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

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Military Mind Block

Sometimes, being handed a blank piece of paper, and asked to write about anything is just about the toughest topic anybody can be handed. Ironic, since we all like to complain about the limitations that certain topics would confine us to. Remember your essay writing in college? There were many fallacies to avoid, ambiguous points you couldn't make. Heck, you even had trouble thinking about what to write.

Now an empty page just sitting there waiting to be filled! Many of my blogger friends have been stumped by the lack of stuff to write, with some resorting to avoiding their own blogs for a certain period until they can find something to write about.

I have thought about leveraging this lack of topic to jump start our creativity. After all, we all have tried to occupy ourselves when we were young (us 1980s, before the age of wide-spread computer games and consoles), and didn't we manage well then?

I still remembered that I loved to play "Family" with my playground mates. I would be the father, and some of the smaller ones would be the kids, while the girls fussed around them like protective hens. I didn't remember going to the playground that often after I got my own computer and internet connection (which was around 2001).

In case you were wondering: yes, I am suffering from a certain degree of writer's block... not only has my time spent in the army dulled my vocabulary (I find it tough to throw up descriptive words, and those that managed to come up are the simple ones you see here), and my spelling has gotten so atrocious that a spell checker is no longer an optional program on my computer, where once I could wield a magic pen in my secondary school days (hey, I got A1 for my English, didn't I) and dazzle readers with my imagination, but it has also limited my involvement in activities outside the military. Help me! My world revolves around the army!

People used to come up to me to ask me about everything: I used to have answers for most of them (that's what reading does to you), but nowadays, I become the dumb one. Not that I did not have time to catch up on world affairs — but I am either sleeping off mental and physical fatigue, or am fighting them during my physical training... The rest of the time is spent cooped up with books (should I say, military thriller books?) or evading the [>>> usual internal quarrels <<<].

As they might say, my transformation is complete: I now breathe, eat, sleep, and read the army. Long live the military!

P.S. (I have just edited my post: I realised that I have made more mistake than I could catch in my proof-reading.) Thank you, army!

Saturday, February 26, 2005


In a surprise turn of events (after an announcement of compulsory registration for online access), local newspaper The Straits Times' online service has decided to start charging subscribers for access to the same articles that can be found in its print edition.

Given Singapore's small size, ST's coverage of Singapore news far out-rivals that of its competitors (Channel News Asia and Today, both owned by MediaCorp), leading them to believe in their dominance, and (probably) monopoly on local news.

I say they had better stop dreaming! The Straits Times' coverage of local news has been known to be skewed, and with its reputation as a [> Nation building newspaper <] with government (which is, as we know, the PAP), it is about as reliable an independant new source as a PAP issued press release.

With rumours of [> declining print edition subscribers <], I am not surprised if the proposed charging for online access will lead to decreasing traffic, not to mention lower bandwidth bills with their angry upstream provider.

In fact, such an act only deters casual readers, only hard-core ones desperate enough would bother to type and make available articles online through reproduction from the Straits Times' print edition, as can be seen on local online forum communities, which in itself defeats ST's plan of valuing its content, and is in itself not illegal, as the physical media has already been paid for, and all articles are paid by advertisers in its print edition.

Visit [> Straits Times Interactive <] while it remains free to see for yourself the plethora of articles: you can find nothing complimentary about any party in opposition to the PAP.

[> A short commentary by Mr Brown <] on ST's plan to charge for online access.

Italy versus Europe

In a cute cartoon that reminds me of the eccentrics of Singaporeans, Italians distinguish themselves from the rest of Europe, making them, [> Uniquely Italy <].

It is that time again. (Sometimes I wonder whether men do get PMSes) I felt totally closed off, and tempted to hide from the whole world. Yet, I find comfort typing stuff down on my keyboard. Yes, ego-centric me seems to find solace in blogging.

My world isn't that shabby, but it ain't a rosy picture either. Here's to me thinking about what to do with my life next, and maybe my blog posts will stop reminding me of how jovial a person I used to be, until recent events... :-)

Friday, February 25, 2005

6 Division Cobra Challenge Day

It actually turned out that I was not selected for the main Cobra Challenge team, which in turn happened to be the company's dream team. They had an elaborate ceremony, where everybody turned up in their battle attire (read: skeletal battle order), and had the battalion flag handed over to the BoB (Best of the Best) team.

Probably just as well. I didn't think that my legs would last me the whole of 13 km without cramping like an old man.

