How we spent our Deepavali-Istana Visit

How we spent our Deepavali-Istana Visit

Dear Boys,

I decided to give your mum a ‘me time’ for the hardwork she put in helping you, Ian with your exams. So I took you boys out so that your mum can go for her nail message, compliments of Auntie Chai Ping.

Where can we go, 3 male members of the Lim family? The Istana was hosting an open house and it is free entry for Singaporeans, so why not? We packed up and headed out, looking forward to spending some time at the official residence of our President. After all, it is free entry and its been a long time since I’ve step foot in the Istana for a visit.

We reached the place and found it to be raining a little, and got heavier as we approached the Main Building. the compound is really a nice place to visit, with the sprawling greenery, and magnificent lawn. Once we passed the tight security, the first sight that draws us towards was the Swan pond.

Swan Pond. Admiring the Swan

The both of you were fascinated with the single white swan there and snapped pictures like it was the last living White Swan on earth. Thankfully the turf on the Istana ground is quite well maintained, despite of the rain, and wet grounds didn’t translate into a muddy quagmire, despite of the heavy trampling by the large crowds.

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As we walked up and towards the slight gradient, the both of you chatted that this was where they saw on television the funeral procession of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and wondered where is the Sri Temasek.

The Sri Temasek

The premises was out of bounds and we can only stop to appreciate the diminutive building, where so much of our country’s history has happened there. While we watch, our minds played the mental image of Mr Lee’s cortege rolled out from the place, in a wet day no different from the day we visited Istana.

The Main Building

We had to seek refuge there along with many ‘un-umbrella’ folks, as the sky decided to open up on us. We learned from a Scout there, that we can actually buy a ticket to go into Istana for a house tour. With nothing better to do, I decided to leave the 2 of you with the Scout and headed out in the downpour to get the tickets. There is no photo taking allowed inside so we have to keep our pictures in our head.

The interior is a grand place, which is of course, as we have to host our nation’s guests there. There is an air of importance as well as decorum, you can’t help but feel the importance of such a place to us ordinary Singaporeans. it is important that we host our country’s guests in the highest pristine so that we get the respect and voice in the global community.

The Gun Terrace

This is certainly the highlight for the both of you as you boys take turns to take pictures of it, walk around it and explore this World War 2 relic.

The Military Guardroom

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We did a few fun shots there with a few ornamental mini cannons, your little brother, as usual, is such a pain when it comes to making him look at the camera and do a decent pose!

Our signature childhood photo

This is the kind of photograph where we can look back, decades from now and relish the memories. I am sure many of us and our parents out there has a photo like that taken with a soldier standing at attention. This will certainly be a journey I hope the 2 of you can cherish and remember fondly.

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Posted November 19, 2015

Meeting my MATADOR (Army Story)

300px-MATADOR_Stand

Dear Boys,

Let me tell you an Army story.

During your father’s Reservist, he has fired a MATADOR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MATADOR). This is an Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW), that is in used with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Our unit was given some organic weapons training, the NSmen were given a few choices: M-16/SAR21, Ultimax 100/SAW, GPMG, or the MATADOR. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I chose MATADOR.

I mean, who in this world actually get a chance to fire a real anti-tank rocket? It was a chance too good to pass up!

Of course there was a familiarization lessons to go through. We handled the dummy version, understand the immediate action (IA) drill in case the weapon malfunction. This mainly have to do with the weapon not firing and we have to leave the weapon, more gently than you put a sleeping baby down! Any jerk could set off the malfunction weapon and blow everybody up with the most unintended consequences! The reality is that it can be nerve wrecking to know if that high explosive thing you put on your shoulder failed to go off.

Anyway, we went through some technical handling and we made it to the MATADOR range, which was actually an open area where we get to shoot at some metal targets simulating vehicles. Since a single live MATADOR cost more than S$10,000, the army has to make sure we are familiar with it. So we were given to sub-munition rounds to get ourselves familiar with whole drill of handling the MATADOR. There were 2 rounds of sub-munitions for us to shoot at the targets. So when we squeeze the trigger, a small projectile will be sent flying towards the target. Piece of cake.

When it came to the real thing, all of us got somber and serious. We were told that the MATADOR packed a nasty back blast, and true enough the amount of back blast was phenomenal. Anyone standing 5 meters behind it will be severely injured by the back blast. No joke, it threw a blast a good 10 meters or more.

Matador

Because it was an expensive round to fire, everyone only have one chance. and due to some military mess up, I was the last shooter for the entire cohort.

