"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Thursday, February 20, 2003

I've been taking turns with Sinsiang to do fatigue at the Nee Soon 500m range this week. It is really quite good to be attached there - you get stayout the night before, it's brainless, easy and not too tiring work, you can spend the time reading, they buy Roti Prata for us sometimes, every weekend is a long weekend, you may get off days here and there and barring any unforseen circumstances, you can fall out before 5 pm. However, you have to report at 7:30am (at least on paper), and it is a good 20 min walk in from the bus stop, it is boring, dreary work and worst of all, you only get the wretched Malay food, which has copious amounts of chili in it and which is similar everyday. I've always maintained that chili is used to disguise food that is bad - in both senses of the word: un-fresh and un-palatable - by overwhelming and destroying your tastebuds.

I was asked by the range RSM to hop on to his 1 1/2 tonner while he was ferrying supplies. Heh, I must hitch a ride from passing Army vehicles in the future to save time.

Andrew, Mark, Frank and I were outside McDonalds, and Frank was sitting on the seat of one of the Kiddie Ride Machines - those that start moving and playing a song when you insert some coins. While he was busy chattering away, I took out 2 20 cent coins and inserted them into the slot... whereupon the machine came to life, blaring - horror - English versions of Chinese New Year songs, and Frank jumped out of the seat. Despite the cajoling of Andrew and I, he refused to sit on the seat. Luckily, Mark rose to the challenge, but when he sat on the seat, the seat refused to continue in its circular motion.

Incidentally, McDonalds' breakfast sucks. It's overpriced, tastes underwhelming, is not filling and has very little variety.

I've got some camp mates hooked on Pringles Salt And Vinegar crisps. Heh heh. In other news, my department just noticed that I roll my socks down, and someone claimed that only Primary School and RJC girls did that, whereupon I corrected him - RJ girls wear Hot Socks!

As everyone knows, entrance to the Island of Doom is procured by letting the barrier machines at the ferry terminal scan the barcode on your Identity Card. However, these machines apparently are too stupid to distinguish between a proper IC number and a normal barcode - I hear someone scanned a Snickers bar, and the gate opened!

My electric toothbrush ran out of juice because the power switch had accidentally been switched on due to a bump, and I hadn't noticed in time, so I was reduced to using my backup manual toothbrush for one night. It's been so long since I last used a manual toothbrush!

Dead Poets' Society was screened at the last Movie Night :) Though I wasn't there to view it, I applaud the change from the usual War Movies (bleah).

I met Kai Leung at the 172 bus stop one night. He's at Lim Chu Kang camp 1. Yet another soul lost in the wilderness :)

My 855 was passing by MacRitchie, and there was a Cross-Country event going on. A few were running, but most were walking lazily :) Some boys were in their school uniform, and one had the front of his unbuttoned :0

Later, while I was taking the lift back to my unit, there was a boy of about Upper Primary level asking his maid what the outfit I was wearing was called. His maid suggested that he ask me, and ask me he did, and I replied that it was an Army Uniform. After exiting the lift, he was querying his maid further on details about the Army, no doubt having been well indoctrinated during Moral Education classes about "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" [Ed: Yes, this phrase is grossly over-used. So sue me.], and I was inclined to tell him, mournfully, that his turn would come in 10 years or so when he would be enslaved for the putative Greater Good of the Fatherland [Ed: There is a reason why I didn't use "Motherland". Ahem], but I decided to be nice and let him enjoy his childhood without being tormented in his restless sleep by nightmares ending in his waking up with a jolt in cold sweat, screaming his lungs out for fear for his life, his freedom, his dignity and his sanity.

Amusing Economist table on who in the United Kingdom is against the War on Iraq, and why. The two funniest rows:


Attack Ariel Sharon instead

For Example?


America too brutal and Bush too stupid

For Example?

Thoughts on Books:

A Life Worth Reliving by Victor Seah Tiong Hin

Like most writers reminiscing nostalgically, the author falls into the trap of romanticising Old Singapore and some of the time, especially in recounting his childhood, he presents a sanitised image of the Old Singapore. As I always maintain, it's all very well and good to have a bowl of noodles costing a cent, but not when you earn 10 cents a month and the noodles have cockroaches floating around in them.

