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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, April 30, 2004

Responsorium: O Vis aeternitatis

Vis aeternitatis
que omnia ordinasti in corde tuo,
per verbum tuum omnia creata sunt
sicut voluisti,
et ipsum verbum tuum
induit carnem
in formatione illa
que educta est de Adam.
Vis aeternitatis
Vis aeternitatis.

--- Hildegard von Bingen, Canticles of Ecstasy


I hope I recover by the time I reach Greece.

Ugh.
On Poor Suffering's last working day, I got him to attempt to draw my blood again. Valiantly, he aimed for a vein in my right cubital fossa (the inside of the elbow joint) but missed. In a supreme exercise of will, skill and concentration, he then aimed for the vein between the 3rd and 4th knuckles of my left hand, and despite the slow blood flow, it was a success! After 8 attempts on various occasions, my blood has finally been successfully drawn. As a side note, I must comment that it does hurt less when you're not writhing, shouting and screaming *shrug* The more times it's done, the less painful it is.

The men in the combat companies are all made to wake up at 530am, so they all end up going to the cookhouse at the same time and since the cookhouse doesn't have enough space to accommodate them all at the same time, everyone ends up sitting outside waiting for their turn. Seemingly, the thought to stagger the reveille and breakfast timings for greater efficiency has not occured to any of those in a position to decide these things, and those who suggest something of the sort are met with the old rebuff: "You are soldiers", which is implicitly translated to mean "You must do stupid things even if there is a better way to get the job done".

I went to Sungei Gedong's Emart and I was shocked, for it was the fullest that I've ever seen. Almost all the shelves were overflowing, and there must have been at least 6 full boxes of black socks (an item that hasn't been in stock for maybe a year). The reason for this cornucopia? Since April 1st, everyone has been required to use their MIW password for Emart credit purchases instead of signing for them, and I'm one of the few who know theirs. While I was there, there was a group of Warrant Officers who kept trying their passwords, only to be annoyed when the system rejected them, and astounded when mine worked. I suspect it's a measure ST Logistics implemented to save money after seeing SAF PT shoes on everyone from Secondary School Girls to Retirees.


Wise Jiax commented during BMT that "you will definitely develop a new branch of your personality. The question is whether it remains or not". I wonder if the changes have been so subtle or solely internalised that only I have noticed. I wonder how long it will take for the wounds that slavery, especially the last 10 months in 42, has inflicted on me to heal, or indeed if I can ever fully recover.

Innocence, once lost, can never be regained.


Quotes:

[Me: How many of your female friends cut their hair after breaking up or undergoing some great emotional change?] All

[On Exercise Minotaur] Bring back some World Cup Souvenirs [Me: World Cup? Don't you mean Olympics?]

[Me to someone on Exericse Minotaur] I'll get you a pickled olive

Dogs have penis ah? (penises)

Exercise Minotaur (Rough Plan)

Day 1 - Flight there, Athens
Day 2 - Athens Sightseeing (Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Nike Apteron etc)
Day 3 - Athens-Kalambaka (Thermopylae, monastries of Meteora)
Day 4 - Kalambaka-Delphi (Thessaly, Delphi)
Day 5 - Delphi-Olympia
Day 6 - Olympia-Athens (Mycenae, Corinth Canal)
Day 7 - Athens/Full day Island Cruise (Aegina, Poros, Hydra)
Day 8/9 - Athens, flight back (?)

Things I would also like to see: Crete and Knossus, Rhodes, Ephesus, Troy, Thebes, Sparta, Salamis, Delos, Thera


Raffles Junior College: Move and Groove

Pity I won't be able to attend this.


Law Question someone got for the written admissions test:

"Unconsential sex constitutes rape but according to singapore's criminal law, a husbad who has sex with his wife, regardless of whether it is against her will, is considered lawful. What are the arguments for and against this law and will you change the law? What are your reasons for doing/not doing so?"

So it turns out that what I told Sanje last time was wrong.

If this is the case (another holdover from our Victorian legal system, doubtless, together with caning and the Unnatural Sex law), what's to stop men raping their wives willy-nilly?


Announcement: If anyone has any popular and especially disingenuous inspirational stories, please send them to me, for I feel like writing another parody.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Weird Stories

Human Kleenex - Dubya uses someone else's sweater to clean his glasses during a commercial break on the David Letterman show. The nerve!

Teacher probed in assault resigns - "A Newton County alternative school teacher resigned this week after students threw... a 14-year-old classmate - out a first-floor window, allegedly at her direction.

She allegedly opened a window and encouraged the seven other students in her language arts class to toss their classmate out of the room. Several boys did.

The story, as described in the police report, is that Peoples had taken a picture of several of her students. When a student asked her why, Peoples allegedly said it was so she could 'show the world your ugly asses.'"

Scientist nabbed for SARS scam - Weldong Xu, 38, a former Dana-Farber researcher and Harvard University professor allegedly bilked 35 students, co-workers, friends and Internet pals out of $600,000 he claimed would help launch a SARS research institute in China. He used the money to invest in a questionable Nigerian business offer he received via e-mail that promised a $50 million profit. (A Harvard professor falling for the Nigerian scam? Now I've heard everything)

Bear bites boy; boy fights back - "15-year-old punches brown bear"

Robot clash reveals cultural divide - "The competitions seemed to break down along cultural lines. The Japanese robots reigned supreme when it came to sumo-wrestling, while the European teams showed off their skills on the football pitch. As for the American machines, they specialised in demolishing the living hell out of each other in one-on-one robot combat."

Islamic mobile now available for Lebanese consumers - "The high-tech flip-top does more than point devout users in the direction of Mecca from 5,000 cities worldwide. It also stores the entire Koran and is equipped with a Yamaha sound system that can be programmed to play the crooning Islamic call to prayer, or Azan, up to five times per day."

Weird Sites

Animal Yawns

"Cute" Bentos - There's a Powerpuff Girls one

Wing Music - "Hi, I am Wing! I immigrated to New Zealand with my family about ten years ago from Hong Kong. I have been learning singing in New Zealand and I do performances in Rest Homes and Hospitals and occasionally promotional concerts as I go along. I released my first CD Phantom Of The Opera and got a grant from the Manukau City Council for promotion. Then I released I Could Have Danced All Night and The Sound Of Music."
I would sorely like to believe that this is a joke. *puke* Sorry, but her renditions are simply atrocious.

Misc

???? - Return of the Condor Heroes' text. Isn't this against copyright laws? Ah, but the Chinese never care much for copyright.

Affirmative Action Around the World - "Affirmative Action Around the World is exactly what its title announces: an empirical study of what the consequences really are, and really have been, in the five major nations in which "affirmative action"—the term now commonly used to denote ethnic preferences—has been long ensconced: India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and the United States."
A review of an interesting sounding book I will never get down to reading.


Tale of Villainy

Before I left for Brunei almost a month ago, I'd noticed my system startup had suddenly slowed down, and it would take at least half a minute for Windows XP to get past the logon screen. My father's account was similarly affected.

At first, I thought that this was one of the inevitable screwups introduced into Windows through my constant testing of new software. After my return, though, I noticed that many advertisements popups seemed to be manifesting themselves when I was using Mozilla, and some of them were even in the form of Shockwave Flash objects. At the same time, my father was complaining of the same problem, with a recurring ad popping up, warning of memory leaks and offering expensive software to plug them. Suspiciously, every time this ad would appear, the system would soon slow down and become unusable, with insufficient memory to even close extant windows.

Fortuitously, a Rundll dialog box popped up ever now and then, notifying me of an error with "c:\windows\system32\kzcom.cpy.dll". Some investigation revealed that it was signed by NicTech Networks Inc. I tried deleting it and its twin - kzcom.dll, but they were in use by the system. Searches for the errant DLL on Google revealed nothing, but searching "NicTech" brought me to a Computer Cops thread (http://computercops.biz/postt31836.html) which revealed the extent of NicTech's villany (including DLLs with randomly generated names so searching for the DLL name for aid would net no results) and more importantly, contained instructions for stoping NicTech's menace.

Is there no evil that Man is incapable of?


Ding Dong Song

Full music video for Ding Dong Song (NB: Link is unreliable)

"The video for the Ding Dong song is weird. Blurry lesbians having dry sex (nothing wrong there)...but then the bastard son of Freddie Mercury and a stereotypical 70s porn star starts singing about his ding dong. I had to cover my little sister's eyes."

"I liked The Ding Dong Song. It trod that line between satire and crapness rather well I thought. Esp when the video did that whole German cocaine disco mirror satin moustache and orgy thing.

Wunderbar.

And you can never have too many cork popping champagne pseudo crotch shots either. Except when it's in a Robbie Williams video."

