Things to do when you’ve nothing to do

There’s such a thing as terminal boredom, where you slowly wilt from inertia.

But I won’t die from that, because there are so many things to do online, like blogging with your eyes closed, ferinstance.

I was about to try that when a new msn messenger chat window opened, and it was my buddy the American-Chinese-Actor-based-in-Beijing-studying-Mandarin.

Dude!, he said.

Hey Joe, I said.

Dude, don’t call me Joe. I went to see a palmist and fortune teller and he’s told me to change my name, he replied.

So what’s your new name?

See my MSN nickname?

It says Li Zhaogeng (Joe Lee)

That’s it, dude. Call me that please.

OK, Li Zhaogeng (Joe Lee).

Yeah, it’ll bring me good fortune.

You bet it will. It means ‘your undies are showing’.

Are you shitting me??

Ask any Singaporean or Taiwanese, dude. But you’re in Beijing now, so it means something else, and you can always call yourself Joe again when you’re back here.

You’re full of shit.

I know.

You’re not gonna put it in your blog are you?



Surf stop: HostSara- Be heard. Be real. I just WANNA BE ME. (Sorry, someone said they wanted to see more celebrity blogs. So, via Re-minisce, here ’tis, lor. I also cough cough.)
iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Margarita – Traveling Wilburys – Vol. 1, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

Rules of engagement and other things reservists have to worry about

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Guilty – Jimmy Barnes – Flesh and Wood, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

My Army unit is on Mobilisation Manning this week, right after 17 days of in-camp training! If they mobilise us this Saturday just to practice, we will be very, very upset. Watch your tv screens for the flashing green man with our codewords: Flying Oyster Omelette, Soiled Sanitary Pad & Deep Fried Tofu. If they mobilise us because some Al-Qaeda affiliate tries to bash through the impenetrable barriers at Holland Village, we will still be very, very upset. Woe betide the Al-Qaeda affiliate. You joined the wrong club. Me and me mates wiw kew you dead, because we haven’t had the chance to watch a midnight movie in a while.

Speaking of angry reservists, so, no one wet their beds last, last Sunday night, and the IPPT was conducted on Monday morning without incident. Later on, we went for our theory lessons in Laws of Armed Conflict and Rules of Engagement. At the lecture, they showed us slides with some basic pointers on International Humanitarian Law accompanied by some gruesome pictures. Then they showed us clips from Platoon (“My Lai” village scene), and Rules of Engagement.

Coincidentally, my platoon mate Dilbert Chua lent me a book called “Tell Me No Lies“, which has a chapter on My Lai. So, in between naps, I read the chapter and wondered if Tuesday’s practical portion of the LOAC and ROE (the SAF, they lurve them acronyms) could be effectively taught at the FIBUA (Fighting In Built Up Area) “village” near the ATC (Armour Training Centre).

The lesson module was such that we were not told what exactly to expect, and how exactly to react, and we were to see if our military objectives could be effectively met while observing LOAC and ROE. So, we were shot at by ‘civilian simulators’ from the second floors (thank goodness only second floor. No lift leh!) of the HDB blocks, shot at from an ambulance, shot at from outside a checkpoint, grenaded by a ‘simulated pregnant woman’, delayed by a ‘simulated hostage taker’ taking ‘simulated hostages’, delayed by a ‘simulated civilian asking for food and water and getting in the line of fire’ etc, etc.

It all went according to the trainers’ expectations. We didn’t know how to react. And because this was just a simulation, and not somewhere in Fallujah, the funniest scenario was when one section from my tactical team stormed a building only to find that two civilians had been taken hostage, and so we couldn’t lob grenades into all three rooms of the three room flat from which we were fired upon.

Tired and frustrated from climbing the stairs, and perhaps also from having problems at home, the ‘hostage negotiations’ were opened by a member of the section and it went something like this:

What the fuck you want, ninabehcheebye motherfucker?

I want an airline ticket!

Airline ticket?? Cheebye! Simi airline?!


Cheebye! Emirates?! Ki tolo?! (go where?)


Fuck you! Kaninabuchowcheebyemotherfucker! Limpehshootjitliaphorliseeeee!

And then there was a burst of automatic gunfire. After which, the slack-jawed trainer declared the simulated hostages and their simulated captor dead.

