Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Energy Friendly Buildings in Singapore

No one can say that I never do anything for the environment. One thing that office workers like me can do to contribute to the well-being of the environment is to work in an energy-friendly building where you pay for air-con but you don't actually get air-con, unless by air-con, you mean hot 35 degree air wafting vaguely around the room.

We asked some people to come in and look at the air-con system to resolve the no-air-con issue, and by their responses, you would think we literally dragged some random people off the street and asked them for a really wild guess. The responses varied from "Don't know" to "Why don't you use your own private air con" to "The air con is actually working". To get my point across, I asked them to bring in all their equipment for a really good look, then I stayed in the room to make sure no one left for a good 20 minutes. After that, no one tried to claim "the air con is actually working" anymore.

Sometimes I wonder how people who manage offices decide on their sub-contractors. And how sub-contractors find suitable people to carry out their jobs. It must be a challenge. If this continues, I'm going to have a glorious tan on half my face, and a permanent squint. Right now the afternoon sun is out in all of its glory, and I am almost sunblind looking at my screen. People walk into my office and cringe from the wall of heat.

Monday, May 28, 2007


My mother has been officially informed that she is no longer permitted to cut The Son's hair. This is after she gave him a haircut that makes even little people in the street stare and laugh. Yesterday we were sitting at a cab stand when a little girl, who couldn't have been more than 1 year older than him, pointed at him and said "get a haircut", and then she laughed and laughed whilst her mom shooshed her and also tried not to laugh. I kid you not - the haircut has reduced The Son's apparant IQ by at least 100 basis points. He looks like a fool. Picture a little kid with long hair everywhere else except for his fringe, which starts about 4 inches above his eyebrows and slants upwards as you move to the right (parallax error). It doesn't help that he has a big forehead - now he just looks mentally challenged.

So of course my mother laughs and says, yeah I won't cut his hair anymore, but what she really means is "... until I next feel like it". The same woman who I gave my precious plants to (pre-Son) for babysitting when The Husband and I went on holiday - when I got back, every single plant had been, uh, replaced. WTF. These are not the same plants I passed to you 3 days ago! I said. Yeah, she replies. They were not nice. I pulled them out and put in some nice ones.

The Husband suggested to me after that episode that we should think hard before we leave our children with her for daycare. We could come back at the end of the day and find they have all been replaced with new children. Those were not nice, she will say. These ones are nicer.

Somehow I find all this micromanagement easier to bear than my Husband who has already had a number of arguments with her. I think one of them got started when she went through our closet one day whilst we were out, threw out all his house shorts and replaced them with these gorgeous purple ones. I explained to him that she's been doing this to me since I was a baby (my Pokemon house tee-shirts went missing at the same time) and because we are now married, she regards him as an extension of me, and therefore also falling within her jurisdiction. So he should just grin and bear it.

I should remind him of our Chinese wedding dinner, when she ordered all of our guests to adjourn to her house after dinner for a flu jab, and then proceeded to innoculate every single one of them.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Citizen Fat

So the entire fambly takes a day off and hauls ass to the US Embassy at Napier Road yesterday for a little bit of fun with red tape. There are 2 security checks to clear and we finally get through after being relieved of all electronic devices. The Son gets to hang on to his plastic cars, since the Embassy staff want to hang on to their sanity. His stroller gets checked for GPR. What strange times we live in.

It was a real phase shift to look up above the security counter and see a photo of George Bush and Dick Cheney instead of President ... (Oh Shit I Have Forgotten Our Elected President's Name!) and his wife. For a moment there I thought Dick Cheney was George Bush's wife, then reality caught up and, well, I guess not.

Oh yes. Nathan. S.R. Nathan. Sorry. I forgot who I voted for. Oh wait - we didn't get to vote huh. It was a walkover.

Anyway, US bureaucracy is actually quite straightforward. You fill up the forms, wait a short while (watch TV) and then you get into an interview room, they ask questions in a chatty polite fashion and then you're done! Some small people are now a Citizen. Don't know what The Husband was all twitchy about. It's easy! They even talk to you like you're there! Everyone is real friendly ... from behind 3 inches of bullet-proof glass.

