Tuesday, August 31, 2004

OK, quiz time again.

You are Form 9, Vampire: The Undying.
"And The Vampire was all that remained on
the blood drowned creation. She attempted to
regrow life from the dead. But as she was
about to give the breath of life, she was
consumed in the flame of The Phoenix and the
cycle began again."

Some examples of the Vampire Form are Hades (Greek)
and Isis (Egyptian).The Vampire is associated with the concept of
death, the number 9, and the element of fire.Her sign is the eclipsed moon.
As a member of Form 9, you are a very realistic
individual. You may be a little idealistic,
but you are very grounded and down to earth.
You realize that not everything lasts, but you
savor every minute of the good times. While
you may sometimes find yourself lonely, you
have strong ties with people that will never be
broken. Vampires are the best friends to have
because they are sensible.

Which Mythological Form Are You?

... now, where did I put that cloak of mine ... = )

Monday, August 30, 2004


Was enjoying my post-lunch read of the newspapers, and every other page I turned seemed to have a slimming, weight-loss, bust-enhancement, or "wellness" ad on it. A quick and rough count showed 10 ads in the 44-page print edition of today's Streats were beauty/slimming related (and even the beauty/wellness ads were primarily about slimming), of which 8 were full page, and 1 was a double-page centrefold spread. That's 10 whole pages out of a 44 page newspaper, or almost 25% of the visual space. Not only that, but these ads also were in prime locations - the back page was one entire ad, and the others were in the first half of the newspaper. Oddly enough, few were in the sports section, which seems odd until you consider that most of these ads target people who don't want to work up a sweat to reduce weight, but who would rather take a pill, get some funny oil massaged into them, or get strapped into a machine to lose weight.

That's scary. It seems like some vicious, reinforcing cycle - "thin" is becoming synonymous with "beautiful". The other day, I was walking down Scotts road when I saw a woman wearing a button that read "Ask Me How I Lost Weight": advertising for one of these companies, presumably. She looked skeletal. She was a walking, breathing, moving slice of irony made flesh, except that there wasn't much of that either.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Fun With A GPS

Originally uploaded by CATch-up.
K commented that I, like a little boy with a new toy, have taken the GPS everywhere with me these two days.

But of course: it is a new toy, and it's meant to be taken places! = ) She took this photograph of it after our short kite-flying session today. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the GPS screen shows in exacting detail my torturous path running all over the field trying to get the kite aloft.

Kite-flying, of course, was tremendously fun: I've never flown a kite before in my life, so at 31, I finally got to do something new. (I remember reading a book about kites as a kid, and being able to recall in detail the various types of kites, but never having actually flown one). K's blog has a nice pic of the kite itself, an eagle-shaped kite that looked real enough for a sea-eagle (or was it a Brahminy Kite? - quite ironic if our kite were to be attacked by a Kite = ) to fly by for a look. He flew away after a while, probably convinced that this strange bird that kept diving into the ground was no threat.

StraightTail the Stray

Originally uploaded by Wahj.
StraightTail is a stray cat we first met a month or so ago. An extremely sociable cat: she almost followed us into the lift and came home with us!

We haven't seen her for a while, but tonight she was playing in the field down below. She seems to have been spayed (ear is clipped) which is a good thing, and she's just as friendly as ever. It also seems that someone has been taking care of her: she barely touched the food and water we gave her.

I wonder if she is related to Iffy: they both seem to be of the same age, have similar temperaments, and similar face shape. For example, StraightTail was pouncing all over the field tonight, chasing things that presumably only a cat can see, and as I write this, Iffy is savagely attacking a plastic bag in similar manner.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Generally Pissy Saturday

One of the restrictions I put on myself is not to name names, or talk about work on this blog. Which makes it difficult to refer in all but the vaguest terms to those moments when something bad happens. Such as today. Suffice to say that at a somewhat public seminar where I was co-presenting, someone pulled a fast one on me, and left me, as they say, with my ass hanging out to dry. What was supposed to be an objective and neutral discussion was turned partisan, said person turning it into an "us" versus "them" situation, with moi as the target. I did not enjoy being the target board for criticism: I certainly did not like the tone that was taken, and especially after I thought we had established an understanding of how things were to be done. I have no issue with what was said - rather, I have issues with the way it was run, and with being left in the lurch.

