Monday, 30 May 2011

Sito and me vs. food

mf: How many beef patties did you have?
Sito: Two
mf: Me too! And how many hotdogs?
Sito: A few..
mf: Ha! I feel better now. I had two :)

That's us. Gluttons. Just back from the summer BBQ - the last event at McManus for the year.

I'm going to be one of the two summer student directors at McManus. So I was roped in to help out today. Think I sliced some 30 tomatoes.. And I piled them up so nicely! :)



It was a beautiful day but the sudden heat after all that rain yesterday and all that cold before that drained me so quickly once I got out there. After eating and halfway through a conversation, I declared I needed a seat!

And I feel so full now even though I didn't eat as much as yesterday at a sushi buffet. Perhaps I can no longer eat so much within a short period of time.

Sighs, age is catching up fast..

Was chatting with some girls and they were so conscious of weight and size! I mean, I am too but I don't count calories lor and I haven't been to the gym for ages. And, one of the girls was so think to begin with!

I'm so glad I married a man who eats a lot too so that I don't feel bad when I eat a lot :p And I eat a lot. There are times when I may eat more than Sito *.*

Keep eating, Sito!!

Rooolling my eyes at work

For the umpteenth time, I rolled my eyes at the screen of my work laptop this morning.

No reply. Again.

The number of times I did that is probably higher in the past eight months than in the six years of working before that.

I used to think things could move quickly with me working in a different time zone. You know, like this:

I ask for something on day one
--> HQ gives me what I want while I sleep
--> I get it by day two and finish up the work
--> happy :)

I was so wrong. It's more like:

I ask for something on day one
--> I don't get it by day two
--> I wait for HQ to give me the next day
--> I don't get it by day three
--> chase HQ
--> if I'm lucky, I get it by day four; otherwise, chase again
--> frustration! :(

Why?? Especially when things I ask for are usually simple, just that I have no access or no idea, being not in HQ!

The worst is not when I ask for something. It's when I propose something. One idea that was to be implemented had a two-month gap between my last reminder email and the reply, partly because I had grown sick of chasing people.

Anyway, I'm glad that I'm leaving.

But through this whole thing, I also learn to be really grateful for the angels in my life.

The friend and colleague I mentioned in my previous post is one. Despite being no longer in charge of HR, she stood up for me against the new HR. Two weeks later, I got a Facebook message from my old boss asking if I had resigned. Apparently, another friend and colleague was upset when she learnt of my application for no-pay leave and went to find him and mistakenly said I resigned. She later emailed me that she was mad that my office did not look after me. After I clarified with my old boss, he asked me if I would be interested in doing some research work for him instead. But I declined as he would be taking a sabbatical from July and I didn't want his successor to "inherit" me.

Aren't these wonderful people? :)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Frivolous wedding customs

So I watched Bridesmaids the other day right..

I simply don't understand all these bridal showers and hen (and stag) parties!

Yes, a wedding is once in a lifetime. But is there a need to spend so much time, effort and money on it when the marriage after that is so much more important?

I love how Wikipedia says the Brits think of bridal showers as a "consumerist American idea" (and baby showers as a "materialistic American custom") :p

Ok, it may be unfair then to diss angmoh wedding customs as a whole. For example, I believe there are bridezillas in every culture. But I hear and see more of angmoh weddings so... (Thank goodness my close gfs are not bridezillas!)

And yesterday, Yan and I had a field day bitching to each other. I don't see why Sito must attend a friend's stag party in Seattle/Vancouver on the Friday-Saturday when he was to go to Boston for work training on Sunday. For a leisure trip, he is going to better Na's record on arriving in Japan on Friday night and leaving on Sunday evening, by getting to Seattle on Friday night and leaving Vancouver on Saturday night! Not to mention (a) they already had a mini stag night here in Evanston, and (b) the costs involved for something that isn't even the wedding!!

On the other side of the Atlantic, Yan attended the wedding of her husband's friends, a pair of Brits who decided to get married in Cyprus where they were to have their honeymoon anyway and expected their 20 guests to just show up like Cyprus were another High St in the UK. They didn't provide anything for the guests at all besides a BBQ reception. And Yan had to dig into her savings to pay for the hundreds of pounds for the flight, accommodation and gifts! Destination weddings sound cool - but only for the celebrities and the rich who fly their guests over!

Actually, I love weddings - I think they can be so touching and/or fun. But I don't like fuss and excess. (And for the record, I hate attending weddings of people I hardly know. I got that twice - new colleagues I knew for barely a month. And they quit shortly after that!)

In the end, I repeat - the marriage itself is so much more important than the wedding and popular customs. It's amazing to hear some people say they don't have money to get married. Sure, it can cost hundreds of thousands, if you want a stately affair(s). It can also cost as low as $26.50 to get married at the ROM in Singapore - that's the registration fee.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

To-do list

I was in the shower when I realised that if I continued to let my mind stay idle, Alzheimer's would find its way in some day!

Or maybe I'm just a hypochondriac! Or cyberchondriac..

So it happened that there was an unfortunate Monday when the lecture proved too boring for me. To keep myself awake, I started scribbling what I would like to do in July - July! No more work! No more thinking about work!

