Camping June 2022

Camping June 2022

Dear Boys,

We decided to spice up our lives for the June 2022 holidays by going camping. On our own. Woohoo.

With the limited space campsite available, we picked an offshore one, at Pulau Ubin, Jelutong Campsite, and one of the challenges will be getting ourselves cleaned. Unlike the campsites on Singapore, we are very much on our own at Pulau Ubin, and we have to lug our own drinking water there. So yeah, no bathing for the night.

Enter the Beast

So with the enhanced logistics, encumbered by water, we decided to buy The Beast, which is essentially a 4 wheeled cart that allows me to load the camping stuff and pull it there.

This is certainly very helpful as we don’t need to walk our supplies there on our back, and it helped us bring more stuff that which gives us greater comforts. This trip do gives us feedback on how to improve our next camping trip.

Setting up

We got there early and found a hut where we can use as a additional shelter and we got to work. Now that you boys are older, it is certainly more helpful with 2 extra pair of hands.

For our ‘bed’ we tried to use airmocks, and it looked something like this, we brought 2 along and unfortunately it didn’t work out as it was hot to sleep on, and we cannot hold the air in it and it deflates itself.

Our dinner, barbeque!

Setting up the fire isn’t a big deal and we learned to us a portable battery operated fan to help speed things up. This is also another learning point for us which we will talk about later.

Played with fire, knives and sticks

It was after all the great outdoors and I brought along my SOG Seal Pup and SOG Force knives for play, and thankfully you boys handled the sharp items well and got to have fun shaping branches into ‘spears’ and other sticks for fun and play.

Jeluntong Campsite has a designated spot for us to start campfires, but we didn’t have anything large enough to burn and it was harder than it looks trying to start a fire on our own.

Things we learned

Bring a fan, a big one.

The small little USB fan was really heaven, but it had to be held by hand, and the wind wasn’t strong enough to bring enough ventilation for our hot, humid night there, we barely catch any sleep, and you mum certainly didn’t as she held the fan up throughout the night.

So now we got this bad boy which has it’s own internal battery to last a lot longer, it has it’s own legs, or we can hang it, it also come with LED lights so it is the perfect tool for our next camping trip!

Inflatable mattress

Yoga mats won’t cut it, ground sheet is a no, no. we are going to sleep with some comfort, and we are definitely getting one of these. It will be softer and keeps us off the ground, so the next time we do this, we are all going to get some sleep!

Make sure you have camping permits

Our expereince in ubin showed us how safe Singapore is, the Police still did their rounds, twice checking in on us and our permits. They were friendly enough to warned us on some of the wildlife we might encounter, such as pythons and monkeys. We did come across some hogs which are residents to Pulau Ubin.

Great fun

This was certainly a very different experience from the one we had back in 2017, as back then we camping in a larger group, and had activities set up for us to enjoy, there was also food provided, but this one we really lived on our own, having our own freedom to just enjoy the wilderness and being responsible for our own stuffs.

Camping 2017

Camping 2017

Dear Boys,

Taking us back to memory lane where we did not just one, but 2 camping trips back in 2017

Camping #1

It was also at this camping event that we got our outdoor tent and also Wayne’s very first abseiling experience, (Ian chickened out, fear of heights)

I can never forget how for day one, the weather came out to play and it poured. Thankfully this also puts our new tents to the test and it held up, our contents was dry, even though everywhere was wet.

Despite of all that, we still had fun and after the rain receded, we managed to do a few rounds of abseiling which Wayne love and Ian didn’t. For that camp, Wayne had the honor of being the youngest to try to abseiling course.

We also had good fun knowing that a few of our neighbors/ classmates went along, and that build on the familiarity and bonding we have.

December 2017 Camping #2

Coincidentally we also had a camping event in December with another group from the community club, and the campsite brought us to another part of Singapore we seldom get a chance to explore, PAssion WaVe @ Sembawang.

This puts us in a very out of the way spot but it does give us a very rustic feel, and unlike the one in Pasir Ris, where we get to pitch on grass, we had to pitch our tents on concrete floor, not the best place to sleep on but we have to make do.

