Saturday, January 22, 2005

I may have hinted at it, but I never really came out and said it. Over the past week I was researching the web and print materials, sussing out people's opinions and opened discussions with June about it. Yesterday I took a test drive in a 1.3l Getz. Never let anyone say I am indecisive. Today, I just signed my life away for a 1.5l Mazda 2. Oooh, yeah! Zoom-zoom.

It's amazing that when I initially raised the idea of possibly becoming a car owner, June didn't seem too keen. But through the week we've been doing our math, and though I've wiped out a significant part of my savings, I have taken this opportunity to purchase something I had never thought affordable in my lifetime.

It's odd that both June and I have been independently eyeing the M2 for a while already. She took a fancy to it when she saw the display model near her workplace. Me, I've always liked Anthony's Mazda 3 for it's design and driveability but his model I know is way beyond my means, so when the option to examine a lower-end model came up, I was all eyes and ears.

June adapts quickly. From her initial resistance, one week later she's bubbling with excitement over what weekends could be like with our own transport. I guess the biggest winner would be Q-tip who can't come out with us on public transport because of people's intolerance to man's best friend. For me, there're advantages too in terms of convenience but mostly what I'm paying for is independence and direct control over where I'm going and how I'm going to get there.

After looking at the Getz last night, I intended to test a couple of other similar 1.3 to 1.5l models from other manufacturers, such as the Kia Rio and Cerato (a really affordable 1.6l) and the Suzuki Swift but when I got behind the wheel of the M2, I was immediately comfortable in it and it did everything I wanted it to on command so that it really did feel like an extension of myself on the road, unlike the Getz which had to pause to consider what I wanted before taking its time to get it done.

Throughout the drive I felt confident handling the M2. It responded well and it felt stable, controlled and ready to give an added burst of power as the situation required. Even parking (though still needing a bit more practice on my part) wasn't such a problem as yesterday, so it was the drive that really sold me.

Good thing June was with me. She handled the aesthetic decisions while I was only interested in the performance. She chose the colour -- Brilliant Black -- and opted to upgrade the cloth upholstery to sports leather. The sales rep let us do the upgrade at only half the cost as his "freebie" incentive to us. Honestly, I could have made myself difficult and asked for more, but really it's already quite a sweet deal and asking for more would just be asking for the sake of asking.

So, the new 'baby' is due in March. It's taken me to the brink of my 40th year but I've put my money where my mouth is and now I'm ready to join the grown-up world.

A day of running in and out of the house waving at the same neighbour so many times he must have thought we were mad. June’s busy preparing New Year cookies, starting with her highly anticipated pineapple tarts. After breakfast at the coffee shop, we bought 15 pineapples that the fruit shop shelled for us. While waiting, I brought Q-tip back upstairs then ran down again to meet June at NTUC. June was already at the cashier paying for her flour, Planta margarine and peanut oil when I rejoined her. We went back to collect our pineapples, then in our lift lobby we saw a little ginger-ash coloured kitten looking very lost and miaoing very loudly. So we rushed upstairs to dump our shopping, grab a can of sardines and back down again to feed the little thing. Her left eye had been glued shut with a messy eye discharge but thankfully after we cleaned her face up with tissue the eye popped open again and it looked healthy. After she ate we put her up on the top of the mailboxes where she would be safe (no one looks up there) and left her there. We had to look for cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, icing sugar and sea-salt. None to be found in our neighbourhood provision shops, so we went back upstairs to fetch our Transit-Link cards, and came back down again to catch the bus into Central. Before catching the bus, as June was also lacking finely crushed peanuts and didn’t know where to look for them, she had a brainwave and made an arrangement to buy 1kg worth from the peanut pancake auntie when new supplies arrive next week. We got most of everything we wanted from Central, except sea-salt which seems to have disappeared off shelves everywhere. Fine, we can make-do without it for a while. When we finally got home again, June got busy grinding up the pineapples then putting the pulp into the wok to cook over the next week or so. She put cloves into the mixture and she will be adding in the brown sugar and the cinnamon soon.

