Friday, December 30, 2005

Abused Donut

It's part of my job to get abused. They should really include this as a course module. Accepting Abuse 101. And for the sick puppies out there, Enjoying Abuse 101.

Since I started working, I've been described, more often by the other side's representatives or their legal counsel, as inflexible, non-commercial minded, inexperienced, out of my depth, unknowledgeable, irascible and, I suspect in the privacy of their own minds, I've probably been called A Mad Bitch more times than I care to think about.

Big deal. If I took all this to heart, I'd probably have quit long ago. Or shot myself in the head. Twice.

Just received what looks to be my last round of abuse for 2005. If the transaction doesn't close tomorrow as scheduled, then I'll get my first dose of abuse for 2006 sometime Tuesday onwards.

It's a very simple transaction. Man wants to sell all his shares in a private company and to resign as its director. Company is being run into the ground by the other directors (which prompted the sale). Man has previously signed numerous personal guarantees to financiers of the private company. I told Man. Hang on to your directorship and your shares until the personal guarantees have all been completely discharged. That way, you've still got some control in the Company, you have legal rights to all sorts of Company information, don't give up your bargaining chips until you've got what you want. You are also the sole breadwinner of your family. Don't forget that your wife and 4 children are depending on you. If you kena sue by the Bank for the personal guarantees you will become a bankrupt because it's too much money. Then how are you going to look after your family?

Ok, says my poor beleaguered client. And he relays exactly that to the buyer of his shares, also a director of the Company.

WHAT? Says the buyer. WHAT KIND OF STUPID REQUEST IS THAT? Your lawyer is not being commercially sensible. Tell your lawyer to call me.

Why are you trying to complicate things, says the buyer to me when I call him. What kind of lawyer are you? Don't you know this is a small deal? This is not a multi-million dollar deal. You don't have to make it so complicated. I think you have not worked on big deals before.

We're not making it complicated. We only have one condition. If you start talking to the banks now, we can get this wrapped up quickly. Also, the deal is small just because the amount of money you are offering to pay for the shares is small. But the personal guarantees are worth millions of dollars to the Bank. So it is not a small deal. It is a very big deal to my client. He does not have money to pay the Bank if he is sued on his personal guarantees.

Click! At least you can't slam down a mobile phone. Unless you're an eejit.

Client later told me the seller called him and said I'm the worst lawyer he's ever met. Also the most inflexible (ka-ching!).

So I should be so flexible that everything also can lah, I said to the client. Then you pay me for what.

It's such a cheap shot. Separate the client from his legal adviser by abusing the legal adviser and saying he/ she's stupid, inexperienced, whatever. Then threaten to call the deal off unless the client makes the right "commercial decision". Which, just blow me, happens to be the commercial decisions most favourable to the other side. Feh.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas!

It's been a great but very trying year. But definitely more interesting than the ones preceding it.

Christmas 2004... very very pregnant, just got a new job, determined to eat more than anyone else at the Christmas dinner.

Christmas 2003... no idea that I would be pregnant anytime soon, still eating out and enjoying the DINK life

Christmas 2002... no idea that I would be meeting my husband anytime soon, still engaged to someone else and determined to eat more than anyone else at the Christmas dinner.

Christmas 2001... sitting at Dome's in Wheelock Place flipping through a magazine. Got engaged that evening.

Christmas 2000... (that's bloody ancient history ... I can't think back that far!)

I think one thing that stands out through my brief recollection of the last 4 Christmasses. And that is, I really drifted through my 20s. I let life happen to me. Spent money, had lots of fun, but couldn't have the one thing I wanted the most. And after the longest time, I finally pushed myself into moving on.

"Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
’cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too"

(Fleetwood Mac, Landslide)

Friday, December 23, 2005

Boss' Dick Not Going To Suck Itself

I read this off The Onion a year ago and thought it was both hilarious and sadly true. They say we're all shaped by our first job experiences because it's usually so traumatic that it forms the backdrop for the rest of our careers. I think that's true for me.

