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

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

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

Leaving a Legacy

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Dear Boys,

Joel’s Ah gong did one heck of a job with his garden. He took an empty piece of land and turned it into a little oasis that everyone can enjoy.

More importantly, he has build something to be left as a legacy. All of us will leave something behind when we die, the question is the what we leave behind. As your parents the biggest legacy I have and will continue when I die is the both of you, this is the most direct form of legacy. You will continue my genes, my stories and carry on my history. you will tell you children(if you plan to have children) about my stories, and your children(if your children plan to have children) will tell their children about my stories and yours. Legacies usually goes from word of mouth to word of mouth.

Sometimes having a legacy means that you leave your work undone, for people to continue. Work can be large or small. Mr Lee Kuan Yew left us the entire country as his legacy for us to continue, that is a monumental task!. For Joel’s Grandpa, his garden will be his legacy.

The pond.. where little fishes swims

It is a beautiful piece of work, and it is all him, he got the land from his Resident’s Committee, did the planting, and segregation, there is a little pond, some chilies plants, there is a small corner for cactus and it is all well spaced out. It is a simple piece of joy to walk in it and it will be a spot for everyone to enjoy! He is still working on it and every little plant and flower has been touched by his green hands.

Of course, he couldn’t have done it alone. But if he hadn’t started something, then other people can’t follow. His garden draws fellow gardeners there, to help him, and also to work and make the garden nicer.

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And gardening is a never-ending job, if you do it well, it can go on and on. There are constant challenges, in making sure the plants are watered, pests, kept at bay. When the plants bear fruits, you can distribute it to the community. when plants whiter and die, you grow new ones. and when Joel’s Grandpa dies, his garden will continue and someone has to take over the task. To keep up the good work. and when people look at how magnificent the garden is, they will remember the person who first bring about its fruition.

We will also remember him, because he has given us place that we can enjoy.

Posted July 22, 2015

Experiments and Experiences

Experiments and Experiences

Dear Boys,

Knowledge is gained though experiments, Life is live through experiences, never mix that 2 up.

So what is the difference? When you learn something, study a book, or subject, you will use your mental faculty, your brain,  you will do mental experiments first, and sometimes, real, actual experiments. From the experiments, you will gain experience. And having experience will help you in future experiments.

But while you experiment, do not forget that, the experiment in itself is also an experience. Life is always experiential, and the experiments we do is part of life. Our experiences gained in experiments feed back directly to our lives.

So don’t confuse what you know, with what you know about life. There is no such thing as an experimental life, everyone live their lives in full fidelity, there are no ‘controlled group’ for life ‘experiment’.  Life is a full on, in-your-face experience, and no 2 experiences is the same, whereas for Experiments, you can attempt to create and repeat an experiments with similar results, but life is never the same thing twice. With enough experiments under your belt, you will realize that you have become a Subject Matter Expert, that means that you have more experiments in your Subject Matter than experiences, and you are not converting your experiments into life experiences. In every subject ever conceived by Man, there is an Expert. but in life, there are no experts, everyone is an expert and novice at the same time.

So it is perfectly fine if you are an expert in one field, but please do not confuse that with your life in a larger picture, for your experiments does not equates life, life is experiences, made up of a collective amounts of experiments put together.

Posted October 27, 2013

What is a Flag?

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Dear Boys,

This should be an easy one, that is the Singapore Flag the both of you drew this year. We can look at all the flags of the countries around the world and give a symbolic meaning about it. Describe it, the design the meaning and the history behind it.

Singapore is not big; it can almost be capture in a single photograph.

It is just a picture, drawn by someone, 2 dimensional (OK, so the physical flag is 3 dimensional, fine.) While it is good to have something iconic, a flag cannot feed you, cannot give you sustenance. You cannot build your home on a flag, you cannot make friends on a flag, feed your family.

This is the real flag.

photograph of Singapore-sourced from Aaron Loh
photograph of Singapore-sourced from Aaron Loh

This is a picture of Singapore, taken by your dad’s friend. You can almost see the entire island, from Tuas all the way across the horizon to the East, Changi. You can go to Google Maps to get the entire map of Singapore, but this hazy picture take from the sky, tells the story of our home, Singapore is not big; it can almost be capture in a single photograph.

I’ve always held this thought. Most modern artillery has a maximum range of over 50 km, especially the German Panzerhaubitze 2000 (PzH 2000). It claims to have a range of 60 km. Which would means that if we place a PzH2000 in Changi end, and fire a round, that round can land in Tuas, 50 km away (that’s the entire length of Singapore, east to west). One battery of Pzh2000 stationed anywhere in Singapore, will most likely reach out to any targets in the island. That is how small we are, we really have nowhere to hide (perhaps on the outer islands?)

This is it, boys. Have a good look at the picture, really good look. That is where we stand, make friends, build our home, defend, die and bury our dead. The whole piece of rock, sand, water, grass, trees and concrete, it is nothing much. But if we give it up, even a bit, the whole landscape is redrawn. The symbolic flag stays the same, but we know, on the ground it never will be the same anymore.

So while we do project a significant leverage in the global community, it means nothing if we cannot hold ground. It means nothing if we cannot keep this land. Nothing else matters other than the ground we stand on, and this photograph, is the best testament, every single inch of this land, is a Singapore flag.

Posted January 5, 2016