Survival.

December 11, 2011

Traveling alone can be liberating in many ways. You can talk to whoever you want, do whatever you want, go wherever you like and you never have to pander to anyone’s schedule.

Usually, especially for us pampered Singaporeans, this feeling where the chains that bind us are suddenly broken in a brilliant, uproaring fashion (and usually with “Go West” playing in the background, that obviously only we can hear) is quickly overriden by the realisation that when traveling alone, one finds himself alone in a foreign land. While the invention of the internet means that we are never alone(which should be a plus point), the side effect of that means that we cannot stand to be alone. Which is something I found to be really annoying.

We all have one, usually more. That friend who basically spends all his(actually, usually her) time on her handphone, texting/whatsapping/facebooking/skyping another friend when there is actual human company available. Which I personally feel is a huge-ass waste of time, but at some point I guess I realised I shouldn’t be flogging a dead horse by telling them to, god forbid, actually meet new people or exchange actual words. I’m not sure if it’s an international problem, but it’s something that us Singaporean city people suffer from greatly – a disastrous inability to be socially independant. At this point of writing, it is extremely tempting to start to go into personal experience with said characters. But doing so would make me (even more) depressed with the state of humanity. At this point, there are several very strong issues that I could link this to, that I feel very strongly about:

1) The state of humanity/Singapore

2) The need for religion

3) How people can be unbearably thick-skulled/silly/stupid/shackled/self-absorbed

If you see the link between the topics, do something about it, then congratulations. If you don’t, then I guess you shouldn’t bother.

Advertisements

Adventures outside the border.

September 14, 2011

Once again, in supremely late fashion, I am writing about my adventures in Amsterdam and London.

 

Amsterdam is really a much more charming city than people give it credit for. Under the layer of marijuana and prostitutes is a city of canals that, in a very european trend, has many a museum and even more canals. Canals are great for just sitting by and chillin’ like a fridge, something almost impossible to do in Singapore because of the safety railings everywhere. One more accident and everyone in Singapore will be moving around in giant rubber balls. Getting lost in the city only to find myself back at square one was an adventure in itself. Getting caught trying to take a picture was another, as was meeting nice but crazy european women, one of which who snapped at her daughter “I’m rolling a joint don’t disturb me!” and another who turned a Spice Girls song into something much more vulgar.

 

And of course weed was fun too.

 

 

Adventures on a kick scooter.

September 1, 2011

For those that I’ve spoken to prior before leaving, you would’ve noticed me talking about a kick scooter as a substitute for a bike. Well I went ahead and bought one.

It’s not.

Not to say that riding a kick scooter hasn’t been some amount of fun, once you get past the strange stares that people give you. It’s a little like being a black guy in China, a vegetarian at a meat buffet, a senior citizen at a club or Rebecca Black at… pretty much anywhere. And the fact that you’re pretty much slower than every bicycle out there. You’ll definitely get a reaction. Usually its just stares. Sometimes muffled laughter, and sometimes open laughter. But hey, it helps me get around somewhat and I get to brighten up someone’s day! At least that’s what I tell myself before I put myself through such humiliation anyway.

I was riding one day when i got a message from a friend. Like a typical SMU student, I clearly thought I was capable of anything. So, I proceeded to whip out my phone in a heartbeat to read it. Lesson learnt : You need both hands on the handlebars. I proceeded to tumble off my scooter in glorious fashion, complete with cartwheeling action. Of course, the downside to this is that while it may be fun to watch, it also meant that my phone flew out of my hands. And into a drain. With running water in it.

Oh dear.

On the plus side, I now have a phone that does not have any awkward-looking cracks on it.

Up next : Misadventures not in Sweden!

Breaking.

August 18, 2011

Breaking in to sweden was…. entertaining, I guess?

In what was the longest tuesday, I’ve probably done more waiting than I’ve had in a while, first registering my presence and then getting my housing. A minivan proceeds to take us to our apartment,  which, while really nice is a bit like living in another country altogether. The journey itself was quite harrowing, but proved to me that slightly insane drivers will exist anywhere in the world. Apparently here they drive on footpaths. In the evening, I proceeded to cook dinner with Denys and Wani. Somewhere along this process while we were trying to stir-fry sausages, I wanted to flip the sausages so I asked Denys for a spatula. So, Denys passes me to spatula after washing and not drying it. This, combined with a pan that had way too much oil for sausages(really, no innuendo here), cause a fair amount of smoke which eventually triggered the smoke alarm. We proceeded to spend a good amount of time with Denys on a chair with a napkin covering the smoke detector, me cooling the pan outside(read: just standing there shivering) and Wani laughing her ass off. Our Italian neighbour, hearing the alarm, decides to show some concern and ask what is wrong. Long story short, we proceed to have dinner with Francesco(now the name of our Italian neighbour), a guy who majors in middle eastern and arabic studies, while looking like one himself. When I asked him about this, he says:

 

“When I was choosing my major, I look at the mirror. I ask, ‘do I look like a doctor?’ No. I look like an Arab. So this is my major.”