There are so many things I want to do..
  1. Write out family history for Sito and Grams
  2. Tidy up notes from my Kellogg classes
  3. Learn Spanish
  4. Improve Japanese
  5. Clean and tidy the apartment more regularly
  6. Learn to cook better - join the JVs for the weekly cooking class
  7. Exercise regularly
  8. Think about religion
  9. Find a Montessori centre to request to observe
  10. Start a little online business
  11. Learn how to grow our money
  12. Read more news
  13. Go to the library
  14. Hang out more with friends
  15. Watch more dramas :p
  16. Continue to blog! Especially about Oxford..
So there! A good mix of fun and learning to keep body and mind active and happy. And that should keep me really busy too! Happy :)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Rekindling a love for Nike

It used to be Nike or nothing for me when it came to sports shoes cos they were pretty. Shallow but I'm kidding no one - I'm so not sporty!

Yesterday in advertising strategy class, there was a short case on Nike.

And just minutes ago, the tagline came to me while I was thinking of stuff.

I'm going to Just.Do.It and strive for victory.

The best part about work

The other day, I was musing to Sito that I missed working in the city - you know, the feeling of dressing up, carrying my work bag, grabbing coffee and some breakfast before reaching office, lunching with the crowds, and finally knocking off and catching the train at evening peak hour.

Perhaps I miss being a single OL? But that feeling is probably due to watching too many dramas *.* Working life before and after marriage was the same for me - too tired to dress up except when I had presentations, breakfast at home, coffee as an afternoon boost, and knock-up time tended to be way past evening peak hour!

Perhaps I miss this fluffy thing called job satisfaction? I can't say I didn't have job satisfaction. I had that. For a while. And recently when I was writing about cost of living in Singapore and about Singapore etc, I felt so tired cos it was almost like work, but I felt something like euphoria when I was done. Crazy hur?

I figure that what I like is the lifestyle that a perfect job (read: no OT, sufficient pay) gives - you know, dressing up and expensive coffee. Makes me feel more "hip" and less frumpy. When we met our friends last Friday, we saw some people in fancy clothes walk by and I made a bimbotic comment that I missed dressing up. The reply was that I was already overdressed that day, "for a suburban housewife", which was rather shocking as I didn't even have make-up on!

I resolve not to be frumpy *look at present self* from tomorrow! O_O

But because such a job didn't and doesn't exist, for me at least, I can only miss my financial independence. My work might not have motivated much dressing up but it certainly bought me some nice clothes for other occasions! And expensive coffee.

In the days of no income ahead of us, we can only be more prudent and I should really brainstorm for ways to attain financial independence again.. Ah! Miss it..

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Growing up

I was thinking about this when I was pregnant and couldn't go back to Sg for CY's and Na's respective weddings in the second half of this year. (Now I'm still not going back because we're going to try again (:p) and because money and shelter are an issue.)

CY and I used to say we would be bridesmaids for each other. But promises made in great earnest as a child may not be easily fulfilled as an adult.

And this evening, I watched Bridesmaids with the girls. When the bride told her maid of honour that they wouldn't be staying 5 min apart anymore, I was sad. I thought of CY, of how we used to stay 5 min away from each other - in 20 years, she moved twice but only from behind me to in front of me to next to me across the road. Then I moved away. And now she moved away too. I went southwest and she went north - we're further apart than ever!

This train of thought went further when I had some time after the movie. I thought of all my close friends - many would set up our own little families and probably move further and/or have less time to get together, and was sad again.

But that also puts things into some perspective. So circumstances may make us miss significant milestones in our friends' lives. But it's more important that we don't let any circumstance make us miss our friends' lives altogether. Ne? :)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Out, damn'd spot!

"Yet, here's a spot."

Oops, I dreamt of being cast in a random play with Jo last night, and I barely finished writing about Stratford..

I wonder how many pores we have on our nose... How could I have so many whiteheads and blackheads popping out again when I just squeezed out yucky bits from almost every darn pore on my nose last Tuesday?!

I regret the day I started doing facials - besides making me more conscious of such details, they also seem to have accelerated AND exacerbated the problem.

Or maybe it's just plain old karma - saw this very tall girl last Saturday and commented that with her proportionately larger nose, she must have a lot of blackheads!

:(

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Let's talk salaries

I was going to write about something else but I found something odd in an article and I quote:

Mr Eugene Tan, an Assistant Professor of Law at Singapore Management University, said: "While we accept the principle behind a fair compensation package, the idea that ministers are paid way above the average Singaporean is something many Singaporeans have difficulty accepting."

I fully agree with the need to review and reduce. I've said before, no one needs that much money. But I would be very worried if what Singaporeans couldn't accept is that ministers are paid way above the average Singaporean.

Salaries are different because of different job scopes. (Some people will disagree because some people get more (or less) for doing the same thing as others but that's for another day.) What is "way above"? That makes it sound like a bad thing. I would think it's very subjective. I break my back standing all day and make $1k a month while that minister smiles and shakes hands and makes $100k a month? *pout* Or, I sit in the office (then home) all day and make $4k a month, but no way am I going to give up privacy and personal time with family in order to make $100k a month!

Why would I be worried? Because even Raj Rajaratnam dabbled in insider trading - he is already a billionaire at under US$2 billion, but there are some people who have net worth "way above" his meagre US$2 billion, by some 30 times.. Makes me wonder what people do when they earn 100 times or 500 times less than others...!

I think what Singaporeans couldn't accept is that "ministers are paid no-one-needs-that-much-money highly and peddling hard-to-swallow policies". Not bothering to repeat my words - search link for "ministers' salary".

And then there is talk of applying the same principles of ministerial pay to the top level of the civil service.

