Sense and Sensitivity

I write this today to remind myself to watch it.

There are certain situations that occur as one trudges along this journey we call life that demands a certain amount of consciousness for others. Simple things, like apologising when you accidentally bump into someone while walking, thanking someone when he offers you something, or giving your seat to those who need it more, these are the moments that slip by just as easily as, if not more easily than, acting upon them.

These are the exact moments that I always find myself missing. And they further amplify my guilt, not to mention the displeasure of those involved, when those involved are the closest people to me.

I constantly remind people that we do not live alone. With the 4 billion people in this world, not to mention today’s social connectivity with these same 4 billion through the advent of the mobile phone, television, Internet, satellite technology, you just have to be careful whose toes you step on. Ironically, these same social tools which we can use to learn to live with each other, are the things we have grown to take for granted, just as we grow to take for granted the people who are most important to us in the best of times.

I have seen myself become one of those idiots that have not done my due diligence in the service of those around me. And my crimes are many.

My wife has seen and felt on numerous occasions how I let my guard down and manifested my insensitivity to her needs, and i have in turn witnessed and bore the full strength of her ire in all these events. She has also reminded me countless times of the many situations where I should have thought of her family and friends before myself, from missing the opportunity to offer the slightest gestures of courtesy to manifesting unnecessary displeasure over serious misunderstandings that should have been avoided at all costs. I won’t even start about my own family; for the amount of injustices I have brought on them, I may as well be disowned.

But I don’t do all this on purpose. God, who does? I have only this to say about myself, and it by no means helps my case in any way. I get caught up by the things that are on my plate at any given moment, and when a situation where another person or a group of people require my attention, the priorities I set for myself at that moment get in the way of doing what’s really right.

And what’s really right? That’s the one question I’m still learning to answer. It is also where the word “sense” comes into play, something I also find myself severely lacking at the best of times. As the youngest of 4 children (spoilt rotten and forgiven more often for mistakes than I deserve), and the least accomplished of my siblings and even my peers (having earned a diploma a full 8 years later than everybody else in the world, in a discipline I’m not even utilising in my current career), it seems easy to use my life as an excuse for my actions. But to be where I am today, there is no excuse.

I write this as a reminder to myself, and for people to remind me, of the person I am. As for an answer, or a solution? I don’t know. I guess I’m still trying to find one, trying to learn. Just as I know I’m probably going to be trying for the rest of my life.

Time and time again, I disappoint. When will I ever learn?

Friends Will Be Friends IV: The Flower of Amsterdam

With reference to Parts I and II

Lydia (or more endearingly Bobo in some circles, though she has since renounced the nickname) was, and still is, more than a friend to my wife. They had met in a polytechnic orientation camp; Lydia was a freshie, and my wife was one of the group leaders. In a rouse to get closer to the freshies, my wife had masqueraded as one of them and sat next to Lydia, who immediately hit it off with her and became fast friends, before my wife was ratted out by a clueless lecturer who asked her why she wasn’t in class.

Lydia’s mother had always regarded my wife as her own daughter, and had told her that “Fate brought the two of you together, and nothing can ever tear you apart. You are as good as a daughter to me, and I know you will take care of my daughter like she was your own sister as well.”

I first met Lydia 6 years back when I was just starting to date my wife and heard a friend of hers needed help with her actual day wedding photography. Being a fresh boyfriend only too ready to impress, I only too readily agreed to assist her in helping out a friend I hardly knew.

Lydia’s wedding day was to eventually cause a 5-year-old bad impression on me.

After the wedding, I sent some videos of Lydia’s happy day to a guy I knew who did post production work to compile into a DVD for Lydia. I remembered pulling a few big favours to ensure Lydia got the DVD done properly, but what I forgot was to get the DVD done promptly. I received a call from Lydia about a week or two after, which was when the whole trouble started.

I was first struck by the odd tone of voice Lydia used to ask me if the DVD was ready. It was not, and I was then summarily reprimanded over the phone for taking too long for so simple a task. I listened to her rants, thinking to myself, “What the hell…? I thought I was doing you a favour!” My conversation with Lydia only lasted a couple of minutes, after which I reached a point where the only thing I could do was pass the phone to my wife before I said something really bad and things really got out of hand.

For the next five years, I tried to avoid meeting with her as much as I could, which was not entirely difficult, for she had married a Dutch citizen, and was moving to Amsterdam before the year was out. When we did meet, I was less than polite, and often my wife would just decide not to bring me along to any get-togethers of any sort that involved her presence.

