A Singaporean life unravels...
If you've got a Uniquely Singaporean story you want to share,
I want to blog about it.
Leave me a comment and I'll work to put it up here.
Of course, I will gladly credit your name VERY PROMINENTLY.

20 June 2006

In Memory of Lionel

Lionel passed away a few hours ago.
He had met with an accident while he was undergoing training, leaving behind many friends and loved ones.

To think we were joking around when we met up last Saturday. His girlfrend had wanted to look for a digital camera.

He was even planning a getaway to Bintan during his block leave in July and asked if we wanted to tag along.

He was an outstanding scout, a good soldier and above all a very good and loyal friend. And he will continue to be one in our hearts.

Here onwards, it is our duty as his friends to immortalize him in memory, to remember him, to know that he has always done his best and to honour his name.

For those friends who pray, please pray for his soul to be at rest.

Goodbye Lionel, we will always remember you. It's a promise in our Scout's Honour.

Dear Friends of Lionel, if it is not too much of your time, I would like to request an essay/eulogy or even a short note from you as I am intending to set up a blog in remembrance of him. Hope you can revert to me on this asap. Please send your essays/eulogies/notes to kormmandos@gmail.com

26 April 2006

Old School Discipline

After the “well-received” entry on how my parents brought up 3 sons, I have been going through my memory bank searching for a piece of entertaining human history to share. It’s tough, I tell you. But, it is important to write it down, in case the worst happen. At least, people who get “arrowed” to do my eulogy can research here. I think I’ll save them the hassle of coming up with something poignant and emotional.

So the question now is what to write about.

I was reminded of a stand up comedian who related how white kids would threaten to report their parents on charges of child abuse and the parents would relent. An Asian kid tried the same tactics only to have his father call his bluff, saying, "Well, if you do report me, I may get into a little bit of trouble. But those people need exactly 23 minutes to arrive. During that 23 minutes, someone is going to get hurt real bad..."

Times change, but some things shouldn’t… Should it?

Discipline. We all need it, but we all don’t want it. Still, we all got it somewhere some time in our lives. And the most unforgettable manifestation of discipline is, you guessed it, the cane – readily available at the neighbourhood provision shops. And who could forget the two models that dominated the market, the “Discipline Professional Edition” that was made specifically for disciplining misbehaving children and the “Discipline Dual Purpose Edition” that doubles up as a cleaning apparatus.

Anthony Robbins said it best in his book, Awaken The Giant Within, “It’s all about Pain and Pleasure.” Simply put, it is an instinct to avoid pain and move towards pleasure.
If you didn’t do well for tests in school, you get pain.
If you misbehave, you get pain.
Such is the simplicity and effectiveness of pain. The old school (includes our parents, our primary school teachers, BMT and not to forget the prison) swears by it. And of course, the very (in)famous phrase: “Whatever doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.”

Anyway, back in the old days in primary school, (1988 - 1993) when most of our parents were not so highly educated. That said, teachers then were held in high esteem because they were more educated. Teaching equates to a noble profession because it was apparently not the best paying job and stress from taking care of kids seemed to result in illnesses like cancer, high blood pressure, respiratory problems (because they were always used chalk) and heart attack (probably most common). Or at least that was the impression from my primary school. The last I heard, some of my teachers got very sick. The luckier ones just retired.
Partly for these occupational risks and for the fact that our parents wanted the best education for us, teachers were empowered by them to inflict pain on us as a form of discipline through the use the canes, rulers or just their bare hands.

The most memorable teachers (read: fiercest) always entered the classroom with a cane, either dangling from a hand or shoved in a bag with the hooked handle jutting out like an antenna where it is very visible to the class. The canes seemed to scream, "Misbehave and I''ll draw children's blood."

This is reinforced whenever the teacher whips the cane onto the blackboard. The force of impact is felt throughout the class, sometimes the adjacent class too. There would be complete silence and the air would thicken with the smell of fear.

So that was the strategy employed and it was an effective one. Plus, there was always the naughty one who will suffer the dire consequences of misbehavior. If the person who got cane sat next to you, you would 'kaypoh' and ask if it hurt.

Sometimes, if the form teacher was reputed as a fierce teacher, she empowers other teachers teaching her class with a cane hanging at side of the blackboard. The consequence here is doubled because the teacher conducting the class will whip you in her capacity. Then he/she will inform the form teacher. The form teacher then comes around to whip you again.

