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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, March 29, 2003

Last Sunday wasn't a very good day to do duty. The MO from the other unit was around, so we were all a little nervous, not having the Medical Centre to ourselves. The Medical Centre was swarming with reservists for the first half of the day, and they had problems with the computer network. The person who'd done duty the day before hadn't done his job properly, so I had to help him do what he was supposed to do. People were watching TV until almost 1AM, making it was hard for me to sleep, all the while walking about my freshly mopped floor, and hen my bucket toppled later and the dirty water went all over the floor of the waiting area. And to top it off, when I slammed the door of the documentation room, the Milo in a packet that some idiot had put behind the door splashed onto the floor and I had to mop it up. And to think I'd been looking forward to a nice quiet Sunday to work on my essay... Monday wasn't very pleasant either - I got scolded for something rather trivial - diverting a phone line. And on Tuesday I had to run around the whole morning, busy doing various things.

I've no problem with slacking. Hell, when there's nothing important to do, and slacking won't shift the work to other people, slacking is good. But when there are few people around, or especially when you're on duty...

We're getting a lot of arrows now and we are totally maxed out and our strength is taxed daily. Argh. I hope we get new medics in June, or we're definitely dead after Yong Siang, Allan and Boon Huat ORD.

Due to the Army's obsession with safety (at least better than neglecting it), we're being forced to come up with Safety Slogans. I have some choice ones to share:

- Be safe, don't train
- Don't run, no sprain
- Know your limits. Downgrade.

This slogan thing is darn familiar. Dare I say 'Communist'?

SARS is here. Our lips are sealed. Did someone say 'Communist' again?

We went to SAFTI to cover the COC for the Chief of Defence. We were required to cover the reception. Wth. Anyhow the canteen serves very nice fruit juice. I especially liked the Sarawak Pineapple and Mango Juices. The Mess also has nice Root Beer floats, which at $1.50 for a can of Root Beer and 2 scoops of Ice Cream is very cheap. Big pity it's Swill and not A&W though!

We had to wear masks today which look like sanitary pads and smell like fish. I wonder if there's a connection :0

I have a new motto for BMTC. "Excel Through Basics" doesn't quite describe BMTC's mission well enough. I think "Knock it Down!" is much better :)

Someone else has started using an electric toothbrush in camp! Influenced by me, no doubt!

Many Regulars in the Army like to bully the NSFs and come up with ways to waste our time. I think 'Professionalism' shouldn't be a Core Value, at least not of the Army.

Our Unarmed Combat Instructor said he was going to ORD, and somehow he seemed very enthusiastic to show us parts of the new UC syllabus which we will hopefully escape. It looks awfully tough, wearing boots and standing on the field, and with lots of throws.


I think I haven't gotten release for too long. I was knocked down in a semi-friendly way, and the knocking down served as a catalyst, and I started crying for no reason, so I had to go to a corner to hide. Tim claims twas the physical exercise under coercion, but I had rather strenuous company PT the day before and apart from weird antics brought on my exhaustion, nothing untoward happened.


There was this advertisement on TV, with 2 girls with long hair. They looked very happy, and one went onto another's bed and then they started playing. I was guessing that this was an ad for either hair products or sanitary pads. In the end, it was for contact lenses.

I collected my customised insoles from Tan Tock Seng on Monday. They feel rather odd - the support is a new feeling. I suppose this is what getting a bra for the first time feels like. Too bad the insoles have a lifespan of but one year.

I wasn't feeling very upbeat on Monday, but after some time out of camp on my aforementioned Medical Appointment I began to feel better. Novena must have good vibes for raising the spirits (or maybe it was the hormones in the chicken I ate). It is said that town air makes you free - in Medieval Times, serfs who ran away from their masters and lived in towns for a year and a day became free men. In Singapore, doing that with the slavemasters makes you a deserter. Oh well.

Ban Xiong came up with a hypothesis about Vanilla Coke - it only tastes nice Virgin, and not On The Rocks. I'd tend to agree!

I seem to be growing senile in my dotage. I keep repeating certain catchphrases and telling people things I have told them aleady!

