Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The not so finer life ....

I just have to blog about this ....

What's the big idea with "The Finer Side", the local TV show featuring the rich and the famous living in the lap of luxury? Each time I caught a glimpse of it, my face turned green like the Incredible Hulk.

It's the kinda life only dreams are made of - the socialite who thinks nothing of blowing 45 grands on a diamond ring at a drop of a hat; the yuppie who flies to his "playground" in Batam in a private jet with a personal pilot, the towkay who collects vintage cars like toys; the tai-tai who indulges in a Spa that costs at least $1800.

What are mere mortals like us supposed to do? Drool while sitting on the old and squeaky armchair of ours in our crammed, modest HDB abode, tearing our hair out in envy?

Oh pleazzeeee.... "The Finer Side" is really not that "fine". It's utterly obscene and smacks of consumerism. Come on, how many people do know live it up the way these people do? Are they for real?

What? Me jealous? You must be kidding ... errmmm... okay, maybe a little. But I'm thankful for what I have. Really. Honestly. Well... ermmm..... maybe .....

But I don't mind a fatter bank account. I don't ask for more - just an additional zero or two to round off the figure ....

And a bigger house - no it doesn't have to be a landed property. A maisonette would be just fine. And I swear I would put up with dripping clothes from the neighbors upstairs.

And a larger car, just a little larger, in case the Slim Lady and I decide to "re-open" our "factory".

See what shows like these did to us mere mortals? Darn! The show should be banned! I must lodge a complaint to SBA!


Category: Musings

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Neighbours from hell

Communal living is hard. You get on my nerves; and I get on yours. It's the same everywhere - at home with family members, in the office with colleagues, with your neighbors, and in the society at large. That saying about "familiarity breeds contempt" is ever so true. But we mere mortals are social animals - we're just not meant to live life like a hermit.

Happily, most of us manage to get along, even if hypocritically. Much as I hate to admit, hypocrisy does have its place in our society. It has to be, or I'll be waging personal war with many people I know - my siblings, my colleagues, and yes, my neighbors.

Lest you got the impression that I'm a difficult person to get along, let me assure you that I'm usually a nice and sweet guy. But when push turns to shove, I bite back. This is not to say I'm a violent person. How could I be when the person in question is but a woman in her 60s?

See, she's my neighbor living on the highest floor in my block. She has this very annoying and selfish habit of hanging out her clothes without first wringing them dry. The result? Each time she hangs out her clothes, all those living below her flat would not be able to do so in order not to get our clothes wet. And goodness knows from which garment the water is dripping! Shudder.

I've wanted to confront her on numerous occasions but was prevented from doing so by the Slim Lady who just hates confrontation. She also sees little point in talking to an insensitive person. The confrontation would not change anything, she'd said. I, on the other hand, believe that someone should at least talk to the neighbor to let her know how inconsiderate she was.

It happened one Saturday morning when the Slim Lady was at work, and when the sun was shining bright and warm. I had the laundry done and was glad to note that the neighbor upstairs wasn't drying her dripping clothes. So I happily hung out the clothes. About 10 minutes later, I glanced out of the window to see water dripping from the top. Needless to say, it wasn't raining.

Cursing under my breath, I told my kids that I was going upstairs to talk to the neighbor. I knocked on the door, and was greeted by a bespectacled frail-looking lady who looked to be in her 60s. Our conversation in Mandarin went something like this....

Aunty: Yes? (she peered behind her door)

Me: Aunty, your wet clothes are dripping all over to those of the neighbors below your flat.

Aunty: Can't be help. I got no strength to wring them. See, look at my hand..(showing me her palms, trying to gain my sympathy), I suffering from rheumatism... Just been to a doctor yesterday...

Me: You don't have any washing machine? (looking at her with a little doubt)

Aunty: No, don't have.

Me: Woa, you like that, then how neighbors gonna dry their clothes?

Aunty: Just now I hung up my clothes, there was no clothes below wat (trying to tell me that if she's hanging out her clothes, then I shouldn't have hang out mine)

Me: Sure or not? I checked before I put out my clothes wat. I put out mine before you.

Aunty: Now what time only? You dry your clothes so early meh??

Me: ????

