Snippet Of My Life Episode 38 – Moon Tower: A Builder, A Girl, And A Mysterious White Rabbit

“This is insane! It is just not possible!” exclaimed the female journalist on top of a tower that was still work-in-progress.

Dooku the builder gasped, quickly put a finger on his mouth and said, “Shhhh!  That is treason!”, as though someone would hear them talking.  But in this evening, there were only Dooku and the girl, an interview that took place in this tall, tall tower.

No one in this isolated island remembered how long the war had lasted.  Or for what course.  The north and the south had fought.  One day, they stopped.  Instead, they agreed to build a high wall from east to west dividing the island into two.  Tired of the war, they had become.  Coexistence was a bitter compromise.  It was tolerable so long as they did not see each other.

The wall was so high that the people from either side called it Cliff of Impenetrable.  For years, no one knew how the other side was doing.  But that did not fool Dooku.  At night, Dooku could see an orange hue of light from the south painted onto the sky encroaching onto his northern part of the pitch black atmosphere   The buzzing of music, the laughter, and the noise.  The southern noise!  Dooku and his fellow northern inhabitants hardly had the time to think of anything else other than their basic needs.  Such as food, work, water, and more work.

“You honestly think that we can build a tower and reach the Moon from Earth?  On this very land we stand?” asked the girl.

Dooku pondered.  The question was not whether or not this was the best space exploration program the government had come up with in order to compete with the south.  The question was, without this tower, a lot of people including Dooku would have to find another job.  So what if it was the stupidest idea to build the lousiest tower that would absolutely be useless?  People were kept productive.  Their lives became meaningful.  Routines tended to numb people’s mind brainwashing all sorts of ideals down the drain.  People needed routines.

Dooku also knew that the girl had a story to write, one that might inspire.  So he replied, “You see the full moon over there?”  The girl nodded.

“I have been working here for quite some time.  Each night before I call it a day, I spend some time admiring the skyline, admiring the progress from the south.  I don’t think people in the south really want to leave their homes and the good life they have.  But life in the north is different.  We hardly have enough to eat!  This is an island.  We have nowhere else to go.  We hang our hope onto the moon and wish for a better future.

You know.  At times I feel as though the moon is getting bigger and bigger.  Maybe she is coming closer to us.  Or maybe our tower strategy is really working.”

The mood was lightened.  The girl giggled and added, “Or perhaps all our combined hope weights the moon down just a little.  And she dips down just a little?”

As the night fell, the air was chilly.  It was an hour long descend for the journalist, or more.  As for Dooku the builder, his temporary shelter had always been one level below the top of the tower.  There was used to be plenty of builders.  But as the tower gradually raised from the ground, its circumference became smaller and smaller.  Now, it could only fit one.

*     *     *     *     *

A month later, the female journalist revisited the tower at night.  She spoke the first question that came into her mind.

“If you are the only builder working on this tower, what do the rest of the people do?”

Dooku replied almost immediately, “We invent new tasks!  Some are looking for cracks to repair.  Some are reinforcing the tower.  Some are even decorating the tower!  Many are pretending to work.  But right now, that is not a question of importance.”

“It is not?”

“No.  Come.  You see the full moon over there?”

“Yes?”

“What do you see?”

“A … moon?”

“Yes.  But what else?” asked Dooku with an infectious enthusiasm.

“A full moon?”

“Look how close the moon is this time round!”

The girl took and deep breath and exhaled, “It does look bigger than last month!  Much bigger!”

“… which means closer!  A lot closer!  Come back next month, would you?” proposed Dooku.

*     *     *     *     *

Another month had passed and the female journalist returned to the top of an even taller tower as promised.  Something was not right in this very evening.  The wind was exceptionally strong.  The sound was almost deafening.  Underneath them, Dooku and the girl could sense the rage of the ocean.  As though something was upsetting the sea and it pounded the shore relentlessly with bigger and bigger wave.  Panic was felt across the people from either side of the wall.  The island might be divided.  But fear united them all.

“You see the full moon over there?” Dooku shouted through the wind.

The girl shouted back, “Yes, the moon is hanging low, really low!  And she is coming to our direction!”

The chaos on the ground intensified as the moon approached the island.  The water broke free and flooded the ground.  To the south, all hope was lost.  It was a doomsday scenario.  To the north, everyone was looking upon the tower as a beacon of hope.  Out of nowhere, a mysterious white rabbit made a dash to the tower and started the climb.  That little sign amassed the northerners.  Soon, everyone from the north headed to the tower as the water level raised higher and higher.

