Pimp your vice..

Everyone has their own form of vices. In the Chinese context, vices come in the form of “piu” or flirt, “tou” or gamble, “yum” or alcoholism, “chui” or smoke and “sik” or gluttony. In the context of the 20th century, vices come in a totally different form. Simply put, it can be categorized into “kopi” or coffee, “ka toong peen” or anime, “wan tin lou yau hei” or pc gaming, “fun kow” or sleep and “wai sik” or gluttony. Seems like the only thing that remained unchanged is the vice on food.
Where vices use to take on a more holistic form, like visits to the discotheque or mamak stall, what once was a group activity has disintegrated to an individual form. This evolution is sparked by the creation of mind engaging anime like Naruto and Bleach, which not only infuses the mind with motivation and the will to live on, but also changes the way we speak and talk. Bankai. At night, groups of people would be transfixed to their computer screen in search for the latest release via youtube or bit torrent engines to get the latest episodes of Naruto Shippuuden or Bleach. I myself frequent http://www.naruto-kun.com/ to determine if the latest episodes of the two anime are released by Dattebayo.
“Wan tin lou yau hei” on the other hand, is a less frequent but equally severe vice. As sources for this vice is less easy to obtain (at least for me la), it has hence become a periodic vice. Guys addicted to this vice will feel a sudden urge to lead huge armies of troops to dominate others. The symptoms however differ depending on the software used. Those addicted to “Lord of the Rings – Battle for Middle Earth” would have an urge to lead either hordes of cavalry or hordes of orcs to battle, whereas those addicted to “Warhammer 40,000 – Dark Crusade” would have six different symptoms ranging from Necrotism to Blood Ravenism”. I am currently inflicted with ‘40,000’ symptoms, literally that is.
Drinking used to be a huge problem for youths. Nowadays, drinking is nonetheless a problem, but the type of fluid has evolved from clear golden to brownish black. No I am not referring to Guiness Stout or toilet water. What I meant was coffee. Now coffee itself isn’t a problem, but an overdose of coffee, added with frequent visits to the coffee dispensing outlets is a social problem. If you don’t go and drink coffee, you are anti-social, and hence that becomes a source of social unrest. Refer to my article on coffee i.e. Although a vice, coffee has many beneficial properties like it being a better anti-oxidant than vitamin c and having age defying benefits. I normally add in the latter to make others go ‘lim teh’. Now ‘lim teh’ is another topic, which in itself deserves an entire post, so I won’t discuss it here.
The last 2 vices shouldn’t need any explanation. If you need to be told why people like to sleep and eat, then you must be a real moron.
That’s it folks! The vices of the 20th century. Well, you’ve probably noticed that I’m cutting this short. My boss is around the corner and I should be studying how to influence government policies, not blog about how my Bankai can defeat a Vaizard. Adios!

Speaking up....

One thing I realised in my course of work is that public speaking is not the thing for everyone. I don't really meaning speaking in front of a crowd on a stage in a planned setting, but even those times when you're in a meeting or a small discussion and you've had the urge to speak up but supressed it.
Nowadays, more than not, I've had to sit in meetings with a bunch of older folk... when I mean older I don't mean in months. I'm in my thirties and with any luck, they're not more than 15 years older than me. It gets particularly awkward when you have to do a presentation to 'share' or 'educate' them. These guys must be thinking, "This kid was in his diapers when I started work" or " I eat salt more than he drink water".
Just a few months back, I had to present to a bunch of professionals in their 40s or 50s. Knowing the futility of teaching a race horse how to walk, I decided that speed was the essence. Wrapped up the presentation so fast, they probably only saw the title and thank you slides. Today is another one of those instances. Here I am with a bunch of professionals sharing their thoughts on country policy. Yes I guess I can be considered a policy maker, but sitting with a bunch of people I don't know that well gives me the jitters. I remember having meetings with a whole bunch of directors and managers I knew and speaking up on every instance I had an issue with. Now, in a totally different setting, I am sitting quiet and pretty, with tons of banter and ideas and opinions running through my brain, but without the same confidence and enthusiasm I once had.
It might be age catching up, or unlikely but remotely possible fact that I am getting to be a little bit more matured, but the root cause, I feel, lies with interest. Where what others say or how others react have no more influence than a twig in a forest on decisions on policy, the act of challenging others opinions becomes redundant. And where your opinion is as good as the litter on a food court table, I guess speaking up is no longer a good way to share.
Perhaps there will come a day when I become comfortable enough in my current environment to speak up with confidence again, but I doubt it'd be in this environment.

