Saturday, July 14, 2007

I've always preferred the company of women. When a bunch of guys get together, there's very little else they can do except compete with each other as to who the biggest jerk is. The winner gets to be the leader of the pack, then they go looking for another bunch of guys to prove how big a bunch of jerks they all are.

There, in a nutshell, is how basically every gangfight, battle and world war starts. It's just testosterone frothing wild and unchecked, and civilizations get swept away by the hormonal tsunami. Just point to any place on the map that is experiencing some kind of conflict today -- Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, southern Thailand, southern Philippines, Nigeria -- these are all hotspots for all those in contention for the Jerk of the Year award. These are also places in which testosterone has completely overbalanced estrogen -- either by physical demographic or by willful repression -- and there's no holding back the tide any longer.

Whether it's a government-backed army, a people's movement, a rebel force or terrorist organization, it's usually a large number of grizzled, unwashed, female-deprived males making up the main body. Maybe that's why God created Eve. Adam didn't need a 'helpmate' for assistance dealing with the animals around him, he needed help reining in the animal inside him.

Women, I find, are a civilizing influence, when they have the power to be themselves. For the sake of female company, men take the effort to smell nice, look presentable, practice basic courtesy, and have the opportunity to think of someone else besides ourselves. Ok, there are women who will observe that men are still seriously lacking in chivalry here in civilized S'pore. True, but we're not exactly the Taliban either.

Still, Asian society is something of a concern seeing as how our traditions place more value on boys than girls even today. Somehow, Asian families are finding ways and means of tipping the odds towards bringing forth offspring of their preferred gender, leaving a disconcerting numerical discrepancy between boys and girls growing up in the years to come.

It's bad enough when boys compete against each other for "fun", but when men compete with each other over women, that's when the s**t really hits the fan. That eventuality looks like it's not going to be long in coming:
Hainan's missing baby girls
Why baby boys are more sought after in Asian societies
Who will marry us?

Doh! Let's enjoy civilization while it lasts.

Friday, July 13, 2007

When I drive down Braddell towards Thomson, it always amazes me that the authorities actually bothered to split the road to preserve a giant angsana tree that's been standing in that exact spot for the last 80 years. It also amazes me that the tree is one of the oldest of its kind on our island. 80 years. My grandfather lived till he was 90. And by Sunday, this well-weathered octogenarian will be on the chopping block, yet another victim to Singaporean impatience and inflexibility.

Because, despite signposts and warnings, my fellow drivers refuse to slow down to accommodate the road diversion, thereby posing a danger to themselves and to other drivers on the road. It isn't like the little island the tree stands on pops up like a surprise, forcing drivers to slam on their brakes to slow down. The signs are clear and given well in advance, but still... around here, 'slow' is a worse profanity than that other 4-letter word.

And so, because our drivers are stupid, we lose yet another connection to the Earth, another reminder that our planet doesn't exist for the human species alone. In our mania to travel in straight lines at great speeds, we forget to bend, to sway, to enjoy being flexible and appreciate the variety of pace and rhythm, and everything else that makes life interesting in its diversity. And we shrug our shoulders while we complain how stressful life is.

It isn't just about a tree -- although that is sad in itself -- but there's a price to be paid for such callous treatment of things that inconvenience us in the slightest. The immediate punishment is to bear the shame of being associated with the many drivers that ultimately signed the old tree's death-warrant. The longer-term consequences that will befall us as a people for harboring such an attitude, I dare not even speculate.
You have to respect Dolores Umbridge. Of all the teachers at Hogwarts', she may be the most facistic, sadistic, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, pain-in-the-butt on the staff roster, but you really must take your magic hat off to her grasp of pedagogy and how she applies it.

None of the students in the Defence of the Dark Arts ever learned the subject faster than when she was in charge. Her strategy is simple, straightforward, but most importantly, effective. She alienates herself from most of the student body (except for the students looking for empty titles and commissions), rules by decree and terror, clamps down on freedom, withholds knowledge, emphasizes theory over practice, and instead enforces study solely for the sake of passing exams. Hmm... sounds familiar.

Umbridge is such a horror, Harry and co. decide they aren't learning anything useful from her and they start teaching themselves, designing their own curriculum, and by fusing both theory and practice in their study, they are producing their own patronus by year-end -- advanced stuff for their level. People may hate her affected mannerisms, but, boy, the Umbridge Method brings quality results in the shortest given time!

Wonder if our students would take their subjects into their own hands if we stopped being nice to them, and started behaving more like Nazis and less like their friends? One thing I'll say about the Hogwarts' kids is that they trust and respect each other enough to accept teaching from their peers. What I worry about is that our kids have been raised to be so self-deprecating, so teacher-dependent they won't be able to do likewise.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Welcome to Urban Pooch -- a doggy day-care, grooming, supply store and cafe catering to the discerning palates of both human and K9 companion. Urban Pooch is at Monville Mansions, off Balestier Road. It's a tranquil little oasis compared to the heavy traffic of the main thoroughfare.