I was rather heartened to see an article in Monday's Today, by Ravi Veloo. The article is headlined, "For the sake of S'pore the PAP should split" and the blurb says, "When you crush alternative opinions steadily with a sledgehammer in the name of pragmatism and social unity, you encourage people not to have any strong opinions". Indeed. Just look at what happened to the all of 6 people who protested the Iraqi War outside the US Embassy. They try to impose conformity and uniformity and then scratch their heads wondering why the youth are either ignorant and/or apathetic. And they lambast us for not caring and avoiding politics! On a side tangent: It is popular to villify people like me for being ungrateful and the like. At least I still care. Sometimes, I wonder why I still bother.


I was in Popular bookstore and I saw a book - "How to write Romantic Fiction". Hah! I would've bought it but for the price. I also saw an Omega Megazord - $80! That's daylight robbery. What I actually bought during that visit, after browsing through all the items, was this book called "Butch and Girl Talk". It is published by VJ Times and though I couldn't find the name of the author/editor anywhere, it says "Sabariah" on the back so I assume that is her/its name. The book has no blurb, no preface, no editor's note - in fact, almost nothing, except for publication information, the main content of the book and an appeal for help for the next book. The cover shows 2 stylised female forms carved in bas-relief leaping lithely.

By now you'll probably have guessed at the content of the book - it's about butches. This book seems to comprise stories from butches - fragments from their lives. Most stories are sympathetic, but a few give the idea that being butch is unnatural and wrong. The bulk of the stories are very short, inconclusive and satisfying, like snippets from a conversation, which irked me immensely, but since the stories are real and presumably written by the protagonists themselves, who aren't skilled at writing and expanding their retellings, I'll have to be more tolerant. As with much Singapore fiction, the standard of English in this book is not up to par. I found myself cringing at many points in the book - on every paragraph, sometimes. I hope the impression I get of shoddy editing is warranted because the editor didn't want to spoil the stories - and not because he/she sucks. A few stories are only peripherally related to butches - the conflict is acutually about something else, like gossip - it's just that the main character happens to be a butch, but her butch-dom has no bearing on the story.

All in all, I wouldn't recommend this book as a good way to spend $12.48 unless you've exotic tastes, like me.


I'm not some way more into Fast Food Nation. The book's overwhelming message seems to be that the Fast Food industry is exploiting everyone. The key in my opinion, however, is that most people and groups *choose* to be exploited, so you can't blame the Fast Food companies totally.


Quotes:

Now I don't dare to go out. Everywhere I go, someone knows me... "Sir!"... One company, 190 recruits.c

Yay, yay, yay, yay! [Claps hands] [Me: Why're you so happy?] I see you then I'm happy. You're very cheerful. You're a happy baby

People with names like 'Judith' are usually debaters

[On the AJC Class Photo] They don't look like horses. I don't know what horses look like... They don't have tails... They're wearing skirts.

You're the only person I dare to speak Mandarin to... You're the only one who can understand my Mandarin.

[Me: Why are Army females all chubby?] The army makes them chubby so they'll be ugly. Maybe the Army Recruitment Centre only accepts chubby females so the males won't be distracted.

[On IVing pateints] It's for you all to practice. If he really needs a lot of fluid we will send him to hospital.

[Me on his handphone wallpaper: Why does your Jap girl like to do this? *I lean forward and use my upper arms to compress my chest so my cleavage is enhanced*] Don't do that! Don't do that!

You laugh like a schoolgirl

What's a better word for underlings? [Me: Minions]
I'm making good progress on my essay.

2 1/4 pages left, yeh!

Thursday, March 27, 2003

The Story of Bob by David M. Payne

A little rambly at times but this piece is incisive and shows many of the problems with consuming the Opiate of the Masses.

Someone's comments:

'Parody and satire can be a most effective way of pricking the balloon of irrational doctrine. Reaching the mind of the believer is a daunting task at the best of times, but exposing absurdity is often achieved by presenting it in the context of a different kind of absurdity�one designed to force re-examination of those beliefs. Religious dogma is usually an insult to the thinking person�s intelligence, whether it be creationism, original sin through eating an apple, or the claim that the appearance of one man at a single time and place is the sole source of universal salvation. Parody and satire are themselves a form of reciprocal insult to jolt the believer into seeing his ideas in a different light and bring home the irrationality of it all. Clever pieces of parody like �The Story of Bob� (and they have to be clever, and well-written) can sometimes do more to effect that jolt than even a good academic book on the subject. The truth is, we need both.