Stand-up Paddling, Star Gazing and Morning Tidal walk

It was at this place where I get to experience Stand-up Paddling, didn’t like it. The rest of the campsite staff also brought us out to do a bit of star-gazing but it was a valiant effort, since the Singapore night sky is usually brightly lite and polluted with artificial light. Not to mention the amount of clouds covering the night sky, we didn’t see much stars but we did appreciate the effort as well as the night walk.

We went out at low tide to look at some of the sea creatures and fishes that is trapped in some of the shallows.

Overall I think it was good fun back then and we were glad to have this experience, it certainly made our highlights and helps cement the reality that Wayne is adventurous go-getter!

Explore more on the Ground

Explore more on the Ground

Dear Boys,

Sometimes, everyday chore can expose us to a better way of doing things, even when we have been doing the same thing everyday.

This happens to me when I was cycling to work. Yes, since your dad’s office is a scant 11km away, I will try to cycle to work, as much as practicable and the weather allows.

The Beauty of Google Maps

Of course, there is a plethora of mapping technologies on the web these days, we can plot till we foam in the mouth before we embark on our journey. While this level of planning is great, this is also why we have an entire generation of armchair critics. Knowledge you get from mapping helps you plan, knowing if your plan will work or not, depends on the people who have actually been there, and walked the ground.

Nothing beats putting your foot on the ground

In my context, put the pedal to the ground.

Looking at these 2 maps, they look discernably indifferent, with only a 30m between the 2, while on the ground, the experience is another story altogether. If you look between the 5km and 7km part between the 2 maps, lies the difference.

My default route is the 11.246km one, and while I have used it many many times, there is more complexities to overcome, not a big deal, but more.

There is 2 T-junctions (uncontrolled) I have to look out for, many bus stops with pedestrian traffic as Hougang Ave 3 is a major road with many bus plying this route. As this is the official park connector route, there are also more cyclists, like me, using it. Oh not to mention a petrol station along this road, which vehicles I have to be careful of.

My new route the 11.213km, however, is a unused gem. Defu Ave 1 is not as crowded, there are 2 T Junctions, one which has a traffic light. Less pedestrian traffic, since less bus ply this road. It has a clean gentle uphill (towards work) and the ride is generally more pleasant. the incline is reversed when I head home and it does help makes the ride faster, and I don’t have a petrol station to contend with.

It is even more defined when I am using the left side of the pavement, and not the right side, which will put you in the path of 6 T junctions, one of them is the main gate of SBST Hougang Bus depot, with buses turning in and out. Gnarly.

Not many people can tell you the difference in using these few choices and pick the best one out any given day.

Walk the walk, the talk the walk

You really need to walk the ground in whatever you do, this level of knowledge and detail beats any kind of hypothesis hands down. So while you boys go on to attain knowledge in your respective field, nothing beats hands-on, hard work. This level of experience cannot be attained the easy way.

No Augmented Reality, simulation, reading up, map plotting can get you there by actually walking, and for my case, pedaling. The Direct Feedback you get being there gives you the first hand knowledge which you can rely on, and others can count on, instead of just depending on Google map.

Finders, Keeper

Finders, Keeper

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

Ian bellowed across the supermarket aisle at the frozen section.

Dear Ian,

Sometimes it is not the best way to tell people about your serendipitous wealth.

The Law of Finder’s Keepers.

Your mum told me about something like this when she was about 5, your little brother’s age. She was with her mum, on a Sunday going to the market, her mum was walking in front, when your mum was blocked by a $50 note lying on the ground in front of her.

She too shouted for her mum. This time she said: “There’s a $50 on the ground!” repeatedly, whilst her mum was gesturing repeatedly at her to pick it up and shut her gap.

She did, pick up the wet note and her mum took it away from her.

That was her.

For us, I saw the lonely $2 on the floor, unbelievably, no one saw it, and it is not as if the aisle is vacated. I walked a pick it up and kept it, of course. But not without Ian telling the whole world your dad’s keeps.

Well, boys, it isn’t the easiest thing to do as to explain the law of such finds. I mean, what is someone walks up and say, hey that is my $2! What can I say? What can you say?

