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spikegifted.net - Archive Q4 2003

December 2003:
- We were watching the news reports on the earthquake in Bam, Iran, and they mentioned that there was a British woman survivor. A clip of her was shown on TV with her talking about the scenes after the quake. When the pictured showed up, I was thinking to myself: "I know that face." Then I was just about to burst out her name, it showed up on the caption: "Ruth Millington". We were dating back in 1997-98 and we've in on/off contact via e-mail since she started traveling 4 years ago. Obviously, there is no way I can contact her as she is still in Iran, but I managed to locate the phone number of her parents and gave them a call. She had a very close call in the quake and while she's physically OK, she's still in shock and picked up some bumps and bruises from her effort to search for survivors after the quake. Hopefully I'd get a chance to speak to her sometime in the future.
- It has started... Every year, just after Christmas, the 'Christmas Sales' start. A good number of people, who've spent much of the month of December buying Christmas presents for themselves and others, simply pour into the shops looking for the latest 'bargains'. The streets and shopping malls of the entire country are cramped with 'shopoholics'. Everything, and I mean everything, from little gadgets to whole kitchen or bathroom (or any other rooms in the house) can be purchased. The shoppers by themselves are not entirely unpleasant, but it is the TV commercials that we've to endure! Good taste is in short supply but bad taste in abundance. It is like some kind brain-washing - watch these commercials enough times and you'd find yourself the owner of a new "whatever you wish it to be", with "however long period of interest free credit"! Oh, please...
- Merry Christmas!!
- What a day!! I've just spent nearly 24 hours non-stop on the road! I went to over to Antwerp, Belgium to get a diamond for the Ruler_of_spike's engagement ring and due to a snow storm over in Belgium, my return flight was delayed by nearly 4 hours. It was well worth the trip though.
- On a sunny August afternoon in 2002, two 10-year girls disappeared from a village in Cambridgeshire, England. The subsequent search for these two girls were one of the largest in recent memory. Subsequently two people were arrested - the caretaker of the school the girls attended and a former classroom assistant. Throughout November 2003, the trial of the two accused was followed widely followed with daily news updates in both TV, radio and newspapers. Ian Huntley, the caretaker was ultimately convicted of the double murder and was sentenced to two life terms. What was shocking was that Huntley had had multiple complaints against already - sex with under-aged girls and rape! How he managed to be accepted as a school caretaker was beyond believe. Furthermore, it appeared that the vetting procedure has completely failed to highlight the problem...
- Amazing news: the former dictator of Iraq Saddam Hussein was captured, without a single shot being fired. The TV
footage that has been played again and again is that of a broken man. This is a man that for over three decades terrorized and brutalized his own people and those of his neighbors' and probably deserves any and all punishment handed to him. While his capture justify the original aim of 'regime change', but there is still the question of the missing weapons of mass destruction - the one reason why the UK Prime Minister led the country into war. Moreover, the capture of the former dictator does not end the pain and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are now living in substandard conditions and fear from terror of a different kind. There are suggestions that Saddam's capture may spell the end of some of those who've opposed and resisted the occupation of Coalition forces, but it may be too early to jump to that conclusion for not all the terror attacks have been carried out by Iraqis. I just hope that peace and normality return to the long-suffering people of Iraq.
- There's nothing that gives me the feeling of the imminent arrival of Christmas than the Christmas tree. This is the third Christmas we spend living together and again we have a lovely Christmas tree. While I did the easy part of the job - bring the tree home, the Ruler_of_spike has the difficult task of decorating it. It never ceases to amaze me how much thought and imagination is needed to decorate it to make it just right.
- I asked the Ruler_of_spike to be my boss-for-life... and she agreed!!

- Just got news that one of my uncles (the husband of one of my dad's sisters) has passed away. The poor man has been in poor health for over 25 years, pretty much the entire time I've known him. He was a very kind man and a very serious man; he was always the voice of wisdom and of moral. In a certain way, the fact that I'm not in Hong Kong makes his passing a rather distant event. However, he will be missed no matter where I am.
- It's the beginning of December and it is the beginning of the office Christmas party 'season'. I've just been to the one organized for our department. It has been a thoroughly pleasant evening out with my colleagues, even though we've performed rather disappointingly in the quiz. Anyway, after all the ups and downs of this year, I'm thankful that I've an office Christmas party to go to.