I enjoyed David�s wit and ingenious repetition of motifs, and I applaud his treatment of the �Isms��those modern bedevilments of atheism which the believer likes to throw in our faces. Nicely neutralized and deflated in a couple of paragraphs. And yes, the �call to Bob.� Too bad it weren�t that easy, we could all go home and do something else. It would all be so funny, if it didn�t reveal the truly tragic situation the human race has managed to mire itself in as part of a process of evolution that really has no intelligent mind behind it. Rather, evolution, in its own mindless wisdom, has thrown up its own intelligence to create the needed direction. In David�s Story of Bob, that force is 'the freethinkers.'"


If you're grounded by SARS, you can also try this:

Historical Jesus or Jesus Myth: The Jesus Puzzle

More stolen stuff:

The Age of Reason

"Today, parents, churches and even some schools teach our children irrational views on the history and age of the earth, the development and diversity of life. Sending them to university to obtain any kind of science degree while believing that the world is less than 10,000 years old, or that evolution is an atheist plot, is like sending them to study obstetrics or gynecology still believing that the stork brings babies... People are cast adrift from the one secure basis of knowledge and laid open to superstition and outlandish ideas, to an emotional dependence on otherworldly delusions. Dogma based on ancient petrified writings discourages the development of our own wisdom to determine proper ethical behavior. It fosters prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals; it works to deny women the right to control their own bodies and life choices; it endangers a wide range of human rights. Proscription against the practice of birth control as being a contravention of "God�s law" threatens to dig the grave of the planet through overpopulation. Belief in angels and devils and supernatural forces fosters superstition, mental instability, the undermining of scientific and rational views of the world. Faith systems which regard this life as of lesser importance, an antechamber to some other, unseen and undetectable dimension, outlooks which denigrate the life and world and bodies we live in as evil, fraught with dangers and temptations which jeopardize our eternal fates�such things cannot help but impede the improvement of our existing world and the progress we could be making in social and intellectual advancement. Not to mention the development of a healthy human spirit.

When beliefs and attitudes toward the world are not based on evidence and scientific investigation they can never be universal. Not all people and societies will come up with the same irrational beliefs. This variety of irrationalities sows division, conflict, even war and terrorism. It fosters prejudice and racism (since specific races tend to have specific religious beliefs). Science and rationality, on the other hand, are the great levelers, the great unifiers. Natural laws demonstrable in the laboratory, views based on logic and reason, will be true anywhere in the world, in any society."


INGERSOLL'S VOW

Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) was a famous attorney and orator whose brilliant lectures drew thousands. As a political figure, he came close to achieving the Republican party's nomination for governor of Illinois, but prejudice and intolerance denied him the opportunity because he was an atheist.

When I became convinced that the universe is natural�that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world�not even in infinite space.

I was free�free to think, to express my thoughts�free to live to my own ideal�free to use all my faculties, all my senses�free to spread imagination's wings�free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope�free to judge and determine for myself�free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past�free from popes and priests�free from all the "called" and "set apart"�free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies�free from the fear of eternal pain�free from the winged monsters of the night�free from devils, ghosts, and gods.

For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought�no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings�no chains for my limbs�no lashes for my back�no fires for my flesh�no master's frown or threat�no following another's steps�no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.

And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain�for the freedom of labor and thought�to those who proudly mounted scaffold's stairs�to those whose flesh was scarred and torn�to those by fire consumed�to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.



Most people, however, are already entrenched in one school of thought or another, though, so all this might not have any effect. It's rather sad to talk to people who won't even give alternate truths a thought, and carry on the way they are blindly - indeed deliberately, because they are addicted to this drug. "I'm happier with faith, so there". Right. I could be happier with marijuana, but does that mean I should consume it? (I don't think soft drugs are all that bad, but for the sake of argument I'll assume that I am)

It's good to try to spread the gospel of truth though, nonetheless.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Gah. Every time this happens, I tell myself - never again, but a few months later I inevitably succumb to temptation again.

