terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Huh? Baking Powder?

It's probably not a good idea to be driving a cab when you're sleepy and deaf.

Like today's cabbie:

"Siglap Centre, please."


"Siglap Centre, yes."

"Siglap Road?"

"No Siglap Centre."

"Siglap Centre?"


"Siglap Road?"


And five minutes later when I was about to alight:

"Where do I drop you off?"

"Turn left at the light first."

"Turn right?"

"No, turn left."


"At the light."

"Turn right?"

Fortunately I could fall back on teacher training and speak in my I'll-say-this-slowly-using-simple-words-so-you'd-understand voice and tone meant for 4-year olds, parents of students and school administrators:

"At the traffic light. Turn left. Then stop at the entrance to the first car park."


Saturday, May 29, 2004


In the five days since I’d last blogged:

I’d finished the primary photography for the college.

8 weeks.

48 taxi receipts.

5.6 GB of photographs.

17 CD-Rs.

And an estimated 380 man hours on the job and on Photoshop.

Wish I had the energy to turn this into some MasterCard ad, but still too damned tired. I'll just say: Mission accomplished.


I’d finished the programme for concert that the Modern Dance Club of the JC is putting up next Saturday. Two weeks, some Photoshop additions of halter-tops and spaghetti straps to the shoulders of some of the girls and plenty of emails and SMSes later, it’s finally completed.

Update: Just got an SMS stating that there are changes to be made to the programme. Doh!


Played soccer for the first time since my back gave out two years ago. Scored a beauty on the move that was sandwiched by a volley that went just wide and a header that hit the bar. Pity it was disallowed.


Suffered from a possible concussion in the same game when I went for the header and got head instead. When I saw the doctor, just in case, he gave me a head injury advice chit that listed, among other things, symptoms that included:

1. confusion or irritability;
2. drowsiness or difficult to rouse;
3. severe or progressive headache;
4. blurred or double vision;
5. persistent vomiting;
6. dizziness;
7. any form of muscle weakness;
8. slurring or loss of speech;
9. has a fit or seizure.


Describes me on most Friday nights after my fourth pint of Guinness.

Have a bump on the forehead to show for it. Otherwise, I’m supposed to be fine.


Took my first $20 taxi ride in Singapore, from The Adelphi back to the college. On any day, it would have cost only $8.

Those surcharges do add up after a while.


Caught up on my reading. Have now finished with all the books that I'd ordered from Amazon.

Now to go book shopping again.


Watched the Flames and Lightning duke it out for Lord Stanley's Cup.

Live. On ESPN.

All I need is for both teams to win at least two, then I'll be guaranteed a Game 6 and/or 7 while I'm in Canada.

Live. On CBC.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Self Portrait Day

Apparently that's what today is. So, for the first time ever, I've a photo of me on Fotolog.



One dumb, one not so.

On my way home from running a couple of errands today, I saw this ad on one of the panels of the MRT train:

Your workplace is the best place to:

Make friends
Learn to cope with stress
Be fitter
Eat healthier
Quit smoking

This, from the wonderfully out-of-it people with the Health Promotion Board.

What the hell are they smoking in that place? Apart from the first point (which pushes it already), how is the workplace the best place to do all those things? Quit smoking? Shee-yeah, I almost started again because of teaching. And fitter? Eating healthier? Not where I was. Too many meetings, not enough time to do anything else.

And stress? Sure, we learn to cope with it. But it was ne'er-ending.


Then, I got home just in time to watch the trailer for Spiderman 2 on AXN.


Observations From a Cab Ride

Saturday was one for observations. Or maybe it was because I was all dressed up and had nowhere to go on Friday night.


Observation The First

There’s a maid training centre near my place and I passed it on the way to the ECP on the way to town. It’s completely encased in glass and from where I was, I could see imperious Singaporeans engaged in administrative jobs and maids-in-training having lessons on ironing.

Kinda like the California Fitness Centre* for the socially-disenfranchised and menial labourers of fair Singapore.

All very demeaning, if you ask me.


Observation The Second

It now costs me an additional two dollars to cab it from home to The Adelphi in town (where I get my prints done) since Nicoll Highway was closed to traffic.