You want to see bureaucracy at its worst, go to the Malaysian High Commission. If you can get inside and get your turn, it's a good day! If you only need to go there 2 times, you should buy lottery! My earliest memory of a picnic is a picnic we had at the Malaysian High Commission, because if you want to be there until your turn comes around, you really need to be prepared for a whole-day affair. Pls bring your food, drink and picnic cloth (the place is overrun by ants) and if you do not want dirt (or Unknown Substance X) on the seat of your pants, then you better bring your own foldable chair. And don't drink too much water because then you will need to use their toilet, and then you will truly know suffering.

On more than 1 occasion, half a day passes and we give up and go home before getting our turn, and come back another day. And this is just to renew the passport. Can you imagine how many times we have to come back if we lost it.

Ask me why I became a Singapore citizen, and I will tell you that I was convinced after multiple visits to the Malaysian High Commission that I had better jump ship. Seriously. Just look at the railroad station at Tanjong Pagar. Then cross the Causeway into Johor Bahru.

On the way out, I reminded The Husband of the time we went to ICA for his PR application. We waited approximately 10 minutes before our number got called, before that, there were plenty of clean, comfortable seats and Mr Bean on TV to watch and when we finally got our turn, we didn't have to speak to anyone or even look anyone in the eye because the attending officer just looked through our documents, grunted and scribbled our return date on a receipt without meeting our eyes, and we were done in 5 minutes. This is the Singapore way, which is the way I completely understand. Fast, efficient, fuck off.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What do you want, blood izit

So I open some mail and a cashline statement pops out from one of our local banks. This must be one of the few statements they issue where they actually owe the customer money instead of the other way around. I borrowed a small sum from them some time ago, and in my enthusiasm to make sure I am debt free (except for the house loan, the car loan and the illegal moneylenders pounding my door down every night) I overpaid them by S$50.

Usually one would be happy to see such statements but I was furious. Dammit. What do I have to do to close the damn cashline account. A month ago, I called them to say that I'd like the account closed. You don't want to borrow our money? they asked. No, I don't. I don't need to borrow your money. Plus your interest rates are too high.

Well okay then. You hafta head down to our bank branch to close the account and sign the forms personally. Never mind that I can get the loan approved within 1 hour by sending the bank an sms. If I want to close the loan account after paying off the loan, I have to haul ass to the bank branch and sign the forms in person. I'm sure the irony of the situation has escaped the bank completely.

So I take an extra 20 minutes over lunch hour to queue up and get the forms signed. Strangely enough, the procedure to close the account is so little used that 2 officers need to confer and discuss. Then they tell me it cannot be done through this branch. A red haze descends over my vision, and by the time it clears, the forms have been signed and acknowledged by a senior officer and I am leaving the bank.

The next day, on my way to work, I get a call on the mobile, from a bank officer. We see you want to close the cashline account, she says. Can you please reconsider because blah blah blah blah. I told her no way, just close the account - I have already signed the forms. Okay, she says reluctantly.

This is 1 month ago.

Now I receive a statement in respect of that stupid account, which means IT IS STILL OPEN. WTF do I have to do to convince these people that I WANT TO CLOSE IT. Why can't I get anything done with the bank without having to tear someone's backside open, I'd like to know. I do this enough during my working hours, why do I have to do it after hours as well. Reluctantly I get on the phone, call their phone banking line and tear some backside. Told them I will hold the bank completely liable if there is any drawdown on the account whatsoever after the date of my account closure form. They said they could close it and call me the day after to confirm it has been done.

Day after. No call.

Called them again yesterday evening. The officer on the phone confirms in a bright cheery voice that my cashline account is still open, and is surprised that I am so upset. We cannot close it so fast, she says. You only gave us instructions to close it yesterday. I wonder if my next statement surprised her. I promised to write to MAS to notify them that their bank is providing unsolicited loans to customers who have clearly indicated their preference not to obtain such loans, if I did not receive their confirmatory call by tomorrow morning.

Yeah, so I got my call this morning, first thing, on the mobile. We need a week, they said. We cannot do it so fast. Your instructions were only given to us 2 nights ago. You would think that to close my damned cashline account, they have to go and kill Godzilla or something. Or go on some Godforsaken journey like Ulyssus, slay Medusa and bring back her head without turning to stone. How amazing is it that this will only take 1 week. You must be some kind of miracle worker, Mr Bank Officer.