This is one of life’s grey area, there is no right no wrong to it, but you cannot simply just leave the $2 buck on the floor! If you don’t pick it up, someone else would and guess what, finders, keepers!

Published: October 7, 2014

Atrophy, Homeostasis and Growth

Dear Boys,

Netflix is fine, as long as it is the last thing on your task.

As we draw closer to the end of 2022, there are still a few things on our plate to complete, for Wayne, it will be his final year exams. For you Ian, well, you have an uphill task ahead as well.

Despite of these big hurdles looming, I come home one day to see both of you on Netflix.

Since the both of you are already of age, I cannot kick anymore sense into the both of you, except to urge action.

What did Newton says about action? Or was it motion?

An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion at constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.

That leads us into this interesting thing about human dynamics

Atrophy

Humans or anything organic for that matter, does not stay still. Everything in this world is constantly in a flux, whether you see if or you don’t. Things are constantly moving, changing, evolving, and growing. There is always action, somewhere, somehow. Nothing is fully ‘at rest’.

What happens when you don’t move? You decline. You wilt.

That’s why your dad is constantly exercising, moving and getting some activity, any opportunity given. If I can sneak a 20-lap swim during my lunch time, I would; if the distance is not too big, I’d cycle to work, and I’m doing that twice a week. Aikido every Monday. Anything just to move, because if I don’t I know my bodily woes will catch up. I will fall ill, I get hurt and won’t heal so quickly. Mentally I won’t be ship shape, its a gradual downhill that will lead to an uncontrolled free fall.

Atrophy happens if you do not stay active and stay in motion.

Homeostasis

Even if we constantly stay in motion, we stay constant, and consistent, then we are doing the bare minimum, keeping our lives happily humming along. Everything is find and dandy, watch Netflix all day and nothing will happen, sun rise, sun set. Things stays in equilibrium.

That’s where we plateau, on this large flat featureless surface, where nothing is challenging and nothing is challenged. It’s a pleasant plain vanilla where you just watch the clouds go by. You won’t degrade, but you won’t progress as well.

Just a word of caution, life eventually catches up and one fine day your homeostasis might lead to atrophy even before you can say Oops!

Growth

This is where fear, unknown, trepidation, round-the-corner monster, resides. If you can constantly challenge yourself and find a higher calling, you will look up and you will climb. Hopefully you have seen what your better self can achieve and aim for it.

Growth is not about ‘constant motion’, it is about deliberate, activated additional actions, decisions, planning and go-getting. It is tiring, takes effort and sometimes, you fail, plans goes south. Murphy’s Law comes to play.

You boys have strived and achieved goals before, not big goals but goals you both can be personally proud of, you own personal bragging rights. Use these achievements to build your confidence on, and climb. Small wins leads to big wins.

That’s life’s non-negotiable fact, you don’t climb, you’ll stay still, and if you stay still long enough, you’ll slide back, and once that happens un-arrested, then good luck, you’ll hit the infinite bottom and the climb back up is going to be another hell of a story to tell. I hope we don’t have to tell that kind of story.

Life’s like riding a bicycle

This is very much a cliché but it is true, you stop cycling, you fall off your bicycle, it is, really as simple as that, so please, for your own excellence and growth, never stop hustling, pedaling, grinding and striving.

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Dear Ian,

One thing we learned in our planning is that we need a lot of communication, constant talk, and making sure that we communicate our expectations, goals, obstacles, challenges, adversaries and friends. This kind of communication is important all round, because it helps you keep close, tactical, on the ground tab on what is happening and if you would be able to meet your goals as planned.

This communication is starts with yourself!

Self talk has a lot of taboo. People thinks that people who talks to themselves, sometimes a bit too loudly, are crazy people. Well, your dad is one of those crazy people. When I was younger, I would break out into a crazy dance when I’m in the mood with a song.

Then again, I learned that self talk can bring out a different creature in you!

I used to scold myself, and belittle myself, with a lot of profanities and vulgarities. Constantly playing the role of a ‘Drill Sergeant’ to myself, nothing I did for myself was good enough, and everything I did was bad enough for a string of profanities, all aimed at myself.