The mysterious white rabbit did not stop.  It went up and up and just when the rabbit reached the top of the tower, the gigantic moon swung by low, almost came in contact with the tower.  A deep humming sound emitted from the orbiting moon.  The sight was mesmerizing to look at.  The rabbit made a leap and landed onto the moon!  The girl delighted by what she saw too made a leap and landed safely.  The northerners needed no further encouragement.  Life was lousy from where they stayed.  One by one, they made a leap of hope believing that whatever lied ahead could not be worse.

“Jump!  Come to us!” exclaimed the girl frantically waving one hand with another holding the mysterious white rabbit close to her chest.

Dooku waited till the last northerner landed onto the moon making sure that no one was left behind.  He took a last look at his island below that was no longer divided for the wall was brought down by the force of nature.  Dooku thought to himself, “Should I stay or should I go?  Would the moon come that close ever again?  Would I have a second chance?”

If Dooku was a risk taker, he would not have chosen to be a builder.  Dooku took a deep breath and joined his people on the moon.  The female journalist smiled and exclaimed, “This is insane!  It is just not possible!”

Snippet Of My Life Episode 37 – Ostrich Power

In this island of Thrapswana where her native inhabitants live in isolation from the rest of the universe, lead scientist Vector Eden has a vision: To mutate and transform all existing chickens into the long extinct ostrich.  It was a grand vision.  One that guaranteed a promotion within Poultry Inc.  Incredible funding in the scale of billions of dollars was poured into this scientific exploration.  It was one of those journeys that has to succeed, in whichever forms and by whatever means.  Vector Eden – young and charming – has won many endorsements.  But that was from within Poultry Inc.  What about the rest of the world?

In a recent customer survey, no one seemed to care what went into a poultry burger.  One customer went by the name of Thunder said, “In the end of the day, a burger is a burger.  I want my food fast and that’s all that I care.  But seriously, can you tell between minced duck and minced goose?  Just don’t charge me more now that it is rebranded as ostrich!”

The Mayor however was less than impressed with the new initiative. “Tell me one thing.  If right now I am having trouble in auditing the parts that go into a chicken patty, what makes you think that it is easier to tell ostrich meat from ostrich intestine when it is all mashed up.  You get my drift?”

Sure, Mr. Mayor.  Wise as ever.

The chicken farmers though were less than thrilled about this new announcement.  One farmer who did not wish to be named lamented, “Everything works fine.  We don’t need no ostrich.  What’s wrong with chickens you tell me?  We have built our farms and infrastructure to process chicken meat.  We handle chicken eggs with one hand.  There are containers built just to distribute chicken eggs.  Are you going to have an ostrich egg for breakfast?  You can have one chicken egg for breakfast.  Maybe two. Ostrich eggs.  Are you nuts?  So why are we getting rid of the chickens again?”

Vector Eden sang a different tune. “Human psychology tells us one thing.  We don’t like change.  Nature tells us one thing.  Change is the only certainty.  History tells us one thing.  Resistance is futile.  Let me tell you one thing.  The entire chicken model is a failure.  We need a much stronger poultry that has a much better resistance to flu and diseases.  This is a revolution.  No.  This, is an evolution!”

To preserve the existing chicken business, Poultry Inc. has offered free services in transforming existing chicken eggs into ostrich eggs and mutating existing chickens into ostriches.  To spread out the initial load, farmers turned in their eggs and livestock in batches.  Carefully labeling each chicken and egg with serial numbers and the owners’ initials, the farmers handed over their livelihoods to Poultry Inc. in good faith trusting that everything would be fine.

“In retrospect, we should have seen this coming,” continued the unnamed farmer in a second interview. “Thousands of chickens and eggs were lost, and still are.  We have the orders but we can’t fulfill.  Fast food restaurants are not getting the chickens.  Customers are not getting the burgers.  I am not having my eggs for breakfast.  This is a lose-lose-lose situation.  How much are these scientists drawing again?”

The widespread collapse of poultry supply has created one giant media disaster.  One day, our hero Dooku was called into NMU*.  His boss spoke with a genuine urgency, “Dooku, we have a situation.”

*Noise management unit – A rebranded department within Poultry Inc.

Dooku nodded coolly, knowing exactly what was to come.