Admittedly, I felt like a jerk for having gotten myself into this banter with the aunty. What is a man to do dealing with a "helpless" old woman? I don't want to be accused of "bullying" an old lady, you know. But I also wanted her to know it was extremely self-centered of her for not giving a thought to the neighbours downstairs. I know we've been told to respect the elderly, but come on lah.... some old people can be rather "obstinate", not to mention unreasonable.

The Slim Lady was right that the confrontation would not change anything. But I enjoyed the satisfaction of having to tell the selfish neighbor off to her face. Damn those self-centered people!

Some people are just born lucky, though - they do not have such problem because they live in landed property. Sniff.

Category: Musings

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The mindset of a Civil Servant

Reinvent. Restructure. Revamp. Remake.

These are words often uttered in the Civil Service. So much so that they have become cliche and make some people cringe.

I see where these people are coming from. For the longest time, the impression people have of a Civil Servant is –

  • He's kiasi,
  • He's kiasu,
  • And very kimsiap
  • He's such a nerd!
  • He also “jia leow bee” one (loosely translated in Hokkien, it means he's useless, despite having eaten lots of rice).
Well, nothing is further from the truth.

The Civil Service has transformed, both in its workforce and the way the organization is being run. We are more “happening” then you think. The bosses are kind and compassionate (boss, you reading this?), the workers, efficient, hip, cool and adventurous, what with the 40 and 50-year-olds acting and behaving like they are forever young and going roller-blading and all… Don't take my word for it. Just look at me. Or Victor. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention - humility is certainly not one of our virtues. LOL.

But of course, there are always the occasional "black sheep" - people who persist in projecting an image of a civil servant that is out-dated, untrue and inaccurate. I met one of these today. And she almost spoilt my day.

Let's call her "Irene", not to be confused with Serene, whose name suggests that she should be seen more and heard less. LOL. Irene wrote me an email today, telling me that I’ve been successful in my application for a course - Emotional Intelligence (EQ) - scheduled for early December. That's also the time when I’d be going for a trip overseas with my family. I promptly wrote Irene to ask if it was possible for a change of dates. Instead, she replied curtly with these words, "Please get a replacement." Feeling a little perplexed, I reached for the phone and called her. The conversation went something like this:
Me : Irene please

Irene: Ya

Me : Hi Irene, this is Chris... I got your email asking me to get replacement for a course. You mean I have to get someone to replace me?

Irene: Yalah... if not, we paid the course for nothing you know? $400 per person, you know?

Me : Oh, but why did you schedule me on these dates without first consulting me?

Irene: Hello, I sent you an email long ago to inform you about the date you know? (beginning to sound a little agitated)

Me : Ok, ok, calm down, ... Now you see why I need this EQ course? (actually I felt like telling her she needs the course more than me)

Irene: You said it yourself ah (I could almost hear her glee at the other end of the line)

Me : But I really don't recall seeing that email leh (searching for the evidence of that email in my inbox, as I spoke). Can you send me that email again?

Irene: I don't know whether if I still got that email. I juz came back from a long leave you know... so much things to do...

Me thinking: (My fault lah)
Me: So I die die also must find a replacement is it? Is it possible to change the date?

Irene: I dunno if there're other alternative dates because the trainer is from overseas one. (pause). I'll check and get back to you.

Not say I wanna say one. How could someone from HR be so "unprofessional" in the way she handles her "customers"?? These are the kind of officers who's giving the CS a bad name...

Well, what can I say? Other than that it takes all kinds to form an organization, be it in a private or public company.

Another one of my pet peeves is the amount of wastage I see in the office. A recent case in point .... Two days ago, we guys in the office stepped into the Gents and were greeted by a partition that has been erected between the washing basins and the toilet cubicles. We had no idea why the need for the partition. There was nothing in our email to warn us about this “construction”. The partition made the already small toilet even smaller and quite crammed. We simply assumed that perhaps some of the girls, whose toilet is just adjacent to the Gents, probably made a complaint to the management for having accidentally caught sight of something they weren’t supposed to see. Anyway, Victor commented that the girls aren’t supposed to peep into Gent’s door wat. So if they want to peep, even if it's accidental, it's really not the fault of us guys, right? Victor stopped short of saying he's a flasher.... I dunno... ROTFL.