Then as I grew older, I learned to love myself more, accept me for who I am and the things I can do and cannot do. Well you call that maturity, I call that meeting reality once too many times!

The bottom line is this, you have to have constant objective feedback to yourself, is your plans working, is your goals achievable and is what you are currently doing helping you work your ways towards your goals? you have a chance to learn and get exposed to many things I only learned in my twenties. You have a head start, and you need to tell yourself that you have an advantage over your dad’s generation and you need to work hard to make sure that you use that edge!

Please talk to yourself more, make yourself your own best friend, and learn to negotiate with your own expectations. And make sure that you talk to yourself in the best possible language.

Published: December 30, 2014

Blk 49 Bedok South Ave 3…no more

Blk 49 Bedok South Ave 3…no more

Dear Boys,

In the constantly changing Singapore landscape, another one of your dad’s past has bitten the dust, literally.

I grew up at this address: Blk 49 Bedok South Ave 3, 11-220 Singapore 1646, until my parents divorced back in the early 1990s. This address holds a lot of fond (and not-so-fond) memories, nonetheless, it has nostalgic values to me.

This plot of land certainly holds no nostalgia to the Singapore government as they finally figured out what they want to do with the whole place. While I didn’t track the progress, Google map showed the place was in the process of being torn down back in Aug 2021.

Street view Aug 2021 from Google Maps

I’m not sure what is the grand scheme of things in the Government’s playbook for this place, but I’m glad I captured some memories back in 2009 and 2018.

Back in 2009, it was already a kind of laid back, old neighborhood feel, there is still a people staying there, and it felt like it will stay like this forever, albeit the place getting quite staid and stagnant.

There is certainly a deep sense of memory for me, lots of childhood experiences there, of course my friends and classmate were all around the neighborhood. I went to the nearby school Bedok View Secondary School for 2 years before I dropped out. By 15 years of age, I have to grow up real fast, that’s a story for another time.

There was however, a different fate planned for my Block 49, as the place was barricaded as if the end is near. I couldn’t go up the block, so I went to Block 47 instead to take some pictures. While Block 49 was completely vacant, and locked out. I could still go up Block 47 and took some pictures.

Of course such skyline picture no longer exists, as the whole estate is now nothing but a flat grass field.

2018

I chance upon a visit back in 2018, again for reasons I cannot remember, and the whole place seems to come to life again, as the government has rented the place out for foreigners to stay. Even my Block 49 was open for residency.

There’s some sense of life, and perhaps the place has found new uses.

The street Directory view 2001, 2007 and 2022

As you can see from the 3 copies of Street Directories, they whole estate Blk 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 and 50 was still around back in 2001, still there in 2007. Bedok View Primary School in 2011, which I attended from Primary 4 to Primary 6 was still around as well, but come 2007, my primary school disappeared, the blocks are still there. But come 2022, my former primary school has been repurposed to become APSN (Association for Persons with Special Needs) school; and all the blocks are gone.

2022

This is just and empty field.

Gone are any semblance or trace of my old estate, not a single shred of evidence that many families was raised there, people lived and died, grown up, or grown away. All the carparks, old rain trees, jogging tracks and shelters are gone.

All that remains is my fickle memories to hold on and tell stories about my life when there was still Blk 49, Bedok South Ave 3, #11-220 Singapore 1646

The sunflower doesn’t wait

SUNFLOWER

Dear Ian,

I bought your mum a bouquet of sunflowers last week, and you enthusiastically took the initiative to want to draw the sunflower.

We were of course open and positive to your idea.

2 days later, I asked you about it, you told me you’ll do that next week.

My dear son, the Sunflower will wither and die.

You see, the sunflower will not wait for you to finish your paintings, the sunflower has its own schedule to follow and it does not gives a hoot about you and your drawing. It doesn’t care about what you want to do, capturing its beauty and essence. When it withers, it will wither.

Life is like that, we cannot wait and wait for you to do your things, life has its own schedule and timing. and it is nothing personal. The sun will rise and set, and there is no way you or anyone else can say, “Hey, wait a moment! Don’t set yet! I’m not done with today’s work!”

