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Saturday, October 27, 2007

XM Away Day 2007 - Sentosa

Merlion Tower
My roommate and I were woken up by a constant squeaking noise. I figured it was the trolley for room service in the corridor. By then, I wasn't sure if I was still staying in a Shangri-La Hotel. My room's view faced the forested hill (the other row of rooms faces the sea) and my room was above the dumpster.

Anyway, we went down for breakfast at 10am, and just as well, because the restaurant was packing up at 10:30am. I tucked into sausages, scrambled egg, pancakes, some other stuff that I can't remember, and washed it down with iced Milo. Yum!

Most colleagues were leaving already (only about half of the employees stayed overnight). I happened to be chatting with a few colleagues, and we decided to go to at least another attraction since we were on Sentosa already. So we decided to go to the Merlion Tower.

Fountain and peek at Merlion Tower
We checked out at 11:30am, then took a bus to the tower. We had to walk up this path that had a gaudily-designed waterway running down the middle. I guess it was supposed to be attractive, and in an "ol' skool" way, it was. But in the 21st century, it screamed, "Redevelopment!"

It cost $8 to go into the Merlion Tower. After a short walk through a dark passage that had figurines of mermaids and assorted sea creatures, we were ushered into a small theatre. There, we were presented with an animated film about how the merlion came to be. It started with the familiar story of Sang Nila Utama, but then degraded into a farce. In the first place, the lion looked silly with its big mane. I also couldn't help but think that there was some propaganda behind it. "The merlion represents..." okay, I can't remember what the dialogue said because it was too hokey! Anyway, the audience, which consisted mostly of Japanese students, had a good laugh over it, a reaction that I don't think the creators had in mind.

Northern view from the Merlion Tower head
Next was a small hall where we could get a coupon to claim a free gift. And then it was up to the top of the tower, 10 storeys high, apparently. From here, we had a clear view to the north and south, which also included a great appreciation for the destruction caused by the integrated resort development.

We went down to the gift shop, where we claimed our free gifts (I got a handphone trinket worth $3.90, bleah!), then decided to head back to the mainland. We decided to give the Sentosa Express a try.

Note to self: If staying at a Sentosa hotel, remember to ask for a free Sentosa Express ticket.

We paid $3 each for the train ticket, then "maximised" it by taking a round trip, i.e. from the Merlion Tower station down to the beach station, back to the Merlion Tower, then onwards to Vivocity. It was a smooth and trouble-free ride, reminding me of the people-mover at the airport.

And from Vivocity, we headed home, a relaxing ending to the week.


Friday, October 26, 2007

XM Away Day 2007

Group picture
A colleague remarked that I would have things to blog about regarding this year's Away Day. I suppose I shouldn't disappoint her (even if it's one of less-than-five non-work statements she's ever had with me this year).

This year's Away Day was held at Rasa Sentosa Resort, with activities organised by Anergy. I took the resort's bus with two colleagues from HarbourFront directly into the resort. The day's events were supposed to start at 8:30am, but this being Singapore, things were delayed by almost an hour. In the meantime, we dug into breakfast and chatted with one another. Oh, and cameras started appearing too.

We were soon asked to sit at tables according to our teams (seven teams, about 10 people per team). After a short introduction by our MD, we proceeded with an ice breaker game. Each team had to send a member to relate a unique experience. The other teams would then decide if that story was true or false. While we got to know a few more things about our colleagues (ever heard of nipples bleeding during a marathon?), we were also amused by the creativity of others.

The next game consisted of "Surviving the Desert". It's supposed to be a team game, but I didn't appreciate that aspect fully. It was more of a general knowledge quiz, where you had to arrange 15 items in order of importance if you were lost in a desert. My and my team's score: don't get lost in the desert!

Next up was a series of question-and-answer games that tested different aspects of our natural abilities (logical, spatial, musical, etc.), general knowledge and knowledge of colleagues. We played these as teams, with the theory being that each team consisted of members with different abilities, so when you pooled them together, you could get a winning combination.

Of course, in this game's case, there was only one winning combination and six losing ones.

Lunch consisted of a buffet at the resort's restaurant. Then at 2pm, we had our outdoor activity. It consisted of going to several checkpoints within the resort's vicinity, which we had to determine based on clues, then performing team challenges. My team's challenges, in order:
  1. Each member is given a raffia string, which is tied to a marker pen. Together, we had to draw: a circle, a triangle, a square, a star and a five-petal flower.
  2. Trust fall (no explanation needed).
  3. Put 20 ping pong balls in up to 15 balloons, with each balloon blown up to be big enough to just fit in a small pail.
  4. Use a blowpipe to shoot 20 rubber darts at a target about five metres away.
  5. Toss a beanbag twice into a hula hoop (placed about two metres away on the ground) using a nylon sheet.
In the end, my team was placed fifth overall. To be fair, not all of us were particularly competitive. And besides a mild suntan, we had some fun interacting with one another. And, of course, taking photos.

Dinner wasn't till 7pm, so I went up to my room with my roommate and another colleague to relax and bathe. I enjoy staying in hotel rooms because it's one of the few chances that I get to watch cable TV, especially HBO. Unfortunately, HBO was showing some B-movie at that time. Boo.

Sunset BBQ buffet
My dinner
At about 6:45pm, we went down to the beach, where I chatted with another colleague. The barbeque dinner commenced soon after (we ate, the resort's chefs did the cooking). At a rumoured $130 per head, we were treated to steak, grilled prawns, satay, other good food and crayfish. And unlimited soft drinks and beer and wine. Someone brought vodka, so soon we were drinking that as well.

BTW my glass of vodka-and-orange juice was apparently not strong enough, so more vodka was added. Later that night, as I was searching for my toothbrush, I cut my finger on my razor and bled for almost an hour. I blame the alcohol for this. Thanks, Kelly!

