Monday, May 02, 2011

An appeal to do the right thing.

When considering who to vote for, please ask youselves these questions and answer them as rationally and as sincerely as you can.

1. Is a monopoly in government sustainable? It has probably worked in the past, but will it work in the future? Will the government, perhaps, change the constitution such that elections are now only held every 10 years? Would one day the goverment will only award lucrative government projects to government linked corporations? Or that dissidents are locked up in prison? Or that minister salaries will now be pegged to 2x the salary of the highest paid resident in Singapore?

2. Ask yourself who you trust more, one who has to fight and contest for a seat, or one who sails into paliarment on the back of connections, good luck or good grades?

3. Who really runs the day-to-day of the country and works on policy proposals and other documents? Our MPs or our civil service? Are our MPs really that indispensible?

4. And finally the most important question in my opinion. Please think of the future. Not just of the next five years, but of the next 10, 20, or even 50 years from now. Will you be short-changing yourself for an upgraded flat in the next five years, and giving up a balanced government in the further future?

Think carefully people, and do the right thing.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

My views on Singapore General Elections 2011

Being a blog post (as opposed to an article on the straits times or the online citizen), I have no need to appear unbiased. So I will start off with some pro-PAP arguments and try to debunk them with my, hopefully rational, reasoning.

"There will be political gridlock, similar to whats happening in America, if the opposition wins a few seats."
Yawning Bread refutes this with a very well written and detailed post. If you're lazy, the gist of that post is that outcome is very unlikely. In my opinion though, even when there is true democracy in Singapore, comparing what might happen here to what is happening in America is a little inaccurate. Its like if I compare the current one-party state system to Cuba or Syria.

"I only see opposition candidates around during election time"
I can just as easily say, I only see PAP candidates around during election time. Notice how as election draws nearer you see more and more photos of MPs with babies in their arms, or smiling and shaking hands with residents at hawker stalls, or say five of them lining up for a ceremonial ground-breaking event?
Also, give the opposition a chance. They dont have the mainstream media to rely on. If they are not MPs, how else would you hear about them? Also, rallies are illegal until only during the campaigning period. And then there are other laws regulating crowds. Being so suppressed, is it any wonder that many people are unaware of the opposition? An analogy to this is like having your throat cut and then being accused of not being able to speak up.

"PAP means stability"
I agree with the general concensus that Singapore is stable. However, that doesn't mean we cannot make it better. Going along with PAP and its one party system may have been good in the past and for the future, but who knows what the future may be if we have a viable opposition? I would argue, in fact, that competition in politics always good for the populace, just as consumers benefit from competition in the economy.

"Singapore will fail if the oppposition runs the country"
We need to be very aware that the civil service is separate from the government (currently the PAP). All the staff that are running the various ministries would still turn up for work. The police, healthcare, transport etc that are currently running will continue to run. My friends who are civil servants will still continue serving the nation. Maybe in the longer term, the opposition may impose some policies that are unfavourable to the country, but what check is there that the PAP will not do the same?

"The PAP is doing a good job so far"
The UBS report that many people have been refering to has Singapore having a purchasing power of 33.3% of New York. I know some Malaysian friends complaining that KL has a purchasing power of 33.8% (which is still higher than us). Singapore is an expensive place to live as well - we are ranked 12th in the world in that same report (90%), below London(91%), New York (100%) and Tokyo (105%), but above HK (80%), Paris (89%), Rome (83%) and of course, KL (48%). So while we do have comfortable employment levels, decent healthcare and transport, we need to keep in mind that we are in continuous competition with the rest of the world and we should not be content with the current standards. Besides, we are looking for improvement, not stagnation.

"One party democracy works well"
To me, one party democracy is an oxymoron. Democracy implies choice for the people. No choices, no democracy. Googling "one party democracy" returns the results "single party state" instead. The list of these states includes China, Cuba, North Korea, Syria. I suppose we are not looking forward to have a government like these countries. Again, the point is that we need to build a check on the current government - as the risk is that it is so easy for the government to turn bad. To be honest, I was quite disappointed reading what PM Lee said in the NUS forum, that we cannot afford to have two parties. I was thinking then, whats the point of the election then? Why do they even bother giving us the opportunity to vote? Should we just be content and leave the decision making to the pros?

"The PAP has the resources to best serve the nation."
These resources belong to the nation, the government (which can be run by different political parties), but definitely not the PAP. The PAP has implemented hdb upgrading projects in PAP wards, but this is national money, not PAP money. Any party in power should have access to the same resources as the PAP, including government scholars whether currently studying or serving their bond.

"All opposition candidates are the same."
Like how Tin Peh Ling is different from Chan Chun Sing, Nicole Seah is different from Chen Show Mao. There may be some opposition candidates who are just anti-PAP, but there are some who are of high caliber and genuine intent.

"What is the agenda of these opposition members, some of whom are so young and on paper, looks so unqualified?"
What could their agenda be? Imagine a candidate running for the opposition. What are some of the obstacles he would face? First he would have to convince his family and friends that is ok to run for the opposition. Then he has to contend with an uphill battle with all the odds stacked against him. And then he has to deal with questions on his agenda? What could it be? If he wanted a route into paliarment, or if he was after the money, or if he was after the fame, he would have joined the PAP. Who would you rather trust is in it for the good of the country - one person who is guaranteed a seat, or one who has to fight for it? Remember Lee Kuan Yew was also in his youth, fighting for a seat against the ruling party.

