Friday, April 01, 2005

Drama Night's looking better now that we've got the music in, Yee's new set design and the Roland keyboard finally works at last. The music has been recorded on a practice CD, but will be performed 'live' on the day itself.

Our choreographer came down for the first time to meet us today. He does wonders with non-dancers. Our performers may have some experience dancing to rap and hip-hop but for this production, they're learning jazz movements instead. Classy!

Until production in a little more than a month's time, we're going to be ending rehearsals late on many occasions, but we all have to make sacrifices for the production. Our Stage Manager (SM) said so as much as he shelled the cast for their tardy, laid-back attitude. Glad the SM is taking his role as Production Sergeant Major seriously and that he's bringing the whole production team, back-stage and on, under his iron fist. In a production like this under such a tight deadline there has to be a great deal of fasicism underlying the running of the show. We have indeed the right man for the job.

Despite my earlier misgivings, Drama Night is starting to look (and sound) good... stay tuned...!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Ministry's bowling league standings are on-line and, as I promised, you can click the link here for an eyeball. Thankfully, we aren't at the bottom of the table so we haven't embarrassed ourselves too badly the first time out. We can still hope to do better with practice. This league is far from over!

Today I met my new CT for the first time. Though I agreed to take 4 GP tutorials, 1 PW and have a complete break from CTship, this year's batch of little dragons is so immense that this arrangement can not be met by our current human resource allocation. And here I thought we were worrying over the dearth of children in our country. Guess the parents of this year's batch just aren't with the programme.

So the arrangement now is for me to take a CT (and considering what Civics Tutors have to do this year, it's not funny), 3 GP and 2 PW tutorials. My workload has skyrocketed, but we'll adapt, won't we? After all, I just got promoted with effect from April, so I'd better work harder to deserve it.

Right now, my immediate goal is to refocus my mind on the many things I have left outstanding, and, boy, are there a lot of things. April is going to be a mad period with 2 major guest speakers coming down to campus for level-wide seminars, and 1 week out of that whole month I'll be off-campus on-course. All this to be followed up by the equally daunting prospect of putting together Drama Night on the 1st week of May. And this is all before I can even think about how I'm going to be conducting my tutorials and lectures and executing my duties as Civics Tutor at the same time. Even before the real work begins I need a vacation already. Too many unproductive late nights will do that to you.

Have to resolve to sleep earlier. That will take care of problem #1. The rest? well, we'll just deal with 1 crisis at a time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Part II
Today's mood was quite different from the day before. There was a lot of long pauses in between bouts of mindless fatigue duties. Lots of cleaning to be done, lots of inspections, lots of stores to be drawn and returned. The usual army stuff. Hurry up and wait.

Our leadership kept reminding us that this was to be our penultimate in-camp before we officially disband the 416th early next year. Indeed, it has already been 12 years and we old-timers are so ready to retire from National Service.

It's amazing to watch each other get older every year. We get wrinklier, paunchier, balding(er), and, sad to say, I myself am amongst the top 10 oldest guys in the unit. I've seen the kids in the earlier years return married, or return with more and more kids, or their kids are going to school. We men are talking more and more about family, kids and work when once we talked about how we wanna get wild and crazy and paint the town red with our nights-off.

Our CO and the Commander himself thanked us for our support and our attitude that we've shown over the years at the end of today's tasks. They spoke of the dedication and the sacrifice we've made in making the 416th rank amongst the best of the NS units in terms of training, seriousness and 'brotherhood.' That's one way of looking at it, I guess.

For me, a couple of weeks a year to spend time in-camp is a real pain-in-the-butt, but I see it as something that has to be done. So it's done. I don't have a business that might lose lots of money if I'm not there, I don't have kids who wonder where Papa has gone for so many days and nights; no, my students have a vacation when I'm not around. But there are men who do, and they want to go home as badly as I do. So it's done.

If there's a driving force behind why the 416th is so successful, it's because we know that what we do is absolutely necessary to maintain the lifestyle we are used to (though we may bitch about how 'meaningless' it all seems amongst each other). Hence, we want to do things right the first time, properly, promptly and most importantly, safely, so that as soon as ever possible, we can go home and leave all the army stuff behind us.

