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All the about Pkchukiss's life in the Singapore Armed Forces

Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year Resolutions - an obligation?

I have never been one to break traditions, nor do the people who have been in my life remember me as a person to rock the boat. But instead of posting the obligatory "New Year Resolution", I am going to tell you what I will have done by December 2005:

  • My class 2B civilian motorcycle licence, along with a basic bike to boot (I intend to upgrade my licence to the "free for all" class 2 category when I become eligible for it).
  • I will have decided on my next stage of my life: Even though I failed to gain entry into a university, there are many other alternative routes that I can take to receive training in specialised fields - even though it isn't the end of the world, these routes are definitely less trodden, and probably tougher.
  • I will have finally finished my website (long overdue since 1998 *gasp*). Procrastination has been a killer for me this year, so to put myself on the line and finish it, I am going to go for a professional web host to serve my future website. Nothing like a little financial commitment to motivate myself.
  • A business - no solid plans yet, but I am looking into the possibilities of network marketing. Tough concept to grasp (for me due to my lack of an economics background), but I will have read up totally on this business, and have created a proposal and presented it to like-minded friends.
  • Built up a muscle bulk that allows me to sustain 15 chin-ups whenever and wherever I do them.
  • Get the Gold standard for my camp's physical test

I have been there, and tried it: vague resolutions are great for placating beloved ones, but don't do anything to further your personal well being. Hopefully these solid goals are powerful enough to set my direction for 2005 (I get easily distracted by chocolates!)

So what would you have acheived by 31 December 2005?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Company cohesion: (correction: platoon cohesion)

In a show of division unity, our company went on a trip to Sentosa (a very tourist paradise with pristine beaches, and $1.30 cokes).

Apparently, punctuality is lost (especially by superiors) when they are not in uniform. I was quite struck by the irony of the situation. I barely dragged my half-dead body to Sentosa, and was handsomely rewarded with sights of higher ranking people strolling off the different bus loads. The rest of us were so bored by their tardiness that we started our own breakaway "cohesion".

Finally, when some semblence of an instruction was somehow passed down, the entire herd moved in the general direction of some hall (which turned out to be some over-decorated shed). Workers were setting up temporary struts and other small platforms for the new year countdown. There, we sat twiddling our thumbs, and talking - among our individual cliques.

(I am sure you would have known by now my reason for writing like this...)

A few of us were even bored enough to strip somebody and send him into the welcoming embrace of the equatorial water. Sorry there are no photographs to post here because I am too poor to get a digital camera, not even a low end model.

Essentially things got so dry (the so called cohesion program was actually only a monotanous beach volleyball "league") that many of us broke away and started doing our own stuff. The lechers among us (I am quite sad to report that I am one of them) put on our best shades and took a stroll (swim and dunk) along the beach to (ahem...).

As of this writing, I am having serious reservations on continuing my narration (Yes, it is THAT boring, and I am not that bad a story teller, am I?), so I am going to stop by saying that we ended the whole program with absolutely nothing to take away (nope, my platoon didn't win anything, and would be thankful if relationships were not damaged today, let alone maintained.)

Platoon level cohesion was supposed to be next on the agenda, but as the guys put it, "No mood. Go home. Sleep." (I am quite annoyed that they have succeeded in making my blog entry sound like a teenager's whine. Thanks very much.)

Monday, December 27, 2004

Army Recruitment Centre Posters - Not

Advertisement posters with a twist:

(AWOL stands for "Absent Without Official Leave")

More posters can be found here:

Who said that people in the army were boring?

FireFox Evangalism

I was quite curious when StatCounter showed me some disappointing figures: (as a crazied supporter of open-source software) the uptake of FireFox .

Only 1 out of 100 visitors to this blog is using FireFox to browse the website.

Now that I have nothing related to my camp to write about (a break from camp and all), I am going to evangalise (quite unusual for a Buddhist).

FireFox is a revolutionary web browser that embodies the "open source" concept: That means many eyes are upon the coding of this application all the time, and any flaws or potential security problems are fixed with very short turn around times. Compare this to Internet Explorer, of which the development has been stagnant for 3 years now. The number of security problems are numerous. FireFox, on the other hand, is under constant development by volunteers, who add more functionality to improve your browsing experience!

So far, major features of the program include tabbed browsing, which saves tons of your window real estate, and an advanced privacy manager, which allows you to remove your tracks, all without much fuss. For those who want more functionality, it is achieved through Extensions.

Give it a try! It is only a small download, and you won't lose a thing (you can uninstall it easily in the event you find FireFox unsuitable for you, but I think that it would be highly unlikely!).

[End of promotion speech]

On a personal note, I have used FireFox for a few months now, and I have not come across any security problems so far - in fact, FireFox load pages much faster than Internet Explorer, I have since relegated IE to the doldrums of the hard disk.

Pioneers do write too!

It seems that the guys from Pioneer platoon blog too!

Kavan's blog

Eugene's blog

Patrick's blog

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Promise and Play

There are no apparent links between Promise and Play, except perhaps the fact that they exist under the same category of "Words Starting With 'P'". However, they happened to make my life miserable today (or rather yesterday, for that matter).

You should remember from my last blog post that I played the night over at Orchard (the photos show it all), but being the crazy NSF (that's National Service FullTime) that I was, I decided to continue playing through the night. (Lest some readers mistake my intentions, I currently have no intention of delievering my maiden voyage to some well-powdered woman on the street.) I stayed at home to chat with some of my friends who also had trouble sleeping.

That was when my troubles began. I had promised one of my platoon mate that I would turn up for his church's commemoration of Christmas in the Indoor Stadium the next morning (which was yesterday as of now). I ended up sleeping late and subsequently missed the event.

He did call to remind me just an hour before the event, but the comfort of my own bed proved too much to bear (I had answered the phone from my bed), and the next time I woke up, it was bright noon, and SMSes were piling up on my phone.

He called me a while later, and I had to suffer the guilt of having to tell him the truth (I couldn't have lied anyway, I was too tired).

Three hours later, I found myself leaving the house again, to meet another group of friends.

Perhaps I would have felt better had I just slept this day away...

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

I am not a believer in Christmas, but there is no harm in partying all the same, is there?

I went to the bustling streets of Orchard along with three more friends to soak in the Christmas atmosphere: (Photos courtesy of Kester with his digital camera, edited by yours truly.)

Inside the train

2 punky looking guys (Which one is yours truly?)

Beautiful Christmas tree in Ngee Ann City

The gang (Kester is the photographer)

Our camera man in the midst of a foam war

People were buying spray cans from the road side stalls and sprayed with abandon, innocent by-standers or not. I joined in, and armed myself. Too bad we forgot to take a picture in the after-math of the battle (we surrendered at around 12 am, and hurried to the train station to avoid the crowd crush for the last few trains back home. I looked like I just got out from the shower, neglecting to wash off the shampoo from my hair. Some of the strangers got beards, others multi-sported coloured streams.

The sporty attitude was in the air, skirmishes broke out with such randomness and swiftness, and ended just as fast, with strangers pretending that nothing has happened, the slippery ground being the only evidence of a foam battle having been fought there. I sprayed strangers in their backs as I passed them, and managed to confuse them (they couldn't have realised that sneaky me was the perpetrator.) [Insert evil laughter]

Merry Christmas everybody!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Blog stats!

Here is the breakdown of my visitors for thse two days: (Courtesy of StatCounter)

Whatever happened to you BadAunt?