Other observations that no PAP supporter can refute convincingly.
- Gerrymandering. This is painfully obvious and wrong but as its been done in the past and in other countries, do we accept it as the norm?

- Elections department under the prime minsters office. Surely the elections department has to be outside the jurisdiction of any political influence?

- Linking votes to upgrading programmes. As Pritam Singh mentions, this is despicable as it divides Singaporeans. We all pay the same taxes, we all serve the same national service. Why are some discriminated against based on their constituency or their voting preferences?

- Heavily influenced mainstream media. I don't like the temasek review either, but I do think the online citizen is a viable alternative, and gets you thinking.

- The opposition has arguably already made our lives better. Look at the growth and share giveaways. Look at the upgrading projects. Without the opposition, would you think we would have got these benefits by the PAP in an effort to woo the voters?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Moving back to Singapore, for good.

Sitting in a cafe now, while 2 cleaners in my flat are cleaning it out before I finally fly back.

It's a very bittersweet moment for me, leaving this life in London. Cliche I know but I wouldn't have thought it would be bitter at all. After all, I've always hated the London weather and always been wanting to go home. But the fact is, I've worked here for 5 years. Life isn't particularly easy but I've gotten so used to it. The friends I made, both outside of work and within, make me quite sad to leave. It would be unimaginable to myself just 3 months ago, but saying goodbye to my colleagues as I stepped out of the office for the last time was very emotional.

Nevertheless, as sad as I am leaving this life I currently live, I'm looking forward to the life I will have in Singapore. Finally settling down together with luen. Getting and doing up a place of our own, going on short trips to Bali or Phuket together, getting a car, hosting friends over at our place... I could go on and on. Thinking about all these makes me realise how much I had been missing out on. Well, it's time I finally had a life.

I'm 30 now. Spent almost a decade abroad and away from my family, and five years away from luen. Do I have any regrets? Would I have done anything differently? I don't really know. Perhaps I could have spent more of my youth snowboarding more(but then I wouldn't see luen as much) Perhaps I should never have started playing world of warcraft (but then again I wouldn't have met a bunch of fantastic Malaysian friends). Perhaps I should have abandoned my job 5 years ago and stayed in California. Perhaps I could have worked harder, or involved myself with more of the political tussles in the workplace. Whatever it is, here I am, finally, contemplating my past overseas experiences and my future in Singapore.

So this is it, the end of a long chapter in my life, and also the beginning of a new one.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Inappropriate comment

This conversation took place in the office between me and a colleague. I was standing next to him at that time.

Me: Where did this can of redbull come from?
Colleague: Oh, you weren't here when the redbull girl came around?
Me: Redbull girl?
Colleague: Yeah... oh, she was hot.
Me: Damn it, I missed it.

I walked back to my desk, which was just one more desk away from his. Another colleague was sitting in between us, and helpfully trying to explain to an intern what we do at the desk. I wasn't thinking much about it when I sort of shouted across: "was she wearing a mini skirt?"

Colleague: ...

Me: Sorry, that was inappropriate...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sesame oil chicken

I visited my maternal aunties a few days ago. It had been so long since I saw them. My third aunt gave me my old passport that grandma had been holding on for me since I was 3. Gosh I didn't realise I was cute.

My aunts reminded me that grandma used to cook for me my favourite dish at that time - sesame oil chicken (aka ma yau gai). I remembered I loved it and couldn't have enough of it. I did try cooking it - but somehow it didn't taste the same. I remembered it wasn't all that difficult, but third aunt helpfully suggested adding the soy sauce towards the end. I told my mum about it (at that point I still called it Ginger soy sauce chicken) and she told me the proper name is actually sesame oil chicken!

Aha! That's the secret ingredient - sesame oil.

Now, back in London, I successfully managed to recreate what I think is grandma's sesame oil chicken. Awesome stuff if I can say so myself :)

If you're interested, here's how I did it (all measurements by estimation).

1. Cut 1kg chicken into big chunks. Ideally drumsticks or thighs. Season chicken with two (or four) tbsp sesame oil, one tbsp light soy sauce, one tbsp dark soy sauce, one tbsp oyster sauce and one tsp salt. Mix well and marinate for 1hr.
2. Fry one two two thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced thinly, with half a clove of garlic, in veg oil (don't use sesame oil as it smokes easily). Fry till browned.
3. Add chicken. Brown chicken ( don't stir too frequently or it won't brown!). Abt 6-10 mins. When almost cooked, add 1cup water. Add 1-2 tbsp dark soy sauce. Add two tbsp sugar. Simmer 2 mins. Add more dark soy/ sugar to taste.
4. Serve, with steamed rice and lots of love.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I want so many things after window shopping at heathrow terminal 3. Its tax free shopping so naturally it's cheaper.

iPad. This bigger iPhone is so cool. The web browsing interface is superb. And I see how useful the mail, calendar and contacts functionality would make it so useful as a netbook / laptop replacement even. And then you can have presentaions, photos and videos on that little device as well. It's just brilliant! Except my rational mind is thinking that it's a tad expensive and me not being a travelling executive, I'd probably just leave the iPad at home collecting dust.

Bose noise cancelling earphones. For my music listening, movie watching and games playing pleasure. Maybe to cancel that loud noise on trains, flights, and tubes as well. I was thinking I could use a good pair of headphones for a pretty long time, so maybe 250 quid isn't that much to spend.

Mulberry leather hold-all. Man this is purely a luxury item that I know I would very likely just use perhaps 4-5 times a year. But it's so stylish and so functional. Although it costs 895 gbp. The good news is, at the airport, it's JUST 740! Ba I know I don't need one. But then again this is not about needs - it's about wants.