Anyway, that aside, some Good Parts Survived of this day: the aircon repairman called to delay the afternooon appointment, allowing me to finally go to town and Get Present for Self. And, if you haven't figured it out by now, this was it.

(took some tinkering with it to set it up right, but several years of repeat lessons from reservists had some good effect at least - I was able to set it up with the correct map datum from memory)

Friday, August 27, 2004

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Back To Work We Go

Back in the office. Random thoughts for today:

1. It's odd wearing work shoes after a week of wearing army boots - your feet feel insecure. My army boots are like a nasty old guard dog, ugly and scarred, but you appreciate the clunky protection and support they give you, the feeling of being able to tramp all over without having to worry about spraining an ankle. I may just wear them to work every day ...

2. Surprisingly few emails in my inbox - my "Out of Office" message must have worked. In fact, the majority of the messages were actually system reminders to me, to disable my Out Of Office message - a patently stupid system if ever I saw one, that starts sending you hourly reminders at 12 midnight, as if anyone would be in the office.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Iffy Update

Iffy and Book
Originally uploaded by Wahj.
Iffy came into heat over the weekend.

The short summary of what this means is this: yowling. Not quite Whitman's barbaric yawp - a more rounded, civilised sound - but just as irritating after a while. She makes the noise with her mouth barely open, muzzle stretched out, a strange bubbling, rolling noise, like a liquid purr. Sometimes it sounds almost human - the first night she yowled, I thought I was hearing someone calling "Owen, Owen" (nephew's name) from next door. Even now it sounds like she's trying to say something, like you're hearing vowels and consonants rather than her normal meow.

For some reason, Iffy likes to do her yowling in the corridor, just like Patch did when she was on heat - perhaps the echoes make them sound louder to themselves, and instinctively they want to sound louder. She also does it at night, at odd hours throughout the night, all night. This has not been good for sleep.

It's a bit sad though: Iffy wanders around the house yowling, but you get the sense she's confused and doesn't know why she's doing this. If you call her name in the middle of a yowl, she stops and looks at you with a puzzled look, as if to say "What was I just doing?".

I feel like the parent of a teenager coming into puberty, except that I wouldn't even know where to start explaining the feline birds and bees to her.

"You stay away from that tomcat now. He's nothing but trouble."

"Yowl ... "

"No, you are not going wandering round the neighbour - you are staying right at home"


"NO BUTS. Now go to your room."



The poor thing's also been generally starved for attention recently, what with me being away on reservists all day and being in no mood with play with her in the evenings. The picture shows Iffy in her typical attention seeking posture - if you're reading, she'll come over and sit on the book. If you're on the computer, she'll sit on the keyboard. Then she gives you that accusing look (cf photo please) that more or less says "You'd rather read than play with me?". I mostly throw her off the book, in the generally direction of K, who always has time to play with her.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Showers of Blessings

My graduating cohort from Officer Cadet School is remembered as one of only 4 that was rained on during our commissioning parade.

I remember standing on the parade square, head bowed, as we received a communal blessing from representatives of the various faiths that we cadets on parade believed in. Typically Singaporean: the blessings were en masse and for all (as long as one cadet was of that faith, the relevant priest would be up there on the platform) regardless of your particular faith, or lack of, and several separate gods/pantheons of gods - some of whom are distinctly mutually exclusive with others - were invoked on our behalf. The way I figure it, we've got all angles covered here.

The clouds were already looming ominously overhead, and I remember distinctly as the words "... shower his blessings upon you..." were uttered, the skies opened up. A distinct lack of irony rained down upon us in the form of ... well, rain, which continued torrentially until we got off parade. I won't mention the faith of the priest who uttered those particular words: I like to think that every one of them had a hand in causing us to curse and mutter under our breaths in ways distinctly inappropriate for the moment (considering the number of holy people praying on our behalf) as we got soaked left, right and centre (literally too: the wind was whipping the rain round from all directions in a way that would've made a believer of you, even if you weren't).

I mention this because whenever my reservist unit gets together for training, it rains. We've always believed this was due to the fact that we descend from the only infantry battalion with a fish for an emblem: we were liberally rained upon when we were in active service (including a memorable thunderstorm in Thailand in the dry season. Locals told us it never rained in the dry season, let alone stormed - we, of course, knew why). This grand tradition has continued into our reservists, with rain aplenty for every mission (those who remember the torrential storms in March this year ... well, guess where I was).