A senior lawyer in a previous firm who was in a position to decide if I stayed or went once had a lunch appointment cancelled on him last minute. So that he would not have to dine alone, his secretary called me and 2 other juniors, five minutes to lunch hour, to join him for a group discussion over lunch. Which resulted in us immediately and unremorsefully ditching our respective lunch partners, putting on another layer of makeup and stepping up.

I remember this lunch because the levels of disgust, both at myself and at my colleagues, reached fever pitch. There we all were, barely 2 months out of law school, shamelessly sucking up to this man like our lives depended on it. Which, to an extent, they did. We praised his wife, his daughter (both of whom we had fleetingly glimpsed at an office party), his career achievements (which we had each quietly researched), his confident manner with clients and his amazing ability to absorb and assimilate vast and varied amounts of information (he told us once that he liked to read and we were flogging that horse for all it was worth).

He absolutely loved it. He just sat there, ate his lunch, smiled and nodded encouragement and loved every minute of it. We barely touched our food - we were too busy with the animated praises, smiling, nodding, laughing uproariously at his jokes and thinking hard about what else to say. I am almost positive that it was the whole reason why he had asked us to lunch and not some other more senior colleague. Anyone older and more cynical could not have put so much heart into it.

I looked at my 2 colleagues, whom I had known through law school, and thought These people make me sick. They really make me sick. How can they stand to live with themselves.

Later that day I asked one of the 2 what he had thought of the lunch. He told me point blank that he was utterly disgusted with me and with the other junior and we both made him sick.

A couple of days later, the other junior went up to him and told him that she was still completely grossed out by the 2 of us and she could not believe what kind of apple-polishing, brown-nosing, ass-kissing sycophants we had become.

But we were all offered jobs with the firm.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bitter Gourd II

Had another go at the stuff today. In keeping with my own bloody-mindedness, I didn't opt for bitter gourd mixed with other ingredients which might smother the taste, I just got it plain with a clear soup.

ack! ack! ack! it's so bitter it's almost sweet. ugh.

Well at least it's not blue. I don't think I could eat blue food.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TT stands for Telegraphic Transfer

I find the timing of the news reports on the NKF saga very interesting, don't you? Most people are either in the throes of Christmas shopping/ organising Christmas celebrations or on holiday. Many would be feeling festive, happy, in a giving mood, or perhaps even in a forgiving mood. Would even venture to say people are in a charitable mood (which should not be confused with giving oneself a very high bonus).

The newspaper articles on the topic are also becoming very difficult to read. It's worse than proofreading a contract. Little droplets of information are sneaked in, like some trip to Vegas, but with no elaboration or explanation. It's almost like trying to read a newspaper article that's been shredded and then taped back together. Like there's so many things to be read "between the lines" that the lines themselves are almost impossible to properly understand.

It's almost like watching Basic Instinct or 9 1/2 weeks on Channel 5. Oh dear. Now anyone reading this will know how old I am.

Fairness? Who is Fairness? Is she also on this conference call?

And I thought it was only bright-eyed bushy-tailed law students who thought about concepts of fairness. And professionalism.

I was on a conference call yesterday with a supplier's employee about a customer contract.

"So the customer said it was okay that they have not received our deliverables. We are quite late but it's not our fault. We told customer already."

"Is there any confirmation in writing?"

"No, but they told us already it was okay"

"So it's your word against theirs?"

"Yes, but it would be unfair for them to penalise us after they said it was okay."

"But the contract does not qualify your obligation to deliver."

"Yes, but it would not be professional for them to insist on penalising us after they said it was okay. This would be unfair. They cannot act so unprofessionally."

I wanted to say, Dude, please wake up and smell the belachan. You are how old already. You never buy house meh? You never buy lottery ticket meh? Of course it is unfair - some people buy lottery tickets all their lives and still never win. I buy once only and I win (yes! it's true! I won $50!). What are you going to do when you are sued by the customer? Call the police? Call your mother? WA LAO EH.

But of course I couldn't say that. I just told him that the customer is entitled to rely on the terms of the contract THAT THE SUPPLIER ALSO SIGNED (slight volume increase).

