Thursday, June 22, 2006

Parking Infringement.

I got my wheel-clamp fee refunded. That is quite a big deal for me.


I am a person who, in addition to crashing a car in every major city I have spent significant time driving in, picks up parking violations like spilled honey picks up ants. In the time that I had to maintain a car in Singapore, I incurred multiple parking fines. Most of them were for neglecting to put up parking coupons, but I also got a couple for illegal parking, parking across lots, et al. If I were still driving in Singapore I am sure it would a matter of time before the car would be featured on Parking Idiots in Singapore.

The simple and sad truth is that my parking skills (and my ability to pay attention to parking requirements) is inferior to even my driving skills. Gasps of terror, clutching of the dash as well as exclamations of "I just want to live!" emanating from the passenger seat when I drive - they are fact and not legend. However I try to redeem myself by minimising the threat to lives and inconvenience to others to the best of what my limited hand-eye motor skills will allow.


The whole saga begins when I come back to the paid carpark (note: parking outside the CBD zone is free), and I see this huge A4-sized black sticker obscuring the driver side window. Big yellow words advising me the vehicle has been clamped and any attempt to drive with the clamp attached will damage the car.. blah blah blah.

So I call the mobile number on the sticker and this gruff voice tells me I have to pay him $135 for him to remove the clamp. No negotiations. No appeal. No pay, no wheel clamp removal. Being someone who is accustomed to authority figures imposing their arbitary will upon me and having to accede helplessly, I manage to exclaim "That's blackmail" followed by a few choice phrases and was all prepared to work up a rant over the phone.

The resigned tone "I am just doing my job, myte" coming down the other side of the line stopped me in my tracks. Especially when I thought of all the abuse the poor guy must take on a daily basis to make a living. So I just say "how far are you?" and then head back to the immobile car.

Five minutes later I am sitting on the hood of the car enjoying the twilight and thinking it would be really nice to have a big mug of coffee and a couple of hot sandwiches (yes, I am constantly thinking about food) when this guy pulls up in a ute with "Parking Enforcement Services" on the side. By then I had calmed down and was in a surprisingly good mood.

The guy (who is hulking and at least 150% my weight) parks about 5 lots away in the now near-empty carpark and approaches cautiously as if he was worried I was going to hit him or something. I disarm him by yelling my apologies for being rude to him earlier from across the carpark and offer to pay the penalty immediately to get unclamped.

As he goes through the paces, we strike up a conversation of sorts. [name deleted for privacy] was a veteran at the job and putting up with verbal abuse was the least of it. He actually had to put up with upset drivers having a go at him with tire-irons, spanners and what-not. We chat some more as the handheld wireless credit card machine was acting up and he explains it is actually a very specific detailed procedure they had to follow before wheel-clamping a vehicle.

He comments that I must have an oustanding parking violation since only repeat offenders get clamped. That was news to me. Then he motions to me and pulls out a handheld video recorder. "You seem a nice bloke. But I am not supposed to show this to you". He fastforwards the tape to the appropriate section and shows me the visual record. The video clearly shows the car dash empty and a ticket lying on the passenger side floor. The ticket must have blown off the dash when I was slamming the door shut. "Shit happens", I echo his last phrase. And I think that was that.

He hands me the paperwork then pauses eyeing me. Then he reaches into his ute and hands me a card with contact information on it. I look at it. "Parking Enforcement Services - Appeals".


So the next day I call the number and the bored-sounding lady tells me I have an outstanding fine (from the last owner?), takes down my address to send me a copy of the penalty notice and tells me all appeals must be in writing.

Having written multiple parking fines appeals in Singapore and always having having them met with silence or worse still bureaucratic legalese that tell me to stuff it, I did not hold out much hope that any appeal letter would have any effect.

The appeal letter quoted the following mitigating circumstances:
  • that I was not aware of a prior parking violation
  • that I had a valid ticket which had been blown on the floor (verified by video)
  • that I was cooperative in paying the wheel clamp penalty
  • that I was prepared to pay the prior parking violation, if it was found to be my fault

A copy of the previous parking ticket then came in the post couple days later. I paid it immediately.