The next piece of mail I opened was a newsletter from the same bank. Pulling it out of the envelope, I sliced my wrist open in 2 places thereby proving the point that sometimes nothing less than blood will do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Eats Pukes and Leaves

Am truly a sorry sight to behold today. Every time I have a business lunch at some cool joint, I always leave with the vague hope that I will get food poisoning so that I can get a voucher to come back for another meal. Two for the price of one! Today, I went for the buffet lunch at the Long Bar Steak House, and before I could say "voucher", I had some pretty interesting food poisoning. And pretty bad too. Ugh. [*crawls off to the bathroom to throw up*]

My boss, who only ate 3 oysters, has experienced no adverse side effects. I, on the other hand, managed to down about 12 or more which frankly is par for the course. And they were yummy. Not like the Oyster Bar at Takashimaya which sold me an obviously rotting oyster and then tried to give me another rotting replacement oyster after I spat the first one out. This is what happens when you leave your oyster bar in the care of a bunch of underpaid employees.

The thing about oysters which no one seems to agree with me is that you have to eat them ALIVE. It takes hours for a freshly shucked raw oyster to pass away naturally. If you are eating a dead oyster off a bed of ice, then you should know it has been open for at least 3 hours. And since it is now dead, the process of decay has started. Lying on a bed of ice can only slow down (not stop) the decay process, and if you are eating a dead oyster that is not quite chilled, then you should know that it could have died some time ago and the process of decay has not slowed down at all.

How do you know if the oyster is alive? Hold it up to the light, till you can see the oyster glistening. If it is extremely fresh, you can see the glistening edges move. If it is dying, but not dead, then the edges may not move until you squeeze the lemon on the oyster. Then the glistening bits will move - note that the movements are peristaltic and so you need to watch the flaps where the oyster meat interfaces with its shell. You will literally see the oyster cringe, but don't expect it to move quickly - it will be a slow Mexican wave of cringing.

Ya ya, I know there are proper names for the parts of the oyster I've mentioned but as long as I've gotten the point across, that's good enough for me.

If it is an immediate cringe, and you can see the whole oyster bulge outwards, then congratulations, you are holding an extremely fresh oyster and should eat it immediately. To put it out of its misery, please chew it thoroughly before you swallow.

If you are cringing (or screaming) as you read this, or already writing a complaint letter to the SPCA, then I take it you don't like oysters. Or you only like raw oyster cadavers.

Oh God. I really have some pretty bad food poisoning.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I really don't understand why anyone is surprised

I read with disgust the remark made by the newly disgraced local basketball coach who, having been dismissed by 2 schools for his leading role in the last Sunday Times' expose on underaged girls and men they meet on the Internet, still insisted that he was only trying to recruit new players for his basketball team and further explained that he had asked all those overtly sexual questions to the undercover reporter simply because he did not want sluts on the team.

I'm sure he believes that story is true.

Was just speaking with someone today about it and he expressed surprise that such people are a-lurking and in such large numbers. I gave him my honest view and that is - these people are bloody everywhere. I do not believe that any girl in Singapore can complete her entire course of puberty and not get flashed at even a single time. It's the school uniform that provokes it, quite frankly if you ask me. It's like a shining beacon of youth - everyone is attracted to it.

One fine day just as recess was over, I happened to mention to a close friend that I'd gotten flashed at just 2 days ago in a bus (no. 151, going past the old Whitley Secondary School). Meh. No big deal, she said.

She told me she got flashed at in a record store, when another customer who was browsing next to her decided to place his penis on top of a cassette display and she touched it by accident.

Another girl who dropped in on the discussion said she got flashed at walking back home from the bus-stop, from some guy sitting in a van waiting for his colleague. He just opened the door and there he was, more of him than she expected to see.

A fourth girl sitting nearby said she got flashed by her swim coach who was standing in the water teaching all the girls how to use their arms and legs to do the freestyle, and she noticed he had tucked the waistband of his speedos underneath his testicles, and was standing there, floating free.

A fifth girl said she had been flashed at walking through the park in Orchard Road where Wheelock Place now stands. Some naked man stepped out of the bushes as she passed by, which greatly expedited her journey through the park.

We were all 14, going on 15.

Not a single one of these incidents was reported.

Statistically considered, this was a random conversation, the girls were randomly selected and really, it's not like we were a particularly striking bunch of girls in any way. No models there. But just look at the results - every single one of us had been flashed at by the time we were 15. Why don't we report these things? Because quite frankly, no one wants to get into trouble.