And thus the story went, unresolved differences collecting dust on a shelf for five years without a second thought. Until Sunday night two weeks ago.

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Lydia had returned from Amsterdam a couple of months earlier, among other reasons, to be with her her mother, who was due for neurosurgery earlier this month to remove a tumour in her brain. She called my wife a while after she had somewhat settled down, and heard of our plans for the wedding. Eventually she was able to put aside the more pressing affair of her mother’s condition to agree to be one of my wife’s sisters for the wedding.

In the course of the discussions with Lydia on Sunday night’s “brothers and sisters” meeting, my wife had asked Lydia, “You’re here for your mother, you should be concentrating on staying with her instead of messaing around with us.” To which Lydia replied, “Your wedding is only one day. For the things you did for me for my wedding, this is the least that I could do.”

Lydia had, in fact, volunteered to do our actual day photography, upon hearing of our troubles getting our other friend to commit to the job and his non-appearance at the gathering that night.

After 5 years, when I first saw Lydia again on Sunday night, the bite of that telephone conversation was still raw in my mind. I had not expected anything more than the fun and games a sister would have on the hapless groom the morning when he would have to try to fetch the bride out of her parents’ domain. When my wife told me about her volunteering her services, I wondered if I was wrong about her.

And then Michelle came up with her proposal. Michelle’s idea was to get Lydia to supplement the professional photographer’s work with the cameras we had, and the fact that she was such a close friend would mean the quality of her photos would by no means be any less than the most heartfelt work a photographer of any calibre could offer to a friend. I lost all notion of my grudge against her when I saw her eagerness and readiness to help out a friend without a second thought.

Later, as I was sharing a smoke with her in my balcony, I told her one of the main reasons why it took so long for me to consent to Michelle’s suggestion to hire a photographer was because of her. I told her my grievances against her the last 5 years and how that suddenly went down the balcony drain that very moment, retelling the story of what had happened that fateful phone call five years ago, how I had thought of her at the time all the way till that moment, and asked for her forgiveness.

The flower of Amsterdam and the Ah Huay of my wife’s social life gave me an endearingly blank stare. She hd absolutely no idea what the hell I was talking about.

So five years ago, I didn’t think I deserved getting scolded from someone I barely knew for doing her a favour without asking for anything in return. This night, I didn’t think I deserved her return of the same favour. And then in a moment of rare honesty between two almost complete strangers that could have turned into a Hallmark moment of forgiveness and grace, she tells me she didn’t even know I was pissed with her all this time. Hmm.

Obviously we’re all okay now. I’m still recovering from the soreness of my slapping myself in the forehead for realising how stupid I was the last 5 years.

The Wedding Post Mortem – I’m Gonna Miss Being a Kid (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2, the sombre side of things. For those of you who just joined us, you might want to take a look at Part 1, though it isn’t entirely necessary.

The experience of a wedding is not for the faint-hearted. Fun as my wedding celebrations process was, the amount of planning in the areas of logistics, organisation, planning and finance is enough to make a grown man cry and his wife-to-be scream. Did it happen to us? Hoo yeah. But that’s where your friends come in. If you’re not the very social type and don’t have people around you that you can properly trust and that isn’t family, your wedding planning is gonna be a damn lonely affair. My wife and I are fortunate enough to have a small group of our own personal heroes that made the things we hoped could happen, happen.

That being said, I would encourage any couple who is legalising their union to please hold a wedding. Hold a big, expensive one, with a lot of stuff in it, all them bells ‘n’ whistles. Do it in a good restaurant with good food and responsible managers. And invite a minimum of 200 people. And get as many friends involved as possible. And think up the wackiest possible things to do to entertain your guests.

It might end up being fun, or it may not. But whichever way it goes, and no matter how many words I put into this blog to explain my experience and how it affects me, you just got to do it to yourself, because it’s going to be a fucking wake-up call.

**********

It was our wedding planning that redefined (or “undefined”) my thinking of what friendship means. Right up to this point, I thought the people I call friends, the people I don’t call friends, and the people I stopped calling friends, was pretty well-defined in my spectrum. Looking at what our friends had done for me to make this wedding happen made me see my social circle in an entirely different light. The friends we had with us that night were friends that give without a second thought. The friends my wife and I were that night were friends in need. And the ones I blamed for not being there for me the night the wedding planner attacked were more in need of friends than I was in need of them.