 

Just one of the night’s many highlights, the man is a character of his own. It’s actually quite fun to watch people from foreign countries swear, because every country seems to have their own way of saying ‘fuck’.

 

On Wednesday, We went to ikea, but not before trying to be heroes and walking from our hostel to the train station, folding and unfolding the map along the way. My map now looks like it’s been chewed up by a beast with somewhat blunt teeth. It took us way too long. But anyway, IKEA! I used to think Ikea in Singapore was pretty huge. Ikea in Sweden dwarfs it by quite a huge amount. Honestly, if I wasn’t in a huge hurry or really bloody tired(Aside: We were at ikea to buy stuff. I slept a grand total of 2 hours the previous night because I didn’t have pillows, blankets or bedsheets and the mattress looked blooly filthy, so I slept on a chair and used a laundry basket as a legrest. I thought I was the Mcguyver of sleeping until I realised I didn’t really sleep.), we probably would have spent an age there choosing pillows, bedsheets and covers of many varieties. The end result, however, is that my bedsheet is a very sexy navy blue while my pillowcase and blanket are white with blue fowers on them. Oh dear.

 

To be continued with adventures on a kick scooter!

Moderation.

July 26, 2011

In economics, there is a theory known as the law of diminishing returns. Many of us have heard of this before ; Yet more have experienced it. The crux of the law of diminishing returns basically states that the more you consume of something, the less you enjoy it. The typical example that was presented to me as a student was that one can of coke was good, the second was alright, and after the 3rd you would get either a sugar high, diabetes or an imaginary unicorn.

 

But really, its applications extend beyond a simple can of coke. Three bags of potato chips are nowhere near as awesome as one, doing homework used to be fun until I got swamped by it, and one can only take being around a clingy boyfriend/girlfriend for so long. By that logic, to achieve the most happiness/utility that we can out of our lives, we should be doing everything in moderation, stopping the moment it becomes less fun/rewarding than it should be.

 

But that isn’t how the world works, is it? 8 hours of work a day is hardly good for everyone. Some people, like myself, have huge attention deficit disorders and can’t really sit still for that long. Others only know how to work. The world imposes its standards on us, regardless of what we may think or know is the best for us, based on what someone else thinks is the best for us/them.

 

It would then seem that on a macro-level, the world moderates itself. Many of us may be overworked/underworked and are forced to adhere to certain rules we may not be happy with, but this mild discomfort pales in comparison to the trouble of starting a revolt or trying to change anything, trying to find oneself in a brave new world. Perhaps the social inertia has been instilled in us over the years. Sleeping at fixed times. Eating at fixed times. Allocated leisure time. It seems that society itself is subliminally telling us how we should spend it time.

 

But here’s the kicker – Wouldn’t this mean that we are committing the ultimate sin – an excess of moderation?

 

 

Vex.

December 15, 2010

Well, that’s kind of how I feel right now.

Some say that increased affluence has done good for our society, training brighter minds and propelling our world into a more intelligent future where people make rational decisions and stupidity is limited.

I say: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Firstly: How do you define “rational”? Here’s the catch: What is rational for the individual and what is rational for society tend to be complete opposites. That’s way laws are in place – People who evade taxes are in fact saving their own money for a good that would be provided anyway. So, when people are becoming more “rational” the conventional meaning is to make rational choices for “themselves”. This means more and more people would become selfish – inflating their own capabilities to get better jobs, rejecting blue-collar jobs in favour of something more “glamarous”, and at the same time putting down the credentials of others.

This is where the problem lies. In a society of pompous individuals where everyone wants to manage and/or sit around in an office, who is the one actually doing the work? I’m not sure why people are complaining that foreigners are taking away local jobs when the truth is that your local Singaporean actually believes he/she is in fact TOO GOOD for the job. This in fact creates its own self-fulfilling prophecy. Because nobody professional is being, say, a salesman at Courts, the job is now left to 1) foreigners, 2) students and 3) desperate people, all of whom probably would do a pretty shitty job at being service staff. As a result, people in the profession, and hence the profession itself, become heavily stereotyped against, chasing away people who are actually competent at the job. Also, this is probably a supply-side problem as well. Because people tend to underestimate the importance of blue-collar jobs(meaning the importance of actual shit being done), bosses will pay shitty wages for service staff. Now, who is going to work in a scorned profession for low pay?

Something that selfish people tend not to get is the idea of equilibrium. People in this day and age are instinctively hunting for high return for low price, and for win-win situations. But what people fail to understand is: 1) There is always a loser, and 2)Payoffs –  Sometimes, you really do have to pay for quality. Allow me to illustrate with an example – The financial industry is overly huge now, when you consider what they’re doing – basically turbo bank transfers. Yet, it attracts people in throngs every year based on the fact that people are being paid highly – Particularly, that investment bankers get very rich very quickly; It is the dream job of many a student. 

