cowell whose snide remarks, merciless and relentless, can reduce a giant to tears. Simon, who reminds me of Victor at times, always has the last say. It doesn't matter if you're good or a bad singer. In the audition episode aired on Wednesday, he praised a contestant for her good singing, and in the same breath, quipped "are we having a bigger stage this year?", a swipe aimed obviously at the contestant's weight. But he's a joy to watch.

Secondly, for the dreams and aspersions of the many Americans across the USA for a big break into a singing career. There are so many talented people who can really sing. But even if they have a voice like Whitney Houston, they are nobody if they are not given a chance to showcase their talent. You can say luck has a lot to do with it.

Thirdly, it's to be amused (and entertained) by the likes of William Hung, whose rendition of Ricky Martins' "She Bangs" in previous season, cracked many people up. William's "I've done my best and I've no regret" quip endeared him to many others. For a while, he even went on to become a celebrity of his own. Though his fame is short-lived, it shows that every dog, even the untalented one, does have his day.

Needless to say, I had a blast watching the audition segment of AI. There was even a chap dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, belting out "Dream a little dream". Alas, he sang only two words of the song before being given the boot by Simon. With his mouth agape, you could see the disbelief look in his eyes! Cruel, Victor Simon!

If the show is any indication, there are basically two types of singers:

1. Those who can really sing and know they are good.
2. Those who can't sing but think they are good.

Believe it or not, it's the latter that I truly admire. I cringe each time I hear them sing. And wonder if they are tone-deaf? Many of them can't sing a note to save their life. Yet what is more remarkable about them is that they believe in their "talents". They would tell the judges in their faces that they are the next Whitney Houston. The fact that they are not good but thought they are and went on to sign up for the audition speaks volume about their confidence. Ok, so maybe they are in self-denial, but surely these AI rejects reaffirm the adage "you are what you think you are." It has a lot to do with one's self-esteem. And in the eyes of these rejects, they are the winners.

The AI rejects remind me a lot of a colleague , who after being told that he had been passed over for a promotion, marched right up to the boss' office and demanded an explanation. Such was his confidence and self-assurance (some say "cockiness"), for he has no question that he was brilliant. And why should the management not promote a brilliant worker like him? Many of us hated his guts. But I'll be lying if I say I did not admire him for his confidence and courage to speak up. He got his promotion the following year. Hmmmm...

Back to the AI. Perhaps we could draw some inspiration from the AI rejects and believe in ourselves, that it's ok to go chase our dreams, no matter what people may say of our abilities.

Category: Musings

Monday, January 16, 2006



Unless you're living in a world totally devoid of the mass media or shopping malls, you would have known that OSIM's latest gadget is called i-Gallop.

I almost fell off my chair when I caught the advertisement on TV the other day. Nubile SYTs (and some hunks) were seen "galloping" away, quite suggestively, with the latest gadget. It makes me wonder why the advert is shown late at night, past prime-time TV.

Who is OSIM kidding? OSIM, in recent time, has come up with various products, each with name sounding more suggestive then its predecessor. Well, consider these:

1. i-Desire - OSIM'S pricey massage chair that promises to deliver full-body massage experience.

2. i-Pamper - the hand-held massage that "promises the ultimate in soothing relief to pamper you and your loved ones".

3. i-Poke - Oh this is the "nasty" one, my friends. But wait, it's simply (and quite innocently) "an ingenious foot and calf massager designed to replicate the feel and pressure of an authentic foot reflexology massage".

4. i-Squeeze - Lest you got carried away with your "lewd" thoughts, this gadget basically serves the same function as the i-Poke. The only anatomy it squeezes is your foot.

5. i-Snug - frankly, I'm not too sure about the use of this product; perhaps something to snug up close to when one's spouse or partner is away on a long trip?

But let's come back to i-Gallop. Like it or not, i-Gallop is drawing quite a lot of unwanted and unintended attention. The OSIM spokesman would have you believed that i-Gallop "needs no conscious exertion by the user..... and [it] not only improves cardiovascular function, but also balances without putting additional stress on the joints". OSIM also claims, in its website, that i-Gallop can help you to achieve "Flat abs, firm behind and toned thighs ... from just sitting on the i-Gallop!"

That's a tall story that even I, someone vertically challenged, has problem looking up to. How does one benefit from a machine that requires "no conscious exertion by the user"? Though I'm neither an exercise buff nor a medical staff by profession, I have doubt about the benefits extolled by OSIM. Seriously, OSIM, which bills itself as the global leader in healthy lifestyle products in its website, should do better in order to make me part with my money. And at $998 each, i-Gallop certainly does not come cheap, like most of OSIM'S other products.