What the cow says on Boss vs Leader...

I remember this article hanging at the cubicle of one of the assistant managers of my ex company... which says something like "What the cow says on Boss vs Leader..." It has since been an inspiration for me to put up articles all over my cubicle, some humorous some ironic. But everytime I get frustrated over management, what the cow says comes into mind..
Probably have blogged a million times on bosses and supervisors and work frustration. Today, it'll be a little different. Lets talk about people. We do realise that organisations are in its entirety about people and are all made of people. Yet, many times the asset we value most is not people but achievements.
Some people work for years, gain lots of experience, achieve tons for their company, only to have the company hire someone inexperienced to supervise them. Some people get paid peanuts for building Rome, while watching others get paid buffets for building a mole hill. Some people get screwed for their incompetencies, by those that are incompetent in finding their competencies.
A recent survey of the government sector showed that the no 1 concern of civil servants was the transparency of performance appraisals and rewards or remunerations. It has always been a known fact that appraisals were based on how much your boss liked you, rather than how much you did for the organisation. A HR officer responded to such query by saying that "it is as much your responsibility to make your boss like you, as it is for your boss to like you". My response to that..."BULLSHIT!". So, how can a performance appraisal be transparent when its based on what an individual likes? I remember doing an appraisal for a staff under me. After completing the appraisal, I was told that his final Grade was low and that I had to tone down his appraisal report. I mean, how fair can it be when you get the final Grade first, then write or revise the report? I also remember looking at the appraisal of a person that was promoted. "He is a great worker and is well liked by the staff around him". If I was the manager, I'd shoot the worker then shoot myself. There has to be objective means of assessing a persons worth to an organisation rather than how much people liked him, right? Thats why bosses are being paid 5 figure salaries to find that out, right? Or are these people being paid tons to just be models or garygoyles?
A new initiative that was carried out is the salary revision. Though I shall censore my personal feeling of the issue, one thing I do feel appropriate to discuss is the underlying reason for people to leave the government sector. I do hope that someone would study this and seriously ask why turnover rates of government staff are increasing. There are much much more to salaries and rewards that people look for in their career. Theoretically speaking, we have job security, job satisfaction, responsibilities, blah blah blah. Practically speaking I would say that there are only two things involved: people and living. On people, we have the overzealous peers, the overbearing supervisors, the overscrutinizing bosses, etc... we all know these characters and are involved with them some time or the other. I know people who quit job after job only to find out that these "over-" species are everywhere! There's no way you can avoid them. Either you learn to accept them, or you leave. So, some people I know change jobs every year. Has anyone realised that people are the things that are driving other people out? If you remove a boss from an organisation, you might be able to prevent 10 staff from quiting. If you remove a leader from an organisation, you'd be inciting 10 other people to quit. And chances are, in your current organisation, if you'd pick a target at random, there's a 70% chance you'd hit a boss. They're numbers greatly exceed that of leaders. 70% is a little too kind... I think the ratio is at 9:1...
