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August 2005 Archives

MovableType 3.2

Kicking it up a notch.

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Ballast

I feel so incomplete without feeling the weight of Anne in my arms every morning; the smell of her head or the grasp of her hand.

More Missing

Dearest Faith and Anne,

the sun sets on another day, and it is oddly painful to know that we share the same golden sunset, but apart. I’m listening to Tanya Chua’s “I’ll Remember You” on whatever juice I have left on the iPod. I use to reminisce over this song while I was in the US.

Everyone tells me how great it is that we made it through the long distance relationship, but I never felt distant even back then. Being with you, however long or brief a time has filled my days and nights with enough laughter and happy memories to sustain me till we meet again, be it weeks or years.

Thank you for making my life so, for lack of a better word, melodious.

By the Temptations

Dearest Faith and Anne,

it is the nights I miss you both the most.

It might have been stupid of me to have forgotten to bring my mobile phone, but somehow the inavailability of instant communication has made clearer to me the things I take for granted daily.

It has been a long time since I’ve had an entire night of uninterrupted sleep, but I know that my place is with the both of you.

My girls. The girls of my life. God has really blessed me with a life of protecting, caring, loving and being loved.

I miss you all. The YF comm especially. I’m reminding myself to cherish serving God alongside such beautiful people, each and every one.

I don’t know if I have the heart to leave Singapore anymore.

Page 422

I think I’m falling in love with Hermione Granger.

What Is Man,

The next few entries are a backlog written on pen and paper as I serve a one week reservist training in the Singapore Army.

Lying here in the bunk, on the other side of Singapore. Doing the “man” thing, protecting my country. I’ve come to realise that the worth of a man, his very essence, lies not in his accomplishments or his career, but in the people he loves and the people that love him.

Far Far and Beyond

For the next week, I’ll be serving my nation in an army facility on the extreme other side of the island. It’s so far away it’ll take me 2 hours to get there by public transport. And I have to be there so early it is probable that public transport won’t get me there in time.

I’ll most probably be late.

So you see, I’m a good soldier, but the facilities the country affords me makes me otherwise.

How to Find a Great Domain Name

For times when your inspiration runs dry.

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Humanise Your President

So here’s the less cerebral post I promised.

It’s a neat party trick I’ve been using to keep children occupied ever since Singapore decided to have our first President Yusof bin Ishak grace our dollar bills. I’ll use the $2 bill, as it’s the largest I currently own.

Here’s the $2 with the vacant expression.

Unmolested two-dollar bill

Prep Your President

Fold the bill vertically down the President’s eyes, like here.

Two-dollar bill with one fold

Two-dollar bill with two folds

Put the two folds together and fold down the middle.

Two-dollar bill with three folds

Yes, we know it looks like cyclops, and it’s funny. But quit being childish.

Open up the bill slightly, with the crease from the folds still visible. Tilt the bill up and down, and our President comes to life!

Here he is, smiling…

Two-dollar bill smiling

and here he is, rather upset.

Two-dollar bill angry

So even if we can’t choose who our next President will be, we can always carry the joy they bring to our lives in our wallets.

Immaculate Ascension

In democratic Singapore, every citizen has the right to vote. Actually we’re even more democratic than the United States because it is compulsory by law for every citizen to vote. What our darling government has done, bless their heart, is take away our need to vote.

I’ve been of voting age for some time now and like many of you, have never voted. We have been rendered mindless peons in the running of this country, physically here because Dick Lee’s “this is home, truly” is a pretty darn good song that goes well with fireworks.

The whole Presidential election issue was about choice. Most of us probably wouldn’t dispute that current President S.R. Nathan is a more qualified candidate than Andrew Kwan, but we would have liked to have chosen our own President, thank you very much. We would have liked a fair fight, instead of having Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issue a bounty hunters fee for Andrew’s decapitated head. The picture the local media paints of Andrew Kwan is so exaggeratedly ugly that you’d think Andrew’s father was head of JTC and made him the CFO. That reminds me of another person…

The Singapore Caste System

After our Prime Minister announced that there was going to be a “Singapore Elite”, he made formal what we already knew: that in Singapore only a few, or even one, have the power to make decisions, the rest are expected to follow like little lambs.

The Presidential Elections (or lack of it) is another case in point. Why do we need a Presidential Elections Committee to apply such stringent criteria as to who has the right to run for office? Is the public so stupid that they can’t be trusted to make a good sound decision? Is the government afraid that we’ll choose an ex-murderer to be our President? Why can’t we decide what’s good for ourselves and live with the consequences of our own actions?