Anyway, to our surprise, yesterday evening, some guys came to dismantle the partition and carted it away. When I ran into the MO (maintenance officer) in the toilet today, I couldn’t resist asking him about the partition. The chap told me that the partition was put up so that in future, in the event of a SARS or Bird Flu outbreak, the main door of the gents could be left perpetually open. This way, there’s no worry of catching germs from wet door handles. Okay, then why tore it down? Because people, the chap added, had been complaining that the toilet is too crammed!

Sigh. I know our gahmen allow U-Turns these days. But what poor planning! And a total waste of tax payers’ money! OUR money! Tsk..tsk... tks.... Why not saved the money and give us 3 months bonus instead of 2.7?

Oh, I forgot to add... we civil servants are also very greedy one. LOL.

Category: Musings

Monday, November 20, 2006

Let's talk about race

Once upon a time, in a faraway land in Xiamen (厦门), there lived a great man called Sim (沈). Like many others during his time, Sim traveled to a little island known as Temasek, in search of a better life for him and his family.

It was in Temasek that my grandfather was born. He subsequently married a 1st-generation Singaporean woman known as Pek (白) whose forefathers, too hailed from Xiamen. Pek's family, comprising her parents and siblings subsequently moved to Trengganu because of some family business.

But Pek, my grandmother stayed put with my grandfather in Singapore. And so it was in Singapore, that my grandparents' family tree slowly grew and expanded, while at the other end of the region in Trengganu was the family of my grandmother's. The former became Singapore citizens. And the latter, Malaysians.

Which one of us is better off?

I can't help but shudder at what's happening in Malaysia. During the recent UMNO General Assembly, many political leaders reportedly took to the rostrum rhetoric that touched on race and religion that left many people feeling extremely uneasy. Much of these have to do with protecting the rights and privileges of the Malays and respecting Islam as the country's official religion. Indeed, for the 1st time in decades, there was talk about "Malay Surpremacy". Some of the rhetoric made by UMNO leaders includes:

  • "Umno is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood to defend the race and religion. Don't play with fire. If they messed with our rights, we will mess with theirs."

  • "The non-Malays should be grateful that their forefathers were given Malaysian citizenship. If they question our rights, then we should question theirs...."

  • "The non-Malays have no right to question the five fundamental matters linked to the Malays - the King, religion, culture, language and the country. No one should question these and we have set this out in our Constitution."

  • "The right of the Malays in the public sector and in getting permits must be maintained to fulfil the "social contract" between the communities."

  • Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz told delegates that Malaysia would not ink trade pacts with any country if it involved sacrificing the interest of the majority Malays.

Victor would no doubt warn that I'm treading on dangerous ground. And Chun See might say I'm over-generalising things. But come, let's be open about it. The issue of race is like a Gordian Knot. It will always be there, and would never go away. But surely, radical statements like those above really have no place in our society. Instead of building bridges among the races, they hit at the very core of our social fabrics. They are really more harm than doing harmony.

One of my distant cousins in Malaysia once quipped, "Why did our forefathers decide to uproot to Malaysia? Why couldn't they have stopped and stayed put in Singapore?" This sure speaks volume on the kind of sentiments my cousin felt in being Malaysian. Sure, they live in big houses and almost all my cousins possess a car each, and best still, there's no such thing as COE, and they could drive the car for life. But what quality of life if you're forever being treated as 2nd class citizens in your country? Or that being the top student does not necessary translate into securing a place in the local university?

A "democratic" country based on equality? You decide.

Category: Musings

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Do you think I'm sexy?

You have been wearing that nightgown for six years. One evening, your spouse suddenly took notice and asked, "Is the nightgown new?"

Would you divorce him because of that? Well, apparently, a Katherine Chua did to a man she had been married to for seven years. The nightgown incident was the final straw that broke the camel's back.

There are always two sides to a coin when it comes to a divorce. But one would think that a common ground for a divorce would be a straying husband or a cheating wife. But over a nightgown? I find this absolutely frivolous. Come one, which man has never been guilty of failing to notice the new hairdo of the wife? The new dress that she wore? Her birthday? Their wedding anniversary?