I fell asleep at 9:00pm or so, see, and woke at around 4am. Gah.

Luckily my mother had helped me to do some things, so I'm grateful to and for her.


I went swimming with Yiliang, Andrew and Nigel yesterday. I haven't been swimming for a while - since my BMT categorisation test (aqua-jogging doesn't count), so it was nice to frolick for a while in the water... until the security guards came to chase us off, that is. Maybe they didn't like our 'Hiroshima's and 'New World Order's (I've no idea what the hell those terms refer to, but Yiliang claims that those who have watched Cradle 2 The Grave will know). Nigel's friend lives in the condo whose pool we were using, but he wasn't around at the moment, see.

So after being unceremoniously shooed off the premises, we had a spot of early lunch, then went down to Bugis. Somehow, I started feeling very drained on the train, and a malaise afflicted me for the rest of the day, and I was uncharacteristically laconic, even.

The basement of Bugis Junction was filled with all manner of Japanese outlets selling assorted snacks. There was one shop selling 'Japanese Sponge Cakes' and when I saw that they were made from 'Japanese flour', 'Japanese honey' and other 'Japanese' ingredients, alarm bells started ringing in my head. Now a general rule for Japanese things is that they are nice, but come in small quantities. This is especially evident with food products made in Japan, thanks to the sky-high tariff protection that the lazy and spoilt Japanese farmers (but aren't most rich world farmers that way, demanding protection as if it were their birthright?) enjoy. Yiliang bought two packs of 15 sponge cakes, and indeed they weren't as nice as the free samples, while being comparable in price to his cigarettes!

From then till I left, Andrew was shopping for the best price on a Clie SJ22 / SJ30/ SJ33. And he kept cajoling me into buying one! I did not give in to his blandisments, though. I did get to try out some Clies through the course of the day, however. The profusion of models is really overwhelming. I think Sony wants to try to overwhelm the consumer so they can't compare models effectively :) Clie buttons all suck, especially the Up/Down buttons. Palm buttons are much easier to depress. I might understand if the application buttons were depressed so the unit would not turn on accidentally, but why did Sony make the Up/Down buttons so hard to press? Argh. The Clie styli are also pathetically small. I also don't like the brushed metal lookof Clies. Maybe I'm conservative. Or maybe I'm just too used to Palm models. I tried writing on Nigel's Clie but it seems my Grafitti skills have deteriorated after a year of atrophy. Oh well.

Later we went to Sim Lim to look at even more toys (and to try to find freebies for Andrew's Clie). On the way we had dessert at a hawker centre - the heat was even worse than if we were in the sun. No wonder air-conditioned places can afford to charge such a high premium. I asked for an Ice Jelly, but the stupid hawker gave me an Ice Jelly cocktail, but by then I was too dazed to complain.

YMCA was conducting a blitz on Saturday, and students with their cans were all over Singapore. Earlier Andrew had graced one girl with $2 at Choa Chu Kang, a most generous donation, ad on the way to Sim Lim I donated $0.50 to a Raffles Guy (which earned me a rebuke, of sorts, from the former - "Donate to your own school right!"), but refused the sticker she proferred, as I have decided to forswear these stupid flag day stickers.

At Sim Lim, there were many nice things - not only PDAs - that I want to get, like a CD-RW drive and MP3 player, but I'm just too lazy. Maybe after I ORD. Also, in a secluded corner near the top, there was this girl selling pirated CDs with Application Software from the top of a carton. Looks like the raids can't deter the hardcore sellers from ths hallowed haven of priacy!


As I work laboriously on my tract (which few will start on and even fewer will finish), bringing it slowly to completion, I realise that my beef isn't really with the putative god or his existence.

More, it's the vagaries of man-made, organised and interpreted religion, which often is used to manipulate people, imbibe them with illiberal and/or conservative beliefs and use their money for questionable causes, all under the guise of following the will of this god. Bah.
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