You can get angry with the sun, the sunflowers and everything that is external of you that you cannot control and there is nothing you can do about it. It is unreasonable, rude and impersonal.

When you want to do something, do it quickly and with all your energy, once that is done, leave it aside and move on to something else. Don’t wait and dwell for things to happen. Go out there and make the sunflower happen!

SUNFLOWER 2

What should we get for your mum the next time? 

first posted December 8, 2014

Adulting 101- Handling Chemicals

Adulting 101- Handling Chemicals

Dear Boys,

In our modern world, you will have to handle all sorts of chemicals when you have to clean things, or clean yourself. Soaps, detergents, bleaches, body lotions, antiseptic lotion, mouth wash, insecticides and a lot more. A lot of the things we eat contains chemicals as well, but that is another topic for some other day.

Today we talk about the poisonous ones.

Some of these chemical are essential for you to clean out stubborn stains, kill germs and also the smell that comes along with moldy growth and bacteria build up.

You will need to choose the ones that has the best effect. Some of these chemicals cleans wells because they are very concentrated and we will not work very well under a prolonged exposure to them.

Bleach Poisoning

THIS IS REAL.

It happened to a guy, when he was using bleach in a confined place and he inhaled too much chlorine and thankfully he was able to get himself to the hospital and they managed to save him from burning his lungs.

This is real because it almost happen to me, when I was using a ‘Seriously Thick Bleach’ cleaning the bathroom floor. I was so happy the chemical lifted the stubborn dirt just like that, and I cheerily poured more onto the floor. and soon enough, the place was filled with invisible chlorine vapors.

Thankfully I read about the case, and brought a fan to give some ventilation, but it was a tad too late. While I didn’t need to go to the hospital, but I end up with a wheezing dry cough, which took a day to go away.

Another very strong bleach

Dishwashing Liquid

Other chemicals can be dish washing detergent, and when you use them, you must make sure you rinse your crockeries properly to wash the residue off. Also you need to put enough to make sure the grimes and oils are washed off. It’s a fine line but after some practice you should be able to get it. If you taste the soap, means you didn’t rinse it properly, can’t miss the signs, it’s damn obvious. The bubbles are visual cues you’ll need to put extra rinse as well.

There is a plethora of brands all clamoring with the magic of washing oil and grease ‘effortlessly’. Gentle on hands, easy rinse and all that slogans

Don’t buy into that, it is all marketing to get you to buy their stuff. Usually I’ll get the cheapest ones. After some trial and error, you’ll find a decent brand that is not too expensive and yet promises to do all that. Please don’t go for the expensive stuff, you will be literally washing your money down the drain.

Washing your cloths

Washing machines are ubiquitous these days and we will need a decent detergent. We are currently using a liquid detergent and we love the smell and how ‘clean’ our clothes came out. The detergent also promises to kill germs, remove sweat smell, and is tough on stains.

We also add ‘Dettol’ into the machine, for added antiseptic reasons. and it is a good mix, our cloths smells nice and not like the hospital.

Choosing this too us a bit of trail and error as well, and we didn’t like powered ones, this worked fine and until it doesn’t or they discontinue this brand, we will most likely stick with this.

Oh we don’t use softeners simply because we find no use for them. In fact using them leaves a kind of smoothness on our clothes and it isn’t really a good thing, because softeners don’t really ‘soften’ your clothes, it simply leaves a light coat of some chemical on your fabric and you’ll think that it is ‘softer’.

Cleaning your Washing Machine drum

Oh you will occasionally need do a drum clean on your washing machine so that the machine can ‘detox’ itself from any residual washing machine detergents and other funny chemicals which you might have added. Cleaning your washing machine helps it better clean your clothes.

Personal Hygiene

These are the usual suspects, of course, we didn’t include shaving cream for guys, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, facial wash, and other stuffs we put on ourselves so that we can be clean.

Again, there are many brands out there that tells you how they can out-clean you away from the competitions. We don’t have a hard and fast rule but we will buy one, try it and stick with it. Cost is a big factor here, and we usually won’t buy the really expensive ones, and we also will try to stay away from the really cheap ones, as we might perceive those as harsher to the skin and makes our beautiful skin drier.