Another good side-effect: I became a station I/C for one of the reverse SOC (Standard Obstacle Course) stations. In fact, I made it a point to be impartial to all the teams: I simply closed both eyes to all the blatant and vagrant violations to the game rules. Besides, there were other station I/Cs out there determined to suck the morale out of the various teams with a blood sapping 30 points deduction for minor infractions. Losers. Let's see them try to complete the obstacles after a 13 km run!

When my own platoon finally reached my station, it was tough for me to pretend not to know them — the neutral was breathing down my neck, and the flames quite suffocated me... After remembering to wish them "Good Luck", they proceeded to complete the obstacle in the fastest time I had ever recorded for all the teams: a cool 15 seconds out of 60. Nobody ever beat that time. Needless to say, I was quite high on the cloud for the rest of the teams.

In the end, my platoon did not win the championship. We placed around 7 or so, but only because of a 30 point deduction by one of the stations I/C as mentioned in one of the above paragraphs. Penalising for a camouflage net touching an obstacle is a radically absurd case of extremism. It is almost criminal discrimination! That I/C did the same for many other teams, causing much distress, and needless to say, completely quashed the reputation of the Station I/C. The team managed to came in at the fastest time for the whole battalion, yet failed to beat the other formations taking part... Without that 30 points deducted, they would have placed 5th, and a trip to the stage (which would have earned them instant fame, and 3 days off to boot).

They were quite crushed when they realised the irony of the situation. Another team from the same battalion came in at an absurd timing (I didn't know what it was, but it was quite late), yet managed to earn 3 days off for getting marksmanship, and taking their time to stroll through the whole 13 km.

This world ain't fair...

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Inexorable Decline?

Being with my platoon mates always evoke a feeling of belonging — they seemed to contain certain dynamics that make me feel especially close to them.

Is it their bitchiness? The same bitterness about our common suffering under inefficiency?

Whatever it was, I might never know, for I can feel the fabric of our unity unfolding, maddeningly thread by thread. What started out as a platoon of almost 50 people last March is now a ghost of its former shell with 17. It could be 16, if one of the guys manage to get his downgrade letter, 15 for the one down from [> dengue <].

The inexorable slide into decline started soon around May last year, when it was revealed that slightly less than half of the platoon actually belonged to another division, and that they were posted in here only to train for their Advanced Infantry Training phase.

And so, with a little bit of regret, we parted ways. The rest of us subsequently went for the vocation course in June (if you read the archives around then, you will know all about it). During that period, three more guys dropped out, and subsequently left us. 2 more followed, after finishing the tough 9 day summary exercise and passing out with their own jungle hats.

3 more new blood came in, and of that, only 1 has finished the vocation course. 1 returned to where he came from (I guess he felt more welcomed there), and the other is currently down with dengue fever. Now, 1 more is struggling to cope with his leg problem, and may downgrade soon, reducing yet again the number of people.

I have not seen such a high drop out rate in any other platoons, either Support, or the other rifle companies. Not only has it affected me psychologically (I feel quite distressed that so many people are leaving), but the rest of us also have to do more work to compensate. Everyday, we look in envy at other platoons with spare men lounging around. Even my platoon sergeant seems to have lost some heart in what he had tried to built:

He scouted (no pun intended) for us back when we were still in BMT. Young and green, he promised that being a scout would be an extremely honourable thing to do. The whole training shed of short-listed candidates whom volunteered their names vested their trust in him.

So far, even though the rest of us try very hard, we still fail to meet expectations — perhaps they would have done better with the other batch whom were posted out: they seem to be physically stronger. The brigade inspection found us to be wanting in many skills, such as intraveinous injection, vehicle technical data, tools.

It turned out that there was much that we did not know that we needed to know, so we did crash courses for everything. That seems to fray tempers more. Nowadays, my days in the bunk are marked by quarrels, occassionally punctuated by a few items hurled about, while I lie on the bed, hoping to sleep through it all. Intolerance to other people have led to snide remarks, and many open insults have already broken out in the open. People to people relations have not reached such a low before. If quarreling is a sign of care for one another, I might wish they start to be a little more indifferent about our differences.

Now that I might feel better about it after typing it out, I must add that I am a natural optimist. This happening cannot bode well for the integrity of this platoon. Dare I say that we all need some serious counselling.

Here's hoping that things will be better when we return our pagers, and end our stand-by duties.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shave closer than Gillette®

Remember the company cohesion that I had some time back?