It was an exciting moment as I hefted the real thing onto my right shoulder and as I peered through the simple sights, I took aim at the big vehicle shaped metal sheet, about 250m ahead, well within the MATADOR’s maximum 500m range.

So I repeated the commands and grasp the pistol grip and flicked the safety off. The moment of truth.

Nothing prepared me for what was going to happen.

BOOM!

I squeezed the trigger and was totally taken by surprise the amount of recoil of the weapon packed. And the amount of smoke! I totally lost sight of the target momentarily.

When the smoke cleared, I couldn’t hear what the trainer was trying to tell me, I pulled my earplugs off while I exited the little mold of earth making up the firing point, everyone at the training shed was on their feet cheering!

I thought they were cheering since I was the last firing, so I lifted the empty, and light MATADOR casing in bravado. It was later when I reached the training shed that I realise what my buddies were cheering about.

As I didn’t prepare for the recoil, the warhead was jerked upwards when it left the MATADOR. Hence with an upward trajectory, the warhead totally missed the target and instead flew for its maximum 500 meters and landed beyond the range parameters!

It probably blew up some tree and killed some ants. What a way to waste a $10,000 weapon!

Link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10154083797606063

The “Bastard” Story

The “Bastard” Story

Dear Ian,

You have been acquainted to the word ‘Bastard”. No thanks to some kid in your school.

Well, this might be something we forget years from now, but it is one of those things that we would like to pen down.

You came home yesterday and asked your mum, “What is the meaning of Bastard?” Your mum, shocked to even hear you mention the word, told you in a reactive rebuke, it is of course, a ‘bad’ word. And she asked you if you’ve used it. And you obviously said ‘no’.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

What we learned from you was that someone in school used the ‘B’ word on you during your basketball training, and it was, in your account, perhaps the senior boys, in Primary 4, 5 or 6. who scolded you and added the ‘B’ word.

On top of that, there is this kid who smacked you head with Colin’s from behind. And someone threw a ball at your face. Those rough and tough stuffs you can rough it out, tough it out.

The twist of the story came this morning, when Colin’s mum got a call from school from the teacher to tell her about what happened. Long story short. The teacher mentioned that you used the word ‘bastard’ in school. and Colin also said you did.

Your mum knew now, you used it, but you learned it from someone, and the teacher only caught you using it, but she is not aware that you learned it from someone else in the basketball lesson.

To set the records straight, your mum went to the teacher after class and clarified the matter. Not in your defense but to make sure that the facts are set right. You used the word, which you should aptly be punished. But you didn’t bring the word into the class, someone did, and you were caught using it. That doesn’t make you less ‘wrong’ but it matters that the teacher sees the situation from another angle.

So the point is this, Ian, you have to let us know what is going on in school, even if you are punished for some reason, or you did something wrong, please let us know. Because you could have been contextually right in the wrong content and vice versa.

Had we not set the records straight, you would have been branded the boy who brought the ‘bastard’ to school. We do not want such stereotypes on you, not like this.

Posted January 28, 2014

Your Parent’s 10th Wedding Anniversary

Your Parent’s 10th Wedding Anniversary

Dear Boys,

December 14th is a significant date for your parents for it is the day your parents got married. This year is our 10th year together, and indeed is has been quite a 3650 days!

I’ve booked a room with M hotel, the hotel in which we got married back in 2003. The room was a deluxe with a King size bed, I thought it could fit the 4 of us sleeping and it did! Well, we have to snuggle width of the bed.

It was a nice roomy room. And on top of the room, it was packaged with a one way paid trip into Sentosa. I told your mum it will be a “best of both worlds’. One was we can spend time in the hotel where we had our wedding dinner in, the other was Sentosa, where I proposed to your mother.

We ‘booked’ a London cab, since none of you boys has ever taken one. Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t able to get us one through the phone booking, as all the cabs are taken. Luckily for us, the hotel called back moments later and informed us that there was one London cab just down at the lobby having dropped of a passenger. What luck! We rushed down for the cab and it was an unforgettable ride!

We headed to Palawan beach, for the rope bridge where your dad proposed to your mum. The weather wasn’t in our favour this time as it started pouring which caused us to make a dash across the bridge and headed to one of the 2 towers at the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.

We soon found out that the rain was a blessing in disguise as it turned out that there was young couple on top of the tower, preparing their proposal! Well, the boyfriend got some friends to help him, and they tied some balloons around the wooden handrails, and the bride-to-be was supposed to pop the balloons to get the message. We chatted up with them and they loved Wayne so much that they get him to bring a balloon to the bride-to-be and pose with her as well.

