Go with a smile!

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Some Thoughts on the Fall of Great Britain

Great Britain was like a startup. In the beginning, it did a few things right. After the renaissance, it was one of the few European powers who had superior organisation. Coupled with its geographical isolation, it meant that it wasn't easy for other countries (France, especially) to conquer it.

In the beginning they may or may not have had the most brilliant scientists, but they produced the industrial revolution.

They surpassed the Spanish and the Dutch and they built a great empire by being the least asshole of the asshole colonial powers. They were lucky in the way former colonies and dominions (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia) also rose up in the world and became useful allies.

They lost their way after the end of empire. In WW2 they defeated the Nazis but were themselves defeated by the Japanese. There are plenty of great achievements post war. The welfare state, which helped for a while to restore the UK to the first world. Alan Turing. Tim Berners Lee. Everest expedition, a prototype for a new multicultural Europe, the Beatles, Aardman Animations, the great British contributions to popular music, even a World Cup. But it is never a good sign that much of your achievement either rests on a great imperial past or is abetted largely by it.

Brexit is a symptom and maybe not the main problem. The main problem is that it somehow transformed itself from one of the best run welfare states to one of the worst run, then into an outright plutocracy. In many respects, Thatcher, then Blair was the beginning of the end.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Groundhog Day

I don’t know why but it seems that punks don’t age very well. Johnny Lydon had two great bands - Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited. But after that he struggled a bit. No members of the clash ever scaled the heights they used to scale after that band broke up. Husker Du broke up and Bob Mould made 1 more classic album with Sugar before regressing to the mean and mediocrity. Iggy Pop had a turbulent but productive 70s and you could say after he broke from Bowie he never made another truly great album. Kurt Cobain never saw the age of 30. Courtney Love stopped trying after the age of 30.

Elvis Costello managed to extend his career by branching off from punk. It’s telling that one of his greatest late career albums was that collaboration with Burt Bacharach, which is about as unpunk as you can get.

At some point, that element of shock and awe that you can summon up as a young punk will no longer conjure its special magic. You got to change the game.

The winds are blowing against me. Parents getting old. I’m getting old. Getting tired of my current life. Already got what I wanted. Still no music career. people getting tired of me. Computer conking off. Friends deserting me. Well at least vanishing from our lives.

The things I discovered at 20: a little bit of resilience. Sex. Jazz. Scholastic aptitude. Romantic love. Cooking. Living alone - Spiritual independence. Financial independence. Books.

The things that I cared about around 30: all going one by one. Hanging out at Borders. Long distance running. Beer. Coffee. Football fanhood. Songwriting. Computer programming. Blogging. A new life in a new country.

Then there is the rest of my life, and thinking about how I’m going to adapt when I grow older. the next step, maybe the one that I’ve not taken. A whole life of having to keep on giving until it hurts.

There were things that I cared about during my younger adulthood that I no longer care about. And I have to chuck them out. My life has to be more pared down.

I used to wait for things to happen, and there was a certain logic about it, because you think that when you grow older, you will get wiser and more capable. But once you’re in your 30s, you know that’s not going to happen. What you got is what you got. If you’re going to struggle at something now, it’s going to be something you will struggle at indefinitely.

I used to care about football, I don’t anymore.

I cared about leaving Singapore and coming to “Mexico” - I just wanted to move to the USA, and live my life here, but also I hoped that I would find something - well I don’t really know what. But it was a dormant desire for most of the time I was in Singapore and working for the “factory”, and became an active one once I decided to set things into motion. But that motivating factor also disappeared once I achieved my aim.

I cared about collecting music and movies, but there’s only so much you can consume, and before long, you’re surrounded by boxes and boxes of the stuff.

I cared about reading lots of books and collecting lots of random knowledge, but then I realised that as you get older, reading more books does not make you wiser. I’m wondering if life is a lot like surfing, if surfing wasn’t a matter of riding an endless series of waves that swell and crest.

I contrast the experience of blogging when I was young and blogging at this age. It’s incredibly been 15 years since I started blogging. When you’re younger, you see the small things very clearly. Your knowledge is more specific, although it is limited. While you’re clear about certain things, in the larger picture maybe you haven’t arrived at the truth. When you’re older, you’re probably nearer to the truth, although you could be further away from it, if you’re not careful.

