Thursday, October 21, 2010

Computer fun

It’s good to have my computer back, despite the problems it gives me. My hard disk crashed the other day. This is the second time this has happened with this particular computer. The first was just within the one-year warranty period, and this time it was a few months beyond the warranty. Three hard drives within 2½ years is not an enviable track record.

When I took it in to the service center on Alexandra Road I noticed the usual basket of cookies for waiting customers. I also noticed the coffee was no longer complimentary, and the same Pink Panther cartoons were looping on the TV screen. I liked PP as a kid, but I don’t think many adults would choose to watch it while waiting for their number to be called.

In keeping with my policy of not revealing the identity of parties who let me down I will refer to this company by the not entirely random pseudonym of GO. Some readers may recall that in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film “2001: A Space Odyssey” the name of the errant computer was HAL. This was a code which is easily solved by taking the next letter following each given one, so that HAL becomes IBM.

The counter attendant performed a quick test and determined that the hard drive was “spoy oredi,” which is Singlish for spoilt (already). He told me I could purchase a casing for $15 and he would check to see if the data could be recovered. I’m not a gambling man, but this felt like a gamble. When I was a wee lad I remember you could take a tube from the TV and test it in a machine at the hardware store, but I don’t recall my father ever having to buy the tube testing machine first. I took the bet and lost my money – the data was lost.

The rep then asked me if it was under warranty. I told him the first one had been, but I wasn’t sure if this second one was, and suggested he check his “system.” He informed me the system was down. I wonder if it is GO’s own system, or one purchased from a competitor. It was later determined that it was not covered. How much for a replacement? He gave me a figure for the part, which he emphasized was only an estimate, despite the fact that it appeared on his monitor. Perhaps the parts catalog is on a separate system. Plus $95 for labor.

I found a friend of a friend who replaced the part for about half the price (estimated). The machine is faster than ever, and this time I have a three year warranty. However, I doubt I’ll hang on to it that long, and the next one will not be a GO.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rebellious kids and lost millions

The weekend papers provide more grist for the mill. One account tells of a local businessman who lost $100 million at one of the casinos here. How can anyone throw so much money away so quickly, let alone gamble it away? Several stories about the incident have appeared in recent days, but none mentions the person's name. I think it is in the public interest to reveal his or her name, especially if he/she is part of a public company. The fact that anyone can lose so much money at one go in a casino raises serious questions about his/her judgment, recklessness, and fitness to be in a position of responsibility. I wonder if he took a free shuttle bus to the casino, or if he had to make his own way there?

Another piece told of the ingenious ways kids are modifying their school uniforms. They attach elastic bands to the blouse to make it appear tucked in, shorten the hemline, make skirts or pants tighter or baggier, and taper pant legs. Is this really a problem worthy of public debate? I believe it is, though not for the reasons you might guess.

My daughter is fortunate to attend a top school. Due to her picky eating habits, she gets lost in her navy blue uniform. It has not occurred to her (yet) to modify it. Her hair is a bit too wavy for a pageboy haircut and is rather long. Her school gives her two choices for her hair: it could be short or tied. If tied, the hairband can be dark blue or black. It cannot be green (the school's other color), or red, or pink, or yellow, or white, or multicolored. By the way, one of the school's values is CREATIVITY (pronounced "conformity").

Like kids everywhere, some resourceful Singaporean school kids have found a way to rebel against the rules, rules, rules. Next time you see a kid in a modified school uniform, give him or her a word of encouragement. Compliment them on their fashion sense or creativity. As for the straightlaced masses, don't worry. Singapore can rest easy, secure in the knowledge that the next generation of factory workers, store managers, civil servants, accountants, bank officers, and lawyers will be produced in more than sufficient numbers. I'm not sure how many artists, writers, and creative geniuses will be produced. Oh well, you can't eat a poem, can you?!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Finally! My ship came in!

Some of you may recall my account of our reunion dinner at a seafood restaurant at Marina Bay last Chinese New Year. Dinner was not that filling, so we moseyed outside to a replica of a Mississippi riverboat, complete with big red paddle wheel astern, which is permanently moored to the dock. This is something Mark Twain would write about, or Tina Turner would sing about. In fact it is a Tex-Mex restaurant. At the time we just ordered ice cream, but my most Chinese brother-in-law, Ah Tong, surprised me by ordering a chicken chop "fried like Kentucky." Ever since then I have nurtured the hope that we might return there sometime for a family meal.

In my extended Chinese family we always celebrate birthdays with a family meal at the restaurant of the birthday boy’s or girl’s choosing. Birthday after birthday went by, and we always celebrated at a hotel buffet with Chinese and international cuisine. Ah Tong must have forgotten about the boat, despite my frequent hints, and we ended up in one of our usual haunts for his birthday last month. Then my birthday rolled around. There were many hints about wonderful hotel buffets, Japanese buffets, Thai buffets, but guess what? We went to the boat!

This was an experience. We had a Filipino waitress, an Indian cook and kitchen crew, and country music. It was hard to hear the music because there was also a piano, and six little pairs of hands banging away on it (Cherisse and her two very Chinese [despite their names] cousins, Chelsea and Valencia [named after their dad’s two favourite soccer teams]). Ah Tong and his girls had the chicken chops and ice cream, Cherisse had a hot dog, and my mother-in-law gamely went for a barbecued chicken. This was an important test for her, as she will be joining us on our trip to Miami this December. Brother Terence bravely fought off a bout of motion sickness (it is a boat, and it rocks very slightly) to join the rest of us in the Tex-Mex buffet, including turkey quesadillas, chicken tacos, nachos, Buffalo wings, fajitas, baked salmon, baby back ribs, and that American favourite, French onion soup (sans melted cheese). Curiously, there was no salsa or guacamole. The food wasn’t exactly gourmet, but there aren’t many places you can find such a menu on a paddlewheel riverboat in Singapore. On the plus side, the meat on my ribs fell off the bones, and we had the whole boat to ourselves – not a single other diner came aboard the entire afternoon!

This restaurant must have more customers on ladies’ night, or when the piano duo performs, or at happy hour, or they wouldn’t still be in business. After so many hotel buffets, we will remember this outing.