It's hilarious. I can't stop laughing. At the end, just like in the flash game, the 2 girls start rubbing the champagne bottle and it explodes

But who is Freddie Mercury?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I'm not a fan of his, in fact I haven't read any of his books, but I was mildly surprised to find out that Phillip K Dick was on drugs.

It seems many persons of prominence or talent are either dysfunctional or deviant (as judged by society), one way or another. For example, Alan Turing was gay (and committed suicide), Pee Wee Herman was arrested for jerking off at the South Trail Cinema (an XXX theatre), the Beatles were on drugs and Adlai Stevenson killed a 12 year old girl at a Christmas party (no, really).

Are dysfunction and deviancy side effects of genius and/or success, or a pre-requisite, I wonder?


HK Property Tycoon Says He Is Opposed To Political Change

"Chan also argued that because about half of the city's population is poorly educated and living in government-subsidized housing, expanding the number of popularly elected lawmakers would lead to it being dominated by those determined to expand welfare benefits."

Bah.


Me and my big mouth. I sent a message to Soulseek asking why I got 30.5 days of privileges free and they took them away from me.

Boo hoo.


Unusual Celebrity Deaths

My favourite ones (and this is only the first sixth of the list):

Sherwood Anderson - writer
1941 --- after swallowing a toothpick at a cocktail party he died of peritonitis on an ocean liner bound for Brazil.

Sir Francis Bacon
1626 --- pneumonia. He was experimenting with freezing a chicken by stuffing it with snow.

Kimberly Bergalis
1991 --- died of AIDS. She had contracted the disease from her dentist.

Salvatore "Sonny" Bono
1998 --- crashed into a tree while skiing.

Catherine the Great - Empress of Russia
1796 --- a stroke, while going to the bathroom.

Anton Joseph Cermak - mayor of Chicago
1933 --- assassinated by accident when riding with Franklin Roosevelt in motorcade.


Lucky I'm off tomorrow... I still feel sick, have no appetite and just now felt a bit cold, in a slight relapse of monday night's chills.
He Who MUST Not Be Named:

'an amusing line from huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" (commenting on how lky and mahathir at one point were riding high on the "asian values" bandwagon as being superior to decadent western ways)

'"To East Asians, economic prosperity is proof of moral superiority. If at some point India supplants East Asia as the world's most rapidly developing economic area, the world should be prepared for extended disquisitions on the superiority of Hindu cutlure, the contributions of the caste system to economic development, and how by returning to its roots and overcoming the deadening Western legacy left by British imperialism, India finally achieved its proper place in the top rank of civilisations. Cultural assertion follows material success; hard power generates soft power.'


LONDON (Reuters) - Two Scottish teenage boys escaped a jail sentence for breaking into the tomb of one of Scotland's most violent noblemen and taking a skull to use as a ventriloquist's dummy.

Sonny Devlin, 17, and a 15-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons, were put on probation for three and two years respectively under the ancient crime of "violation of sepulchre" -- the first such trial for over a century, newspapers said on Saturday.

Last June, the boys broke into the mausoleum of Sir George "Bloody" MacKenzie, a senior official of Charles II who died in 1691. He earned his nickname for his zealous persecution of Presbyterians.

The court heard the crime was motivated by "immature and drunken bravado more than anything sinister." The boys were accused of stealing the unidentified skull, using it "like a glove puppet" and then throwing it away.


In April last year, I commented:

More New Age management junk: Walmart calls its employees "associates" who "[share] in the company's prosperity". And of course, Singaporeans are being urged to learn from this - if you can't pay your employees decent wages, why not indulge in meaningless, cost-free measures!

I was reminded of this by something I read:

"A newly hired "associate", as Wal-Mart calls its employees, could earn as little as $8 an hour, some 20-30% less than unionised workers at rival supermarkets. Union members might also have benefits, such as health-care insurance... Among other suits, Wal-Mart's most recent class-action suits alleging violations of the Fair Labour Standards Act, including forcing employees to work 'off the clock' and failing to provide work breaks; eight further putative suits alleging that the firm failed to pay overtime; and a suit that could prove costly alleging discrimination against its female employees."

So much for "associates" who "[share] in the company's prosperity".

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Papa Smurf is a Communist

"I like most of my generation grew up watching the Smurfs. I loved them so much that I tuned in every Saturday mourning to see what crazy hy-jinx those lovable little blue creatures would get up to. It is just now that I have realized what I was really tuning into each and every Saturday morning was in actuality Communist Propaganda!! Yes that is correct, Papa Smurf and all of his little smurf minions are not the happy little characters Hanna Barbara would have us believe! The cartoon was really created by the Russian government in order to indoctrinate the youngest members of western society with communist beliefs and ideals thus destroying their resistance to the imminent Russian invasion that was to occur when this generation (my generation) grew up. Looking back, our resistance was not destroyed (only our happy childhood memories) but only due to the determination of other cartoons such as G.I. Joe and Richie Rich who's goal it was to instill in the children of the western world the morals and values of Capitalism."

Smurfian Society: "The Smurfs have no currency and every thing is shared equally between them. notice that all of the Smurfs dress exactly the same in the same standard issue white pants and hat. It is nearly impossible to tell one smurf from another. This demonstrated the idea of total equality and that every member of the society was as important as the others. The Smurfs made communism look like a great form of government because all of the Smurfs seemed happy and there was no poverty or any crime. This was a ploy of the communist creators of the Smurfs that was used to turn the North American children on to the idea of communism... The Smurfs put forth a definite anti-capitalism message in their shows. One need only look a value of certain Smurfs in the society to see this; Who was portrayed negatively on the show? greedy and vanity that's who! And why were these particular Smurfs frowned upon? Well Greedy took for himself and like to eat allot. Is that a reason to condemn him? I think not he still did allot of good for the society; he did cook for them all did he not!! The case of vanity is even more disturbing! Who do you think the smurf that wore a flower in his hair and looked in the mirror all day represented?? Vanity was a homosexual of course and he was constantly put down which taught the young generation of would be North American communists that homosexuality would not be tolerated in this society."

Papa Smurf: "I sure as hell don't remember Papa Smurf being elected leader nor was there ever an election to decide if he should remain leader. Stalin's appearance also highly resembles that of Papa Smurf. His beard may not be as perfect as that of Marx but look at that round face!!"

Brainy: "The most disturbing but solid proof that the Smurfs are communist propaganda is the striking resemblance that Brainy Smurf bears to Trotsky... His ideas always got him into trouble and I believe that if the show had been continued he would have eventually been assassinated as well."

Gargamel: "The comparison between Gargamel and the capitalists is as cut and dry as they come. Gargamel wanted to catch the "good happy little Smurfs" and boil them so they would turn into gold. Basically the communist creator of the Smurfs wanted to portray capitalists as evil bastards whose prime goal in life was the accumulation of wealth... Gargamel also had a Jewish look to him."


Freud's Views on the Sexual Instinct and Politics




find out more at atheists.meetup.com


Youtouchmytralala amuses me so much, I will link to it again:

Günther Branlutte

Quan Teng got 130s, even with the lousy mouse in MO Room 1! But I can get 89s at home.

The cheap Euro techno music is just so funny, and the way the guy tilts his head reminds me of my idol, Wo-Hen Nankan.

Anyhow, as I suspected, "You touch my Tralala" is a real song. It was from the 80s but apparently has just been re-released, with several even more sleasy remixes. I found it on Soulseek under the name "Ding Dong Song" by the artiste "Günther & the Sunshine Girls".

Other possible artists: Günther & the Sunshine Girls Rocks, Art Company, Phill & company

Transcription of Lyrics:

*Surreal, synthesiser intro*

Sexy male voice: Oh, you touch my tralala
Mmm, my ding ding dong

*Irritating techno intro kicks up*

Sexy male voice: Oh, you touch my tralala

*Irritating techno rattle/turntable spin/random sound effect*

Sexy male voice: Mmm, my ding dong
Deep in the night, I'm looking for some fun
Deep in the night, I'm looking for some love.
Dedededeep in the night, I'm looking for some fun,
Deep in the night i´m looking for some... *bleep*

*Sudden change of background beat and tune*

Sickly sweet, slutty female voice: You tease me, oh please me,
I want you - be my lovetoy
Come near me, don't hear (?) me,
I just can't get enough of you boy.

*Switch back to original tempo and background*

Sexy male voice: Oh, you touch my tralala

*Irritating techno rattle/turntable spin/random sound effect*

Sexy male voice: Mmm, my ding dong
Oh, you touch my tralala
Mmm, my ding dong

*Irritating drum refrain*

Deep in the night, I'm looking for some fun
Deep in the night, I'm looking for some love.

