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

Monday, May 23, 2005

About my late nights

I don't understand my recent penchant for late nights, late mornings. It all started approximately one and a half years ago, when I found my liberty rudely robbed by this necessary evil called "National Service". We would stay in camp from Monday till Saturday, before a long march out from the camp grounds to the jetty on the outlying island of Pulau Tekong, where we would sit, dazed on the ferry back to the mainland. There, it was a crushing exercise on the bus as drivers tried to pack as many recruits as they could. I still remember the overpowering stink emanating from the already sweaty uniforms, which the poorly equipped air-conditioning was struggling to overcome, and failing valiantly. Once we reached the first bastion of a town, the clock starts. Thirty-two hours of free time to play, sleep, eat... We raced for the train station (and ended up dripping sweat all over the train floor, to the utter disgust of other commuters; they seem to dislike sharing seats with soldiers, even if they had been cleaned up in camp), and reached home fully mindful of the sand trickling away. No time for sleep. It's playtime after a quick shower (which would always be useless, since in the rush to get ready, the tropical weather would ensure that everybody leaves the house with droplet-stained shirts).

It is easier for me, since my friends don't really have the time to keep in contact with me. I boot my computer, and get online. After the initial hour spent checking out useless chain mails, and the effort spent emptying the trash can of spam mail, I decide to hang around the multiple on line communities: since that is where intellectuals hang their egoistic works to be impaled. Many hours are spent there instead ignoring flame wars, troll postings, and useless me-too replies to great discussions. Never mind. Sifting through the chaff is part of the job too. I cherry-pick a few topics of interest, and am begin my discourse when I realise that it is mid-night (no kidding). Outside is a soundless night, occasionally punctured by the sounds of the insects, which would continue their company till my head substitutes my hand on the keyboard.

The next day is spent fretting about another week spent in camp. Yet another weekend gone past. More days in camp. Total despondence. Despair. I was even dispirited enough to lie in bed all through the afternoon (I admit that the late night played a part) with my eyes screwed shut in the fruitless hope that the clock would just halt there and then...

That was then.

Now a relative veteran (in the NSF system of course), I can safely say that my late nights are a legacy of my early recruit days. Where Saturday mornings are spent in camps are Friday night book outs, drastically boosting the amount of time out of camp. I gladly continue my favourite haunting sites dead in the night, sometimes till early morning (remember my experiment with not sleeping?)

I know of others who have a propensity for night owl sessions till daylight, before collapsing a messy heap on their beds for a few winks. Then, it was back in action for them. For them, time is not to be wasted away moping in the house. Sleeping is but a necessary nuisance, to be done away as soon as possible. Sometimes I agree with them, but never in camp. Time in camp is meant for sleeping.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cut submarine cable leads to astute observation

It's official: the underwater pipe responsible for my Internet connection's international link [:: has been crushed ::] and unusually, the papers didn't follow up with their usual whistle-blowing. In fact, the dearth of news report regarding the incident arouses suspicion: it isn't every day that submarine cables heavily tasked with connecting an entire region to another get chopped without major wire agencies making at least a minor mention tucked deep within their website.

This disruption caused much angst amongst the telco's customers. Ping times rose 20 fold, to 19000 miliseconds, where previously pages snapped to screen within a quarter of a second. I tried online games on international servers, and watched with bored anticipation as my character went to his 16th consecutive death. My usual game mates were quite curious about my sudden suicidal strategy. Short of crushing the cable at home (thereby creating another crushed cable), I could only stick to stalking mudane forums to pass time.

Nobody else I know has the slightest interest in writing online. Their keyboards remain immaculate, with a few choice keys worn out from their favourite games. Mine looks like it was used as a substitute for a plate, courtesy of my persistent habit of dropping food in front of the computer, not that my mouth is defective or anything... There was a time long ago I asked my inner circle about their online habits, and came away thinking that I was the one with the habits.

Back to the cut cable: it brought me a new insight inside the securely hidden bowels of Singaporean society. Where tourists don't visit on their casual trips around town are common hang outs for the new generational hippies, innocuous they are in their dark leather suits in the hot and humid tropical weather, dazzling each other with multiple shiny metal studs jabbed meticulously onto the smooth cloth. One of them looked at me as I was observing the group even as he wound a roll of tape around his leather boot. The McDonalds outlet was quite crowded, but I could pick out the members of their group with their outlandish tastes, even as I ducked underneath my burger with their occassional stares. A few moments later, after a mini ice-cream war, which left the restaurant cleaners with a half-an-hour of non-stop clean up work, the gang left, probably to another quieter locality for their boring juvenille acts.

In case you were blinded by this post's sudden spot of brilliance, here's [:: the inspirational blog ::].

I need to rest my weary mind now: the fiery forum topic I started about those guy's leather fetish really squeezed the liquid out of my proverbial sponge. Insufficient water intake was probably part of the act too.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

In my honest opinion...

Having a blog stitched to my personal bio can really be a pain in the proverbial backside: I can't comment about people I know online, simply because the resulting backlash would be a total pain in the (I guess you know).

But now, I am making an exception. Much aside to keeping my opinions in the dark about certain people on the job, I am breaking my silence for once on one very pivotal person in my national service. Recent events have made me quite dark and gloomy (apart from my failure to fully use my motivation books), and he has been quite irrational, if not totally uncomprehensible in the past weeks.

As any caring leader would, he usually finds time to visit our bunks, even to pop in for a few moments to chat for a few moments. The trouble is, most of us would be off in dream land whenever he arrives, which seems to trouble him a lot. Unknown to him, our little act of escapism was really our only way of passing time: there is only this amount of television and newspapers that we national servicemen will read, and frankly speaking, most of us were not in the army by choice.
Just yesterday, determined not to leave the idle ones to the zee-monster, he pushed the whole platoon to the central motorised transport line (CMTL), activating around 4 vehicles, when just 2 are sufficient. If not the insufficient number of vehicles at our disposal, surely the huge assembly at the vehicle HQ would have been a strange sight, not to mention a waste of time.