“We need you to help handling these lost chicken and egg cases,” his boss continued.

“Sure,” replied Dooku, “I have one question though.”

“Shoot!”

“Which cases come first?  Chicken or egg?”

His boss was not amused and soon, Dooku found himself drowned in a sea of queries and requests.

“Where are my ostriches?!  I need them today!”

“If I don’t get my eggs by the end of this month, my farm will be out of business!”

“Our factory needs to supply poultry patty to the restaurants.  Can the farmers have the chickens back please?”

“Why are you not replying?”

“Hello?”

The most hilarious query that Dooku has come across perhaps was this one below.

“Please rectify whatever needs rectifying, it seems like that would be everything.  I assumed (Ass-U-Me) when I put a chicken into your state-of-the-art mutation engine, it would come out an ostrich.  Obviously I was wrong.  The chicken disappeared instead!”

Dooku wished that there was something he could really help.  But these were no honey jars; this was not a marketplace; and Dooku was no longer a chef.  Day in and day out, Dooku struggled with what he did not understand.  Some science jargon that was way beyond his comprehension.  One day, Dooku had a dream.  In his dream, he was pushed into the mutation engine and was turned into an ostrich.  Have the problems gone away?  No.  The farmers kept up with the chasing.  Where are my ostriches?  Where are my eggs?

Dooku the Ostrich kept running.  The voices would not go away!  They hunted Dooku down in day, haunted him at night.  Fed up with the entire universe of merde de la merde, with his new found power thanks to the improved ostrich DNA, in one grand swift moment, Dooku buried his head into the sand.

All of a sudden, in this dream island of Thrapswana, all his troubles seemed so far away.

*     *     *     *    *

This entry, like all my Dooku related entries, is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to persons and situations in real life can only be a coincidence.  If it was up to me, I would mutate chicken into dodo.  When I was working in Mauritius, I was told that the forty pound wild birds were all eaten by the Dutch sailors.  What a pity though.  Dodo was such a majestic species (picture taken from Wikipedia.org).

Snippet Of My Life Episode 36 – The Songs Of The Bees

How time flies!  The last Dooku story was told two years ago.  To satisfy your curious mind, Dooku no longer works in an office.  The only thing human about human resource is that: Do you have the arms and legs to do the job?  Oh yes.  And a brain that performs basic functions which may or not not include the ability to perceive or articulate senses that are deemed common.  It was an eyeopening experience for Dooku.  Because alas!  In reality, there is nothing human about human resource.  Very soon, Dooku finds himself being re-purposed, and then re-purposed again.  Aspiration is an illusion one creates in order to mask the lack of a direction one partakes.  Organization is an entity that keeps on reorganizing itself from within.  In the end, only the bees sing the songs inspired by the backward wind of change that swirls in a downward spiral.  At infinity, it is a beeline to nothingness.

*     *     *     *     *

One day, Dooku has decided to leave the city.  In his usual state of hungriness, he has stumbled upon a village called Bumble Bees and the Magic Flute.  How odd the name is.  How odd the village appears.  But that did not matter.  With no money in his pocket, all Dooku could think of was: What’s for dinner tonight?

By now, Dooku has worked in this village for quite some time.  Not long enough to feel like home.  But not short enough to cling onto the joy of discovering new things the first time either.  One fine morning, one of the elders approaches him and says, “We have a crisis.  It is time to re-purpose your role in this village again, Dooku”.  Dooku is surprised, though not that surprised.  He replies, “It was only recently when I was re-purposed to become a blacksmith plan designer.  So soon?”

“It is never too soon, son.  You see.  Our village exports magic flutes and right now, magic appears to have stopped working.  Our customers from outside our village are not happy.”

Dooku should have said, “But I know nothing about magic!  Or flute for that matter!  Surely you can find someone better to re-purpose?”  Instead, he nods, unintentionally encouraged the elder to carry on.

The elder shakes his head in distress and continues, “There is a massive shift of magnet core interfering with the vines that give forth magic.  Without its sustenance, the vines are interlocked with its surrounding energy.  Quite simply put, some of our magic flutes sold to our customers have stopped working.  Do you see the gravity of the situation, Dooku?  The pulsation is killing the system!  You can feel it, can’t you?”

Dooku looks out to the horizon thinking about today’s dinner.  The elder takes it as a sign of contemplation and secretly admire Dooku’s dedication to the village.  This one gets it.  After a long moment, Dooku speaks, like he does every time he is re-purposed, “So tell me what I have to do.”