Sickly sweet, slutty female voice: You tease me, oh please me,
I want you - be my lovetoy
Come near me, don't hear (?) me,
I just can't get enough of you boy.

Sexy male voice: Oh, you touch my tralala

*Irritating techno rattle/turntable spin/random sound effect*

Sexy male voice: Mmm, my ding dong
Oh, you touch my tralala
Mmm, my ding dong

*Different techno refrain*

Muffled sickly sweet, slutty female voice: ding ding dong

Sexy male voice: Mm, my ding ding dong x 2
Oh, you touch my tralala

*Irritating techno rattle/turntable spin/random sound effect*

Mmm, my ding ding dong
Oh, you touch my tralala (repeat last 2 lines ad infinitum, ad nauseum, with finale of single, pure note played in background without a beat)

And if you think that's funny, wait till you see the Music Video

I'm beginning to see a pattern in these Eurotrash songs.

My top 3 funniest songs of all time list now reads:
3) Cantaloop (Instrumental version)
2) E-Rotic - Max Don't Have Sex With Your Ex
1) Günther - Ding Dong Song

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Conversation with He Who Must Not Be Named about Knights of the Old Republic:

Me: aiyah 4000 earlier the tech is the same
lousy scientists


Him: the ebob hawk is a yt-1000. the millennium
falcon is a yt-1300, if you must know

i would say that tech hasn't improved that dramatically because thye've invented all there is to invent. once you figure out the star forge, you'll know what i mean.

but lightsabers in the future are supposed tobe more powerful. and they haven't quite got death stars yet:)


Me: star forge is even older tech right
hmm.
bah.

ah yes. even rare cortesian (did I get that right?) weaves cannot stop future lightsabers this is why we can't decapitate people with light sabers (boo hoo)
(it's just a cheapskate gameplay fudge. the mechanics of decapitation and slicing vibroblades in 2 were too hard to implement, so they resulted to this cheap fudge!)


Him: yes. bah. besides, who are we kidding?
scientific progression doesn't have to make sense if the galaxy's gone through several devastating galaxy-wide wars and has multiple civilisations wilth multiple tech levels.

well, you CAN decapitate people with light sabers in the future (and we've seenskywalker's hand getting cut off, AND darth vader getting a limb hacked unless you're saying the dark lord of the sith CAN'T affrod cortesian weave?)

i agree it's a cheap ploy against decapitation, but think about it, in the game, already melee weaponry is seriously overpowered (or should i say, ranged weaponry is seriously underpowered relative to melee). coding in jedi academy decapitation techniques would make it more unbalanced.

besides, the jedi way is not about decapitation of your foes. *righteously*


Me: yes but the republic and the jedi are presumably quite advanced unless there was an apocalyptic war, they should've advanced in 4000 years

you can run to close the distance so quickly... blasters are useless grenades too


Him: hard to say how advanced the jedi are. they don't even use ranged weaponry. and they're a monastic order focusing on jedi techniques; they don't even encourage the use of droids.

and they have advanced in some ways what. star destroyers. SUPER star destoyers. death stars.SUPER death stars. clone cylinders. shield ships. the katana fleet. that planet destroying sun crusher thing kyp durron flies in jedi academy. the galaxy gun in dark empire 2. the world-squishing gravity projection distorter in corellia in the black sun trilogy. the world devastators from dark empire 1.

hm, do i sense a certain general theme of scientific development in the star wars universe?

in fact, there would be at least two more apocalyptic wars: the Clone Wars, and the Sith WAr (the one with Exar Kun - no wait, KOTOR's just AFTER that),

re close the distance: two words- FORCE JUMP:)

stun grenades are okay. so are themral detonators. anything else is uselss. gas, plasma, cryoban, etc.. all USELESS


Me: no ranged weapons cos lightsabers can deflect the bolts or the force even

go watch star wars: clone wars haha

anyway the republic knows of blasters

the leviathan is big what! can destroy taris single handedly (at least that's the impression you get from the vid clip)

wth? I only know up to death stars. rest is extended universe. no idea

clone wars are just before new hope. I'm taking technology we see in TPM and AOTC


Him: Mandalorian repeating blaster which can, in the item description: "damage ship plating" (or was it my Jamoh Hogra's repeating blaster?) does a pitiful 10-15 points of damage compared to my fucking *Prototype* Vibroblade which can carve out 30-35points of damage on someone's hide.

yes, but primitive lousy blasters, if kotor is any comparison

it's a very old victory-class destroyer,actually. it LOOKS big; it's only about 1-1.5km long. unlike empire-class star destroyers which were 2.5km long.

TPM and AOTC are only just before new hope as well what.


Me: wth
how did you get the vibrablade to do so much damage?! the descrip doesn't say that much leh good vibrations ah

how do you know how big the leviathan is? or what class it is?

TPM and AOTC are before new hope but my point was about the apocalyptic events of the clone wars and its effect on technology


Him:
if you've seen a picture of a victory, you'd know the leviathan is obviously a customized victory - same way how the executor in return of the jedi is a "super" star destroyer

in 4000 years i'm sure some kind of devastating stih war happened. in fact, i'd point ou tthat hysperspace travle has been around for almost 100,000 years maybe there's a natural plateau beyond which technology can't develop further look at Dune:)
The Combat Companies of 42SAR - the Cutting Edge.



Jaguar - With Force and Finesse



Kaffir - Thunder Through All



Lion - Firm and Fiery



Serval - Tour de Force



Pussy ('Paladin') - For Honour and Valor


He's got the look - "Girls, whether you like it or not, men will look at other women. It doesn't mean anything. It just means they appreciate beauty."

What can I do with CD-R discs that failed during writing? - a few interesting ideas.
Warlock magazine #1, #2, #4 and #10 on Ebay - the current bid's £9.99. Just over a day left!


Once upon a time in Magnamund

Once upon a time, in the northern reaches of a far off world called Magnamund, there was a quiet monastery hidden in the woods. This monastery was the home of the Kai Warriors, who trained to protect their homeland from their ancient enemy, the Darklords. One fine morning, the monastery was suddenly attacked and destroyed by agents of the Darklords. There was one survivor, a monk who named himself "Lone Wolf". He decided to undertake the arduous journey to the capital, Holmgard, to warn the king.

After facing many dangers, Lone Wolf finally completed his journey. In a private audience with King Ulnar, he related the dreadful events that had transpired. King Ulnar informed Lone Wolf that he must undertake another dangerous quest: to journey to Durenor and recover the Sommerswerd, the only weapon that could ultimately defeat the Darklords.

However, despite the secrecy of the mission, word somehow leaked out. When it did, there was an ourcry from certain segments of the population. Pointy-headed academicians were quick to criticize the king for his "pre-emptive" action. A true resolution, they stated, could only be found by diplomatic means. The king was ridiculed, lambasted, and even burned in effigy. University professors worked up their well-meaning but easily brainwashed students into a frenzy. Thousands descended upon the capitol, chanting in protest. "Warmonger!" they cried. "Imperialist!" "Species-ist!" The movement quickly grew. It was especially popular among professors, students, writers, artists, actors, vegetarians, and the society for the medicinal use of Gallowbrush. These people were much more intelligent than the simple-minded peasants, merchants, shop owners, and citizens who still believed in antiquated notions such as good and evil. The king was ultimately deposed and replaced by the parliamentary "Order of Laumspur" party. "No to war, yes to healing" was their slogan. It was pretty catchy, judging by the number or people sporting pins on their tunics and all of the bumper stickers pasted on the back of carriages.

The elected leader of the new goverment was an eminent professor named Saul Stonecutter. His first act was to recall Lone Wolf from his mission and put him on trial as a "war criminal". The jury was deadlocked for weeks, but ultimately voted for a conviction, thanks in part to the compelling testimony of an individual named Vonatar. "I can't say that I condone the Darklord's attack on the Kai monastery," he stated, "Such acts are always regrettable. However, what the Kai Lords refused to understand was that it was years of their own repressive policies that ultimately led to the Darklords acting the way they did. I tried to talk some sense into them, but they banished me." Lone Wolf was sentenced to spend the rest of his days on the Daziarn Plane.

Ultimately, a "Magnamund Council" was created. This was comprised of many representatives from all over the world: Human, Darklordian, Helghastian, Giakian, Vordakian, Vassagonian, and many others. The problem was that not much was ever accomplished. Every time a new enemy ravaged and plundered a country, and military action seemed to be required, the idea was shot down by the Darklords, who used their veto power quite liberally.

THE END

Of course, we all know the real story of Lone Wolf. Such a ridiculous scenario could never really come to pass.

or COULD it????

Gaetano

From the gamebooks Yahoo Group.