I've been thinking that it's so difficult to pull yourself to your senses and not to succumb to the temptation of spending. Perhaps I should set budgets for myself. I never had the problem of overspending since I'm quite naturally a miser. But it's miserable. With a budget - I can happily spend as much as I want wihin my budget. The problem tho is how much I should budget for these frivolous wants. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It is a rather stressful environment

My two colleagues sitting on both sides of me would, when they get upset, slam the mouse down on the table, shout a few "these fckn idiots!", or "why doesn't anything fckn work!" etc. Chillax, I tell them. But they can't control it.

I was given a free stress ball on my way to work the other day. I gave that to the guy on my left, who breaks out into these tantrums most often. It sort of helps - the mouse doesn't get slammed so often now.

But I think I figured out the best method at controlling their outbursts. I am keeping tabs now on who has the most number of stress related "incidents". They compete at controlling their anger. So far its working pretty well - I'm having a more peaceful time in the office. :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

China vs USA

Just a random thought...

China has like trillions of USD reserves right? Lets imagine the scenario where China decides to suddenly dump all the USD in the market. What's going to happen?
- Everyone else is going to dump their USD as well.
- The USD will suddenly cease to be THE world currency
- The US will have difficulty with sustaining their trade deficit.
- The US might default.

Of course its not in China's best interest to do that. But... theoretically... China has the power to do that.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

50% Bonus Supertax

Dont know if you heard the news but Alistair Darling announced that bonuses will be taxed an additional 50%.

My take home bonus will now be
50% (Bonus Tax) * 50% (the other half being deferred) * 60% (40% income tax) = 15% of the face value declared bonus...

Demoralising man. I feel cheated.

Monday, December 07, 2009

disorganised thoughts

So many different thoughts going thru my brain right now... And I can't be bothered to organise them so bear with me...

- my dinner is in my microwave and i'm starving but I don't want to distract my thoughts...

- occurred to me yet again how time flies. i've been married for just over two months now. more and more of my friends are getting married.

- when time flies, stuff happens. some young girl sadly passed away, another distant friend's granddad too. mortality does bring you back to reality, and once again remind you what really is important in your life.

- felt really sian at work today. dont really know why - perhaps its the press and the public riling against paying me something decent.

- exercise really helps me destress. now i realise why I wasn't stressed in school... i play football every day!

- the winter gloom is really starting to get to me. hard to stay cheerful. i should hit the gym more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Honeymoon in the uk part 3

Sat oct 17.

On weds we spent the day at Cheltenham, a small city. We arrived at Chapel spa, had a "light" lunch there followed by some relaxing by the pool and then a massage. Then we checked in at beaumont house, a pretty restored old house with ample parking and a beautiful garden. We went around looking for food and finally decided to dine at the daffodil- apparently a famous place- but unfortunately it was fully booked! So instead we went to Moran's, a family owned wine bar / restaurant.

Thursday we went to Crewe Hall - a converted residence of a rich merchant. The driveway in was very impressive! It was a package deal so we spent the entire day there.

We are in York now. Arrived yesterday after spending one day at lake district. We stayed at the Rampsbeck country house hotel at the second biggest lake there called ullswater. Took a short hike to see a small waterfall, explored a small village, and took a steamer boat ride on the lake. The views were very pretty and the weather was good and sunny, just a bit chilly on the boat. There are a lot of sheep at lake district. The hotel we stayed at in lake district and York are very pretty restored country houses.

Yesterday we toured around York which is a very historical city. Walked on old castle Walls, walked on cobbled streets, around old church ruins and dd some shopping on their high street.

Today will be spending the day in the hotel spa and having afternoon tea. Heading back to London tomorrow.

Honeymoon in uk part 2

Weds oct14.

On the road now from cornwall to Cheltenham.  

On monday after Bath, we spent a night in padstow, a small town in north Cornwall by the coast. The town is dominated by restaurants and b&bs by famous restauranteur rick stein.

Tuesday we went to the Eden Project, a very big educational garden built in a disused clay pit. There are two big biomes with a tropical rainforest and mediterranean climate. Lots of outdoor greenery and many varieties of plants. Pretty cool. Good weather has been following us too.

Went To the southwestern most tipof England to see the Minack theatre, an outdoor theatre made on a cliff in the 1930s by a woman. Of course it took a while to build given the terrain and wars. Very impressive though. Had scones and clotted cream in the cafe there. Yummy.

Drove onto Falmouth which is a Coastal town with lots of b&bs. Had Thai food for dinner because needed a break from British food. Had too much potatoes. Tomyum never tasted so good.

Now going to Cheltenham for a day spa and spend the night. Will head to Crewe and then to lake district tomorrow. Hope the good weather stays.

Honeymoon in uk part 1

computer died soon after my post. Now posting true iPhone. The honeymoon is over and L just left this morning.

Sat 10 oct

Lunch with friends was great. Weather very nice. Went for hampstead crepes n then to Xp's apt for late dinner n games.

Sunday picked up rental car then drove to a restaurant near Windsor called fat duck. Very good n super interesting food n concepts like liquid nitrogen cooked scrambled eggs n bacon ice cream. Took a lot of pictures. French waiters are funny. Lunch started at 2pm ended at 6pm. Longest meal ever. Then drove to bath n spent the night there.

Today went to the roman baths, had lunch n went to a modern day bath spa near the roman baths. Very relaxed. Will hv dinner at padstow n going ard Cornwall tmw.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Got married!