We are the army because we have a home we want to go back to. There is no other, no better reason to take up arms.
These last couple of days I've been wearing yet another hat. Helmet, to be precise. Kevlar construction, enmeshed in a camouflage net. Duty called and I answered. Late, because I wasn't familiar with the drive to camp and entered the expressway towards the wrong direction. By the time I figured out an appropriate course correction, I arrived 45 minutes past my ETA. They'll probably dock some of my make-up pay to make some kind of disciplinary point, but duh.

Objective of this in-camp was to familiarize the 416th with the new SAR21 personal weapon. We old-timers who are so used to the venerable old M16 now have to come to grips with this new-fangled rifle with its unusual shape, but oh-so-sweet refinements that make killing such a bigger joy. It's a heavier arm than the M16, but the trade-off is a built-in 1.5x magnifying scope, a snazzy laser aiming device, and the recoil is easier to handle making for more accurate shooting.

Now I can say from experience what had previously been hearsay: our new personal arm makes better shots of us all. I personally scored 17 shots out of 20 (12 day and 8 night shots). I'm not that great a shot to begin with but with the new weapon it really is almost point-and-shoot. I was dead accurate with the laser (4 for 4 night shots) though I could barely see the target in the dark.

Fine for non-moving plastic targets, but if it comes to hitting live, frantically scurrying -- or worse, charging-straight-at-you -- targets, we're going to need much more training, but at least for now I'm comfortable and confident in handling my new, improved and more deadly partner-in-war.

In case you think that I'm now a bloodthirsty psycho with a 5.56 calibre assault rifle fetish, there is the other part of the training that teaches one to truly hate, detest, abhor and have as little contact as possible with our weapons as well. The constant safety lectures, safety drills, checks and inspections at multiple levels on the cleanliness and general maintenance of the weapon, and the reminders (verbal and visually on posters) about using and treating it responsibly make picking up that weapon such a chore. It's best left in the armoury under lock-and-key, the less you see of it, the better.

Slept overnight in camp at midnight -- my earliest this week.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Thanks to yesterday's downpour, the M2 was looking all sparkly-gleamy last night. But under the light of day he was a total mess of irregular water spots -- the residue the rainwater leaves behind after evaporation. Water spots show up best on black cars and the M2 is as black as they come. No problem. Today is wash car day anyway. So we drove over to our nearest multi-storey parking lot, and parked close to the coin-operated tap. For 20 cents you get 30 seconds free flow of water; about 1-and-a-half buckets' worth.

One hour of splashing, scrubbing, drying and buffing later the M2 was truly a sight to behold. It cost us 60 cents in total for the water and a lot of elbow grease. Finished dusting off the mats, then drove our buckets and sponges back home before heading straight out to the Airport to collect June's brother and family after their week's vacation in Hong Kong.

Early in the morning, it was a bright and sunny day. As we drove to the Airport on the TPE, the sky suddenly darkened and poured down in buckets on us, yes the M2 got rained on again -- barely an hour after his bath! Now he's going to have to live with his water spots for the rest of the week. I haven't the time to give him another bath. Bah!

Apart from the Wong family, we also had Popeye's chicken in mind and lunched at the newly refurbished stall in Terminal 1. Ulterior motive, heh, heh. Popeye's is back to its high standards from the last time we ate there. Only, today there wasn't any coleslaw so we had mashed potato and french fries on the side. 2 kinds of potato, mmm... not. Hope they bring back the coleslaw soon.

Yes, collected the Wongs and safely deposited them back home, so don't worry on their account.

My brother messaged me that he had found my long-lost Rollerblades. A good thing too, 'cos I was contemplating on buying myself a new pair, for health's sake, you know. Collected them tonight. When I got them out of the box I noticed they had been coated with some kind of sticky, oily substance. So I took them into the bathroom to wash with MaMa Lemon. I very soon discovered what the sticky stuff was -- it was the plastic ankle cuff degrading back into the petrochemical it once came from. In water the plastic became brittle and crumbled into little bits and pieces. A handful of green plastic shards. I know what you're thinking, but I didn't do it on purpose. Honest. Um... June, can I buy a new pair of 'blades now?