I'm of course too far down the hierarchy to be affected. Anyway, no one knows what these principles are yet. So long as in the end, the compensation is fair and adequate, it should be fine. Again, no one needs that much money.

But I'm also thinking... Sure, there are good people who are willing to serve regardless of pay. Then, there are also good people who want to serve but are also curious about what they could achieve in the private sector. With the top carrot shrinking, it kind of lowers the opportunity cost for good people to go out and look see. Perhaps it's a good thing for there to be a better spread of talent..

Thankfully I have enough self awareness to know that I'll never reach the top carrot. I can leave any time for better life balance and sanity! :)

Ok, to bed early again. Still suffering a hacking cough and a runny nose. And the head hurts every so often =(

Monday, 23 May 2011

Let's stop whining together - 1, 2, 3, zip!

I'm ill.

Fever --> runny nose --> runny nose + cough = whines :(

And I was watching this particular episode of Desperate Housewives (yes, oops...) and realised that I must have been quite the ill and whiny bitch in the house with my tolerant husband tending to my every need.

.
.
.

I just asked. He said I am not whiny :)

Still, I am ill. And he is tucking me in at night and making me drink a lot of water :)

Bliss :)

Anyway, back to the topic.. I really don't like whines. I know sometimes I can't help whining and/or I don't know I'm doing it. But I like to think that I check myself enough. That's pretty fortunate for Sito and my friends.

But unfortunately for me, those closest to me tend to whine a lot. Yes, that's you, you and you! You know who you are so let me not name and shame :p Except my husband cos he's my husband hoho!

And because they're close to me, I cannot not hear their whines. And when I hear whines, I must give solutions - I cannot listen to problems and not give solutions! I mean, I didn't do so much maths for nothing!!

Whines --> solutions --> no whine = happiness! :)

But it seems that when people whine, they're not asking for solutions.

Listening ear then? Sure, but because I'm not this black hole that can swallow whines without imploding, I feel so frustrated too!

So forgive me, my dears, for always peddling solutions to you.. I believe that there is a solution to everything. Even "no solution" is a solution - in maths and in life. We should always aim for the ultimate goal - happiness :)

Ok, I said that I would check myself. Enough of whining on my part here, I'm going to sleep off this nasty bout of cough and cold..

Sunday, 22 May 2011

More!

I call my plush sheep Meh, my plush eeyore Eeyore, and our plush elephant Zo-san ("zo" means "elephant" in Japanese).

In the same creative vein, I also have LV, Coach and Prada. When we went shopping yesterday, I added Coach II and Kate (Spade) and a water-resistant spray from Aldo that I intend to try on Prada. Don't worry, I'll test before spraying the entire bag - it already has some spots from getting in the rain =(

Actually, I wasn't thinking of buying anything more than a pair of sneakers at this shopping trip that was meant for Sito to stock up.

But we thought we should go have a look and I ended up getting an idea of carrying a small bag on flights for essentials when looking through the Coach selections, and falling in costly love at first sight (again) while in Kate Spade.....

Oops..

Well... Can a woman ever have enough bags? Or shoes? Or jewellery? Or food?

I think I won't need any more jewellery for life once I get to my stash in Singapore! But I figure I can't have enough of bags and shoes. I can justify shoes - after all, they wear out. But bags, it's more of a want than a need.. With the new additions, I think I will have to stop buying bags until 2013 or even later. Let's see if that happens...

Anyway, on the train back last night, I was looking at my wallet and saying that it was serving me well for some five or six years. Then Sito spotted fraying threads =(

I do have another wallet should this one die on me.. Otherwise, a wallet is not a bag..?

It seems apt to end this with a quote from a card in Kate:

occasionally she dreams of italy. she dreams of cheese shops, persnickety fiats, and very fine leather goods.

:)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

2 am and awake

Headache on Wednesday night blossomed into fever on Thursday. But after a day of sleeping, I was well enough to go hang out with the girls that night for curry and cupcakes! Strange combi but both were yummy :) And we had fun as usual :) Many of us will be here in Evanston over the summer so we'll hang out more :)

This afternoon, SS came over with baby M and we made brownies. Her husband and Sito joined in for dinner and we chatted so much! Such a nice couple but they're going back to Sg already, sighs...

And baby M was so cute! I got to carry her - love her baby smell :) She didn't want to sit on my legs; she wanted to stand! She would smile when I lifted her into a standing position. A new milestone in her development - strengthening her leg muscles?

The party dispersed when YL called - we were late in meeting YL and friends in town! So we cabbed down $35 and cabbed back $40 - how do I insert a dollar sign with wings.....?! At least we had a good chat, good to catch up...

And so I got to the subject title... I'm just waiting for the last bit of hair to dry off completely before sleeping. We're heading for the outlets tomorrow!! ... TODAY!!!

Now the main purpose of this shopping trip is to get shirts and a winter coat for Sito. I shall (try to?) refrain...

Update 11.37 pm (and awake)

The damage was done...

Sito: Four shirts, three ties, one sweater vest (cos I burnt his argyle vest!!), one polo shirt
mf: Two bags, two pairs of shoes and a can of water-resistant spray

And snippets at Brooks Brothers:

1)
Sito: Should get slim fit. And non-iron.
mf: Yes, non-iron is good. I would like non-iron very much.
Sales guy: Haha!