It is not easy to come to this point, where one stops laying blame and starts empathising. I can only say, now that I’ve seen a friend in need from my own experience, that laying blame is the stuff that breaks relationships, tears families apart, creates crimes, starts wars. So, don’t.

**********

The wedding dinner itself also proved an eye-opener for me. We had only wanted to provide some form of entertainment to an otherwise frivolous, somewhat inane event that involved two people that most of the event’s attendees didn’t even know. We wanted to do a show, to keep people involved as an audience, and to keep us involved as a couple, to our family, our family’s family, and everyone’s friends. What we didn’t anticipate was their response to us, and more importantly, their response to each other, when something as tiny as a skip during a march-in, or as simple as a rickshaw, could get people talking… to each other.

I personally know of relatives and relatives once, twice, three times a-removed, who have never spoken to us or each other for years and years (be it for loss of contact, grudges, family feuds or court cases), who, by some miracle, came together into one small little restaurant of 26 tables to witness the union of a couple, only to find themselves in a reunion of relationships. People who came to our wedding curious, expectant, trepid, bored even, ended up laughing, dancing, cheering, clapping, completely immersing themselves in the moment… all because our invitation card stated rather subtly, “Dress Code: 1930’s Shanghai Glamour”, and my wife’s sister decided on a whim to include a rickshaw she could rent from a props warehouse in the People’s Association.

Proof that making your wedding different can make a difference to people’s lives, even if it’s just for a little while.

**********

The biggest wake-up call of all, was the dinner bill. Not something I didn’t expect, but it really doesn’t hit you until your restaurant manager actually gives you that check with a smile.

In my entire life, I have never had to pay so much money upfront on a single event, until last Sunday. It hit me that the days of my youth, where my supply of spending money seemed constant and never-ending, where things I couldn’t pay for I could still bank on the next month, came to a head with this one celebration. Faced with a 5-digit bill to pay, no wallet (left it in my hotel room), and a bunch of people impatiently waiting for me to attend to their sabotage session involving that infamous “5-course wine, chillied peanuts and a raw egg in a cup”, my immediate thought was one my parents, all my sisters and my own wife had tried to tell me all my years of knowing them: “Don’t anyhow spend anymore.”

Many would think the angpow money would take care of most, if not all, of it. Some might even think they could profit from it, but it still doesn’t take away the fact that you just contributed a big fat fucking wad of money into the F&B industry. It doesn’t take away the fact that in a society such as Singapore, in an economy as inflated as we are today, in a nation where a car costs about twice as much to own because the government takes half of what you pay for it, as a middle-income earner in an island full of middle-income earners, you probably can’t afford the inital expenses of your own wedding and have to ask your family to help.

Thanks to my wedding, I am now as thrifty as an old lady in a one-room flat who keeps everything she can lay her hands on because “they all cost money”. More importantly, thanks to my wedding, “family” has taken top spot in my spending priorities; “gadgets” and “guitars” has been relegated to an obscure corner of Lim Chu Kang.

I am really gonna miss being a kid.

The Wedding Post Mortem – I’m Gonna Miss Being a Kid (Part 1)

For those who were there, you know how awesome it was. For those who weren’t. you don’t know what you missed.

(This blog will eventually be updated with pictures of the day, so keep your eye on it.)

The morning was encouraging; we both dressed in our most Chinese nines, much to the awe and amazement of our respective relatives. The tea ceremony in both houses was an unusually happy event, but it was the night that brought the stars in everyone’s eyes.

People started streaming in as early as 6.45pm, an extremely uncharacteristic time for wedding guests to appear in a culturally confused Asia-based island where fashionably late means 2 hours later (Hock Peng, you got a mention! You’re famous on the Internet now!). Dressed in the same ma gua (complete with that big red ribbon rose hung on the chest area) and a $2 Sinatra-esque hat, I greeted the guests in one by one, then two by thre, then five by eight, then one too many. Our reception girls had a hard time keeping up, and our dads were no help either. I have personally never seen my dad such a nervous wreck (if you remembered, he should be quite the opposite, though with his health right now, it’s somewhat understandable).