Amusing, though the comparison is false.
[NB: For my Brunei post, kindly see the next post. Thank you.]

The Da Vinci Code

Melvin kindly lent me this book to supplement the ones I'd brought to Brunei. It was an intoxicating romp, but small things kept jarring in my mind, not least the improbable conspiracy theories and dubitable references and interpretations of cultural works. If the theories propounded were true, they would make a hell of a story, but since the author gets even some basic facts wrong, the veracity of said theories is even more questionable.

For example: "The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven... The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book... Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions and founded new philosophies... Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land... More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them... The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great. My dear, until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal... Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea... a relatively close vote at that."

So far, so good, up till the last part - Constantine was not the one who collated the bible, and the definitive list of which gospels to include was not drawn up at Nicaea, but 42 years later in 367 AD by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria.

Continuing,

"Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The other gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned."

Huh? Maybe he confused Constantine with Qin Shi Huang.

Later, when he starts gushing about the Little Mermaid, you *know* something is wrong:

"The Little Mermaid was a spellbinding tapestry of spiritual symbols so specifically goddess-related that they could not be coincidence; the painting in Ariel's underwater home was none other than seventeenth century artist Georges de la Tour's The Penitent Magdalene - a famous homage to the banished Mary Magdalene - fitting decor considering the movie turned out to be a ninety-minute collage of blatant symbolic references to the lost sanctity of Isis, Eve, Pisces the fish goddess, and repeatedly, Mary Magdalene. The Little Mermaid's name, Ariel, possessed powerful ties to the sacred feminine and, in the Book of Isaiah, was synonymous with 'the Holy City besieged.' Of course, the Little Mermaid's flowing red hair was certainly no coincidence either."

(See also: Dismantling The Da Vinci Code, The Last Word; The Da Vinci Con.)


The Song of Silver Frond

As I read this book, I was struck by a thought: Is it just me, or are all of Catherine Lim's books about Young Female Chinese in Singapore in the 1960s? Perhaps her books are popular in "The West" because it is novel to hear descriptions of said Females and Singapore in that era, and in Singapore because of their nostalgic value. It is a niche market.

Also, there's something about her style and literary elements that makes me take notice of them. Most authors are guilty of the same, but some people pull it off more disastrously than others (Read: David Eddings). Perhaps it's the way the supernatural is treated - in a tale set in the "Real World", naturalism should be adhered to more strictly. Or perhaps it is the awkward metaphors and similes Or maybe it's the interjections and the refrains, which lend the narrative a plodding value at times. Some find them charming, but I find that they weigh the story down. Perhaps an extract will illustrate my point:

"Her fate had led her to this man, and to this failure. Even as she raised her hand in bitter remonstrance, she bowed it in weary submission. Her mother, and her mother's mother, too, had said in their time, 'it is our fate,' submitting to a decree from heaven on high, rolling inexorably down the generations, that said to women, 'Endure'."

That said, I appreciated the description of the hypocrisy of the Chinese ritual of false modesty or reluctance in the face of equally false praise or entreaties, and how both parties then engage in a charade of equally insincere protestations and assertations.

The plot of the book is another issue, however. The book is a celebration of the joys of pedophilia, the thrill of courting an innocent virginal girl and the relish of corrupting hitherto untainted girlhood. Look past the romanticisation and surrealism and the book is about how a 65 year old chi go peh (Translation: Dirty Old Man) lusts after a pubescent, nay, a pre-pubescent 13 year old girl (for her menses have not even begun!) and seeks to deflower her, who is mentally as well as physically immature. If this story had taken place in modern times, there would be no joyous celebration of the power of love and how it transcends all barriers, but an arrest of the man on suspicion of statutory rape and a conviction for the crime of underage sex.


The Cretan Chronicles

I brought the first book of the series (I'm still looking for Book 3), Bloodfeud of Altheus, to Brunei and thus had ample opportunity to critique it. I must say that while I enjoy the novel premise of the book, it has many flaws.

For one, the gods often lapse into modern speech patterns. This is evidence of shoddy editing. Worse still is how Ares talks in short sentences like a cave man. It's no wonder that the series stopped at the third book.

The gameplay action known as "taking a hint" is fraught with problems. "Taking a hint" is a way of getting the character to perform a non-standard action - one not given in the text. This is an interesting idea, but ultimately a bad one, poorly implemented. How is the reader to know what the non-standard action will be?

Often, I found myself wanting to perform some seemingly obvious non-standard action, only to have my character do something entirely different or worse. For example, I was at Apollo's oracle in Delphi and when I took a non-standard action, they accused me of trying to steal Apollo's jewels! At other times, I was penalised for trying to take a non-standard action when none was written in by the authors and thus "trying to be ahead of my time", or being too "cautious", "wary", "cowardly" or "un-herolike" (how trying to take non-standard actions is being "cautious", "wary", "cowardly" or "un-herolike", I do not know).

Perhaps the worst is when the text gives you information about some aspect of Greek history and mythology and then penalises you for absolutely no reason. Case in point: I was in front of the Pythia and when I took a non-standard action, the text told me the history and lore of the Pythia, and then deducted honour from me and gave me shame points. I was supremely incensed.

The implementation is also inconsistent. Similar actions, taken during similar situations at different times in the adventure lead to results that are diametrically opposite - sometimes they are good, and the hero gets a boon, but sometimes he is penalised and awarded shame points.

At other times, the book is unfair to the reader. At one point, the Furies (strictly, the Greeks called them the Erinyes, but no one can remember that name anyay, so) are pestering this man who'd accidentally murdered his wife. Placating them with a sacrifice deducts a point of honour for perverting divine justice, but leaving the man to be attacked gets you 2 shame points. On second thought - this might be a subtle homage to Orestes for his murder of Clytemnestra, so maybe it can be forgiven.

And of course, there are the parts where things are left unresolved - something you're supposed to do doesn't get done but the text doesn't notice, for example. In most gamebooks, these are minor but in the Cretan Chronicles, somehow I noticed them.

The book also recycles not a few Greek myths and legends, so readers with a passing knowledge of some of them get an unfair advantage. For example, the book shamelessly reuses the tale of Hera posing as a crone and Jason (of Argonaut fame) carrying her across, except that it is Altheus who does the carrying this time. Furthermore, the recycling of Greek myths and legends leads to a confusing mess, for some myths that belong to different times in Greek mythology are now juxtaposed.

Despite all this, I liked the book. Maybe that tells you something about me.


What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been

I've barely started on this, but I've already read the contribution by Victor Davis Hanson, whose articles on the National Review I'm familiar with and which seem, to me, to myopically obsess about freedom for the Iraqis, ignoring socio-political history and complex realities. His chapter deals with the effect of the Battle of Salamis on the development of democracy, and he professes admiration for the Imperial Democratic ambitions of Athens (kind of how he supports the Imperial Democratic ambitions of the Neo-Cons, actually).

Reading his thoughts on how pivotal Salamis was, I can't help but note that his speculations and extrapolations seem too far-fetched. He claims that Salamis was the point where democracy shifted from being solely for rich landowners to being the domain of populists and the mob by proclaiming that the poor, knowing that they had saved the day at Salamis by rowing the Greek triremes, now demanded a greater role in Athenian democracy. Surely Salamis was a contributory factor, but I think that existing socio-economic trends were already moving democracy in that direction, as surely as the Greek poleis progressed from Monarchy to Aristocracy to Tyranny and finally to Democracy.

I remember attending a history talk in J2 on the 3 greatest military leaders of the millennium. I took issue with the speaker's points, I forgot about which leader, and after the talk approached him to point out that even if that leader had not been around, what he did would have been done by someone else. At this point, he launched into a tirade against Virtual History, as he claimed that we could not analyse his accomplishments that way, for that would be assuming that everything else would have stayed the same.

Too much virtual history is bad, yes, for people can end up speculating endlessly with little basis in reality. However, Virtual History in moderation lets us apply some scientific techniques to history's study - something which is quite important. It *is* called a soft science, after all.


Bad Ads

I saw what is possibly the worst ad in the world in Brunei. In it, mothers and children crowd a room for what seems to be an award ceremony. Suddenly, the winner of the "100% Attendance" award is announced. The jubilant child clutches his trophy. Meanwhile, the other mothers are all exclaiming about how no one has won that award before. Then the ad ends, revealing that it is promoting... Dettol.

Now, Dettol smells foul enough as it is, but now I have another reason not to use it (unless I absolutely have to, like in Brunei after my Body Shop Papaya Bath Gel got stolen).

They really should have a site featuring the worst ads from all around the world. I'm not sure if Adcritic.com still offers ads for viewing, but if it does it can take up the challenge.