Went to california last week to get married. In my eyes it was great! Superb weather and in a beautiful garden setting - can't get much better. Some of the pictures turned out really nice. I'll probably put up the pictures when I get the proper ones.

Now, back in London with L. We're having a lunch thing with all our friends on Saturday. After that we'll have a mini honeymoon.

I was pretty proud of my wedding speech (shamelessly adapted from a few I found online) so for my records I'm posting it here.


You are all about to witness a unique event in history. This is the very first and the very last time that the Wife is going to let me speak on behalf of both of us... You wont believe how hard I had to beg for this priviledge... so lets take our time...

So Ladies and Gentlemen, we'd like to thank everyone for coming today, it means so much to us, to have everyone we love and care about here to share our special day, and a big thank you to those who have had long journeys to be here. We hope the day is as enjoyable for you as it special to us.

On a personal note, I would especially like to thank my new in-laws C and W who have done everything to make me feel welcome since I first started dating Lu-En almost 7 years ago. Ma I would like to thank for the effort you have put in making the invitations, the place cards, the flowers, and Pa I'd like to thank for letting me marry your daughter.

I can't stand up here without giving a very special thanks to my mum who has always been there for me with support and guidance in every big decision I have made in my life. It means so much to me that you are here today, witnessing this occasion, thank you very much.

I would also like to thank H for agreeing to be my Best Man today. For those of you who don't know - H is also Lu-En's brother. Actually, maybe that explains why he's agreed to be my best man. Thanks for helping today run so beautifully....

And speaking of "beautiful", we'd like to thank the bridesmaids Y and X - I know how much support you have given Lu-En up to and including this day. I'd like everyone to compliment them on their shoes and dresses for they took as much time to pick the right color and style as it took for my bride to do her hair! Thanks to A, our cute flower girl, to K for the videography, and O, for the wedding cake. Thanks also to L, L and Z for everything you've done today.

When I proposed to L, I put a lot of thought into what makes a good marriage... seriously, yeh.. The dictionary says that a marriage is the institution whereby man and woman are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependancy for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family... hmm, if only things were that simple. Some people say its consists of 3 rings, engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. Others say its an alliance of 2 people - one who never remembers birthdays and anniversaries, and one who never forgets. Whatever it is, I know I'm marrying my perfect partner.

Today, I'm marrying my best friend and my soulmate. We have a relationship where we could spend every waking minute together and not get bored. We can talk to each other all day... well, actually she talks, I listen. On that note, I have to say thanks as well to Skype and MSN, for without you, it wouldn't have been possible to chat with L every morning for the time we've been apart.

Anyway I'd like to take this opportunity to first of all, tell L how beautiful you look today.. and secondly to thank you for all the hard work and time that you have put in to make today such a success. ... and believe me it was hell of a lot of time so I'd like everyone to raise their glass and join me, in making a toast to my new wife - To the most beautiful bride in the world - L!

I wont waste any more of your valuable drinking time - and instead leave that to the bride's father, W!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blogging thru the iphone sucks

Well. not exactly true. the way I did it was I email to this blogging address and it automatically publishes. However the emails have automatically inserted line breaks and blogger takes those line breaks as intentional paragraph formatting. the end result is really ugly with stupid line breaks all over where it shouldn't be. In future if I blog thru the phone I'll blog directly thru

=== facebook stalking ===

Do you realise that you can see entire albums of pictures taken by other people as long as one of your friends is tagged? I've managed to see more than a couple of wedding photos because of that!

=== upcoming wedding ===

Excited. Nervous. Excited. Nervous.

Its in... 12 days... Colleagues planning a stag night. By the looks of things they are not going to let me off easy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How time flies

Been more than a month since I updated my blog.

Life has been pretty ok for me so far. It's a bit lonely without L but I try to make the best of it. Besides, wedding in a little more than a month.

Over this period, I've been to a few dinners with brokers and poole in Bournemouth for windsurfing. Also trying to play more sports, like badminton and tennis.

On my way now to victoria where I will board a train to Dover. Going to go around the "White cliffs county" with a few friends - should be fun!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blogging thru email/ iPhone

I just bought an iPhone. Having loads of fun with it now. Actually, I am currently typing on it now. So many cool things with it. From the maps with GPS, the syncing of google calendar and contacts, it's like
the best miniture portable laptop! except that the laptop wouldn't have gps of course.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Turning 29 this year and I am starting to feel my age creeping up.

When I was a kid I wished I could grow up quickly. When I first started work, I wished I looked older so I can get a bit more respect.

Now people say my hairline is receeding. Not sure if its work related stress (I try to destress by doing sports), the hard water in London (I'm drinking bottled water nowadays), or just age thats causing my thinning hair. It is a bit upsetting though.

So today, when I bought a bottle of wine from the supermarket, I was geniunely happy when the salesgirl asked to check my ID. After I smiled and said "Glad you asked.", I think she was looked a bit suspiciously at me - probably wondering if I was gay or something...

Anyway, I do feel a lot older now. I should really try to do a marathon before I'm 50...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

JPM run

I signed up for the run of 5.6km for fun. It was an excuse to get free T-shirts and to get off work early. I had set a personal target of 27mins for myself. Managed to finish in 25min 30sec which was, I think, my personal best.

I really think I put in everything in the race - was even feeling a little giddy as soon as I finished. Don't think I could have pushed myself harder than that, so its good.