A friend of mine commented, half in jest of course, that OSIM'S products are nothing more then sex toys in disguise. But I beg to differ. There's absolutely nothing "sexist" about OSIM's range of products, except for the names given. What will OSIM think of next? i-Shiok, perhaps? Think what you want, but the innocent me think it's a great name to add a local flavour to a company who has its humble beginning in Singapore. No?

Oops, the advert just came on (and it's not even past prime-time!). If you'll just excuse me ... I've got some "gawking" to do ... Ooooooh..simmmmm....

Category: Musings

Friday, January 13, 2006

Saying goodbye to a dear friend

I can't help but feel a tinge of sadness that my boss is finally leaving today. When we threw her a farewell party on Wednesday, she was almost choked with emotion in her farewell speech to us. Amid the good cheers and best wishes, some among us did shed some tears, as Victor has mentioned.

I didn't feel it then. But today, while driving home, my mind was full of thoughts of her. And found my eyes getting misty. Truly, as a boss, there's none like her, at least in my career path. Her affable and down-to-earth nature has endeared her to many of us in the office. I told myself it's crazy to feel emotional about her leaving. Bosses come and go, and in my job, I've seen it happened once too often. Andrew Matthews, in his book, "Happiness In A Nutshell" wrote that "problems begin when we get too attached to things". But the human spirits are capable of so many emotions, are they not? I'm just so sad that we have to see a good leader, and a dear friend, go.

At the same time, I'm happy for her too, for the sky is the limit for her. And with her capability, we've no doubt that she would soar high.

She left us her contact number and email. She said to give her a buzz if we're in Shenton Way, her new workplace, and perhaps we could have a cuppa. It's gonna be difficult to stay in touch, much as we want to. We have our busy lives to lead, our work to do, and our own circles of friends. Most friends, let alone colleagues, drift apart, they usually do.

I'm gonna miss her. Badly.

Category: Office

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My resolutions to God

How could I? I looked at my resolutions for 2006, and realised, to my horror, that God didn't even figure in my list. Surely, God takes precedence over all things in my life. I admit that sometimes, I'm so pre-occupied with the concerns of my daily life that I lose interest in my spiritual life.

This is what I resolve to do for the brand new year:

1. To give Him thanks for all He has done for me.
2. To praise the Lord, for showing me compassion and granting me forgiveness for all my sins and for teaching me how to have peace in my life.
3. To always remember to turn to His enduring guide-book, the Bible, for daily living and eternal salvation.
4. To keep in communication with God, through daily prayer, for He is the reason I get up each morning.


Category: Personal

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Uniquely Singaporean - the way we "choop" our seats at the 1000-people restaurants

A few days ago, I was at Raffles Place undergoing a course on self-awareness. That place was a concrete jungle, but I wasn't quite prepared for the crowds that thronged the various eateries, including the 1000-people restaurants (otherwise known as the Hawker Centres) during lunch time.

There was hardly any sitting room in most eateries. And "vultures" were everywhere. You know, "vultures" are people who stood by the table, looking longingly (at the table) and staring, sometimes menacingly (at the patrons), waiting for the opportunity to swoop down the tables as soon as the patrons vacate their seats. We thought we were lucky when we found one empty table; but on close scrutiny, was disappointed to realise that it has been "choopped" by some people with packets of tissue and newspapers on the table.

Nobody dared remove them, hungry as we were. It's like an unspoken law that says: "That's my tissue paper. And that's MY seat!” I'm quite amused by the unique behaviour of we Singaporeans in this aspect. To our credit, it also goes to show that we Singaporeans are a disciplined lot, for the fact that we are considerate enough not to remove the tissues and newspaper and then proceed to occupy the table.

That two days have made me appreciate my office, located somewhere many would consider ulu. I used to complain about the distance and the journey, but thankfully, I do not have to jostle or rub shoulders with the lunch-time crowds the way I did in the heart of town, not to mention the price of the food one has to fork out ($4 for a bowl of porridge?!) and the parking charges. Yes, the occasional "tissue-choppers" do re-surface, but hey, we can always play "vultures", can't we? Hee.

Category: Musings

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Art of Becoming More Assertive

I attended an awareness workshop on "The Art of Becoming More Assertive" the past two days by a most entertaining trainer.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - well, haven't we met them all in a jungle we called Office? The Good - they are the people who are assertive, who are able to express their thoughts and feelings in a direct, honest and appropriate fashion without denying the rights of others. Blessed are those whose bosses fall in this category. Such bosses get their work done in a win-win situation that benefits both themselves and their staff.