Once again, the majority of the visitors featured in my logs are Singaporeans. Am I so unappealing to the international audience?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Demise of a teacher

My PE teacher from my Junior College has passed away.

It is intriguing how life can come to such an unpredictable and abrupt end.

To all NYJCians, you can send your condolences at the link below:

There will also be a memorial service for Mr John Lim tomorrow:

Date: 18 December 2004

Time: 1800 hours

Venue: Nanyang Junior College

Details: Please wear white to the service, and bring along a white candle and flower.

Reflection of the real world - without the choice

National Service can be a stunningly accurate simulator of the real working world out there.

Yes, it took me this long to realise that. It happened while I was griping about the lack of benefits that others take for granted: not that I would have played soccer more frequently were I to be allowed to, it was a matter of principle.

I rationalised that being the best platoon that does the toughest work in the battalion, we must be accorded with corresponding advantages that should remain out of reach to others. Sounds reasonable? The sad reality does not even match the benefits others enjoy: while we scouts continue to go for training in the out-field, others stayed back in camp to conduct sleeping sessions in their bunks. Some even had the opportunity to go on off.

I was already starting to be-moan the situation when something inside took hold of me (sort of like the kind of feeling you get when "realisation smacks you upside in the head"). Isn't this the real world? Differing work loads, differing kick-backs, and hugely differing forms of treatment. I sat down next to my bed while the rest of the JC graduates in my bunk continued to rant against the unfairness bestowed upon their unfortunate self. For the first time, I understood the downgraders who left the platoon, the actions of men who hate their current situation, but are afraid to rock the boat. The sad thing was that short of breaking one's limb, there is no real way of changing vocations (this being national service, and already, this platoon is short of fit guys to go out there and die for the country). It would have been a terrible thing, if not for the fact that this is National Service.

As the word connotates, we are in the service of the nation: that means we give up personal comfort, insecurities and even our lives for the nation, and the differing amounts of sacrifice that we make is immaterial: we are all just doing our part for the country. So what if I suffer more than others in service? The nobility in such a sacrifice more than makes up for the discomfort of "not being able to play soccer". Already, scouts are recognised for the amount of tough work that they do, and isn't the jungle hat an affirmation of that fact? Perhaps some of us need to take a step back, and view things as they currently stand. Maybe we are being too selfish in demanding too much? As some have put it, "Ask not what the nation can do for you, but what you can do for the nation". That is what National Service is about. Let's not forget that.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Support Company

Apparently, something seized me and made me start typing. So here's a feature on my own company, affectionately known as Support Company (SP Coy).

Support Company is made up of five different platoons, each with a different job scope from the other. The scouts do the spying for the battalion, the ATGM (Anti-tank guided missile) platoon jinxes enemy tanks, the Pioneer platoon opens routes for the rifle companies (which are the actual fighting forces) while setting traps for the enemy. Support bombardment is provided by the Mortar platoon straight from some cosy spot away from the enemy.

In this particular intake, SP Coy is made up of "A" level and polytechnic graduates, so any visitor to the company line can eavesdrop on the occasional argument on "George Bush" (he is a moron by the way), or the odd philosophical bout by a literature graduate.

Another unique point? We have many vehicles. Just how many? Enough to fill our quadrant of the parade square that we have no place to fall in, and resort to leeching space from the other companies. Jeeps, motorcycles, mortar trucks, tonners are just some of the vehicles that are now gracing the company line.

Violence is generally unheard of in the company. Being cultured people (ok, crudely cultured), we do not believe in violence as a solution to any disagreements. And that has led to a clean Last parade sheet every evening (where routines, duties, and punishments are read out). The few misunderstandings that occur are usually settled through talk. It is amazing how dynamic and spontaneous people are to changes when things are reasoned out, and laid down pat with "compensation".

So that is it with Support Company. I can't reveal more without running a risk of revealing confidential data, of which I am obliged to keep confidential. Of course, these kind of stuff is floating around everywhere on the Internet, so I am probably just trying to cover myself. If anybody is determined to find it, he can. But I suggest you do not try, or you will find yourself invited down to the Internal Security Department for a good chat...

Friday, December 10, 2004

One-Year Old NSF (National Service Full-time):

365 days ago this very day, I took an oath of allegience to the army, and was pushed into BMTC (Basic Military Training Centre) on the very infamous Pulau Tekong for the start of two-and-a-half years of military service. Stepping on board the ferry service was a hand-chilling experience (besides the fact that it was raining, and the air-conditioning was up full blast). As my parents sat beside me on the service, I casted a final wistful glance at the landform that was my 18 years of up-bringing as the ferry speeded across the choppy straits. Leaving it for three weeks of confinement beared tons of anxiety and anguish.

My first few weeks in BMTC as a PTP (Physical Training Phase) recruit was tough. There were plenty of physical activities to shake my sedentary body down to its very core, and even more military protocols to learn and follow. I had to address an officer as "Sir", and sergeants as sergeants, get punished for that speck of dust lurking in the hinge behind the bunk door, run or march each time we had to physically move. It was a tough change given that I had no prior experience in the uniformed groups when I was in secondary school. My close friends armed me with advice from rumours they heard: "Don't leave your bunk on Thursday nights no matter what they say, ok? I don't want you to be dismembered like the guy from Charlie.."

When I finally got home, it was alarming to see vehicles zipping past on the roads, where previously we would march on them on that isolated island.

Flash forward to March 2004. I graduated from BMTC armed with an IPPT (physical test for all servicemen) pass, and a SOC (Standard Obstacle Course) timing that qualified me for command schools. I chose to give up the opportunity to be a commander, and was posted to Lim Chu Kang (it IS on the mainland, but it is on the other side of the mainland) as a scout.

Driving course came and went. My vocation course came and went. Now standing on top of one year of training, I ask, "Where the hell is my promotion????" My friends from my BMT have been promoted long ago, and are receiving $20 more allowances than I do! Why the upset over $20? As NSFs, we are barred from doing other jobs during our service, and $20 is a substantial increase from the $500 we currently draw! I shall leave that issue at that (I don't want to turn this blog into a "complain thread").

Where was I? One year. Time seems to have flown past like a river. I went overseas to Brunei for overseas training, walked through swamps (and even slept one night in it), swam through real rivers with current (but without any line) in full combat gear, made my way through thick Bruneian vegetation. It sounds amazing how much I have done in this short period of time! (Meanwhile, my IPPT has gone from a pass to silver, in fact it is now nearly a gold standard). I have made lasting friends who go through the same challenges as I do. I have been exposed rather mercilessly to the politics of the real world in this tiny confines of the Army (remember I lost my identity card some time back?), and was treated to the positive, as well as the ugly side of human nature. It truly has been an eye-opener.

Would I do it again if National Service were optional? I would say...

(Here's a shout-out to all BMTC "N" (Ninja) and "T" (Taurus) companies, 45th PTP Enhanced BMT batch enlistees. Happy One year of Enlistment! One year and four more months till our service ends!)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Frayed tempers - why don't we all get some sleep instead

It wasn't quite a week that appealed to my mental health - a week marked by continually changing standards, schedules, and even instructions. Last week, with plenty of administrative stuff left undone with three days till the turning ops parade (there were vehicles to draw from the central Motorised Transport Line, field pack standards to be checked and followed, action plan in the case of a real activation to be briefed), the whole company went on the usual business of physical activities. Area cleaning and inspection done in true military style, along with the obligatory push-up punishments for that dirty patch beneath the cupboards, lessons carried on with the usual slack pace - until somebody panicked. Instructions started to drip down in trickles, with such short deadlines we were forced to forgo sleep to accomplish it.