If it was a major disciplinary problem, the teacher reports to the principal and the parents. The parents come over. School authorities get permission to whip the student. They whip him/her in front of the parents. Once they are done, the parents take over and whip their child again.

I guess the main thing that sort of drives discipline is respect for authority. During those times, teachers truly earned the people's respect for passing on knowledge to the younger generation. In these times of young princes and princesses, well, it's another matter, I guess.

I personally feel that we have somewhat neglected the importance of inculcating the virtue of respect towards authority in our young ones.
And I think we have also neglected the importance of truly earning people's respect. My Platoon Sergeant used to make this statement: "The Army, a career that commands respect. I command you to respect me. There is no such thing as earning respect here. If got such thing, 'O' Level also can become officer."

Google Analytics - Part 3: Mystery Solved

So, got hundreds of hits overnight at Yellow, Creamy & Bittersweet. The thing is, I want to find out which website is my benefactor...

I would like to thank all visitors of Tomorrow.Sg who noticed and made an effort to click onto my blog. You guys made me very pleased. :)

Google Analytics - Part 2: Wah! What happened?

Donch liddat leh. Now I become very stressed to produce another good story for people to read....

So what ever happened? I mean, it's a little piece of history. But the tremendous increase in traffic is well, unprecedented by my puny blog's standard.

So curiosity got the better of me, and I went to take a look at how long visitors stayed...

I almost thought I could become a famous blogger overnight.
Oh well, back to the drawing board.

14 April 2006

How my parents did it

Raising the kids, that is. Looking back, I must say that it was nothing short of amazing. Here's entry dedicated to Mum and Dad.

I am the youngest of three brothers in the family and I am 5 years and 7 years apart from my two elder brothers. Mum and Dad ever told me that my existence was an effort to have a daughter after two boys. And I think they were fined for having me too. Maybe that's why my real name, Shu Yen, came about. But then again, my brothers are named Su Why and Su Yee. The extra "h" in the statutory name is apparently a mess up by the doctors, but that's another story for another time.

So that's the introduction for my family. On with the main topic of parenting.

When I was young, my mum was a full-time domestic engineer. (Ok, that really means housewife)

But the one thing that I remember most vividly then was her sitting at a corner of the kitchen of our old 3-room flat in Clementi, (the kitchen was huge then, you could do a lot of things there.) clipping away wires that were jutting out of electronic chips which she would later solder with a electric soldering iron.

Sometimes, she would be seated at the same place, with a device that looks like a giant exercise wheel. There, she would wrap insulating tape round and round the device till the roll of tape is used up. Then, she would use a 10 cent pocket knife (the kind that flips out from a metal sheath) and make a quick motion through the gaps, cutting the tape into 5cm strips in the process.

Occasionally, I would help in the easier and not so critical tasks, like bending the wires on the chips so that it is easier for Mum to cut and solder. Or I would be wrapping the insulating tape around that device. If Mum wasn't looking, I would do the cutting too. She didn't let me when she was around because sharp objects and little children simply cannot be put together.

Like my father, she had only "O" Levels qualification, but that did not stop her from contributing financially to the family as a housewife. She was "moonlighting" as a factory operator from home! If many like-minded housewives living in the same HDB block did the same, it would be a production line in disguise! It was actually one of the earlier manifestations of the work from home concept!

Not only was my mum making money at home, she was also good at saving money. Every late morning, my neighbour would come by and slip The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao through my gates. In the evening, I would be instructed to bring the newspapers to back my neighbour. Every month, I would be given an amount of money to be delivered to the neighbour as well. Yes, we were sharing newspapers! And the savings are sufficient for a month's supply of rice.

The chain of thoughts from money leads me to another topic: She told me there was already the milk powder money issue then. And yes, there was "branded" milk powder during that time too. And like all parents, she fed the three of us with the best in the market.

When she needed to rest from her housework and factory work, she would put her head on the small curb separating the living room from the kitchen. She told me it was a good place to rest, as with the main door and the kitchen windows open, there was good air circulation in the house and it was cooling.

During her free time, she would be reading Chinese stuff, usually the Lianhe Zaobao. Sometimes, she sketches. My mum had a knack for drawing portraits of ladies in period costumes on the back of tear away calendar pages.

Then there would be times when I need to prepare for weekly Chinese spelling tests. My mum was really good in Chinese as she always read. She would give me mock tests the night before the actual test. That really made a lot of difference at school. I think I made only 2 mistakes for Chinese spelling for one particular year.