Throughout the day and night, jars of honey are being brought in by the flying owls.  Inside each jar, all sorts of messages and communications between the customers and villagers – past and present – are preserved within the honey.  These are the messages to be listened to, not read.  Messages of how broken magic flutes are affecting the customers’ lives.  Messages of the villagers asking the customers to be patience.  Messages of the customers demanding the magic flutes to be working, now.  Messages of the villagers trying all that they can to resume magic.  Messages of desperation, of suggestion, of threat, and of imploration.  Messages of missing messages.

In the village of Bumble Bees and the Magic Flute, language is a collection of the songs of the bees.  Writing is not necessary.  Ideas are painted by a honey brush, spoken through the bees.  New ideas are added onto the old ones.  Mixed together.  Blended into one single jar of honey.  Preserved by honey.  Ideas are made timeless.

Each morning as Dooku arrives at work, the first thing he has to deal with are 200 jars of honey delivered overnight.  He opens up the honey jar one by one and listen to its content.  With very little knowledge of what magic flute does, Dooku would pick up his honey brush, add on a polite acknowledge that is neither helpful nor meaningful, and return the honey jars to the senders using the owls.  A little bit of honey is now added into the honey jar as Dooku solidifies his thought, his thought of acknowledgement.

Dooku ponders: Someone needs to keep an eye on the overall big picture.  Songs intertwined are weaved into a tapestry made of new pieces of human knowledge accumulated daily that form a whole new honey world.  An ocean of honey understood only by the keen observers.  The song weavers.  One such as Dooku.

Honey jars come in batches.  The more Dooku handles, the more they arrive.  As the day goes by, every time when the number reduces to manageable size, the owls fly in and deliver a new batch of honey jars.

Dooku has developed a habit.  Towards the end of day, whenever the number of honey jars reaches zero or the closing hour is at hand, he would close his eye and slowly tune out the surrounding.  There are no owls.  No honey jars.  There are no anxious customers.  No magic related problems.  He has handled 500 honey jars today and that is enough.  In his head, there is nothing but the songs of the bees.  Of honey baked chicken and honey cake with caramelized pears, lemon honey water, maybe honey ginger tea.  There is no way to keep a public toilet clean so long as people keep on peeing.  Dooku feels the growling of his stomach.  He is ready to go home.

That night, Dooku has a dream.  In his dream, on the next day, more honey jars are delivered.  Many more indeed.  Customers are demanding answers to why their magic flutes are still not working.  This time, directly to Dooku.  By the hours, the situation is snowballing to a whole new level of epic failure.  Honey jars upon honey jars, they are strapped onto Dooku’s body.  Are you reading mine now?  Aren’t you answering me now?  In this ocean of honey, the songs of the bees can be deafening.  The only thing Dooku can do is to drown himself into the honey, weighed down by the jars.  There is an eerie sense of clamminess underneath.  Dooku is falling asleep, but he wants to wake up.  What if he doesn’t wake up the next day?  1,000 jars of honey will be waiting.  Next week?  3,500 jars of honey will be waiting.  By the end of next year?  Maybe magic will resume working.  All the problems will disappear.

That may not be a bad idea at all.

The owls keep coming.  And the honey jars pile up.  Darkness falls but the problems don’t go away.  The wind of change is howling.  From this point onward, it is all going down.

Snippet Of My Life Episode 35 – Keep Talking

Love Those Pictures

Unless you are really attractive, I have this tendency to talk to you even if I hardly know you.  That is, despite the fact I am believe it or not, a rather shy person.  I seldom work at the office in town.  But I am there long enough to know that the pantry cleaner’s wife is also a pantry cleaner who works in the same pantry, taking the morning shift.  Or that estate management staff, I presume, from China finds our Sentosa resort charming.  One day, she was happily showing me the evening photographs she took on her iPhone.  I didn’t like her phone.  But I found her affection towards one of our top tourist spots engaging.  When I first started living in Singapore, I was not agreeable with the warm weather.  My sensitive nose sneezed for more than a month.  Long enough to make me wondered if this flu was going to disappear.  My first impression of Singapore was certainly different from hers, it seems.

Who is Going to Pay the S$100 Petrol Bill?

If you are from overseas, you may wonder why Singapore petrol stations need petrol attendants to pump petrol for us.  I always politely decline their service.  Instead, we chat while I work with the pump.