Observation The Third

It must be easier nowadays for kids to get their CIP (Community Involvement Programme) hours under their belts: they work half an hour, toss a few sheets of stickers away and then spend the rest of their morning having a good time taking pictures of each other on their cell phones while eating a healthy Burger King breakfast at the Peninsula Plaza branch and get the six hours counted towards their university admissions.


How about this? It might be revolutionary, but perhaps we could make them work a lot harder for their community service requirements? I don’t know, maybe teachers shouldn’t arrange for these things to ‘just happen’ but leave it to the kids to make use of their own initiative to do good? It is supposed to be volunteer work after all.

What d’you think? Pretty good way to separate the wheat from the chaff.


Observation the Fourth

Was commenting to the cousin about the appearances of two churches along my route back to the east. The first, the Armenian Church, now looks absolutely gorgeous. Someone did up the lawn and the walls have been repainted a beautiful white. Brings a lump to my throat, actually.

The second, St Joseph’s, wasn’t as pretty. Apparently someone didn’t get the clue that pastels are so passé. Especially if it’s for a house of worship and it’s been painted light blue with sky blue trimmings.

He told me to write in to the Straits Times Forum to comment about the use of colours in buildings.

Well, what’s the point in that? As I’d told him:
[T]hat’s not going to change anything. Bad taste is a terminal condition.

Which is quite sad. It used to be a rather dignified looking building.

* The California Fitness Centre in Singapore opened in Orchard Road some years back and features large bay windows where pedestrians may watch some overpaid yuppie sweat it out.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Now this is worth reading the news for...

This rather fun article was in today's Straits Times:

Unfaithful Men More Likely to Die During Sex

BERLIN - Having an affair can be deadly.

According to a German study, unfaithful men are more likely to die during sex than their loyal counterparts.

After poring through nearly 30,000 post-mortem cases, researchers at the Centre for Forensic Medicine noticed 56 cases of men who died of heart attacks during sex.

Only one in four died in the arms of his wife or partner.

'More than half of them lived their last hour in the arms of a lover or at the brothel,' the Bild der Wissenschaft magazine reported.

The remainder died in the act of masturbation.

The researchers could only speculate on why a disproportionate number died with lovers than with partners, suggesting that it may be because they were putting extra strain on their system by trying harder. -- AFP

Well, if I could choose the way to go... like that little vignette from Monty Python's 'Meaning of Life'.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Ah, that enterprising spirit...

Does anyone know if it's legal for kids to be selling ice cream door-to-door? I've had several kids (ages 15-18, it looks like) over the last few months trying to sell me Wall's or King's ice cream at my door. I distinctly do not remember reading anything about this in the newspapers.

However, issues of legality aside, much as I approve of their entrepreneurship, I don't think it's a good idea to flip off a customer who said 'no' to buying your ice cream. The bird may have been raised after I'd closed the door, but it's generally not wise to do it while walking past the rather large windows that HDB had installed in every flat of my estate. Dumb-asses. I guess, they don't need to worry about returning customers - I haven't seen the same kid twice since this began.

Oh well: in my generation and this one, I guess some people are still not cut out to be in sales.


A letter to today's Forum Page of the Straits Times:

Truly Unique - For Wrong Reasons

In our outstation home in Johannesburg, South Africa, my husband was browsing the Lifestyle section of the Sunday Times when a travel column, Third World Order, caught his attention. The contributor had been hosted by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and was in Singapore during the launch of the tourism campaign, 'Uniquely Singapore'.

Much to our surprise, the article carried more gripes than praises. She ended the article thus: 'I came to the conclusion that the country of lights, lions and laws is truly unique - but for all the wrong reasons.'

After poring over the article, it was not difficult to see what disturbed our guest - everything, well, almost.

First, she was not impressed with the prosperity and progress Singapore has achieved. Much less was she thrilled over our acclaim as the Shopping Paradise when she was taken to the tho-roughfare of consumerism, Orchard Road.

Any reader could sense the writer's displeasure and frustration with the tour guide who had been insensitive to her needs. She wanted to visit the local street bazaar but her request was brushed off by the guide, who was more eager to showcase the economic miracle of Asia and took her instead to the 'grrrreat shopping centres'.

