Friday, July 31, 2009


Every morning, EP and I go through the same routine before we can go to work.

630am. EP gets up to prepare the milk. She then wakes the beastie for his daily early-morning feed. The amount of fuss (and noise!) he makes at this point usually wakes me up. I wash up and change, while mummy continues her constant struggle against the raging beastie. Once I'm done changing, the icy stare from EP usually means I'd have to join in the battle, as she is fast losing out to the (by now) agitated and enraged little one. I grab a weapon of choice (usually an alarm clock, a remote control or any stuffed toy nearby) and jump into the thick of the struggle.

645am. Time is running out. Yet, the beastie refused to yield. He executes his power kicks and utters an unknown spell - his fingers aiming for the air-conditioning unit near the ceiling (well, sometimes he cast his spells at other objects too - like the fan, the lights, air-humidifier, etc.). We attempt to subdue him and break his spell-casting by activating an electronic gadget, which plays a loud jamming (and rather irritating, after hearing it for SOOO many times) music. It seemed to work, but only for a short while.

700am But now, we are both lying on the bed exhausted. We've only accomplished 2/3 of our mission. About 2 ounces of milk remained in the bottle, but we'd run out of time (and patience). The beastie, now fully awaken and looking stronger than ever, stands over us triumphantly and flashes his killer grin at us.
EP rolls her eyes and thrusts the bottle at me, saying "I don't care anymore. It's YOURS!". At the same time, the beastie also thrusts out his arms at me, saying,"eerrrr...errr...errrr.....". I usually give up feeding, and just give in to his demands (errrr...errr...errrr... usually means "I want to be carried!. NOOOWWW!"

710am The battle is finally over. Sometimes beastie finishes his milk, thought not without a fight. But most times, it ends with EP and I giving up and pouring away the unfinished milk. I pick up the little one and coax him to wear his shoes and carry his little haversack (nicknamed "Elmo" - because the Sesame Street character's face is imprinted on the bag face). After saying "mummy" & "bye bye", the little beastie happily trots off out of the house and my shouting after him.

730am We reach my In-law's place and he happily waves "papa" & "bye bye" to me, as he's being carried by my father-in-law.

After all that, I can finally begin my journey - to work.

ahhhhh......Blissful parenthood.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Time Traveller

There are definitely times in one's life when you wished (possibly fervently!) that you could turn back the clock - in other words, travel back in time - to undo something that you'd regreted doing, or to do something which you hadn't done.

I was told (or I might have read it somewhere, I'm not sure) that reason why people have these kind of thoughts is because of one thing: discontentment. You'd always think that life could possibly be better had you done/not done something in the past. I mean, with the benefit of hindsight, who wouldn't make a better choice, or a better informed decision than he/she had before, right?

Hmmm... Sounds like a "logical" kind of reasoning, but really, it may not be so.

In the first place, any kind of "time travelling" idea aleady doesn't fall within the "logic" that we know of. The classic idea of a man travelling back in time and killing his's parents before he's born, resulting in himself being 'wiped off' the face of this Earth screams "illogical!" to any reasonable mind. Or better still, the scenario in which the fella travels 1 day back to time to warn "himself" (one 1 day younger version of himself) not to step on the banana skin, hence avoiding the certain injuries or misfortune.

There's one other rather convincing argument against the possibility of time travelling (in the future) - if it could really be done, why haven't we seen any time travellers from the future in today's "era"? Surely there MUST be some tell-tale signs of a person if he doesn't quite "belong" to our times... like he behave/talks differently, has gadgets that doesnt look like anything we'd recognise, or can "predict" things in advance (since he came from "the future", remember?), etc. In other words, he'd almost be like an ALIEN! =P
Well, some people might say," how do you know they havent already come and be in our midst, only that they'd really smart about covering it up and looking ordinary. Or maybe they've been abducted by the Government, and the truth is out there...". Well, I guess if you subscribe to this theory, then you're also probably a true believer of the aliens-on-earth (but everything is covered up, X-files style) theory ya?

I have another hypothesis.