When we were younger, we thought that knowledge acquisition was always good, because you learnt something for the future. This idea swelled and reached its zenith when I was in college, and my first aimless work years. I remember my 30th birthday, when I just took leave and wandered around Singapore and ended up reading at Borders for a few hours. I think about all the things that have happened since then - the long distance running, the grad degree, the changing of countries, writing 100 songs, the coding job, I think, not bad, but maybe those are things I should have done in my 20s?

We always think that things are moving forward. Every year, things are better. Maybe not. maybe I’m on some crazy treadmill where I’m going to learn something and then forget it again later on. Maybe the shitload of books I read when I was in my 20s don’t amount to anything, although I have to say that I’d rather have been a bookworm in my 20s than in any other stage in my life. But maybe I shouldn’t be reading so much anymore. I should be thinking about what would be more influential on my future and doing that.

The problem with the acquisition of knowledge, and this is something that becomes more apparent when you start to age, is that you don't remember everything forever. When you're young, you form the impression that you do. When you're 40, you're still moving forward, but you're no longer accelerating. And eventually there will be a time when you're not even moving forward. So it used to be the case that I could tell myself that I was building for the future, but in actual fact I wasn't really. In fact, there's really only one thing that's sorda permanent, and that one thing was alluded to in the movie "Coco". That is to make people have some reason to remember you.

The acquisition of knowledge has diminishing returns on investment. Once some semblance of a world view takes form in your head, you don’t have to do that much other than revise it every 10 years.

I cared about finding a girlfriend, but ………… well I watched “The Terminal”. It’s not that the Catherine Zeta Jones character isn’t well fleshed out, she’s no better or worse than the other secondary characters. But she’s always treated like a prize to be won. For a while, there was this attractive lady working in my office, and the thought did occur to me. But then she got fired pretty quickly (the guy who hired her got outed as a sexual predator and was himself fired a few years later, so I’m just wondering if he hired her because his dick was doing the talking instead.) She was a single mother… which is kinda unattractive because I’m barely up to dealing with women, let alone their kids.

So here’s the thing - in a way I still view women as prizes, but no matter how sexist you think that sounds, there is this element that a guy somehow has to be judged as being deserving of the lady. How do you get there? Maybe it would have been easier to get there if I had stayed in Singapore, and I can’t avoid the uncomfortable issue that I came here as some kind of an easy way out.

I cared about making music. I still write music from time to time. But I also understand why peoples’ outputs decline in quality as you get older. Something that Michael Stipe said was true: as you grow old, to a lesser and lesser extent, you directly experience the music, and instead you go by your memories of your younger self engaging with it.

I cared about getting along with my colleagues. During my first few years working with the “factory”, it just seemed so important for me to be part of the gang, even though I never thought I was truly one of them. But the friendships were real, and the good times were real. As time went on, the “gang” dissipated. There was always this notion that we were just passing by towards our next destination, that we were inevitably bound for bigger and better things, although it was not certain that we would end up in a better place.

I feel like I’m living out Groundhog day, and I will not escape my dreary existence unless I make some kind of a breakthrough. Maybe I came here half knowing that I had to change my lifestyle into something else and find that something else, because it just wouldn't do to carry on indulging in what I was doing in the past.

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Addictions

Apparently addictions are being blamed for the rise in unhappiness amongst Americans.

There may be 3 things which are related to each other and are relevant in this day and age. One of them is the opioid crisis in America. Another one of them is the fragmentation of the American society, first discussed by Robert Putnam in his classic, “Bowling Alone” and still relevant today. How are these two related to each other? In the famous psychological experiment (go look up “rat park”), addiction is related to not having an active social life. The breakdown of society and addiction are twin scourges that feed on each other.