On Ngee Ann City, the 'winner of the best shopping experience award', the writer said: 'With its deities of US, French, Italian and UK department stores, this temple left me uninspired.'

Neither was the writer impressed with the people. The young girls she saw on the street were likened to Asian versions of Britney Spears; the young men were accused of having succumbed to the David Beckham cult.

Was she appalled by the lack of originality of our youth or was she agreeing with this line from the play performed at the launch of the tourism campaign, 'It is time we stop behaving like bananas - yellow on the outside and white on the inside'?

'Everyone looks as if they stepped straight off the pages of a fashion magazine... Not Cosmo though.'

Her overall verdict of the theme park 'Singaworld' was '... a nation of four million people who seem to have traded everything for money'. Then she added, perhaps to soothe her conscience and provide a little consolation: 'Well, almost everything.'

In fact, it was said at least twice in the article that Singaporeans, in their pursuit of economic progress, have turned into money-hungry, soul-trading worshippers of Mammon.

Once again, our endless and creative bans and fines became objects of ridicule - because, without understanding the rationale, these restrictions appear barbaric and inhumane, coming from the government of a modern, developed nation.

As the writer was hosted by STB, she must have felt obligated to mention a few good points about the country which have fortunately survived the money-minded culture - an antiques shop showcasing the Peranakan culture which 'made her stay worthwhile' (Well done, Katong Antique House, you saved us!), Singapore cuisine and Sentosa.

I must confess that my first reaction to the article was one of outrage. As a Singaporean, I wanted to fend off with all my might the biased accusations and conclusions. But as the initial feelings settled, I reflected on what had been written about my homeland.

Despite the article, I am still proud of the economic miracle we have achieved as a nation. I love Singapore despite its not-so-perfect, sub-civilised culture. I love Singapore because it is my HOME.

We must never stop pursuing economic progress because it's a matter of survival. Only the citizens of a city state with hardly any natural resources would understand.

However, let's not neglect our heritage, culture and social values which will, more than anything else, make us 'Uniquely Singapore'.


OK, first of all: thank you to the unnamed writer of the article. I think you've hit the nail on the head. I think most travellers in any country nowadays would rather see and experience the atmosphere of the place rather than shop. I know I would - which is why I've never enjoyed going to Hongkong; besides, the shopping malls and food, there's very little there to interest me. It's about time STB wises up to that.


[L]et's not neglect our heritage, culture and social values...

Uh, what heritage? Culture? Or social values? The heritage, culture and social values we had now come in the form of the pursuit of economic progress, becoming Britney/ David and shopping centres.

We believe in everything that is transient. Hell, we live for transience. That's why people are so bloody rude to each other: they don't figure on meeting the same person again after that one chance encounter. That's pretty much embodied in the kids who were at my door selling ice cream last night. Supremely-coiffed and dressed in their finest Street fashion, they couldn't even wait til they were out of my line of sight before flipping the bird.


I'm sorry, but I'd rather be identified with the old Singapore. When we were poor. When we weren't so goddamned needy.

At least we were human back then.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


So I got bored and changed my template.

Planning to Fail

To whom it may concern:

I'm writing this to the person (or persons, because it generally takes more than one needle-necked, pencil-pusher to fuck up) who is in charge of the scheduling of contractor works in HDB estates: you suck.

I mean, you are really, really, really bad at what you do.

Yesterday I woke up to several gaping holes in my corridor because someone had scheduled the replacement of the rainwater drainage pipes in my cozy little estate. Not a problem.

Not the problem.

The problem is that the replacement of said pipes took place after the sixteen blocks in the estate were given a new coat of paint (which happened between November and March this year). And after we had new floors put in.

Now we have pipes that are severals shades lighter than the paint around them. We have gouges in the paintwork because the workers were less than gentle with the walls, probably because damaging something that someone else's work 'is not their problem.' And the floors look terrible from the rush job on the cement and mortar because, again, making things look good probably isn't the workers' problem as well.

What I want to know is, how the hell did you fuck up so bad?

And, is this something I'm going to the Cut Waste Committee about? Especially if I see another army of painters coming to my side of the island to cover up your mistake.