We didn’t stay to find out the success of that proposal, as we have our own agenda to run, your mum and I, posed at the spot on the bridge, where I put the ring into her finger. It is still as memorable as if it was only yesterday.

We head back to the hotel and you boys had such a splash in the bath tub. We used up all the light sticks I bought and when the lights was turned off, the bath tub emits a funky glow of green, red, blue and yellow. It was such a splash! Well, that has to come to an end when I see your 弟弟 shivering from the cold water!

While you boys were in the bathtub, Shakir, the hotel’s duty manager came up with our Anniversary Cake! It was a delicious Tiramisu cake, made to perfection. It was fluffy, light and sweet. It was so good we polished off the 1 kg cake that night. The 哥哥 who is not a cake lover, predictably couldn’t stomach his share which is to our delight! Your mum and I totally relish the cake.

We went down to the ballroom on the second floor where your parents walked down the isle. There was another couple getting married, doing the very thing we did 10 years ago, so we didn’t wanna crash their party. We took some discreet photos, and it must have look odd, thinking of it now, since we were at the wedding reception area, the parents in bermudas and slippers and the kids in their PJs!

We ended the day with all four of us squeezing into the King size bed and woke up early for another day of fun before we pack up.

Too bad, M hotel is a ‘business hotel’, because the swimming pool is not kid friendly. the shallowest part is 0.9 m and the deepest 2m, too deep for 弟弟to have fun, so we end up hoarding the Jacuzzi, both of them alternating between them.

We ended our day checking out and it was a day of great fun and memories.

Posted December 17, 2013

No off-days

No off-days

Garfield hate Mondays, just like many of us.  and when we reach TGIF, we all know what that means.

We all also know what it means when the holidays are here, birthdays, anniversaries, and all those special days.

Erm, wait…

Excellence and quality has no desire for a holiday. If you are good, you are good 365/24/7. There is simply no day offs for quality. If you think your life suck and you want the weekend to come quickly so that you can escape the weekday doldrums, then well, you are in for a jolly fool of a time.

I used to think that there is a ‘plateau effect’ in our learning curve. Sometimes when I was training, I will hit this feeling of flat-line, as if my learning is not getting anywhere. Or things seem to be turning into ‘SOS’, Same Old Shit’ mentality.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

There is no such thing as a plateau, flat line or whatever you call that. There is simply no off-days, if you are good, you will continue to be good, whether you like it or not. If you are bad, and you continue to train diligently, you will become good, at something you used to be bad at.

Hell, even if you are piss poor lousy with something, there is no off-days too! So since there is no off-days whatsoever, good or bad, keep going at it, like it or not. do not give yourself, the delusion of an ‘off-day’. No one has a holiday, even when you are on a holiday, you will continue to do what you are doing, your life never takes a day off. you will continue to carry yourself to wherever you are going, wherever you are heading to, so don’t lie to yourself, and give yourself a break. there is no such thing.

You only rest, truly rest, when you are  dead. As long as you are alive, continue to live, work on your bad, better your good.

Posted on November 13, 2012

The Truth is out there

The Truth is out there

Singapore is gripped by elections fever. There is so much being said and said about the sayings that it can get annoying at times. Thankfully, the politicians here are still rather civil and stick with war of words, verbal accusations, telling lies after lies, there are no political assassinations, overt political blackmails, and other more severe and darker forms of politics.

There is one thing that is going on though, the ‘Truth’. Well, it’s commonly known that truth is very different from facts. and what politicians like to do is merge the two so as to make facts and truths favors them more than it favors their opponent.

We, the general public, the very folks these politicians are trying to romance will be swayed here, there everywhere, by the truths and facts as spoken by politicians. Well, my personal opinion is that there is no honest politicians there as much as there are still Tasmanian Tigers roaming around in Tasmania.

So it interests me by certain comments and remarks posted in Facebook or some other public domain by politicians and common folks alike, cussing or clamoring the deeds and duties done and discharged for and by politicians. Politics is a dirty and complex domain, and it takes more than us layperson to understand and make sense of the underlying agendas these politicians have. Surely it takes more than fervent and fiery rhetoric for a person to fully understand the effects of politics on the general public.

Admittedly I am politically ‘atheistic’, if I may borrow the term, as I know that politics are well out of reach of my grey matter. All my training and orientations align me to the path of least resistance. the easiest of the easy way out. I can never work hard for the people, and I can never get people to vote for me, I’m not smart, neither am I handsome, so I can never win the popularity race to begin with. My policies and ideals mattered only to me and me alone. I am out to make my own life good, irrespective of the political climate. if the policy works against me, I’d find another way around it, or find another method. So it doesn’t matter who I vote for, I vote for my own effectiveness and ingenuity. The choice I make is the true spirit of democracy, if there is ever such a thing.

