Language, Music and Time

June 29, 2005

A list of Chinese Proverbs. It’s disheartening that I cannot translate any of these at all, considering that for my last chinese exams I memorized quite a bit of the “1,000 proverbs for Everyday Chinese Use”. Admittedly I haven’t used a single one in my everyday chinese, which consists of “Auntie, gei2 wo3 chao3 fan4, da3 bao1 de4.” which doesn’t open much leeway for proverb-use.

Decided if I’m going to get a new job it won’t be Crystal Jade.

Despite my poor chinese, I do know quite a few chinese songs. I’m a fan of Faye Wong, as those of you who have been to KTV with me will know. You’ll also have heard my very bad impersonation of her in my screechy falsetto. So far no one has approved. Well, if you thought I was bad, listen to this Norwegien band pulling a Bonnie Tyler – it’ll crack you up. Total Eclipse of the Heart (and your ears, by the time you’re done).

I also came across, quite by accident, the trailer for the movie Rent. Supposed to be based on an award winning musical and La Boheme (I hope not too much), it’s about a bunch of struggling artistes who have problem with paying their (you guessed it) rent and trying to express themselves. From what I’ve seen the cast look like a motley bunch of racial-varied artistic types and the plot promises complex motive-and-expression. Out in something like 5 more months, but I’m already holding on the edge of my seat for this one.

Lastly, this one here’s something of a Photoshop Phriday for romance novels. Read and laugh.

My Excellent Band-Aid

June 27, 2005

My band-aid, the one Nick gave me after I fell down whilst cycling yesterday, is so waterproof that after taking a bath this morning and getting some water retained in it when I peeled it back to check on the wound, kept the water in until this evening when I did some stretching and it tore a little, leaking fluids.

At first I thought I was bleeding some sort of pus, but closer inspection revealed it to be merely water – dirty, but just water.

I am impressed. Here’s a picture of the band-aid in question.

I was also scratched behind my right ankle, the last two fingers of my left hand (looks like I knuckled someone and barely connected) and my right palm is chafed. Nick fell too, and also due to a child, but he left without a scratch (except to his ego when he calculated his timing). It would seem I missed out on the How to Fall section of riding a bike.

Triathlon’s this Saturday. Whoot. Not prepared. Gonna suffer.

By the way, you can tell from the nature of the post I’m somewhat bored. There’s nothing new, nothing exciting in my life the past few days. I’ve been laid off work, so I can only tay at home and whine about how little money I have and how much I need to do all sorts of things but just don’t have the drive to do them.

Sent resumes to some companies for part-time work as IT Helpdesk officer, VBA programmer (I was desperate) and amateur copywriter. I have no idea of the process of a copywriter, but I reckon if I can write a blog and come up with titles for every entry it can’t be that hard (the same kind of attitude got me to join the triathlon – it’s just a little swim, bike and run! Can’t be that hard). I am considering turning down the Helpdesk one even if I get it (though it is the one I have the most work-experience in) and trying for more waitering instead. I am told I cannot leave the hospitality career with a failure – it will haunt me the rest of my life and leave me with a disappointment in an IT career (if you want to call helpdesk that) that has become a refuge house for failure.

It is painful, though, to learn that you’re not really that good at something and people don’t even want to have you work for them when you’re damned cheap. But I suppose I should give it another try. Crystal Jade, here I come, with my stunted level of chinese and all.

Et étudée le français est difficile. I am trying to pick up french. So far progress has been abysmal. I cannot yet form any coherent sentence short of “je t’aime”, which any little schoolgirl who has watched or read any vaguely-french-related novel or movie will know. I am also handicapped by an inability to read the International Phonetic Alphabet which I vaguely remember mother having extolled virtues of, which I ignored, in my younger days. Curse the lazy youth that I was for not learning more useful things in the past instead of having extensive knowledge of the elemental traits of the final bosses in Final Fantasies! Now I just hobble along where I can, trying to hawk up enough spit in my throat to make the french noises that sound like you’re choking for air or have lung problems from smoking too much. Curse the systematic, easy-to-learn phonetics of my mother-toungue for not giving me a more extended set of tonal ranges to begin with!

oh, and by the way, in case you didn’t catch it the whole Band-Aid thing (whilst factually true) was merely a metaphor for a lack of subject to post on, thus the usage of stock-post-themes and the retention of foolish ideas sweeping out of a seemingly impermeable consciouness.

Do I have a future in copywriting or what?