While yesterday's platoon cohesion programme had nothing to do with it, I was constantly reminded about the bad experience at Sentosa, and that led me to keep my fingers crossed all throughout the whole of Monday.

In the morning, in the stead of the usual 5 km runs, or other assorted demanding physical training done at 8 am in the morning, we were very pleasantly surprised when word came up that we were allowed to play games. Yes, finally we get to join the other platoons in the company in their usual games. We went happily to the basketball court cum street soccer court -- to find it occupied by the other platoons.

After a few minutes of harried co-ordination, the whole company decided to take turns playing. Not wanting to disturb everyone's fun with my bumbling novice play, I decided to occupy myself with a spare ball that happened to lie around the shed in that area. It was curious how that ball (I assumed that it was a soccer ball, because it looked like one) was able to bounce like a basketball. Come to think of it, now it looks like a volleyball. I augmented my own confusion by idly alternating between dribbling, bouncing, and otherwise playing with the ball. Then a few guys came along and wanted to join in the fun.

And it so happens that they were light years my senior in terms of ball handling skills. They managed to manipulate the ball like a professional, while I was stuck looking like a total raw greenhorn with my clumsy dribbling. I took comfort in the fact that I was chasing after the ball most of the time.

It was slightly later that we were scheduled to leave camp - provided there were not any major stuff scheduled for that period. Then came the bomb-shell (and a rather big one). 10 minutes to get all the sweat out of the body, change into uniform, and get ourselves into the hall for a lecture. (In case you want to know, it was about our pending duty guarding the various key installations in the country).

The lecturers were nice and all, but I was terribly impatient throughout the two and a half hours that they were talking: the cohesion programme was in the evening, and we had planned a few other more exciting activities than listening to lectures! I couldn't say for the rest of the battalion present, but the last I looked, heads were drooping, and I swear that I could see some chains of semi-saliva dripping slowly out of some of their mouths...

I was slightly disappointed over dinner. With myself. I watched everyone else in pure envy while they managed to wolf down plate after plate of steamboat stuff, while I struggled to finish half of the delicious lumps of food that I still had on my plate. After that over-bloated dinner, we split up to do our stuff, with a stern warning to get back to camp before 11:59 pm. The threat mentioned vaguely about burnt Chinese New Year holidays, but we were extremely confident that it wouldn't happen.

Guess what, it almost did.

The small group I was with was too engrossed in our LAN game that we forgot about time. We rushed out, ear to phones connected to taxi booking hotlines. With an hour and twenty minutes to spare, we waited to be connected to an operator. All the way until the only bus in that secluded area arrived in front of us 25 minutes later. By then I was knotted up in worry. That the driver drove like a tour bus did not help matters. The bus made a loop around the area (to our despair), before reaching the nearest train station. We dashed out, and ran into the next train out. Getting off at the nearest city area station, we ran to the front of the taxi queue (T-time minus 30 minutes), and cooked up a hot story about how we had to rush back to camp because we were activated, and that it was a national emergency...

The couple at the head of the queue took our story whole (I guess that was because of our frantic looks), and we hopped onto the taxi, pleading with the soft-spoken man to floor the accelerator. To be fair to him, he did, but with not enough urgency I almost started biting my nails (an action I am always tempted to try whenever I got stressed). Tearing down the expressway at 110 km/h, we managed to get into camp with less than 10 minutes to spare. Safe? NO!

The final 500 metres to the company line and real safety took almost that 10 minutes, because one of us hurt his leg during the mad rush for the taxi earlier.

So that was it. A close shave. Considering how valuable the Chinese New Year break is, I would say my life was saved. Even now, I still think back in amazement at how we managed to escape from that secluded area... 4 cell phones, 4 different cab companies, no takers. Maybe next time I should neglect to tell the operator that I am going to an area known for its cemeteries?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

My past

It is not that I wish to dig up my past, but there are certain lessons we can learn from my experiences in my youth.

You would have too, if your school were full of rich bastards (yes, the memory still hurts me whenever I recall it. Never have I been able to forgive and forget those years).

It all started in my secondary school, which happened to be a very chinese oriented school, supposedly with reputable rankings (around 25 to 28 each time) in the whole Singapore. Many rich parents chose it to deliver secondary education to their precious sons and daughters, whom seem to tot fanciful items flagrantly. Pagers, cell phones (remember, they were not hot back in 1999), Tamagotchi, the whole works.