Kickapoo

He Who Must Not Be Named has been caught making an astounding faux pas! Kickapoo Joy Juice is most assuredly *not* Malaysian in origin. It is made under license from the Monarch Beverage Company in Atlanta and was introduced to SEA in 1966, but according to the company it is only available in Malaysia, Brunei and Bangladesh (they seem to have left out Singapore). More's the pity.

17 Days in Brunei

17 Days in Brunei


Departure

The SAF being the good and efficient organisation it always has been, for a 2:30AM flight, we were made to gather at 11:30AM, and got our boarding passes less than 2 hours before the flight. The hour being late, not many shops were open but I managed to have my last taste of Babbi for the next 17 days.

Some of the men seemed quite excited on departure day, taking pictures with their Ah Lian girlfriends in the Departure Hall while the latter were chattering in their shrill voices. It was rather enervating but forgivable, for perhaps it was to be their first time on a plane (some even took pictures in the plane before takeoff). There was also this very lame incident where one Ah Lian scurried to her presumed boyfriend's side, and her strap fell off her shoulder.

Being a patriotic organisation, the SAF commandeered an SIA flight for us, even though they might have saved more money flying us there on Ma-laysian Airlines, albeit with a transfer at KLCC. We'd been told that SIA's SAF flights differed greatly from their normal ones, that the service was poorer and the stewardesses all "could not make it". Happily, this wasn't true, except that no alcohol seemed to be served. The amount of makeup on the stewardesses was the same, though this isn't necessarily a good thing - the 3cm of foundation tends to make them look artificial and plasticy.

Sidenote: SIA is really quite dilligent about upgrading their services - they now have Video on Demand in Economy class, and the airline seats come with additional padding for the back which can optionally be retracted.


Arrival

Just before we disembarked, the pilot proudly told us that it was not raining, but by the time our buses arrived at the jetty, it was pouring. On seeing the vehicles that were to convey us down the river, we were dumbfounded - we'd been told that we would be ferried to the eastern part of Brunei on "fastcraft", but the boats waiting for us in the river were just glorified Motorised Sampans.

After a somewhat bumpy ride, we reached Temburong. As we were bused to Lakiun camp, I noticed a "Temburong Tourist Information Centre". What tourists would want to or be able to do in Temburong, I have no idea, unless their idea of fun is bumping into SAF training troops somewhere in the jungle.

Lakiun camp was underwhelming, but then it is 30 years old. In a token effort to capture some of the atmosphere of Singapore, thoroughfares in Lakiun are named after Singaporean roads - they have a "PIE" and "Holland Road", for example. This amused a few, but the amusement turned to shock when we went to our bunks - I reckon they are the worst bunks in any SAF camp. They are crowded, stuffy, hot and poorly ventillated. The cupboards are damaged and of insufficient size (each shared by 2 people to boot), the mattresses are of dirty foam and many bedframes have springs missing. The front door to our bunk could not even close properly, and large gaps were left for insects to fly in through. All this did not bother me much, however, for after SMM Ulu Pandan, nothing fazes me anymore.

Due to a screwup, of the 3 sets of uniforms (treated with some slightly pungent-smelling chemical) that I was initially issued, one shirt was one size too small. Happily, this problem was later resolved. One pair of pants had many holes in it, though. Luckily, I didn't have to go outfield in them. My bed was another issue, however. When I first sat on it, I noticed that it was sagging dangerously at one corner. When I lay on it later, a spring broke, followed shortly by another. Alarmed, I decided not to lie on my mattress anymore - at least not while it was on the bedframe. That night, and the next night I slept in the bunk, I placed my mattress on the floor. Seeing me do this, Zhenhao, who was occupying the bed above me, was alarmed. It turned out that he too had a defective bedframe and he had been counting on me to break his fall if, in the middle of the night, his bedframe should give way. With my migration to the floor, there was now no helpful Gabriel to cushion his impact. He thus moved to the position that I had vacated and got some cardboard to add support where there were no springs.


Mercifully short torments

In a fit of energy, my Senior Medic got me to walk up and down the steeply sloped Lakiun road. It was tiring already but to make matters worse, after I'd done a few rounds, he set me an impossible timing of 2 minutes to complete the round, with a penalty of pushups if I could not meet the timing. My previous timing had been 2:30 and I was even more shagged now, so I did the only logical thing - I cut the round short. Unfortunately, I was caught and had to do 20 pushups and 40 crunches. I don't know why - maybe it was the combined strain of the slope walking, mind-numbing boredom, unrealistic expectations, poor nutrition and the prospect of no supplementary intakes, physical punishment and loneliness - but I started tearing. I was made to go another few rounds, and by the end of the session, my tear-streaked face had elicited concerned and curious looks. I went into the medical centre to compose myself, but was chased outside to "cool down", so after a suitable interval wailing outside, I retreated to the Isolation Sickbay (while wearing a N95 mask, of course, the being socially responsible citizen that I am) to compose myself, nuzzled by my polar bear, whom I had brought along to comfort me during the 17 days.

Thankfully, that was my one and only slope training session, but I was also made to go for one session of Company Morning PT despite being PES C9L2 and having done Medical Centre duty the previous day. The PT consisted of several rounds of a steep circuit at the top of the camp, each followed by a static exercise. Possibly because of several factors, including not having had breakfast and my collapsed arches hurting as they do every morning just after I wake, my performance was worse than usual and I was chastised by my Acting CSM.


The Daily Grind

Mercifully, I did not have to go outfield, either to chiong or to do cover (except for 1/2 day), so I spent every day in the medical centre (some might be led to wonder why I still have so much to write about). Following the example of the permstaff, I was in vest and slacks more often than No 4, so I managed to make one set of No 4 last for 10 days (a veritable first).

42SAR, being the outstanding unit that it is, chalked up the highest Report Sick rate in living memory, keeping the medics' hands full. Furthermore, some people were being obsessive about keeping redundant statistics and updating the Ops Room about patients' statuses though, but very often the Ops Room screwed up and lost the updates. It was quite infuriating.

My main challenge in Lakiun was overcoming mind-numbing boredom. The 2 periodicals and 5 books I brought would have run out, if not for Melvin and Jason's kind loans to me of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and Catherine Lim's "The Song Of Silver Frond" respectively (see post above). I should've brought my MP3 player and digital camera also, but was afraid that they might be stolen. In the end, many people brought the latter.

The Medical Centre in Lakiun is for some reason well-stocked with back issues of Pioneer magazine and Army News. And so it came to pass that I read the first issue of Pioneer that I would have no chance to receive in my mail due to my recent unsubscription. The most interesting story in that issue was about 5 female Officer Cadets, and included an extensive interview with them. All of them said that they joined the SAF because they did not want desk jobs. Sadly, it seemed no one had told them that most female Officers get posted either to: 1) slack non-combat units, 2) Staff Officer positions or 3) Both.

The story proudly noted that the 5's all-girl team came 3rd in some OCS competition that included physical as well as mental challenges, beating 20 all-guy teams, thus subtly if not fully rebutting the common refrain that females are always weaker than males (and perhaps also the related argument about females and Slavery, but that is another issue). I would just like to add that the 6th person to swim across the English Channel was a woman, and Gertrude Ederle beat the time of the previous 5 men by 2 hours.

Lakiun also gets day-old copies of the Straits Times, intact except for a stamp on the 4D results which is magically supposed to deter hardcore gamblers. Thus, I remained reasonably appraised of goings-on. I, of course, could not receive my periodical in Brunei, but I brought along 2 issues, one of which I'd half-finished. To my supreme annoyance, however, the second issue disappeared before I'd finished it!

I found a bottle of "chromatically fragrance" glue in the medical centre. I sniffed it but it didn't have much of a smell. Screwed up girls will nonetheless keep smelling it, get addicted and their brains will turn to mush!

The medical centre had 2 terrapins, but one base medic, after hearing from an MO how sunlight causes skin to produce Vitamin D, left them in the sun for 2 days and they died. On the morning that their corpses were disposed of, the Commander visited the medical centre. Apparently the two events are somehow linked :)

The amount and variety of wildlife to be merely in the camp itself puts the old SMM to shame. Many of the permstaff keep mini-zoos, and some preserve the insects for display - fringe benefits.

At one point during the first week or so, I'd accidentally left my Organics Shampoo and Papaya Body Shop in the bathroom, and never saw it again. I was then reduced to buying low quality substitutes - Sunsilk Shampoo and Dettol Bath Gel.

I saw the Sound of Music on TV. Except that it was an Anime series called the Von Trapp family (http://www.animetoxic.com/prodetail.cfm?itemno=J202-634). How low can humanity sink? As He Who Must Not Be Named put its it, "my last lingering faith in humanity has been crushed by avalanche caused by anime yodelling from the bavarian alps".