It’s ironic that the ruling party is the People’s Action Party when all it does is inhibit the action of the people.

What I want in a President

Someone who earns his / her SGD2.3 million annual salary. If we’re going to get pissed of by T.T. Durai’s meagre $600k, we better be on the edge of our seats to make sure our money’s hard at work here. Durai made the NKF what it is today. I may be wrong, but I doubt any President we’ve ever had has done more.

The President used to have veto power to challenge the government’s spending. After President Ong Teng Cheong signalled his intention to use his veto, the government, bless their heart again, decided to cut the veto power of the President to non-constitutional bills. I think a huge pay cut should accompany the cut in job responsibility, if salaries were pegged to the private sector, which is our government’s rationale for the extremely high salaries paid to ministers.

Conclusion

I know my rants have become exceedingly tedious, and it’s probable that my writing is scarcely sufficient to hold your attention.

I’ll post something less cerebral up next. Promise.

After all, we are neither the hive mind nor the elite, and shouldn’t bother ourselves with such things.

Winner Takes All

With my parents taking care of Anne the last two days, I finally had a chance to “see the world”. Even when out with Anne, it’s amazing how much attention she soaks up, to the point us parents are pretty oblivious to whatever happens around us.

Excellence in Action

I went to the Singapore General Hospital for specialist medical advice regarding my hyper-thyroidism. It was a fairly pleasant experience as I had time to sit down with two books, one work related and the other had something to do with some wizard and a half-blood prince. I was impressed by the level of service at the hospital. I have to say that the healthcare system here in Singapore is excellent.

A woman on her mobile-phone was complaning loudly about how she was made to wait for an hour before getting her consultation. She was only three patients behind and it took an hour yadda yadda. Come on already, lady. If you want personal service, pay for it. The waiting isn’t bad if you plan ahead. The hospital even sends a text message to your phone when the queue number comes close to yours. Pretty brilliant, I must say. Doctors and nurses would have a heck of an easier life if patients were less anal about not having their every whim and fancy pandered to.

I didn’t need much persuasion to fill in a feedback form and rated most things favourably.

Excellence in Character

The purpose of a feedback form is usually to quantify the unquatifiable: in this case customer satisfaction.

In Singapore we tend to take quantifiable results very seriously. Children are groomed from a young age not to disappoint their parents by losing out to the “neighbour’s kid” in examination grades, musical talent or even physical apperance.

It sucks that everything has to be a competition. Yes, it drives us to perform well, but it consumes our soul.

Just a few hours ago I was at Suntec City with Faith and Anne. They were giving out free newspapers that cost 50 cents on any other given day. An middle-aged man and his friend grabbed two copies. His friend went “but we can share the paper”. “But it’s free!”.

Kiasuism - The Fear of Losing Out

Singaporeans are driven by a relentless need to win. The rhetoric you’ll hear is that we are driven to succeed, but “win” is a better term here.

Success is a variable term. To some, success is a nice quiet life in the countryside while to others it is a BMW convertible. To win, on the other hand, is quantifiably definite. From the level of government, down to the classrooms, we are told to be number one.

We are the number one airport in the world; the number one seaport; we have the number one zoo; so on and so forth. When I was 12 years old I visited Australia. I went to the Sydney zoo, raised an eyebrow when asked how it was and replied “Singapore has the number one zoo”. I would have been crucified if not for the fact I was a minor.

The flip side to this game of numbers is the fear of losing. A typical Singaporean response to hearing that your child came in second in class would be to scold them and make them work harder to beat the top guy.

We realise that in order for us to win, someone has to lose. We grab the extra newspaper, even when we don’t need it, because it makes the other guy lose. Singaporeans will join a queue just because it’s long. I know someone who bought a condominium this way. She didn’t know it was a line for a condo until she reached the front, and bought it because she queued for so long already.

So when you hear the term “ugly Singaporean”, it refers to those of us who feel a need to deprive someone else just to feel better. In Singapore cars speed up when you signal your intention to filter into their lane, instead of slowing down and letting you in. There was once I had Anne’s pram and bags of groceries in hand, and barely managed to open the door leading out of the carpark. A guy just walked through the open door, made me drop the pram and groceries and left me with the door now sprung shut in my face.