And then came the grand entrance. I needed four of my best guys to keep everything safe as we turned the house upside down with me pulling my wife into the restaurant well into the entrance and right in front of our table of friends with a never-seen-the-streets-since-1830 rickshaw, beautifully wedding-fied by my wife’s second sister and her very-good-with-his-hands husband. Dancing to the tune of Shanghai Tan, we rounded the restaurant, through the bar, and finally landed up at the VIP table at the front of a restaurant, where we sat down to the first course of our feast to the music of the beautiful shanghai jazz band playing behind us.

Oh, perfection. Whoever said perfection was boring had no idea what the hell they were talking about. Eat those words, detractor; I hope they taste as good as the salted egg shrimp.

Our second march-in saw my wife in a beautiful light bronze evening gown which awed everyone so much they all had to step on it, and me with a tailcoat reminiscent of Sting’s beautiful Calvin Klein nuptial number sans jailbird inners, a white scarf and that same hat, keeping in tradition to the look of the decade. Marching in to the tune of Chachambo was more challenging than I thought, as I had to both guide my wife through the excited little patter of 100 pairs of high heel shoes whilst entertaining my brood of relatives with dance steps not conceived since the grand old days of William Hung. The 3 obligatory yam sengs were surprisingly lively, when my mum’s old neighbour whom we had not seen in years added to the spirit of the occasion by providing the longest toast possibly both sides of the family had ever heard.

The end was no less endearing, when bride and groom stood with our respective parents in the entrance bidding farewell to all our relatives, friends, uh-I-don’t-know-you-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-I-dos and other whozats (Thank you for coming! … whozat? Oh thank you! …whozat?). If I had any doubts that the night was going in an awkward direction, they were all erased with all the pats in the back and the “you win, nobody can beat that rickshaw” my wife and I received.

I ended the night with a wine glass filled with red wine mixed with remains of the last five courses and a raw egg, courtesy of the best friends a couple can ever have. And for the first time since we started wondering what vehicle we should use for our first march-in more than a year ago, a great big weight was lifted from my shoulders, and not a little relief washed over my wife’s very tired self (she braved a cough, running nose and possible fever found to be inconclusive due to a broken thermometer to make the night happen for the both of us).

If you’re wondering about where I lost my childhood in this, look out for Part 2, coming to a 1930’s themed Shanghai restaurant near you.

The Day Before The First Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

It is a little known fact that the days preceding a wedding are in fact some of the most stressful days a couple can experience.

Little known because the wedding day itself is supposed to be such a beautiful affair that no one would imagine, much less speak of, anything untoward that had happened in the process of planning such an important day. Indeed, in most situations that have to do with weddings, such things are blasphemy to the ears of any who are involved.

Which is why there has been, and probably will not be, any mention of anything that has happened in the days of when this blog was left neglected.

Probably.

A good friend has told me though. that at the end of the day, it must be understood that no matter what the circumstances that has led to any wedding ceremony to come to term, whether it be politically inclined, a show for the relatives, a couple’s idea of a good time (well, it would probably seem like a good idea at the time; wait till you actually do it), or any other reason one may conceive of, the wedding is, at its core, about the two people getting married in the first place.

Weddings are a shoutout of the union of 2 people to as many people the happily marrying couple can get together (or afford to get together). The number of people involved in both its preparation and attendance demands that its process be a grand one, no matter how simple it is. But most importantly, it has to be perfect. This is, after all, the first day of the rest of the happy couple’s lives. It has to start right. It has to start perfect.

One problem though. If this is a once-in-a-lifetime affair, how the hell do you make sure it’s perfect? Isn’t perfection one of those things you only get right through practice?

No, let’s not go there. I’m not planning to do this again, for a large variety of reasons.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re gonna get married, the wedding is one of those things that rank right up there in the list of top trials and tribulations a couple can experience when embarking on their journey together. Although its emphasis may have dwindled amongst the more modern thinking ones out there who don’t have to prove anything to anyone, it is nonetheless the one moment in your lives that will make or break you as a couple. For the most part, people who go through it reportedly survive it well, but of course, being a process that is largely only mentioned when it is successful and happy, few barely hear of (or even mention if only out of respect for the usually former couple) weddings that fail miserably.

One can probably tell by now my feet are somewhat in need of warming.

Do not, however, think that I am now regretting any part of this marriage, or this wedding that’s gonna happen in another 4 hours. My wife is the best thing that has happened in my life, and will continue to be for the rest of our lives, and I hope to be the best thing that has happened to her for the rest of her life. I only wish to express in my usual long-winded blubbering manner that I hope for the love of all that exists in this universe that everything will be fine, because if anything at all goes wrong, I am going to be training very hard to contort my leg in such a way that it is able to position itself successfully in front of my ass for frequent kicking of myself.