I think it was, like, 1 month into pupillage when I realised that no one in the working world talks about fairness or professionalism unless they stand to benefit from someone acting fairly or professionally. Otherwise it's all in the contract, bud. Which is not to say people don't act professionally or fairly in the real world, just that they don't go on and on about it. But the big picture is, and always has been, "SHOW ME THE MONEY". I had a minor epiphany when Tom Cruise said it, shouted it, SHRIEKED it, in Jerry Maguire. It's the biggest truth of all. That's what it's all about. Want to know the outcome of any corporate action? Want to know how people are going to react to legal issues? commercial issues? Which way a negotiation will turn? Just think "Show Me The Money".

In other news, someone put soya sauce and sesame seeds on my chee kweh today. Almost fainted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ten More Times

I read somewhere that it's possible to like any food if you eat it 11 times.

Following some glowing accounts of the yumminess of bitter gourd, I decided against my better instincts to give it a shot and so replaced my usual helping of pig skin in my yong tau foo with a slice of bitter gourd.

It was so bitter I almost got cramps.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Says my 8 year old cousin, eyes rolling up to the ceiling and with the most arrogant expression on his face that an eight-year-old can come up with. Is he talking to the maid, I wonder. I think his parents overheard him and now I'll have to watch him get killed.

Yes, his parents heard. They just sat there. The maid got him some water.

Later I asked his mother - how often does your maid get a day off? She doesn't, she replied. For the first six months you didn't give her a day off? No, there is no day off. Her contract does not provide for one. Anyway, even if I gave her a day off, where would she go?

I looked at this young woman, working her butt off on a Sunday looking after 3 extremely unruly kids (they're great, but there's no denying it) and I realised she must be the loneliest person on the planet. Maybe her contract will actually last the full 2 years (a personal record for my aunt) but she'll have no contact with her family or any friends during that time, unless she manages to strike up a conversation through the kitchen window with someone who cares.

I don't think I can fully understand how she feels, but I wonder how she can put up with so much shit. Watching her try to feed 3 running, playing, fighting children last night, all of whom treat her like a servant. I thought, wow she must really need that cash.

Well, at least she's not their pet lobster.

After several attempts at keeping goldfish, fighting fish and other small pets with sky high mortality rates, my auntie got it into her head to get them a small pet lobster. And they have to help her look after it, like change the water and feed it and stuff. Anyway, when I last saw that lobster, it was missing an eye, one pincer and maybe 2 spindley little legs. I think they took their duties too seriously and tried to bathe it.

Maybe she really does live on another planet

Maybe it's the age-old cliche about mothers and daughters coming true. And maybe every family has got exactly the same issues, but they manage to keep the blood in their heads from seeping out. If so, then kudos to them.

I just spent some time over the weekend with my mother. Actually it was no more than 6 hours, most of which she was doing her own thing. It was more like 15 minutes of concentrated mother, but I swear my blood pressure has gone through the roof. Let me go get a cigarette before I pass out just thinking about it.

Yes. Back and slightly calmer now.

A friend of mine recently said in a comment to a previous moaning and complaining about mother post, that my mother is not as bad as her mother. Maybe. But I'd put some serious money on that. You have not had to deal with her unusual spending habits.

Just late last week, she wanted to buy a house. Not a dollhouse or a Father Christmas marzipan house. But an entire freaking house. Why? Because she likes the house.

"But you already HAVE a house" (me)

"Yes, but this one is nice" (ma)

"But you will have problems paying for it. You will be in an incredibly tight financial situation." (me)

"Yes, I want to tell you that I will be having problems paying for the house, and that I will be in a very tight financial situation. I want you to understand that" (ma)


"Anyway, I'd like you to sign a personal guarantee so that I can buy this house. Don't worry, the bank says it's just a formality. They have very nice officers there. I'll send it over to you. You better sign it."

