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18th-May-2011 11:20 am - 6.20am on bus 174
Endurance, LST
eyes heavy from an early rise
I find my seat near the back.
the bus turns out and begins to move.
two boys in Chinese High uniform
remind me of my own days long past,
bringing back a flood of colourful memories.
noisy classrooms,
quirky teachers,
inquisitive classmates,
unforgettable lessons.

a mild jerk as the bus comes to a stop.
the boys glance up
but shortly return their attention to their phones.
A young man in smart 4 boards, finds a seat and removes his jockey cap.
tanned, crew-cut and sharp-jawed,
what should have been youthful energy
instead replaced with a thousand-yard stare.
he is perhaps
thinking about the dreary day ahead in camp.
from the look on his face, showing neither anticipation
nor any kind of feeling at all
resigned to counting down to his still far-away release.

a group of uniformed schoolgirls choose not to sit
and stand at the front area,
moodily absorbed, either in their thoughts
or the unheard music being streamed through white earphones.
they clutch at poles for support as the bus again jerks into motion.

the bearded old man beside me yawns and clutches at the belongings on his lap.

next stop.
on comes a middle aged lady with a handbag.
she pragmatically finds a slot and sits for the journey.
a JC student plants himself behind the man in the pixel uniform,
and without so much as a glance at him produces notes and buries himself in them,
mugging, I guess, for a test,
the long-term purpose of which he may never have thought about.
he never once looks up.
I wonder if he is not thinking
about the life awaiting him, in one year or two -
as far distanced from studying as one can get.
a middle aged man in sandals, burdened with many plastic bags,
selects his place and puts everything down with relief.

outside it is still dark.
when I look out I see not the scenery of Singapore
but reflections of the people within.
I see myself in each of them.
in some, what I was,
in others, what I may become,
each eerily silent in a bus packed with people,
going about their own lives.

I wonder if they have ever given thought to how the person sitting next to them
might just be them in five years, or ten, or fifty.
I wonder if they think it odd that so crowded a place seems so quiet, or so dormant.
I wonder if they really do live in worlds as serene as
bus 174 at 6.20am
or what they would think if all their worlds were like this.
I wonder if they know where they are going
not in the minutes to come, following the utterly predictable bus route,
but in the years to come.
I wonder.
11th-Jan-2011 11:02 pm - Guns, revisited
Endurance, LST
The recent Tucson mass shooting has (as every mass shooting does) sparked gun control debates once again. The left argues that clearly there is no need for anyone to own a high capacity magazine other than to commit massacres. The right argues that clearly if there were more gun-carrying law-abiding citizens at the rally, Jared Lee Loughner would have been shot down before he had a chance to get off too many shots.

As much as I like guns, that logic is a little warped.

Gunman in crowded place: can fire any number of shots anywhere and people will get killed.
Law-abiding citizen: must shoot the gunman precisely, because stray or inaccurate shots will kill more bystanders.

It is seriously not very easy to hit a figure 11 at 25m with a P226 without missing at all.
7th-Dec-2010 09:54 pm - Arbeit macht frei
Endurance, LST
Arbeit macht frei, literally work makes [us] free, is infamous for being inscribed at the entrances of a number of Nazi concentration camps, but that shall be subject for another day.

Work is the thing around which much of our life revolves. It is a purpose toward which we direct our energies, in which we find fulfillment and satisfaction, by which our desire for self-actualisation may be met. Of course, a type of work unsuited to us (such as, for instance, a boring and rigid job done by a creative type with a insatiable need to explore and innovate) instead drains and confines us. Even an appropriate type of work, done to excess, becomes exhausting and life-sapping instead of enervating and gratifying.

Yet there is a type of work for which people are willing to pour themselves out to the last drop. At first glance, the necessary precondition seems to be that it involves a number of people (not too many, otherwise it becomes dehumanising and detachment from the organisation occurs), and it seems that doing the work is just a way of developing the sense of belonging all people desire. On closer examination, however, it can be seen that the type of work to which people are willing to commit their all involves a strongly cherished greater purpose (this can be anything from a theatre production or major event to the sustenance of the existence of a club, or even providing for one's family). A team identity and the need to belong may play a role here, but there are instances in which it does not (e.g. self-proclaimed lone champions of an abstract cause such as free speech or free software).

It is most important that this goal must be seen as a higher purpose, one greater than self. Few will work themselves completely to exhaustion merely to earn more money or fame (they will inevitably, at some point, question the meaningfulness of doing so). But many will fight tooth and nail for the Greater Purpose, be it bringing home the bacon for one's family, running a show or an organisation that has great meaning or sentimental value, or saving the endangered species of the earth (or indeed the earth itself).

With these prerequisites met, the work is found meaningful and important and gladly done even if it is not interesting and, in some cases, menial. It might not even be considered "work", which has connotations of being a job we do out of necessity and for our own purposes.

