When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, January 31, 2004

I am told that one of the standing orders in the 42SAR Ops Room is that if any fat people are found in any of the three canteens in the camp, the BOS on that day will sign 7 extra, and the person in question 3. Never mind the fact that the BOS cannot be in 3 places at the same time, even if he spends the whole day patrolling the canteens - if 42SAR wants you to do something, you will have to do it, even if it is impossible. They never let reality get in the way of operational readiness, no.

We have been told that if, after our meals at the cookhouse, we are still hungry, we can always drop another chip in and eat a second round. This is surprising, for what we'd always been told had led us to believe otherwise. I wonder if this applies for obese personnel as well.

I think people who have fetishes for mountains of data suffer from insecurity.

When I was booking in on a rainy Sunday morning for duty, I saw a host of dogs in the vehicle sheds, and 2 of them were mating. Perhaps because I had disturbed their sacred ritual, or maybe because the rain had made them short-tempered, I suddenly found myself set upon by a horde of ravenous, rabid stray dogs. I was surprised, to say the least, for usually they are quite amiable - friendly, even. Hurriedly, I closed the umbrella I was using and swung it around wildly, fending off the slavering jaws bared at me. I then quickly bounded over the chain separating the vehicle sheds from the gate area, and went back to the company line by another route. I should have had my staff with me, but it was lying in the medical centre, so maybe I shall have to bring it with me next time whenever I walk around that area. Later in the week, I found that the continuous rain had its effect on more than dogs, for normally nice people became nasty.

During one session of company PT, a stray dog came by and sniffed the admin instructions, and then peed on it. Looks like even the dogs know that my unit sucks

We had a bunk inspection for contraband, which I found most ironic, for the people guilty of possessing the most contraband were the very ones who were doing the inspection. Oh, the injustice of this world! During the same inspection, my beloved pictures of Wo-Hen Nankan, the Asian Prince, were torn down. I was wroth, for they had survived 2 bunk moves and many months (more than a year, even?) of display, but not the caprices of one person. However, new pictures have appeared on my cupboard, and soon will elsewhere.

The SAF has thrown its wraps off Chemical Defence training. Yet another product of the policy of unreasoning paranoia has been discarded. I sense a healthy trend here.

I was curious and tried some Water for Injection. Curiously, it had a faint taste of vanilla about it.

As the magic date approaches, somehow I think I've forgotten what it's like to lead a normal life, and I'm more neurotic and less self-assured now. I do not feel ready to face the world without going through the Civilian Conversion Course (CCC).

"Time travel classified? Good God, why?"

"Hell, boy, didn't you ever work for the government? They'd classify sex
if they could. There doesn't have to be a reason; it's just their policy."

--Chuck Freudenberg to Daniel B. Davis
The Door into Summer, Robert A. Heinlein

This reminds me of the SAF Which is why, to get the true security classification of something you must downgrade its security classification by one level. An interesting book, by the way. Some (well, one, actually) term it "pastoral", but it's refreshing to read relatively upbeat and unpretentious tales. Though the pedophilic tendencies of the main character were somewhat disturbing :0

Marche's frozen yoghurt tastes like cottage cheese. I will never try it again.

'Project Boyfriend' is a java game for handphones. What makes it interesting, however, is that in it you play a girl, where in all other dating sims I've heard of, you play a male. I thought only boys would want to play games such as these, but I guess now girls can live out their screwed up fantasies (though I don't think you get to bed the guy at the end).


[On a LCP driving into the range in an expensive looking car] I threw the cigarette. I thought officer or what. Fuck lah.

Food tastes better when you eat it with your left hand

[On my surviving some of the depredations of slavery] You are 25% female

'Attitude' can't change my life. Only ORD can change my life.

I know a lot of people who read motivational stories, but they still suck.

I don't want to be the people that say [other people's lives are good], I want to be the people other people call 'ah gua peng' [Ed: Sissy Soldier] (someone who says that, someone whom)

[On the combat pay of 42SAR] Receive all the money to go to [a] psychiatrist

Black Shoe Polish is not available for sale temporally because of quality problem (temporarily, problems)

PSI card (PCI)

42 will be celebrating Hari Raya in the field. Celebrating the festival of the mat in the mud.

[On Wo-Hen] Can't take it, can't take it. I need to read FHM, or what.

Life isn't fair. If life were fair, Gabriel would be my CO. (?)

The new MMI is at DSO building right? [Me: Yah] NUS right? [Me: Yeah.] I wouldn't mind working there. All the pretty girls... NUS girls *slurps* [Me: Shrill, anorexic, chinese-speaking ah lians] NUS is full of JC chicks - all should be quite cute.
I returned it to you this month!!! What's happened to your sense of time?