Maps had to be done, equipement to be de-rusted, and inspected for damage. By right, there should have been a more organised way of notification of all these tasks, not only to prepare everybody mentally for whatever would be coming, but to give them enough time to react without placing undue stress upon them. They didn't.

"Oh, the battalion HQ did not agree on the standards for the field pack, that is why you had to change the contents again."

"Instructions are coming in dribs and drabs - even we don't know what to expect next, please understand."
The first day of my marksman traning fell on the day of the battalion's turning ops parade, resulting in everybody painting their faces in the morning for the parade, and removing it hastily for a quick rush to the rifle range.

Tempers flared. I did break down - in fact, I used up quite a few pieces of paper just writing my frustrations down, and tearing them down till the very last piece before relegating them to the black bin near the staircase. From the contents of that bin, it is probably true that people do gorge themselves silly when they are stressed. Ironically, I don't see the other companies to be as busy as we were. Perhaps it is because Support Company is an unusual company with different support platoons doing different stuff; but there are just no excuses for mismanagement.
Anyway, now that the dust has settled some, everyone has put their attention back to training: it is as if we are not under Alert Red. I now carry a pager on me, so that I can get recalled back to camp in case of any national disaster. Communication has never been such a curse. Hopefully, as things get back to normal, people would get less tensed up. After all, it is bloody tiring to be angry at everybody at the same time.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Safety compromise?

I probably would have been fired by now if I were in the writing business.

Where the hell is Pkchukiss?

Well, I've been really busy recently. My battalion is turning operational (that means we start doing the real stuff of protecting the country. If there is a threat, we'll be the ones to go out and neutralise it), and there are tons of stuff to do.

Among the mudane (and I feel it is silly) tasks we had to do was to standardise the items inside our fieldpacks. We had to place the items inside zip-lock bags which had to be modified (taped up) into tight fitting pockets for all the individual items. Personally, I have no idea what somebody in the middle of an operation would do with slippers, soap, towels, and admin shirt. But since it is for show, we had to do it anyway. Just the inspections took up much of our rest time.

To further compound matters, we had to complete our range (marksman training) simultaneously. A four day affair during which we had to spend the entire day and night at the range, we ended up sleeping at 2 am and waking up at 5.30 to complete yet another day of shootings. I even found myself looking for the helmet that I had put on, so I guess it probably is a bad idea to let us handle live rounds at this time.

I finished my shootings on Saturday, while some unfortunate firers had to go back today to re-shoot, either because they failed the final test, or they were eligible for the marksman award. Since there were still stores to clean and prepare, I couldn't go home until this afternoon. In fact, I am still very much deprived of sleep (Ironically, I did a experiment similar to this experience), and now is my book-in timing, so I can't type much right now. Hopefully, I can find some time to sort out this mess of a post (I think I've made so many grammatical and spelling mistakes, this post is completely incomprehensible...)

Here's to another busy week for me! Once again, I am not dead!

Monday, November 15, 2004

My personal point of view!

I have issues with the many issues that are all around us.

I have chosen to display my point of view, and let anybody come and participate in open discussion. The link (it is a re-directer to the actual website) is here:

So far, I am focusing on Singapore, but the recent U.S. elections hold much interest for me. I might start a section on it soon.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Blog Enhancements

Today turned out to be quite mudane, and the details are enough to bore anyone. What I found strange was that I slept around 8 hours, woke up feeling refreshed, hit the backlog of newspapers (I didn't have time to catch up on the news that happened during my suffering in Brunei), and fell asleep right there on the floor.

I only woke up to my mom's clucking. She had wanted to mop the floor, and I was in the way. When I hit the pillow, I was drooling in dreamland all the way until lunchtime. Definitely not a very healthy way to start my morning. Possibly, my body was trying to cure the huge sleep deficit that I had incurred in my slumber account.

After lunch, I had to fight the drowsy feeling that came along with a full stomach. It was tough keeping awake, but I had heard stories about how sleeping too much during the day can give rise to insomia at night. So I got myself a huge bottle of water (those mega 1.5 litre bottles), and downed it. I remained quite awake after that (not to mention the frequent toilet trips).

Then after dinner, I had an inspiration to enhance my blog, so I went shopping. The newest addition is a chat box, which I hope to use as a platform to unify all those comments which might not truly belong to my posts. I've also automated the long bar that you normally see on the right, so that it is broken up into many smaller sections that are displayed one at a time. You will see the bar in its former glory if you do not have a DHTML capable browser.

Dear Younger Brother was quite delighted to see me when he got back from school, and stuffed my face full of food. Probably does not do justice to the tough slimming down I have had over in the steaming jungles, but my stomach now loves me even more than before I hit Brunei.

Dear Brother also egged me to come up with my own design for my blog, instead of relying on pre-made templates by other people. "It's more original, and will make you look more cool!" he extolled. Well, I might do just that, on the account that he has pampered my stomach. We'll see, tomorrow. Perhaps after tomorrow? Or the day after tomorrow?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Temburong, Negara Brunei Darussalam

It has been a long time since I updated this blog. To some who fear the worst, let me assure you, no, the headache did not kill me. I was away in Brunei Darussalam for overseas training, and I touched down back in Singapore only just this morning. It was quite an adventure that I went through, I must add.

We were shipped to Temburong via a fast craft (the only legal way to reach that isolated part of Brunei without entering Malaysia, and exiting it again into Brunei, and directly into the murderous heat of the Borneo jungle terrain.

The main city is Bangar, which is a small town in itself. I had quite a rude shock when I noticed the absence of traffic lights in the whole area. We travelled down to Kampong Lakiun, where the training camp is located, and were initiated unceremoniously to the relics of Singapore army's past.

Longhouses greet one's eyes, with sponge foam double deckered beds lining both sides of the walls from one end of the building to the other. A narrow corridor serves the whole house, with ineffective fans always fighting a losing battle against the 36 degrees heat outside. From then on, the only relief from the heat would come around mid-afternoon, where the North East monsoon would bring with it temperature lows of 25 degrees, which soon proved to be a problem at night, especially when I had to stay out in the jungle at night.

Probably in keeping with the tradition of torturing trainees, we could only steal precious few hours of sleep each night that we were in camp, for the preparations and inspections for the next day's training took up much of the early night. I looked wistfully as the other platoons slept while we scouts busied till 1 am, waking up at 4 am to start the day.

Probably the most enjoyable moments I had for the whole trip were those of the 4 day 3 night navigation exercise in the Bruneian jungle. By day, we climbed up and down multiple steep slopes, some of which were so tough to conquer that we had to stop every 200 m to rest our breaths. By night, we cosied inside the hammocks, and slept the night away (which was from 6 pm to 6 am; we were not allowed to travel after sunset for safety reasons), and woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the next checkpoint.

Most unforgettable was the night we spent inside the swamps. After travelling through virgin vegetation (we had to hack our way through thorned plants, and battle persistent insects while struggling to keep our footings), we were forced to harbour inside the brackish water for the night. Certain parts of the swamp were quicksand, and threatened to swallow us at the first opportunity. When we finally reached the end point the next morning, I had a sense of achievement that I could never have gotten back here in Singapore. The feeling of helplessness, continuously proving that humans are but an insignificant part of the jungle, is truly a humbling experience. After spending one whole night cursing in the dark, we were in awe at what we can achieve if we set our minds to it.

Sad to say, I did not get to climb Mount Biang as per the schedule due to some serious case (sorry I can't say much, I am being gagged here). Instead, I spent the rest of my stay in Brunei doing surveillance. What a boring way to pass time!