The third spoke on the triad is related to both the fragmentation of society and addiction. It is “social media”. (quotations because social media ain’t that social). it is related to both addiction and breakdowns in real human relationships. It is related to addiction because it's designed to be addictive. And also in breakdowns in relations because it's a surrogate for real human interaction.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

College admissions Scandal

I used not to wonder about this, but some of the things are getting less and less important. When I was in my younger adulthood maybe I was too concerned about things that maybe didn’t matter. Maybe I was just having a scattershot approach to all sorts of random knowledge. Maybe I was just following sports to kill time. Maybe I was just watching too many movies and not caring. Maybe I was just blogging. It’s surprising how many things you do and at the end of the day the rewards are just fleeting.

There was an admissions scandal going on. People were bribing their way to get their kids into good colleges.

I got into Snowy Hill relatively easily. OK, it’s never easy to get into Snowy Hill and I had to do a few things and prove to people that I’m remarkable. But it wasn’t as hard - I almost got in by accident. All our school lives, we were told that we had to excel. That we had to have a good ECA record. This got me half the way up the hill. Then I remember being told that JC2 was one of the most crucial years of your life. Which was really good advice. Getting good grades for my “A”s, and then applying to college in the States. Getting into some, not getting into some. And then somehow bundling up my experience and my ECAs and managing to convince at least one scholarship committee that I was worth the hassle.

Perhaps there was a more level playing field then. Of course there are important things like hard work and talent. Those two things have always been indispensable to get ahead. But these days, it seems as though you’d need a little something extra.

You needed to have somebody to tell you how to be more focused. There was quite a bit of a gap in this regard. At times I could tell my parents were really focused on my getting good grades, and pushing me towards a few of the ECAs that they had selected for me: music, swimming, etc. At other times - and this is something that I can say with the benefit of hindsight - they really were blind to some of the things that my school had to offer. Like there wasn’t any co-ordination between the two parts. Especially given that I didn’t handle becoming a teenager very well, and they didn’t either.

After getting into college, it seemed to me that somebody had switched the rules. But actually it was more like I hadn’t really mastered a few rules that I really really needed. No matter, it seemed good enough to show that I had done well in my first 20 years in life, it opened a few doors for me.

These days, though it seems impossible that I’d have gotten into Snowy Hill that easily. There was some luck involved. My involvement in music - that was because my parents sent me to music classes, and I discovered that I had some aptitude. I had some ability in mathematics. Then my involvement in the literary arts was my own thing. By the time my college applications came around, I had checked quite a few boxes, although, to be honest, there was that bit more of promising potential than actual fleshed out possibilities.

I am really grateful that when I was younger, I could just follow my passion and it would lead somewhere. That I mostly did what I wanted to do by “doing well” and it led to good things - Snowy Hill, mostly. But I was probably fortunate or not fortunate. Of the 3 universities I really wanted, maybe I had a less than 50% chance of getting into them - I got into exactly one of them, Snowy Hill. Maybe these were the ways the odds worked out. I hadn’t really given much thought into what lay beyond my “A” levels, was never coached in essay applications. The one thing that went well for me was that I was in a JC that was successful in sending kids to good universities, and that I had impressed my teachers enough that they were willing to write letters for me. Considering what a hassle it was to get my letters during my second college application, I can imagine what a wonderful thing it was.

It was therefore very humbling to arrive in Snowy Hill and find that it was full of people who had worked all their lives to get there. I had spent all my focus on my own grades and exams and college applications were literally an afterthought, and for some reason, it just ended up that one of the biggest problems in my life was solved for me like that.

That brings me to the college admissions cheating scandal. It’s just terrible that college has become such a racket. Admission rates are going down. Tuition is going up. It’s getting tougher and tougher to get into a reasonably good college. There have been admissions fraud cases in the past. They may not have been prosecuted, and some overseas students may have sought to get into the door via the sneaky way. This is one of the first times we’ve had Americans caught red handed inflating their kids’ CVs to get involved in this stuff.

You can go read the news and get all the gory details about how they cheated and how they had all their CVs inflated, but when it comes down to it, it’s really that things have gotten so crazy in this arena of late that you’ve had to resort to this. It’s really sad that this is America, and if nothing else, it still could say with some pride that the universities were the best in the world, and people are doing this.

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Saturday, March 09, 2019

The end of the end of history.