The Desire to Avoid Evil

June 27, 2005

Surely you must have heard of the poor girl who got her face and body posted on our nation’s newspapers because she bared it all on her blog? The blog in question, Sarong Party Girl belongs to a rather cosmopolitan female of the white-man-trapping (by her own admission, not mine) kind who is to my surprise rather intelligent – I have always harboured the prejudice that the standard SPG came equipped with only enough brains to power a bikini.

And she wants to show The Powers that Be here on our sunny island that we aren’t really that conservative after all.

Hmmph.

In any case, after reading her blog you realise that she, like many of our other rebellious artistes, have left the nation and planted their creative roots elsewhere (though still smacking much of a rebel-against-the-evil-government sentiment). I’m not sure if that a good or bad thing – after all as our prime ministers always remind us, we’re just not ready for that kind of liberalisation in our country yet. And so the people who snip off their pubic hair in public, dislike local despotic institutions or simply have artistic tastes that don’t collide with the rest of us move away, leaving us in our sanitized peace and quiet.

I keep having the impression that the government would rather we be stupid than have ideas unsanctified by themselves.

Argument from Philippe – we’re losing out because soon cheap talent from India and China is going to flush us all out. Only those of us who sell chicken rice will be holding any kind of technical jobs here and foreign employment will be nigh impossible given our staid reputation and higher pay-expectations.

I haven’t exactly got a counter to that yet. Except maybe if you look at it in that light the casino will help out somewhat. If we can’t do any technical work, we can at least be croupiers and card-dealers. Not so much skill involved, and we can always hope the stifling morals of our neighbouring SEA countries will prevent them from taking up those jobs.

Oh wait – I’m confused – who’re the ones with the stifling morals?

As requested, here’s some info on the Progressive Reading Programme. Unfortunately, Ms Ismawati has yet to answer my calls.


Dear Students

1. Progressive Reading Programme (PRP) is organised by National Library Board (NLB) with the support of South West Community Development Council (SWCDC) to help the young children of lower income families cultivate good reading habits.

2. The programme aims to help parents with children below 4 years old who are unable to come to library due to their busy schedules or they face difficulties in cultivating reading habits in their children. Volunteers will help to promote the love of reading and assist parents to play a part in their children’s intellectual growth and reading development. In addition, they will assist the parents in the selection of appropriate reading materials for their children.

3. For the pilot run, there will be 48 families participating in the programme As recommended, the programme require two volunteers per family. Volunteers will be committed to the programme for a year. They will visit the families once a week to teach and guide the children to read books. Please find more details regarding the programme below. Briefing and training by NLB will be conducted end Jun and early July.

4. SWCDC would like to invite you to volunteer in the pilot Progressive Reading Programme (PRP) to help the young children of lower income families cultivate good reading habits.

For those interested, please register with

Ms Ismawati Md Sidik
Senior Community Development Officer
South West Community Development Council
The JTC Summit
8 Jurong Town Hall Road
#26-06 Singapore (609434)
DID: 6316 7249 Fax: 6316 7250

For any enquiries, you may contact Ms Ismawati Md Sidik.

Thank you.

Regards
OSA NEWZ DEZK


MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE PROGRESSIVE READING PROGRAMME

1. Objectives

(a) To promote the love of reading and progressively cultivate good reading habits among the very young (0-3 yrs) in Singapore;
(b) To assist parents to play a part in their child’s intellectual growth and reading development;
(c) To assist parents in the selection of appropriate reading materials for their children;
(d) To enhance the quality of life of the participating children and their family; and
(e) To promote family and community bonding

2 Programme details

(a) This is a fee-based service by yearly subscription.(The commitment period is one year.)
(a) The service includes selection and delivery of suitable reading materials to subscriber (the parent of the child).
(b) The subscriber will receive a reading pack (on loan) that consists of 4 children reading materials every month. These reading materials are selected and recommended by Children Specialists of NLB.
(c) Loan period of each reading pack is 1 month. A total of 12 reading packs (48 reading materials) will be sent to each subscriber during the 1-year subscription period.
(d) The reading pack will be collected by delivery agency appointed by the NLB after the 1-month loan period.
(e) Trained volunteers will be assigned to conduct reading or reading-related activities at the children’s homes once a week.

3 Roles and responsibilities

Parents

(a) Be responsible for keeping the reading materials sent by NLB in good condition; and
(b) Cooperate with volunteers assigned to the children

Volunteers

(a) Visit the home of the assigned children and onduct reading or reading-related activities once a week for a period of one year; and

(b) Monitor, record and report progress of the assigned children to NLB

A Bad Day

June 24, 2005

It’s been a bad day.

went home to pick up some stuff, but fell asleep on the bus, missed my stop and ended up somewhere else far away. It took me another hour to get home, a waste of time that could have been spent in other more fulfillingly wasteful ways.

