When you can't live without bananas

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Thursday, December 25, 2003

In its desperation, 42 has resorted to threatening us with perhaps the vilest threat it is possible to threaten Full-Time Slaves (NSF) with - tinkering with our ORD and extending their grubby grip from beyond the grave to grasp and glom us. We have been told that it is official policy that if we do not pass our IPPT by the time we ORD, they will not give our Pink ICs back to us, and that they'll issue SAF 100As to get us to come back for Remedial Training every Sunday until we pass. Whether they are able to follow through on these threats is another thing, but the fact that for the sake of their promotions and bonuses, they are capable of ominously warning of the impending visitation of said threats, and doubtless wishing that they could do so, to fellow human beings speaks volumes. Pity they have from me, and contempt, I wager, from many more.

Now my company is going to charge people who bring contraband in, instead of merely eating 5 days off. In other news, someone was charged and slapped with 14 days Stoppage Of Leave for waking up late (6:45am). The principle of proportionality of the punishment to the crime, already lamentably absent in military justice, is being perverted further. If one gets 2 weeks SOL for sleeping late, I suppose going AWOL can net you the Death Penalty. 42SAR is getting from stupidly sadistic to ridiculously vicious.

The tiring and useless 5BX is gone. Whee. An extra 45 mins - 1 hour of uninterrupted sleep, here we come. But we are promised mysteriously that those caught not "putting in effort" during the Unit Fitness Program will be singled out for "special training", and both these phrases are extremely vague. But why do I have the feeling that this is just the calm before the storm, the deadly silence before the swoosh of the guillotine's blade, or the last meal of a convict on death row, if you like?

We're being forced to clear a day of leave/off on 31st December even though we'll only gain half a day off. Bah, I suspect it's part of the Evil Masterplan to deprive us of our leave.

My unit held Christmas Celebrations and invited some "less privileged children" over. We had games stalls, vehicle and weapons displays, a Christmas tree, made using camouflage netting (...), and even our own Santa Claus, in his rover (...), and a gazillion people came up to me to comment that I should have been Santa. The Mess's celebrations the next day looked suspiciously familiar though, with the same balloon sculptor and games stalls. "Santa's Rover" even made an appearance again. Later, what was billed as the NTU Choir performed at our Christmas celebrations, and throughout I was puzzled at their lack of standard, which was not helped by our lack of condenser mics, which led to an unbalanced sound. Later I found out they were actually hall residents, so I suppose I can forgive them :)

Water sports at Jurong East was invigorating, though the complex was swarmed with Primary School kids. I should be grateful at least that nary a soul aged older than 13 and younger than 25 was to be seen, since the Sec 2-5s probably thought it un-hip to visit such a place and the JC and Poly students were sleeping off hangovers from the previous night's parties. With the closure of Fantasy Island some years back, Jurong East Swimming Complex is probably now the best place in Singapore to partake in Water Sports, with many contraptions that I am at a loss for words to describe, and ridiculously cheap too.

I was leery of the tube-slides - those big tubes placed above the ground and lubricated with flowing water, down which users slide in joyful terror - at first, but decided to try one just once. It wasn't as bad as I thought, and the whoops, squawks and shrieks I emitted on my way down entertained the whole pool, or so I am told. Unfortunately, my fourth experience, on the highest tube-slide of all, was not as enjoyable. Somewhere after the halfway point, my float flipped over, turning me onto my stomach and landing on my bag. Stunned, I has not the sense to flip myself back over, or to mount my float again, and my whoops changed to cries of consternation as my nipples were given a good rubbing by the floor of the tube, until I plopped into the pool unceremoniously, to hoots of laughter.

A fact that puzzled me was the abundance of Malay women in tudungs. They looked so forlorn sitting by the pools and looking at their children frolicking, the females in uncomfortable swinsuits with overly long sleeves and pant legs, I felt sorry for them.

We were going for a Sakae Sushi buffet but many of us hadn't eaten breakfast and couldn't stand the hunger, so we had a quick bite at the KFC there, at which I realised that KFC's wedges were actually very lousy, many being so big as to be mostly tasteless due to the seasoning not permeating the potato, and watched as some girls stole floats which another group had unwisely left outside the restaurant, costing them $3 a float.


[On the CRO] Anything interesting? [Me: No. Oh, no more 5BX!] You know who to thank? [Me: You ah?] Us officers. We're too lazy to come down and conduct 5BX.

