Friday, November 24, 2006

Gotta love the Amazing brothers Cho. The epitome of kindness and courtesy on the Amazing Race 10. They're the guys who played the game 'differently', forming an alliance with the weaker teams, sacrificing their own advantages to boost their friends' chances of survival.

They usually finished their tasks first but would wait for the other teams, gather everyone together, share their info and plan some kind of group strategy before moving on. They even gave up a lead they had to a team which without their help would have been eliminated for sure.

This gameplan of the Chos makes good sense in that if the Alliance could eliminate the stronger teams in the Race, then the brothers would face a much reduced competition towards the finish line.

The problem was, they didn't know when to draw the line between social grace and survival. They simply didn't do their math properly in this week's installment. Last place was between them and their final surviving ally. Yet instead of taking the early lead, they chose to wait for the mothers, intending to -- what? Cross the finish line together???

It is no surprise that the mothers ditched them and found their own way to the Pitstop, arriving 2nd last. The mothers know how to play the survival game. The Chos are out. And I'm not at all sympathetic.

Oddly enough, in todays Life! interview, the Chos have the impression that S'poreans are just as nice and polite as they are, if not more so. They haven't been reading our 'papers, lately so full of gripes about how spoilt we are about public transport, how blase we are about littering, how we need another Courtesy Campaign 'cos we don't say 'please' and 'thank you'.

Looks like S'poreans have it backwards. We think it's all about survival while forming cooperative alliances doesn't make sense to us. Social graces take a backseat as we charge ahead with our 'winner take all' neurosis.

Life isn't the Amazing Race. Our species thrives on cooperative endeavour. So yes, we do have a lot to learn from the Chos' game. But there are also times when survival does become a factor. We need to know how to recognize that point, cut our losses and let our self-preserving instincts take over. We're no good to anybody if we're dead.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

It's about time to renew my passport. I tried out the Application for PassPort on-Line Electronic System (dear God, APPLES!) and it looks like a pretty straightforward process. Just a few fields to fill in with personal identification details, and the submission of a personal mugshot on .jpg file.

Ah, the mugshot. Here's where it gets difficult. The rules are stringent about getting the shot composed correctly. The second-hardest thing to accomplish is getting the background perfectly white. Try as I might, the best I could get was a grey wash. The lighting in my room simply isn't powerful enough to make my white wall look white. The camera flash doesn't help either.

The most difficult thing to accomplish is getting a nice shot of myself that actually makes me look good. So many imperfections -- the rules are clear against Photoshopping -- so I had to pick the one that made me look least like crap. Noone is EVER gonna look at my passport, got it?

Hope Immigration will accept the photo I submitted in the end. It took a lot more work than APPLES promised.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We should put up a quarantine sign on our front door. June's next to get the bug. What with Q-tip still coughing on and off, June sneezing and me doing a bit of both, our house has become a concert hall for the Influenza Symphonia in D minor.

This morning we both went to see our local Silver Cross medical facility. It wasn't as crowded as I had imagined and we got our consultations without much of a wait. The queue number was 21-22 when we arrived and we got 26-27. And there were 2 doctors available to share the load.

I love the labelling on the medicine packages they dispense. Clear print-outs with the name of the drug, its purpose and dosage. Gone are the days when we had to squint at poorly handwritten labels and guess what the heck we're ingesting. So for the record, I'm on a couple of decongestants, a codine mixture (drowsy warning), and an antibiotic. I don't usually take antibiotics, but this run of cold symptoms tells me some drastic measures are necessary.

Monday, November 20, 2006

According to the manual, there is an occasion in which the car will vibrate, make a strange noise, and will have some difficulty steering. Just as the manual said, it happened to M2. So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to have a look. And there it was, a flat tyre.

Great! A chance for me to pull out my Mazda-issue toolkit and get some hands-on working on a routine maintenance procedure. One thing about Mazda's toolkit: it's cute, handy, packs away easily, and is almost completely non-functional. Specifically, the tyre iron is far too short and too fragile to unbolt the tyre from the axle. So try as I might, I couldn't get enough leverage to budge the nuts even a little.

So despite having figured out the jack and having my emergency wheel on hand, I still had to seek assistance. Thanks to Amy, I got hold of our local AA, though it was rather strongly impressed upon me by the Association that I should pay for my own membership rather than sponge off someone else's.

It was a case of tyre iron envy when I saw the equipment the AA guy was lugging around. But even then he had to use a makeshift lever extension to get my nuts loose [ok, now this is starting to sound rather rude -- whatever you're thinking, stoppit].

The emergency wheel is certainly no replacement for a proper road wheel. It's a dinky little wheel off a toy car, designed to get M2 to the nearest tyre shop for a new tyre asap. The nearest one was at the Caltex station opposite Nee Soon camp. Quite good service by Mr Shiok (yes, that's his name). He quickly replaced both front tyres and took the trouble to clean up the emergency wheel before stowing it back into it's compartment for me.

What caused the flat? Normal wear and tear, apparently. I'm just relieved it wasn't because I ran over a cat or some other clawed animal. So now I'm running 2 new Falken tyres in front (tyres get replaced in pairs). That, plus AA membership = $300+. It's enough to make me reconsider public transport...

... Naaaahhh!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Whoa. Too much video game addiction, real life got shelved temporarily while my superhero team has been busy kickin' ass in Atlantis, the Valley of the Spirits, Mephisto's Realm, Asgard, the Shi'ar flagship, the Skrull homeworld, and Castle Doom.

The quests are easy to complete on 'normal' mode, especially since you can beef up 1 or 2 of your favourite characters to near invulnerable levels. I did that for Wolvie and he's usually the one to save the day, being the last mutant standing. Invulnerable doesn't mean he's immune to falling off ledges though, it's one of the drawbacks of not being able to fly.

With quite a bit of the environment being destructable, fights are awesomely violent. Bits of scenery get smashed with all the pummelling going on, though sometimes there's too much happening on screen, you lose sight of your character only to find him (or her) again aimlessly bustin' up a harmless statue or some ugly furniture.

Not that I've been anti-social or what, but I'm still nursing this cold that I haven't been able to get rid of for more than a week now. It's been the most persistent to date and as far as possible, I'm trying to avoid passing it on to people. It's also making me irritable, so taking it out on game sprites can be quite therapeutic.