And it's not just girls - a guy friend of mine who is now a doctor and presently much better equipped to handle the situation came scrambling out of a public toilet at the pre-renovation Plaza Singapura all pale and shaky because some guy standing behind him at The Wall asked him if he would like to "play my flute". He was 15. I don't know how old the flute was.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Convent Girls of the World Untie!

So a number of emails have been flying all over the place about the 20-year class reunion for the IJ girls of Toa Payoh. Ugh. It really has been 20 years since I was last in the blue pinafore, with no badge, no belt, collar unbuttoned, non-regulation socks and secret red silk underpants, taking the bus to Far East Plaza to meet my SJI boyfriend.

Walked past a couple of convent girls the other day and I wanted to grab them by the scruff of the neck and shake them. "What's the matter with the bunch of yous! Is this how you wear your uniform in public?????" Their belts were off, their badges were missing, their collar was unbuttoned, they were wearing no socks with their school shoes and one of them had her pinafore way way above her knees.

Seems like nothing has changed in 20 years.

I tell you what else has not changed - our style of writing. I am getting increasingly concerned about the state of organisation and mental health of the woman who has taken it upon herself to organise this massive event. First of all, we have been asked to fork out S$120 (for one ticket. The food better be world class). Second of all, this inaugural event will be held in the school field. Maybe it's my classy urban upbringing, but I fail to appreciate how standing in the muddy grassy insect-y school field is going to make us all feel nostalgic about the old days. Especially since most of us spent a fair amount of time and effort during "the old days" trying to avoid running or even standing in the school field. I really cannot remember the number of times people would either use menstruation as an excuse or just hide in the toilet until physical ed was over.

Thirdly, the organiser writes to all of us like this:

hi all

just wana let u guys know m waiting for the school to give me a high res copy of the school crest

then i can go print the tix

after that

then i will e-mail u all again for u to get in touch with your friends/ classmates

altho some of u have given me their e-mails, some still have not responded,

so i need your help to contact them o.k.?

meanwhile u guys take care


i'm getting exciting about it!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Who wants a whistleblowing referee anyway

Amidst the guilt associated with my secretary resigning, there is also the dread of receiving a call one fine day from her next likely employer asking all manner of questions about her work. The unhappy prospect of unlimited liability for misrepresentation looms and whilst everyone is entitled to earn a salary to support their famblees, I do not intend to live out the rest of my miserable existence paying off a judgement debt.

When that day and that call comes, I will have my repository of glib responses:

1. She discharged her duties to the best of her ability.

2. Wrong number/ sorry, no such person.

3. I have always believed in self-reliance and you should too/ God helps those who help themselves.

4. She performs best in a work-free environment.

5. If it's urgent and/or important, I would suggest that you do it yourself.

6. The work product will surprise you.

7. Takes the initiative to do things that are not requested of her.

8. Do you have public liability insurance

Monday, May 07, 2007

So we are looking.

The other day, someone walked into my office and handed me a sealed white envelope, with no address and no stamp. A freshly folded one-page letter awaited within. I managed to contain myself until she left the room, then almost had a heart attack. Called the husband, and he went out to buy the bubbly....

It's hard to believe in this day and age when everyone is so hard-assed that I couldn't bring myself to say the words "We are going to haff ta let you go". After much consideration, I blame this on Karma. My immediately previous secretary was careful, considerate and helpful, and I gave her a lot of shitty little tantrums when I needed her and a cold shoulder when I didn't, so I suspect Karma built up and came back to bite me in the ass for 2.5 years, rendering me completely and inexplicably useless and impotent when it came to the next secretary and getting her to go my way with regard to work flow. And by "getting her to go my way with regard to work flow", I mean "even after written instructions and an office memo, there will still be a 'miscommunication' and things will be screwed up".

So now we are advertising in the paper for a new one. She has some big shoes to fill !!!

Bill Chasing

I chased a client to pay a bill, client says he never received it. I ask her to check the file to confirm exactly when that bill got sent out, and to where. End of the day, I get a carefully worded email response. "It appears that there has been some misunderstanding. The original invoice appears to still be in our file."

My response "We did not send out the invoice? Wasn't it signed off? Who did not send out the invoice? Doesn't it just need to be mailed out?"

Another carefully worded response "We did not send out the invoice."

My response "Who was supposed to send out the invoice"

Response: "Us".