The second issue is on living. While we all agree that Singapore is a nice country to live in, times are increasingly difficult for the common man. GST is up...housing prices have escalated from "oh shit" to "oh my god". Petrol prices are higher than alcohol. Medical expenses are at "god, please let me die". So, while all these are increasing, funny thing is that salaries are increasing at a much much slower pace. So, how is the common man to survive? I seriously think that one off payments are childs play. "Give you $10 to buy sweet ah.. but from now, cut $1 from your allowance for the rest of your life". Do the math... in 10 installments, the $10 is gone but you continue to bleed. Only thing is that you've bled for some time and don't realise that you are still bleeding. People work to earn a living. The keyword is living. Living comes from the word life...which means, you have to be able to support your own life and the life of your dependants. To me, the minimum a person needs in this century is a shelter, food, transportation, medical coverage and a little entertainment.
Here, you need to take up a 25 year loan to be able to stay in a flat... its not yours per say, you're renting it for 99 years or less. Food is more and more expensive as petrol prices increase. Mee siam that used to be 50c is now $2.50. Transportation is expensive. Getting a car is like having a mistress; it leaves you after 10 years unless you change to another mistress before she leaves. And the current amount of cars and COEs released in the market isn't helping out at all. Cars = Jams = Increased Waiting Time = Petrol wastage = Accidents... You can see that I am not very good at math, but you get the point right? Wonder what they are doing about traffic control. COE and ERP now seems more like a fund raisers rather than traffic control.
Medical coverage has always been a problem, especially for the elderly. And the new policy to allow GPs to set their own consultation fees is not a good move in my personal opinion. I know of a GP who once cheated a child to take a vitamin injection costing $120 while his dad was in the restroom. The same GP charges $60 for consultation, even for the common cold. In the clinic, he give you panadol or paracetamol for fever, lomotil and some activated carbon for diarrhoea, antacids for gastric... purely symptomatic relief. I don't mean to criticize the medical profession, but I do seriously think that these 1 or 2 doctors are abusing the fact that they are the only doctors in a location and that people don't have a choice but to pay them the amount they want. I am very afraid of the future, knowing that sickness follows old age and that our medical expenses are increasing and that the only recourse we have now is to depend on expensive insurance packages.
The other thing I seriously feel strongly about is making the elderly work. Yes, it is a good point to keep fit and have a healthy mind. But nowadays, the issue is not about working to kill time, but working to survive. I spoke to a cleaner at a food court who told me that he can't stop working even after he is dead, because he has wife and young kids to support. Another one told me he needs to work to earn his lunch and dinner...no work = no food. To me, I always believe that old people should do some work... work like Taichi, playing chinese chess, having fun with grandchildren... not sweeping floors, cleaning toilets and wiping tables.
Well, as usual I am disgruntled. While disgruntled, I still stand by my principle that life has to go on. We still have to face people and continue living. So, the cow has given me some thought. Think about it. Have you given it some thought?