Plainly, politicians are nothing more than glorified washing machine sales people, and liars to the boot, it doesn’t matter which ‘brand’ they peddle, as long as they cannot get to the truths, there are a level of lying applied. I am as good a liar as any, so I don’t need to lie to myself by voting for a bunch of liars.

More fundamentally, I know for sure that the truths and facts spoken are much much more complex than what is being ‘sold’ by these politicians. Their policies will benefit no one else other than themselves, first, then whoever is left standing, thereafter. Everyone and everywhere works like that. And politics is the art of lying at its best.

Posted on April 26, 2011

The Human Race is good for nothing!

The Human Race is good for nothing!

Dear boys,

Think about it, What is a single human being good for? What is the human race good for?

We all live such purposeful lives and we as your parents train you, educate you and hope that you boys can be of some use.

Some use for what? To do what?

Taking a quote from Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi when she visited Singapore 24 September 2013:

Speaking to reporters at a press conference later in the evening, Ms Suu Kyi recounted her visit to ITE College East, where she made a remark to Singapore officials that “education in Singapore, as in many other countries, seems to be workforce oriented”.

“That made me think … what is the purpose of a workforce … of work … of material wealth? Is that the ultimate aim of human beings, is that what we all want? In a sense, I want to probe more into successes of Singapore and to find out what we can achieve beyond that.”

(Source: http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/myanmar-should-not-seek-recreate-spores-policies)

Really?

What is all these education for? What is our purpose? To be successful? To do something? To do what? A whole chunk of the human races has evolved and we are no closer to answering the most basic question. “Who am I?” Education didn’t help, sure as hell the Theory of Relativity didn’t do squat to answer that question. (perhaps, you dad is being too naïve to have an answer to that part.)

And all that we do, is in hope that we can hedge our pittance of a life against Death.

I had a chat with Steven and we talked about business and life. There is always a thing to be done in life, there is always some form of time, and if you die before you are supposed to do what you are supposed to do, then… that’s it!

No one really knows what is a human being good for, and perhaps those who knew, only learned about it on their last twitch of life. We are, really, really never going to find out what we are here for, No one knows and no one will ever find out. The purpose of life.

So can we make something positive out of life? Sure, but does it matter?

Can we face the challenges in life with gusto, sure? Then when Death, the great leveler comes, what makes of our effort?

I wish I could give you a short and sweet answer, but if I did, I’d probably be lying, because honest to goodness, you dad, is still struggling in life. Sometimes, he does gets a brief epiphany of insight, but more often than not, he is kind of wasting his life away.

But if life is not meant to be wasted away, then what is, life, good for? Go figure it out, boys.

Posted October 25, 2013

Winning and losing is not competition

Winning and losing is not competition

We have a competitive nature, it forms the basis of our existence, we see competition in all aspects of life. Even in the animal kingdom, some animals have to compete for the alpha male position, and mate with the best female member of the tribe.

Competition helps us not only survive but thrive. When we compete in with a constructive spirit, we develop ourselves, we make things better for others. When we challenge status quo, and succeed, we inspire others to make the impossible, possible. We set a higher standards for ourselves so that others can emulate. Well, that isn’t so bad, when we look at the spirit of competitiveness in a positive manner.

When we add in an element of winning, that changes the entire equation, and puts the ego in charge. You see, life is about competition, winning, and the other poor impostor, losing, isn’t. In life there is no losing, nor winning. There is only the strive to exist, for some to be the best they can be. Which is still fine.

When you pit one human being against another, and determine, who wins and loses. Then that violates the spirit of competitiveness. All human beings are equal, like no other, and because each of us is unique, we can never be better than anyone else other than us. We can only be better than ourselves.

“No one wins, no one loses. We all compete and we all become better.”

To say that there are no competition in Aikido, would have taken things a little bit out of context, there are still some level of competition, but there are also a lot of compassion. We see each of us in Aikido as strugglers. I see my junior belt students struggle, I can understand that and will try to help them the best I can, so that they can be a better person tomorrow, so that they can compete against themselves, and become a better person. The junior belts are not competing against me to win something, and when they get the better of me, I didn’t lose anything, we are all humans and we have slip ups, and to put a win/lose duality into competition, that would have skewed the reality.