This trip has made me appreciate my country more. The connectivity that we have, the easy access to entertainment and services cannot be found in Temburong without a vehicle. When my plane hit Singapore's coastline, I was full of pride as I snapped pictures of the coastline (perhaps I can share it after I develop the film). Have you ever gotten the same feeling whenever you get back to your own country after a trip overseas?

Ok, that's all I can write in my jet lagged state (don't tell me that there is no time zone difference - the sunset and sunrise timings are sufficient clues to the physical time zone difference!)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Terrible headache

I woke up with my skin as though it were placed on a warm pan.

A splitting headache soon invaded my temples, and the whole of my Saturday morning was spent nursing it with a Panadol.

Hopefully, I am able to overcome this sudden attack, and post the interesting things that happened this week (We got to ride high in the sky, and were treated to a spectecular view of the Singapore skyline, all thanks to a helicopter; we also did combat swim across a man-made river. Totally cool.)

I am crawling into my bed now.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Gas! Gas! Gas!

What does the sight of someone clad in a gas mask, totally hooded, sweating inside a suit made totally for temperate climates remind you of?

I only had one thought when I found myself inside one: Nobody could ever carry out a successful chemical warfare in Singapore - both sides will die from the resulting heat exhaustion. This morning, I peered out at the gas chamber (which was affectionately called the "smoke trainer") from behind the lens, and had the time to think about the horrors of rogue chemicals and biological weapons wrecking havoc onto the world. Those not dead would have to suffer the troubles of a sweat suit.

The previous detail had gone in, and there was a commotion inside the chamber. My detail instructors peered through a gap in the door and turned back to face us, and shrugged his shoulders.

"Now, you just remember not to panic when you go in," he admonished. Apparently, some earlier details had not taken the advice to their heads.

We eventually entered in single files. The room was brightly lit, and a white mist hung in the air. I entered reluctantly, not wanting to leave the comfort of the cool post-downpour weather outside.

"Let's do some stretching exercises for starters..."

After one small set of jumping jacks in the stuffy suit, we were asked to change the filter canisters on our masks. One by one, with eyes screwed tight, and our breaths held for dear life, we turned the canisters out of the mask, and screwed it back on again. The necessary drills done, we were about to have fun.

We lined up in two rows, and one by one, we took off our gas masks, looked straight into the instructor's eyes, and shouted our NRIC number, rank, name, and our home addresses, before we left the room.

Being the last in the row, I could see the effect of tear gas on my friends: Some coughed, and barely managed to control it. They even had trouble saying their own names without a pause to catch their breaths inside the gas filled room. When they got to leave the room, it was hard for them to not run ("Or else you will go for another round," another officer warned before we entered).

Finally my turn came. I ripped off the hood, and nervously fiddled with the straps of the mask. I took one last deep breath before pulling the mask free from my face. The effect was apparent. As I spoke, my eyes were starting to tear, and my face felt like it was pierced with thousands of needles. It was tough to keep my hands from rubbing my face.

Once I finished, I stumbled outside into the welcoming breeze of the outside weather. My sergeant helped me pull off my gloves, so that I could go to the shower to clean my face. However, the water did little to stop the maddening burning sensation. The sergeant took the liberty to take a photograph of me when I looked my worst. The platoon sergeant joined in, this time taking a group photograph of my detail. We looked like we had just survived a World War.

When I was finally free from the effects of the tear gas, I managed to walk back to the holding area, where I found out what happened to the previous detail: My buddy panicked when he was supposed to take off his mask, and struggled to dash out of the room. His shouting only managed to introduce more gas into his lungs, and he collapsed outside the gas chamber...

I teased him on the bus back to camp about how people reap what they sow (he stole my bread right from under my nose the previous night). What an amazing day.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Self-inflicted sleep deprivation experiment

I probably am twisted, doing irrepairable damage to my own body.

You see, I had a 12 km route march yesterday, and by some unknown chemical reactions with all the hormones inside my brain, I decided to find out how long I could tax my body physically before it gave out. After the route march, I went out for lunch with my friends, then proceeded onto a protracted 12 hour marathon on my computer - all without any rest.

I had intended to last until 4 am, but I knew I had lost when I raised my head from the keyboard and saw pages and pages of gibberish keystrokes that I nearly posted onto a local forum website.

Somebody recommend a shrink.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Sheares Bridge Run!

Run away! I am going to go on a 12 km fun run tomorrow!

Cool scenery boasts Singapore's highway bridge, the Benjamin Sheares Bridge. One major army event, and I can get to see many of my friends who are in doing their national service right now, because practically the whole of the NSF population is going to be running the 12 km.

Army Half Marathon Website

Friday, September 24, 2004

Residue pain

In aid of the noble cause of learning the life saving skill of poking one's buddy, my right forearm was brutally sacrificed.

The actual poking was stretched out over the whole of five days, but I got my turn only today. I was actually relatively relaxed, having watched more "murder-scene" like blood spots form on the floor, and the added experience of having donated blood meant getting pierced was a relative no-brainer for me.

My buddy took his time getting the catheter. After tying the tourniquet on my arm, he took his time pulling the latex gloves on and let it snap, showing me his favourite psychotic look. He proceeded to rub the alcohol swab across my arm slowly, not unlike a butcher fattening up the cattle before the slaughter. I ignored his deliberate attempts to unnerve me, and talked to one of my other friend (another psychotic, judging by the way he poked his own buddy a few moments ago).

Then, with the assistance of the medic, he started to penetrate my arm with the needle. A dull sensation in my fingers suggested to me that he hit my muscles instead of the intended vein. I could hear the medic asking him to shift the needle here and there, not unlike a navigation exercise. When he was done, my muscles were as sore as they would be after any gruelling training.

After a few minutes (well, sixty odd minutes) of recovery time from the muscle ache, and I was prepared to do the deed on my buddy. But being in such a high demand, he was invited to be another guy's victim while I was massaging my sore arm... Probably just as well he did, because I was really jittery about inserting foreign objects into another person's body. In fact, I was slightly traumatised by the thought. My new partner made it worse. He seemed kind enough, offering his arm to be poked.

The medic encouraged the match, and hailed the new partner's hand as the "fattest vein to ever be poked by a newbie". He turned out to be a mini-nightmare. He complained throughout the procedure:

"Wah, why is the tourniquet so tight? My arm is dying!"

"Can you hurry up? I cannot feel a thing!"

"Do you know what you are doing? Why is it so painful?"

I ended up speeding through the preparation and nearly dug the needle into his arm (that should shut him up!). I managed to miss his vein (it wasn't easy, with my needle hand shaking so badly; the medic asked me to relax for the umpteenth time), and had to conduct topography inside his skin, before finally drawing blood. He winced, and cursed at the pain. But it was a success. Later, my victim drew me aside and told me what a great experience he had with me compared to his last partner. It seems that his last partner managed to cause a swell of blood in his skin a few days ago, with painful results.

Perhaps I might make a great nurse, eh?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Needle phobia or fear of scary buddies?

I am pretty nervous about this coming week in camp.

Not only have they arranged for the close combat grading test to be this Thursday, they have also plonked us in the middle of a basic medic course. The highlights of the course includes poking intraveneous cathers into one's buddy, a skill which will be tested on (incidentally) Thursday!

I have not yet started on the actual poking lessons yet, but everyone is jittery about the whole thing. The senior medic who is conducting the course gave us a briefing last Friday, and he gave us a frightening demonstration of the actual poking on a guinea pig...