Today was no exception. It poured its heart out on us almost the moment we got in camp. It rained buckets, forcing us to delay our little route march, and then dribbled on us while we were walking, finally giving up after having wrung itself dry for us. Showers of blessings still, even after all these years ... to which I can only say, Praise Be. = )

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Pre-reservists wrap-up

Today was spent trying to wrap things up at work since I'll be gone for reservists training tomorrow. I have this sickening feeling that no matter how much I've tried to make sure everything I'm in charge of (read: will be blamed for) is tied down, ship shape, and taken care of, something's will hit the proverbial fan and ... ah well. My colleagues commented that I've been fielding army related phone calls the past few days - fellow reservists, old buddies, people trying to find out what to bring to the route march.

Found out that an old friend of mine is suddenly OC of the next company, the previous one having gone overseas. Called me to talk about it, and ask for the loan of some planning aids. I don't envy the situation he's in. I've been OC of my company for 7 years now, and it's never been easy: he's just been thrown this out of the blue, and with such a major exercise coming up.

Just found out that my 16 klick route march tomorrow is going to be an 8 klick route march. In some ways, I'm actually disappointed and slightly offended: I've not marched less than 16km since Basic training - what are you trying to imply here, with this namby pamby 8 klick walk in the park? ...

... that I'm over thirty, perhaps? = )

The last time we did this (go back for a route march before an in-camp training) was in 1999, when I was a spritely 26 - a comfortable 16km to prepare us for our trip down under, quite manageable back then. Now, I feel a bit silly having went out and bought a new hydration pack to replace the one that my cats chewed on.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What does my banner say?

Following the wife's observations about the banners in blogspot, I took a look at my most recent ones.

Find Litter Box
Reliable suppliers - Contact Now!


Eliminate Urine Odors
With OdorXit Concentrate. It Really Works

Interesting. The last post directly relevant to this would have been this, but despite subsequent posts about tanks, anime, parades etc, my banners are still stuck on Urine and Kitty Litter. Hmmm.

(a thought just occurred to me: this post isn't going to help, is it? I can just imagine some AI programme or bot nodding sagely as it crunches the words in this post, going "Yes, yes, he's definitely talking about urine again. Right: more of the same banners then". K's already tried loading a post with words to see if they affect the banner. It did)

Iffy at Rest

iffy and toy 2
Originally uploaded by Wahj.
There isn't much of a reason for this post, except that I'm still playing around with putting pictures into my blog via Flickr.

This is Iffy, our second cat. This photo catches her in an unusually serene state - she normally alternates between being a quivering ball of kittenish energy*, pouncing on the bed, attacking imaginary goodness-knows-whatsits, and generally tearing around the room and infectious languid laziness, curled up asleep somewhere on the sofa, tv, or you. Irredeemably adorable, really ... = )

*They say domestication keeps animals in an extended state of adolescence, acting like junveniles towards the parent-figure of the human owner. I think that's true of Iffy. Quite an interesting theory - the two links above lead to articles about the domestication of cats and dogs, just in case you're looking for a more serious bent to this whole post besides me wanting to test photo posting. = )

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Another use for a linguistics PhD

Apparently, two cell phone providers in the US have started offering customers "rescue calls" from bad dates. Check this out:

With both Cingular's Escape-A-Date and Virgin Mobile's Rescue Ring service, a customer can arrange to be called at a set time, using the cell keypad. When the cell rings, one of Cingular's eight "emergency" messages says: "Hey, this is your Escape-A-Date call. If you're looking for an excuse, I got it. Just repeat after me, and you'll be on your way! 'Not again! Why does that always happen to you? ... All right, I'll be right there.' Now tell 'em that your roommate got locked out, and you have to go let them in. Good luck!"

Apprarently, they have "five people with doctorates in linguistics" working on thinking up innovative excuses. I knew a doctorate in linguistics was useful, but this is a surprise.