** EDIT **
I found out that my time was really 26min 30sec... so, a bit disappointed...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Nothing really to update...

Work - as per usual. Bearable.

Social - not too bad. The weather's been really good recently. Played football one weekend in the sun, felt a bit like in Singapore. Some weekends I went to the park (most times by myself)... its relaxing lying on the grass under a tree, looking up at the green leaves on the backdrop of blue skies and white clouds, watching (and hearing) the branches sway in the breeze.

But otherwise, nothing much happening at the moment. Which is probably good news.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

California - Part 4

== Day 6 ==

L had to go to lab in the morning. I napped. She came back, we had a simple lunch, watched a bit of videos, saw some pictures off a particular photographer's blog (*wink) then we went to get some Caribbean bbq for our small house party. Jerk chicken, BBQ pork ribs and braised oxtail. Not to mention their corn festivals which tastes like Ham Chim Peng :)

== Day 7 ==

Spent the first half of the day lazing around at home, watching Finding Nemo again... Took a nap, then finally in the late afternoon we met Gabrielle at Gamble Gardens. She's our officiator at the wedding.

After that we went down to San Fran - L managed to get a night free at St Regis because of some Starwood Preferred Guest offer. Whoa the hotel is damn cool... coolest part of course, is that it would have cost 429 dollars if not for the offer!!!

Dinner was at this Japanese/ fusion place called Namu. The food was really good but the decor/ambiance left much to be desired. The shop front looked disappointing and the interior quite small and barren so it got quite noisy... We had to practically shout to each other... definitely not a nice date place.



== Day 8 ==

Had a really late breakfast at Vitrine, the restaurant at the hotel. We shared some black truffle omelette (I know, it sounds posh) and coffee. Lunch I planned to go Swan Oyster Depot... but on arriving there it looked like a messy cheap seafood bar. So we went to the sushi/jap place next door and got some simple jap stuff (sashimi, beef teriyaki, tempura, udon).

Then L drove me to the airport and dropped me off as she had so often. We had lots of practice at this already. The dropoff is the best way for me to go.

== Plane ride back ==

I got allocated 62C, this aisle seat near the back of the plane. A young guy came over and sat in 62A (there wasn't a 62B since at the tail of the plane where its narrow, only 2 seats could fit). He turned to me all friendly and said "hi". I wasn't really in the mood for conversation but I said "hi" anyway. Then he said he was flying with his girlfriend, but they bought the tickets separately, how he thought he could change the seats at check-in but the flight was overbooked as usual etc. and asked if I was willing to move. Which seat was she, I asked. 58F was his reply.

I was hesitant of course. Thing is with some seats there's a stupid box under the seat so you can't extend your legs. My seat didn't have the box and I wasn't sure if 58F had that problem. Besides, the guy next to me was pretty normal sized... what if the seat I moved to (it was a center seat) was next to two hugeass guys?

But I agreed to move anyway... I thought I was alone anyway, and these two lovebirds could enjoy being together. So I moved. They thanked me and I said it wasn't a problem.

2 hours into the flight, after our meal and the lights were switched off and I was enjoying the movie... a woman suddenly thrusted a plastic bag at me from the aisle. I was momentarily stunned because a) it was dark and b) I was enjoying my movie. I then recognised the woman as the one I changed seats with. I took the bag and she left quietly. Inside the bag was a cute handwritten note, "To say thank you for moving - Jess and Rob" and a bag of chocolates.

Aww... I felt all warm inside. I feel that we don't get recognition for good deeds often enough. Sure you get it as a child when your parents/teachers praise you when you do something good... but as an adult, you don't get that pat on your back. That little gesture of thanks was really touching. More importantly to me, its cool to be recognised as being nice - especially as I was, ahem, a money grubbing banker.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

California - Part 3

== Day 5 ==

L had to go to her lab in the morning. I lazed around a bit, picked her up at 11, then we went to this tea place at downtown palo alto. They had all sorts of tea - white tea, green tea, Chinese tea, Darjeeling, Assam etc... They also served some nice sandwiches and quiches. Yummy!

After lunch she had another appointment, so I dropped her off at Terman - then went back home and lazed a bit more. At roughly 3, we went to V's thesis defense. This would be the second thesis defense I've attended in 3 days. It was quite fun - both student and teacher were poking fun at each other. Then I met L's labmates for a bit, went to V's after-thesis-defense-party for a short while (I snacked on cheese and biscuits and champagne) and then we headed off to (in my mind) the event of the day... Arcadia restaurant in San Jose.

The restaurant, an American Steakhouse, is located in this convention complex right next to the Marriott. It had this dark brown interior, very much like Spruce (which we went there just two days ago). I had lobster corn dogs, kobe skirt steak, and molten choc cake. L had a salad (blue cheese, pecan, apple), some dover sole, and lemon triffle. We also shared a portion of duck fat fries (I assume the fries were fried in duck fat!) Everything was good, but the steak I had was legen-dary. Beautifully charred on the outside and juicy on the inside, it was so good I savoured every little bite.

"Are you ok?", L asked, seeing my dreamlike state as I took my first taste of the steak. I only wished they had served me a 24oz portion instead...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

California - Part 2

== Day 3 continued ==
So L had her hair made up for the photoshoot. Meanwhile she instructed me to get orange calla lilies... pretty specific eh. Called around but none of the florists had it. Went to the one at the Stanford Shopping Center and they had yellow ones. L was fine with it so I got them.