I will no doubt find in the following hours a growing feeling that this is the worst possible time to suffer from insomnia.

90% Human.

My wife and I were told while doing our ultrasound scan today that the unidentifiable little blot on the screen that is supposed to be between the legs of our unborn child has a 60% chance of being male genitals. There was also a 30% chance that it was just the umbilical cord.

The umbilical cord happens to be pretty long in baby terms. If there’s a 60% chance that it’s not the umbilical cord, does that mean my kid is gonna be hung like he’s got a snake in his diapers?

Oh wait a minute. If it was just the umbilical cord, it could just be a girl. So if there’s 60% chance that it’s a boy, and 30% chance it could be a girl, WHAT THE HELL DOES THE 10% REPRESENT?!

My wife figures our firstborn could very well be a hamster.

Friends Will Be Friends II: Attack Of The Wedding Planner

We had a meeting of the groomsmen and bridesmaids (we shall call them collectively brothers and sisters as they should be termed in most Asian societies) last night. I was expecting it to be a gathering of friends like any get-together we would hold. It turned out to be a life-changing event that showed me not only the kind of people we were calling friends, but what kind of person I turned out to be.

I have to write this carefully, as the situation last night demands delicate care in the use of words for its description.

The people who attended yesterday’s gathering of souls have all had some kind of history with my wife and I, one way or another.

Eddie (you see him in the comments section every once in a while making jokes about my genitals), who left the party before the meaty part of the night began, is a childhood friend who happened to meet my wife years later as students in the same design class.

Michelle (another comments regular) is my wife’s classmate from polytechnic, and was also waiting tables with me at my sister’s very Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge-ish, quite defunct EMOH cafe in my late teen years.

And then there’s Lydia, another school friend of both Eddie and my wife, whom I had become acquainted with when my wife and I were asked to help out in her actual-day wedding photography.

Terence is a secondary school friend I recently came back into contact with through Eddie, and is currently (together with his wife and infant son) charting out a new friendship with my wife and I as the new parental guidance expert to our upcoming family nucleus and resident beer buddy.

Finally there’s my unofficial best man Mark and her best girl Zee. Our relationship with Mark is shit-complicated, and will probably deserve a blog post of its own, while Zee is the girl who doesn’t mind all that complication and takes all the shit we collectively dish out with a smile and a beer.

For the most part, fate had brought all of us together. It was even evident in the beginning of the gathering, when, after my wife, Mark and I picked Zee up from her aunt’s place, Mark insisted he needed to get some food for the party and we went to the neighbourhood night bazaar before heading back to our place. Eddie’s phone was dead for some reason and he couldn’t be contacted at all, so imagine my surprise when we were walking on our way to the night bazaar and Eddie walked right past my wife’s line of sight looking like a lost puppy with a small paper bag of his contribution to the pot-luck event. A few minutes later, my wife, on a whim, called Lydia and found out she was just in the the immediate vicinity as well, and 15 minutes later, all 6 of us were wishing my wife drove a bigger car.

To top that off, when we all reached the apartment, Michelle and Ken had just arrived and were wondering why no one was answering the door. After letting everyone in and trying my best to get everyone comfy, I headed back out and caught Terence driving in just in time with drinks and 2 packets of ice, wife and kid in tow. You could not get timing more accurate than last night if you were choreographing the National Day Parade.

Through the night, Michelle had been scarily forthcoming throughout the night, which was to be expected to some extent, seeing as she worked as a wedding planner in one of Singapore’s more prominent agencies. Her invaluable experience in the matter of wedding affairs proved extremely enlightening to all of us in the course of our discussions, though at some points it got my wife and I thinking, what did we get ourselves into? What is she going to do to us if we forget something? Is she going to knife me if I get it wrong on the wedding day? And exactly how much did she have to drink so far?

Then, in between discussing the actual day’s schedule, the silly things we’re thinking of doing, and whether there was any more beer in the fridge, the subject of the actual-day photography had come up. While we have asked another friend some time beforehand about helping us with the photo-taking, dealing with said friend has turned out to be a chain of frustrations and disappointments, a bit of which was vented in my previous Friendly Fire post. It turned out that getting a photographer was more of a problem than my wife and I had anticipated, but it wasn’t made so apparent as it was last night.