The Bad - these are the aggressive people. They are rude, insensitive and demanding, They violate the rights of others and demean fellow workers.

The Ugly - these are people on the other extreme who are unable to stand up on their rights, either by failing to express feelings or preferences, and allowing others to step all over them, treating them like a doormat. The are the non-aggressor, the passive people, the pushovers.

The course was useful to me. It made me realise how important it is to be assertive and learn to say NO, in a way that's not hurtful to people. This is not to say I'm a passive person. Colleagues who know me know I speak my mind and could use some help in being more diplomatic.

I enjoyed the course thoroughly. The trainer, a jolly fella called Cidi Wee, was really entertaining and articulate, leaving us half a time in stitches with his many life's experiences delivered with great theatrical effect. He cried, he laughed, he pouted, he sneered ... he's simply hilarious. He would make a fantastic teacher, teaching humanity subjects like Literature. He's really dramatic!

That aside, I love the many snippets of lessons on child-raising that he dispensed. On the difference in parental behaviour exhibited between an Asian and a Westerner parent, he quoted an example of a child breaking a glass accidentally. The Western mother would go, "Careful sweetie. Did you hurt yourself?” The Asian mother would SCREAM, "Aiyoh! Why so careless! That cup very expensive one you know! You want to get caning is it?".

Over time and repeated often, the Western kid will associate having broken a glass as hurting himself. He would perceive the love of his mother and learn that each time he broke something, he would get hurt and make his mother worry.

The Asian child, on the other hand, will associate having broken a glass with punishment. So, he begins to perceive that his mother does not love him but love the broken objects because each time he breaks something, he got caned. Ok, so this has nothing to do with being assertive. But such anecdote is so true, isn't it?

Category: Personal

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who says female bosses are difficult?

Much has been said, within the pillar of the corporate walls and among colleagues including members of the fairer sex, that a female boss is difficult to work with. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect and even sexist, talks are that a female boss is:

1. A control freak
2. Emotional
3. Revengeful, spiteful and grudge-holding
4. Prone to get jealous easily

Yeas ago, I might have agreed that some of the above were true, for I did work under some terrible bosses - both female AND male. Thankfully, my current boss, a female, has proven beyond doubt that the above statements are but gross generalisations and exaggerations of what female bosses truly are.

My boss is non-pretentious and easy to talk to. She has the penchant for making employees feel at ease when talking to her. Perhaps it's her persona for she's never pushy nor over-bearing. She's also very receptive to ideas and quite a babe, too! This is not to say that she's perfect. Nobody is. But I'd rather see the positive side of her - there're more to the above few that I've mentioned. If I sounded as if I'm "apple-polishing", I make no apologies for it. Cause that's the way I truly feel about her. Besides, what's the point of polishing her apple now that she's leaving, right? Hahaha.

But alas, she wrote us an email today, announcing that she's leaving for another job. I couldn't help feeling a sense of loss - a loss not only to many of my co-workers who have grown to see her as firm but caring leader, but also to the company which is bleeding because so many talents have left!

Yet, I'm happy for her 'cause I know she has the capability and talent to go further than where she is today. She's young, idealistic and full of drive and should be free to pursue her dreams. As a way of consolation, I'd like to think that we're working for a BIG company known as Singapore Incorporated. So, she never really leaves us.

Go chase your dreams, Boss.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

Over the hols, I've completed reading Dan Brown's book the "Da Vinci Code" and what a f***! The book is so full of what one would call blasphemies that it totally blew my mind away.

The story, in a nutshell, is about a treasure-hunt to uncover the secrets that would shatter the very foundation of the Church, revealing the lies perpetuated by the Church for the past thousands of years.

No wonder Brown's book has drawn quite a fair bit of flak, notably from some circles in the Christian and Catholic communities, and scholars and historians in Christianity alike. And with the movie adaptation of the book starring Hollywood bigwig Tom Hanks as the protagonist premiering on May 19, 2006, there seems no sign of the criticisms abating.

Granted, some of the "blasphemies" in the book have well been documented in other books and even movies (eg, The Last Temptation of Christ), but what makes Brown's book stand out from the rest is his effrontery in mixing facts with fiction. Brown even claims, at the beginning of the book, that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”

I'm neither a historian nor someone very well versed in the bible, so I'm not about to judge Dan Brown (that's the job of our Lord) and will just enjoy the book for what it is - a novel.

For a preview of the movie, click here.