Then we went back, got dressed into our outfits, and started the photoshoot. Was quite fun. L got two friends to help out. We took a few pictures around the main quad, then we went to university avenue and took more pictures.

One picture was taken right in the middle of the road. J, our photographer, was like, "wow the lights look really cool. Wait here..." then he went onto the middle of the road while the lights were red. Took a couple of test shots then came back and said, "do you wanna do this?"

I was like, "in the middle of the road?"

"do you want to do this? I wont force you..."

after a bit of consideration, I thought, what the heck... this is once in a lifetime. So we agreed, practiced our pose at the side, then rushed to the middle, struck our pose and got our picture taken. We had a glimpse of the result on the camera and we were impressed! can't wait to see the real thing now...

== Day 4 ==

Woke up lazily late in the morning, had a small breakfast, then went to San Fran for our "Dine about Town" day. First stop was Spruce, a pretty hip/posh place at Sacramento shopping district. Nice dark brown and white interior. Was served by this white haired old gentlemen who looked and acted a bit gay. The food was really good. Started with a Tokyo turnip soup, followed by some mushroom trout thing (turned out to be salmon instead?!) and wrapped off with a delightful lemon pastry with ice-cream thingy. The soup was fantastic, the salmon flavours were subtle and the dessert was.. well, delightful.

Then we caught "Up" in 3D in this old classical theatre called the "Castro Theatre". While we were waiting for the movie to begin, there was this musician (organist??) playing old disney music with the theatre organ... man it was impressive! The movie was good too.

Dinner was at Campton Place. Quite a posh place as well, but we thought the food wasn't fantastic. The dessert was really nice though - I had basil braised strawberries with honeydew and vanilla ice cream. L had kinda like a lemon sorbet thing with meringue and oolong infused mousse. sweet...

Fun date :)

Monday, June 08, 2009

California - Part 1

== Flight ==
Arrived at the airport 2.5 hrs before departure. Joined a "bag drop" queue but it wasn't moving. Joined another bag drop queue. Moved about a foot after 5 minutes... decided to stay in the queue - at least there was progress. One hour later, I was only halfway there. The desk was closing in 10mins - one Virgin Atlantic woman came around asking, "San Francisco!". I hurried to her, was directed to another desk and within 3 minutes I've checked in my bags. Leaves me really puzzled why the hell I had to queue for an hour.

After boarding the flight, we sat quietly waiting for the plane to move off. But it never did. Bored, I fell asleep. An hour later, we were still in the same spot. Apparently there was a problem with some lock somewhere and it would have to get replaced before we could fly. Expected time? 2.5 hrs after scheduled departure.

Sigh worst flight experience ever.

== Day 1 ==

As soon as I touched down, I switched on my phone and gave L a ring. She arrived at the airport just as I collected my bag and headed out the airport. We then went to Iberia, this pretty cool spanish bar/restaurant place at Menlo Park for some really superb spanish tapas. She had a glass of red wine and I had Sangria. Super... then we went to Coldstone for ice cream. yummy!

== Day 2 ==

Woke up at 8.. lazed around, then went for breakfast at Cafe Borrone. She had belgian waffles with strawberries and cream. I had egg-cheese-ham omelette with a spicy italian sausage. flushed down the stuff with Chai tea and frosted mocha. Good food and really enjoyable. There was this hugeass German Shepard next to us, but for some reason she was really upset. She kept making this loud high pitched whining sound. Her owner was female and didn't really care that much about the dog... and when a guy came to the table, she whined even louder to the guy. We concluded that the guy was the real owner of the dog and she's unhappy that his girlfriend was left "in charge".

== Day 3 ==
Just started. L has to go to lab to feed some cells I think. I'll join her an hour later at a common friend's thesis defence. Then we're going for lunch somewhere, she's going to get her hair done, and we're gonna be taking some pictures around the campus.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Work Stress

The past week has been incredibly tough for me. My old boss has left. Two new colleagues came over from the "other side". One, who's younger than me but has about the same amount of experience (because he didn't need to do NS) talks a lot. He seems to like to hear himself. He never allows anyone else to talk. And by talking, I mean lecturing. After a day of "interaction" (in quotes because it was really one sided...) me and my other colleague were immensely pissed off... we finally confronted him and told him, in very subtle terms, "F off. you're not our boss so don't pretend to be".

The other one is almost the total opposite. He looks young but has 15 years of experience. He doesn't talk a lot, is very shy, and lacking confidence. Even I could walk all over him... But he's useless. He sat next to me and kept peering over my shoulder at my screens, not giving me one ounce of privacy. I hated it. I was so stressed about it, I finally told my new boss (who, bear in mind, is pretty close to him). I think new boss managed to get the message across to him, because he doesn't do it anymore (or maybe more discreetly).

New boss also had a 1 to 1 meeting with me. Wanted to know more about me, about what I thought were my strengths and weaknesses, what I can do to improve the business, about my goals and ambitions and how I want to achieve them... gosh it was like an interview.

I survived the week though... because...

... I'm flying off to see L tomorrow. I haven't packed yet... I guess I should start soon. Will be taking some photos, enjoying some food...

Don't think I'll be updating the blog for a week at least. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It never stops...

Today one of my good friends left the bank. He was a junior, from Stanford, joined 1 year after me, into structuring, same as I. He's a French Jew - and that was really cool since I learned a lot about the culture of not just France but Israel - and learned a few foreign words. Like "mazal tov" which means congratulations.