We had originally planned to use only 2 DSLRs throughout the event, with friends and family helping out with their own digital cameras and nothing more, and consolidating the whole night’s photography into one big day-long photo shoot. Lydia was kind enough to volunteer without hesitation to help us in the area as a returning of the favour we did her on her wedding day., and she seemed a good choice too, having some design background in her education. However, having described the atmosphere of the restaurant we were having our wedding dinner in as “cozy and romantic”, to say the least, Michelle’s very clever boyfriend Ken (who was largely just there for the food, both in preparing it and consuming it) noted, “Don’t you need a good flashgun if you’re going to do any photography in the restaurant?”

Ken, with that one sentence coming out of your otherwise very quiet mouth, whatever transpired after that is now all on you, man.

A sudden mood of drunken thoughtfulness coupled with scarily adamant eyes-on-the-ceiling seriousness (forgive me, it is the only way I know how to describe it) washed over Michelle’s face as she sat contemplating what her boyfriend had said. And then suddenly she sat up in her chair and slurred with a strangely firm tone of voice, “Can I request something? Can the bride-to-be and groom-to-be leave the room? I need to talk to the rest of us about… something.”

We left the table, shuffled in the study and closed the door. As Michelle discussed what was undoubtedly a sinister plan to knife us while we weren’t looking, I asked my wife, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

My wife very calmly said, “Well, Michelle is an authority in the matter of weddings. She is a wedding planner at the end of the day.”

“She’s taking this wedding thing a bit too seriously though. Are you scared of her?”

“Yes. But that’s the Michelle I know, and I expected nothing less, because she will give her all to her friends when they need her.”

“How much has she had to drink?”

Our little dialogue was interrupted when Michelle called out to tell us we could come out now. My wife rejoined the table, but I detoured into the master bedroom toilet to seek solace on my ivory throne as times like these demand, regain my composure, and, uh, do other things.

When I finally re-emerged, the table quietened down. I was expecting something bad. In my experience of people quietening down when I joined in, it usually meant I was in a shitload of trouble and anyone who instigated conversation with me would be implicated in my crime.

Michelle began by saying, “I have a proposal.”

For a moment I thought she was going to ask Ken to marry her.

But she continued, “The reason why I asked you to leave the table was because after what Ken said about the flashgun, it got me to thinking that you guys are really going to need a pro photographer. Based on my experience in hiring friends, there will always be complications because friends don’t necessarily know what are the more important pictures that have to be taken that day.” She spoke briefly of a previous wedding day where a hired male friend was taking photographs of interesting women instead of the happy couple of the day (that story did not end well), and then continued, “So I talked with the rest of the guys here, and we have all agreed, as a wedding gift to you, we will help you hire a photographer for your wedding day.”

There was a long pause. my wife and I looked at the anticipating expressions of everyone around the table, expecting our response. We were both stunned; in a few minutes my wife would be touched to tears by the offer, but for the longest time I couldn’t find the words to say. Needless to say, I added to the tension on the table with my non-response, because I was not known to be one at a loss for words in any occasion other than when I was stuffing my mouth with food. As much as I was wondering what the hell Michelle was thinking when she requested time away from the hosts of the party to speak with the host’s guetss, now everyone was thinking what the hell I was thinking when I finally heard of the proposal.

I finally broke. “In my 30 years of life, this has never happened to me before. I would never have imagined my wife and I would have with us, a group of friends as giving as the ones seated at my table right now.”

And that was all I could say. The rest of the night, I remained stunned, confused, guilty, happy, sad, deeply appreciative and completely undeserving of the company we were keeping this night.

Stunned because I never knew I had friends this good.

Confused because I wondered where the hell they came from, and why the hell they came to my wife and I.

Guilty because I had preconceptions of my own guests and had only realised how wrong I am as a person to think people were going to knife me when all they wanted was to give me the best day of my life by giving me the best night of my life.

Happy because the people who were there for us last night, were there for us last night.

Sad because the people whom we thought would be there for us, weren’t.

Deeply appreciative because… oh, you get it.

And writing this, I realise the one situation where such a mish-mash of seemingly contradicting emotions will come together and give you, among other things, a thoroughly sleepless night.

Love.

To be continued…

What’s In a Name?

In the course of a couple’s journey through pregnancy, the subject of choosing a name for your baby will come up in the course of one’s conversations with his or her partner, as well as with relatives and friends. The question, “Have you chosen a name for your baby?” has come up enough times for us to properly set down more or less what we’ve decided whether it be a boy or a girl.