Or is this what's making our economy grow so that you can say you've earned your additional half-month's pay?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


So there are now gaping holes in the corridor where the rainwater drainage pipes used to be. Which is kinda freaky because from where I stand, I can vaguely make what's going on in the void deck of my block.

It's also freaky because one wonders what happens to the rainwater when there aren't any pipes to convey it down.


And you know you've had a long day when you say:

"Diabetes? That's when you have blood in your sugar."

"When in France, do as France do."

"I can count to Thai from one to ten."

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Sing, goddess, of the anger of Achilleus, son of Peleus...

We're watching it tonight.

Troy, that is, for the uninitiated. Should be a pleasant experience seeing that most of the audience would be adult, the kids having their exams at this time.

And after tonight, I decide whether or not Troy remains on my DVD shopping list when I'm in Vancouver next month.


Speaking of anger...

Was in a few cabs the last week and I must have had three of the angriest cab drivers in Singapore. One cursed at an ambulance with its siren on and its lights flashing. This was on the CTE and the cabbie lost it completely:

"Stupid fucking ambulance! Flashing for fuck?"

Er, perhaps to send someone to the A&E?


The other one was gesticulating (and screaming out an open window as we passed him) at a driver in the car in front of us who had braked suddenly because there was a huge box in the middle of the road. OK, so it may have been made of styrofoam, but the damage it could do to any vehicle should it be run over would have cost a pretty penny.

Obviously Mr Furious didn't see the box. Or fully registered what I was telling him about the box. In the middle of the road.

Again. Jeez.

At least get angry for a reason.

Friday, May 14, 2004

'Lil Miss Manners

Who is it then, if not parents, who will teach children to chew with their mouths closed?

At the next table last night, a 20-something male diner was chewing his food with his mouth wide open, while his significantly-more-dignified father (family resemblance) sat next to him, quietly chewing his food.

Mouth closed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

You know it's going to be a strange day when...

... three men, in quick succession, walk by you while talking on their mobile phones and as they go by you, they say, "Huh?!" to the person on the other end of the line.

Other strangeness:

1. All three cabs I took today took the most convoluted routes to my destinations.

2. And that, if you've just spilled a drink on a newly carpeted floor in the college where you're having a photo shoot, it's probably not a good idea to say very loudly, "Hey! Lick up that wet carpet!"

Must... Resist... Temptation...

To change templates, that is.

The missus and assorted others have already done so, and so I shall to resist.


I'm also resisting the temptation to go DVD shopping on Amazon after receiving my latest paycheck in my bank account. There's Canada and the US to plan for and right now, I'm comfortable with my account balance being able to survive the two weeks in North America. I've two more paychecks to go before the end of this month, so I should be even more comfortable by the time we fly off for Vancouver.

And surely one month isn't too long to wait to buy the DVDs I want off the shelves and forget about paying for shipping and handling.


As I've said in my previous post, I'm being kept busy by the photography. Have just been so tired the last two weeks that I didn't feel like a game last weekend. That it was cancelled in the end was just serendipitious -- I was fully prepared to forego it for some much-needed rest. As it was, I slept the entire Sunday.

It is, however, the happy kind of tired.

I've been given quite a lot of freedom in the kind of shots that I can take and it's been fun, especially when dealing with like-minded adults and kids. I'm particularly pleased with the work I did with the dancers as well as the sailors -- photos from which I should be posting on my Fotolog soon. In fact I am planning to sell some of these shots as prints (am presently looking at the various printing options, paper quality, inks, etc -- now if only there was someplace in Singapore that does Giclee printing). I just need to know how to go about it and how to price them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Quick Updates

... because I'm being kept busy with the photography.


Congratulations to Mr Dominic Soh. Not only has taking Extrim (some dodgy fat-burning diet pill thingy) made him lose 40 kg, he's managed to pick up the English Language and an Aussie accent in the interim.


Congratulations also to Boston Rob for what may perhaps be the best strategy to win Survivor: marry the person with the million bucks.

Not bad for a contruction foreman. Clearly America is still the land of opportunity.