And sometime in the late afternoon, I test drove a Hyundai Getz. It’s been so long since I drove that I was a bit of an embarrassment to Eric, the nice salesguy. It’s fair to say I had more of a crawl rather than a spin around the block, and my reverse parking was so bad I’m pretty sure Eric really wanted to grab the steering wheel away from me and park it himself. But he kept his cool and eventually talked me through the entire procedure. Walking back to his office, I noticed that he didn’t press me to sign any contracts. Bah!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

CT period was supposed to involve team building today. A good idea, since this was the kids' first CT period in the regular time-table. What better way to get some team-building done than by having them run around like mad in the midday sun, shouting and screaming, in a friendly match of captain's ball?

It was a faceoff between my S10D and Anthony's A1. 12 a side. Amy and Vince showed up as spectators in the match. They looked after the stuff in our pockets as both Anthony and I turned out for our respective CTs as opposing catchers in the 2nd half.

Since my CT had PE earlier in the morning they remained in their PE attire while I conducted our GP tutorial in the gallery. It's quite a challenge trying to make myself heard over the din of ambient noise and the construction going on in our quad, but at least the setting was novel. Anthony's group joined us to play on the track in front of the Art Room. I divided my group into 2 halves so everyone could play one half each. Anthony fielded his best team during both halves so, not surprisingly, A1 bt. S10D 10-6.

Whatever. The kids had fun, my CT rep remarking that we should have CT periods like this more often -- they're much more fun than GP. Ooooo....k...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Amy treated Vince to lunch so, instead of eating cheap like we usually do, we went a bit more upmarket. Vince chose BrownBox in Gardens which is a little cafe serving pastries and meaty main courses. And possibly creative desserts. Unfortunately, we were in a bit of a hurry otherwise we might have spent a lazy afternoon there sipping tea but work comes first, I guess.

I had the beef stew with buttered rice. Very peppery stew, which I liked, chunky bits of beef in a neat ring surrounding a semi-sphere of fluffy, grainy rice. The stew was tender with occasional fatty bits (to me this is a good thing) and the rice had a delightful texture and consistency. I would have been happier with less to no butter, though, the butter taste was a bit strong and in the combination of cow meat and rice I didn't really need it.

My drink was an Ice Earl, chilled earl grey tea with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream floating around in it. Odd flavour because the two tastes were very distinct from each other and left my mouth confused as to whether I was sensing bitter or sweet. But after the ice-cream fully melted and settled into the tea the combined flavour reminded me of green tea ice-cream, which again is an acquired taste. It takes some getting used to but it becomes addictive when it is appreciated.

Now I want to try the other stuff on the menu -- roast beef on mash, anyone?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I picked up Basapa's Naked Ambition from Popular yesterday to keep me company on the MRT ride home but Roy was with me so I couldn't read it on the train while he was talking to me. That would have been rude. I have read about half-way through now and for a piece of local writing (I have my biases) this corporate parable is quite readable, though not without its flaws.

I bought the book out of curiosity and also because I thought it would be useful to research possible scenarios that might play out in the script for this year's Drama Night production. We have a corporate setting this year and I hoped to gain some insights into the corporate world through Basapa's eyes.

Basapa lays bare the failings of a large multinational adhesive manufacturing corporation, the problems of which appear to be mainly due to several unsavoury characters whose selfish, unprincipled activities are running the company to the ground. It's these characters that Basapa focuses on, imbuing each with a particular animal trait.

Each chapter exposes a specific character's motivations, personality and survival mechanisms in the corporate jungle. Each character is predatory in some way and the office politics, the maneuvering, the posturing, the hunting of each other and the intimidating, browbeating, bullying and killing off of the weaker opponents add up to quite a fun story to read. If the world really was like this, and in many cases it is, companies large and small are very scary places to try survive in.