As for Dad, well, he didn't have it easy either. He was a supervisor/foreman at the ports. His work involved overseeing the loading and unloading of cargo at the wharves. It was a hectic job; he would go off to work and only return a few days after. It was a round the clock job, tiring and dangerous but during that time, it was good money. I'm proud to say that my dad was one of the many people who contributed to Singapore being the busiest port in the world.

Once, he asked me if it was ok for him to go work overseas. It would mean that he would come home only once every six months, he told me if he went, he could make a lot of money and bring back a lot of toys for me. I didn't know what to answer then and I kept quiet.

On his days off, if it were a weekday, he would be in a deep sleep. I know he was in a deep sleep because I can hear him snore. One time, (Ok, it may be a few times) I tickled his feet while he was asleep, like the way I saw on television, hoping for the same kind of reaction. But Dad still slept like a log.

If he were awake, I would see him sneaking to the kitchen while Mum was at the stove or the sink. He would give her a hug from behind and start a little dance. That always made Mum smile. He still does that now sometimes, just that Mum cooks less nowadays.

On weekends, he would bring the three of us out, usually to the Clementi Swimming Complex to swim. Yes, the three of us are all natural swimmers, meaning my parents actually threw us into the pool when we were only months old. Other times, he would bring us to the old West Coast Park to cycle, fly kite and feed the fish and terrapins at the pond.

So this arrangement went on until the time I got into primary three. Then, seeing the needs of the family increasing, my mum went to take on shift work at a factory in Ayer Rajah. I think the company was called "Peperell & Fuch" or something like that and it had a green logo. My mum just refers to it as "P&F". Hers was the evening shift which goes from 5pm to 11pm.

When I attended the afternoon session, she would prepare breakfast and lunch before school. When I attended the morning session, lunch would be ready when I got back home. Most of the time, lunch would be Teochew porridge with fish, salted eggs and vegetables. Looking back, it was definitely the best lunches.

The beauty of her planning also involved my elder brothers. I would not be left alone for prolonged periods of time at home. My eldest brother would be home just before Mum goes off to work.

Even dinner was planned out too. She would cook just before she goes off to work. Although the food would be cold when we ate, but Mum always believed we should have home-cooked food.

In retrospect, I am extremely grateful for all they've done for us.

My dad sacrificed the opportunity of a higher paying job for something money cannot buy - time with us during our childhood; slogging day and night literally to bring home the bacon. Neither will I forget that the outings he brought us to. They definitely made up a proper childhood to say the least.

My mum subconsciously understood the importance of being around her children. She also understood it was necessary to keep herself up-to-date and learnt so that she was capable of guiding her children in their education, despite her limited qualifications.

To me, they are role models of parenting.

04 April 2006

"Ice" Branding

Just returned from lunchtime at Raffles Place.
Had Don's Pie. Good Stuff. Two Thumbs Up.
Then I popped over to Ya Kun for a kopi peng (iced coffee).

"How much?"

Strange. I remember Ya Kun everywhere else charges $1.80 for kopi peng, but this "flagship" stall charges just 10 cents for the ice. Reminds me of the Ang Moh's story at a food court from my lecturer...

"How much is an iced coffee?"
"What? How much is a hot coffee then?"
"90 cents."
"You mean the 'ice' cost 90 cents?"

From now on, I shall prefix an 'ice' on anything that I might want to sell.
That way, I can charge more for the product or service.
"Ice" <whatever>
Got a ring to it, doesn't it?

24 February 2006

Tragedy of An Auto-Flush Sensor



I was built to serve the forgetful masses in the toilets. But the moment I was installed, an omnimous feeling overcame me.

When the first person my buddy served came in, he opened up the seat cover. Then, darkness fell. And then on, I could only hear sounds...

Then, I felt my button pressed. I let my water out into my buddy. It was done, but it wasn't the same and it never will be. I realised I could never fully satisfy the people I was created to serve. I felt betrayed by the contractors who installed me. I have lost hope in humanity.

17 February 2006

Lunch @ Maxwell Market

Just returned from lunch at Maxwell Market.
Quite lucky today, Kelvin's car managed to secure a parking lot at the market the moment we went into the carpark.

I walked past the Hum Ji Peng stall and I only saw the usual lady working on the dough. That really old man wasn't around...

I proceeded to the corner stall selling biscuits and confectionery. I always liked whatever they sold there. cheap, fresh and good. A considerably large bag of xiao man tou biscuits only cost me $1.