[On my high pitched yawns] What is that supposed to be? Your mating call?

Warren Officers (Warrant)

Hey, look, it's Santa Claus! He's gonna come and give gifts to you so go make fun of him.

Today he was talking to someone who commited suicide also. [Me: He's a necromancer? Can talk with the dead?] (attempted)

I'm thinking of including some new original section on my homepage when it comes up again, but I'm bereft of ideas. Homepages are all the same nowadays - most of them are blogs or glorified photo albums.

I always love the Economist's year end Christmas (not-quite-)double issue. I wish they had interesting special reports on such an eclectic range of esoteric topics the whole year round, like Congolese Music and Human Hair. I particularly like both one writer's swan song which, though overall approving of her former employer, is surprisingly frank and talks about some of the inevitable parts she doesn't like about it and the uber rare piece on Singapore - "A kinder, gentler BG", about our future Prime Minister (requires a subscription to view). A pity, really, that they do stories on Singapore so rarely (note how under Singapore's Country Briefing section, there are so few articles about this nation). I await the publication, in next year's first issue, of the inevitable letter from the authorities which will doubtless be published with nary a sentence cut, for fear of being gazetted again.

I am wroth. It turns out that, all along, independent girls' schools ($100 for all 4 of them) have been charging their students as little as half that independent boys' schools charge theirs ($150 for SJI and $200 for the rest). Why is this the case? Could it be that boys break more things than girls?

5621 Halal certificates were issued by MUIS last year, up from 3460 and 2780 in 2001 and 2000 respectively. This does not include the pseudo-Halal outlets which serve Halal food but not alcohol. I am happy for them, for to be restricted to eating Fast Food and Malay Food while you are outside (albeit of your own will) is dreadful, but at the same time I wonder when we will no longer see pork on restaurant menus island-wide.

Mobile Armored Strike Kommand -- MASK - I recall I used to like this show, but not why, especially since I can't remember what it was about.

I feel weary, as if some vampiric organism has been feeding on my life energies. Sometimes I have the feeling that, come what may, it will not make any difference to me, but I know that in the distant future, it will begin to matter again.
IDIOT SON OF AN ASSHOLE-AND HE'S OUR PRESIDENT!!! - People really hate Dubya. If someone were to do this about Singaporean leaders, I wonder what would happen to him.

Jangle bells makes them crazy - 'An Austrian trade union has claimed the repetitive playing of Christmas Carols in department stores is nothing short of "psycho-terrorism" for salespeople. From morning to night, for weeks before Christmas, there was the same Christmas music in department stores over and over again, said Gottfried Rieser of the Union of Private Employees. "Many staff in the retail sector suffer psychologically from it. They get aggressions and aversions against Christmas music. On Christmas Eve with their families, they can't stand Silent Night or Jingle Bells any more," he said.'

Man burns life savings but fails in suicide bid

Bad Santa tries to rob bank - Police say a man dressed as Santa Claus tried to rob the Alberta Treasury Branch in Westlock on Friday, then drove off in a dark pickup truck or SUV.

Santa's knee off-limits - A small town in New Zealand has banned children from sitting on Santa's knee because organisers fear liability if anything goes wrong, organisers said.

University jeered for anti-Santa web warning - News that affirmative action officers at the University of Central Michigan had tried to 'ban' the use of Father Christmas and reindeer images for fear of offending people of other non-Christian faiths, drew nationwide attention this month. The anti-Political Correctness brigade was especially incensed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Pavarotti on Elephants

Queen's corgi killed by daughter's terrier
- LONDON (Reuters) - The Queen is mourning the death of one of her beloved corgis after it was savaged by her daughter's bull terrier, newspapers report.

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.

The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human

because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small.

The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.

Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.

The little girl said, "When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah".

The teacher asked, "What if Jonah went to hell?"

The little girl replied, "Then you ask him".


A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's work.

As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.

The girl replied, "I'm drawing God."

The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like."

Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, "They will in a minute."


One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her brunette head.

She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, "Why are some of your hairs white, Mom?"

Her mother replied, "Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white."

The little girl thought about this revelation for a while and then said, "Momma, how come ALL of grandma's hairs are white?"


The children had all been photographed, and the teacher was trying to persuade them each to buy a copy of the group picture.

"Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you are all grown up and say, 'There's Jennifer, she's a lawyer,' or 'That's Michael, He's a doctor.'