Then the results of the appeal letter came in. Sections quoted below.

"tickets must be displayed.. clearly visible from outside the vehicle... ticket not valid unless placed on dashboard with expiry time visible from outside.."

" have paid the outstanding infringement since vehicle was wheel clamped.. as you have provide a valid ticket.. ticket not visible.."

And the last sweet line was "A cheque will be mailed to the address above.."


The direct Singlish translation of the letter:
"You cock up. By right must kenna summon. But donch say dun give chance."

Which is more than the world class HDB / URA / JTC system has ever done for me. I guess some societies and systems are just more tolerant of mistakes and offer more second-chances than others.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

He Still Writes.

There was quite a bit I wanted to write passionately about. I have non-government-approved ideas and seditious opinions floating around in my head just waiting to burst out through my fingers. However having future free-passage through a certain island-state compels me to moderation. At least the last time I checked, crimethink was still not yet actively persecuted by law.

D. did raise a salient point - a point that I am surprised nobody noted before. Or perhaps readers are just too polite to bluntly point out the apparently glaring inconsistency. The pointed question was raised in response to my ranting on certain recent events and the publication in the island-state's media to clarify the official position on certain socio-economic issues. To paraphrase her:
If you are so determined to leave Singapore behind and build a better life in Australia, why are you still thinking so much about Singapore and having such strong views on issues that should no longer concern you?
The quiet question made me think and recheck my motivations. Obviously I have no desire to be some revolutionary or to challenge the political status quo (which is why I left in the first place). I do enjoy writing but that creative desire could as easily been vented writing fiction, or tinkering with electronics building niche trinkets of little commercial value.

So upon deeper introspection - with the help of a few beers... I am not afraid to recommend Pure Blonde - even if Australia thinks of it as a watery and tasteless girly beer. Life is just too short to be macho choking on harsh beers. And if the point is to get totally smashed, straight vodka does a much more efficient job..

Oh.. where was I? Oh.. yes, the beer-driven belly-gazing wallowing in why I insist on writing of my views on a artificial socio-economic construct that I profess to want to have less interaction with in the future. (Best write it down before I get too incoherent).

I continue writing about Singapore even after crossing the rubicon and even after I thought I would have stopped thinking about this topic because:
  • I am quite sure the choice to leave was the right decision at the decision point. However, I need to be reassured that the choice to leave was correct in retrospect. Almost having spent one cycle here and two years since my first concrete actions putting plans into motion, I believe I am in a happier position than if I had stayed. However belief is not fact. An objective (objective - as much as possible) analysis of the situation in Singapore versus the situation in Australia over time is required. Commitment to building a life here is one thing, but it is important to look at how things develop over time in the two lands in order to be able to confidently say to myself "looking back - that was the right thing to do".
  • My roots are in Singapore. No matter how far I travel physically or emotionally from that tiny island-state, my formative years in that environment have determined who I am today. Hence there is still a link (apart from family) to that physical location. However with the island being constantly "upgraded" it is matter of time before the last of the physical links with my past are erased.
  • The journey is just starting for D. and another close friend of mine. My continuing document of my journey helps to clarify thoughts in my head and allows me to better express those convictions in person. A few of the readers of this blog also happen to be headed in the same direction at various points in their emigration journey. No harm leaving trail markers and cautions for those headed the same way. Does not cost me much and might actually help somebody.
  • I personally enjoy writing even though I am far from a professional at it. And it is easiest to write about issues and events which are passionately close to heart. And writing about life here in Australia requires a reference point which readers can anchor comparisons and hopefully relate to. And one common denominator is Singapore.
  • And I am honest enough to say that I also write to feed my ego. To know that there are people out there who bother enough to spend a few minutes reading my crystalised thoughts on a niche matter. And writing (even in an ephemeral space like the internet blogsphere) is a cheap form of fame - having people remember you for hopefully having touched their lifes, no matter how briefly.
So there you have it. That is why I still write. And I think it is time for another beer.

Bit of trivia:
Tomorrow marks the winter solstice. Longest nights and shortest days marking mid-winter.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pizza No More.