Wild Force was on Malaysian TV but other people were watching a Taiwanese variety show so in the interests of communal harmony, I let them watch it.

One night I found a cockroach in the treatment. Having no insecticide at hand, I was forced to improvise. I splashed a bit of cetrimide on it and it scurried under a trolley to hide. I then threw a piece of gauze soaked in cetrimide onto it to flush it out. After that, I froze it with a jet of Cold Spray (Ethylchloride), poured more cetrimide on it and in the toilet, poured diluted Sudol solution (toxic!) onto it, before flushing it down the toilet bowl. I would've done as Chong See Eng said he used to do and plucked its legs out one by one, but I'm squeamish, so.

On one of the last days, I finally went outfield for about half a day since the others had sent in their uniforms already. At the site I was at, the water was a startlingly clear blue-green - even the water in small puddles. Is Brunei that clean? On the way back from the cover, I ate one packet of "Mixed Bean Longan Dessert". Besides containing a frightening amount of solids (doesn't SFI know that we want the liquid only, not the solids?), the liquid in the packet tasted of... Mooncake filling. Scary.


Security

Unlike most places in the SAF, Lakiun (and, I suspect, all SAF overseas camps) does not have an obsession with spurious "security breaches". This is because of several factors:

1) The base is manned by permstaff. They choose to get posted to Brunei and are not forced to do so. This is the same reason why regulars get away with flouting security regulations.

2) There is no MSD around to drop by from time to time to make spotchecks.

3) The base is slacker, offers more welfare and has a more friendly environment

4) Life there is horribly boring so they need to loosen up and allow laptops, cameras and the like or the permstaff will all go nuts and have to be flown back to Singapore to be warded at PMIC

In fact, the stakes are arguably higher at Lakiun - it is, after all, the premier training ground for many combat units. I'm sure the details of exercises, SAF training techniques and details of the terrain SAF troops are trained to fight on, if leaked, are more of a threat to security than my unit's Guard Duty list ('Restricted'), the guidelines for a military wedding (also 'Restricted') or indeed pictures of people in compromising solutions after having unspecified things done to them in bunk. Hell, they have Mindef Intranet access there also, so material on it can leak out.

All this just goes to show that security is a sham, used to oppress NSFs.


The Cookhouse

At the Lakiun cookhouse, training troops bring their own cutlery and cups and eat from compartmentalized metal trays. After their meals, they wash all three. This is something I have not had to do since OBS, but I'm not complaining, except that some people did not wash their trays properly, resulting in occasional unpleasantness while dining.

The water in Lakiun camp is treated with a generous dose of chlorine, and so tastes similar to, but not quite the same, as that on the Island of Doom (Pulau Tekong). Perhaps the mind-altering chemicals they add are different. At the cookhouse, the kind chefs make the drink at lunch time marginally more palatable by adding just enough syrup to overpower the taste of the chlorine - no more, but sometimes somewhat less. Whether they do not have receive enough syrup to make the cordial sufficiently concentrated or they use the excess to make drinks for themselves in bunk, I cannot say.

The food at the Cookhouse can be described in 4 words - Hot, Bad, Little and Repetitive. It is a killer combination indeed, perhaps evidence of a conspiracy afoot to enrich the canteen vendors.

Hot

Practically all lunches and dinners had at least one dish with chili or curry, often more. This was made worse by "stealth hotness" - the inclusion of chili in dishes that do not necessarily have to be cooked with it, and at first glance might not appear to contain it; for example, Sweet and Sour Chicken or chopped chili mixed into stir fried vegetables.

Bad

The food we got during the first few days was exceptionally bad. After that it improved and was just intolerably vile. I think often, combat rations would have tasted better than the cookhouse food.

Perhaps the worst culinary experience that I had in Brunei was at breakfast one morning. I had been on duty the previous day and so had to collect breakfast for the people in the sickbay. Before collecting their food, though, I decided to eat first. Bleary eyed, I noticed the server ladling what looked like glutinous rice onto my tray. This piqued my curiosity, but it was not until I put the first spoon of the "glutinous rice" into my mouth that I realised, to my horror, what had been cooked for Breakfast. It was actually Fried Bee Hoon, where each strand was only a few mm long and they all clumped together, and it tasted like fried rubber bands. After a few spoonfuls, I felt like puking, and ending up eating extra nightsnacks from the previous day. (They improved their cooking the next week, though, and the bee hoon was then actually quite tasty.)

Other notable items:
- their Nasi Lemak which seemed to have no salt and almost no "lemak" (Coconut Milk), only smelling vaguely of Coconut
- the Planta Margarine served during breakfast one day where the top of the tin contained yellow globs floating in a clear liquid. Below the yellow globs was a thick layer of an orange coloured paste that reminded me of ear wax
- what Vincent calls the "Kid's Value Meal", Lakiun's Pseudo-Western meal. It consisted of 2 Fish Fingers, a small piece of fried Spring Chicken, Fries (not all fully cooked), 2 small Buns and Cream of Mushroom soup. The second time we had it, they gave us some plain rice and maybe 4 baked beans (I kid you not) each as well
- the Nightsnack I got for the sickbay patients - doughnuts. Only thing is, the doughnuts had no sugar!!!


Little

Instead of 3 meat dishes, 1 vegetable dish and a full bowl of soup, as in other SAF cookhouses, Lakiun gives 2 meat dishes, 1 vegetable dish and half a ladle of soup. Meanwhile the servings are as small as or even smaller than, those in the other cookhouses. I doubt normal SAF cookhouses give you the promised 2500 calories per day - 75% of that is a more likely figure. For Lakiun, it's probably 50%. It is no wonder that people flock to the canteen in droves.

The first time we had Chicken Porridge, it was tasty, but the portions were minuscule and so doubly unfilling. I considered doing an Oliver Twist - "Please Sir. Sorry - Lance Corporal... Can I have some more?" but swiftly dismissed the idea. Meanwhile, Senior Specialists and above and permstaff got enough porridge since they had proper bowls instead of metal trays. The next week, we were given a more generous serving, but somehow the porridge was bland and tasteless, as if the aggregate taste of the porridge was fixed, and increasing the quantity cooked would decrease the average taste of each serving.

though on the first few days, senior ranking people and permstaff got a bonus dish during lunch and dinner

Repetitive

As if it were not bad enough, the cookhouse menu was also woefully limited. The menu repeated itself both within the week and between weeks, ie Monday's dinner was always the same, as was Friday's breakfast. Popular items included Fish Fingers and Fishcake Lemak.


There were some saving graces, nonetheless. Besides the first time we got Chicken Porridge (see above), meals were palatable when they cooked Fake Shark's Fin soup, Oyster Sauce Chicken and the time when they cooked Lor Chicken (without Lor sauce). Often, the vegetables were tasty but I suspect this is because of the oil and salt, and also because they were the least screwed up dish in the meal.

(Aside: On a wall of the cookhouse was a USMS "Participation Rate" board, monitoring how many USMS suggestions were made by the permstaff. This is how bureaucrats warp a good idea and implement it in such a way that it goes against the spirit of the idea - ideas cannot be forced and if you implement quotas, all you get are crappy ideas)

The Canteen

The first few days, I tried to dull my hunger by sleeping, but then we were forbidden to rest on the sickbay beds, so I had to draw more on my supplies, and visit the canteen discretely from time to time. I was successful in evading, if not detection, then confrontation, but with 4 days to go, my Acting CSM confronted me while I was in the canteen. With the words, 'If you'd performed during the run, I would let you come. Go back!", I was unceremoniously whisked from the prata queue and ran back with my tail in between my legs to the medical centre, there to sit placidly with an air of dignified, if tousled, serenity. It was a minor tragedy, but I'd grown sick of the canteen food already, had sufficient supplies and people could still buy drinks and snacks back for me. Meanwhile, the regulars patronised the canteen regularly, and some even went to the canteen immediately after meals at the cookhouse, testifying to the insufficiency of the cookhouse food; Anyhow, I care not - my time in this miserable, horrible unit is almost up, and as D Day approaches, I will soon have nothing to do with the Slave Masters ever again (if I'm lucky). My only concern is that, after I leave, they will be bereft of a target for their passions. I sincerely pray that they will not find anyone to take out their frustrations on, for there has been enough hurt caused already these past 10 months.