The poor guy was too frightened by the needle (well, it is VERY long!), and he thrashed about as the medic was inserting the cather. We ended up with blood all over the lecture room. In fact, the scene was not unlike that of a murder case. A few of my platoon mates nearly fainted at the sight of blood, while a few giggled. My guess was that they were trying to pretend that they are evil, to scare their buddies before the actual poking session tomorrow and on Thursday...

My buddy has assured me that he would try his best to target my vein (which would be a LOT less painful than if he were to poke it inside a muscle...), but failing which he would navigate the needle into the target... (I cringed at that, and he laughed his evil laughter.)

And in case you were wondering, it seems that all the guys here enjoy playing mind games with each other...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Let's Roulette!

Did you still remember the very first time you stumbled onto my blog? You might like to post it in the comments box.

Previously, we had to rely on search engines to search for blogs. Not that the approach is particularly flawed or anything, but what happens is that new bloggers get buried under the deep pile of search results, and since visitors rarely dig so deep, valuable gems get unpicked. And I know how it feels, to have splurged all your brain juice onto a cyberpage without any readers: My personal home page is a deserted backwater in cyber space.

Now blog providers are giving these new guys a chance. Introducing the random blog feature! tBlog has its "Updated Blogs" feature to allow visitors to view freshly updated blogs. Blogger now has a new feature that allows us to visit blogs on its network! Look at the mini-bar right at the top. Go ahead, give it a spin. Who knows, you might even find your long lost friend's blog!

Blogger's Next Blog (Hold Shift and click simultaneously to open in a new window)

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Sterile, very sterile

I wonder if anybody has ever thought of this: Being in the armed forces, opportunities abound for those colourful descriptions of the various human body parts. Why is this blog so devoid of the actual army experience?

Firstly, let me assure you, that I am in no way some weirdo who does not spew sailor-grade swear words. In fact, they come out of my mouth as often as any one else's. However, as any child-protection agency can attest to, this is one of the most sterile blogs they would ever see -- from a military personnel.

I have set this goal: to get people to read about my writings (ok, typings), so I figured that vulgarities cater to a too exclusive audience, so I thought I might want to come clean on my writings. There is another reason for my doggedness for proper writing: If you have been following my musings ever since the first post, you would have realised that I was mulling over re-taking my "A" levels. I doubt that the script marker would have a high opinion of writings of that level.

Besides that point, one of my agendas (yes, that practical word. I have an agenda!) is to expose a crack to the military world, and maybe help change some misguided conceptions regarding military personnel. Like how some people think of people wearing army uniforms as smelly, when the various camps enforce compulsory showers before an appearance in the public...

But I guess certain stuff that I do would have to be kept under certain amounts of cover -- who knows what sensitive information I might reveal accidentally on this blog? Ah... the realism of doing intelligence work.

Laid back for 3 more days

In a situation typical of the Singapore Armed Forces, we are forced to take 3 days leave as the superiors go for their live range this week. It all sounds like a major conspiracy to clear all my leave this year, so that I would have to beg for "offs", which are extra leaves granted ("A privilege, not an entitlement," my platoon commander told us very seriously).

Anyway, the rest of the guys in my bunk seem very excited by the whole thing (I guess I should, since we are kept locked up in camp for 5 days out of 7), and they have started planning for all sorts of outings. I for one am not very excited. Even though being on the Internet 24/3 is a very tantalising thought, I figured that my mom would not be very excited about me staring at the computer the entire day.

"I would not want you to become a geek, staring at the computer all day," she would begin...

"Be careful! You will burn a hole in the monitor if you keep the computer switched on the whole day!" she berates 3 hours into my online world.

"You will pay for this month's electricity bill?"

"... Do you want to spoil your eyesight?"

"I am sure your brother would appreciate it if you kept the computer switched off while he is studying..."

I guess her concerns are valid (though I am doubtful about the part regarding the big black hole in the monitor), but did she have to keep it up every hour?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A cold week

Apparently, this week seems to pass in the flash. Already, last Sunday seemed like yesterday (pardon that cliche, I couldn't think of any other way to express it), and right now another week stares straight at me.

We did not have much activity the entire week, except for the odd close combat lesson, during of which we finished quite fast, and session and after session of parade rehearsal. The commanding officer is leaving, and we did one elaborate show on Friday to send him off. Wayang, as we called it.

(Sedia - attention), (senang diri - at ease), (hormat senjata - salute with rifle) and all the other drills. In fact, my body began to get used to standing like an erect rod throughout the better part of the one hour, unlike previously where I had to fidget like a bee.

However, I began to wonder about the practicality of such a parade. Firstly, we were organising the whole parade by ourselves. That meant painting the display boards, setting up the pedestals, the stands, installing our audio system, cutting our own sound tracks (we do that for our marching in tracks), and not the last of all, catering. In fact, we even painted the vehicles used in the parade ourselves! It seemed more like a showcase of the Singapore Armed Forces' ability to organise an activity without out-sourcing than a farewell parade for the out-going CO (he's out-going too, if you know what I mean).

Saturday, August 28, 2004

5 day work week

I seem to be slightly behind my blogging schedule lately. Ok, I admit, I have not been disciplined enough to think about what to write. Recently thinking has been a foggy haze which prevents my brain from functioning properly -- especially when I have been through some streneous physical activity. Just yesterday, I caught myself calling the "Battalion Signals Officer" the "Signal Battlefield Occifer", and almost addressed my company sergeant major as "sir", something which would have earned me even more extra duties...

Besides that, the interesting thing that happened for the whole of this week would be the commotion over the recent announcement of the "5-day work week" for the civil service. "It includes the army, you see," my buddy, with his ears permanently stuck to the radio told me. "So I guess our long week-end would now start from Thursday?" one of my bunk mates asked, to shouts of delight, and causing some of the inquisitive sergeants to pop right in...

I guess now that we are no longer trainees, regimentation would take a practical twist. As my platoon sergeant put it, "I will not demand from you guys what I cannot do myself". I guess that means the days of doing push-ups over the speck of dust on the otherwise spotless table are over. But since our cupboards was in a mess, he made us tidy the whole place up before allowing us to book out. We watched ruefully as some of the platoons left first... But hey, at least we didn't do push ups! (Or did that have something to do with the sergeants, whom have left their cupboards in the same condition?) The mind boogles...

My computer was in a mess when I came back. The amount of junk programs was astonishing! I had plenty of old "productivity suites" which I had painstakenly downloaded when I was still on the drag of an internet connection. The amount of data I freed up? 3 gigs. I am personally horrified at what a troll I have become!

Have you done spring cleaning on your computer yet? Maybe you will end up dumping even more data than I did!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Physical Exhaust!

Mental stress paid me an unwelcome visit this week. Imagine carrying a filled sand bag, along with rain water collecting in the SBO webbing, and do a 8 km walk up and down a slope, with other platoons carrying much lighter loads and singing merrily away without a care for the world. Now, imagine that you have just had Close Combat training in the morning, which included some form of intensive training (push ups, push ups, and push ups).

I admit, it was an extremely trying experience, with the pain in my shoulder threatening to bend my spine (I had to rub some of that magical Counterpain on it afterwards). But amazingly, I held out mentally. In fact, everyone in the platoon held out, and nobody fell out of throughout that fast walk in the rain. It could be the psychological effect of the almost exclusive jungle hat on our heads, or it could be the constant encouragement from the rifle companies, but we pulled through this one. I heard from somewhere about the indomintable "human spirit", but this is the first time I have felt it by my side, as if guiding me...