Looks like I am out of a job. The pizza delivery job, that is.

Previously I mentioned that the owner was in the process of selling the business. The business ownership transfer was finalised around the same period when D. was in town (and when I was not working). Seem that every business I work for ends up going under, getting sold, relocating or restructured. Pizza shops not exempted.

So yesterday evening I stopped by the pizza place to check in and catch up with the new owner, only to find that I had already been replaced. However the previous owner must have liked me some, as he had left a very strong recommendation for me. In fact the new owner recognised my Ford Festiva as soon as I pulled up at the shop. So I am still in line for some work - downgraded to backup driver for when their primary driver is unable/unwilling to work. At the moment, the business volume still does not justify two full-shift drivers.

From what I could observe, my competition for the job is a young lady in her late 20s or early 30s who has worked for the new owner previously. And the competition drives a fuel-efficient Suzuki Swift. And watching her handle a knife in the kitchen shows that she knows what she is doing. And she was also wearing heavy boots - another giveway of someone familiar with pizza kitchen conditions. And she works for less money then I did.

To clarify. Not that I am so desperate for the job anyway. It is just my competitive streak showing, and my ego being bruised by being replaced so quickly. Given how notoriously unreliable employees in this industry are, I really did not expect to be permanently replaced this quickly.

And after two weeks of D. being around and my working only one job with regular hours, I am feeling kind of lazy and not really keen to go back to a second job. Figure I will just procrastinate and idle around in the evenings for another week or two - or until I get on my housemates' nerves by being constantly underfoot.

The new owner of the pizza place is a newly minted business degree who has great plans for expanding the business. My cynical side is snidely recalling that this is the same story that I have heard so many times before by many new business owners - same story, different names. In any case, if all the ongoing advertising increases the business volume it just means possibly more hours of work for me.

I daresay I will not miss working at the pizza place as much as I miss the free pizzas. Especially since firsthand knowledge of how fresh each ingredient is (and a free hand in assembling the pizza) translates into superior tasting pizza customised for personal taste. That is something that money cannot buy from a commerical pizza place - and to achieve the same results in a home kitchen would be too much hassle to be worth.

And what am I supposed to be doing in my evenings without a second job anyway? There is only that much bumming around, driving around pointlessly and DVD-watching I can do without getting restless. (Curse of the work ethic hammered into my psyche from living in Singapore!)

And the loss of the extra stream of income, though far from disasterous, means that I have to cut back on luxuries. The day job pays for the basics, the second job pays for the luxuries. So my options are to find a better-paying primary job, or to get a second job, or to cut back on luxury spending. Thank goodness I live a simple basic life - or the situation would be much more worrying now.


One plus point about having worked at the pizza places is that I have gained the confidence to know that I can survive financially here - even if I lose (or have to walk away) from the day job. As long as I can find 30 hours a week in a pizza joint and keep the car running, I should be able to make ends meet. And that is not even yet tapping on my technical skills, my sales skills or the forklift licence I have in my wallet. It is going to have to take more than losing both jobs simultaneously to force an unwilling relocation to Singapore.

Which reminds me of a short exchange I had with the housemate. C. was commenting that even after all these years in Australia, there was still this nagging fear - or even panic - that something might happen (e.g. PR visa revoked) that would force a permanent relocation to Singapore. I was surprised to hear that admission - thinking that such fears would have long left long-established migrants.

If C. was prepared to do backbreaking labour detailing cars 8 hours a day, 5 days a week even in the cold of winter - it is going to take more than a little financial hiccup to force abandonment of the life here. And it is going to take more than losing the day job (heavens forbid, touch wood and all that) to make me walk away from the life that I am trying to build here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


. left Perth and went back to Singapore two days ago. After spending three weekends here on holiday.