People had told me that the Lakiun canteen was grossly overpriced, but I found the prices mostly reasonable compared to Singapore, albeit slightly higher than most SAF canteens. By Brunei standards, though, the prices were high, which explains how they could afford to install satellite TV. The famous Lakiun prata, however, was cheaper than that found in Singapore - 50 cents for plain, and $1.00 for egg. The pratas tasted alright and came larger than the Singaporean ones - 2 plain pratas and 1 egg prata left me overly full. The quality and variety of the food, and the size of the portions were another thing, however, as the canteen vendors seemed inspired by the cookhouse's example. Fried Rice with 2 sausages and an egg, Fried Mee with the same, Chicken/Beef burgers, Fried Rice, Nasi Lemak - that was practically all they had. Furthermore, despite or perhaps because of their poor food, the canteen vendors have very bad attitudes, perhaps smug in the knowledge that they are the ones (indirectly) keeping the camp running.

Between the cookhouse and the canteen, I am at a loss to explain how the permstaff survive without going either crazy and withering from malnutrition.

(Aside: The shop in the canteen sold Cadbury Picnic, which I can't find in Singapore. Yeh.)


The Irritating Pussy and the Processed Cocoa Product

One day near the end of my confinement in Brunei, I made my way to the Isolation Sickbay to seek refuge from the harsh world above. However, my way was barred by a grey pussy which started meowing piteously at me, presumably since it had gone hungry since the sickbay patients had been discharged and were no longer able to feed it.

Despite my attempts to flank it, it adroitly scampered so as to block my path, but eventually the game of cat and mouse ended, and I managed to scurry into the Isolation Sickbay. The damn pussy, however, meowed outside for the next 20 minutes, disturbing my reverie.

Later, when I retreated to the Isolation Sickbay again, it was still there, begging for food. Now, I had just opened a pack of cheap, ersatz, Palm Oil-laden, un-Chocolatey Made In Malaysia Under License "Tango Bar" Fruit and Nut Chocolate, and the more I ate of it, the more sick I felt. It was so bad, I've dubbed it a "Processed Cocoa Product" (after my sister's "Processed Milk Products" for sliced cheese) for it was so bad that it was not fit to be called chocolate.

Seeking to kill 2 birds with one stone, I broke off some for the pussy but the chunk proved too big for it to handle. I then broke off a smaller chunk. The pussy nibbled at it for a while, then left it unfinished and begged me for some other food - a testament to the inferior quality of the chocolate.


Departure

In a pre-departure briefing, we were told that 2 signallers in 1997 were caught by SIB for stealing SIA pillows. They got 40 days in DB. The injustice of it rankles me, for a civilian would escape unscathed. Moral of the story: Don't travel with the SAF.

We were also told, during the briefing, to remove from our duffel bags and hand luggage the following: lighters, other flammable items like matches (they didn't tell us to remove those for the flight to Brunei - real sneaky, since a lighter is one of the required items for our webbing) and aerosol cans (even shaving foam), cutlery (interestingly, SIA provides metal cutlery during meals. I guess the air marshals are on high alert during breakfast in case someone tries to hijack the plane with a fork) and to remove batteries from our L-torches and keep them separately. In the civilian world, there is no such nonsense. What is the likelihood of the flammable material leaking, catching fire or otherwise being a fire hazard? If airlines were really so strict about the "no flammable items" rule, smokers worldwide would rise up in protest. Meanwhile, I got entrusted with the MO bag, and was contemplating threatening the pilot with hypodermic syringes filled with air, threatening him with a painful death by giving him an air embolism.

The SIA must love the SAF. They get dependable and predictable business, don't have to serve alcohol, the chance to utilise their planes when no sane person would otherwise travel instead of leaving them docked at the airport, no trouble with unruly or otherwise uncooperative passengers, and the chance to enforce all the extant unenforceable rules born of paranoia and bureaucratic whim.

For our R&R day, we transited to Jalan Aman Camp (JAC), an altogether more pleasant place than Lakiun, except that practically the entire camp was out of bounds to us and that many of the mattresses were Hamtaro mattresses, so the last images I saw before I fell asleep and the first images I saw when I woke up were of big-headed, round eared monsters with multiple cataracts in their gigantically deformed eyes acting cute.

I noticed that at the cookhouses of both camps in Brunei, almost all the kitchen staff were Malay. In JAC, they helpfully listed who was responsible for cooking which items (a good idea, incidentally, so you know who to blame if the food sucks), and I noticed that the sole non-Malay was responsible for preparing the Iced Water and the Plain Rice. This led me to recall my SMM platoon BBQ, when the Malays were most insistent about being responsible for preparing the food, and other's comments about how Muslims always wanted to prepare the food. Perhaps they are paranoid that someone will drop a bacon rasher in their curry.

I also met Haoxiang at JAC and we had a talk over (horrible) lunch. Among other things, he thinks I have too many stereotypes, but truthfully the only one I can think of is the "shrill, anorexic, chinese-speaking ah lian". Anyhow, stereotypes exist because very often (but importantly, not always) the are true.

I saw the following safety poster in JAC: "The hands of time can never be turned. What's done cannot be undone. Regrets should not be part of a soldiers' life. Follow safety regulations." Funny, that reminds me of the saga of my slavery.

Our R&R commenced with perhaps the 3 most miserable museum visits I've ever made. The first was the Royal Regalia Museum, home of the Royal Songkok. I think no one was interested in seeing the various ceremonial items. In my tentative wanderings, I found an exhibition on the Sultan's life, full of fulsome praise. I guess there are privileges to being a Sultan. I like museums, but this one was utterly devoid of anything remotely worth seeing. The only reason we were made to see it was to chew up the off they owe us and to improve inter-state ties (though I doubt the extent of the latter). Without a doubt, this was the worst museum I'd ever been to.

After that, we were bused to the misleadingly named Malay Technology Museum. I was expecting exhibits on how the Malays had mastered the arcane arts of turning Palm Oil into various useful substances, but was dumbfounded when I only saw exhibits on how rural Malays lived, built their kampungs and worked wood and metal. If this the best Technology the Malays have to offer? This was definitely the 2nd worst museum I'd ever been to, and the only remotely amusing or interesting thing was a black babbi (wild boar) I spotted underneath one mockup longhouse.

Finally, we saw the "Brunei Museum". This, at least, had some interesting exhibits about the Oil and Gas industry, and a fascinating collection of Islamic Art - Middle Eastern Korans, silverware and weapons with Koranic verses engraved on them, though the latter made me pause for thought: what are holy verses from a peaceful religion doing on weapons of death and destruction? So what then, made this a miserable visit? The air con had broken down! I managed to grab an ice cream cone before boarding the bus, though that turned out to be strategic mistake - better ice cream was on offer later.

The last item before dinner was shopping - well nigh 2 hours of it. I hold that it was a mistake giving bored teenage males 2 whole hours to shop, especially when they were forbidden to buy the only things worth buying (pirated DVDs, music CDs and VCDs) and the shopping centres were full of shops (even big departmental stores) selling a wide range of cheap pirated media. (Does no one respect intellectual property in Brunei? What are the police doing?) My beloved understudy embarked on a futile quest for Bruneian lifestyle magazines. I told him to look for those with tudung-clad women on the covers, but I guess he wanted a male lifestyle magazine, and Newman from Singapore was practically the only one on the newstands.

At the shopping centre we alighted at, there was a sign indicating the position of the embassy of the "Federal Republic of Germany". Said Republic not having existed for almost 14 years, I was intrigued, to say the least. Perhaps the place was stuck in a timehole. I also saw a pre-pubescent Malay girl in male attire, complete with a songkok. Curious, very curious.

While walking the aisles of a departmental store, I found Hawker equipment on offer, something you don't get in Singaporean shops. There was a bread slicer, a sugarcane machine ($990 for a more traditional model), an old fashioned ice-shaver ($220), a bean grinder machine, enclosed shelves to keep food hot, hot dog griddles, kebab machines and a mee maker. Now I know how much it costs to set up a hawker stall! At another part of the store were mini bomb bags - $0.20 each. I wonder if they're softer than the full-sized ones.

After all that was a buffet dinner. It was mediocre - they didn't replenish the food (so much for it being a buffet), the orange drink tasted like acqueous Redoxon Vitamin C and worst of all, they called the Bread and Butter Pudding simply "Bread Pudding" (oddly, I was the only one to add vanilla sauce to my pudding)!

Later we had more shopping. Many of us ended up sitting in Coffee Bean for a while - a testament to the relentless march of globalisation. Meanwhile Swee Shoon somehow got a free cup of tea from the cashier. Later, we saw that McDonalds was packed with 42SAR people.