The big epochs of our history took place in 1989. We saw a transformation of the post cold war order. We thought that the US had won the cold war. As with World War 2, the end of the cold war in 1989 had 2 theatres. One epochal event took place in Berlin, where the wall was breached and opened up. Moscow signalled that it would no longer be enforcing the Berlin wall. In rapid succession, there were revolutions in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. Basically for the countries nearest to the West, the Eastern Bloc collapsed. It seemed for a long while that the western way of life would triumph.

In 1991, the Soviet Union fell and split up, and by then people saw this as being inevitable. There were probably at least 3 dimensions to the whole thing. First was the defeat of the communist bloc, that was the most obvious. Second, and this had been happening throughout the 80s, was the defeat of socialism and the denationalization of public assets during the Reagan and Thatcher eras. There was the dismantling of “big government”. And the implication of a world that was both opened up and turning hypercapitalistic was that people turned away from giving a damn about environmentalism.

Then right at the beginning of the cold war, something else happened: that was the Gulf War. It was a victory that briefly sent the popularity of George Bush into the stratosphere. After the disappointments of Korea, Vietnam, and the various military misadventures in Latin America and the Middle East during the Reagan eras, the US finally had something they could call a victory. But the first gulf war planted 2 bad seeds: first was the seed for the second Iraq war that would be widely seen as a self-inflicted wound, and second, because of the US airbases in Saudi Arabia, that would give rise to Al-Qaeda, and then ISIS.

2001 was a rollback of the triumph of the West. By itself it wasn’t as big a deal as how some conservatives saw it. Tightening up security and making sure that this stuff no longer happened was an OK outcome. The real disasters were that in response, Dubya started 2 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were ill advised, not good for the US or Central Asia or the Middle East. The timing was tragic because somehow that didn’t stop Dubya from having a second term. You have to say, though, that he wasn’t quite as destructive during his second term. But that was when all his weaknesses became apparent: his cavalier regulation of the financial bubble, the botched handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the wars going badly. He was one of the least popular presidents by the time is terms were over, and deservedly so. His narrow election over Al Gore should have been seen as one of the most consequential moments in American history, a sliding doors moment when you’d have to say that things could have gone one way or the other.

I’ve been talking about the big events that marked the sliding back from America’s shining hour of having “won” the Cold War. But it’s equally important to mention a few big trends that have taken place as well.

First is the widening income equality. Since the 1970s, America has stopped caring about sharing the economic progress between people of different economic classes.

Second is the expansion of the US police state, the rising number of people, disproportionally black, who end up in prisons. The prison state is the third racist system against black people, after slavery and Jim Crow.

Third is the first past the post electoral system that favours people who live on less populated areas, at the expense of people who live in the cities. That means the more urban Democrats always have a disadvantage against the Republicans when it comes to the elections.

Fourth is the cutting back of funding against policies that really matter, like education and social welfare.

Fifth is the rise of Asia. Not just China, but Asia as a whole poses a huge challenge to the notion that this is a world dominated by the West.

2008 was also a big epoch. A few things happened that year. First was the unfolding of the great financial crisis. Then there was the election of Obama which was supposed to be a good thing, but this gave rise to conspiracy theories and resentment against “elites” and the “birther” conspiracy theories. And most interestingly, there was the rise of smartphones, driven by the iphone, which fundamentally changed the nature of the internet.

Between 2008 and 2016, there were large social changes that took place with great frequency. I don’t know if I’m saying this because I’m growing old, but it seems that the changes are more frequent and less earth shattering. Maybe less earth shattering because I’ve already given up on things always staying the same.

During this period, there was the Tea Party, which raged and howled against the Democrats winning back the White House. There was Occupy Wall Street, a protest that went on for a long time against income inequality. There were protest movements that are receiving a lot more attention now than previously. There was the “Black Lives Matter” movement which at least addresses the inequities where cops who kill black people are exonerated by internal investigations. There was the MeToo movement. A lot of light was shed on sexual abuse that used to be covered up.

There was the legalization of Marijuana, which ironically came around the same time as Opioid abuse. And the movement for gay equality, as well as gay weddings.