But we’ve also gone through a list of names that will ensure our unpopularity as parents to our teenage-angst-ridden-child-of-about-10-years-later. The following names deserves a disclaimer, as some of these names poke fun at the culture of the Singapore language, so if you’re a foreigner who hasn’t seen the local heartland activity before, or a English-ed who is hopeless at Mandarin, much less Hokkien catchphrases, excuse my indulgences. I also ask my unborn child to please forgive me if we do end up giving you one of the names I am about to mention.

Before we even got married, my wife and I were toying with names for our child already (as most people in a serious relationship will no doubt have partaken in at some point in their lives together). Being a Tay (or ? Zheng4), I, too, have had my fair share of nicknames which I found to be quite entertaining should my child adopt them. For example:

  • ?? for a boy (while considered a very fancy Chinese name for its use of two characters instead of the standard three, when translated in local dialect will become “Tay Peng”, or as Singaporeans so affectionately call iced milk tea in hawker centres and kopitiams)
  • ?? for a girl (its phonetic meaning “zheng4 dian3” being the Chinese hooligan slang for “chio bu“, or “phwah, pretty girl leh”)
  • Aaliyah Tay (in commemorating the late R&B singer as well as our very popular ginger milk tea, Teh Aliah, available at all good kopitiams)
  • Elizabeth Tay Lor (this one came up last night at bedtime when I was feeling particularly corny, made my wife shake in silent laughter for a good 15 minutes)
  • and of course, the phonetic equivalents of more serious Chinese phrases such as ?? (zheng4 zhi4, or politics), ?? (justice), ?? (authentic), ?? (get a grip, like, you know, “get a grip, man”), etc.

In all earnest, the both of us do try our best to choose the most plausible Chinese characters (i.e. actual names we could use) despite their very misguided double meanings. When we more or less settled on Xander or Xandra for our child’s name (derived from Alexander, for those that think it’s soooo original), and as I am writing this, I suddenly find ?? (justice) quite suitable as a Chinese follow-on for its simple strokes and resemblance to the English counterpart’s initial.

But it isn’t as simple as aesthetics and meanings in choosing a name. Under very strict fengshui and numerological standards, both the English and Chinese names cannot be taken as is until the child is born and his or her 8 characters (time and date of birth) are attained. From there we will need to calculate the numerical sum of all the English letters (each letter in the name represented by its numerical position in the alphabet, added together and then added again to the 8 numbers of the time and date of birth). Thus in today’s Asian society, names with added or replacement consonants and vowels are gaining popularity, like Allenn instead of Alan, or Richardd instead of Dick, or Gollumm instead of My Precious, or, for the more superstitious Catholic, Archiballd Bryern Goh Ann Daie.

For Chinese characters it’s even worse. Based on your 8 characters, you need to count the total number of strokes used in your Chinese name, and couple with that, you need to choose Chinese words that compensate for your lack of certain elements (as in mine, where I lack the water element in my birthtime, so my name is ?? for the 3 “spots of water” in both characters). Name-choosing has become such an intricate art, it has become a lucrative business that charges people 3- to 4-digit figures for a 45-minute sitdown with a Chinese almanac, numerology textbooks, calculator, Chinese dictionary and a lawyer for your deed poll if you are unfortunate enough to need your name changed after you hit puberty.

If you still aren’t daunted by the sheer mind-boggling intricacies of choosing a name for your child, by all means, save the 500 bucks and do it yourself. Just read all the documentation carefully, and hope that the name you choose will not spell the fate of your child being called Lucky Cock, or Regina-Vagina, or

How To Buy A Computer And Not Bitch About It.

I got a shoutout from my eldest sister over MSN today about a colleague of hers considering getting a laptop for his work. Having worked at her company for a while before deciding I was going crazy and would never rejoin the legal industry ever again, I knew exactly what kind of person her colleague was, and exactly what kind of computer he needed.

He was a technophobe. And he needs the most powerful computer he can afford.