2)
Sito: Use my card?
mf: Ok... *pause* Does it make a difference? *.*

I got confused with all the outlets - this one doesn't carry the puffy winter gear. We'll have to go shopping elsewhere. Again :)

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A very happening and fun week

I was so tired that I took a four-hour nap this afternoon! Only woke up when I had to go to the supermarket. For ice cream - discount ends today! :p

Had more classes this week due to make-up lessons for Memorial Day. And then there were so many exciting activities keeping us busy!

Salsa!

We had a salsa night at McManus on Wednesday - both the food and the dance. People were making pico de gallo and guacamole. I didn't - lazy :p But I went around tasting the different bowls! And they got a guy to teach salsa. Sito and I just danced our own thing whenever there was music. So much fun :)

Howl at the moooon!

After weeks of rehearsing, Kelloggarhythms finally put up a concert with The Bottom Line, aka the boys, on Thursday at Prairie Moon! Some of us wished we were singing happier songs like the boys, and songs with more lyrics than just "wa na na ba dim" *.*

I was soprano 2 for "Time After Time", "Black Velvet" and "Closer to Fine". Did the soprano part for "Don't Stop Believin'" - sounded almost just like the Glee version. But for "Kellogg Love Story", a spoof of "Somebody to Love", I did the alto part - that was difficult! But considering the amount of time I had for joining the group late, I think I did not bad :p

Some of the girls after the performance - J, LCS, L and mf!


Chinese and Korean TG!

I didn't volunteer  as I was busy for the acapella. But Sito went for the fashion show and showed up in this!


The Koreans turned up in full force as well. So here, we have a mistress (!), a traditional bride, mf in normal clothes, a royal and a very traditional bride.


There were some snacks - actually a lot of snacks - so we brought some home. Happy!

Farewell party

X organised a farewell party at his place for the 1Y students who would graduate this June. We went late cos I was baking cookies :p Brought some cookies for the party.

Somehow, we started playing silly games like using lap dancing as a forfeit! That made me feel really old - the last time I did crazy things under the effect of alcohol was probably at my 25th birthday...

Baby thank you party!

So I met SL through an online forum back in January/February. Then we realised that her husband was a senior in Oxford! And Sito was also introduced to him last year by his friend! Very small world. Or very small world of overseas Singaporeans?

Brought some cookies with us when we went for lunch at their new place on Saturday, C-town. Baby S has grown quite a bit! With chubby cheeks that were best described as succulent :p And we loved the way she hung on to the clothes of this girl who was carrying her, like a koala bear - so super cute :))))

Japan Night!

Rushed back to Evanston and went to Jacobs to prepare for Japan Night. Sito danced in the finale while I manned the Wii booth. Weeheeee!

My $20 ticket


My bento! Cold but still, it's authentic Japanese food :)


They also served yakisoba - more like yaki ramen... Sito ate four plates! This was number 1 which I brought him as he was helping out at registration. So cute right? :)


But he worked it off (somewhat) by dancing on the Wii! This is the dance-off with V! I cheered for my very handsome hubby!


After my Wii shift ended, we somehow ended up at the cosplay booth, and I dressed up as a french maid - on Sito's request!!!



And Sito dressed up as a Power Ranger! So, which is Sito? *hint: Sito has a Very nice body shape!*


Oh, the villian appeared!


The one in the yellow suit!


I did the Power Ranger later too! C, M and mf in that order :) (Had to hide the right hand which didn't have a glove!)

Source: From C

Then Sito did his finale dance :)


And we must have some sake to replenish... No la, we just posed :p Drank a little sake much earlier..


I happened to walk by and they did this.. Apparently, they just fished out cans of Kirin beer from the ice tub so their hands were cold! We took a can home :p


The organising crew and the volunteers!


After most people left, some of us stayed on around the Wii and continued playing! I lost horribly to K, D and Sito!! =(


Ok, I think that was it. Sito has been in the gym for a while. When he comes back, we'll try the new flavour ice cream we got today :) And then, off to bed to rest for the new week!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Unveiling... mf travels

On this day, Friday, 13 May 2011, I give you..

mf's travels!

http://mf-travels.blogspot.com

I'm finally done putting up my travels since 1999! Have a read and tell me what you think? :)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Matched by nature

It all started with the theme from a computer game playing on Sito's laptop.

Sito: Am I nerdy?
mf: ... Um, should I say no?
Sito: You should say you find me masculine when you're ovulating =D

?!!

This will put his words in context.

I must be ovulating every day :)

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Kentucky Derby!

Four happy busloads of Kellogg students and some JVs set off on Friday for Kentucky Derby!

One bus had sleepers. Another had a "merlion" after hours of partying on the bus. Ours was quite moderate - a mix of sleepers and party people, but thankfully no merlion.

Late but yummy dinner at a KFC at some ulu place!


We were appalled by our appetite - the big bucket held four original and two grilled chicken; the small bucket was an unexpectedly huge individual serving of coleslaw; and the box was a scary portion of wedges.

Stayed the night at Days Inn at Columbus, Indiana. A real hotel room with continental breakfast for $31.50! The last time I stayed in such a cheap hotel was in France, a pensione that didn't provide towels or breakfast! Fine, the breakfast here wasn't fantastic but I really appreciated the coffee! We even had a microwave in the room to heat up our wedges!

Everyone was all decked out in pretty sundresses and hats. Even some of the men had fancy hats. I didn't bother getting one of those pretty wide-brimmed hats. Just clipped a brooch to an old hat instead.