With reason as flippant as a nightgown, any wonder then that the divorce rate in Singapore has tripled from 2344 in 1985 to 6099 in 2005. The rate was especially high for young couples aged between 20 to 24. I'm no at all surprised, given that people these days are better educated, and have higher expectation of what they want in life. If the love fits wear it baby; and if it doesn't, just pass it on, so the song goes...

In the days of yore, when it was the norm for couples to live with their in-laws, it was not uncommon to see the in-laws trying to make peace for the quibbling husband and wife who, more often than not because of their intervention, kissed and made up. Those were the days when divorce was almost unheard of. As the Chinese saying goes, "家有一老,如有一宝。" Loosely translated, it means that oldies like our grandparents are really treasues to behold, for obviously they have eaten more salt then us younger people, and thus, they are in a good position to dish out good and sensible advice to troubled couples. But our social norm has changed. Many young couples would rather set up their own homes and stay away from their parents or in laws. How are the latter to help?

But it’s good to read that more young people who were divorced are remarrying. I always believe that everyone deserves a second shot at happiness …….

Category: Musings

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Waking up with raunchy Madonna

These days, more often than not, I wake up with Madonna. Madonna's music, to be precise.

I've just got myself the iHome iH5R Docking Stereo Clock Radio that allows me to hook up my iPod. The gadget allows the selection of three different alarm sources - the buzzer, radio, or the iPod.

Needless to say, iPod is the choice. In fact, by setting the alarm to music, waking up at 6 am in the morning no longer needs to be a drag. See, I could choose any songs by any famous gals as wake-up tone. So, today's raunchy Madonna belting out "Respect Yourself", tomorrow's bitchy Paris Hilton cooing "Turn it up", and the next, dirty Christina Aguilero singing "Dirrty".

In one of my earlier posts, I've written about my contempt for Apple's iPod for its shoddy workmanship. It's not always like that. I had always wanted to get an iPod, one that's at least 30G to hold my collection of CD. I was pleased as punch when I finally got one a couple of years ago. But my affection for my iPod soon turned to frustration when it insisted in dying on me several times for no apparent reasons. Personally, the iPod is nothing more than a piece of over-priced junk that's made in China. Apparently, the selling points at Apple's is not on quality but on Life-style. In terms of durability, I don't think it's any where near the relatively cheaper MP3 players by Creative. But just one look at the sleek and elegant series of iPod by Apple is enough to make you fall head over heels in love with them!

But let's come back to the iH5R (Damn! I juz learned that it was also MIC!). Doesn't it look cool or what? I know this purchase sounds very much like one of my many other impulsive buys. But look at it this way... it's my way of salvaging my much neglected iPod which has been left in the shelf collecting dust for ages.... Besides, I get to wake up with Madonna and Paris Hilton :P

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My first "baby steps"

I took my first "baby steps" today.

It is something that I've wanted to do for a long time. In fact, it's one of my 2006 New Year resolutions. I told myself nothing would stop me from doing it. Not even a spoil sport like Victor, who juz had to go tear his ligament so pre-maturely, foolishly and carelessly.

I'm talking about in-line skating, of course. Finally, I took flight today with my newly bought rollerblades which have been left in my car boot collecting dust for months due, in part, to my kid's exam, the haze (which, happily has subsided somewhat), and the occasional rain.

We had planned this for months. Moogee, my fellow colleague and my new Shi Fu (after we suffered a casualty in Victor) brought me to East Coast Park after work today to commence my lessons on rollerblading. Victor was there too, but he didn't rollerblade due to his injury. He cycled, and cheered me on .... which embarrassed me somewhat.

Anyway, I was dumped by Moogee and Victor at the In-line skating ring. To be fair, they did so after teaching and demonstrating to me how one should blade. They had watched over me like an eagle over its eaglet for all of 5 minutes and then they disappeared, one rollerblading and the other cycling to the far end of East Coast. True friends that they are!

Left with my own device, I rollerbladed, tumbled a few times, picked myself up and rollerbladed again. Thank goodness I had my safety guards on. To be very honest, I was kinda shy at first, not because I'm a first timer, but more because of my age. Looking around me in the ring which was not very crowded, I saw more youngersters than uncles (or aunties) like me. You could tell most of them were also beginners by the awkward way they rollerbladed.