How can I say no? She's my mother. How can I say no? And yet, ironically, she's the one that put me through law school, so that even when I'm signing the damn personal guarantee, I'll know through countless other client's bitter experiences that the nice bank officers won't be the ones that'll instruct their lawyers to bankrupt me, it'll be the other bank officers at the enforcement end. And they don't care what the "nice bank officers" said because there will be a clause in the bank guarantee stipulating that the terms of the guarantee override anything said by anyone at the bank, especially the nice officers.

I don't even have to go to law school for that. Any child who understands the meaning of the word "personal guarantee" will know exactly the horrifying burden that entails. Because the bank never lets go of the personal guarantees until the mortgage is discharged. And even then, they don't usually return them, they just file them away in case the discharge of mortgage was not effective.

The only way out is for me to buy guarantee insurance. Or whatever it is. I better start looking.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bloodyminded Rudeness

It never fails to amaze and disappoint me how rude people can be.

There's a local firm we used to work with very closely. For reasons not possible to disclose, that's no longer the case. But they have clients giving them ongoing work that we referred to them. The simple logic of it should not elude anyone. You would not have this client if we had not referred this client to you. Your work for this client is low entry-level. Anyone can do it. But you've got the client, and you've got the income from their work. It's not. Rocket. Surgery.

The client (who is still our client for other things) sometimes asks us to get documents and information from the local firm. Like a piece of paper from a file that can be photocopied and mailed, or even scanned and emailed. We send them a polite request. Then... crickets. Nothing. The client asks, where's that document we asked you to get? We tell them, we've emailed, called, emailed, left messages, but we haven't heard. Or what happens other times, the local firm will tell us (after we've called them to find out WTF is going on) that they are Checking With Management whether they can send the document to us. Why? They're sending their bloody invoices to us, dammit. If we cut them a cheque for their precious little invoices they'll cash it immediately. But we ask for the bloody Memorandum and Articles of Association of the client's company in Singapore and we can cool our heels for a week before we get anything. Checking With Management my ass.

If they gave it a moment's consideration, they would realise that the income stream will dry up if the client stops using us, since they get our instructions THROUGH US. Also, if we simply tell the client (with evidence) that the local firm is bloody slow and they should use someone else, then they will.

Not, as I said before, Rocket Surgery.

Gah. Just cooling off after this morning's conversation with local firm representative.

"Hi! Did you receive my email of yesterday?"

"Yes, but I'm on my way out of the office. My secretary will attend to your request."

"So can we get the document today?"

"She'll call you."

"So can we get the document today? The client needs it urgently."

"If she hasn't done it by the time I get back to the office, I'll attend to it. OKAY?"

"Great! So I'll let the client know we can get the document today. Thanks!"

Slam! (I guess she was late for her meeting huh.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


One of my wedding pics on Flickr got "favorited", i.e. picked out as someone else's favourite photo. It's the first time that's happened actually. I was curious. So I checked out this person's other favourite photos.

... at first I thought .... well those other photos look a little fleshy... that looks like.. a nipple.. yes WHAT THE FUCK THESE WOMEN ARE ALL BUTT-NAKED AND SOME OF THEM ARE FAT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think in my mind the word "FAT" trailed off in a scream that echoed and echoed.

So it's taken a while for me to catch up on the whole Internet smut thing, and maybe it's a generation gap starting to form and harden or something, but:

1. There are some wimmen out there on flickr who actually put up nude photos of themselves for anyone to see;

2. Some of them are (or could be) pursuing an avenue of tax-free income;

3. Some of them have breasts that ... well, let's just say gravity hasn't been a friend.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'd totally buy this thumb drive. Like twice.

weekday breakfast

Breadtalk is selling a thick sandwich and a cup of orange juice in the mornings for just S$2. I was pleasantly surprised for about 2 seconds before my kiasu-Singaporean-nurtured suspicion kicked in. We're talking Breadtalk here, not some hole in the wall mamak stall. They've got high rents, lots of salaries to pay, high operating costs, how is it they can price this stuff so low? I checked out the sandwich and juice in a jaundiced light. Possible cost saving would come from using cheaper ingredients in the bread, maybe using a scarier cut of ham. And the juice is very likely sugar water lightly flavoured with orange. No pulp. Possibly no genetic resemblance to a real orange. Another avenue is to use slightly less ingredients, but smoothen and fill out the taste and bite of the sandwich with mystery mayo. Which I see a lot of, smeared onto the plastic wrap.