Did you know that as a petrol attendant in Singapore, besides helping customers to pump petrol, it is also your job to clean the outdoor area, including the toilets?  Do you know what happen if someone drives away without paying the bill?

One fine afternoon, an attendant pulled out a white receipt from his wallet, showed me the amount, and told me that someone got away this morning.  And his colleague and him would need to pay back S$100 to the petrol station’s owner because of their negligence.  I was shocked.  S$50 must have meant a lot to him.

My first reaction was: Why didn’t the petrol station owner install a surveillance camera and send the footage to the police?  He said there is no such camera and the owner would not go into such a trouble.  I wanted to ask why but I think I know the answer.  Why go through such hassle when you could get your money back from your staff?

Oh No, Please Don’t Go!

Cynthia and I have lived in our condo for more than twelve years.  We love our current cleaner who has worked here for two years.  During the daytime, he is always being seen working.  Either mopping the floor or cleaning the lift.  He greets us every working morning with a warm smile.  He greets us every time he sees us.  I cannot imagine how life is like mopping 14 floors and the lobby as well as cleaning the three lifts and the windows at the corridor every day.

Yesterday morning, Cynthia and I met him inside the lift, cleaning.  His usual zest seemed diminished.  He told us that his last day will be the end of this month.  How come, we asked.  It appears that our condo committee has complained that the lifts are not cleaned to satisfactory.  There are fingerprints all over the mirror.  So he is not happy and he quits.  I was speechless.  I mean, people do stupid things inside the lift.  I have seen liters like empty bottles.  I have seen scratch marks made by sharp objects against the lift’s interior.  I have seen spits inside the lift.  Or puddle of water on the floor because people don’t bother to dry themselves after leaving the swimming pool.  Our lifts can never be cleaned to satisfactory because people are stupid and inconsiderate.  The lifts are as clean as they can be, taking into consideration of the unforeseeable yet not entirely unexpected circumstances.

I am going to write to our Management Office and sort this out.  That is the least I can do for our friend.

What a Stone Can Do

Recently, a car behind me hit the back of our car during a traffic jam.  That is an old story.  Merely two weeks after we got our car back from the workshop, I found myself return to the workshop.  I was so familiar with the procedure that at the reception area, I even knew the claim officer by his name.  Except, he was no longer with Honda.

I had no idea.  OK, looking back, my previous claim officer told me that he has worked in Honda for five long years.  He seemed knowledgeable, no doubt.  But I could see a lack of sparkle in his eyes.  Change of environment could do him good.  Secretly, I was happy for him.

Was it a stone?  Cynthia and I would not have known.  We were on our way to work when a small object hit the windscreen at 90km/h.  To be more factual, the actual relative speed of the stone was faster than this because it must be flying towards us when we hit it at 90km/h.  In this age of speed reading, people may think that I was speeding if I am totally scientific on this.

The first reaction when we saw the crack was, Oh no.  At that moment, I vaguely remember that the windscreen is insured so I was not too concerned.  It was the hassle that got me a bit down.  My second reaction was that I began to see mathematical formula flying inside my mind.  If force is mass times acceleration and I remember impact has something to do with force and area of contact.  Say if I could find out how much impact a windscreen can withstand before it cracks and I know the speed of the stone, I could work out the object’s mass, correct?  And potentially work out its size?

Curious mind knows no bound.

What About Retirement?

Recently, I am reviewing a book called Boundless Potential sent to me by the publisher McGraw-Hill.  Maybe because of its content, I keep thinking about retirement these days.  I start to doubt if our home today is retirement friendly.  It is going to be noisy because of the upcoming highway.  And it is in the middle of nowhere.  A car is highly useful.  But looking at the trend of the car prices, I am unsure if I can afford one when I am older.  Perhaps, Cynthia’s idea of moving to town is not that crazy at all.

When our government revised the retirement age upward, I remember some were not happy with the policy.  The first reaction would be: What, we have to postpone our retirement plan and work longer years?

Boundless Potential is an inspiring read (which I will share my view later once I finish with it).  It says we shouldn’t stop working just because we are old.  We shall continue to be active and to contribute.  Be happy, and stay alive.  Now that I think on it, a higher retirement age cap could in fact work for us.  We could still retire early if we wish to.  And if we wish to continue working – for whatever reason – we  can.