I happened to be without those status items.

They started to tease me, first about how fat I was (I did look flabby then, but I was not that FAT!). They started calling me names like "action packed fatty", "fat-ass", "pig-whore", etc.

I actually took that into my stride, and ignored them. That's when the real trouble started. Those f****ts (sorry, I don't usually get so worked up) started throwing stuff at me in class. They hurled 5 cent coins when the teacher wasn't looking, they shot rubber band at my back during chinese lessons, and stole my stuff when I wasn't looking. In fact, it got so bad that I couldn't do my work. It was a surprise that I managed to pass decently that year.

My teachers tried to consel me: they just want attention, they have too much money to flaunt (you know the routine). But I got angry enough that I swore to do better than them, and show them that I was the boss. I pushed myself, stayed back in class after lessons are over, went through my work many times before I allowed myself to go home, and got acquainted with like-minded friends (whom also liked to stay back to study), who eventually helped me get over those people, and concentrate on my work. I didn't want those people to detract me from my life. In the end, these new friends of mine gave me an affectionate nickname: iron-assed. I didn't mind it a bit. In fact, I thought it cute that they imagined I could stop a 5 tonner truck with my backside.

But the most important thing that happened was I never gave up. I didn't look hard enough at first, but there exist people who actually quietly support you: you just had to look hard, and then those ^$&&%*# (sorry, here I go again) won't get on you anymore. That is what I gained through my secondary school life.

Perhaps those people (the f****ts) might have been a catalyst for me doing so well in my O levels. I didn't do so well for my A levels, partly because I was not motivated enough. Nowadays, I keep losing whenever I go to play WarCraft with my platoon mates during our Wednesday nights off camp. In fact, I am so weak that they were at level 20 while I languished at level 11. No matter. I am now training to beat them, and when I do, I would love to see their faces :-).

Here goes my life story. To the person I wrote this post for, I personally really wish that you won't do it, even though you don't realise it. I think we have gone through too much for you to do that. Persevere. I went through something like what you are going through now. Now's not the time to stop.

A business in camp

Life in the army can get pretty monotonous by day, deadly boring by night.

While I get pushed to my physical limits during the day, my mental mettle gets tested by night when we have nothing to do (short of those little LAN sessions during our Wednesday nights off camp). Television isn't my cup of tea, and I seriously wished I could haul my computer rig to play in camp, but I had to settle for the humble book to cosy up to in the bunk: it was either that, or sleep. I figured that I didn't need 11 hours of sleep a day, so self-improvement paperbacks accompany my evenings in camp.

I came across Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (sorry, no affiliate link to Amazon, I have not taken action on that book yet, if you understand what I mean), and was curious ever since: How would I be able to achieve a life free from financial worries?

That first book led to the next, and then onto the plethora of online resources on improving my financial life. It is shockingly easy when I come to think of it: you use the cash you get to invest in assets, which then you use to generate passive income.

Anyway, right now my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts, especially after a few guys in my camp approached me recently to get me to join their network marketing scheme. I have yet to given them a solid reply even though I am seriously tempted by their proposal - it sounds feasible, and would only cost me three hundred upfront. With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, I guess it is a good time to probe my relatives a little, not to mention get all those hongbao packets to help start up my little down-line.

Maybe I can start a business with all those time spent doing nothing in camp, and turn a handsome profit when I finish my active national service? Financial education versus professional training?

[What is it?]

    1. HongBao: Little red packets containing money, usually given by married couples to un-married teenagers and children. The red packets are supposed to ward off evil and help a child coast through the new lunar year.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

3 Free invites to GMail

I currently have 3 G-Mail invites to give out.

Yes, you can now have an account with the coolest e-mail service around, with 1,000 megabytes of storage space, for all those spam mail, hate mail, fan mail, chain mail that you get in your e-mail. Plus you get to archive it so that years down the road, you will dig out that tearful farewell e-mail you sent your girlfriend...

I got my account with Google due to the grace of a stranger (whom I might never get to know, because he didn't contact me even when I have finished creating my account with his GMail invitation), so I am giving it back, 3 fold. This is also to thank all you blog readers for reading my blog. But if you already have a GMail account, please don't ask for more. Let's keep it for those who have not been touched by the magic of GMail.

Hurry now, while stocks last.

Email me to get the invites (limited to the first 3 who asks for it, for obvious reasons).

Remember to give out your invites when you do get to! Let's spread the love of sharing around!

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