We never got really close - somehow I always have this barrier up with colleagues - for the whole year that we were in the same team. It was fun, sure, but I never really considered him a close friend. But then I left structuring to join trading, and when things got really bad with the takeover of our bank, we turned to each other for support. We never did much together, perhaps played a few football matches, watched a couple of movies, knocked down a few pints, and I tried my best to be a "wingman" for him one particular party...

He's a really smart, funny and capable guy... the kinda guy you think would be arrogant and ambitious... but the odd thing is he told me some time ago he really respected me. I know, odd right?

The unlucky thing for him was that his boss, soon after the takeover about 18 months ago, moved to another team and he was stuck in limbo doing nothing for like 6 months. Two of his team of three were cut very early on. He got "absorbed" into another team but he couldn't manage to integrate himself with the guys who he viewed as sub-standard. He was like an outcast. As time went by he felt he was wasting himself away... and slowly began to wish he was made redundant so he can escape from such agony...

But I'm selfish. I didn't want him to go. He shared laughs with me...

He's happy to go... but I'm so upset.

The big boss who recruited me to the bank almost 4 years ago has also been made redundant. My boss was asked to leave the day before. And now my friend.


Sunday, May 17, 2009


I was spending a lot of time playing around with Ubuntu trying to get it set up the way I like it. I have a logitech keyboard and mouse and use a lot of the extra buttons on the keyboard and mouse for shortcuts and stuff. Took a bit of learning to get to what I wanted but finally I think I'm happy with the end result. All the programs I usually use works - except for Skype that doesn't have compatibility with my webcam on my 64bit OS. Its a really specific bug (only 64bit systems with that webcam with skype) so I doubt anyone would fix the problem... so I would still have to use windows to skype... But mostly I'm really happy with Ubuntu.

Many cool visual stuff too. First there are more workspaces (like multiple screens... you can drag stuff off the screen into another workspace and the whole screen kinda flips into the new workspace) and then there's other stuff like an "expose" feature that allows you to zoom out and see all 4 of my webspaces (default is 2). Or you can enable this cube thing that allows you to see all 4 webspaces rolled around a cube. Or like in windows vista when u press the windows-tab key and you see a preview of the windows open in 3D mode - ubuntu has that too. Cool effects like when u drag a window, the window actually squishes and distorts as you drag it so u really feel like your dragging a real object. awesome stuff man. And the transparency stuff is uber fantastic too. Check out the screenshot.

Ok i'm hungry.. gotta go..

Frankly speaking

Thursday, my boss wore a tie and a suit. He doesn't usually do that so it was very unusual. Turns out he just had his meeting (I call it the exit interview) with HR, and was put "at risk of redundancy" (we all know it really means retrenchment). As mentioned in an earlier post, he had already decided to leave, so it was no surprise. But still it was a very sad day for me.

A few reasons why I'm upset. He's a really good guy. He's one of the last remaining people from my original bank before the takeover. He thinks highly of me. There is no-one now to fend for me. I'm like a little fish in an ocean - exposed to sharks and other predators.

That evening, he offered to drive me home (since he lives about 5mins drive away from me). After more than a year of working with him, I finally had a very frank conversation. I asked him questions like, "how do you decide who leaves?". He says usually the weakest leaves. I asked, "how did you decide on X?" (X is one other colleague who works for him and had to go.) He said that it was between X and Y and X hasn't had a lot of work to do. Then he reassured me that I really had nothing to worry about.

I asked him also about Z, this guy that doesn't really do much, who's a lot more senior than me. Unsure of how my boss would feel, I phrased it carefully... "What about Z? I don't know what he does." His reply was so damn straight... "Z? He fckin pisses me off man. I told N (his boss) that we should get rid of him, but he's too good friends with N. They were saying that they needed more senior people, especially if I'm leaving." Wow. I wouldn't have expected to hear something like that.

Sigh... All good things will come to an end. Its time to move on...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Computer issues

- Windows gave me the black desktop and a little (ok, actually a pretty big one) notification that "I may be a victim of counterfeiting".. Seriously, I have absolutely no idea how my copy of Windows isn't genuine... But I was fcking pissed off that they offered me a copy for 99 pounds (wtf man, winXP is almost obsolete and I can get it off the shelf for way less than that). I have decided to switch to Ubuntu. Haven't installed it yet, because...

- My fckn LAN connection died. No idea how or why. Just one morning, for no apparent reason, I couldn't see my network connection anymore. I'm using my laptop now, in case you're wondering. And I bought a LAN card. Hopefully that will work.

On the work front - business is slowly picking up and I'm getting busier. Which is good cause it keeps my mind off things and you leave the day knowing that you've done work. But as the date of when my boss leaves approaches, I feel more... alone.

Personal life - well, I'm trying play more sports. Going to the gym is boring the hell out of me. Trying to pick up tennis (I only played a few times so am nowhere near where I'd like to be) and continue on badminton. Racquet sports are definitely safer than contact sports like football... although safe to say my passion is still with football. Well, lets see how far I can keep this up. :)

And I bought my air tickets to Cali, flying off in June for a week. Should be good, though i should also start planning for it.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


You can read about it here.

Quite a turn, really. The NCCS (the umbrella body for the churches in Singapore) issued a statement saying it did not condone the use of the pulpit for the controversy; the pastor for the church of our savior apologised; the new exco was given a vote of no confidence and the former president has been reelected.

Hopefully the drama has come to an end.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Save AWARE part 2

It was late Sunday night, I was preparing to go to bed, when L messaged me, "check out the AWARE takeover, its big news in SG". I was intrigued by any kind of takeover... and if its big news it gotta be really good. Having the vaguest idea of AWARE, I typed "aware takeover" in google...