Keep Talking

Fans may prefer Pink Floyd‘s older pieces.  Professor Stephen Hawking’s audio samples found in the song Keep Talking haunts me till today.

For millions of years mankind lived just like animals.  Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk.

I was in UK when what would have been Pink Floyd‘s last album The Division Bell was released.  It was a euphoric moment in the history of popular music.  Magazine articles ran pages over pages analyzing the music.  Bands don’t make this sort of quality music no more.  Not even comparable to what was left of a legendary band.  During the Division Bell era, the sole driving force behind the band was David Gilmour.  Pink Floyd in the nineties was like a fearless samurai who was blinded in one of his previous battles, left with one arm, but still stood tall against all those wannabes.

As Gilmour’s epic guitar lick contorted into a muffled human voice struggling to form words and talk, Hawking wraps the song up with two sentences.

It doesn’t have to be like this.  All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.

Snippet Of My Life Episode 34 – Love And Obsession

It is time of the year, when love is in the air.  Valentine’s Day is round the corner, and I have a little something for you towards the end of this entry.  I hope though, you have the patience to read through this.

1. Friendship Matrix

Some say no man is an island.  We are social species that feed on relationship.  We require constant interaction with one another in order to survive and thrive.  Is that so?  Here is a little exercise for you.  First, take out a piece of paper and draw a table of four columns.  Then, go through the following steps.

  1. On the first column, list out your friends, love ones, and the significant few whom you have met in the last one to three years.  You may extend to five.  My memory does not seem to go that far.  Yours may.
  2. On the second column, put a tick to those who would go out of their ways to catch up with you or proactively set up an appointment with you.  For example, I have friends who would drive all the way to where I live and meet me.  Or overseas friends who would make a detour in their traveling plan to order to catch up with me.  Or we would meet somewhere midway, away from our work places or default habitats.
  3. On the third column, put a tick to those whom you would go out of your way to meet them or proactively set up appointments with them.
  4. On the fourth column, put a cross to those whom you have not met in the last six months.

It is a good self reflection exercise.  It should come as no surprise that friends who would go out of their way to meet you and you to them are the precious ones, even though you two may not have met in recent days.  What happens to those crossed entries with one tick?  In my opinion, reciprocation sustains relationship.  There is only that many times someone would go out of his or her way to meet you, to bug you for a catch up session.

Or it could be a sign whereby you are not that hot on their matrix, or they not in yours.

Who knows?

2. Free Time

Last week, I lunched with my friend who works in the same area as I do, who brought along two of his colleagues.  Jolly good.  I love meeting new people.  One looks so young and she is a mother of two.  Woah.  I did not ask but she told me that her first child was born when she was 25.  I envy her for starting young.  She envies me for having so much free time.  It is true.  Almost every young parent I have met pours his or her entire life essence and every breathing moment onto his or her children.  One friend of mine has indefinitely retired from the computer gaming scene.  Every time when I hear someone telling me that having a child is a joyful experience and that I should have one.  Inevitably, at the back of my head, I keep wondering if it is a conspiracy theory among parents who want to get more onto the same boat like they do.

One friend recently asked how my free time is allocated.  I don’t have a kid.  So my free time besides eat, pee, and sheep is basically spent on video gamming, blogging, reading, watching TV (because Cynthia loves it), playing music, and studying Spanish – in that order.  I consider my free time utilization pretty much balanced between active and passive activities.  I suppose in another time dimension, of a different me, I might have traded these for raising a kid.  Perhaps, looking from ten thousand meter above ground, it does not matter how we spend our free time.  So long as we are not killing each other, it is OK.

3. Escapism

I seldom meet her these days.  Maybe she is busy, maybe I am busy, or maybe our friendship matrix has fallen apart (which I hope not).  One day, she told me that in her opinion, gamers who indulge in video gaming are not happy with their work, their life, or with both.  Playing video games is a form of escapism, to hide away from real life, she said.

She is not wrong.  Recently, there is a study showing that among all the gaming genres, first-person-shoot and role-playing-game – especially online type – are the most addictive ones.  I can’t shoot for my life.  But I enjoy role playing.  Role playing is a form of escapism.  What about reading a fantasy book?  Or watching a fantasy TV series or a movie?  We want to be taken to that magical place once in a while.  We want to be that Viking who rides on a Night Fury and defeats the most fearsome dragon that terrorizes the land.  We want to know … how to train our dragon.