The Associate:
I agree with your acquaintance that it was ironic, for free speech seems to be a pre-requisite for debate. Perhaps saying that your friend expects a debator to have an ideological commitment to freedom of speech is a stretch, for I wager he expects a debator to at least respect the idea of free speech, even if he doesn't have an ideological commitment to it.

If freedom of speech weren't a pre-requisite for debate, then it would be possible to knock down opponents not by refuting their points sensibly, but by saying that points were "immoral", "ridiculous", "racist" or the like, and making them untenable for scoring purposes.
Today i went back to re-read "Stranger in a strange land" after gabriel returned it to me a couple of months ago... picking up things in the book that i had never noticed before. It's like watching "The sixth sense" for a second time.

Anyway, I'll be going back to melbourne in exactly 2 weeks' time. Firehouse, waking up to the sight of uropa apartments, tramping (or hurtling, if i'm late) to the faculty at 10 to 9 in the morning, clambering the spiral staircase in the brownless biomedical library after dinner, evenings hanging out at college square, friday nights in union house (and lygon st after that), hands in pockets walking against the wind, bumping into EVERYONE in safeway supermarket, trips to the greenhouse/ leicester gardens/ will's new house?/ rowville/ flagstaff. Arrrgggh! Must go visit werribee (rural farm campus for the vet students; also location of a large sewage plant) before the last old vet student graduates.

I attended a talk by a couple, gary and joanna koh, from Focus on the Family - the organisation that promotes sexual abstinence before marriage and takes a stand against homosexual lifestyles. One thing they pointed out - that comedies such as Will and Grace have subconsciously but definitely influenced my perception of people. Many gay people dislike the character Jack (the classic queen) because he's irritating, whiny, and not representative of the majority of them (as opposed to maybe ... Will? The stylish lawyer who earns a lot, has many friends- straight and gay, has impeccable taste and dresses spiffily, etc)

Friday, January 30, 2004

Last night, Gil called to talk. We've been talking a lot these days; him asking for "career counselling" (not that I see why he needs any from me of all people, given my lack of anything resembling a career at present, and the fact that he's had seven offers to date) - and myself needing someone to rant to while trapped within the molasses flow of traffic along the Federal Highway.


Me: "Fault is immaterial. No matter who's wrong, or right, whatever happened, happened. Nothing you do changes one bit of that."

Gil: "Okay. So let's say, hypothetically, you were driving your CR-V down the road one night. And, say, a motorcycle swerves in front of you, and you oversteer to avoid it, and you slam into a lamppost, and the car flips. Furthermore, there's no Indian guy to pull you out of the burning wreckage, and you end up a quadriplegic, with third-degree burns, and blind. And say the guy on the motorcycle is Ananda Krishnan's godson? Aren't you going to sue his ass for everything he's worth? What about fault then?"

Me: "Can I still talk?"

Gil: "Erm.. okay lah. Yes, yes you can still talk."

Me: "Am I impotent?"

Gil: "HAHAHAHAHAHAAH.. yeah, of course!"

Me: (after some thought) "Well, that's about finding fault in a legal sense, not a moral one. It's not so much out of vengeance, it's more for practical purposes. After all, I'll need the money to buy a motorized wheelchair and cybernetic limbs."

Gil: "So you're not going to hate him?"

Me: "Hatred is baggage. I'm trying to be Zen about everything."

Gil: "But let's be frank. We're never going to let go of our hate. Isn't it more Zen to admit that you can't let go of it? That it's a part of you you can't escape?"

Me: "So you're saying it's more Zen to admit you can't be Zen.. that's a pretty zhai paradox."

(few rants later)

Me: "Well.. yeah. Put it this way. If hatred is baggage, I'm a student flight from Melbourne in December."

Gil: "What?"

Me: "You know. Full of baggage, especially from those assholes graduating who are too cheap to courier and think they can lug their VCR, old textbooks, and entire wardrobe without exceeding the weight limit and end up begging the check-in person at the airport for a few extra kilos.

Put it another way. Imagine a convict who pulls out his wisdom tooth with his bare hands. Imagine that convict sharpening that tooth fragment on the wall of his cell everyday for 10 years until it's sharp enough to use as a weapon to kill the warden who fucks him in the ass every night with his truncheon. Now imagine how much hate that guy has. Well - I think I've got more."

Gil: ".... That's one of the reasons why I still talk to you. For these colourful metaphors."

Someone else I know recently got a stinging order never to post anything related to God on a debator's blog told me he found it ironic that a debator would want to censor freedom of speech.

I stared incredulously and told him that expecting a debator to have an ideological commitment to freedom of speech is like expecting a politician to serve the public trust. After all, a debate isn't about freedom of speech. Quite the opposite, as any good debator should know, it's about winning a contest of structured argumentation within fairly proscribed rules - such as the restrictions against hung cases, for one. (Hm.. do they penalise hung cases in JC debates?)