National Service

Dear Boys.

I’ve completed my national service!

In case you do not have National Service in the not-so-distant future, it is basically a mandatory service all young men have to perform, in one of the few uniformed service, such as the Police Force, Civil Defence, or the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) branch like, Navy, Air Force or the Army.

I was in the Army, and since I was enlisted at the age of 18, more than 21 years ago, my vocation has always been a Regimental Policeman (RP), and right now, the SAF called it ‘Security Trooper’ just another name for military security guard.

In total, looking back, I spent more than 2 decades on this, 2 years as a full time NSF, and 7 years in hiatus, before being called up at the age of 27 to serve in this battalion for the next 12 years.

Since then a couple of things has changed.

The camouflaged uniform as went from ‘patches’ to ‘pixels

image.img
P_20150315_230054

The weapons went from M-16 to SAR-21

M-16
SAR 21

The Trucks went from a 3 tonner to a 5 tonner

3 tonner
5 tonner

My Camp went from Portsdown Camp to the modern Kranji Camp 3.

There is a lot more military ranks other than the usual Officers, specialists, and Warrant Officers. The SAF introduced something call ‘ME’- better known as ‘Military Experts’ rank.

The food at the cookhouse was also different. In my NSF time, there were actually cooks as a military vocations, now, the eating part of it has been totally outsourced, first to Singapore Food Industries (SFI) and now the later part SATS Food, the food used to be nutritionally bland, now at least there are occasional Ice-Creams and other yummy desserts.

But one thing didn’t change.

The attitude towards National Service, since it is a kind of mandatory duty, many people, including myself, sees it as a waste of time. It does not really add value to our civilian life, and more often than not, it is more of an inconvenience. Well to me, being some kind of a military bluff, I don’t mind it, but more importantly, I went with the flow and was discharging my duties in the least best way. well, I did the minimum, there are others, who did less than the minimum, bordering malingering.

After 21 years dabbling in civilian soldiering, one thing finally changed in me.

I begin to realise that you can still do good in a very bad situation. I can either choose to see it as a waste of time, and waste time, hence fulfilling a prophecy, or begin to do something good. Since this was my last ICT, I decide to do something different.

Network

I’ve been in the battalion for the past 12 years, I literally grew up with it. There are people I know that the newer NSmen wouldn’t know, processes and screw ups I’ve seen that gives me the confidence and maturity to handle a complicated situation. I also have a well established network of strangers turned friends. I know storemen, officers, Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSM), trainers, specialists and other new players to make my ICT experience better than those who just joined the battalion. Since I am leaving, I told my chums to take care of the new batches of RPs.

Doing more

Nobody, I mean absolutely nobody would want to ‘volunteer’ in the military, more often than not you get ‘volunteered’ to do something. This time, when my RSM tasked me to delegate a duty to one of my fellow RPs, I took on the task myself, and called upon a few other friends. I didn’t have a habit of volunteering people, so I volunteered myself, and it was a good experience, I learned a couple of more things through my willingness to take on a little more duties.

Can do attitude in a can’t do place

Admittedly, I do not have that. I wasn’t can do, but I just want things to be done, and been in there for so long, I know how things should be done, and I did it, my way, how it should be done. I realised that given all the rigidity in the military, as long as you prove that you can do it, you’d be left to do it on your own, with resources at your disposal. Of course, if you choose to cannot do it, then it cannot be done, with certainty!

On a high note

I’m quite thankful that I ended my last ICT on a high note, There was a Change of Command (CoC) for my battalion RSM, and the good got better, the outgoing Master Warrant Officer Chia was replaced by an Afghan-deployed 1st Warrant Officer Ang, he is a solid, albeit funny professional soldier, very approachable, very people-soldier. I left the unit with Major Sim at the helm, a fantastic Commanding Officer, the best out of the three that commanded the unit. I got a best soldier award on my last in camp, what else can I ask for?

(Pictures are sourced from Google. Picture of pixelised uniform belongs to me)

First posted March 16, 2015