Parade Bloopers

Reading T's comment on the parade about the ensign who nearly dropped his colours reminded of the fact that a certain mutual friend of ours was a colour ensign for the SAF day parade way back when we were in active NS. He related to us the incident of an officer who had to hand off the colours to the colour sargeant behind him before he fainted. Even as he was being carried from the rehearsal on a stretcher, a warrant officer was walking beside him, enumerating his various failings and faults while poking him with a pace stick for emphasis. Technically speaking, the colour ensign did the correct thing: if he had dropped the colours on the ground, the going rate for extras (as in "extra-duty", which is the standard administrative punishment for officers) was something like 21 if I recall correctly - that's enough to wipe out half a year's weekends.

What made it even funnier was when Channel News Asia had a brief clip in their behind-the-scenes feature on NDP showing a warrant officer dropping his pace stick during one of the rehearsals. Ouch.

I think the one we all remember though is from a few years back, when it was painfully obvious that one soldier misfired his "feu-de-joie". Can't even begin to imagine how many guard-duties that gets you ...

Monday, August 09, 2004

Listening to the commentary on the Parade on Channel i, I heard the following gem

"The flaming torches they're carrying symbolise fire and colour"

How incredibly insightful. And I suppose the shoes they're wearing symbolise footwear - and the clothes they're wearing symbolise garments - and the ... oh never mind. Not worth the effort to generate the necessary sarcasm.

Cat update: the kitty litter was changed yesterday, two days ahead of schedule. Why? Because the cats had started ripping up the latest bag of kitty litter. I was speaking partly in jest earlier, but I think positive reinforcement (unintentional as it was) has taught them that if they want their litter changed, ripping open a bag will motivate their humans to do it. Now, if I could only teach them to change their litter themselves ...

The Aforementioned Panther

Panther 1
Originally uploaded by Wahj.
Thought I'd better post a picture of the tank in question since I bitched so much about it.

It's assembled as an Ausf G, the last model that saw active service. I spent this morning putting the zimmerit pattern on the hull and turret, and I must say I'm rather pleased with the effect.

(Zimmerit: an anti-magnetic paste that the Gerries applied to their tanks in the last years of the war, to protect them from magnetic mines which they were convinced the Allies had developed. As far as I can tell, the Allies never did use mines like that, but the Germans went ahead and put zimmerit on a bunch of their tanks anyway - yet another detail to try and replicate when building these models)

More photos here.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Books, Tanks, Anime and ... umm, more tanks

A while back someone asked ask to name the single best wargames purchase I'd made. I thought of my 15mm Polybian Romans, which have seen valiant service in multiple battles (losing most of them time, ah well), but today I realised there's another contender.

It's an old tattered book called "Tanks of World War 2" which I bought in 1983 - specifically, the 14th of December, a Wednesday. I know all this because it's written in large round letters on the inside cover, along with my address. I count myself very lucky that my mom always let me buy as many books as I wanted, despite the fact that we didn't have all that much money. It was one of many inspired decisions she made as a parent (sending me to Bethesda kindergarten was one, and the other was letting me decide whether I wanted to go into the GEP - when most parents would have insisted). I still remember buying this book - it was really expensive ($20? $30?) and I hesitated a bit. I really wanted it though, so my mom let me buy it, despite it having no obvious educational value (I think of all these hot-housing parents who put their kids through a strictly regulated reading diet, when I was allowed to read almost anything). I remember holding it on the bus, trying not to read it until we got back home. It's been read to pieces since, and remains my primary reference material for painting tanks, despite the internet and all.

Which brings me to the issue of Japanese model kits and the insidious late-war bias. I'm about to start work on a Panther tank, a Hasegawa kit. One of the things one notices about Japanese kits for WW2 tanks is how they focus heavily on late-war vehicles - the "biggest" and "best", the most "advanced". I bought the Hasegawa Panther kit on a whim (lunch-time shopping on a workday - sometimes you just have to buy yourself a tank) not realising that it was for a Panther Ausf F, a variant of the tank so late in the war it didn't even see combat. Now, for the collector and builder, this might be a gem of a kit, I'm sure - but for the wargamer, it's almost useless. Thank goodness the kit also contains enough parts to make an Ausf G - I think. The problem is that assembly instructions only cover the Ausf F. (here's where the old reference book comes in, by the way - hours spent poring over illustrations to figure out which parts to use)

I have a theory about how the Japanese world-view is skewed by their experiences from WW2. Consider how Anime has an obsession with technology, expressed in terms of Giant Robots (Evangelion), Giant Spacecraft (Star Blazers), Giant Monsters (yes, I know this ignores the other significant branches of Anime - Pet Monsters, Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Anime, Team/Sports Animes etc, but elements of this techno-bias express themselves in these as well, not just in Giant Fighting Robot Animes). My inner pop-psychologist theorizes that being the only nation to have been nuked (and twice at that - with Nagasaki being almost a "There - told you we were serious" afterthought nuking) has made its mark on their collective pysche. At the end of that war, centuries of warrior code, emphasising courage and honour, were nothing in the face of scientific prowess. Labcoats beat Samurai.