A small voice at the back of the room rang out, "And there's the teacher, She's dead."


A teacher was giving a lesson on the circulation of the blood. Trying to make the matter clearer, she said, "Now, class, if I stood on my head, the blood, as you know, would run into it, and I would turn red in the face.."Yes," the class said.

"Then why is it that while I am standing upright in the ordinary position the blood doesn't run into my feet?"

A little fellow shouted, "Cause your feet ain't empty."


The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples.

The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray:

"Take only ONE. God is watching."

Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chipcookies.

A child had written a note, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples."

Monday, December 22, 2003

These two letters largely sum up my views about learning Chinese.

Why coerce young into learning?

I REFER to the letter, 'Speak the language or lose out' (ST, Dec 5), by Dr Chang Kai Cheh and those of some previous writers to The Straits Times Forum on the subject of learning Chinese.

The arguments that Chinese will be important in the future because of China's increasing share of the world economy, miss the point raised by the letters that started this thread of discussion.

Nobody seriously disputes that Chinese will be important for this reason. The question raised by anguished parents is why the system here has to be so coercive about the subject.

The issue here is not about the merits of Chinese, but about the failings of the school system in Singapore. Is this a society that allows people to follow their aptitudes and passions - and to ignore what does not interest them - or a society that insists on extruding everybody from the same grinder?

I also note with concern the ethnocentricity of some assumptions. Just because a person is Chinese by ancestry does not mean he must be Chinese by culture nor does it mean he has any obligation to be fluent in Chinese. To insist on this is a form of racism - pigeonholing people by the colour of their skin.

The demand to learn Chinese is placed on children of Chinese ancestry, regardless of their home language. Yet if the most pressing reasons for learning Chinese are economic, why not make the same demand of all Singaporeans?

By the same token, since economists generally think that India, too, will be a rising economic power, shouldn't these proponents of Chinese do-or-die insist that all our children learn Hindi or forfeit a place in universities here?

The issue is not about language but about our frame of mind.


Problem lies in way language is taught

I REFER to the letter "It all boils down to attitude (ST, Dec 3) by Mr Chee Yew Chung. He said that the difficulty Chinese Singaporeans face in learning Chinese "all boils down to the attitude... and the will to do so".

I am a secondary school student, and as much as I agree with his point of view, I feel that the way in which the language is taught in school is also a cause of the widespread difficulty in learning Chinese.

Under the current Chinese language syllabus, the subject is taught in such a way that students must memorise countless combinations of characters, words and phrases, many of which are cliches.

As a result, student essays suffer from a severe lack of creativity and style, while the vocal aspect of Chinese is almost entirely neglected.

In short, Chinese is taught only as far as content and structure are concerned, whereas cultivation of a better appreciation for the language is sadly missing from the picture.

The use of the language as a written form of communication is also neglected.

Hence, for many, China's rich culture, illustrious history and elaborate literature remain inaccessible, uncharted territory.

Secondly, as with other academic subjects, the teaching of Chinese in schools here is plagued with an over-emphasis on results at the expense of the actual process of learning.

Teachers often use exam results as benchmarks. Thus, each academic year becomes nothing more than an exam-oriented crash course.

While most agree that exam results are an accurate representation of a student's competence in a subject, this does not apply to the Chinese language.

In this case, results are but a reflection of the student's skills in exam techniques such as memorising vocabulary - hence enabling the student to answer "fill in the blank" questions - and understanding the tested letter structure in order to answer functional writing questions.

As a result, a student with a relatively good grasp of the language need not necessarily score well, and vice versa.

In this situation, students are encouraged to put in effort to score well rather than to actually be proficient in the language.

This contributes to the feeling of pointlessness that many students experience when learning Chinese.

As my friends put it, "Studying so hard just to fill in a couple of blanks - is it worth it?"

In such an environment, will students feel interested in learning Chinese?

Will students' grasp of the language show some noticeable improvement?

A language cannot be learnt through intensive drilling; it must be cultivated through years of use and experience.

Perhaps it is time for the Government to review the system, to prepare youths for a future in which bilingualism will become ever more important.