I think generally it's not a good idea to be wearing a dress that looks like something out of the bathing suit catalogue of the 1900s. Especially if it comes with broad horizontal bands and has a ridiculous-looking tutu-like thing around the hips. And I don't care if it's branded and expensive.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Going Up In Flames...

Dang it!

The Calgary Flames are killing all my teams in the Playoffs this year. First the Canucks in seven games, now the Red Wings (who had been seeded first for finishing first overall in the Western Conference) in six.

Updated at 09:28 PM:

On the other hand, the Flames are the final Canadian team left in the playoffs, so I guess I just hafta support them.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Final Words

OK, one or two comments before I put the whole sorry episode of the 'slapping' incident behind me. These were in today's Straits Times Forum Pages:


I read with interest the report on why a student's godsister, Mrs Tan, reported the Nan Chiau High principal. Mrs Tan claims to have been 'led by her own morals and integrity' as a teacher. But she failed to discipline her own godsister, who broke school rules.



I couldn't have said it better. Only, allow me to clarify some misconceptions (since ST is still being indiscriminate about their reporting). Mrs Tan, despite reports to the contrary, is not a teacher. She 'teaches' at a private school. That's why she feels the need to come from a moral high horse. Or for that matter, that's why she can comment from a position that reflects her 'own morals and integrity', whatever the hell that may be (but I guess it's a position that condones lying, breaking rules and then being smug about it).

You know what? Take care of your own house first. Stupid, self-righteous bitch.


I am perturbed after reading MOE's response to the incident. Its hastiness in resolving the issue in black-and-white terms is simplistic or, worse, apathetic.

MOE has given the public an impression that it is inflexible and incapable of handling such incidents.

Contrary to its belief, principals and teachers' authority in maintaining discipline has been adversely affected with the acceptance of the principal's resignation.



This reader's taken the very words from out of my mouth. So much for trying to get our students to be willing to take risks and make mistakes.

Strike one. Yer out!

This whole situation shows clearly how things with the teaching profession have deteriorated from the time when I was a student. And it wasn't all that long ago.

I believe it boils down to one thing: the lack of trust. We don't trust our teachers anymore.

This, despite:

1. Teachers spend more time with the children than do some parents. Yes. So, parents, guess who would know your kid better?

2. Teachers know what they're doing. Gasp! Shock! Most parents treat us like the second cousins who married their siblings. And their kids, of course, model their behaviour after them.

3. Teachers who have to teach your kid more than just Mathematics and Science but who are seen as 'lesser' beings in this society because we don't earn as much as lawyers, doctors or engineers; because, hey, "those who can't, teach", right? Fuck you, I'd like to see where the lawyers, doctors and engineers of the world would come from if not for us lesser beings. Probably right about the same place where you store your head -- where the sun doesn't often shine.

I know I can't speak for the fairweather teachers out there (those who joined up because of the poor economy) or the ones with the wet dicks, but I'd like to believe that every one of us joined this profession because we felt that we could make a difference or that it was something worth waking up every morning for. We see bratty kids wandering Orchard Road and we wonder what they could have been like with the correct (not 'proper', not 'that which follows the rules') guidance. We've been told to customise the way we teach, why not customise the way we deal with the brats? Some require nothing more than a chiding, others deserve the full measure of the rod. This girl who turned up late at the Principal's office* for a disciplinary problem clearly falls in the realm of the latter.

* (Hell, if I remember MOE guidelines, to have reached the stage where the girl has to see the Principal -- not the form teacher, not the Discipline Master/ Mistress -- already suggests the seriousness of her offence. And she turned up late? And lied?!)

It used to be if we fucked up in school, we'd take the punishment and then go home and keep our pie holes shut, because complaining to our parents usually meant we'd get a double dose of the punishment. And when we went home, we prayed that our teachers wouldn't call and then tell our parents what had happened, because that's when the shit would really hit the fan: first, the fuck-up, then the 'not telling our parents we'd fucked up'.

And we knew our teachers were right in the first place -- that's why it's "our fuck-ups" and not the "it's the teacher's fault; he/ she is picking on me for no reason at all" line that I'm used to hearing from students these days.

What we're doing now is raising a generation of whingers who cannot take responsibility for their own actions. The Nan Chiau Principal did. Let's see this generation do the same.

OK, enough about the topic.