This is compassionate competition. We push ourselves to be a person better tomorrow, than the person today. I help them, and they help me, we all help each other compete, and sometimes, we offer an external level of competition, just to help our fellow Aikidoka get out of their own shell, out of their own comfort zone. No one wins, no one loses. We all compete and we all become better.

This is the true meaning and strive of competition, not to win, not to gain medals and look good being a champion. We become our own champion, and held our strife as the ultimate trophy. We struggle, fall down, get up and fall down, this is life’s journey, not to win any thing, just to compete and make ourselves proud of who we are, a race of competitors, striving to make sure we become the best human being ever.

Posted on September 23, 2015

Class Chit Chat

Class Chit Chat

Before I start any class, I made a point to gather the students and did some pep talk. Well, you can call it a chit chat, a nag, or telling tales and stories. Perhaps it is public speaking practice for me.

I think as an ‘evergreen’ class, NUS Aikido will constantly face a challenge of a doctrine bleed. Which means certain practices and culture in the class will leave when the NUS student graduate and start their new life as working professionals. Very few will return to NUS to continue training and uphold the tradition, it is a fact. They will take away the experiences and practices, replaced with another batch of freshmen. So the reality it someone has to constantly remind them of Aikido etiquette and culture. Why we do this and that, and the dos and don’ts in the dojo.

So those newbies come with no idea how the Japanese conducts a martial arts class, so I pep talked them, doing some Corporate Communications perhaps, some Public Relations, making sure that Aikido’s brand values and propositions is constantly being upheld. That’s business jargon anyway.

More importantly, some of them have never met and only beginning to know Harry sensei, whereas I’ve been training with him for 2 decades. Like all human beings, he has his idiosyncrasies and there will be potential misunderstanding. It’s no secret that I am immensely proud to train under him and I constantly remind the student the privilege to receive Harry sensei’s teaching. And we must never take the class for granted, and do sloppy techniques, in doing so patronize him and pissing him off. I’ve said our class is ‘limited edition’, only a small group in Ceylon Sports Club and then there is NUS Aikido. Harry sensei is very well respected regionally and when I tell other people I train with Harry sensei, I always get a certain level of response as if there is an expectation on me to perform and conduct myself in a level reflecting that I’m Harry sensei’s student. I make sure that the new student knows that. Well, that is a heck of a lot of salesmanship there!

Also I explained to the newbies what Aikido is and is not, in my personal opinion, and this is to manage their expectations. I share with them why I joined, I was drawn into it by the Steven Seagal hype, many of the boys and girls don’t even know who Steven Seagal is anymore. I guide them into preparing them what to expect in class, not so much talking more doing, and certain unspoken rules and cultures.

Honestly, I’m not sure if my chit chat is appreciated or not, frankly I’m more bothered that if no one does it, the Aikido in NUS will lose the Aikido spirit, I can see that many of the students take Aikido class as another ‘class’ and other ‘lecture’ Yes, NUS Aikido is conducted in a University campus but in no way Aikido is another ‘lecture’. There are certain practices I hope to see discontinued when the opportunity arises. We need make sure that when an NUS Aikidoka visit other Aikido dojos, they carry with them basic courtesy and etiquette to help them forge ties and build friendship and most importantly, not bring disgrace to Harry sensei!

Posted on September 14, 2015

Collective Idiocy-Army story

bus buttons
picture sourced from google

Dear Boys,

I want to share a story about ‘collective idiocy’ that involved your father.

When I was an Army recruit, my training camp was back in Pulau Tekong and when it was time for us to book in, we have to find our own way back to Commando Jetty. So when it was time for us to book in, it is no surprise that you will see many botak (bald-headed) recruits on the same bus, since we are all booking in at the same time.

So this fateful night, we were on the bus, and heading towards a common destination, we all have to alight at the same bus-stop and of course we need to press the bell so that the bus driver will know there are passengers who were alighting.

A 2021 version of The RPL- Ramp Powered Launch-that takes us to Tekong

What happened was a matter of group-think towards collective stupidity.

We all, the recruits in the bus, knew we are all alighting at the same stop, and we all waited for one of us to press the bell, and anyone of us can, but no one did!

So we looked wide eyed as the bus zipped past our stop and everyone started pressing the bell in frantic. Too late, the bus driver simply ignored us, and take it that the bell we pressed was for the next stop.

So the bus alighted at the next stop and the whole group of us has to dumb,  dumb walk back to the earlier bus stop and towards Commando Jetty. No one said a thing about the incident, we didn’t have to, we all made a fool out of ourselves, and now thinking back more than 21 years later, the whole incident seems petty hilarious.

Posted June 18, 2015