Ugly. Singaporean. Same thing. Sometimes?

I am finding new things to love about Singapore, and finding old things not to like about her still with us.

So Dear Singapore, happy belated 40th birthday. My gift to you is Sir Henry Wotton’s poem, “The Character of a Happy Life”.

The Character of a Happy Life

How happy is he born or taught,
That serveth not another’s will;
Whose armour is his honest thought,
And simple truth his highest skill;

Whose passions not his masters are;
Whose soul is still prepar’d for death
Untied unto the world with care
Of princes’ grace or vulgar breath;

Who envies none whom chance doth raise,
Or vice; who never understood
The deepest wounds are given by praise,
By rule of state, but not of good;

Who hath his life from rumours freed;
Whose conscience is his strong retreat;
Whose state can neither flatterers feed,
Nor ruins make accusers great;

Who God doth late and early pray,
More of his grace than goods to send,
And entertains the harmless day
With a well-chosen book or friend.

This man is free from servile bands
Of hope to rise or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And having nothing, yet hath all.

Sir Henry Wotton

Munchkin

You know the familiar, almost clichéd account: baby is born. Father holds the child up to the light like Simba in “The Lion King”. And in that magical moment, the swinging married bachelor or the career-minded egomaniac comes to the sudden realisation that he is now the father of a child?

I didn’t have that. Somehow the nine months leading of pregnancy leading up to her birth made fatherhood a gradual, rather than sudden, process. Even after her birth Faith and I were sort of detatched, unsure why the super-strong maternal / paternal feelings that were supposed to now exist in us weren’t really there. Anne was a baby to be fed and put to bed. A baby that kept us awake at night.

This may sound cruel, but I’ll confess that there have been nights that were particularly difficult, to the point I felt a little trapped by the immensity of bringing her up; that I’d never know freedom again.

I had a taste of freedom today. Anne was taken away from me.

It tasted bitter.

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Anne at 4 Months

Anne at 4 Months

Mountains

Mountains in Sunset at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Mountains in Sunset at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Present Continuous

Min sent an email detailing her business trips to California and her short holiday to Vancouver. It has been a year since she graduated, and her new work visa is due to come in, which probably means she’ll be staying in the States. I’m guessing for another year at least. It’s a long time to not see someone I’ve lived with and seen every single day for most of my adult life. She seems very happy with her job.

I am happy. Sorta.

Having been kept awake by Anne and her flailing arms for the past 3 hours, this is probably going to sound like a teenage rant.

A hormonal outburst. Premature menopause without having ever had the meno.

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Unfortunate Children's Books

“I am a Jew” and other hilarious gems.

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Blocking Popups That Make It Past Firefox

Two seconds of your time, and goodbye to stupid casino popups.

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The Right and Left of Good Parenting

There are two reasons why women make better child-minders than men.

Boobs. Either you got them or you don’t. If you’re the non-lactating parent like I am (but your baby feeds on breastmilk), parenting is a synchronised dance of keeping the baby fed, making sure you’ve enough bottled breastmilk to last the day till your lactating partner returns, and organising all sorts of attention-grabbing time-burning activities in between.

The lactator has the distinct advantage here. When in doubt, instant milk. No questions like “is the baby hungry enough to finish an entire bottle?” No having to wait for the refrigerated ammo to thaw while juggling rattles, storybooks and chainsaws hoping to live through the five minutes of aural hell.

Of course I’m over-simplifying things. The lactator has to deal with nasty electrical pumps, freezing cooler boxes and white-hot sterilised milk bottles.

There are times when I wonder about estrogen jabs; whether transforming myself into a lactator will simplify things. Then I think about teething.

Testicles shrink to the size of raisins, and I realise I don’t need estrogen to scream like a little girl.

Apple's New Mighty Mouse

Just when you thought the design of the mouse was fixed, Apple challenges the norm.

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The Anti-Anti Xiaxue

Ok, for those of you who read the article in today’s Digital Life, here’s the “anti-hacker” post they quoted.

And for the record, I’m not anti-Xiaxue. I’m anti-anti Xiaxue. Which doesn’t mean I’m pro-Xiaxue either.

Photo People

family_bus.jpg

Family on a bus, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

The most wonderful thing about taking photos of the people you love is that you don’t really have to bother with the technical details. These are the photos you take for your own memory’s sake, complete with half-closed eyes, gaping mouths and the spontaneity of the moment.

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