Just as the shedding of locks on Enlistment Day is supposedly symbolic of the shedding of an old life, so was my disposal of various items I had gathered during my tenure as a slave symbolic of my forthcoming emancipation. Coming from my BMT days were my towel, a yellow toothbrush and a tube of Colgate toothpaste. From my early days in 42SAR were a green toiletries bag I found in the empty cupboard I claimed for my own, left by some guy who had ORDed and a pair of cheap slippers I'd bought for my fieldpack. A lousy thermometer, gotten during the SARS scare midway through my time in 42 joined everything else in the dustbin. Joining it was an Grey Army T-shirt I got just before leaving for Brunei. And finally, the Sunsilk shampoo and Dettol I threw away had been bought at Lakiun. The only thing missing was something from my SMM days.


Miscellaneous

Lancer

Outside the medical centre was this piece of driftwood embedded in concrete. An engraving at its base, which no one but me seemed to notice, read "He who trains hard will be blessed by the 'Knight of Sungei Temburong'" and was apparently set up by the Chief Instructor in 1984. What a good use for jetsam :)

I'm told the view from Mount Biang sucks. Apparently everyone was conned.

It was most novel hearing a Malay argue to a Chinese for gay marriage.

I forgot to take a picture of Bob, the Lakiun medics' pet millipede, for my friend 'Bob' to see. Damn.

Back in Sungei Gedong

I'm told that in one of 42SAR's companies, those who were excused from Exercise Lancer have been confined in camp since those who went for Lancer started their pre-exercise off, and will be confined till those who went for Lancer return from their post-exercise off. The warped logic behind this renders me speechless. 42SAR - a truly unique and outstanding unit, a wonderful place to be.

I think I know why 42SAR has embarked on a witch hunt for and crusade against plump NSFs. The regulars are probably upset that they have to get their BMIs below 27 or have their pay docked. Since shit rolls downhill and snowballs as it rolls, they decided to go one up and make the criterion for NSFs 25.

It seems that the people most enthusiastic about "encouraging" me are also those most responsible for tormenting me. Bah.

Someone who had OOCed from the Commandos commented that he preferred being in the Commandos to being in 42SAR, and I don't think he meant the "Honour and Glory" part. Gee.

General Slavery Matters

I wonder why some people are so fond of having guidelines and procedures for even the most minor of daily processes. Just as battle plans never survive the first contact with the enemy, so do carefully planned guidelines falter in the face of reality. Why can people not trust in the Invisible Hand to sort out trivialities?

Apparently in BMT, female recruits eat in the cookhouse when nobody else is around, their bunks have curtains and white tape cordons their company line off from the outside world.

Most people sign on for one or more of 4 reasons: 1) they're scholars, 2) they are greedy for the money, 3) they're sadists, 4) they can't get a job outside.

Miscellaneous (2nd Order of Miscellany)

According to the Lancer MO, Prickly Heat comes in two forms - pirated and non-priated. Powder in the 160g and 320g bottles is genuine and helps with rashes, but powder in the 150g and 300g bottles isn't. Hmm.

I saw someone extinguish his cigarette on the sole of his shoe. That is wrong. So wrong.

Weird song heard on a computer in Lakiun: "Fuck Her Gently" by "Tenacious D".

Pinstripe suits make one look like a gangster from Prohibition.

Many signs in Brunei have flowing Arabic script written below the Roman script. Quite strange since you don't see the arabic script on Malaysian signs.

Even though Brunei is a Muslim state, you see considerably fewer Bruneian women in tudungs than in Singapore. Then again, you also see proportionately fewer women on the streets, so maybe those who do venture outside are the more liberal sort.

The deceptive Malaysians are at it again. We all know the furore a few years back when a Malaysian company offered "Vegetable balls" that contained chicken (or was it fish?). Now, we have "Vegetable crackers" from "Miaow Miaow" which picture many vegetables on the packaging, but the only vegetable flacouring is Onion Powder. Worse, the crackers contain chicken powder!

One Lakiun medic claimed that "Boss" nightclub was a "certified" employer of university girls. Hmm.

Brunei is a pirate's haven - the pirated VCDs and DVDs there look original. The pirates evidently take more pride in their work than those in Malaysia, who make poor quality products which sometimes do not work. But they have some nerve - I saw not a few DVD 'Compilations' - the pirates had put 2 movies on the same disc, as well as a pirated Playstation retailing for $29.90.

On Cathay Pacific, people of all ages can order kids' meals. I wager they taste better than much of the other airline food.

Tim took a 5 week holiday in Europe. Wth?! He must be bankrupt now.



Quotes:

I saw pirated CD when I was in SMM doing guard duty. I just asked him where he bought it (caught someone with a pirated)

[On the arcane Lakiun cookhouse queuing system] Sometimes it's like that. They don't use their heads to think. They use their asses to think.

[On the rubbish dump at Lakiun being in building no 42] Did you notice the "42"? [Me: Yeah. What?] Cesspit. [Me: No lah - dustbin] Isn't it the same? You put shit in it.

[Ad for slimming centre] The first 50 FIL customers will enjoy delicious FREE food and beverage vouchers and much more! (free vouchers for delicious food and beverages)

[Cookhouse sign] Lakiun exotic soup

You're the most idle medic, I heard. [Me: Who told you?] Who told me? Ngan! *drags someone over* This, I call soldier. You... simi lan? [Translation: What the hell?] (a soldier)

[On someone: I think he cannot curse for one day] Mei2 you3 lei1. April 2nd wo3 mei2 you3 curse... April 2nd my birthday (Translation: That's not true. I didn't curse on April 2nd because it was my birthday)

[On river crossing] Most important is to look out for sharks (alligators)

[Me: 8 more days!] 8 more days? [Me: Before we get to leave here {Lancer}) I have 5 more months. [Me: Have fun, sir]

[On the cookhouse food] Sucks right. That's why you got see me go cookhouse or not? (don't see me going to the cookhouse)

[On the cookhouse food] At first, I liked the food... Maybe it's (Ed: the food) different for permstaff... After a while, sian... Curry every day.

[On Lakiun] You'll see people backstabbing each other. All nothing to do (They all have)

[Me] I am sealed to secrecy (sworn)

[On us] Kan4 ni3 men2 na4 me4 slack, wo3 na2 li3 ke2 yi3 su1 gei2 ni3 men2? [Translation: Seeing how slack you are, I can't possibly lose out to you in slacking!)

[On cold spray] Actually it's quite cold.

SAF stands for "Stupid Armed Forces".

[Me on not playing Monopoly with the others: So sad, I'm ostracised] Because you're RJ, you're too intelligent. They're scared you'll plot against them.

I've just realised that our battalion sucks. How can you win in Red Alert by building APCs?

[On someone reading her rank wrongly - 2WO instead of 1WO] Why do you demote me? Huh? Want to die is it? (Do you want to die?)

[Me on the Song of Silver Frond: Did you enjoy the story of pedophilia?] Not really. Sucks. I'll never ever read a Catherine Lim book. (book again)

You know why 42 is so fucked up? Because of fucking BHQ.

Zero times one explain'nation (Zero one times explanation)

[On doing area cleaning] You're not from Philippines, you're from Singapore. Don't let people treat you like a servant. (the Philippines)

[On doing area cleaning] See? You sweat. You sweat already, I feel guilty. I do DM I don't ask people work one, because I also don't work. (When you sweat, When I'm the DM [Ed: Duty Medic], to work)

My briefing, never say cannot touch air stewardess - doesn't mean you can go and touch (During my, I didn't say you could not touch the, that doesn't, touch them)

[On "Tango Bar" - cheap Malaysian chocolate] It's not very sweet... It doesn't taste very much like a chocolate.

[On a phone call] He's looking for someone called "nua" (Nah - "Nua" means "soft/weak" in dialect)

I'm a staff nurse at SGH. [Me: So young?] Staff nurse [level/grade] 1. [Me: I was under the impression that staff nurses were all 40 year old women] Do I look like a 40 year old woman?

[On getting a grossly undercooked chicken wing while doing COS cookhouse duty at Lakiun] I deserve better treatment.

[On the girls who went on his school trip to Germany] They do watch porn lah, trust me.

[On Lakiun's flag lowering music] Is that the Bruneian National Anthem?

authourised personnel only (authorised)

[On cigarette butts in Brunei] Don't anyhow throw or the sooltan will come and shoot you (throw them anyhow, Sultan)

[On 'fast cold' packs] These are the goods ones, those are the bads ones (good, bad)

The hands of time can never be turned. What's done cannot be undone. Regrets should not be part of a soldiers' life. Follow safety regulations (soldier's) (???)

[On the buffet] Go ahead. Nobody is stopping you. [Me: For once.]

[ST] The NKF's current reserves - which could last the group three to four years - is not unduely large, he added. (can, are not unduly)

[ST] Razer, the American maker of mouses for gamers (mice)

[Pilot] I know you've been in the bush for very long, but guys: if you continue staring at the stewardesses, you're gonna burn holes in their kebayas.
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