Anyway, before we were let off the hook today, we were hurried into a 5 km run (the commanders originally had planned for a 7 km all out run, but thankfully, common sense prevailed).

I must thank all you readers out there for your comments! I was beginning to lose heart in this little pet of mine (I can't even begin to talk about my personal website, which is essentially just a beautiful white elephant "housing project" relegated to the equivalent of the forth world country! I am really happy that you have enjoyed reading my rants so far!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Broadband experience

I got myself a cable subscription, at a very cool 1,500 mbps!

Now I am free from the tenacious grip of the local telephone monopoly, which charges exhorbitant fees for dial-up connections. Can you believe that for the same amount of time I go online, they charge more than my new cable providor, and all for a much lower speed? How about paying S$58 flat fee per month for cable, compared to S$100 odd for 56k dial-up, with the charges continuously incurring every minute you are online?

I guess it is only in Singapore that we find idiosyncracies such as this.

Having a huge pipe can be an unnerving experience. When I went to the Windows Update website, I stood up from my chair, expecting the thing to take eons to download, and was surprised to see the web page fully downloaded and waiting for me to pore through even before I could finish standing up. Yea, I guess I kind of forgot that I now have a speedy connection to the World Wide Web.

So what is your connection like? Leave me some comments! (Ok, I guess I am getting desperate for some concrete evidence that I am not sounding off a blank wall out there.) Anything will do! Say Hi! Somebody, anybody, everybody..... comment! (I plagiarise it from Gurmit Singh.)

Course graduation photos are out!

Come and see them!

Platoon photo:

See the bigger version

(All files below are approximately 100 kB in size)

Team 54-Alpha
Team 54-Bravo
Team 54-Charlie
Team 54-Delta
Team 54-Echo
Team 54-Foxtrot

Have fun with the pictures!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Entree Entrepreneurship (Enough with the goofy titles!!)

The entrepreneur virus seems to have hit me recently. I found myself gravitating towards the bookshops, where I started paying for self-help books on starting a business.

Rich Dad, poor dad was my first acquisition (I got intrigued by the controversial theories thrown up), and that set me back by $19.90. Then, after a few minutes of aimless browsing, I found myself picking up a self-improvement book written by a Singaporean author who managed to make $1 million by 26 years old. He confessed in the book that he was a problem teenager, and only turned around when he went through a neuro linguistic programme. Sounded good to me. If he was such a baddie-turned-successful, surely I can manage better?

Feeling inspired, I wondered over to the business section, where I procured a book on starting a business, and since then, I have been deep in study of it. (Oh, and the bill came up to $69, a rather princely sum given my monthly National Service allowance of $500).

I must say, the self-improvement book was quite effective. Now I am full of drive, and my head is full of giddy ideas to publish a book (probably a fiction story). With enough effort, I will be as successful as Tom Clancy. Please do give me some feedback on my mini essay (The Reluctant Instructor). I will be writing more often to brush up my skills, and prime them up for the Big One...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Reluctant Instructor - A mini-essay

I dedicate this mini-essay to all my BMT instructors, without whom I would not have survived my army life till this far... Please do tell me what you feel of it. I wrote it when I was thinking about my BMT days. Hope you enjoy it!

The Reluctant Instructor

The droplet fell onto the hot asphalt road, and sizzled into steam. Many similar droplets were covering his face, and his arms were buldging from the effort.

"... and up" the instructor spoke. With a mighty grunt, the recruit heaved himself from the ground, more sweat poured forth, and drenched the ground. Around him are 40 other similar bodies, doing push-ups in a synchronised dance, an apparent entrancement which all their souls have been ensconced in, effort etched deeply in their faces.

The instructor furrowed his eyebrows. He wasn't used to issuing physical punishment, and seeing many trembling arms under the threat of giving way, he decided to let them off.

"Recover!" He menaced. "And next time, wake up your bloody idea!" he snarled, to the cowering faces before him. Then, he spun around, and marched off to the office in military precision.

He was wasted, a mere shadow of his own personality. Forced to dress himself into the instructional role, which demanded him to be a mean bastard. But the soft side in him didn't want to, and now that the iron mask had come off, he began to weep.

The silver bayonet, the mark of his achievement, laid in its display, an air of mysterious glamour wafting from its very core. He caressed it gently, the fine hilt, with its many specially crafted diamond-shaped grooves, the symbol of a sergeant's achievement.

Had I gone through all these just to become the most hated person in this place? He pondered, his eyes resting on the three stripes sewn onto the sleeve of the neatly pressed uniform, swaying gently in the breeze from a golden hanger (a gift from his girlfriend, "for your best uniform," she had said).

No other instructor could match his dedication. He had single handedly took charge of the recruits' welfare, from cleaning their bunks before their enlistment, to preparing their orientation program. He was also the strictest with the trainees, ensuring that they learn from their mistakes. That also meant more frequent meetings with the Orientation Officer, whom would summon him due to complaints from the recruits' doting parents.

The effort was murdering his soul. Why can't he be himself, like the other instructors?

Sunday, August 01, 2004

A gift, or a curse

Being contactable at all times can be really annoying...

Having enough of being chased by enemies, hiding in mosquito infested bushes, and sleeping on a knoll full of unactivated live ammunition, in addition to being at the receiving end of countless aggressive talk (also popularly known as a 'scolding'), I thought I would goof off my Sunday in bed. How wrong I was.

At exactly 9 am, my cell phone rang out in a jarring melodious ring. It so happens that one of my platoon mates wanted me to help him get some ziplock bags. I sat there on my bed sulking for a few moments (why didn't I just switch the thing off?!), before going back to sleep again, his message unreplied.

At 9.10, the phone rang again, this time a continuous repetition of The Black Eyed Peas (Where is the love) echoing throughout the room. The impatient fellow decided to call me! I decided to put an end to the nonsense. I condemned the call to voicemail heaven, and turned the phone off. In fact, I took the battery out for extra measure, and was about to take out the subscriber identification module while I was about it, before I got knocked out again.

After what seemed like only 5 minutes, there came a loud knocking on the door.

"WAKE UP! There is a call for you!" came the shouting from the other side.

That proved to be my breaking point. I snatched up the extension in my room, and roared

The poor guy apparently decided to call my house number after I disabled my cell. Some people really don't get the hint. I looked at the time: 9.15.

It was only when I was slightly more conscious that I realised what I had done. I called the guy up and apologised, but he seemed to be too shaken by my roar (probably my Leo trait). Perhaps I should keep all phone calls till after breakfast...

Like they say, a sleepy man is an angry man (or was it me again?)

Blogging in Singapore

Well, it seems that blogging has finally become a nationwide craze (even though I don't see the corresponding crazy sign up numbers). With this website, even more muted, hormone raging teenagers are able to shoot their mouths off online.

That's besides the one-day only blogs from those three-minute thrill seekers.

Talk about ranting...

Friday, July 30, 2004

Jungle hat!

After suffering for 6 weeks, I have finally graduated from my course... I was brimming with joy as the Commanding Officer placed my jungle hat on my head during the ceremony; despite the adventure the night before (refer to last blog), the wet, soggy, dirty smelly clothes, the chronic lack of sleep. I will be posting my graduation pictures as soon as I can get my hands on them.

So now it's off to the National Day Parade Preview for me today. Ah, this should be a more relaxing job than being a scout!

Danger in sacarsm

I probably should be more careful in what I write. As you can see, in the previous post, I mentioned the word die. Well, it seems that I had a very close shave two days ago while I was having my summary exercise before I graduate from my course...