Furthermore, his friendly and open demeanor seems to have been shelved: I can see some disturbances, and feel them, yet I can't even begin to put my finger on the exact trouble. His jokes have shifted from small jabs about our perpetual sleeping ritual to outright disapproval, of which I am tired of hearing.

I cannot understand his obsession with doing physical training on the same day as outfield training: I do my own runs on weekends, and the day before, I had even gone on my own fartlek, in the erroneous belief that there would be sufficient rest before bashing about up knolls in the afternoon. Regretfully, I totally crashed out for mission that day, after my legs went numb: even some of the commanders shared our agreement about the morning run.

Before I let you dear readers jump to a conclusion, I must add that he is an excellent commander: so far, nobody else has exceeded his nice attitude towards us, and I am glad to say that I am happy to be under him. He drives for the best out of everybody when it comes to the crunch time, and he really gets our support with those little things, and his jovial personality. I really hope that this is only a small patch in the long path on which we are running.

To you if you happen to read this: I wasn't sleeping on the MB back to camp, I was meditating.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Skirmish on train

I usually have quiet and restful train trips for my rides back to camp on Sundays. The journey to the western part of Singapore is usually accompanied with many similar sullen faces who happened to have to work the next day in the nearby industrial area. I would take the opportunity to spend that 45 minutes either reading a book, or day-dreaming about the day I finish my national service...

Last Sunday, I happened to be doing the former (since I am married to my computer at home) with great relish (it is a great book, but I accidentally left it in camp, so I am left with no title, and bookless when I have to get back to camp this Sunday evening) when I became aware of a skirmish between a Chinese expatriate and a local Singaporean.

The man sitting beside me, for some reason, wanted to swap seats with the lady opposite me. As they were getting up for the switch-a-roo, the chinese expatriates' son dashed for the lady's new seat. She told the young boy nicely to return her seat, which the sensible child did, to the total annoyance of his expatriate mother, whom exclaimed loudly, "My son sat on that seat first, why are you stealing his seat?"

The lady tried to explain herself: "I was just switching seats with the gentleman over there. Your son is right to return me my seat."

Of which the mother was thoroughly pissed, but was unwilling to confront the lady. She continued to grumble loudly, much to everyone's annoyance. To complete her condemnation, she berated her son many times for "giving up his seat to somebody who is not needy".

The mother-son alighted at an interchange a few stations after, and I thought that it signified the end of the whole episode. Far from it.

As I was hungrily pursuing the book, relieved again for the quiet, the lady started to do what the mother did, just minutes earlier.

"That china woman just now, you know? She very unreasonable!" She began, an anguished victim struggling with Singlish.

"These people, come here to steal our jobs, now they also want to steal our seats?"

"I tell you, we must send these people back to the cunning China hole they come from!"

It was at this juncture that I was really grateful for the timely arrival at the terminal station where I alighted, annoyed at both women, and the disturbed book reading. As I left the exit gantry gates, I could still hear her behind me with the poor passengers she managed to accost.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Excellence... or comfort?

While swimming is my perpetual obsession, I never really found a way to tear myself from my computer to even do it as an indulgence: the lure of the Internet is even greater than my physical need to expend energy.

But this being one of the rare days where I found myself able to get up at 8 am (a relatively unearthy time for a public holiday), I managed to get a few friends along (dragged them, really) for a dip in the nearby pool.

The hot weather made the coolness of the water seemed even more inviting. I did a few somersaults, immersing myself in the hugging comfort of the water. Disappointingly, there was not much to see on this day: all the kids were staying away for some reason, perhaps they are mugging for their mid-year examinations this early? I saw a few toddlers frolicking (is this the right word?) in the wadding pool, and could not help but feel a pang of nostalgia: how I wished that I were small again, without any care of the world, my parents looking out for me, and the heavy burden of the world seemed so far, so far away...

Ahead of me lies another busy week inside camp: there is some marksmanship test coming up, IV revision (I always hated that thing!), and the Standard Obstacle Course. I still wonder why I bothered to even make an effort to go through all these things, when many of my friends chose to downgrade and satisfy themselves with deskbound jobs. Less pain, more comfort. Perhaps I am just too dedicated towards all my work? I don't know.

But the conflict exists: between my want for a less tough national service, and my instinct for wanting to finish all that I have started, I stand perched precariously (and painfully) impaled on the sharp spikes of the fence. Here's to hoping that I don't get in too deep.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

To all you linguistic purists:

I have a never-ending curiosity about languages: how we are able to sense a word's meaning through continuous exposure, or even deduce an approximate meaning simply from the context and intonation of a speaker (or even with pure words)!

Not only has it proven true with English, it has also applied with Chinese, Malay, and Singapore's local mixed potpourri called "Singlish".

Recently, some guys at my place mentioned about a person being a Lau Ti Ko (in Hokkien dialect). It was my first time hearing that word, but the lusty looks on their faces gave me a hint that this phrase applied to an old man filled with dirty thoughts.

Which brings me to another point: Language is a living entity, and continues to evolve throughout its usage. Therefore, there is no truly a pure version of any language, especially with the influences of other languages tugging at it, inserting or mutating current phrases and usage rules. That I totally agree with [:: Mr Brown ::]

I just don't understand the rationale of linguistic purists to put a drag on the language's natural evolution. Perhaps they are too lazy to catch up with its improvement?

We are using languages as a form of communication between people. If two or more can understand each other on a standard, why not let them carry on?

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