A bite. A sip. I'm right.

Sigh. And I didn't even step in for the S$2 deal - it just happened to cost S$2. I would've paid S$5 for the real deal.

Sometimes I look at the people who line up for the really cheap buffets (particularly those that dare to include sushi and raw oysters in the half shell) and I wonder if they know they're killing themselves with all this bad second quality food.

The husband complained last evening that I've never taken him to Morten's for their Happy Hour. Which I like to refer to as the Cheap Fucker's Hour. Buy a Martini and eat as many of their steak sandwiches as your stomach will permit. My personal record was five and a half of them steak sammiches. Then my stomach sent up a short note to say that if I sent the second half of the sixth steak sammich down, then it would be sending all six back up. And we would all be sorry.

The problem is, he won't enjoy it if he was there with me. There'll be no conversation beyond "When's that damn plate of sammiches coming back around?" "Do you think they'll let me take 2?" "No we can't order another martini, the whole point is to see how many sammiches we can eat whilst paying for only one."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I can't do overnighters like I used to. It's officially a fact.

Cleared out a ton of work yesterday, left the office at 9.30 pm with a stack of books and went home to start preparing my slides for a seminar this morning. The Boss asked if my slides were ready earlier that afternoon. Yes, I said. They are ready. But at the current time, they're in my head. I'll spend some time this evening getting them from my head into MS Powerpoint.

He must think I'm nuts. The seminar is tomorrow morning, I'm the first speaker and the slides must not only make their way from my head onto Powerpoint, but also 50 sets of the slides have to be printed, bound and handed out by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. Or else.

"Some time this evening" meant the rest of the night, ending at 7.30 a.m. this morning when I emailed the slides to the office for mass printing followed by an insane rush to the hotel to give the seminar. At times like these, I say Thank God for gingko bilobar.

Now I'm completely wiped out, with all of today's work in my in-tray and the clock ticking towards 5 pm. Am so tired. I feel like going home, but no freaking way am I going to do that with all this work uncompleted.

I didn't use to be like this. I used to be so chipper. I used to love overnighters because of the bragging rights. Yeah, I can say oh so casually to my colleagues. We were here until 4 a.m. Signing was at 9 a.m. Completion is at 3 p.m. Want to go pubbing tonight? My personal record for an overnighter is 38 hours straight. No go home. No change clothes. No brush teeth... (but the less said about that the better). And I'd feel fine. Yes, I've fallen asleep while typing out amendments to the contract, but who hasn't?

Now all my molecules just want to go home. Home, to a warm bath, a meal that's not eaten in front of the computer nor purchased from the horrible food court downstairs, and then sleeeee

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mother, Psycho, Drives Daughter Psycho

There comes a time when we must call a spade a spade. For me, that time has come for the umpteenth time, and I can no longer ignore the inevitable – it is pecking at my sleeve incessantly and hounding me for attention.

My mother has lost it completely.

She calls me today, in the middle of an office emergency (an original document has been sent out by ordinary post instead of same-hour-delivery courier) to ask if she should be sending her maid over to help me clean up my house. Of course, please, yes, say I the filial daughter. And I will pay her to do it.

Your house is a junkyard, says my loving mother ("MLM"). She is making an oblique reference to my absolute refusal to move the piano upstairs like she told me to. I make 'hmm hmm' sounds – these are the best because they are non-contentious and she can think I'm agreeing but I'm not actually saying anything.

You better not employ your own maid, says MLM. She is making a not so oblique reference to my absolute refusal to employ her maid's relative. You are not capable, says MLM.

Hmm hmmm (slightly irritable). If I employ the maid you want me to employ, then I'm capable? (I thought, very very loudly, in my head)

How come your son is not eating the food that we cook? (MLM suddenly shifting ground to another argument like the skilled multi-tasking psycho that she can be) That's why we don't cook any food for your son anymore.