There was the rise of cloud computing, of alternative energy and solar panels. Then there was the rise of fake news, aided a little (but not much) by Russian involvement. There were the Snowden revelations and the sudden realisation that we’re all living in a world where our data is collected, crunched and used to benefit the rich and powerful.

On the other side of the Pacific, Xi Jinping became the President of China, and this led to a China that seemed to the rest of Asia to be more imperialistic and aggressive. Probably does not have that much of an impact on the Americans. China doesn’t do much other than steal low skill jobs. And finally, at the end of 2016, it culminated in the election of Donald Trump and the rise of right wing populism worldwide. Previously, people like Netenyahu and Berlusconi would count as right wing populists, but now we have Turkey under Erdogan, Hungary under Orban, Philippines under Duterte, USA under Trump, Brazil under Bolsonaro, Russia under Putin.

Governance in the USA has been weaker, and whether you think the US has stalled or gone backwards, the rise of Asia and other countries has fostered the impression that the USA is no longer a superpower and has to contend with “merely” being a great power. The success of China is putting a big question mark over whether liberal democracy is the best way to run your country. The foibles of capitalism are apparent for all to see. In many ways, the last 30 years represent a rolling back of the optimism of the post cold war years.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Football is meh

Football is kinda pointless. I've said this before.

It was invented by the Victorian British, and as it gained popularity, it seemed to be really useful to give the working classes something to look forward to on the weekend, to distract themselves from all the tedium. Maybe that's why it became so popular near the Rio de la Plata, which had a lot of poor people (except for maybe a few decades in the early 20th century).

Like following football (and I probably stopped… I think it was a good thing that I was supporting Arsenal since 2007. It was a barren run, nothing of note accomplished, every year is average to good, but nothing to shout about. Even the FA cup wins are like 4th places - nothing more than consolations.)

World Cups are pretty meh after a while. Who are the really great teams? 1970 Brazil. 1974 Dutch (who didn’t win). 1982 Brazil (who also didn’t win). Maradona being a great player in a not so great side. The 80s and the 90s being littered with good but not great teams, the Swedes, the Danish, the Dutch (the 1988 side were great tho), the Romanians, the Bulgarians. France side at the turn of the century were great, Brazil 2002 was great. Italy 2006 won because nobody else was great. Spain 2010 was great. Germany 2014 won because they maintained a level of performance that got them to the semis time and again. And France won because nobody else was great. The Croatians…. Football was great for a while because it had so many great stories. But the problem with those great stories is that eventually you ran out of great stories to tell and you were back to square one.

Things in football are semi-ergodic. Stuff that has happened before will happen again. When Man City and Chelsea won the title, they broke 40, 50 year droughts. One of the most famous droughts in English football is Liverpool cos they haven’t won the league in almost 30 years, after being the most powerful football club for almost 20 years. But that might happen soon, especially after a few close calls. People thought they were getting close after Liverpool finished second in 2002. But they weren't the same after Houllier got that heart attack. Then Benitez came close in 2009, when Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Mascherano was at their best. It wasn't to be. Brendan Rodgers led Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling, Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge to a very close finish. If this team can hold their nerve, and if Man City doesn't get their act together, they may be in with a shout. Liverpool are different from Man City and Chelsea because it's not like some really wealthy benefactor turned up and pushed their team forward. But they are a well supported club with money and are perennial challengers. Liverpool's drought spanned almost the entirety of me paying attention to football so it will be quite an experience see them win the league since I was a kid.

Also, during 2002, you’ve had looked at the recent past and seen Argentina winning in 1986, reaching the finals of 1990, Brazil winning in 1994 and 2002 and reaching the final in 2006. You’d have thought that those two countries would have had a stranglehold on the World Cup, considering how strong the Argentina team of 2002 was (never mind that they never got out of the first round.) You’d have seen the Messi teams of 2006 to 2018, seen them reach the finals of WC 2014, Copa in 2015 and 2016. But as of 2018, Argentina has not won any major trophy for more than 20 years, and no World Cup for 30. Brazil is a second rate power. Pele was right in a way when he said that Africa would win the world cup by the early 21st century, but that’s because the French teams of 1998 and 2018 have had a heavy African diaspora component. In particular, 3 of the semi finalists in 2018 have a heavily migrant component, and at this moment, it seems that the council estates of Europe and the refugees from the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s are a great talent factory for football.