[ I am actively trying to avoid the use of "back" and the ilk when referring to Singapore. Western Australia is my base for now. Perth may even be
home in the future - perhaps even more than Singapore ever was. ]

This was her 3rd (or was it 4th?) visit to Perth since I moved here almost a year ago. Every time she leaves, I get this empty hollow feeling deep in my gut. I miss her presence around me. And I miss her next to me when I wake up. And I even sort of miss the clutter of her stuff scattered all over my room shelves. We are far from that Taiwanese-soap-opera "cannot life without you and will pine away and not eat and not sleep and fall sick and die" type melodrama - which we kid each other about. However the truth is that even though life here is pretty good as-is compared to my life in Singapore, the world just has a lot richer colours and more taste when she is next to me. Even the housemate admits that the house feels more empty without her around.

However traditional declarations of love that use phrases like "the better half" or "you complete me" or "sum of parts" annoy the hell out of me. We are both and each an individual complete person totally capable of leading fulfilling lives on our own - it is just that we become even better people when we happen to be together.

So I will just leave this as to any question about if we are still togther. And to shift the focus of this post before it degenerates into incoherent babbling reminiscent of infatuated teenagers. We still have responsibilities which would hold us apart till at least 2007 - so we make do with what we have till then.


One surprising revelation over the last two weeks was when D. commented that she was glad that she talked me into moving to Perth first without her, and that she was glad it turned out to be the correct decision since I appear to be happy here versus miserable in Singapore. Those events happened even before she had successfully obtained her Australian PR visa and while we were still unsure if she would be able to move here on a permanent basis.

Somehow that was not the way I remember it. I seem to recall that I was being all indecisive on the situation for weeks and finally deciding with great fear that I would lose D. in the process. Although my memory is starting to get hazy. Is that how the long-time readers of this blog remember it as well (for an objective view - though filtered through the lenses of my bloggging)?

D. says that she was the first to plant the idea in my head, encouraging this course of action. I find it quite an amazing disconnect from what I remember from a year back. You mean it was D. who planted the idea in my head and encouraged it, while still allowing me to think it was all my own? (Not improbably since the woman has a lot more tact, diplomacy and sensitivity compared to to me who is as dense as a brick at times.)

Assuming D.'s version of this little bit of personal history is the more accurate, I am amused (and a little amazed). No matter how rational I think myself to be, and no matter how methodical I try to be; it all goes to pieces when faced with certain feminine charms and wiles. I do not know about how the rest of the male population interact with their partners but D. persuades me as much via her charms as she does to a straightforward appeal to reason and logic. I wonder if this is just a personal failing or a failing of all (most?) men in general?

[ Not that I personally mind being "influenced" in such a manner, since most of the time we are on the same side - having similar motivations driving our intents. And when our motivations and decisions do differ, we try to be honest and upfront about them and to avoid emotional blackmail. ]


At this point in time if I have to re-do the entire migration journey again from scratch, one of the issues I would handle very differently is the application details / timing of the partner's visa and more (and earlier) in-depth discussions with regards to planning the move of the partner.

Which is the exact advice I have given to a friend who is currently applying for Australia PR as well in preparation for a possible move.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Teacher: "..there are dangers on the outer planets. So with so many social and medical advancements we can bring to the Independents, why would they fight so hard against us?"
River: "We meddle."
Teacher: "River?"
River: "People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."
Teacher: "River, we're not telling people what to think. We're just trying to show them how."
- Serenity opening sequence in the school

I watched Serenity a couple weeks back. And I liked it.

Recently I went to the video store for Firefly (the TV series the movie Serenity is based on). And I throughly enjoyed the series as well.

This may not be news to the legions of Firefly fans out there, but I have to qualify by saying that before the film I had never watched an episode of Firefly and never really understood the uproar when it was cancelled. In fact I started with a negative bias to the film, knowing it was the same scriptwriter who did Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like, you know, I am not – like - a big - you know - fan of Buffy. Or scary vampires for that matter.

Joss Whedon is an impressive storyteller indeed. Serenity is not so much about big ideas and universal concepts and grand visions, but more of the homely story of the characters in it. I enjoy the stories about complex anti-heroes. Be they set in spaceships ("Serenity"), or in the wild west ("Unforgiven"), or on a space station ("Babylon5"). For me a good thinking movie is not about the action, or the special effects or even the quality of production, but about telling a story about how flawed characters respond to difficult situations.