15 February 2006

Keeping the fire of passion burning

Mum and Dad wore red today. And they went out this morning just before I did. After over 30 years together. They still have their own special way of expressing their love for each other. I guess it's Valentine's Day everyday if they want to.

14 February 2006

Mind the GAP

Please mind the gap (beep, beep, beep)
Please mind the gap (beep, beep, beep)
Please mind the gap (beep, beep, beep)
Please mind the gap (beep, beep, beep)
Please mind the gap (beep, beep, beep)
Please mind the platform gap (beep, beep, beep)

Coincidentally, soon after the announcement that Banana Republic and GAP are going to set up shop in Singapore, the inclusion of platform was heard on the MRT.

Maybe SMRT didn't want to subconsciously plug for the American brand. But platform gap and GAP both have a word in common leh.

Maybe there is a need to research for a replacement word for gap.

Opening? Too inviting. People might want to step into it.

Crevice? Too narrow. People's foot won't step into it anyway.

Ravine? Too organic.

Trench? Too military. The guys might start doing fire movement.

Moat? Too defensive. Then must invite people to step across with a drawbridge.

Drain? No water.

Crack? Too crooked.

Hole? Maybe, but it doesn't explain the length.

Lobang? Buay sai lah.

Or if all else fails, invent a new word! But it might make people like me who notice go crazy with the new word...

So I guess gap is still the best word for the gap between the train and platform.

12 February 2006

The Bumper Car Incident

My brother, Josh had bought a second-hand Toyota Starlet for his long distance commuting which encapsulates any distance that measures beyond the neighbourhood of Choa Chu Kang but no further than Johor Bahru. (Occasionally, it goes further. But that's besides the point.)

More recently, his car had been involved in an unfortunate series of minor accidents. Even more unfortunate, repairs done on his car have not been very well done. Just weeks back, after returning from the mechanic, (He had lent the car to a friend and it "kissed" from behind.) the car blew off its exhaust silencer. Apparently the mechanic had not checked his car thoroughly. Fortunately, repairs were covered by insurance. So he didn't need to fork out money for repairs. Unfortunately, it was the festive period and everyone was not at work. So his car sounded like it had been zhnged (fyi: zhng = souped up; -ed: past tense) with a really powerful turbo.

I thought it worked pretty well to for a guy like him. I mean, he's somewhat of a beng. And for Singapore roads, turbo is nice for showing off, but it's really only good for racing to the next traffic light a hundred metres away, not to mention that it is a red light there. With turbo, the car is fierce, but that's all. One must still abide the traffic rules. So without the silencer, Josh's car sounded fierce on Singapore roads and that served its purpose.

Right after the silencer had been fixed, his car got into another minor accident again. That sort of made him rather frustrated with a hint of grovelling in self-pity. Talk about arse luck.

Even more recently, the "GT" logo came off from some part of his car and it landed on the bar counter at home.

Somehow I'm having this impression that his Toyota Starlet is gradually falling apart. Maybe he should have gotten a first-hand Korean car in the first place, as advised by Ken. But I guess Josh could take consolation that I don't have a driving licence...

11 February 2006

Before Valentine's Day

Only a few days before Valentine's. Many things are going through my head. This year is different. I won't be alone this year. I've got a date...

It started out with a show at the Drama Centre. Then a movie, a dinner, a bus ride home, more dinners, church visit, another bus ride, another movie, dinner, Christmas eve, night cycling on New Year's Eve, dinner, bumping into her on the train, ice-cream fondue, Sentosa Flower Festival, walk on the beach, Ben & Jerry's, dinner, theatre, another church visit. Finally, Valentine's Day.

For someone ordinary, it was a challenge to come up with a romantic day. I guess real life romance don't work the way they do in the movies and television. They've got retakes. More importantly, they've got million dollar budgets. Plus, everybody looks oh-so-glamourous. That's reel life.

Real life, however, is somewhat different. It is not always a bed of roses. Things may not go as planned. You can't promise the moon and the stars. But you can promise time and effort for a relationship and keep it. I ever came across this analogy of claypot rice. If you prepare claypot rice by cutting corners, you won't get good claypot rice. Good claypot rice takes time, effort, patience and understanding.

I definitely believe in the claypot rice theory to relationships. Past relationships have been somewhat strong flavoured dishes that were all the rage. Then they just got boring and faded away.

This time, I want to make things right all the way. But I'm rather disappointed with myself for the lousy plan for Valentine's Day. I'll have to put in more effort for the next date.