The first link I clicked praised the new exco (executive committee). The blogger thought that the old AWARE was "an organisation made up of the sort of Western educated Singaporean women of a certain social class whom I find particularly irksome." She congratulated the new exco, saying any change is better, and blamed the old guard (the former exco) for being complacent and sore losers.

Fine, I thought. But I still didn't know what AWARE was and what was the big deal. So I clicked the second link...I found out that the takeover was a conspiracy - the website showed lots of emails. I was short on time so I skimmed thru the emails and I saw a lot of these words, " I pray that", "May He in His almighty wisdom...", "God"... I got the creeps...

Then I got the link that finally clearly outlined the issue. The story, in my own simplified terms, is that AWARE, an associated for advocating women's rights, were deemed by a Christian church to be pro-homosexuality. Its not hard to see how it works - the church got its members to join AWARE, take part in the AGM and vote its own members into office, thus hijacking this once stable organisation for its own goals.

While ordinarily I would have said, "suck it up, old guards", the more I read about AWARE, the new exco and what they stand for, and how the takeover happened, the more concerned I got and the greater the injustice I felt.

I don't want to sound like biased but I do believe the truth is out there for people to draw their own conclusions. There are huge issues at stake here - it isn't really about the old guards being sore about losing control of AWARE. The issues, if you would forgive me for generalising, are:

Homosexuality - I saw a video given by a pastor at COOS (church of our saviour), the church which instigated the takeover, give a sermon about homosexuality. He proclaimed, based on the word of God, or the bible, that homosexuality is a sin. Anyone remember Galileo, who was prosecuted by the church for saying the earth rotates around the sun? Or the witch hunts back in the medieval times? The bible is open to interpretation. How can we allow an organisation, built on the promise of fighting for the rights of all women, discriminate against another group?

Ethics and Integrity - the way in which the AGM was hijacked was something you would only imagine in the brutal and evil world of corporate finance. Even I was amazed at how the new exco didn't invite one of their officers, because she was also a part of the original exco.

Religion - AWARE wasn't a christian group. It helped women of all race, religion and sexuality. Now its being run by a pro-christian organisation.

At the press conference, the new exco said they were surprised and upset by death threats that they've received. The curious thing, to me, is that they can't see the reason why! I'm not a woman, not gay, not in Singapore and not feminist, and yet I feel anger and resentment towards these people - is it so surprising that they've angered a lot of people?

The good news, as many people has pointed out, is that this saga has brought all these issues to discussion.

Sign the petition if you are like me, or even better, if you are able to attend the EGM, sign up as an AWARE member and go vote for justice!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


- getting late, I gotta go sleep but just want to highlight this issue. Will blog more about it when I get the time.

gosh there's just so much to write I don't even know where to begin.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Den of thieves

Reading this book called "Den of Thieves" by James B. Stewart, written some time ago about the insider trading scandal back in the 1980s, involving people like Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky and Martin Siegel. Don't blame you if you never heard of them...

Was introduced to this book by an accountant friend. She told me once that we are in evil jobs. I refused to accept that banking, as a profession, is evil. Will skip my arguments now - but at that time I was protesting quite a bit.

And now, reading through just like 20% of the book, I'm really starting to reconsider. Maybe its true... bankers are evil...

Easter Sunday

Went to Margate - a small town east of England at the coast to cycle on Easter Sunday. It was quite a last minute decision... Friday and Monday were bank holidays so it was a pretty long weekend, and all my closest friends had programmes already so I had to find my own. A colleague asked me to join him, so I was like, what the hell, lets do it! We got another 2 more colleagues to join us.

Was quite a relaxing day. We cycled in total for about 5 or 6 hours.. spent some time at a beach lazing in the sun. Some pictures below...

Golf course

Sun shining through the clouds

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Boss dropped a bombshell on me...

He called us (me and Colleague A) out for a coffee after the market closed. Now, we don't normally go out for coffee together, much less in the evening... I guessed something was up - maybe it was to do with the upcoming job cuts. Asking us out for coffee, the news can't be that bad... otherwise he wouldn't be the one telling us. So, a little apprehensively, but not-too-worriedly, I walked out the door with him.

After a few moments of inane, inconsequential conversation, he dropped the bomb. And it was a fast moving, exploding bomb... I didn't even hear the words carefully. I think I heard,

"... I am leaving the bank... end of May... so will be another two months... will maybe come back next year..."

I was stunned. We were making money this year. He had just closed several deals which not only cut our risk but made some money. And he was a geniunely nice guy who took care of us.

I learned he was planning to quit finance, go back to Greece, and start a family with his soon-to-be wife (in July). A reasonable explanation, one that I could definitely identify with. So I don't blame him, and am actually quite grateful for, thinking back to the past 2 months, he had been giving me more responsibility while being very nice (He would say, "would you like to do this? Only if you want to!").

But the question is, what does this mean for me?

I'll get a new boss, for sure. A few options - another senior colleague becomes my boss (in which case I'll most likely be VERY disillusioned), the head of another team becomes my boss as well (in which case I'll be stressed but I'll adapt and survive), or a head from asia comes over (in which case I'll probably just quit). Option B seems to be most likely - and me surviving.

Good news for me is that the bosses of my current boss knows about me and thinks pretty highly of me. The bad news is the other head (the one most likely to be my boss) doesn't think that.

Life goes on. I'm still collecting my salary. Wont get too stressed over it, don't worry :)