I broke my first piece of glass working today. It was a wine glass, and though I didn’t drop it, I did smash it with a pitcher, causing it to collapse into pieces. Then I was sent home early (not because of the wineglass, though) because the crowd was thinning and there were already too many waiters – six – there for me to be of any use. I understand entirely, but the loss of nine dollars potentially earnt wrings my heart.

I went back and decided to go biking, only to discover that someone had stolen my bike. Rather, it’s brother’s friend’s bike. So I will have to pay for a bike that I used only twice, plus I will have to get a new one for the competition. A pox on bike stealers! I guess I should have known better than to lock my bike beside a child’s. No prizes for guessing which would have been stolen had an opportunistic thief come along.

Tried to run to NUS and back, but ran out of energy half-way through. Unsure if it was the lack of nutrition today, fatigue from work, too much exercise, that I was wearing my contacts or lack of rest (that one’s unlikely) but about 4km in the 9km route my legs refused to run anymore and I walked the rest of the way in a rather dazed, zombie-like manner, shoking several girls whom I sneaked up behind (not meaning to, I just walk very softly).

Ran out of saline solution for contacts just as I was removing them.

And now I just received an email regarding Biophysics 3. I know, I just know that I’m gonna end up taking it – because I am an idiot and I will take crazy modules to ruin myself. It will be boring, I will be disappointed and lose all interest in it, and end up failing it. Urgh.

In other news, there’s a Progressive Reading Programme coming up, where volunteers go help little kids from lower income families learn how to read. I think it’s a good idea, and if there’s anyone who should promote the love of reading it should be me. Think I’ll sign up, if Seet and gang dont have anything else other than the hospital planned. Don’t want to volunteer there anymore – I feel like a serf in the service of Empress Muntaj, who has at her command dozens of student slaves.

Blogger Ate My Entries

June 24, 2005

I had this big big post all typed out but Blogger ate it. Again. Most frustrating.

Perhaps I should go back to blogging on my old, but more reliable engine. Back in the days when everything was a text file and deleting them accidentally was the only way data could be lost, I was a more fulfilled blogger. Note that I can’t switch to any of the more popular blogging engines mainly because I don’t have access to any database server. And web-space is currently very very low on my list of priorities.

In any case, an extremely brief update on the stuff I’ve done in the last few days (not necessarily in this order): promoted – ORDed – moved out to new room – finished reading The Chan’s Great Continent – finished reading entire series of Monster – got a job as a waiter – rode bike from home to new room (more exciting than bungee jumping!) – ran – swam – finished watching entire season 4 of Ab Fab.

Yep, that’s about it. Triathlon’s coming up and I need to step up on training, so might not be around for a bit. Oh, and Nick has kindly provided me with a link to the triathlon route (no doubt to show off to his predominantly female audience his physical prowess) to post here. Looks okay, though the bike route is confusing.

And when we finish, half-a-heartbeat away from fainting and cramps invading our every muscle, I will tell him: “Yeah! Wasn’t this a great idea? Let’s do the full one next year!”

June 15, 2005

It is, in my mind, a sin of unfillial children like me to imagine that our parents will one day ask our forgiveness for the mistakes they inflicted upon us in their parenting capacities.

Sadly, human nature works such that we always forget the happier times and the changing of the diapers.

I am so tired.

Having already expressed my discomfort at having to share a room with my sister, you may already know that I am itching to move out. You may also know that I am somehat adamant against staying in a school hostel again after moving out with my pride last semester.

So I had to go room hunting. Spent most of today running about looking at the blasted things.

Next to job-hunting, room-hunting has to be the next most frustrating thing to have to do in your life. The last time I managed to hit paydirt within my second viewing and got a really nice little room with an elderly couple who would wash my laundry for me. This time, though…

1st Room – Holland Road – S$250/mth
Advantages: Cheap, high floor, close to Holland Village and various amenities
Disadvantages: Roommate is a half-with whose own brother doesn’t want to live with

2nd Room – Clementi, Sunset Way – S$330/mth
Advantages: Close to NUS, other tenants all my age and also students
Disadvantages: Not close to anything else, landlady reminds me of the kind of evil land-owning bourgeousie that started the whole ruckus with communism

3rd Room – West Coast Road – S$380/mth (shophouse!)
Advantages: Close to Ginza Plaza, a whole bunch of shops, hawker centre, should be pretty fun getting to live in a shophouse
Disadvantages: Far away from town