What these people don’t see, however, is that the majority of these people go through their jobs unhappy, and that multiple companies go bankrupt every year, putting people out of jobs. When you make money off an investment, inevitably someone else is losing money – For some reason, the notion that it could be you does not occur to anyone. Of course, if nobody loses, then everyone loses(it’s called inflation). It’s just frustrating to see people you know walk off that career cliff without even knowing it. The worst part is, these people know that they aren’t even going to enjoy it.

This again reflects some fundamental problems with today’s society – The increased focus on education means that nobody wants to do actual work and earn an honest living, instead doing stuff that doesn’t really contribute to society as a whole, all in favour of money. Is this rational? Based on the information that they have, perhaps. Then comes the problem of why these people don’t go about getting more information, which means that despite people getting more affluent and literate, the fact that majority of them are still frogs in their wells, just that the weather has changed.

Errors.

May 19, 2010

We all make mistakes. All mistakes have a cosy. Some of them cost you the few seconds it takes to erase it off and write something different, or use some liquid paper, or print those notes again.

The biggest mistake you can make is with people. The type of irreversible mistake that causes people to view you in the different light. The type which breaks relationships into the mountain of parts that composed it, forever irreparable.  Even the simplest of words can be the sharpest of blades when it comes to dealing with the feelings and emotions of others.

“Let’s just be friends.”

“No.”

“I don’t care.”

The list goes on and on, words that aren’t particularly challenging to anyone with any sort of vocabulary, but its simplicity is what makes it so brutal.

TAKING A CHILL PILL NOW

Eye.

April 2, 2010

No, not my eyes, they’re so small I barely have anything to write about them. The eye I’m talking about is the one that I’m in right now, the Eye of the Storm/hurricane/twister/big gust of wind. While I want to believe that when the hurricane stops my house will have crushed a witch and I would be on my way to Oz, all that awaits me is a busy busy summer. (Not that I’m not looking forward to it.)

While things are relatively calm now, in terms of actual events, I(as with most people) seem to be spending most of my time preparing for hectic periods, which would seem to make the calm period not so calm anymore. Assuming that the level of business during the hectic period is remaining constant, clearly preparation is an exercise in futility. Okay, not really futility but prevention of feeling helpless.

Media.

February 17, 2010

Ah, media. The subject of choice of JC student’s GP essays. The plural of the word medium.(no it’s not mediums, unless you refer to Southeast Asian people who hold tea parties with poltergeists, spectres, ghosts and other intangible beings.) The basis of communication.

So, why the sudden thought of media? Reasons are many, and yet simple.

1) I like a distraction of the dreariness of economics. Seriously, applied math?

2) Downloading shows has proven to be a newfound pleasure.(no, I have not been doing it for THAT long.)

Obviously, we’re past the times where communication involved grunts, clubs and cave paintings. Like many other things, Media has developed into a MONSTER.

Okay, not really. But many things that we take for granted are really means of other people to transmit a specific measure to us. Labels on things you see on grocery store shelves. Mail. Radios. Television.

VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR, VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR.

Erm. Television. Internet. Obviously the world has found many ways to do the same thing. And found many purposes of doing that same thing – That is, getting information across.

Which brings me to this – Is there a need to?

Clearly, the trend is moving towards communication that is getting easier. While it took a humongous effort to come up with the series of monosyllabic grunts that would best express your inner turmoil, current agenda or violent tendencies, it is clearly easier to buy an iPhone and tweet about your bowel movements(zomg it must be 2 feet long!).

The advent of technology has made communication, and most other things, easier. Technology provides a very friendly truth – that we can be increasingly lazy.

So, technology makes people lazy?

It’s a terrifying thought, but I think it’s true. Already, we can tell that people are becoming lazy to maintain relationships, despite it becoming increasingly easy to do so. Back then you could use “but he moved across the lake!” as an excuse, but now the fact is that relationships are only maintained only if both parties see a tangible benefit to it – be it a working relationship, or just feeling good. Which kind of also explains why people who fight will be inexplicably drawn together – I would know, quarelling is my favourite hobby.

The world is getting closer.

People are getting further.

Year.

December 29, 2009

So, the new year is coming.

Next year, I will be one step closer to (hopefully) graduating with a degree.

Next year, I will be one step closer to having a (real) job.

Next year, I will be one step closer to being a made man.

However,

Next year, I will be two steps away from being a teenager again.

Next year, I will be a step closer to death.

Next year, I will probably be even more jaded.

But hey, that’s life.

2009 has been one hell of a year, and I’d love to do it all over again. However, 2009 also has been one hell of a year and I may not have it in me to go through another one like it. But hey, I can’t say that until it happens. Existentialism aside, I’ve come to realise life is a lot better when you don’t think about it too much. Which is odd, because education makes you think harder, and the backbone of society is built on brilliant men. Well, brilliant women too, but most of them get ignored seeing how our society is more sexist than it wants to admit. Which obviously boils down to how what is good for society is typically bad for the individual perpetuating it. Kind of like Jesus. Maybe the bible makes more sense than I give it credit for.