Hmm. Hmm.. (getting quite irritated now)

Are you still having the Christmas party at your house? Then you better not invite me, as your house is a junkyard, you are not capable and you are very stubborn!!!! (MLM really truly losing it)

What? What are you talking about?

Yes. Your house is a junkyard. You better not invite me to your Christmas party.

Hm. Ok. (what else can I say?)

Slam! She hangs up on me. WTF? Am so pissed off now that I can't really decide what to eat for lunch.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I'm sorry! Sob! A Retraction

So KerryKerryBoBerry calls me to say "Hey, if you had bothered to turn your head, maybe, 45 degrees from where you were staring, you would've seen that BloodCafe is still there. They just moved lah."

Oh dear.

So in the name of journalistic integrity, I made the journey, Fat Son and all, to Paragon yesterday and Lo And Behold, she was right. I'm sorry. I was mean. BloodCafe is now Project Shop Cafe, and the lights are no longer red but yellow. Save for these miniscule changes, the Real Deal is still there. And it's still crowded as hell on Sunday. And still full of the same cool people eating slowly.

To their credit, they actually have a door bitch who seats people. No more jostling for a table. And to their further credit, they seated me and Fat Son immediately, after they understood that I wanted a seat for 1 adult, and space for 1 pram. But due to the tremendous karmic buildup from my last mistaken post, they couldn't find a seat for me inside. I had to sit outside, in front of the escalators, facing the hundreds of people passing by. And to add insult to injury, I ended up sitting in the next table from Jazreel Low and her young daughter, also in a pram.

It couldn't have been a greater contrast. JL is perfectly turned out - perfect makeup, great hair in a bun (it never shifted the entire time - like it was nailed to her head), casual jeans just-so, and a gorgeous loose green top held in place by a single tiny spaghetti strap. No bra lines, no peekaboo underwear. If I had tried that stunt, my son would have ripped the strap on the top even before we got into the taxi, leaving me naked from the top down in front of the passing traffic at AMK. And he would have looked cute doing that too.

Anyway, back to Blood. Menu is largely the same, with some slight (seasonal?) changes. The Bolognaise is better than usual - I realise they now put red peppers in to add a slight tang to the meat. The waiters are younger, but less gay. I guess you could say Gay-lite. The drinks are better than I remembered.

In other news, Lawry's has shrunk!! And this I checked by turning my head 45 degrees in BOTH directions.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

This dude just kills me

Speaking of lawyer jokes, his entire blog is a lawyer joke.

"So one of my associates has been getting these vague hints for a few years now. We started out gently: "you may want to focus more on the details in some of your written work," which we thought we provide adequate notice that she was not a rising star at the firm. She didn't take the hint, or just decided to ignore it. Last year, we told her: "some people have observed that your personality may be best suited to small-firm life in a low-pressure environment where no one will care about the quality of the legal services provided." We thought this was pretty blunt. She did not take the hint. This year, it was up to me to come up with something that on the surface sounded polite, but actually meant that she should leave immediately and never come back. Fortunately, she made it easy for me by botching an assignment I gave her earlier in the week to clean the office microwave. She cleaned it with steel wool, and the next time someone used it, the metal fragments left in it caused a small fire. So she was on the hook for that. Plus, she misspelled the name of a client in a tender offer document, and that's really a rookie mistake that we just won't tolerate. "Do you remember the microwave incident," I asked her? "We think perhaps you're like that microwave, and the high-pressure work here in overheating you, plus most of the written work you hand in would be suitable as kindling in a fire, much like the one you caused," I said. "Oh, I'm so sorry about the microwave," she said. "And I'll try to improve, I really will." "I trust the janitor to do legal work more than I trust you," I said. "And I want to increase that trust in the coming year by demonstrating the true extent of my capabilities," she said. "I think another job may be the best thing for you," I said. "Oh, but I love this one," she said. "I wish you'd fall out the window," I said. "I think I need to take this call," she said. And exited. I've scheduled a "follow-up" meeting for next week. Hopefully by then I can come up with a clearer way to express myself, but I'm a lawyer, so obfuscation comes naturally."