But there’s nothing really new in football. In the 1970s, there was the rise of the Brazilian flair players whose dazzling array of skills and tricks brought something truly new and exciting to the game. Then you had the Dutch innovations with total football, where all the players had overlapping multiple roles. And then football hit a bit of a snag with the defensive style dominating the 80s, most notably when the Brazil 1982 side, with plenty of players with dazzling skill being inexplicably knocked out by the second round. In the 90s, the game became faster and harder, and they tried to mix flair with well organised systems. In a bid to break up the ultra-defensive style, after a dismal 1990 world cup, the back pass rule was changed, and the goalkeepers were no longer allowed to trap and pick up the ball. In the 00s, the defensive style came back, but then in late 00s, Barcelona and Spain emerged with a style that had its roots in total football, where the ball was passed to death, and a strong team would try to utterly dominate and control a game without losing the ball: not only that, it would aggressively try to win the ball back from all the players, whether from the front or the back, this was the “pressing style”. Football was philosophised and analysed to death. Now, a lot of players would no longer have styles that were purely defensive, midfield or attacking. Forwards would cover the midfield and occasionally have defensive duties. They would no longer be waiting on the shoulders of the opposing defence to pounce on opportunities, but many of them would be playmaking as well. Midfielders had their duties blended with defence or attack. Defenders, especially wingers, might be occasionally tasked with bringing the ball forwards, maybe even . Most notably, in a role that was invented by Manuel Neuer (when he was still great), goalkeepers would occasionally perform a sweeper role, dribbling with the loose ball and playing it out, occasionally launching attacks in the process.

After all that, there's this sense of been there done that. Maybe there aren't that many more surprises in football. Maybe all the great ideas have already been articulated, and everybody else is just going through the same motions over and over again. Maybe I'm sick and tired of seeing the generations of great footballers go from hottest new thing to ageing has been with creaking knees. Maybe I'm old enough to have been alive when Maradona was a genuine football great rather than some sad sack doing lines on some party bus every World Cup and making a spectacle of himself.

If you were to view pre-war football in its context, there wouldn’t be much there. You couldn’t name any guy who was from before the war. You’d know a few funny stories, like the enmity between Arsenal and Tottenham, like Man City getting relegated the season after they won the league. Like the FA cup finals. We'd be looking at the old film reels of what existed, and we'd be wondering about the days gone by, and we'd be wondering why a lot of what we did see mattered. I still have this memory of the month before I took my "A" levels. For some reason, I spent half a day looking at a sticker book which happened to list the historical records of the premier league clubs. In some distant past, Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Burnley were league champions. Some other clubs have never won championships before but they won FA cups. Aston Villa and Blackburn were actually really successful in the early days of the league. For some reason I was entranced. And yet today I struggle to think about why on earth that would matter, that I would give up half a day of trying to save my ass, in order to look at that particular hall of fame? Why did I care so much about that glory?

I made friends through football. There were people that I normally wouldn’t even have talked to if not for playing those football games on the court. I remember the stirring atmosphere at the old Kallang stadium, how exciting it was for Singapore to win its second Tiger Cup (never mind that our opponents Indonesia just got tsunami-ed in between the two legs of the final). But those memories aren’t going to last a lifetime. They’re just going to fade away eventually.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if I'd have had the same attitude towards football as I would have had 10 years ago, when I was still playing on the basketball court. I don't mind the times when we played street soccer, although maybe I did end it all by walking out on them. Maybe it would be more meaningful to me if I still thought of myself as some guy in central defence who was an immovable force against anything you could throw at it.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Pest control and squatting

I got back home one day and I found brochures of the termite tent. They told us that they were going to fumigate the whole premises. The most important things were to store up the food and put them in air tight bags so that they would not suffer from the effects of the fumigation. It took me 2 whole afternoon to take all my edibles and eat all the fresh stuff and put all the packaged stuff into the storage locker.

I decided to go squat in my office for 2 days, partly to save money, partly for fun, and partly because I wanted to see what happened in my office after the sun went down.