Apocalyptic themes recur again and again - aliens with superior technology invade and threaten to destroy the world, demons from another realm invade and threaten to destroy the world, other humans from another planet invade and (predictably) threaten to destroy the world - or Tokyo. It's interesting how most of the time, Tokyo = the World, that the vision of apocalypse doesn't extend much beyond Japan, that how destruction of Tokyo is treated as equivalent to destroying the world (why do these aliens always invade Tokyo first, and sometimes only?)

The key to defeating the enemy is (in these types of anime anyway) almost always a Secret Weapon, built around some Highly Advanced technology - think the Wave Motion Gun in Star Blazers, or Evangelion. Even in non tech-based anime, where the combat is magical/spiritual, there often is a trump card, a mega-weapon, that confers victory to the possessor - easy to surmise how these all are re-imaginings of the nuclear bomb.

Another thing I've noticed is how much Anime depends on the young - most heroes are school-children, and most children are gifted with some talent or ability that let's them do things that adults can't. A rejection of the patriachal Imperial government that led them into WW2? Turning towards the future, as represented by children, for hope? There's a sense that only the young, innocent and untainted by the traditions of their elders, can hope to manage this new and powerful technology, whether it be piloting a mecha, or wielding some magical power. (while still attending school in most cases - typically Asian ... = )

Which brings me back to the Hasegawa kit, which we can now boldly theorize as an expression of a nation's collective angst, transfered onto the other losing nation of WW2. The Panther Ausf F was the latest and best, but it simply came too late to save the Germans - but on collectors shelves, it probably enjoys a larger production run than it ever did in real life, thanks to Hasegawa. As for me, I'm going to try and assemble the kit as an earlier, more primitive version, but one which did see combat - right after I finish scratch-building some 19th century anti-kite-bomber devices for our Victorian Science Fiction game.

Friday, August 06, 2004

What a blast

Two important things happened on this date:

  • the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima
  • my wife was born

Happy birthday dearest. = )

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

We're all just monkeys here

Oh yeah, I forgot to post this link. Found it the other day, and it's pretty thought-provoking. I recommend you take the time to read it through (quite a long piece spread over two pages).

Taking things into their own paws ...

It's been more than a week since we changed the kitty litter - we normally change it once a week, on Sunday, but we've been putting it off these two days.

Well, guess who had a say about it this evening. We had left a bag of kitty litter on the dining table, and just before dinner, I stepped into the living room to see the bag ripped open, kitty litter scattered every where, powdery dust and little paw prints all over the table.

I think someone was trying to send us a message. For a brief moment, I felt like I was in one of those Sci-Fi horror movies.

Me: "They've ... they've evolved ... they've learned how to open the kitty litter bags themselves!"

Skeptical-Scientist-Dude-Stereotype: "That's not possible - they're just kittens!"


Me: "We've got to get out of here ... fast ..."

Anyway, I had a horrible Sunday - I actually missed a game because I was too sick. Headache, nausea, felt like puking. The doctor guessed it was gastric flu, and the medicine has kept it down so far. I slept the whole of Sunday and most of Monday to let it wear off. Felt better today, so I went to work even though I still had one day of MC. A colleague of mine told me she was resigning today, so a bunch of us took her out to lunch. Quite a sudden annoucment for me, though she had been thinking about it sometime. Even with one month's notice, given the leave she has to clear, her last day would be this Friday. Just like that, in less than a week she'll be gone. Sad to see another person go - last year 5 people left, of which 4 resigned outright and one left on attachment to NIE. Not counting the people who posted out, that makes quite an exodus, though the people who posted out went back to schools. It's sad to see people who were such good teachers (and I have no doubt they were) resign the service out of frustration, exhaustion or for so many other reasons. We're losing a lot of good people out there.