More pedantically, the language used is rather stilted and halting. Sentence connectors aren't used very much, with the result being that sentences are very short and end abruptly. Also, the amount of errors in the manuscript seems to be above the average for published books, perhaps a sign of inadequate editing. In various places, the author inserts odd interjections - praise for the PAP Government's various social engineering projects, tiresome and puzzling moralising and choice National Education ideas and concepts.

Nevertheless, I learnt quite a few things. Like why Jesudason was the Headmaster of Raffles Institution for such a short time - something Wijeysingha doesn't write about in The Eagle Breeds A Gryphon. Or maybe I missed that part because the book was too boring. (Aside: I wonder if they're still making hapless Sec 1 students buy it, and how much in royalties he's earnt so far)

Ray Bradbury - The Illustrated Man

This book was first published in 1952, and it shows. Most of the short stories in the book are rather pessimistic, and their themes and content are very much a reflection of that era - censorship, space, faith, nuclear holocaust, extra-terrestrial life, technology, its running amok, over-reliance on it, its unintended consequences and the like.

I'm rather upset with the whole premise of the "Illustrated Man". It's all nothing more than a cheapskate framework for Bradbury to tell his short stories. Hell - he could do away with the whole Illustrated Man jazz and do an equally good, if not better job. If he'd developed the whole idea of the Illustrated Man further, there would've been a lot of potential, but as it is it is an unresolved element in the book.

Excerpt from the blurb on the back of the Heinemann New Mindmills edition: "But the illustrated man would like to burn off his illustrations. For in the dark each illustration quivers and comes to life. And each illustration gives us a chilling picture of the future and a disturbing glimpse into the minds of those who live there..."

I actually got pissed off enough by the incessantly annoying announcements at MRT stations that I sketched a draft of a letter to be submitted to the Straits Times Forum, which actively encourages a Civil Society by publishing mostly letters "dedicated to trivial chicken shit issues", rejecting potentially contentious ones of more import (See Example) and censoring and editing some letters that do get through (Example from Streats). However, with the passage of time, my apathy has overcome me, and so I shall withold sending in the letter, which would (rightly) make me look like one of those idiots who complain about relatively inconsequential things with an unearthly fervour. At least until I am unfortunate to face the barrage of announcements at Boon Lay MRT Station that prompted my original decision.

For my easy reference (and possibly, the amusement of some of you), here are some of the points of my putative letter:

- I was subjected to the message, "May we have your attention please. The train that is approaching Platform A is not for passenger service. Please do not board it. Thank you" 6 times, and as if that wasn't enough, I had to endure the message, "May we have your attention please. The train that is approaching Platform A is not for passenger service. Please do not board it. Please wait for the next available train. Thank you" 4 times. By the time the last message played, I was contemplating the relative merits of hurling myself onto the track to be electrocuted to a crisp or jumping in front of the train to be smashed to a pulp
- The woman featured in the recorded announcements manages to find a most ingratiating and unctous tone of voice to make them in
- Even with the wealth of LCD displays, SMRT feels compelled to play a message telling us which station the trains at Platform A on the East-West line are heading to. Other countries get by with massively more complex train systems and noticeably fewer announcements
- Sometimes, less is more. Fewer announcements = happier passengers. If, after the announcement is played 2-3 times, the person still boards the wrong train, he deserves it and playing the announcements isn't likely to make a difference
- Some platitudes and praise to make my letter fairer, and to soften its impact

I was also thinking of complaining about the "Circle" line's name and the confusion of the Red line going both North and South, but I think that would be too tiresome and would make the letter unfocused.


Oh yah hor. There's no 'Q' in Hercules. H-E-R-C-U-L-E-S

[On my rolling my socks down] What, like that more fun, like that more kinky? (It's more fun and kinky that way?)

[On Dead Poets' Society at Movie Night] Alright, all get seated. The movie is going to start soon. Remember that there's going to be a test after this, on the story.
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