There are termites and ferrets, bees and pigeons, dogs and foxes, the mongoose and the king cobra, and a menagerie of other beasts who slug it out on a day-to-day basis to see who can rule the roost longest or who can climb/soar the highest. The competition isn't with rival companies steadily eating away at their market share but rather fellow employees and superiors and even underlings who are more of a threat to personal and immediate survival. The company is simply in trouble because the company isn't fulfilling its raison d'etre; there's too much infighting within its staff to make this important thing happen.

This book is a personal survival manual in the harsh corporate environment. You can use it to identify yourself and your habits, identify who your most immediate predators or competitors are and then work out counter-measures for yourself to ensure you're not someone else's lunch because you weren't careful. Alternatively, this book may also help the organization understand why it's having a hard time in the market and do something about it, to refocus everyone on who the real opponent is, staunch the bleeding and press on with renewed confidence before it's too late. Maybe.

These are human-animal stories, hence they are parables; yet in the telling of a story in which things happen because of some careful plan being put into action, there is also an unfair amount of things conveniently falling into place, or at least lacking in thoroughness of explanation.

Up to a point I really hate this story though I can't tell if it's because the characters are such a bunch of jerks that they all deserve to be lined up and shot or because the narration tends to be didactic with a specific moral accompanying each chapter, like the reader can't derive a personal opinion by himself. Sometimes, the moral doesn't even seem to match its chapter very well.

Anyway, now I know why I left the corporate world and, more importantly, I think I have some ideas for tomorrow's rehearsal.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Where were the women? Charlotte's out of town, Tina's attending a cremation (no kidding!), and the others (whatever their names are)? Maybe bad weather? Busy schedule? Whatever. Tonight found an unusually all-guy group at our Monday workshop and what a testosterone charged workout session it was.

6 guys stretching and toning, curling and uncurling, rolling and unrolling, practicing Tour Eiffels, and playing a couple of improv mime games. Straighten you spine now, move your whole body as a unit, rock gently forward and back, work that inch-below-the-navel, remember to breathe... Now that's a male bonding session -- grrawf! :-P

I guess the longer I stay with this group, the more committed I will be to the open rehearsal production being staged later this year. And why not? After all, if I'm going to head the drama club, I'd better have a production or two to show for it. Practice what I preach or I'm going to lose my credibility sooner or later. And my confidence as well. I want to attach students to theatre companies for work experience, so why should they have all the fun?

Amongst the new faces tonight, it was nice to see Roy again whom I haven't seen in years. He too hasn't been working out with the group for a long time choosing to work mainly on his own. But, as he says, we have to go back occasionally to work with people again or lose sight of our purpose or focus, and to gain new ideas from the interaction of like-minded folks. Nice to hear exactly my thoughts articulated by some other independent individual. It's like confirmation that I should be where I am. Reassuring.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

National Stadium was packed but I watched the big game at home. Isn't that just like Singaporeans, turning up in numbers when the chances of victory are high, and not bothering when our team slumps? Fair-weather fans all, me included because my TV was on tonight with me glued to the screen.

OK, so we won 2-1, final aggregate 5-2, quite a convincing scoreline though we might have finished in much better circumstances if Iskander had kept his cool and not have got himself sent off in the dying minutes of the game. After the sending-off fiascoes of the Myanmar and Indonesia (first-leg) games in which we continued playing fair regardless, it's a bit of a let down to see a red-carding of our own player on our own pitch during the final game of the tourney. Captain, some more.

We haven't had much to celebrate over Singapore soccer for a long time so coming up tops in an Asian championship is kinda' sweet, but we're still a long way away from S Korea and Japan. We've done some things right, there's still lots to do left if we want to play entertaining, smooth-flowing, top-notch, goal-scoring soccer, but a win is a win. So let's party our brains out tonight, rest up tomorrow, and start training again on Tuesday.

Congrats, Lions!