One day I took a leap of faith, passed her 1 page of a Confidentiality Agreement, asked her to type in what I had written on the margins. It was a single, new "No Contact" clause. Type in 1 clause. Send it back to me.

What came back was a clause entitled "No Contract".

Months later, on another desperate leap of faith (time running out), I asked her to copy over text from a webpage and reformat it into a Word document. Half the document made it across. The other half I discovered later was missing in action.

When copying off the web page, she did not scroll down as I had not asked her to do so.


I forward an email and asked her to print all the attachments for my review. I am happy to say that 90% of the attachments made it into the in-tray. 10% did not. I asked her to double check three times, after which I asked for the last obviously missing document by name. She said, "I had some problem opening it, so I didn't print it."


In order to demystify the monthly billing procedure, an action timetable sets out on each day of the last and first week of each month what each staff member needs to be doing.

At the end of the last week of last month, I asked her if Step 1 had been progressed.


Step 1. Of the Billing Protocol.

.... I'm about to do it.



The other day, we ran out of files. As in, there were NO files in which we could physically file documents. Not a single one.

I asked her (the stationery IC) - have we ordered more files? Yes.

3 days later, I asked, do we have more files?

... Yes, I ordered. But they have not delivered. I will chase them.

2 days later, I asked, do we have more files?

.... Yes, I chased them. They were supposed to deliver yesterday. I will chase again.

2 days later, I asked, do we have more files?

.... Yes, I chased them. They were supposed to deliver yesterday. I will chase them ag...

I interrupted at this point. Since we are in Suntec, can you please walk down to the stationery shop/ Carrefour, and buy more files? Why are we waiting 1 week for a delivery? How many did you order for our whole office anyway?


Friday, May 04, 2007

Whirlwind Tour of Crab

One incident sticks out in my mind and that is the one time I was peering into a cage of live crabs at a seafood restaurant and one of them made a lunge at me. I let out a little scream and the person I was with at that time muttered "They know you are Public Enemy No. 1".

Yeah, well, we all have our weaknesses and mine is crab. Any flavour of crab, as long as it's not overcooked. The relative costs are prohibitive so I don't indulge often, but when I start, it's hard to stop. Having gained momentum from a simultaneous indulgence of Black Pepper Crab and Chilli Crab on Tuesday evening (Jumbo - East Coast, yumyumyumyum), I found it very very difficult, when a client suggested that I pick the venue for dinner last evening, not to say "Crab Noodles, Sin Huat, Lorong 35 Geylang". And so it came to pass that the poor man and I legged it to Sin Huat at 7 pm in a horrendous post-marathon jam. After which I suggested dessert at the durian stall (classy!) and he politely, but firmly, refused.

Spent a fair part of this morning plotting my next crab move, and that will be the Salted Egg Crab somewhere in AMK. As Dora and her stupid monkey would say, Delicioso! Areeba areeba underlay.

Thereafter, I need to find someone to accompany me to a Cold Crab place, which will complete my Whirlwind Tour of Crab!! Muahahahaha!!!!

Oh wait. There's the crab sashimi at Inagiku...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

We Deedit

Deal finally got signed! Have got my life back! No more calls on the mobile phone at 3 am in the morning! At least for now. Was in euphoria through yesterday and how lovely it is to have a public holiday where we really are not expected to work.

Saw The Son doing a little jig this morning while watching Dora The Explorer (right at the end of each show, Dora and that ridiculous monkey she calls a friend will do a jig while singing "We deedit we deedit we deedit we deedit we deedit oh yes we deedit"). Of course I did the little jig with him as his Royal Highness gets very displeased when he jigs alone, but this time I really felt it! Getting jiggy with Dora! That's what life is all about!

In other news, have just looked at the new Windows Vista version of Word and I feel like smacking Bill Gates across the face. The Lao Chee Bye went and changed the entire interface! Do we have nothing else to do then hunt all over the screen for the print command or the save command? If we had the whole day to prepare a one page letter, SURE I'd really appreciate all the new colours and buttons and gadgets, but do you seriously expect us to reacclimatise ourselves to a completely new version of something that we need to work with every single day? Not to mention the ghostly images that appear all over the place and hide the text when I move the mouse around. AAARRRRGGGHGH!!!!

Ok, daily rant over.

Met some lovely people last evening and it was fantastic. Love love love chilli crab. Love love love pepper crab. Also appreciate finally understanding what a Dirty Sanchez really is.