Unlike a TV program or a movie, video gaming is an active entertainment.  You don’t sit back and watch the story unfolds.  You participate as the story is being told making tons of little tiny decisions along the way.  In as much as there are studies against it, there are studies for it.  It is a hobby with a divided view.  A taboo in most work environment.

4. “No Makeup” Makeup

When we are not playing an online game together, Cynthia spends time on YouTube and on TV.  I don’t get it.  Almost every episode of Dog Whisperer we see Cesar Millan, his well mannered dogs including Daddy, one or more problematic dogs, and their respective human victims.  Almost every makeup video in YouTube starts with a stunning end result, a shockingly plain looking girl applying makeup, and after what appears as an eternity, she arrives at the end result as foretold.  Deep inside, I don’t mind peeping onto those YouTube videos playing in Cynthia’s computer occasionally – like I peep onto Dog Whisperer.  Because some of these girls are quite pretty.  I often say to Cynthia, to master the application of makeup, one must start with the very fundamental – learn to paint and learn to work with colors.  If you cannot paint on paper, how then can you paint your face?

Cynthia and I recently have two hot debate topics.  One is “no makeup” makeup.  Another one is those-are-natural those-are-not.  Let’s start with “no makeup” makeup.

Cynthia insists that there is such a thing called “no makeup” makeup.  It may take hours to achieve such end result that starts from no makeup and finishes with “no makeup”.  You can even Google “no makeup” makeup.  To me, it is a myth.  But it seems to exist.  “No makeup” makeup baffles me.  When I watched YUI’s concert recording or alan’s music video – both are young Japanese – I swear I cannot see any makeup.  I would scream “See, there is no makeup!”  Cynthia would reply “Look, that is ‘no makeup’ makeup!  The makeup is so thick!”  She would ask me to pay attention to the eyelashes, the contour, the light and shadow around here and there, the concealer, the eye shadow, and that there is not a single drop of sweat on YUI’s face under bright flood light.

Nope.  I still don’t get it.  I say it is good genes with good skin.  Like those naturally gifted ones who possess visually pleasing physical profiles, from head to toe.  She would say, “Those are fake!”.  And I would say, “Those are not!”

I am a man.  I know what is fake and what is not.

I think.

5. Love and Obsession

Remember those who drove you crazily in love?  Remember those moments that seemed so magical back then, moments that were not orchestrated but happened out of the blue?  Remember those days when you felt so hopelessly obsessed, your poor mind was kneaded like a dough?  What is love and obsession?  Where does it come from and where has it gone?  Are you missing that little sparkle in your relationship?  Well my friends, little do you know that you could gain some insights by playing an online video game.  Fortunately you do not need to play one to gain some.  Here is my observation for sharing.

In that game, there are routines that a group of random people meet regularly to achieve a common objective.  The routines have become such a chore that most would go through the journey in silence, do their job for the hope of a reward.  Within the community, it is joked that we are like married couples having sex.  Why then are people so obsessed with the routines?

For this aspect of the game, two kinds of rewards are given.  Three if you count the “no reward” reward.  One is like a paid wages.  You do a lot, you earn a little every time you do it.  There is no surprise as in how much you will get.  If you are the persistence type, over time, you will be rewarded accordingly.  Not handsomely, but accordingly.  The second type of reward is a surprise payout.  You know what you are after.  But there is no guarantee that you are getting it, or when you are getting it.  Think of your first kiss, or the first time you hold that someone’s hand.  You go through the journey in hope for a non-guaranteed reward that you know exactly what it is that you want.  It is constantly bouncing in your mind and your hope over time is high.  When you are rewarded with that something you have been dreaming for so long, you experience an emotional spike (and I hope that you partner does too).  Then you ask, what’s next?  Such obsession only terminates when there is nothing more to hope for or when you lose that hunger of that yearning inner desire.

If you stop and think about it, this is similar to being in a relationship.  Are you creating those moments of impromptu rewards of significance for your partner?  Do you still have that hunger to desire that loving feeling from your partner?  Have you played a part in putting back the sparkle in your relationship?  Have you played a part in creating the opportunity for such to happen?  Even though life may seem like a chore at times, aplenty [manmade] rewards are just round the corners ready to be unlocked.  That is how I see it anyway.

Now, before I forget, I shall drop a note to my friend’s wife telling her that my buddy is secretly hoping to receive a boxer shorts gift from her.