I've had this hat for years. Unfortunately, with all the election stuff out there, I just looked like a Tin Pei Lin-wannabe *.*

Source: http://alvinology.com/2011/03/29/tin-peiling-and-sarah-palin/

I reiterate: I've had my hat for years.

But guess what, Sito's cuteness was even more powerful! :p


We discovered wifi on the coach but it was too early for the election results.

As we neared our destination, I saw people holding up home-made signs offering parking for $10 or $20 in their own garage. Many people in fancy gear were also walking towards Churchill Downs.

We got off at the parking lot and saw many people, young people, probably college kids, hanging out there. They must have been there for some time already because the smell of alcohol was everywhere! And then the smell of weed started floating in the air... Not wanting to get high, some of us walked off to Churchill Downs first.

There was quite a queue at gate 3 but it didn't take too long. Christian fundamentalists entertained us with loud speakers *.*

On the way leading to the tunnel that would bring us to the infield. I was a little stunned at first sight (sensitive la..) but soon found it cute :p


The infield was so much better than we had expected! It was not all grass, which would be really gross in the rain. It felt like a huge carnival, with gift shops and food tents. And very decent toilets!

After figuring out where our people were setting up the tarps, Sito and I went for a walk and in search of the Derby Museum.

A random girl posed with a random guy with a funny pony costume while another random guy with a pony on his head walked by and random people like me took pictures!


While the girls were generally in pretty summer gear, the men's fashion at the Derby was another story. This was already mild. Top was actually kind of purplish..


I missed the opportunity to take a photo of a guy wearing a bright purple bow tie with black polka dots hanging below the collar of a yellow shirt tucked into pink berms cos I had such a shock at seeing him!

Exaggerated hats were just about as common as the pretty pretty type. Weren't those things heavy??


We passed by a few spots where we saw some horses, some walking around, some racing by. But it was a chore getting right up to the fence.

Anyway, we soon found an underpass that led to the grandstand and found the museum. Unfortunately, both the museum and the cafe were closed that day! Argh!

So we left in search of better lunch options, but not before a picture at the main gate.


Settled for J Gumbo's just outside Churchill Downs. And they had wifi! We logged on to different websites and FB and Twitter for the latest updates and chatted with friends who were still awake :p

The results were not unexpected. Aljunied was doomed to be a tragedy regardless of outcome; I only wish that the WP team had contested in Tampines instead *evil* And while I like WKS, I feel so sorry for CST too.. After all the talk the past week, I'm looking forward to the line-up for the next cabinet, policy updates, more concrete stuff from the opposition MPs, and less wayang from everyone. Ok, no more Singapore talk for a while!

Back to the Derby.. Must show some food.. I took two hours to finish my bowl, and another hour or so to finish the cookie - I've never eaten so slowly all my life!


It was 5 pm before we left the restaurant :p Which gave us an hour to get a drink and bet on a horse or two before the big race.

And we returned to a really crowded infield! After a mild shower during lunch, the sun was out and people were drunk and happy. Really soaked in the atmosphere then..


It was time for some mint julep. The sign between two sale counters.


Funny things happened when I left Sito in the queue to take this picture..

a) A guy who just left a counter with his hands full asked me if I wanted to be in with the sign. Thanks, but I just want the sign. (And you don't have a spare hand if you realise!)
b) The next guy who left the counter, also holding two drinks, turned to me and, "You're hot!" Haha! Thanks! Then I went back to report to Sito!! He smiled =D

It was our turn and I didn't want to crowd in front of the counter. So I stepped back to take pictures of the helicopter banners. Then Random Bloke decided to step in and pose. I took a picture of him cos I also like to do stupid things like that :p


And finally we got our drink! Now, it's whisky, so I didn't expect it to taste too good. But I still wasn't prepared for how nasty it was! I took a sip and almost couldn't smile!


Remind me again why I stopped taking hard liquor...

Yet, the angmohs seemed to love it. Like this guy who had apparently had many many glasses of mint julep.


Headed back to the Kellogg tarps to chat with people and to catch the Derby race on the big screen. Managed to catch a glimpse of the horses as they raced past near us - super fast!! Lucky for us that the betting queues were too long, cos the horse we were thinking of didn't win, hoho!

We all left after that. Unfortunately, we had to stop by the portaloos at the parking lot cos the decent toilets at the infield had indecent queues. They were just mighty gross - floating waste and no washing water! We used some precious drinking water, and back on the bus, I took someone's offer of handwash gel, much as I find the idea of having dead bacteria on my hands disturbing..

Got home pretty late and slept until noon today. I still feel a little tired. I still feel the soreness in my butt from 14 hours of bus ride in two days. But it was actually quite fun. We'll probably take more road trips when we feel comfortable driving - driving lessons soon! But next year, we'll watch the Derby on the TV. Not going anywhere near portaloos!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

My Singapore :(

It’s cooling off day soon. Indeed, it’s been somewhat chilling for me after following all the election news online...

Granted, there are some pretty balanced pieces on why they would vote for the incumbent or the opposition. But most of the stuff out there are very one-sided with no good reason, and any "dissent", i.e. pro-PAP talk, will kena whacked until mother also cannot recognise.

After the initial bewilderment at what some Singaporeans are thinking, I’m now trying to put together my thoughts for some of the hot issues for comparison five years later. I’ll keep referring to my earlier post on cost of living. If you don’t agree, just too bad!