For what fun is there watching idealised hobbits, elves and humans battle the external forces of darkness and evil in epic battles? *cue howls of protests from LOTR fans* I would prefer to watch Disney cartoons for that sort of setup – and I know I will get an entertaining soundtrack and a happy ending thrown in for sure. For a movie that will draw me in and make me think, it has got to have flawed characters responding in a realistic world.

After watching Serenity, it totally blows away Star Trek: The New Generation. *cue howls of protest from ST:TNG fans*. Serenity (or more precisely, the Firefly universe) addresses many of the facets of Star Trek that has always annoyed me. For the record, I am a fan of ST:TOS and of Captain "Shields up. We come in peace. Arm photon torpedoes" Kirk. However I find the utopian world of ST:TNG just a tad unrealistic and downright annoying at times. Firefly has been called the anti-Trek and rightly so, in my opinion.

Moving swifly along.. now that I have upset both fans of LOTR and ST:TNG - which probably compose of 99% of the readers..

A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.
- Shepherd Book

Governments are for getting in a man's way.
- Malcolm Reynolds

The main point of this post is to say that I can with identify Josh Whedon's vision of government. In the Firefly/Serenity universe, the United Alliance of Planets (the "Alliance") brings many good things to the planets under their rule - notably, medical facilities, police and military forces, terraforming technology and human "civilisation". It is a bureaucratic pragmatic government tightly interlinked with corporate influences.

It can be a good life - for those who accept and choose to live under the largely benevolent rule of the Alliance. Or for those who do not know any better. The Firefly/Serenity story tells it from the point of view of those who are unable, or choose not to accept the restrictions (and obedience) required by the Alliance. Which in my opinion is a very refreshing change from the utopian sterile world of Star Trek's United Federation of Planets.

The Operative: Nothing here is what it seems. He isn't the plucky hero, the Alliance isn't some evil empire, this is not the grand arena.

Malcolm Reynolds: Why? Do you even know why they sent you?
The Operative: It's not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.
Malcolm Reynolds: So me and mine gotta lay down and die... so you can live in your better world?

Malcolm Reynolds: We're still flying.
Simon Tam: That's not much.
Malcolm Reynolds: It's enough.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Oz Day 324.

It is approaching winter again. I am fine, and how have you been?

D. on her third visit to Perth said I am definitely a lot happier here than in Singapore. And the few people I have remained in contact with from Singapore agree with D. on that assessment. As for myself, it is still too early to figure out where the best place is for me but I think I am falling in love with Perth and WA. Of course the cynical part of me is still waiting for the “downside” to hit me hard. At this time, the biggest downside in not having D. permanently by my side – a situation that is being addressed and should hopefully be resolved before 2008. Then there is the possibility that I will not be able to adapt to living with D., given that I have gotten so used to living alone (from mental standpoint, if not literally). However that is a topic for another day.

Have not been blogging much simply because there is nothing much to write about. Compelling writing requires conflict, friction, crisis, et al. And life here has been relatively peaceful and a bit dreamy. Sort of like being in a nice dream and knowing that you are having a nice dream, but not wanting to wake from it. And nobody really wants to read about pleasantly dull my life has been for the last couple months, do they?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A 101 to 4x4s.

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while would know that I share the (almost) beach-house with a couple housemates who are 4WD enthusiasts. And not just your regular "let's go run the sand-dunes for the weekend" or "let's do a cross-country road trip to some quiet town" weekend warriors either. This is a pair who are in the slow process of prepping a brand spanking new platform for an extended Australia Outback adventure. And I say extended in the sense of being at least 1500km from the nearest McDonalds. And extended in the sense of no GSM mobile signals. And extended in the sense that the biggest town nearby has population of 200.