If time travelling truly were to happen, then it could only occur via a parallel universe kind of scenario, ie. the time traveller would never be able to travel back in time in HIS own reality, and murder his parents thereby "undoing" his own existence. The "set of parents" whom he murders will never live to give birth to the baby obviously, but this is in another reality, and has nothing to do with the time traveller anymore. In other words, he is not he anymore..... Confusing? You bet!

But then, even this hypothesis cannot explain why we havent seen any time travellers in our world as yet. Maybe they really are just hidden from our sights. Maybe the truth IS out there.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

23 years ago

My Secondary school Form teacher recently posted a photo in Facebook. That photo was taken more than 20 years ago - 23 years, to be exact. It was a class photo, for the the Sec 1P class in Raffles Institution, back in the year 1986.
I remembered that photo for sure, although I do not know whether I still have a copy of it kept somewhere or could it have been lost during one of those house moving events, but given today's technology and the internet, that doesn't matter anymore - since I can simply download it and print it out easily.

I remember those days - well, not a whole lot of details to be sure, but certainly the key, memorable moments, as well as some of the strong feelings & emotions associated with certain events or venues in the school (located at Grange Road, in those days).

For instance, I will always remember standing at the stadium steps looking down at the group of boy scouts scuffling around busily (to fall into line), as they are being disciplined by their seniors. I remember feeling a little relieved that I'm not one of them (being scolded), but at the same time, feeling a little envious that they seemed like such a closely knitted group.

I remember the scary biology lab in the 3rd floor of one of the buildings, where we were told was haunted. And every time we had classes held in that lab, I would glance around the room nervously, looking for signs of the supernatural.

I remember an evening class activity in Sec 1, where we stayed back in school to play games. There was food and drinks, and we played dog-n-bone, tag, and other fun activities.

I remember contemplating if I could somehow sneak up to the restricted area :the RI clocktower, being ever-so intrigued with the horror (again - supernatural) stories associated with it. (Of course in the end, I didnt do so. Maybe if I had, I wouldn't be around to talk about it. muhahahah!)

I remember the delicious Muslim chicken rice store, which always had long queue. The rice and chili combination was awesome! And the chicken was fried to a golden brown state. Yummy!

Ah.... those were the days.

Thanks for the photo, Ms Miiko Tan! (Ops.. she's now Miiko Gibson)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Focus on the Family

Dr James Dobson's segment on "Focus on the Family" is another section on Today papers which I seldom miss. He talks mainly about children issues and challenges faced by parents - those of young tots, to those of teenage kids. But sometimes he also dwells on relationship issues between husband and wife.

I find his articles pretty poignant and accurate, and sometimes even enlightening. For example, in today's papers, he talked about what keeps a marriage going, and he mentioned that for EVERY married couple, it is inevitable that the initial passion and accompanied feelings of love and adoration will fade with the passage of time, as well as with changes in one's life focus and priorities. This I kinda of knew and expected, for any adult would instantly know that fairy tale marriages (ie. everyday is lovey-dovey, and filled with love and passion) only exist in the movies, which also explains why some people love these romantic movies, since they can never find such occurences in reality. To be brutally honest, it's a form of indulging in escapism. But then, so am I when I watch those monster and sci-fantasy movies, where people can shoot lightning/laser out of their fingers, and fly or teleport across time & space. (yeah, I AM aware that those things cant really happen in real life. That's why I watch the movies, to get my kicks lah...)

Okie.. back to James Dobson's article... *ahem*

What surprised me a little was the fact that he also went further to say that there WILL be times when you feel less-than-concerned about your spouse, even to the point of irritation and total disregard. These strong feelings of (possible mutual) incaring-ness is "normal"?? Well, apparently so, according to the expert.
So what keeps a marriage from going kaput then? According to Dobson, it is down to the "will" - that is, the mindset that says "I'm commited to this marriage. I've made my vows, and I'll make it work".

This is something which I suppose many (especially younger) couples will not subscribe to, since it's much more tempting to choose the - I shalln't say "easier", but certainly the more "direct" path and then decide, "We both feel it isn't working, so let's end it and move on in search of a new beginning. Let's not be like the olden days, where people suffer and bear it. And for what?? Life is too short not to enjoy it to its fullest." Divorce no longer comes with the kind of negative social stigma as it used to anyway.
This line of thought can be appealing, I must agree.