Basic amenities

Housing: Everyone, PAP or opposition, should think the same way – it’s time to do something about the affordability and availability of public housing. Building to sell instead of built-to-order may be a start. See earlier post.

Another issue is eligibility, especially of singles and single unmarried parents. If we open up to singles now, there will only be greater squeeze and higher prices. Further, we have limited space so one flat to accommodate one person seems extravagant. When the current squeeze is over, perhaps we can think about lowering the age bar for two or more singles buying a flat. As for single unmarried parents, I think they deserve a flat as much as single parents who are divorced or widowed if they are working and able to support their family.

Other costs of living: Ok if we stay healthy. See my earlier post.

But some people quote this as a reason not to have children. RUBBISH. I don’t think the government needs to cater to the needs wants of these people. We should just make Singapore as good for families as it could be. People have to choose whether or not they actually want children.

Quality of life: Too crowded? See earlier post under transport. We need to learn to live in a city!

No work-life balance? Thought about it a while ago but I have no solution yet. Will think more about it later.. But please don’t let me see stupid ideas such as reduce the number of working hours per week from the current 42 to 35 like the French – I used to clock 42 hours by mid week, and for those who are strictly 9-to-5, do you really think you can take home the same income for working less?!

No work-life balance is also cited as a reason not to have children. Then people say Nordic countries are good because they pay for childcare and have good work-life balance. I shall ignore the childcare part because we have very different tax structures. But you know why they have good work-life balance? They start work at 7-8 am, take 30 min lunch and go home at 4 pm. They get to cook and have dinner with their children, put them to bed before catching up on some work if they need to. I’ve heard of people taking long lunches and even tea in Singapore. Also, MSN at work. How to finish work early to go home?!

Our quality of life is the result of our choices.

Other gripes

Foreigners: White-collar says foreign “talent” – for lack of a better word – are taking away jobs. Blue collar says other foreign workers are taking away jobs.

Perhaps we should think about why employers choose foreigners over Singaporeans – do we have a competitive edge over foreigners? I don’t mean to compete on wages cos it would only depress wages. But if we cost more or even the same as a foreigner, we need to have the ability to do the job better and demonstrate that we are better value for money. If not, I don’t see why employers will choose us! Shouldn’t we reflect on this and upgrade ourselves?

Let’s “borrow” this blog post which includes a discussion on foreign workers – how hiring a Singaporean valued at $500 over a foreigner valued at $1,000 is helping one Singaporean employee but short-changing the Singaporean employer. Some readers rebutted that employers are probably MNCs but I think that’s beside the point. We should ask ourselves how we could up the value of the Singaporean to $1,000 and beyond. If we ourselves are good enough, there is no fear of competition. Same for school places.

My aunt worked for a family provision shop until the 1990s when she started working in a local bakery chain. Then about two or three years ago, she switched to another bakery for higher pay. She started at the bottom and is now able to command a higher pay because she has something to offer to her employer. On the other hand, some Singaporeans can be too self-centred. In my old job, during interviews, we often got strange comments from even degree-holders, oh, I studied overseas / I like travelling so I want to join OSU. Wtf?! Passion needs to match with ability for a good job fit for both the employer and employee.

Freedom of speech, assembly, etc: People keep saying how biased our local media is towards the PAP. But honestly, can there be a truly independent, unbiased local newspaper? Even informal news sources that harp on our “biased mainstream media” tend to be biased against the PAP, sometimes absurdly so.

I remember this comment on Temasek Review (let me redeem myself – I’m certainly not a fan (omg!) but I had to read some articles in my old job) on how people in other countries went on strikes and protests to make a point while we couldn’t do that in Singapore.

Wa liao... Sure, go ahead and allow strikes. Then the REAL problems begin.. Look at the tube strikes in London*! Come on, I don’t want to have to check if there’s a strike going on, if the MRT is working etc, every time before I go out! I just want some peace and order!

* Btw, the tube drivers earn a lot. Correspondingly, transport costs are very high – in Zone 1, it was £1.90 per trip in 2003, £3 in 2006 and £4 today! It's called 羊毛出在羊身上 - when you ask for more wages, you pay more for goods and services too. Also see next point on minimum wages.

Eh, I also deserve my right for a peaceful life, ok..

Minimum wage: I didn’t think much about it until Singapore Day 2007. A group of local helpers were all union workers being paid minimum wage. They were sooooo lazy! However much little they did, they still got paid the same!

In our context:

I’m a company. I pay my employees $x. Now you want me to pay $(x+y). I do a “restructure” of the company or processes and retrench those who cannot do more for that wage. But some work just cannot be made any more productive. I may start to bleed and die. Bye bye, all jobs in my company.

I’m an employee. I used to earn $x. Now I earn $(x+y) for doing the same job. Oh, boss wants me to do more. I have to else I risk losing my job. Now I have no work-life balance, no time for dating/children.

I’m a Singaporean. I find goods and services more expensive because it now causes more to produce or provide them - yes, 羊毛出在羊身上 again. If I’m a minimum wage worker, I earn more but pay more too. How does minimum wage really help then??

Ministers’ salary: Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me that the ministers earn a lot. Reducing their salary doesn’t mean the money comes to me! How much money comes to me is based on other considerations. But when they are trying to do their job well and right, including peddling sound but unpopular policies, those high salaries don’t give them that moral high ground to do so.