Screwed Up Girl gets screwed by the NKF:

"Someone should seriously go SUE the NKF!
I am bloody pissed off now
Received a message saying "Merry Xmas from someone who treasures ur friendship. U have created miracles for those you care about. Reply "hi" via SMS to find out who's thinking about you".
It sounded like a greeting card/SMS thing a friend sent right?
So I replied "hi" and suddenly I received a call, and STUPID Sharon Au's cheena voice came blasting out of the phone saying THANK YOU FOR THE DONATION.
I did not bloody donate to the NKF! They keep cheating people's money, this is NOT THE FIRST TIME I HEARD OF SUCH THINGS HAPPENING, and the kidney patients complain about not receiving the funds too!
SHEESH, I am super pissed off now... may kick up a fuss when my bill comes... Why can such organizations be so unorthodox sometimes?! They make me want to lose all faith in Singapore charitable organizations sometimes."

I think someone should go napalm their building.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Empress Cinema in Clementi may start their shows on time (or even earlier, causing you to miss the first minutes, as I did for Return of the King), shine bright lights into your eyes at the end of the movie and have no escalators to whiz you up in comfort, but it *was* gloriously empty just now, considering it was a Sunday afternoon, so we chose seats with generous legroom and the tickets cost $7 each - $1.50 cheaper than elsewhere. Not "small, musty and none-too-clean", no.

Return of the King was possibly the most emotionally evocative experience I've had in front of the silver screen.

I hate my VCR. Among its numerous quirks, if you forget to turn it off, pre-programmed recording will not take place, which is how I missed today's episode of Power Rangers Time Force.

In other news, the "3" key on my funky handphone cover came out and could not be popped back, and some others seemed loose. Luckily, a spare though not-so-funky cover was where I remembered. That's what you get for $5 at a Pasar Malam stall run by Ah Bengs.
NICE TITS - Pictures of Tits - Never have I seen nicer ones. Hell, I rarely get to see tits in the first place. Those who get to see them often must be very fortunate :)

Disturbing Search Requests - For those who like checking their referrer logs

The following summarises what I think of almost all modern art, and much modern music.

"Rodin's successors noted the amazing things he had done with light and shadow and mass and composition - whether you see it or not - and they copied that much. Oh, how they copied it! And extended it. What they failed to see was that every major work of the master told a story and laid bare the human heart. Instead, they got involved with 'design' and became contemptuous of any painting or sculpture that told a story - sneeing, they dubbed such work 'literary' - a dirty word. They went all out for abstractions, not deigning to paint or carve anything that resembled the human world."

Jubal shrugged. "Abstract design is all right - for wall paper or linoleum. But /art/ is the process of evoking pity and terror, which is not abstract at all but very human. What the self-styled modern artists are doing is a sort of unemotional pseudo-intellectual masturbation... whereas creative art is more like intercourse, in which the artist must seduce - render emotional - his audience, each time. These laddies who won't deign to do that - and perhaps can't - of course lost the public. If they hadn't lobbied for endless subsidies, they would have starved or been forced to go to work long ago. Because the ordinary bloke will not voluntarily pay for 'art' that leaves him unmoved - if he does pay for it, the money has to be conned out of him, by taxes or such."

"You know, Jubal, I've always wondered why I didn't give a hoot for paintings or statues - but I thought it was something missing in /me/, like color blindless."

"Mmm, one does have to learn to look at art, just as you must know French to read a story printed in French. But in general it's up to the artist to use language that can be understood, not hide it in some private code like Pepys and his diary. Most of these jokers don't even /want/ to use language you and I know or can learn... they would rather sneer at us and be smug, because we 'fail' to see what they are driving at. If indeed they are driving at anything - obscurity is usually the refuge of incompetence. Ben, would you call /me/ an artist?"

"Huh? Well I've never thought about it. You write a pretty good stick."

"Thank you. 'Artist' is a word I avoid for the same reasons I hate to be called 'Doctor'. But I /am/ an artist, albeit a minor one. Admittedly most of my stuff is fit to read only once... and not even once for a busy person who already knows the little I have to say. But I am an /honest/ artist, because what I write is consciously intended to reach the customer... reach him and affect him, if possible with pity and terror... or, if not, at least to divert the tedium of hours with a chuckle or an odd idea. But I am /never/ trying to hide it from him in a private language, nor am I seeking the praise of other writers for 'technique' or other balderdash. I want the praise of the cash customer, given in cash because I've reached him - or I don't want anything. Support for the arts - /merde/! A government-supported artist is an incompetent whore! Damn it, you punched one of my buttons. Let me fill your glass and you tell me what is on your mind."

--- Robert Heinlein, Stranger In A Strange Land (Part Four - "His Scandalous Career", Chapter XXX)
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