As a city rat, I cannot for my life grok fathom why any sane soul would leave behind all the comforts of civilisation to go into the midst of isolation. Although the idea does have an idyllic sense of adventure - to go where if you dig six inches you can find soil untouched by humans since the beginning of time. However once you quickly get past the romantic sheen, the realistic version outback is more of "if you screw up, you die". The exaggerated idea of the Western Australian backyard being populated by giant human-chomping crocodiles, rabid monster kangaroos, and your regular assortment of deadly spiders and killer insects that would kill you with a look is not very far from the truth. I have not even gotten started on the unrelenting parched heat, the choking red dust, the scarcity of water and fuel - let alone food. Well, you get the idea..

However sharing a house with these folks naturally means overhearing bits of their conversations and flipping through the 4WD magazines around the house. Maybe it is just me being a big chicken but those magazines all seem to have an ominous undertone of "screw up and you die" and seem to delight in describing in great detail the multitudes of ways to mess up going offroad. So I am unintentionally getting an education in an activity I do not even understand - let alone have any intention of pursuing.


And in that spirit of "Those who can, do. Those who can't, write about those who can". And besides, this is a fun topic to write about. Especially since I know close to nothing on the subject!

You know you live in a 4WD household when you..
  • learn that there are real 4x4s, and there are sub-urban vehicles (SUVs)
  • know that "best offroader on the road" is not a compliment
  • only take seriously Patrols and Landcruisers as outback touring vehicles
  • see a XC90 next door and you just have bite your lip and smile
  • drive the company stock RAV4 and think "it will last all of 5 minutes off the road"
  • can explain why a factory-spec Patrol has non-functional right-side rear reverse lights
  • understand why spotlights are not just a fashion accessory
  • learn there is an actual functional difference between round and square spotties
  • figure out why side mirrors are pointed at the rear wheels by default
  • think that reverse spotlights are an excellent idea
  • feel that 100 litres of fuel sounds like a very limited range
  • you think diesel (not petrol / gasoline) whenever someone says fuel
  • find out you can travel 1000 kilometers without refuelling and it is not in a plane/ship
  • expect GPS coordinates to be part of all map directions
  • think the idea of burning jet fuel to para-drop diesel fuel is an acceptable solution
  • learn that a differential ("diff") is not just a mathematical equation
  • can explain the difference between limited diffs, slip diffs and locked diffs
  • find out that Air Lockers are not a storage system
  • learn the difference between leaf springs and coil springs
  • think of chassis enhancements in terms of raising, not lowering ground clearance
  • look for dents in sidesteps on the underside, not the topside
  • realise that sidesteps are not just for helping you climb into a vehicle
  • have the expectation that all 4x4 vehicles be taller than you are
  • are no longer amazed that a 12-volt powered winch can pull a 5000kg load
  • know a snatch block is not a criminal activity and is perfectly legal
  • feel that A$100 for a piece of rope ("recovery strap") seems like a good price
  • find out that a 12v battery can operate a 1000w microwave oven
  • know that the heavy piece of cloth across a winch line is not just for visibility
  • expect Roadside Assistance to be useless where the 4x4s play
  • expect every vehicle to have CB, UHF, GSM, CDMA and satellite communications
  • know what an EPIRB is, know how to use it and hope never to ever have to use one
  • know that the array of antennas sticking up the bonnet area is not just decorative
  • know a good 4x4 always has 6 tires, and not 4
  • can visually identify road tires versus all-terrain tires
  • do not get bored by a discussion of Cooper STC versus STT tires
  • know what an air compressor is and what is used for
  • have an air compressor by the door behind the television
  • find out that Kaymar is not a city in South East Asia
  • learn that bull bars have multiple mount points
  • can identify those mount points and know their purposes
  • can explain the trade-offs between steel, aluminium and alloy bars
  • can explain the trade-offs between roof racks, rails and baskets
  • can tell the difference between Ron Moon and Howling Moon
  • know Black Widow is not just a deadly spider
  • learn that ARB is verbalised A.R.B. and does not rhyme with "orb"
  • see a gap in side panels and start calculating water capacity for custom tanks
  • think carrying 2 to 3 times body weight in drinking water makes good sense
  • start to think of standard vehicle payloads starting at 500kg
  • feel that a vehicle fully laden at 4 tons is not really unreasonable
  • expect a 4x4 to "fill" a garage, and having to squeeze by the doors
  • watch out of height limits in underground carparks and overhead barriers
  • no longer snigger at the thought of a "water crossing bra"
  • do not own a snorkel, but know the reasons why the 4x4 has one
  • find out that 4x4s can go swimming (well, more like "wading")
  • understand why redundant dual battery systems are required
  • can describe the benefits of a deep-cycle SLA battery
  • see a deep-cycle SLA charging under the side table in the corner
  • you start looking for a third battery when you look at a 4x4 setup
  • find out the 4x4 has more fuses than the house
  • think of performance in terms of traction and clearance, not speed and acceleration
  • find out a 4x4 can climb rock structures that a human cannot clear easily
  • learn it is possible to do structural welding powered by 12v and a compressor
  • find out that HEMA is not some strange medical condition
  • learn that ignoring HEMA, you could die of a common medical condition - dehydration.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Oz Day 305.