It was around 4 am in the morning, and we were trying to find a suitable location to harbour. My team commander was quite adverse towards the thick vegetation (full of lustful female blood suckers), and wanted to find a hidden clearing instead. We came to this steep slope in the middle of the clearing. Perhaps it is hard to think in the middle of the morning, but it did not strike us about the appearance of a barren knoll in the middle of a thick forest.

Too tired, we set up shop halfway up the slope, in a tucked away corner of the knoll, settled into our routine: one person manning the communications, and the rest sleeping away (probably an inaccurate statement, considering the number of mosquito bites we sustained) until 2 brigade reconnaissance sergeants woke my team commander up.

My TC: "What is it?"
BR: "Are you sure you want to harbour here?"
TC: "I don't see anything wrong with it"
BR: "I think the sign is too small, but in case you were not aware, we are now at an impact knoll for 84mm live rounds."
TC: (stunned)
BR: "(dryly) Ok, there might be blinds here, so we suggest you shift your spot, that is if you do not want your platoon commander to be delievering white letters to your parents"

So much so for military adventures!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Did you think that I was dead?

After a brief hiatus (three weeks, two non-existent weekends afterwards), I have finally managed to get online to post my blog. In case you were wondering where I went, here's the quick low down...

My vocation course (which is a scout, in case you didn't know) suddenly decided to conspire with the desperate people back in camp to sneak up on my weekends. So my last two weekends were spent in school on Fridays, the national stadium on saturdays to do dry runs for the national day parade, and Sundays recuperating my lost rest for the whole week!

And what a headache it has become. If you recall, I lost my identification card a while back, and was socked with 4 extra duties. Guess what, as of now, I have lost my combat helmet, and now the prospect of a weekend at home now looks even further away than before... One would have thought that the sound of a helmet hitting the forested floor would have prevented its loss...

My platoon sergeant gave me a strange look which was a cross between sympathy and annoyance, before he dumped me into the back of a rover, and drove all the way back into the forest, tracing my footsteps, in the faint hope of recovering the $150 equipment. That was when I discovered the following:

  1. He is a speedaholic:
    (Especially when he was flooring the accelerator through all the humps, effectively throwing me a few centimetres into the air each time, in my full battle order, mind you!)
  2. Never piss your platoon sergeant off

    He was cursing at the speed limiter which beeped each time he hit 50, and some of the choice sound vibes were ones I had never heard of before.

I guess I will discover my fate when I return back to camp. I heard that it would be 7 extra duties...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Scout course begins!

My shoulders took a camel's load the whole of this week. My vocation course (Infantry Scout Platoon Course) started this Monday, and being a stay-in course, I wasn't able to get out of camp to get access to the online world. That's what happened to me. Shut off. From the outside world. It is just the great outfield, and me. Not to mention the commando mosquitos which apparently love my scent.

I was chosen to be a signaler (probably because I am among the bigger sized people in the whole platoon), and so had to carry the extremely unwieldy signal set. Not only did I manage to get sore shoulders after a week of carrying that bulky load (on top of my full battle order!), I also managed to whip a few of my platoon mates with the whip antenna in the process of getting my field pack (which had the signal set inside) on my back.


My platoon sergeant made full use of our newly acquired driving licences to ferry our bikes and jeeps over to the school (the School of Military Intelligence). It was quite a cool sight, a few guys inside the jeep, tailed by two bikes moving out of the company line in full view of the rifle companies. I felt generally good riding the bike, even as the eyes fixated on me, obviously out of awe.

Once there, the famous unofficial SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) motto came into play: "rush to wait, wait to rush". We hurried to get all our luggage and vehicles settled into the accomodations, and double-fast marched into the auditorium, only to find an hour's wait while the other two course platoons took their time reaching the place. Talk about waiting! We even sat erect in the chair, wanting to make a good first impression on the instructors!


Memory of Information is a module in which they ask us to do a set of exercises (called Power PT), after which they give us a few pictures to memorise, before they ask us questions on the pictures. It was very tiring, I am sure you will agree:

  1. ? counts of 4 (Diamond push-up)

  2. ? counts of 4 (Scissors kick)

  3. ? counts of 4 (Spider push-up)

  4. ? counts of 4 (Flutter kick)

  5. ? counts of 4 (Dive bombers)

  6. ? counts of 4 (Alternate leg thrust)

  7. ? counts of 8 (Burpees)

  8. ? counts of 8 (Psychomotor jumping jacks)

How we did the exercises? We went through each of them, changing to the next one, or retrogading to the previous one, as and when the instructor liked it.

The dry floor looked as if it had just been washed when we were done with it. Power PT anyone?


Even tougher training awaits. We had to slather on camouflage cream all over us, and do all sorts of infiltration skills in full battle order. Needless to say, I had to do leopard, worm and baby crawls, ghost and stoop walks with that signal set in my field pack. To add to the difficulty, we were supposed to be tactical, which means that we cannot be spotted by the any body. This meant that we could not make any noise, which was hard, considering that there were many dead leaves there. I ended up gritting my way through all the obstacles, and panting extremely heavily.

"Well, if I were to do that regularly, I would have no problems with my physical training test!" I thought grimly as my lungs screamed for more air. The exertion caused me to be in heavy oxygen debt, and I soon found myself staggering towards the end point. Movement too slow for the platoon commander, and we were tekanned (shouted and screamed at) all the way back to the waiting tonner, and back to the course accomodation. Oh well, at least there are no push-ups in full battle order. I was wondering how I would cope with it!


The overcast sky cooled the ground considerably to allow us to march effectively. We were doing the 6 km fast march, and I was chosen to be the rear scout (the rear group at the back to pick up drop outs). Amazingly, my field pack felt light enough for me to walk swiftly, even run. However, I could not say the same for some of my other platoon mates. They were visibly struggling with their loads, and some started to march out of line, which lead to the sergeants to shout encouragements at them. The whole chaotic mess reminded me of a thoroughly confused mess that resembled lemmings.

In the end, after much tekanning, we finished the whole route. The platoon commander seemed to be quite satisfied with the march, the grin was hanging on his face as if it were a permanent fixture.

As I was typing all these, realisation hit me. How could anyone possibly want to read all these details? It really is tough putting on hold to all those juicy details, but I can't expect anyone to read all my adventures from head to tail! I think I will bore you to death! What do you think?

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Demoralising Friday

It is one of my trashiest days, and what happened so far confirmed my suspicions.

I stood outside the Manpower branch of my unit, clutching the police report on my lost military identity card, awaiting my turn in front of the music. On my feet was a pair of slippers, the ball of my both feet having gone black from the broken blisters. The officer paused to size me up.

"What happened to your feet?"

"Sir, I have blisters on them."

"BLISTERS? You reported sick for blisters? Never mind. How many extra duties have you signed for losing your card?"

"None sir."

"None? Where is your commander?" At this point, my sergeant stepped into the office, looking as much the timid mouse as I was. "Yes sir?"

"Listen carefully. I don't care about your company, but I want him to sign 4 extras for me."

The walk back to the company line was the toughest, with the two sergeants flanking me sympathetically.

"Well, treat it as a lesson learnt, ok? Make sure you don't lose it again." Their words seemed like cold comfort to me, as I went into the sergeant major's office to complete the deed. Fifty dollars out of my pocket (actually, I had to borrow thirty), and a mini-talk session with the sergeant major, I signed the punishment book, and went outside.