Finally, an eating place that's totally dog-friendly and specially licensed to welcome the likes of Q-tip's species. Here, people and dog may eat in peace at the same table. They won't necessarily eat the same food, but the doggy portion looks just as well presented as the human. Chix or lamb, Q-tip?

Service is very personal, since Raye seems to run the operation by herself. I think one of her perks is meeting all sorts of dogs and giving each one an adoring pat on the head. She's quite polite to their owners too.

Main courses come with a side of sup du jour. Today's happened to be a creamy homemade mushroom soup.

I ordered a honey pepper chicken and it came with a colourful side salad. Doesn't it look attractive?

One thing about the food, though, the doctrine here is to go big on taste. The chicken marinade is very generous, thick and rich. Personally, I prefer a more subtle flavour. I like my meats to speak for themselves, but then, I'm a purist about this sort of thing.

I believe the portions are cooked by the order, so next time I'll just remind Raye to go easy on the sauces and keep the meat simple.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

If I had a superpower, it would probably be a very limited ability to warp reality to suit my whims and fancies. But it's not a power I have any semblance of control over, though.

Just last Sunday while shopping with June, I had a sudden inexplicable craving for donuts. I must have had a mental flashback of the Krispy Kreme in HK, but since there was no outlet within walking distance from Causeway Point, I had to settle for a plain sugared donut from BreadTalk. It wasn't bad, but not quite what I had in mind.

It takes about 2 days for my reality-warping power to kick in. Awaiting me on my desk at work this morning was a huge box from the Donut Factory containing a chocolate glazed and a plain glazed just for me. It was a Department treat and a motivational boost from Cynth. Must thank her for bothering to line up for them, and for somehow guessing the one item that would perk me up the most. Thanks, Cynth!!!

Then later at dinner with my in-laws, May, who just returned from the US miraculously produced 2 more donuts from... the one, the only, Krispy Kreme! How amazing is that?

So here I sit, stuffed full with a grand total of 4 quality donuts in a single day, eyes glazing over from the sugar rush that's kicking in right about now. What a great superpower!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Now, this is looking like the height of terrorism paranoia:

JI turns to business to help fund activities
It is believed to be selling magazines, VCDs, fertiliser, bread and coffee
By Leslie Lopez, South-east Asia Correspondent

JAKARTA - REGIONAL terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) appears to have gone into business to help fund its activities.

Suspected JI-linked groups have been selling magazines, VCDs, industrial items such as fertiliser and even everyday goods such as bread and coffee, an investigation by The Straits Times showed.

These businesses operate mostly in Indonesia. (ST, July 9, 2007)

'Ey, brudder, come inside lah. Don’t shy. Going shopping for the wife, ah? You come to the right place, man! What? Ya, ya, we just open shop. Everything also we got.

Groceries? Ya, we got bread. White bread, no problem… it’s my pleasure to take out my knife and slice the head off for you first, wait ah… Oh, you want the long one, izzit? Ah, that one very good for roti bomb, I mean, roti John, right? Can, can.

And coffee? Don’t worry, I got the best kind! It’s so strong, it can keep you awake long enough for you to drive your car through an infidel checkpoint just to see some fireworks! A once-in-a-lifetime experience, guaranteed!

You want to see some of my special stocks? Behind that shelf are our more… ahem!… restricted magazines and VCDs. Everything you want to know about the art of stripping weapons and laying bare the secrets of how to be the bomb at parties, I got!

I also got the latest Playjihadist™ where the centerfold model is fully spread out in little bits and pieces all over a public road. She's so hot, she's still smokin' -- show you everything she’s got under her ski-mask, and more!

Oh, fertilizer for your garden, ah? I tell you what, this one I specially import from that kuching kurap little red dot neighbour in the north. Ya, they call it the Straits Times™ but you and I know it’s really compost, correct or not?

Wah, your shopping basket is quite full already. Come, let me total up for you… Hmm? Oh, haha, this is a picture of my uncle, Osama. Ya, he’s my favourite uncle because his bins are always laden with good things. In fact, I get most of my supplies from him! I'm doing my best to support him in his old age, lah.

Brudder, if you don’t mind me saying, ah, why you let your wife make you go shopping for her? You should be more of a man, man! Eh, I know a place where you can get all the virgins you want, who exist just to give you pleasure. Come, follow me into the Men’s Department. There’s this extinguished, I mean distinguished, vest I’d like you to try. Ya, of course! You can’t make a big impression unless you’re dressed to kill…'

Sunday, July 08, 2007

We're at Sun Plaza for the Canberra Family Day Cold Dish Cookout

June and M-i-L get busy dicing fruit

A short break to say something nice about the sponsor's products.

Phew! All done!

Ta-dah! It's our ever-popular Waldorf Salad!

But, whoa. Check out what the competition have produced.

We had to leave before we knew the results, but M-i-L hasn't called, so I'm guessing we didn't win this time 'round!