*cautiously peeking out from hiding under the proverbial rock in the desert that is Perth, Western Australia...*

Now that the Singapore elections are over, is it safe to blog again?

Every time I have tried to sit down at the keyboard, I am overcome with the desire to make snarky and explicit persistently political comments that would no doubt get me into some form of trouble.

And between two jobs and tinkering around with a new electronics hobby project (currently on indefinite hold) and generally having a ball of a time just being busy living.. and staying out of trouble - there has not been much time to write. Much as I enjoy it.

In the ongoing spirit of doing more of what I enjoy - as long as it does not hurt anybody - I promise myself to try to start writing regularly again. For myself and for like the.. oh, two other people who still check in on this blog occasionally.

I am more contented than I have been for some years. Not that life is perfect - it never is. However living here for the last 10 months or so, I still constantly find tiny little things that bring me glee. Like Violet Crumble for example. And Baskin-Robbins icecream. And the brainwave of my housemates to move one of the computers (which we use mainly for DVD-playing) to within a few metres of the heater in the living room.

Broadband residential internet connection (18Mbps unlimited for A$50/month- beat that you overpriced "world-class" telco-provider in that advanced "first-world" island nation-state!) right in front of a gas heater in a quiet house (I can hear the heater humming away) in the afternoon of a sunny (but still cold) autumn Sunday.

It is not perfect but it is a lot closer to the contented peace (and blissful quiet) that I have not known I had been missing for the last 3 decades.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Summer of Content.

Summer is over.

To most of the people around here, "civil" summer ended on 1st March. However the fall equinox was just a day or two ago. Now the nights are longer than the days and will get longer. I know most people, especially those living around the equator do not really give a damn about astronomical (pagan?) practices. However tracking the seasons by astronomical measures versus some arbitary calendar has a quirky appeal to me. It just feels.. natural.

It has been a good summer. Not the best quarter of my life to date. Nor was it the most memorable three months of my life. But it was a good summer all the same. A peaceful and quiet summer. One for of those times that I know I will look back with fondness for many future years to come. And hopefully one of the times that my deathbed will make me go "damn, that was a good time!".

Goals accomplished this sumer: Zero.
And proud of it.

I have spent too much of my life planning, scheming and trying to achieve "valuable" goals that I set for myself. This last couple of months have been just spent living.

Not much to report though. Drank a lot of beer and vodka. Watched a lot of sunsets. Ate a lot of (free) pizza. Tinkered a bit with some electronics. Walked around barefoot quite a bit. Burned a lot of fuel randomly driving to pointless destinations. So if you expecting a report on the secret of life, or on the cure for cancer, or a solution to failing nation-state economies - you are going to be sorely disappointed.


On the more practical (boring!) side of things..

Still working two jobs. More like one-and-half actually. Or even one. Like they say in the pizza business, "half and half".

Have eased very well into the routine of the day job. Still has good bits and not-so-good bits like any other job. I go to work on time, do my tasks assigned, and go home on the dot. My employer has made more than one obvious attempt to get me to "take more initiative", dangling vague undefined temptations of more responsibility, more money and more praise. I am greatly amused and wish I can tell him outright that I am not in this job for the money (for the moment) and that I have had my fill for reponsibility to last me quite a while. I figure as long as I get the job done that I was hired for, I am not likely to get fired. I do not have to be the top employee - as long as I am not the least valued. "Dun be first and dun be the last and never volunteer for anything" - see, the years of National Service does teach valuable life skills indeed!