My platoon was doing power PT (physical training). It is a tough session comprising of diamond push-ups, scissors kicks, spider push-ups, flutter kicks, dive bombers, alternate leg thrusts, burpees and jumping jacks, with an instructor choosing to go forward or backwards through the sequence as and when he likes. My PC (platoon commander) was going through one trial session with us before the commencement of the course. I watched intently on the thoroughly shacked faces on my fellow friends, determined as they were to finish the session. Finally, they were through, and PC gave a prep talk...

"Guys, I am not very happy about the report sick rate. I am not pointing fingers at people, but some of you report sick for blisters, isn't that too much? Did you know that the other commanders all grit through their blisters? I think this is too much, how am I supposed to tell the Commanding Officer if he asks?"

His words hurt me like a dagger through my heart. I strongly believed in doing my best in my whatever I did, and yet I was being singled out to be lamblasted. The pain in me was even stronger than the rawness in my feet.

Right before book out time, the 2 IC was reading the routine order to the whole company before we were to leave camp for our weekend.

"Private ***** has been awarded 4 extras for losing his identity card. Where are you, private?" I raised my hands, and replied weakly.

That about wraps up my trashiest Friday ever.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Hilarious spam

Well, spam seems to have taken a hilarious turn.

When I looked into the trash bin today, I found 6 new pieces of those time wasters hanging precariously to their existence -- literally. Apparently, spammers have taken the liberty to put jokes into their illegal advertisements, in the hope of escaping my bayesian filters. Sad to say, their desperate efforts were rendered futile by the very construct of the filters... They managed to zap and erradicate these bugging critters, and sent them to digital waste bin -- effortlessly.

(I guess I was being a bit dramatic with all that descriptives.. An attack of descriptive descriptions?)

Just watching the filter do its job gave me an immense sense of satisfaction: No longer would I be pestered by irritating time wasters advocating Viagra, or that new fangled condom which is thoroughly scented with honey (doubt that it would aid the routine in any way)!

It is just me, my legitimate mail, and my friends! It is high time that everybody installed bayesian filters too, to regain your control over your mailbox!

More! I want more licences!

The crave is stirring animal instincts inside me. The need for a motorcycle induced endorphin rush is causing me to drag myself to the nearest civilian driving centre. The military licence inside my pocket right now is only cold comfort -- I want to drive as and when I want! The freedom!

Anyway, in case you were wondering, I am not crazy. I have decided to sign up to learn to drive a motorcycle, just 3 days after my military bike course has ended. As they have said, the power of cruising is just too hard to resist... I am also considering getting a bike, maybe somewhere just below 200 cc (the laws of this island dictates that I need to go for more courses to be able to qualify to ride higher capacity monsters).

Meanwhile, my romantic adventure with the scrambler bike has come to a regrettable pause, while my platoon concentrates on our core speciality: spying. Our recee course starts on the 21st, and as luck would have it, some of my bike course mates from the armour infantry would also be having their own course at the same time, at the same place! Now that should make the School of Military Intelligence that much easier to tolerate!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Gloom (and even gloomier?)

The overcast sky totally described my gloom today. Now that I have come to the end of the course, my platoon commander passed word that I was supposed to book back into camp tomorrow. Even the feel of the precious piece of paper that is my military driving licence in my hands was unable to lift my spirits appreciably, which depressed me even more, possibly setting myself up for a huge plunge into a mental diagnosis.

I've tried to pinpoint the reason, but so far I have not been able to truly get a reason for that. For all I know, I might be suffering from self-induced depression! I've done it plenty of times [booking in to camp], and I've always been none the worse for it. However, this nagging depression will continue to bug me until I finally get around to book in time, when I will drag my feet up to my bunk in dejected resignation to my fate for the remaining 2 years.

I had not even noticed it: Today is the sixth month milestone in my national service, which leaves me with a slightly less ardous task of going through exactly another two years of military service, before I finally get my already itchy hands on my pink (civilian) identification card. Already, my head is spinning in excitement at the thought of being free from military constrains again...

I guess I need more than the mandated 7 hours of sleep to get my old system back online...

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Enjoyable riding

I've found the joy of riding. The forceful gusts of wind which beat against the back evaporates all the dampness in one's clothing. The thrill of zipping past the world at high speed, the forceful vibrations of the engine, the joy of tapping the horn at other errant road users is definitely enticing.

Too bad, like all banquets, this course is ending tomorrow. As my main vocation does not involve driving around a lot, I guess I can forget about touching the bike often... It is always so strange how we humans harbour dislike towards doing something new, and then turn around again after it has ended, and regret its passing. Time to go! I need to spend some sentimental time with my training bike (returning it tomorrow)... *sigh*

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Friendster Down!

Friendster seems to be down right where I am. My browser is persistently showing me its favourite code 500 web page (In case you do not know, code 500 is "Server Error", which can mean a lot of things. Either the server is down, or it is too busy ignoring you.)

I was hoping to get in and add some of the new friends that I have found... I guess the human need for social interaction runs deep.

On Guard! Danger on the roads!

For a heart stopping moment, a crash seemed inevitable...

I was on a confidence riding lesson today, which brought us from the East to the West side of the island. The (what I thought initially) exciting part of the whole trip was to be our first debut on the highway. To get us started on long distance traveling, we were to travel non-stop from Bedok (where the circuit is) to the West Coast.
The excitement was palatable in my group as our bikes approached the filter lane leading towards the PIE (The Pan-Island Expressway). I believed that some of the more excitable ones were essentially hopping up and down in their seats at the sight of the long stretch of the road in front of them.

I approached the road with gusto, gunning the throttle to a comfortable 55 km/hr behind a van. All seemed well, until a taxi cut, without any prior indication of the driver's intention, into my lane, and with such abruptness, I was forced to reach for the brakes. A rude awakening, perhaps.

About halfway into the journey, I noticed Complacency sneaking around some of the more accomplished riders. They were basically ignoring the mirrors, and were intent on the road ahead of them. They might have been waiting for the runway to clear before taking off for all the care in the world! Thank goodness, a sharp horn by the instructor snapped them out of their spell.

As for me, I was too busy checking all possible danger points that I wasn't able to enjoy the blooming trees planted neatly along the side of the highway. Nor was I able to marvel at the culture-rich colonial buildings strewn in the distance...
32 km and after a really sore backside, we finally pulled up inside an industrial estate car park. Which was a relief, because I was really exhausted by all the mind-wrangling on the highway.

In case you were wondering how this fits in with the topic of this blog, here's the bridge: I nearly up-ended myself into a pick-up on my way back to the driving circuit.


I was too busy checking the sides for drivers with an interest in running me off the road that I neglected to catch up with the vehicle in front of me, and allowed a pick-up truck to cut in (illegally! What's new!) to my lane. I gave no thought to his inconsiderate behaviour, and believing that he was going straight, I paid him no further attention. That was when he decided to slow down, and turn into a small road on the left. He braked with such suddenness, I was caught by surprise. Reaching for my brakes again, I was resisting a natural tendency to jam the lever. Praying hard, I managed to apply enough force to avoid a collision. I ended up so close that I could read the part number on the pick-up's tail guard.

Heart thumping, I reluctantly opened my throttle (I couldn't have just stopped there, right?), and proceeded with even more caution than usual. I was so shaken that I didn't dare stay anywhere within 50 metres of any vehicle in front of me for the rest of the trip back.

I guess today was a shock introduction to the World of Driving on a Highway. Even now, horror images of my near miss are replaying in my mind. I won't be forgetting this in a hurry, I'll bet!

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