It is not riches and mansions of endless pleasures that we desire, nor even self-actualisation in the sense of being what we can be for ourselves (good at athletics, art, intellectual disciplines, etc). Whether our lifetime goal, our dream, is to own a Ferrari, win a gold medal in the Olympics, earn a Nobel Prize, or even all three, I doubt we will ever be satisfied; we may end up wanting more or we might become dissatisfied with what we have achieved once the euphoria has worn off. Perhaps it is true, then, that work makes us free: albeit the type where we have stopped trying to win more for ourselves and begun to look to some higher purpose.
7th-Feb-2010 02:41 pm - I need to read, and write
Endurance, LST
Sometimes now I feel that my vocabulary has become boring and limited, my expressions drawn from the same uninspired pool of canned phrases, my writing increasingly matter-of-fact and certainly less varied. That's what happens when your reading diet consists of too much non-fiction and (in particular military) journals, or when you cease to write anything that remotely requires creative description. Perhaps this insidious transformation of my writing style was effected by GP, perhaps it comes courtesy of the army. Perhaps it's the cessation of my formal education in English and Literature at the conclusion of my secondary school days. Either way, I'd like to return to the days when language was for me an artist's brush, not a worker's tool; when I could project the larger-than-life world of colourful imagery in my head to ink on paper without losing or even subconsciously stripping away the glorious details.
1st-Jan-2010 11:51 pm - Long Walk 2
Endurance, LST
We started at KAP and walked down Bukit Timah Road. Along the way, we passed through a tunnel that was set up to provide a temporary passageway for pedestrians due to nearby construction. We entered the tunnel in 2009; we exited the tunnel in 2010.

We went down Bukit Timah, passing by school, Coro and Serene Centre. We walked through Botanic Gardens and down Orchard Road to the Esplanade, walking all the way down to the Flyer before looping back and cutting across the bridge to the Marina South area, finishing at the Marina Barrage at 0530. The total was only something like 18km but because the end part went around a lot of boring construction sites it seemed endless. We caught sunrise over the Marina Barrage, but the cranes at the port kind of spoiled the view. We get a nice illumination of the enclosed Marina Bay and the city though.

My resolutions for 2010 are:
1. To work well with my men and do my job well
2. To not neglect my relationships with God, family and friends
3. To keep learning and finding meaning in what I do

Simple and straightforward, I'm not going to make them unnecessarily complicated. Happy new year!
20th-Dec-2009 09:51 pm - YES SIR!
Endurance, LST
Surreally and ecstatically, the day we've been waiting for.

It feels so weird to not be a cadet any more.

17th-Oct-2009 05:45 pm - Of hawks and doves
Endurance, LST
It might be about time I revisited this old entry. For a little recap, Israeli used massive air strikes in response to the breakdown of a ceasefire and incoming Palestianian rocket fire, killing a large number of the Hamas leadership in addition to large swathes of civilians.

The verdict is out on that one: the UN human rights council has endorsed a report accusing Israel and Hamas of war crimes in that same conflict. But that goes without saying, shouldn't it; firing on civilians (either way) is a surefire way to give you PR and HR problems.

But having spent a good 10 months now with the military, the Israeli response does seem like a more sensible option. While it might not solve any problems, it is important to send the message that nobody can hit at us and get away with it. Even though it might be an unnecessary waste of life, as a foreign policy it does drive home the point that striking at our own citizens will not be tolerated. That's the reason why these strikes are popular with Israelis: they feel the need to be protected, even if only by crushing retaliatory firepower instead of any kind of real missile shield, rather than being left by the government to suffer daily barrages of rockets from incontinent militants across the border. It also means that Hamas will eventually have to deal with discontent from Palestinian citizens who are tired of being bombed because of things their local heroes pulled off.
7th-Aug-2009 12:51 pm - Write to me!
Endurance, LST
MSTD 2/09 Midshipman Wing
OCS AFPN 1455 500
Upper Jurong Road #01-05
Singapore 638364

Hopefully this works. Anyway do drop me SMS now and then, I might be able to read them when I get to port. Emails, though, I am quite unlikely to be able to read until I get back.
20th-Jun-2009 07:25 pm - A walk in the park
Endurance, LST
I ran 10km in Macritchie today. It's the first time I have done so since last year, and I have hardly run anything above 5km since before the half marathon last year, so I'm surprised that I was still able to enjoy it without being breathless. My ankles ache, I need to get more used to trail running again. Running in combat boots might be a temporary solution to ease my ankles but it will look stupid and probably hurt my knees more in the medium-long term.

Someday I hope to do 2 rounds in Macritchie (around 21km, a half-marathon's worth on the trail). The Macritchie Double sounds like a catchy name for such a feat, it makes it sound like a burger. McSpicy Double, McRitchie Double. Mmmm, tasty.
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