Friday, July 27, 2007

Watermelon Season

Watermelons on sale at our grocer at Cheraga.

Choosing from the bottom of the pile was a big mistake. The entire pile toppled. Some watermelons bounced all over the place and hit the parked cars besides. Some watermelons were smashed opened. It was a total disaster.
The culprit (facing camera). The store owner was kind enough for not asking us to pay for the damaged goods. It pays to be a familiar customer.

Finally, we only bought 2 good ones. As usual of watermelons here, they were big, juicy and sweet.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Congratulations To Jackson

I'm happy to announce here that Jackson has won a place in the Star Search Singapore 2007 final 20 contestants. That is no small feat considering having to beat 1,500 applicants from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.

Jack, once again, All The Best!....

Actually, I learnt about it when we met in Singapore last month (I blogged it here) but I was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement in the media. Dude, I am capable of keeping secrets after all.

Do kindly throw my friend your support, especially if you are my friend and you are from Singapore. Visit here to discuss about Jackson on the MediaCorp forum.

Media Coverage so far....

In English

The Almost-A-Chippendale
Name: Tan Sia Chong Jackson
From: Singapore
Looks like: Taiwanese actor/singer/host Zhang Shanwei
Age: 23
Occupation: Student at Singapore Management University, Economics
Iron Man factor: Timing for his second Osim triathlon (1.5km swim; 10km run; 40km biking) in 2005 was two hours and 35 minutes and was ranked 21 out of 63 participants.

Jackson would be great prancing around in children programmes like his Taiwanese half if it wasn’t for his hulking V-shape build, no doubt a trophy from his participation in triathlons. In an Ally McBeal moment, I could almost see the buttons of his shirt giving up its valiant struggle to keep his tanned chest covered and doing a Chippendale in front of me. Yay!

In Chinese

翻版 张耀扬
陈侠中 Tan Sia Chong Jackson

23岁 大学毕业 来自新加坡
陈侠中身高181公分,身材魁梧、肤色黝黑,是最壮最man的参赛者。乍看之下,发现他长得和香港型男张耀扬很像。他自2004年开始参加三项铁人赛、脚踏车比赛。 陈侠中说自己非常向往娱乐圈光芒四射的日子,曾经有星探邀他当模特儿,他拒绝了,理由是:那个世界太“奢华”了。陈侠中外型非常“熟男”,好在他的个性随和,容易融入大伙话题,不至于显得格格不入。

Back In Algiers

I've returned to Algiers with my stash of goodies from Singapore. Bye to leftover lunchbox dinners...

My stash of ready to cook meals


BBQ at Turkish colleague's place at his Cheraga apartment.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Dinner conversation with colleagues at our hotel in Casablanca.

A (58 years old): How to sleep 6 hours without waking up?

B (60 years old): Impossible! The most I can sleep is straight 5 hours without waking, especially after drinking. I set my alarm everyday but I always manage to beat the clock in getting up.

A : Yes, yes ... usually I'm up, looking at the alarm and waiting for the it to go off.

Sencha (gasps incredulously) : Wow... And I'm complaining that I have difficulties waking up every morning.

B : You are still young. As you grow older you start to require less sleep.

Sencha (thought) : Darn! I don't wanna grow old....

Mental note to self, start enjoying my full night's sleep for as much as I can before I grow old.

Dinner - Oeuf Benedictine

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bureaucracy: The Joke Is On Us

Happy Friday the 13th!

It's all quiet on the Moroccan front lately as the summer holidays are here and some of the staff are on vacation. I will be conducting a training for them in a couple of days time and I'm confident that the attendance rate will not be as planned because of the vacation season. Can their HR people plan better in advance?!!

I was reading this Singaporean blog and found out about a sad story related to bureaucracy.

In the story, a woman passed away due to massive loss of blood after childbirth. Unfortunately, the hosipital was obstinate in upholding its blood use policy of 'use 1 replendish 1', and refused to provide more blood for the woman's treatment, resulting in her death. According to the deceased's husband, it was explained that authorizing the use of more blood for her treatment was subjected to approval by more higher layers in the administrative structure. Usually, this kind of gesture requires time which a dying patient don't have. (You can watch the report on youtube here).

Has that hospital person-in-charge in question considered the purpose of the hospital before refusing to commit more blood? I believe that every hospital in the universe puts preserving lives somewhere in their mission statement. Therefore if that purpose was to preserve lives, shouldn't the hospital went ahead and provide what is necessary to preserve the dying woman's life? Perhaps I'm wrong, the purpose of that hospital was to watch their blood inventory level.