Then we broke for lunch, the troopers and simulated civilians and terrorists, though we could’ve eaten earlier if we had just lobbed grenades into the flat and saved some time. Some of us spoke up and said they were glad we weren’t in a real war zone, because we might end up doing the same things the Americans are doing in Iraq, or the Israelis in the occupied territories.

But would we, me and me mates, be as indiscriminately murderous if say, an Al-Qaeda affiliate tried to bash through the barriers at Holland Village? I’d say no. Because earlier, my section came under simulated sniper fire from a simulated two-room flat, and my section commander led us upstairs to the door of the flat, knocked on the door and said, “Open up, I count to three, you better open up, or else… or else…. we come in! ONE, TWO, THREE! Open lah, cheebye!”

At our debrief, we were asked what else we could have done to meet our objective (which was to secure the junction downstairs). We could have lobbed two simulated M203 grenades into the windows where the sniper fire was coming from, and we’d be happy as larry, junction secured. But we didn’t.

So all youse civilians, ang mohs and chow-keng-never-do-reservist-because-downgradeds, if an Al-Qaeda affiliate tries to bash through the barriers at Holland Village, and me and me mates are mobilised, you can still sip your Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf lattes while we think twice before fragging the whole place. And you have our Army and their LOAC/ROE lesson package to thank.

We also learned that Singapore is not a signatory to the 1st (Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts) and 2nd (Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts) additional protocols of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Anyone know why?

Laws of Armed Conflict & Rules of Engagement practical training
Mr Tan’s neighbourhood residents’ committee tended to go over the top when dealing with complaints of noisy neighbours

Motor Morons’ Motoring Weekend

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Being With You – Smokey Robinson – Billboard Top Hits: 1981, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

No, I didn’t go watch the rugby or the wakeboarding this weekend, because every time I looked out the window, it looked like it was gonna rain chubby rain.

What I did instead was a spot of retail therapy with a friend who’s looking to buy a car. Because this was the first time either of us were looking at showroom cars (as opposed to caryard ones), we were very excited. We collected half a dozen brochures before we mustered enough courage to ask for a test drive. Yes, me and my friend are what you would call Motor Morons.

Very tiring weekend, but here’s our Motor Moron Motor Review:

Chevrolet Aveo:

Not a good feel at all. Horrible interior with plastic trimmings that look like Airfix parts. (In fact, the drinks-holder fell apart because the airfix glue never glue properly). The doors were tinny-sounding when you closed them.

Two thumbs down.

Mitsubishi Lancer:

Looked pretty alright from the outside, though a bit ‘Beng/Lian’. The inside was a bit outdated, with the instrument cluster looking like something from the early 90s. The ride was pretty smooth, and we didn’t bang anything or what, even if it was our first time driving it. We even went into a road hump pretty hard, and the car still stayed together like a dream. Not a peep from the salesman either.

In the lobby of the showroom was a ‘Ralliart’ version of the Lancer. My brother (who’s not a Motor Moron, but likes to make fun of Motor Morons) says I should get it, so I look like I have a sports car, though it won’t drive like one. Apparently there’s something called the Evil Eight or something version of the Lancer that the Bengs and their molls can’t get enough of. Now, that’s a sports car, says my brother.

My brother also says Mitsubishi is coming up with a ‘new shape’ for the Lancer, so don’t buy a Lancer now.

But the Lancer comes with a Sony or Kenwood car stereo that plays MP3 discs leh.

One thumb up, one thumb down.

Toyota Vios:

We didn’t get to test drive this car because the showroom was chockers with people looking to buy cars, and the salesman said ‘How to test drive, see how crowded it is?’. Minus 20,000 points. But the Vios is pretty neat, with the instrument cluster in the middle of the dashboard, tilted towards the driver so the driver can still see how fast he or she is going. But there’s still too much of that fake wood veneer panelling thing going on, and that makes it look a little dated. The doors shut pretty nicely though.

One thumb up, one thumb down (for impatient salesman).

Mazda 3:

We already liked the look of the Mazda 3, and we were attended to by a woman called Rosie, and she could tell at once that we were Motor Morons. (There was that glint in her eye while we had that glaze in ours). Rosie was pretty good at convincing us that the Mazda 3 was the best car in its class, even if it was $10-15K more expensive than other compact sedans. It was pretty crowded at the showroom too, but Rosie managed to get us a yellow Mazda 3 to play around with.