4th Room – Holland Road – S$400/mth
Advantages: Only one with air-conditioning so far, close to Holland Village and town, owner seems really friendly and nice and reads a LOT (had shelves and shelves of books)
Disadvantages: Highest rent of the lot, owner might be psychotic neat freak (unnaturally neat for a bachelor – even his Army stuff was arranged neatly in shelves)

5th Room – Sophia Road – S$300/mth
Advantages: Location incredibly central, right behind Peace centre, about 500m from Orchard road, owner and other tenant my own age and seemed quite hip and pretty (females)
Disadvantages: Room size only about a third of the minimum I expect. Owner explained to me that I could use the room only for sleeping and leave all my stuff in the living room

The problem this time round in choosing a room is that I’m being a lot more choosy. Had it been the Alex of a year ago I’d have stayed with the mentally-challenged brother in Room 1 without hesitation – the cost is just too yummy. Unfortunately, I am now expected to exhibit some form of taste, so that leaves, really, only the middle 3 choices. I have yet to figure out my killer-requirement, and have a sickening feeling that this time round it’s going to have to be a complex mix of factors that decides the issue.

So complicated I think I’m going to leave it to my subconcious mind.

Plus my army responsibilities have caught up. They were surprised that I even went back considering I was on leave already, but I can’t leave without at least arranging for my duties to be properly taken over. I’m also supposed to be working on portfolio, but that’s just something of a pipe dream at the moment with the room and the army – I’m so tired when I get home it’s all I can do to sit drooling in my chair and read webcomics till I fall asleep (or when I get calls).

So forgive the whining. I’m pretty sure I’ll have a definite answer as to which room I’ll take tomorrow morning after I wake up. I always have an answer after I have rest – my subconcious mind always churns out something by then (or quits and leaves me the top-of-the-list).

Stay tuned for room pics.

As we are often starved for entertainment on this tiny island of ours (and loitering is illegal and carries a fine, so the American pasttime of ‘hanging out’ is frowned upon), anything fresh and new immediately gets the attention of the natives (best if it’s free). As is often the case when I go out with Gary and the rest, we usually end up with nothing to do and go restaurant-hopping or catch a movie, usually of qualities that leave much to be desired.

So when Gary rang me up yesterday and asked me if I wanted to see a Mentalist Act, I immediately said yes, since I have implicit trust in the taste of this particular group of friends (how can you not trust the taste of people who can recite the seven network layers and the waterfall-model of software-implementation?) and also because I was feeling rather bored. Only when I went out to meet Gary today did the strangeness of a “Mentalist Act” strike me. For one thing, I didn’t even know what a Mentalist was (other than the AD&D definition, which was unlikely) and I was already on the train – meaning no Wikipedia-to-the-rescue. Gary’s explaination was no help, with an SMS reply of “We’re watching a Wizardry show”.

It turned out to be Marc Salem, this amazing guy who’s been a practicing pschologist for thirty years and works for the New York police in lie-detection and such things. Stage was in Esplanade Recital Studio, tickets went at S$18, and the audience was not more than 100. A bad picture of his brochure is below.

He did a bunch of tricks that looked suspiciously like what Adam Khoo might do in an NLP session to dazzle the audience, such as detecting lies, slowing his pulse, using his fingertips to read the serial number of a ten-dollar note and “predicting” information about audience members (well, he would have put Adam Khoo to shame any day) – with one important difference – at no point did he ever mention that you could use alter your body to avoid these tricks. In fact, his only claim-to-power was that you could learn to read body language to the extent of doing what he did, but you would take a really long time and need some talent at it.

It was amazing. One trick was to identify lying simply looking at people when they answered “No” to his questions of whether certain items they contributed belonged to them. Of course, it helped that he knew at least one was lying, but still it was impressive when he managed to identify it. There were also tricks of the mind such as having a woman choose an envelope out of three, only one of which contained nothing – and she fell for his subtle cues to choose the one without. I personally think the colour of the envelope had something to do with it, but that’s a bunch of psychology papers I’d rather not read.

He has, evidently, four different shows. I’ll be looking out for the rest (though I’m unsure if he’ll be coming back to Singapore), and I’m thinking of buying his book already.


Thinking of getting a tattoo. Some of you have already heard, though no one has mentioned anything sounding too disapproving. In case you haven’t heard, I’m thinking of getting this tattooed onto my left breast, just above my heart. It’s Code 128 and decodes to “Alex Huang”, by the way, for those of you who don’t own bar-code scanners at home.