Shouldn't there also be a kind of a quick communication process up the bureaucratic chain whereby critical decision could be made for emergency cases? If the person-in-charge is afraid of making the decision, somebody at the top could be informed and could make a quick judgement call to release the use of blood . The hospital can worry about the blood inventory level later by mobilizing the public to donate in order to replendish the inventory. In my opinion, this kind of emergency don't happen everyday so there should not be a frequent break of policy.

But perhaps hospitals are so accustomed to dealing with life and death situation on a daily basis that nothing is out of the ordinary. The person-in-charge probably thought like this:
We just followed procedures so everything should be fine. Too bad that sometimes people die but hey, it's a given 50/50 right? The patient just didn't respond positively to our efforts as expected. Anyway, we tried, so good job, let's give ourselves a pat on the back and go grab a beer.

Much as I dislike bureaucracy especially red-tape, in the modern society, we simply cannot live without a bureacracratic structure to handle the needs of the masses in a professional and efficient way.

But I'm afraid that if the incident becomes more prevalent, then our society is approaching the day when we have bureaucrats that Max Weber dubbed "specialist without spirit, sensualist without heart". Believe you me that I really dread the day when Singapore becomes a society without bureaucratic flexibility.

We are facing so much of bureaucratic inflexibility in the countries where we are working. It really irks me that no matter how inefficient and incapable these people-in-charge are, I cannot do anything about them because they are preserved behind official positions and layers of rules (sometimes unstated and probably made up impromptu ... you sons of bitches!) and so can do no wrong.

Red-tape is the name of the game here. In Morocco, a colleague took almost 3 months to get a visa application approved when it should have taken 2 working days. For my Lebanese residential permit, there are simply too much layers of in the approval process that I get thrown from departments to departments for one fucking piece of crappy looking paper. More often than not, we received no explanation about delays and processes but instead all we get is the "take it or leave it" attitude.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Veronica Mars, I'm Loving It!

Just finished watching Veronica Mars season 2. Did I ever mentioned that I love this show? As Josh Whedon (Buffy and Firefly) puts it, Best. Show. Ever.

For the uninitiated, the series follow the ups and downs in the life of Veronica Mars, the title character played by Kristen Bell, who is part student and part super-slueth. The series basically maintains a good balance of elements like high school and college drama, social divide problems, murder-who-dun-it, romance, off-beat humour and witty dialogue. Now, if that's not good TV, then what is that? (Read also Deepsixed's blog entry about how much she likes this show too)

Recently, I'm becoming a fan of the hardboiled, gritty and chivalric gumshoe like Harry Dresden and Jack Reacher. And it was refreshing to see a young and cute female Veronica Mars fits into this kind of typically masculine role. I also found the witty dialogue, complex story arcs and plot twists as strong points of the show. The series had received good reviews from Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma), Stephen King and others.

Jackson: I don't care what people say about you, Veronica Mars. You rock!
Veronica: Yes, I do. I also take cash.

Anyway, I'm one season short of completing the VM franchise, since it has been confirmed that the show has been cancelled after the season 3 by the network after suffering at the ratings, despite critical acclaim. I can't wait to get my hands on the last season so that I can continue to root for the hot couple, Logan and Veronica.
Uber-intelligent, witty and cute Veronica solves murder mysteries like a walk in the park

...but can she spell?

For now, it is the beginning of a new struggle between a good night's sleep and starting a new TV series. This time, it is about intergalactic dog-fights, high tech battle cruisers manuvres, saving the humankind and women in uniform....ooooh I like Battlestar Galactica already...=)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Back To Singapore - 25 June ~ 1 July (Part 2)

Here's the rest of my exploits during my Singapore visit, blogged after I arrived in Casablanca.

Lunch with Benson

Benson: How's your living condition over there in Africa?
Sencha: It's not that fantastic. Living standards are pretty low.
Benson: Of cos lah! That's why they ask you to go, if it is that good, they ask ang mo to go liao.
Sencha: Brudder, you are the man!

Brudder, thank's very much for Battlestar Galatica and Lost series.

Krispy Kreme @ Xinyi's (it was flown in fresh from Sydney)

I is missing durians Catching up with good ol' friends...Ces't la vie

Mom's cooking...the best!

Baking diva, Socks, Sherrie and gang, great meeting up with all of you over at New York, New York!