The ride was pretty good, and we weren’t at all distracted by Rosie talking non-stop while we negotiated the weekend afternoon traffic. The car’s interior is very stylo-mylo, and it has one of those nifty steering wheel controlled stereo systems.

And when we were done with our test drive, we closed the doors and there was a very satisfying ‘clump’ sound as they shut. Mmmm. Not tinny.

Rosie carried on talking about which model we should buy, as if we were already set on buying one.

‘Don’t buy the RS! What for? Sports package make the car very heavy! $5,000 more to make the car drink more petrol! No point lah!’, she said.

Two thumbs up.

Next week: Test driving cars I cannot afford.

My father the eggbeater

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing: South Side – Moby – Play

‘A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.’

Jorge Luis Borges, Afterword, El Hacedor

Several years ago I took a road trip with Pa up north to Seremban, where we were to settle some family things.

We had some time to spare, so he asked me to drive slowly, and said that I must ‘turn up out the exit’ when he tells me to. Pa’s directions to drivers are often exasperatingly cryptic. Many times, my road rage is directed at him.

What is ‘turn up’? Left or right? Tell me left or right? Don’t tell me ‘up’ or ‘down’ the road, can?

This time, he asked me to ‘turn up out the exit’ somewhere south of Seremban, and take the rickety old trunk road we used to take when I was a kid.

Pa required several toilet breaks as I did smoke breaks. At the various stops along the highway, I took out a notebook and started interviewing him, asking him about my family’s history.

We drove to the township of Mantin, Negri Sembilan, where, according to Pa, the coffee shop that stood in the middle of town still looked the same as it did sixty years ago. With the Plus expressway, Mantin has more or less lost its purpose. It remains a typically dusty Malaysian town, with people drifting around on little motorbikes, dirty Malay kids running barefoot, tired looking Chinese schoolchildren lugging their Mickey Mouse bags back from school.

Pa said he used to work at the coffee shop as a coffee boy. His eyes welled up as he spoke of sellling coffee powder and yew char kuay at the market; of cycling the twenty odd kilometres to Seremban to school; of how Grandfather and Grandmother lived separately; of how Grandmother sailed from Hainan to Malaya to look for Grandfather, but didn’t know where Malaya was, and how, as a result, her route was Village – Haikou – Canton – Hanoi – Saigon – Bangkok – Hatyai – Ipoh – Seremban; and of how, when he was six years old, Grandmother sent him on a boat to Singapore to look for Grandfather, not knowing Grandfather was in Port Dickson, and couldn’t come to Singapore to meet him because he owed a substantial amount of money to some Hainanese gentleman there.

My notebook was soon filled, noting these and many other stories, some involving Malaysian royalty. Some about thugs. And some about how our family came to run nightclubs and hotels that rented rooms out by the hour.

Pa was laughing as he told me the odds and ends of his life. He was tearing as well.

I asked Pa why he never told me or my siblings these things before. And he said, voice breaking as he did, ‘I don’t want you all to know about poverty’.

On Tuesday night, Pa called me on my mobile (even though we live in the same house), and asked if I could see him in his room. I went, and he told me he went to the neurosurgeon’s who confirmed he had Parkinson’s Disease.

He then said, Old already is like that one lah.

I said, Good, Saturday morning you make breakfast. Scrambled eggs. No sunny side up in this house anymore!

Pa laughed again for a good minute, again hiding his hands behind his back so I wouldn’t see him with his shakes.

Not to be

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing: She’s Not For You – Willie Nelson – Across The Borderline

The wife arranged for tickets for Private Parts to be picked up at 7.45pm. We left for the Esplanade with time to spare. But.

But tonight was the first big event in the month long National Day celebrations. The roads were chockers with people who like to watch fireworks because they think fireworks are roolly cool to watch. All carparks in the vicinity and beyond were full. Illegal parking wasn’t even to be had. There was no chance I could park the tank anywhere within a half hour’s walk. Thinking quickly, I aimed for hotels with valet parking services or expensive carparks with fewer cars. Then I realised I’d left my wallet at home and there was only like $2.40 in my on-board cashcard. I missed the play. Big deal. Only $65 and some petrol wasted.