It’s a symbol of my disgust at capitalistic greed eating away at our expressionism, leaving us hollow empty shells who can only express ourselves through it’s own recognized symbolisms and depriving us of freedom of thought. It’s also a self-conscious statement of my own lack of identity, wherein I am confused about the boundaries of my existence and require a physical brand. Also, it can be seen with sentimental connotations – placed aboce the heart, it could mean that to love me, you should first decode me.

It also opens up the possibility for a wide array of puns, such as:

Hey baby, check me out

The only thing stopping me now is whether a tattoo artist can get the bar code right. Alternative would be the much less cool Temporary Tattoo Paper.

Anybody has a tatto or knows tattoo artists? I’d ask one, but I am shy and retiring. (The tattoo is in no way supposed to make me look tougher at all. Really.)

Since I moved home, I haven’t been able to go down to the NUS pool to swim, as it’s too far away and my work-time forbids me from going in any reasonable time. I therefore have to resort to the nearby Bishan Swimming Complex which I usually avoid due to crowds.

As I stepped into the pool, I heard the sounds of electro-type music, the type you typically hear at very poor clubs, as well as the enthusiastic screaming of a woman.

“Left! Left! Get off the floor! Left! Keep it up!”

She was powered by an amplifier-type thing and sounded like some kind of deranged aerobics instructor. My suspicions aroused, I inspected the events board and saw, to my horror, that all the lanes other than three had been closed for AQUA-AEROBICS. from 1830 – 2030 daily for the next month. I (correctly) guessed that this meant I would have virtually no space for lap-training, and cursed the aqua-aerobiccers and their Britney-inspired exercise. This is what they look like:

You cannot see, but they were mostly a bunch of middle-aged, overweight women who did thir best to follow the instructions of a middle-aged, somewhat less overweight instructor, whose qualifications as far as I could tell consisted of jerking about like a spastic puppet and shouting enthusiastically into her mike. I will admit to her credit that it is not easy to do that for three hours, and her endurance (and willpower and lack of shame) was admirable.

Swimming was terrible. In addition to the (predictably) middle-aged women in the aqua-aerobics class, there were a bunch of little kids trying to learn how to swim and a whole lot of other swimmers like me trying to get in a couple of laps after work. If you’ve never been in a crowded pool trying to do serious laps, I can tell you it’s frustrating. You have to constantly be on the lookout for people who might collide with you and worse – you have to give way to idiots who just HAVE to swim the breadth of the pool instead of the length as GOD intended all of us to do (and for which they will Burn in Hell, haha so ironic), all of which slows down the laps and gives you the feeling you’re not performing as you should.

I almost gave up after about six laps and several near-misses with the blind little children who were paddling away on their float-devices. The screeches of the aqua-aerobics instructor-woman was also amazingly clear even underwater and lost her humour-value real fast.

But then it struck me that these were the conditions I’d have to face when I eventually did the triathlon – the dozens of people beside me kicking, splashing, and generically making the water turbulent and unkind to swim in (though I exagerate – Singapore’s seas are nowhere as wild as a swimming pool inhabited by dozens of overweight ladies jumping “left, left, off the floor, keep that energy up!”) and the distraction of all sorts of noises, sounds and sights of the Singapore coast (though I exagerate again – nothing in Singapore’s seas look as bad as dozens of overweight ladies jumping “left, left, off the floor, keep that energy up!”).

So I gritted my teeth, looked upon the little children with a renewed vigour, and proceeded to swim with gusto and generically in all hope of making some of them capsize – make no mistake, I may have volunteered to help underprivileged children, but that by no means means I like them. I also resolved not to give way and to bulldoze my way forward in the water, damn any collisions, potential scars and eye-gouging that might occur. Those bloody kids could drown for all I cared, they were competitors for my space, and I would swim to defend it!

And of course, with that kind of attitude I crashed. It was with a little girl with a bright kind swimming suit, and she was inexperienced enough to have to use a floatation-board. I surfaced, splutterring, a curse on my lips, and when I broke water I heard her say, sprightly and apolegetic, giggling a little bit,”

Sorry!

And my heart melted into the pool, warming it a little bit, and my face flushed from having thought such horrible thoughts about such a precious little thing and how silly I had been, and how it was for the best that little children learnt how to swim so that the evil people of the world could not tie them in sacks and drown them in rivers.

I did sixteen laps, and then I went home feeling a lot better, whilst the ladies jumped “right, right, off the floor, keep up the spirit!”.