Of course they should get a good pay package – however noble a job may be, no one will do it if they’re not given their due. And after looking at national policies for some years, I realised that it’s very stressful to know that what I do has an impact on the society. And I’m a minion. These people hold even greater responsibilities and should be compensated accordingly. But beyond a certain amount, the money is just digits in the bank – what do you do with that much money?! My last salary was a really nice four-digit figure, and I couldn’t spend it all without four kids!

I wonder if there is some way to address this issue – perhaps making them pay tax is a good start?

Events

Floods: Seriously, I don’t know what the chaps behind the public comms were thinking.. The minister should never say things like “once in 50 years” because actually, he doesn’t know – 天灾咧! – but by saying that, he implied he knew *.* Who can predict such mishaps accurately?! And I believe the relevant authorities are looking into it even as I type.

YoG: I don’t understand why people keep harping on the YoG budget. We bade for it with S$104 milion and spend S$387 million on it.

PRC bade for the 2008 event for $1.6 billion and ended up spending $15 billion to US$43 billion, depending on which report you read. But fine, no one in PRC can hold the government accountable.

The UK bade for the 2012 Olympics with US$5 billion, and it is now looking at US$15 billion.

I’m obviously not comparing the scale, but stating the fact that these things do happen. I’m not even supporting our minister’s claim that the budget went up because it was the first ever YoG – even the long-running summer Olympics face budget issues (see third line from the end in link), and I think it is because it is simply hard to draw references from past events when (a) the context of each host country is different, and (b) economic situations vary from year to year, and quite frankly, no country would put their reputation at stake just to save money. We are already lucky to have the resources to fund the YoG. Look at the UK now.

From another point, even if we didn’t spend the money on YoG, the money wouldn’t go anywhere else; conversely, spending the money on YoG doesn’t mean the needy wouldn’t get support. Our system is such that if you are eligible, you’ll get what is due to you. I’m familiar with the Baby Bonus so using it as an example, if we suddenly have double the number of babies, none will be denied the benefit because we overspent on YoG! (Although I don’t know if the system may jam up a bit – form processing etc..) In the end, I repeat myself, the amount given to each person is based on various considerations and not whether we have enough money, which I think is a very fortunate thing when some countries are cutting back on social spending to reduce their budget deficit.

Mas Salamat: If people blame the minister for ISD’s slip, I can applaud the same minister for SPF’s efficiency when the police responded swiftly to our call after a loanshark attack. Is everyday security not of utmost importance (as well)? I rest my case.

My last straw

I remember a long conversation with my cousins. It was disheartening to hear that they were happy to vote in any Tom, Dick and Harry from the opposition just to tell PAP about their unhappiness about current policies.

Well, if people want to vote in able opposition, fine. It’ll make parliament sessions more interesting to watch. I doubt we’ll have politicians throwing lunch boxes at each other like what happened in Taiwan in 2007! But anyone, really? REALLY??

I see that as no different from how Tin Pei Ling may cruise into parliament. People are not voting for any Tom for being Tom; they are irrationally voting against PAP.

After the rallies

I’ve been reading articles and watching videos on mainstream and social media. I’m disappointed with all sides – some wayang, some irrational, some empty but popular.

For some reason, the incumbent never seems to be able to get it right during elections – threats turn people off, speeches suck*. They are on the defensive most of the time, and they put across their points in the typical government way – logical, rational, but unemotional. And let’s face it, it’s hard to believe the emotions of a millionaire!

* I read an “interesting” article that this is because the politicians have the civil service behind them for their usual speech but not during elections! I used to write speeches and I think it’s unfair to say that because they don’t just take our speeches wholesale!

On the other hand, the opposition are on the offensive and they inject emotions to rouse the people so they are much better received. But is this a popularity contest? Can people see beyond the emotions and examine if these popular ideas will work? I hope they can and they do, because their votes affect me as well.

At the same time, I recognise there are good people on all sides, people with well intentions. The way I see it, I put it down to two key struggles or balances:

1) Sustainability for the nation vs. the welfare of each individual or family – I’m all for long-term sustainability because I see my permanent home in Singapore. People say that family is the basic unit of society. True, but 没有国,哪有家? I believe in 先有国,再有家。It’s easier to put everything into a jar when we fill it with rocks before the sand. And I’m not saying that the welfare of each individual or family is not important. But rather than expecting the state to give direct help, we should help ourselves isn’t it? Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. (That wasn’t me. That was Lao Tzu, in English.) But going by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the idea of nation before self, or even benefiting nation equalling benefiting self, could be difficult to sell if everyday issues are not dealt with.

2) Passion for public service vs. brains – Those who have been in grassroots work for years, I really think they are there for the passion because you have to put in time and effort on top of work and family commitments. They are also the people who know the ground issues well. But passion alone cannot lead the country. So we also have people with bombastic CVs, aka smart people, people from the upper echelons of the public service and the private sector, but they may not know the ground as well. Now if only passion and brains exist in the same body!

Nowadays, I think they send school kids to parliament sittings as a learning journey. But I doubt many adult Singaporeans have been to one? Based on my childhood experience that every time there was a parliamentary report that extended beyond the news, the adults would turn off the TV to switch on later to watch dramas.

Anyway, I have been to a number. My first one was when I first joined the civil service. All newbies are supposed to go for one such learning journey. I was so new that I had no idea what they were talking about. I also had no idea how the process was like. Quite honestly, it was a plain struggle trying to stay awake! Luckily I had my phone – no camera! – with me to keep me from nodding off (too much)!