** You know, come to think of it, It's almost like playing a computer role-playing-game and when your character loses a major fight (typically with a big, bad-ass monster), you choose to press the RESET button on your computer and reload from the last save point; rather than to take the downside (usually loss of experience points, or gold, or equipment, etc.) and come back again for another go at the monster.

Only thing is: Can you truly RESET your life? I mean, the emotional experience that one gains with each day's interaction with one's spouse (or to a broader extent, to one's family and friends) is hardly worthless. Every small bit (be them sweet, tender moments, or intense irritation and annoyance, or simple bo-chapness) adds to the wealth of memories which is irreplaceable and to me - invaluable. One day, when one reaches the end of one's life, these are the things that count, more than anything else.

So yes, call me old school! =)

Service in Singapore

I'm not sure if I can be considered as someone who has been in the service industry. You see, to most people, the "service industry" normally refers to the F&B, hotel, retail industrys in general. You'd think of jobs like front-end counter staff, sales staff, waiter/waitresses, etc. But in truth, the service industry would probably a more expansive range of jobs - in fact, any job which are customer-facing would probably fall into this category.

So, having worked as a customer service engineer, a financial planner then as a client trainer, I think I should probably "qualify" as someone with more than 10 years experience in the service industry. =P

An article in the forum of Today newpaper wrote about the personality traits required to do well in the service industry, which I found quite interesting. It mentioned that a lot of Singaporeans who have maids at home may find it difficult to reverse the mindset of "being served" to "serving others". I guess that's probably true. After all, if a person is so used to having some at his/her beck and call, they would not likely take it too well when the situation is reversed.

But I wonder - does good customer service mean that you always give in to the customer, even if what they are asking for is unreasonable? The old adage, "The customer is always right" certainly has its merits. Afterall, all businesses in the service industry rely on keeping their customers happy, in order for the business to thrive or even to survive. Still, my belief is that a good customer service does not always mean you have to agree with the customer, or to give in to whatever the customer asks for - regardless of whether the request is reasonable or not. I feel that sometimes, a service staff has to know his/her work boundaries well, so that he has the confidence to provide the customer with the appropriate response (and answers) when faced with a difficult situation (e.g. an unreasonable or even aggressive customer). In such instances, giving in to the unreasonable demands may not be the "best" solution as not only would it allow other customers to see and think,"hey, if that guy can get what he wants THAT way, then I can too!"; doing so would also undermine the role of the entire service line. Sometimes, being assertive (not aggressive) and putting the unreasonable customer(s) in their rightful place is the best thing to do, and it can actually raise the respect and opinions of the service industry if done properly.

But in order to do that, it largely depends on the service staff's mentality, and ultimately, his/her EQ. The ability to judge a situation well, and being able to control one's emotions and temper in a tough and possibly embarrassing situation is something that comes with experience, and also depends a lot on the personality of the staff, though it CAN be trained. Sadly, it's also true that many service personnel in Singapore lack this skill and hence the bad rep for the many service providers (and their staff) in general.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The scary woman

I enjoy reading Ms Shenton's articles on My Paper. She normally talks about a variety of people-related topics - ranging from romantic relationship issues; colleagues' office politics; misunderstandings between friends and family, etc. Basically, the stuff she writes about are simple day-to-day matters, which one can relate to quite easily, and at the same time, the things that make life so interesting. (incidentally, she writes in Chinese, and I'd wanted to write this blog article in chinese too, but am just too lazy to, it being much quicker for me to type in English)

Her article today was about working with female co-workers/bosses. And she related a common "complaint" from her male friends that the worst kind of females to work with fall under 3 categories:

1) Extra aggressive & driven woman-powerhouse
2) Married woman
3) Old & Single woman

Note: Actually, for a while I was thinking, "doesn't that include almost ALL types of women?". Then I realised - no, the only ones left (out of the above 3 classifications) are the single, YOUNG females. Haha... I'm a guy, so it's easy for me to nod in understanding and appreciation.

Anyway, the reasons provided to "justify" the above 3 'undesirable' types of female co-workers are:
1) woman-powerhouse: this is self explanatory, since a super aggressive woman boss can virtually squash the male ego to a pulp, and then drive the men straight to hell with her unrelenting work demands and targets.