How does one come to such a conclusion when every forum you read, every salesperson you talk to and every friend-who-has-a-computer you know says that if you’re only getting a computer to do basic stuff like surf porn and read email, you only need a basic computer? Here’s some points to think about that I have garnered in my years of technical support for people who don’t pay me (and some who do, but very little):-

  1. People who use computers the least complain the most about them.
  2. People who use computers for only their most basic functions always manage to spoil them in the most complex, unthinkable ways.
  3. People who ask other people for advice on what computer to buy, shouldn’t be thinking about buying computers in the first place.
  4. People who get asked by other people about what computer to buy, need to avoid answering that question, change their mobile phone numbers and run far, far away.

Now allow me to run through these inconspicuously salient points one by one.

1. People who use computers the least complain the most about them.
The very person whom my sister was talking about is the same person I had to sit next to in the same office while working as a hapless paralegal, and the same person who was complaining to me again and again about why his computer was running o slowly, why he could not get an Internet connection, why his email was taking so long to download, why his computer was taking so long to boot up, why there are pop-up windows of naked women and Viagra ads disturbing his work, etc. etc. And all he does on his computer pretty much every day is boot up, check email, surf porn, and shut down.

2. People who use computers for only their most basic functions always manage to spoil them in the most complex, unthinkable ways.
Consider my boss, the high-flying business owner who travels a lot and does not go anywhere nor do anything without her laptop. On my advice (which completely contradicts the point that I wish to make on this post because I so blindly followed the opinions of the entire world of geeks before me) bought an end-of-run Fujitsu notebook because I thought, apart from the Photoshop and AutoCAD, she doesn’t need something that powerful. Now, not only are her applications running too slow and her Internet connection settings keep getting lost, but she managed to break her laptop chassis within months of usage, causing multiple, almost indecipherable problems on her machine, not to mention making her laptop look like it has been through the 1991 Iraq war.

3. People who ask other people for advice on what computer to buy, shouldn’t be thinking about buying computers in the first place.
So you go up to the one person (or five) who owns a computer/works on computers for fun/looks like he knows the computing industry on account of he wears glasses to find out what computer you should get. The next question is invariably, “What will you use it for?” For the most part, it is a rhetorical question. When we say “What will you use it for?”, we actually mean, “Why? You don’t even know how to use one.” But in order not to seem rude, we let you answer the question anyway.

“Oh, I thought maybe I would just use it to check email, do a little surfing on the Web, and maybe play some Solitaire,” you reply.

So after running through a few more of your habits and requirements, the doctors of tech write you a prescription, and you go down to the local PX (Sim Lim General Hospital or Funan Specialist Clinic, you decide), collect your computer and call us the next morning. And THEN you realise after a few weeks, this isn’t the kind of computer I really want. And then you plague the friend who recommended you the purchase in the first place with point number 1 again. Then inevitably, whilst figuring out how to use the damn thing, you break it, thus bringing you down to point number 2. So you call up a friend and ask what computer you can get to replace this one; point number 3. It’s a vicious cycle.

4. People who get asked by other people about what computer to buy, need to avoid answering that question, change their mobile phone numbers and run far, far away.
This really is the only way to break the vicious cycle, especially if you’re not privy with the advice I am about to give, and are so inept as an advice giver you might as well keep your mouth shut. To know if you are just that inept at dishing out computer purchasing advice, just look out for this scenario: a friend asks you what computer to get, and you tell them. Said friend gets computer, and suddenly your mobile line is added to your friend’s speed dial so he can ask you for technical support. And when things go wrong with the computer, and you are at a loss as to how to help, you get this gem of a retort: “But you were the one who recommended me this tmachine in the first place!” You are tagged for life.

So next time someone asks you for computer recommendations, do either one of 2 things:

  • Avoid answering that question, change your mobile phone number and run far, far away.
  • Recommend the best computer in the class that your friend can afford (and not the class that he should use), and make sure he also purchases a renewable full-coverage warranty/computer insurance/repair & replacement service to go along with it (like Dell’s CompleteCover, or check out this article for tips on enhancing your warranty). Then change your mobile phone number and run far, far away.

The theory behind getting a tech noob the best computer his money can buy is simple; in most cases there will not be cognitive dissonance because of the higher power he is being introduced to. Also he has less to complain about since the computer can perform so well beyond his normally recommended class of usage in the first place already. AND because of the additional warranty coverage, he is less inclined to call you should something go wrong. Sure computers have a lifespan of 3-4 years, after which it will be time to make another change, but likely he will have enjoyed his computing experience with his machine so much that he will be able to figure out for himself what kind of computer he should get next.

Even if your friend is ever gonna call you for advice, you’re still safe. You changed your mobile number, right?