The company I worked for previously resided in a work / residential loft. I had squatted there overnight once or twice before. It was easy. But that place was the analog of Singapore's Clarke Quay: the historic commercial center that turned into a slum and then got revitalised as a pub district. The downside of that place was it was touristy and there were always parties going on downstairs. There were pedicabs going around and blaring out music that was not only loud but extremely cliched top of the pops. It wasn't a great place to sleep.

First of all, I had to handle parking: no problem with that, because the office building allowed you to park your car there overnight.

Secondly, people worked at the office for 8 hours. It wasn't a place where people worked 70 hour weeks. Maybe our founders still do that but the staff don't. Our office was set up a little like what you'd get in a Google office, tastefully furnished. Most important to my plan was that there was a couch in the common area, and the common area was in a part of the office cut off from the rest. That means you could hang out in the common area and not be noticed by the rest of the office. The common area had a back door and then I could sneak out of it and get out of the building without being seen by whoever had barged in. It was the perfect plan.

Third, there was the security downstairs. There were two entrances and exits to the building. Security was covering the front. The back, which led to the car park was sometimes and sometimes not manned. I'm going to have to be carrying my bed sheets and blankets through all that.

Fourth, I need to be waking up early enough in the morning and getting the fuck out before anybody notices that I'm squatting for the night. And after that I had to leave the office to go squat somewhere else. And then I need to make my customary late morning appearance in the office and “start” the day.

Fifth, the bosses had installed a camera facing the front door, so all my entrances and exits had to be at the back door.

I was pleasantly surprised on the first night when nobody came to clear up the office. I thought, I'm going to have an easy night. I brushed my teeth and shaved and then I spread my bedsheet on the couch and looked forward to a relatively uneventful night. I turned in early for my standards, at midnight, having set my alarm for 6am. At 1 in the morning, the lights were turned on and I snapped awake. (Usually when you're sleeping in a new room, you sleep lightly). Fuck! It was the cleaner. How the fuck was I supposed to know that the cleaners came in at 1 in the morning? Hurriedly I crammed my bed sheet into the canvas bag and got the fuck out of there before anybody noticed me.

I had to spend the next hour, 1 to 2, in my car, hardly getting any sleep. Then I came back up, and noticed that the lights were still on. That was kinda funny. I got back in. I thought, maybe I'd turn in but you know what, let's go check Facebook for a short while. I did that. Then what do you know, the cleaner returned. So I had to sit at my desk and pretend to work for a while, stare at code. The cleaner would be like “who is this programmer who materialised out of nowhere at 2 in the morning to work? What a crazy motherfucker”. Then after 20 minutes, she finished cleaning the toilet and left, and it was time again for me to just spread out my bedsheets and finish up sleeping for the night. Thankfully after this I made it to 6 am.

On the second night, I thought, you know what, the cleaners' going to come in at 1 in the morning. So I started sleeping early, like at 10. Then she comes in at 11. Luckily this one is the one that I'm familiar with. So its not like she mistakes me as an intruder or anything. This time, I got caught but I was like giving a friendly “hi” and “isn't this a nice and wonderful night, you get a beautiful view of the city”.

I headed to the car again, with my tail between my legs. As usual, I had difficulty falling asleep. And what's more, I think I wrote a song or something So I went back up to just type it up on the computer, consequences be damned. The cleaner was looking at me, bemused. But still going about her business. Then she left. And it was time for me to sleep.

It was hard for me to sleep on the second night. I got up around every hour. At 4 in the morning, I even heard the door being opened and closed. Did the night watchman see me? The couch was facing away from the door, so I could have been invisible. Finally dawn came and I got up and left. I thought I was going to get myself a big American breakfast. But then I finally got the motivation to sleep.

I still don't know what the consequences of squatting are. I know there was somebody else who did it, but he was later fired for... well his output levels just went down and he was no longer contributing, so it wasn't necessarily about the squatting. He was using the office for internet and cooking, which was a little excessive.

This has been my first blog entry for dunno how long. I'm still marvelling at how much energy I had to blog back in the day. It's so hard to write a full essay these days.

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Blogger yeng chan said...

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8:44 PM