In any event, as I advised my friend, a debator's role in the debate is to win an argument by oratory and logic. It has nothing to do with his personal opinions or preferences, particularly on private property such as his blog. However, as a consoling sop, I admitted that the "shut up I don't want to hear about it" tactic rarely wins points from adjudicators in a debate. But a blog isn't (necessarily) a forum for debate.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

A colleague of mine showed me a (pirated) DVD of Cinderella which he'd bought or his daughter. Much to his amusement, the blurb on the reverse of the pirate-manufactured) DVD case displayed an MPAA rating of "R - May contain foul language, nudity and drug use."

My response: "Maybe it's the director's cut"

Possible deleted scenes:

Foul Language - Evil stepsister ranting at the ending "How did that @#$%ing whore Cinderella snare that asshole of a prince! Bastard! @#$%ing glass slipper!"

Drug Use - Cinderella shooting up cocaine and popping amphetamines in the cellar on the night of the ball. That would certainly go a long way to explaining how the mice transform into footmen and pumpkins become carriages. The fairy godmother was probably her local pusher.

Nudity - Hmmmm.. Cinderella running home in the nude after midnight and her gown turns into rotting sackcloth?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I wrote the following after being forwarded yet another "motivational" story:

Attitude - is it everything?.., based on a fairy tale by Francie Baltazar-Schwartz

Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!” This, of course, confounded and annoyed everyone he said it to, for it made absolutely so sense at all.

He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation. Of course, his boisterous enthusiasm about thinking positive despite the vagaries of reality infuriated people who were not hooked on self-motivational techniques, and he was especially unwelcome at sorrowful occasions - funerals, for example, when his zest for thinking positively and inciting others to do likewise was just inappropriate. Everyone remembered what had happened when he’d shown up at Jane’s mother’s funeral and scandalised everyone with his upbeat remarks about how her hernia would never trouble her again, and how she would not have to pay taxes anymore, dancing as she was in the Elysian Fields, while Jane would not have to take care of an incontinent, Parkinson’s Disease-stricken crone anymore, and would get her mother’s old house to boot!

Seeing this style really made me curious, if not a bit apprehensive, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?’

Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, ‘Jerry, you have 2 choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.”

“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.

Yes it is, Jerry said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live life.”

I reflected on what Jerry said even though his words rung hollow. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I tried hard to be inspired by his philosophy about life. Nevertheless, it failed for I could not deceive myself. Every morning from then on, I woke up and said to myself: Man, you have 2 choices today. You can choose to delude yourself into thinking that you are happy regardless of everything that happens, and looking at the ‘silver lining’ of every storm cloud, even if there is none (hallucinating one if need be to continue the elaborate self-deception), or you can stare reality straight in the eye with no illusions and face life. I chose not to look at the world through tinted lenses. Each time something bad happened, I allowed room for regret, grief, self-pity and other cathartic emotions, and everytime someone came to me trying to convert me to Jerry’s deceptive philosophy, or something very much like it, I pointed out how they were deceiving themselves, and how it was like being addicted to Magic Mushrooms or plugged into the Matrix. Regretfully, I did not manage to convince many, for they were content to wallow in their addictive cocktail of feel-good stories, self-help books grounded n sophistry and “motivational” seminar after “motivational” seminar, delivered by saccharinely fake characters reminiscent of the worst sort of used car salesman I’d ever seen.

Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by 3 armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma centre.

After I8 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.

I saw Jerry about 6 months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?

Somehow I was not surprised that he was still spouting that gibberish, and almost delivered a choice repartee under my breath. I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place.

“The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied. ‘Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had 2 choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live.”

“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked. Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, ‘He’s a dead man.’ I knew I needed to take action”

‘What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me,’ said Jerry. “She asked if I was allergic to anything, and I decided to be a wiseacre. ‘Yes,’ I replied, with a great effort. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. As I took a deep breath, the unnecessary effort caused more air and blood to gush into my punctured lungs and croaked, ‘Bullets!’. Waves of pain shot through my already pain-wracked body, and my breathing became more laboured. Over my pain, I dimly heard that burly nurse scolding me: ‘Screw you! We’re trying to do a job here. So stop cracking bad jokes and lowering your chances of survival.’ Chastened, I managed to whisper, ‘I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead. The burly nurse shouted at me again: ‘If we thought you were dead, we’d have stopped life support long ago and sold your organs to geriatric billionaires, or maybe to that guy in charge of Body Worlds. Now shut up.’

Jerry lived thanks to the skills of his doctors, but no thanks to his ‘positive’ attitude. 20 years later, I met Jerry again. He was still working in the same job and commanding the same pay, while being abused by all his superiors. Everyone else had long moved past him up the career ladder. I was curious, so I asked him why he hadn’t changed his job if it sucked so much.

He replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, ‘Jerry, you have 2 choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Everytime someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life. Every time a customer spills hot soup onto my lap, or someone “accidentally’ leaves a banana peel on the floor in front of me and I slip on it, landing heavily on my tailbone, I look on the bright side: At least I still have a job. It could be worse - I could be begging on the streets”

I neglected to point out to him that, especially with a booming economy, any employer would be more than happy to take on an employee who accepted pay below the minimum wage and worked so cheerfully, motivated by empty words and hollow motivational slogans instead of decent pecuniary or even non-pecuniary benefits. With such an attitude, it was no wonder he was content to stagnate in his job and let everyone walk all over him.

Attitude, after all, isn’t everything.

I learnt from him that everyday we have the choice to deceive ourselves, and sadly, many choose to do so. Being unhappy is not necessarily bad, for it motivates you to do something about your situation and terminate the source of your troubles. After all, what do we gain by tricking ourselves into believing that we are happy? Perhaps more troublingly, if everybody were happy all of the time, the concept of happiness would be meaningless, for just as there is no good without evil and no light without darkness, there is no happiness without sadness. If one is happy all the time, in the face of reality, it cheapens the concept of happiness and makes a travesty out of it.

I have now learnt that we should not take all motivational stories at face value and send them to all our friends, because one must realise that most of them are disingenuous pieces of writing meant to deceive you about the reality of the world, and set up a self-perpetuating cycle of dependence on and addiction to self-help and motivational products and seminars to enrich those who furnish them.

You have 2 choices now:

1. Delete this crap from your mail box, or,
2. Forward it to everyone you know (and some you don’t for good measure), and annoy the hell out of all of them.

Hope you will choose choice 2.

The grammar quiz is so easy. 4 out of 11 correct answers gets you the Hitler result. Gah.

How was the Muppet Show altered for screening in Turkey?

Answer: No Miss Piggy, since the pig is unclean for Muslim audiences.

Other answers submitted:

- After uncovering some of Edison's early research, they played the soundtrack backwards so they could understand what the Swedish chef was saying?
- Miss Piggy wore a headscarf, Kermit grew a beard, and Gonzo strapped 10 sticks of dynamite to his body and drove his motorcycle into the American Embassy.
- Big Bird and the Cookie Monster are caught smoking hash and stoned to death.
- I'm not sure. Did it have anything to do with the subtitles that were shown when the Swedish Chef went ballistic, screaming "Stuff Turkey ... Stuff Turkey"?
- It was translated into Turkish, which caused quite a ruckus when they discovered much to their chagrin that "Gonzo" is a Turkish slang word for indecent activities involving pork products and frog's legs...
- They changed the frog's name to 'Kurdmit.'

A Treatise on the Astrolabe - Geoffrey Chaucer, appr. 1391

Boobies or Butt - Harder than the Moobs of Boobs quiz. I only got 5/10. I attribute it to a lack of practice, really.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Flustered, somewhat. Found out only a handful of cinemas in singapore still show Lord of the rings 3 (RoTK) and none show The Company anymore. I want to watch the odd couple before it ends its run (rather, before i leave singapore); i want to attend the jitterbugs jazz dance classes though they're far away (millenia walk is far away by my standards). Should I show my face at the melbourne uni pre-departure seminar? (I know i asked myself the same question last year)

But what is important to me? are these all worthwhile? (considering the costs, especially)

Australia (and the 1.31 exchange rate ) is looming nearer. Yikes!

Went running yesterday. Haven't gone seriously running since.... early december. Really enjoyed it.... something about pushing yourself beyond where you last went. Okay, so 2.4km is kinda wimpish to a lot of you, but that's probably 2km more than i've run for the last month or so. Same goes for weights training - if you're (like lazy me) stuck on the same weight dumbells/barbells for over a couple of months there's something wrong; you should be progressing to a heavier set/more reps by then. Going beyond the routine, progressing, stretching yourself - that is The way of achieving big goals and visions. Also refer to this. Despite intellectualizing and rationalizing everything, the only way you know you can break the time record for a run, or prove that you are able to lift a heavier set, is to actually do it. Same goes for everything - your spiritual life included.

And that's .... why I'm here in this time and place, i guess. The andrew who left melbourne on 22 november 2003 is not the same andrew who landed in singapore on the same day; likewise the andrew who wound back in the singapore airport on 5 january is not the same andrew who will be departing the same airport in 19 days' time. Everything must progress and go on .... like a friend said, I do have the choice; I always have the choice open to me ... and this path is the one i've chosen. I know what is ahead of me is virgin territory; I don't have to like what I see ahead of me; all I have to know is that the Master is in front of me preparing the ground. I don't have to like the fact that I will have to traverse many parts of this road alone, but I know one Person who will always be my side. Andrew, quit comparing your road to others' !

That's all I have to say for now.
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