Fast forward a few years, I have since been to parliament four times during the budget debate. I now understand how things work. I have also seen things not shown on TV.

In 2009, I saw Chiam See Tong make a speech. That was after his stroke so he had difficulty getting up and when he spoke, it was barely audible. Yet he is still working the ground, fighting his cause. For that, I really respect him.

In 2010, I saw him speak again. As before, he had some difficulty getting up and going to the stand. Again, that sense of respect for him. But this time, I also saw something else. When Chiam struggled to move, Vivian Balakrishnan on the other side was looking at him intently and made a movement towards him but he got up by himself then. I instantly liked VB. So I was hardly surprised to read this but of course, many readers were cynical. A colleague saw another PAP MP almost getting up too – I’ve forgot who but I’m sure I’ll like him too.

I just don't believe in voting for change for its own sake. It's too vague. Whatever change people are thinking of, it'd better be for the better. Unfortunately, no one can predict if it's an upward or downward curve.. I’m very risk averse. I prefer the status quo – it may not up go very much but I doubt it will go down.

Conclusion

Finally!!

I’ve had the opportunity to think more about Singapore since we moved to Evanston, far away from home.. Many here know of Singapore but have never been. They were curious and asked about it, especially those who were interested in working in Singapore.. And I find that I’ve only got good things to say :)

The other day, I mentioned being a happy Singaporean. Then, I thought, is the Happy Singaporean a rarity? Or are we just a discontented lot?

Online comments can be so depressing that you would think that no one seems happy :( But the thing is, isn’t happiness what we make of it? We are only as happy as we allow ourselves to be! :)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

My Singapore :)

Call it (ex-)job hazard but I've been itching to write about this since 2006. Wanted to expand on an entry in 2006 but never got down to it.. Managed a little bit in 2008, but I want to add on.. So, with a few more years of credentials as a Singaporean (and time on my hands!), here I go!

There have been a number of polls and surveys about Singaporeans wanting to emigrate. Oft cited push factor is the high cost of living in Singapore. Putting aside the discussion of whether they are able to emigrate at all, I wonder what “home” means to them, if costs push them away. I mean, what about family and friends?

My definition of home has changed pre- and post-marriage. Before marriage, home could only mean Singapore; my family then didn’t feel like home to me. I felt at home everywhere outside my flat. I felt at home at Grams’ place, at Sito’s place. I even felt very at home at various prata spots with KLK! After marriage, home is where Sito is – we can make home anywhere so long as we are together, so Evanston is home now. But this is only temporary. We see our permanent home in Singapore. It is where both our tangible and intangible needs are met – Singapore is a great place to live in, and where our family and friends are. It is where we feel, well, most at home.

Besides being clean and green, Singapore is such a convenient place to live in. We are dotted with wet markets and supermarkets and eateries, with some running round the clock. There are bus stops in all the HDB areas (I can’t say the same for private residences buried deep in some estates but hey they have cars right?!) and the MRT station is no more than a bus ride away. I feel safe at any time of the day just about anywhere. I can wear anything I want any day without checking the weather. Sure, it can be hot, but I have survived 30 years in a second-floor three-room flat blocked by a school in front and flats behind with no aircon, i.e. it’s not that bad :)

I already gave my take on the general costs of living in Singapore and entertainment options in Singapore. To add on to the latter, I think company is very important. I’m really really missing prata nights with KLK now! That’s so fun (and yummy) it’s hardly boring! Which brings me to my next point..

We have great family (sans my immediate one) and friends in Singapore, amazing emotional support. Sure, with emails and Skype and if we feel rich, the phone, no one is ever too far. But the feeling is just a little different when you can’t really hang out..

So now we hope Sito gets a job back home after the MBA; the MBA job market in Singapore is limited. Otherwise, we can stay here for a while, close two eyes to all the bad things and just look at the two (just two!) good things:

a) Work-life balance – Back in my old job, I clocked the same number of hours as the consultants here but I was busy every moment while they spent a lot of time waiting for this and that since it’s one project at a time. Wtf?!
b) Far from my immediate family – really.

But Sito doesn't need work-life balance. Just me if I want to work here. And there are more things than my immediate family – like Sito's family, our friends, my cousins..

So we want to go home!! :)

Speaking of staying overseas, my little cousin Yan (ok, not so little la, littler than me by seven months!) is leaving for the UK to join her husband in mid May. Her home will be both Singapore and the UK soon. It seemed so surreal to move your whole life to somewhere else. This is also different from moving to other countries because of their job; the job can move but home is still Singapore. When you have two homes, it can get complicated..

Anyway, a friend posted this on Facebook, video taken by a Singaporean at Singapore Day in Shanghai. “Home” is hardly my favourite national song but my eyes got wet watching it.



My favourite national song is pretty old – “Five Stars Arising!” (! is mine) – and speaks of our beginning as a nation. In more recent years, I like Stefanie Sun’s “We Will Get There”, a tale of making it through adversities and a song I can never really sing properly cos I want to cry halfway!



The Mandarin version.



Yes, I love my country :) You can take me out of Singapore, but you can’t take Singapore out of me :)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

OD on elections

After days of reading elections news on mainstream and social media, I'm feeling disappointed with everyone, especially the majority of those Singaporeans who have expressed their views online...

AI PEE, AI CHEE, AI TUA LIAP NEE!

Where got such thing?!
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