2) Married woman: the reason suggested by the guys (read: Ms Shenton's male friends) is that this category is "out-of-the-market". No chance, so not much interest.

3) Old & Single woman: (this one I have to agree) is typically emotional a little less-than-stable. Capable of weird antics and can sometimes be ultra-sensitive to every little remark that people make, so forget about joking around this one.
* Oh, btw - those guys who have been with the NUS guitar ensemble for a while will distinctly remember a classic example of a person who clearly falls under this category. No names please... if you know, then you know =P

Personally, I am comfortable working with the first 2 groups of women. I can respect a capable and driven (even aggressive) female, and would have little trouble working under this kind of boss. Married women? Actually I find them easier to talk to sometimes, since they tend to be more mature and are generally better listeners. Also, we can trade children stories! haha. But this 3rd group....

I guess we all know of co-workers (of both gender) who are distinctly difficult to work with and who are at times too unpredictably emotional to be around with. But given the general inclination of women to be more "in touch" with their feelings and emotions and what-have-you, I'd dare say that women will more likely fall into this group.


Saturday, July 11, 2009


It's been 2 years since EP and I took a trip (even a short one, like to Malaysia) out of Singapore. I mean, the reason is obvious ya? With a beastie who is turning 18th mths soon, you can imagine how tied up we have been for the last 2 years (including the couple of months before he was born).

Come to think about it, 2 years isn't exactly a long time, some people spends years huddled comfortably (and contentedly) in this sunny island, and not feel a tinge of regret, nor any eagerness to go out and experience more of the world. But that is not me. Understandably, with the economic crisis still very much in the picture, PLUS the H1N1 threat being very real at the same time, many people are choosing to stay put at home (read: own country) and to postpone any plans for long trips abroad. To me, that is perfectly logical and is reasoning that I'd subscribe to as well.

Still personally, I think nothing rejuvenates the body (and spirits) better than a relaxing short overseas trip with good friends and family. Just being able to turn off that mobile phone, get away from the internet (emails, facebook, blogs, etc.), and immerse oneself in a pleasant, relaxing (and very importantly - cool !) environment for a couple of days can make a huge difference to one in terms of mind and body.
That is the reason why I am a little wary of taking like a weeks' leave just staying at home, doing nothing more than watching videos, surf the internet, or shopping at the same old complexes that we are so used to. I'd imagine that after such a "vacation" at home, I might return to work even more weary than before!

Good thing the little beastie will turn 2 early next year. I'm looking forward to bringing him along for our next trip, which is likely to be a short one (we aren't as adventurous as some of my friends who'd lug their <1yr old babe to the US, or to Europe).... Let's see, maybe a cruise or a trip to Cameron highlands year end? =)

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Looking at how many letters have been sent (and printed) to the local newspapers and internet media, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the "giving up seats (in public transport) to the needy" issue is a grave national issue which warrants in-depth discussion and perhaps even parlimentary debate.

I mean, com'on! It's not the first time that we are talking about our nation's basic courtesy level, and the way it looks to me, Singaporeans respond best to what they can touch and feel - cold hard cash. Just look at our society: high-pressured, no failures tolerated, efficiency and speed is number 1, only accept Gold not Silver, everything-also-must-rank, etc... you get the idea. From young, all these "tunes" have sung and preached by our government and leaders to all citizens, so that we can BE THE BEST, BEAT THE REST and get ahead in life. And behind all that is the message - if you want a good life, you have to earn it to by working hard, fast and dilligently. And obviously, the good life cannot be achieved without earning good MONEY.

If anyone wants to argue against the fact that the Singapore leaders (and hence the society at large) equates MONEY = SUCCESS & GREATNESS, just look at how our government peg the salaries of the ministers to the top CEOs of private firms. I'm not sure if any other country does the same. But that's not the point.
The point preached to all Singaporeans is this - if you are an important person, a successful individual and want to have high regard in this particular country, you have to have a pay that speaks for itself.

This sad (but true) reality has molded a current crop of younger Singaporeans into a bunch of folks who are supremely: practical and efficient; pragmatic and analytic; determined and unrelenting; assertive and unabashed; eager and competitive, etc... the list goes on.
Taken in isolation, and in particular with relation to building a nation of winners (and not whiners), this highly competitive and eager spiritedness in the young Singaporeans' pschye is clearly desirable.

