Monthly Archives: July 2006

Lunar 7th month

The 7th month started with a lot of burning of “ghost money” to the deceased family members. The town council had to provide large metal drums as designated zones for residents to burn their offerings. One woman was scattering them onto the grass instead of burning them. I’m not sure why, never bothered to work out all the details of ancestral worship, which has many unexplainable variants anyway. What I do know for sure is that the foreign nationals who sweeps our housing estate will have to gather them up to be properly burnt the next morning. Will they be cursed as in the movie, the maid?

I’m not pantang, but I work under pantang bosses who bought some good luck charm to deflect their bout of bad luck after the disaster. While we cannot conclusively prove if it worked, they joked that the curse has been passed to other systems that subsequently hit severe problems of their own. A few years ago, the management tried to avoid big-scale implementations during the seventh month. They even made sure we did not move to a new office during that month. They stopped doing that these days. We have deadlines to be met, and to hold back work for a month would be unthinkable.

If the management of the NEL is just as pantang, they would be wondering why they were struck a day early. They could have made a better attempt to inform would-be passengers of that their trains were down instead of letting so many of us wait and wait and wait in the station. I was at HarbourFront and I did not hear any announcement about a technical breakdown, or that the train will move much slower than usual to Outram Park station. Perhaps they did not want their passengers to experiment with other modes of transport that can also get them home.

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“Not budgeted for”

My managers will disappear for at least a month every half year to do their budgeting. They will spend enormous amounts of time scrutinizing the budget forecast and making sure that we have enough work to do, but not too much, and that we are making enough money to cover our salary, rental and other stuff.

All is well and good, but I often wish they will spend the same effort on tracking our projects and ensuring that we are on track, rather than panicking when we hit problems. That aside, budgeting is something that they understand, and we are generally effective at controlling user requests by using the budget as a plan of how we would allocate resources, and would inform user that we are all tied up, or that the users’ budget has been exhausted, so could we do this next year instead? Something big that is not budgeted for can thus be averted, because bosses here value stability and would not want to incur additional expenses because they dislike having to explain such things to senior management.

Apparently, this is a concept that is well-understood by executives all over Singapore, and is thus useful when we need to explain away why we are not doing something. Take as an example, a concerned (or merely kay-po) friend who like to ask “Is there any news?” a few months after I got married. By news, they are not asking if I have been promoted, won the lottery or some nobel prize, or discovered the cure for Aids, worthy though these may be. The only news that they are interested in following a wedding is our announcement that we are having a baby. It has been very useful to tell them that this is not budgeted for, and they will laugh it off and leave us alone.

Far more useful, really, than trying to explain that we have a Plan, and that we planned to have the baby sometime down the road. Invariably, they would like to question when that would be, why not earlier. It is useful to be able to explain in a common language.

Apparently, the cost of having a baby, and then raising it, can be intimidating when you are living in Singapore, and thus the concept of “not budgeted for” is easy for them to swallow.

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You know that Singapore is a small place when you have ran into the same conwoman at least for the 3rd time in about 10 years. How is it that she still dare to pull the same trick without fearing that people will find her familiar and have her arrested?

She looked like a teenager when she first came up to me to ask for money to buy dinner for her younger siblings. She looks like a young woman in her twenties now, and still as plump as ever. You know, it is a wonder how people supposedly with less money than me can look so much more well-fed than me. Maybe wealth is a matter of perception.

Anyway, back to the story. Someone warned me that she is a fraud while she talked to me for the first time, and I volunteered to buy the food for her and bring it to her siblings. To me, it seemed to be a safer thing to do than to give her the cash and sort of a test of whether she is really in need. Someone who is hungry will likely accept the food while a cheat will reject it and accept only money. She rejected it and fled when I insisted on following her to her siblings. I had told her that I can help refer her to some organisations that specialise in doing social work and helping those in need, but she was not interested.

She approached me again a few years later and the story was similar. She was still as plump as ever, so it was even harder for me to believe that her family is in need of food. In need of money to pay the rent, school fees or buy new clothes I can believe, but food?! And this is the third time. I warned her sternly that I will call the police if I ever see her trying to cheat people of money again. People don’t really change that much. I’m still willing to help those in need. She is still preying on the kindness of others. People like her makes me sick, and more cautious about helping people whose plight I cannot verify.

A couple of years back, there was this man from China who told me he lost his wallet and needed just 10 dollars to travel to the airport to meet his friend who was arriving that night. He promised to repay me once he meets up with his friend. I did not help him. I could have asked for the flight number and checked if there was really such a friend on that flight, but it was too unlikely and too much trouble. The first instinct is to distrust them. Perhaps people do change.

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I learnt a new word today that describes my current condition. Ennui is

Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom

Credit must be given to Ondine. Good GP teachers are able to teach cheem and interesting words.

It’s been a month since I last updated my blog, and another 3 weeks since the post before that. Sheer lethargy. Some quick updates:

The disaster was finally brought under control and relief efforts passed back to the team that is responsible for it in the first place. I’m relieved from the relief work so that I can fix my own problems before they also swell out of control. As the wise old manager says, we are pressed from 4 sides: from customers who change requirements, from management who insist that we stick to schedule and budget, from infra who are uncooperative and keep throwing obstacles at us, and from our vendors whose deliverables are lacking in quality. Dogs have a better life than us.

Sunshine and me went to Hong Kong for a 4D3N trip. It was a crash course on HK for me, and perhaps a dream came true for her to finally see the places she has seen only in drama series. I took more than 500MB of photos and had wanted to post some of them and write about our trip. But you know, ennui. Sigh. I hope I do get around to do something before the memories fade.

Accidentally dropped the wordpress database that I run in the office for my project blogs. Arrgh! The last backup was in April… fortunately, the disaster kept me from posting much to the blog, and I lost only 2 or 3 meeting minutes, I think. I was able to recover the rest of the content from a rss reader that I ran before the disaster. There’s a cron job that do the daily backing up now.

My resume is still only half-done, and therefore not suitable for use yet. I keep thinking that a change of job will remove this lethargy. I hope it does. I will die if I’m so nua in a new job.

Some exercises are in order to shrug this ennui off. Started swimming last weekend. Hope I start writing and thinking again. Start reading again. Start doing some small projects that I feel for. Not the kind of system I do at work, but for personal interest. Anything to get my life started again. Tonight. Now back to work…

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