When I can, I will...

I was just reciting a verse from Smashing Pumpkin's 'Today'. I was just scrolling through youtube when I saw THE clip. Just realised that I've never really seen their MTVs although they were our favourite alternative band in years ago.

Its been years since I've heard them. Last was 'Bullet with Butterfly Wings' in 1995 which was released as a single. As usual, they're not for the weak hearted. Their lyrics were incomprehensibly incomprehensible. The music was catchy and uniquely alternative. And no one seemed to fit the alternative genre so comfortably as the Smashing Pumpkins did.

I remember spending nights listening to their songs, songs like disarm, today, hummer, rocket, mayonaise and much much more. Lyrics like "When I can, I will... Try to understand...That when I can, I will" just hits the spot at what we believed in then...
Just to share, these are a few MTVs for Rocket, Today and Disarm that I've found on youtube.

Couldn't find the mtv for Mayonaise though. Here's the live version... purely spectacular!

It's good that there are small things that we can remember and reminisce when times get a little difficult. I'm sure everyone has that special place in their hearts for simple yet meaningful things in their lives. If you can't find it, just trudge a little deeper... inspiration will always find you..

Here are the lyrics for mayonaise... for SP fans..

Fool enough to almost be it
Cool enough to not quite see it
Pick your pockets full of sorrow
And run away with me tomorrow

We'll try and ease the pain
But somehow we'll feel the same
Well, no one knows
Where our secrets go

I send a heart to all my dearies
When your life is so, so dreary
I'm rumored to the straight and narrow
While the harlots of my perils

And I fail
But when I can, I will
Try to understand
That when I can, I will

Mother weep the years I'm missing
All our time can't be given
Shut the mouth and strike the demons
Cursed you and your reasons
Out of hand and out of season
Out of love and out of feeling
So bad

When I can, I will
Words defy the plan
When I can, I will

Fool enough to almost be it
And cool enough to not quite see it
And old enough to always feel this
Always old, I'll always feel this

No more promise no more sorrow
No longer will I follow
Can anybody hear me
I just want to be me

When I can, I will
Try to understand
That when I can, I will

Wow....what a bigggg ant...

We went for a visit to the showroom of our new place. The place had lots of monkeys, considering that it was beside a nature reserve. We had a tour of the showroom, then decided to go take a look at our unit from outside, as the place was still under construction.

As we went to the site, the ground was covered by a puddle of water, preventing us from getting a good view of our unit under construction. Then, my other half had an idea of going up the trail of the adjacent nature reserve so that we can get an aerial view of the development. We drove over to the Park, and followed the trail.

First thing we noticed was this biggg ant... I mean it was like 3cm... not your ordinary everyday ant.. couldn't get a good picture of it as it was moving about.

Then we went up the trail a little further. It wasn't too difficult for me as I had track shoes on. My other half was wearing high heels.... god bless her...

We came to a small bridge leading to another trail. Just then, she saw something which ended our journey of the nature reserve.. and we had probably had the World Record for the fastest descent... this is the culprit:

300....another crappy 'Phenom'enal article

Was just browsing around, when I found this website on ancient history.

What caught my attention were the details of the historical facts as compared to what was used in the movie "300". Based on Frank Miller's comic book graphics, though most effects seemed surreal and animated, I guess there are some salient points which matched the spirit of history with that of the movie.

“Thermopylae was a pass that the Greeks tried unsuccessfully to defend in battle against the Persians led by Xerxes in 480 B.C. Although the Spartans who led the defense were all killed (and may have known in advance that they would be), their courage provided inspiration to the Greeks, many of whom otherwise might have willingly become part of the Persian Empire. The following year the Greeks did win battles against the Persians.”

The pass of Thermopylae, the actual site.

All the details of the movie seemed to follow historical events, well almost all, except maybe Xerxes. King Xerxes, instead of being bearded and seated at his throne was depicted as a bald, huge and gayish figure, choosing to go to the frontlines rather than be at a distance away from the battlefield. He should've looked like:

this....................... instead of this....................... or this

But then again, a bearded old king on a throne wouldn't make as much of an impact as a Dhalsim look-alike, would it..

"Xerxes' fleet of Persian ships had sailed along the coastline from northern Greece into the Gulf of Malia on the eastern Aegean Sea towards the mountains at Thermopylae. The Greeks faced the Persian army at a narrow pass there that controlled the only road between Thessaly and Central Greece. The Spartan general and king Leonidas in charge of the Greek forces that tried to restrain the vast Persian army and keep them from attacking the rear of the Greek navy (under Athenian control). Leonidas may have hoped to block them long enough that Xerxes would have to sail away for food and water.”

The fact that they were attempting to prevent the attack on the Greek Navy was a little downplayed in the movie. Felt as though they were trying more to be heroic rather than prevent an attack on the Athenians controlling the Greek Navy.

Well, the 300 seemed to be alone at the hot gates to face the Persians. Seemed though that they had an army of 300 pus Thespians and Thebans amounting to close to 7,000 Greeks. Then again, he sent away most of his amassed troops. Probably knew that the Thespians and Thebans were wusses that can't fight.

Leonidas? I think he looks better with the beard.

“Unfortunately for Leonidas, after a couple of days, a medizing traitor named Ephialtes led the Persians around the pass behind the Greek army. The name of Ephialtes' path behind the pass at Thermopylae (which means "hot gates") is Anopaea; its exact location is debated. Leonidas sent away most of the amassed troops.”