Yet, you can hardly expect such conditioning to be without its side effects. Thus, the ultimate KIASU culture is born. Nobody here wants to lose - in every sense of the word. Some examples are:

Loss of money: Hence the only way to hit at Singaporeans' (and to change mindset) is to hit their wallets. That works every time!

Loss of face: Why else would parents here seem so keen to compare their kids' exam results, school ranking, number of CCA, etc.. And vice versa, the kids would compare the car their dad drives, the house they live in, the handphone they use, etc..

Loss of opportunities: Just look at those bond-breakers. Give back to society? What "give back"? Enuff said.

Loss of time: Singaporean drivers make the F1 drivers look timid. Who got time to wait, right????

Anyway, so back to the issue on graciousness and giving up seats in the bus or MRT. I think we can forget about forming this culture, if we only appeal to the people out of the goodness in their hearts. I think Singaporeans (esp. the younger ones, who are more indoctrinated with this Must-Win mentality) are too stressed up and preoccuppied with "winning" that they'd see getting into bus/train and "earning" a seat as a daily competition in itself. In other words, winners get a seat and can enjoy the journey (and even catch a wink on the bus/train), while losers simply waste time/energy/face/etc. having to wait for the next tranport to come along.

That said, there are enough good-natured people in our midst who'd buck this trend and do what they deem is the right thing. Kudos to them, I say.

Myself? Well, I can honestly say I do try to be like this group of people most of the time. But on some days, when the hassle and stress of the day gets to me, I'd think: If only I earn more money (like the leaders of this country), then I wouldn't have to take the packed public transport, YET can preach to others how wonderful the public transport is. On those days, pardon me if I'm not as gracious as some people would've liked.

Friday, July 03, 2009

What I have learned from my son

Being a father has changed me in many ways. One of the most obvious changes that I'd admit straight away, is that I try not to take a lot of things in life for granted.

Jing Kai's arrival made sure that I learned to treasure every moment, since time is something that truly never comes around.

The little one virtually took over our lives' schedule since his arrival in Jan last year. Besides the fact that our daily schedules are almost totally dictated by his needs (and fancy!!), much of what we do and behave are also transformed by this little creature, whom we sometimes refer to as "beastie". Ya - not a cuddly or cute name, but too bad, his parents are fans of science fiction thrillers, fantasy books, and horror flicks. And truth be told, JK is quite a destroyer, armed with sharp finger nails (which seem to grow ever so quickly), and rapidly developing teeth, which he is ever-so-willing to sink into whoever offered their shoulder, belly, arm or thigh for offering.

But the beastie has his quiet moments too. And it's in these moments, that he made me realised how much he has changed me. Last night, it happened again.

As usual, our normal routine of coming home (from my in-laws') was to flick the TV on (who can live without the google-box these days???) to catch the latest sporting action on offer - happens to be the Wimbledon Championships, which we loved to watch. With time so limiting and so many things to do, multi-tasking was the order of the day, and for EP it meant grabbing a book/magazine/papers whilst for me, it was either the laptop (to catch up on emails, blogs and Facebook) or the papers. So what would the little guy do? He simply storms around his domain picking up things that belonged where they were, and summarily relocating them to where they did not belong.
This seems to be the pattern of our average weekday evening life.

Then last night, while I was transfixed on my laptop screen, I noticed something was not really right. The little beastie was not kicking and throwing his toys (and our remote controls) around and he wasn't making a ruckus in the living room. Instead, a little face peered up at me in muted silence. The little beastie looked straight into my eyes and it appeared to me that he was asking, "Papa, why are you not spending more time with me?"
At that moment, I felt a strong sensation of guilt and so I immediately shut down my laptop and picked him up and gave him a tight hug. After that we had a good time trying to fit blocks of plastics (square, triangle, diamond shaped) into a box with the relevant holes.

I think sometimes we may be too carried away with the mundane things in our lives (like watching TV, logging in to the internet, etc..) and fail to treasure these little moments that truly matter to us. Particularly moments we share with people whom we love....
I guess in a way it's a little similar to the reminder I put down in my previous post -

Don't miss that opportunity as it may not come by again.