Eventually, as would happen to any party with bodies of water nearby, people were thrown into the swimming pool and the beach lagoon. Clothes were wet, hair was disheveled, and cameras snapped away. And there was more drinking and photo-taking on dry land as well. Yeah, we were all just hanging loose and enjoying the night.

Live band
We adjourned to the open-air lounge for more champagne, more vodka, more beer, tequila shots. There was also a live band that, I thought, specialised in more Latin American-type music. They were nice enough to do some requests, including "Stairway to Heaven" and "Hotel California", which is probably a staple for every live band. We stayed till around midnight. While the others went to someone's room for more partying, I returned to my room (which is where I promptly cut myself and applied pressure with toilet paper while watching Cartoon Network).



Thursday, October 25, 2007

Man defecates on buses

If this happened in Singapore, you can expect bus fares to rise tenfold!

Man defecates on buses


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

377A will be repealed one day, just not today

More and more, it seems that Singapore is ruled by a split personality government. On one hand, it's willing to take the bull by the horns and make 180-degree decisions, like building not one but two casinos or increasing the GST rate. Those take one year at most to be implemented.

On the other hand, you have things like the Penal Code that take more than a generation to be updated. This week, Parliament repealed several sections of the Code, including allowing non-vaginal intercourse (and possibly engage in bestiality too) and allowing wives to cry "rape" (though under certain circumstances).

Penal Code Section 377A is one of the laws that will take a longer time to be updated. Section 377A, which criminalises the procurement of an act of gross indecency by one male from another male, supposedly makes it illegal to be gay (though lesbians may have a free pass). But it needn't be so. I believe that 377A won't be repealed in this generation, but with the next, at the earliest.

Civil liberty laws tend to take a long time to be updated here because the government likes to tread cautiously. And it should be no surprise. This is "Politics in a Democracy 101". The party that wants to stay in power needs to garner the support of the majority. And in Singapore, especially with a greying population, the older people, who tend to be more conservative (at least publicly), form the majority.

Therefore, the government cannot afford to ruffle their feathers for now. If it repeals 377A, there's the potential that it may alienate its power base, which may cause it to lose support in the next election (as unlikely as that will ever be, but hey, why take the chance?).

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for 377A opponents, and it's shining brighter and brighter. Based on my observation, those who support repealing 377A strongly tend to be younger and more exposed to non-Asian influences, so they are more open-minded. And you know the saying: "youths are the leaders of tomorrow".

In the end, politics, at least in this case, is all about statistics. For now, the majority is formed by older people who are not willing to change the status quo. But there will come a time when the more liberal youths will grow up and form the majority, while the older, conservative ones become a minority.

And then Penal Code Section 377A will be repealed. Be patient, that day is coming. Just not today.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Uneaten food and undrunk drinks

Here's a somewhat amusing observation: people are more willing to leave food behind, but every single drop of an alcoholic beverage must be swallowed. I noticed this when I was in the U.S. and I notice it here in Singapore. No matter what the drink was, whether it be beer or wine or champage, it must be finished. But food can be casually dumped into the bin.

I personally have been known to leave beer behind if I've reached my limit. No matter how people force me, I will refuse to take another drop. Therefore, at least in my view, I'm equal in wasting both food and drink (though that is not desirable behaviour, since waste is waste). But when that happens, someone else will finish my beer. As for the food, "ah, who cares?"

Can anyone explain the disconnect in the logic of food and drink wastage?


Thursday, October 18, 2007

A380 gives new meaning to "Mile High Club"

SIA A380 sleeper suite

SIA recently received its first A380 airplane and unveiled a few key features, like the sleeper suite. That bed certainly looks nice and comfortable and the champagne (is it complimentary?) definitely adds a romantic touch. And with the sliding doors and window blinds, privacy is almost certainly guaranteed.

Which means the amorous couple wouldn't need to duck into a cramped lavatory to share an intimate moment. Like I said, it gives a new meaning to the label, "mile high club".

How long before an entrepreneurial "filmmaker" makes and releases a video?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Try For Free?

Hehe, I haven't blogged in two weeks, and the first thing I write in my "come back" post is about a Try For Free promotion from Nokia. They're really pushing their services business. This time, it's for games on mobile phones.

Here's the funny thing: I don't own a Nokia phone. Never have. I am strictly a Sony Ericsson user. Samsung's UI looks too manga-ish, Motorola phones always seemed to lack that one thing that would make them perfect, and I've never considered LG phones. As for Nokia, the phones that fit my wants (note: not "needs"!) somehow never made me feel like I want to own them.

It's like Apple and Sony computers. Sony Vaios are really cool to look at and, features-wise, are on par with Apple's offerings, but somehow, I could never bring myself to get one.

Of course, that doesn't mean I don't keep up with what's going on with Sony and Nokia. Who knows, maybe I will find a Nokia phone and Sony Vaio that scream at me to claim ownership on.

In the meantime, if anyone has a Nokia phone, why not Try For Free? There should be no harm, right?


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reason #2389 to buy a Mac: Smaller PPT files

I never thought that I would promote a Microsoft product as a benefit to use a Mac, but here goes:
A graphics-heavy PowerPoint file could actually use less disk space on a Mac!
I was working on a presentation at home on my iMac and the file came to a hefty 4MB. But when I re-saved the file in Windows -- even after compressing all of the images to be optimised for the screen, the file size weighed in at a whopping 8MB!

I saved half the disk space on a Mac!

This was admittedly a non-scientific observation. But still, saving 50% of disk space is quite a significant difference. Truly, the Mac business unit at Microsoft has churned out the best version of Microsoft Office.