As long as I make enough to pay my rent, pay my share of the house bills, buy food and fuel and keep the car running, and a little token left over to send to my parents and maybe to buy a few small luxuries for myself.. I have no intention of overdoing the "work" bit.

I must be turning into a those "relac one corner Mat"s whom I used to envy.

As for the pizza job.. that is another whole universe. The pizza place boss must be the most relaxed person I have known so far running his own business. And now that the place is on track to be sold, my work shifts have dropped from about 5 a week to an average of about 3 nights per week. The ownership transfer will take place in a month or two, and current owner will stay for a while to ensure a smooth business transfer before taking off to Europe for a vacation of undefined duration (funded by the proceeds of the business sale).

I still enjoy working at the pizza shop. It offers me the human interaction that is lacking in the day job. In addition, there is an element of instant gratification that is absent in shuffling paperwork around.

At the day job, I shuffle pieces of paper (or rather electronic documents) around which results in physical stock automagically being transported to the store by couriers, and the stock then gets automagically moved out of store by other pieces of paper generated by sales people. Once in a while the numbers on the paper do not tally the physical numbers and there is a big drama. Or the physical stock is damaged or missing and even more paper has to be generated.

With the pizza job, things are a lot more straightforward. Customer hungry. Customer calls shop. Me answer phone. Me write down order. Boss make pizza. Me sometimes make pizza too. Me put pizza in car. Me drive car to customer. Me give pizza to customer. Customer give me pieces of paper and pieces of metals. Customer eat pizza. Customer no hungry. Customer happy. And once in a while customer calls again and say to boss, "that was the best pizza I have had". Customer happy. Boss happy. Me happy. All is good with the world. Me wash up kitchen.

The two worlds collided in a surreal manner a couple days back when I was requested to do a pickup order for a staff lunch meeting. Of pizza. It was a great effort to hold back from doing the standard customer greet, collect money, hand over pizza routine when I brought the pizzas back to the store. And to turn right around and drive off right back to the pizza shop!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oz Day 251.

It has been over 3 months since the last update.

3 months is a lifetime by Internet and blogging standards.

I am still pleasantly surprised once in a while by emails and comments wondering how I have been. Especially from people I have never even met in person before.

And for those of you regular visitors still showing up on the site counter once in a while after this long period of silence.. I am amazed. But seriously folks, you may wish to consider using the RSS feeds instead.


Stuff that has not changed since the last blog post:
* still working at the same two jobs making ends meet
* still living in the same place near the beach
* still driving the same car which has not yet fallen apart
* still have not had time or bothered to get a haircut

What can I say? I am a guy that just does not like change.

Interesting events since the last blog post:
* D. is now an Australian permanent resident
* D. has since visited twice (the housemate blogs the first visit)
* wrecked the day-job company car ('wrecked' being a bit strong)
* pizza place is in process of changing ownership - re. 'the curse'
* adventures with new tires, failing fuel pump and random driving

Most importantly, I dare say - at the risk of jinxing it - that I have been a lot happier than I have been for many years. And equally significant is that it is not the "hooray I won a lottery" type of overwhelming dizziness, but more the quiet sense of contentment that surfaces in quiet moments and declares softly and firmly that "this is good".

There can be so much to say actually. So many events to update on. However most of it is fluff anyway when you really think about it. Not to say that life has been smooth sailing for the last quarter. There has been some ups and some downs with the associated fears and horrors.

In summary of the last quarter, life has not been this.. calm (for want of a better descriptor) for a very long time now. The last time I can remember feeling this much as ease with myself was when I skipped school in JC immediately after the flag-raising, took my Suzuki GSR400 clear across the island down kilometres of dirt track in Punggol, just so I could eat icecream and watch the tide in the channel gently lap at the isolated beach.

And I think I may be ready to start blogging again.