As I rollerbladed along, I become more confident. This is especially so when a woman with a young toddler gave me a "thumb-up" sign. I guess I probably looked like an Ah Chek to her and she was probably trying to be encouraging. But it's really fine with me. Like birds of the same feathers, we were there to learn a new skill. And, more importantly, to stay healthy and keep fit. And how I sweat! It's true rollerblading makes me perspire like pig!

And you could even make "friends" while rollerblading. I had a minor collision with a woman (I swear it's accidental; but Victor seems to think otherwise), and struck up a conversation with her. She told me she's been rollerblading for a month and quipped that I was doing very well for a first-timer. Indeed, Victor and Moogee both expressed the same sentiment. But I really wouldn't say rollerblading is a piece of cake - maybe half? Well, I glided along, at times wobbly (I think) but I have yet to learn how to brake, do fanciful moves like the twirl, glide on lone leg and somersault!!!

Learning rollerblading is really like learning how to drive a car. Just as we have to start learning driving at the circuit, we first have to learn to rollerblade at the in-line skating ring. And as I gradually gain confidence, (I told the chaps to give me at least 5 – 8 lessons), I'd probably venture out on the track.

Incidentally, I was on a "Stress Management" course these past two days. When the trainer asked me what I do to de-stress, I told him I blog because it's really quite therapeutic and added that I'm gonna pick up rollerblading as a form of exercise to de-stress. He gave me a poster which I found extremely relevant to my current state of mind. It has these words on it:

We don't stop playing because we grow old
We grow old because we stop playing

How apt.

Category: Leisure

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Boardroom Vs Bedroom

Time has changed. The world has changed. But it seems like when it comes to good ole romance, the requirement of men in their search for a life partner remains the same as it was since time memorial.

How else do you explain the plight of a Ms Ivy Lee as reported in the Sunday Times? Attractive, pretty, well-groomed and rich - she's, after all, one of Singapore's top property agents - her only fault lies in her age. She's 42.

Or so we were led to believe that age was her stumbling block in finding a life partner. Dating agencies she called up told her she's just "too old" to ever become any man's OOD (Object of Desire). These agencies write off women like Ivy Lee as being "over the hill" and consider chances of them getting hitched remote. Indeed, a poll conducted on 300 men and women last year has shown that only 34 per cent of men would consider going out with someone older them.

Personally, I don't think age is the main consideration here. Well, it seems that Ms Lee wasn't really "left on the shelf" material. It transpired that she was a divorcee with two teenage sons. I'm sure most men, when it comes to true love, would have no qualm about marrying a divorcee. But if you coupled that with a high flier like Ms Lee, and if she has a high education, then some men would think twice. There would be the question of "Intellectual Compatibility". Let me explain.

My wife is a nurse; and I'm just a salaried civil serpent. Suppose my wife is a doctor and she likes to host parties and dinners for her friends and colleagues - all doctors in the medical profession. And when they meet, their chatters are all about medical stuff. How, as a man of her life, would I ever fit in?

Much as I hate to admit it, it's true that some of us men do have security issues when it comes to dating women who are brighter and better educated than us, and who earn more than us. Very often, the image of such a successful woman is one who is overbearing, obstinate and, dare I say, feministic. Nothing reassures the ego of a man more than a wife who is loving, caring and above all, submissive. Of course, being highly educated does not mean that a wife can’t be loving and caring. But this notion of submissiveness is so outdated and politically incorrect in this time and age, it sounds so strange in today's context. It's also quite impossible to find such women in modern day Singapore. How else do you explain the increasing number of Singaporean men getting foreign wives from Vietnam and Batam? Perhaps we men could do well to change our mindset. Forget about finding submissive wives - they are as extinct as the dinosaurs brought to life only in Jurassic Park. A union in marriage is based on love and mutual respect. Nobody submits to anybody.

On the other hand, women, if they truly know what men really want, should play "dumb" sometimes. Be all the high-flier-super-achiever-bitches (pardon the expression) in power-suit you want to be in the boardroom, but at home, in the bedroom, ensure that the one who's really wearing the pants is none other than the husbands.

Just hope the feminists are not up in arms .... I'm just stating what we men want, really.

Category: Musings