Ephialtes was a shepherd and a traitor, but not a deformed figure. Again, its from a comic...

I have to say this looks much much better...

Another observation worth mentioning was the pieces of meat all over the screen. I mean, weren’t hoplites supposed to look like this? Someone give those poor beef some clothes!

I think fitness centres should take some lessons from the Spartans...

"On the third day, Leonidas led his 300 Spartan hoplites (elite troops selected because they had living sons back home) plus the allied Thespians and Thebans against Xerxes and his army of "10,000 Immortals." The Spartan-led forces fought this unstoppable Persian force to their deaths in order to block the pass long enough to keep Xerxes and his army occupied while the rest of the Greek army escaped."
"The Achaemenid Immortals (or Persian Immortals, or simply Immortals) were the Persian elite Imperial Guard regiment during the Greco-Persian Wars. Herodotus describes the Immortals as being heavy infantry led by Hydarnes that were kept constantly in strength of exactly 10,000 men — every killed, seriously wounded or sick member was immediately replaced with a new one, maintaining the cohesion of the unit."

Persian Immortals - heavy infantry, not Japanese, Mexican or Grotesque immortals..

"According to Cartledge, the Spartan Dieneces was so virtuous (aristeia relates to virtue and to the reward given the most honored soldier, which in this battle was Dieneces) that when he was told that there were so many Persian archers that the sky would grow dark with the flying missiles, his laconic reply was: "So much the better -- we shall fight them in the shade." Spartan boys were trained in night raids, so although this was a show of bravery, there was more to it."

Yup....the arrows really did cover the skys.. oh wait, that was in the movie..

"After Leonidas died, there is a story that the Greeks tried to retrieve the corpse in a gesture worthy of the Myrmidons trying to rescue Patroclus in the Iliad XVII, but to no avail. The Thebans surrendered, the Spartans and Thespians retreated and were shot by Persian archers. The body of Leonidas may have been crucified or beheaded on Xerxes' orders. It was retrieved about 40 years later.
Persians, whose naval fleet had already suffered seriously from storm damage, then (or simultaneously) attacked the Greek fleet at Artemisium, with both sides suffering heavy losses. According to Peter Green, the Spartan Demaratus (on Xerxes staff) recommended splitting the navy and sending part to Sparta, but the Persian navy had been too heavily damaged to do so -- fortunately for the Greeks.
In September of 480, aided by northern Greeks, the Persians marched on Athens and burned it to the ground, but it had been evacuated."

Moral of the story, albeit the interesting twist of things, history remains as history. I prefer to look at their sacrifice as something which was worth it, like a cause for saving the rest of the Spartans, rather than as a sign of bravado and heroism. A take home would probably be to choose to be free, to sacrifice rather than to submit. A matching cantonese proverb would be "ling hor sat put hor yuk" which means "I'd rather be killed than be shamed"....

hehe warned u in the title that this was gonna be crappy...

Dun u feel like Mr Bean sometimes?

Was driving to work in the morning, when we encountered some kind of a deja vu... I remember watching an episode of Mr Bean the previous night of him going down a staircase and being blocked by an old lady.

After struggling for a moment, he decides to overtake the lady by climbing along the ledge of the stairs. He then gets to the past the lady and guess what...

This happens!!

Same thing happened this morning.. I was driving along the road and was blocked by a car travelling at 40kmh at the fast lane of a 60kmh road. It was a senior citizen, judging from the white hair. Driving behind him and getting a little frustrated, I overtook him, only to be blocked by another car travelling at the same speed. Now I overtook the second car, caught a glimpse of another guy with white hair.. only to be blocked by a third car. Lucky for me, this car went from 40kmh to 50kmh... giving me some space to overtake and pass all three of them. Phew.

I mean, the government did announce that the population is getting older, but this is plain ridiculous!