- Every year, I start to get a little uneasy around this kind of time... You may wonder why. That's because no matter what I do, I tend to get a flu around late November/ early December. A number of times, I've managed to avoid falling ill during this period, only to fall ill around Christmas time. This year is more of an 'average' year, I suppose, for I'm suffering from a mild flu right now. Not the most pleasant of thing, but I guess there's little I can do about it. However, the one really annoying thing that comes with it is sinusitis - a truly nasty infection. Well, I'm suffering a mild form of that right now. My teeth are hurting as a result of that and apart from taking the rather expensive antibiotics and squirting the medicated nasal spray, there's little relieve from its symptoms. It just make feel awful and not wanting to do anything.
- Today (December 1), a new legislation has come into effect here in the UK - banning the use of handheld mobile phones while driving. While the law is long overdue, it is rather a disappointment - it doesn't ban mobile phone usage outright... Additionally, knowing police attitudes towards driving offences in general, I guess this is going to be another law that's will do little to improve the driving experience in the UK.
November 2003:
- In one of my earlier comments regarding the security arrangements for the US President's state visit to the UK, I mentioned that the increased police presence in the center of London also meant the needs of London's local communities were likely to have neglected. Well, according to the Scotland Yard, reports of muggings rose by 20% during Mr. Bush's stay in the capital! For those unfortunate victims of crime during those few days, you know who's responsible for your rotten luck...
- Well, what can I say? Well done England for your victory in the Rugby World Cup Final. I'm trying very hard not to be bias here, however, I feel that England's progress in the knockout phase of the competition has not been due to the team's overwhelming dominance, but rather due to the oppositions not doing their jobs - Wales played very well, but lacked a good kicker to really punish England; the French was tactically inflexible and continued to rely on their 'wide open' rugby in difficult handling conditions and the Wallabees were probably too pleased to have beaten their traditional rival (the All Blacks) in the semi-final... All in all, I don't feel that new Rugby World Champion is as convincing as those dominating champions of the past: the Wallabees of '99, the Springboks of '95 and the All Blacks of '87. Anyway, I guess a win is a win and it doesn't matter how it's achieved. Well done England.
- While I don't generally agree with the teachings of Marxists/Leninists, there is one line of thought that I generally agree - "For every action, there is a reaction". You may ask: What is the relevance of this in my weblog? I'm referring to the horrific suicide bombings in Istanbul on November 20. While Marxists/Leninists believe every sphere of human life is political, it is certainly not entirely true. However, the above thinking is certain a good observation when we're discussing geopolitical issues. It is difficult to say whether the supporters of the 'Liberation of Iraq' would ever admit to it or not, it is certainly true that terrorist activities have increased since the fall of Saddam's regime. And just in case the warmongers have forgotten already, the British Prime Minister overruled/ignored the warning by his intelligence chief that the fall of Saddam would actually increase the threat of terrorism. The British PM and the US President are giving some hard talk about 'fighting terrorism' and 'struggling against terrorism'. However, I have a feeling that they're actually directly and indirectly creating more problems for themselves and others to face for the foreseeable future. The action ('regime change' in Iraq) has now taken place, but we're only beginning to see the reaction.
- The security arrangements surrounding the state visit by the US president is very much the talk of the whole town (if not the whole country). I've no doubt that Mr. Bush is a very important person and am sure that there are some people who'd dearly love to cause him trouble... However, does it mean that London, one of the busiest cities in the world is to be slowed to a stand still for the sake of one man? While there's a rather heated debate about the appropriateness of and the timing of this trip, I'm not trying to suggest I'm for or against Mr. Bush's visit to the UK. However, the Metropolitan Police seems to have gone a little over the top with the security arrangements. I'm sure that the president's security details are more than capable of handling all but the very large scale problems, and hence I find little justification for massing 15,000 police officers over 3 days and neglecting the needs of London's local communities. At the same time, there seems to be significant concern regarding the planned anti-war protest march which is scheduled to coincide with Mr. Bush's stay in the city, so much so that at one point it was claimed that the march was not going to be allowed to take place. We live in a democratic society, we, the people who give politicians their offices, have the right and the obligation to voice our opinions. Just because some of our voices may not be in agreement with government policies and/or the politics of the visitor(s) doesn't mean that we should shut up and swallow our grievances. Surely the 'leader of the free world' will appreciate that.
- Congratulations to the England Rugby Team for reaching the Rugby World Cup Final. The fact that I hated every single moment of that match against the French does not take away the fine tactical performance of the English team. The French played with heart and passion, but the English, through the brilliance of one player (Johnny Wilkinson), kicked the opposition into submission. The playing condition was poor and the tactics adopted by the French, running the ball as often as possible, did not suit the condition and hence probably did not deserve to win. However, I have to admit, it was probably one of the most boring performance from the English, that including all the previous boring performances in previous World Cup campaigns. Now that we know who are the finalist (Australia and England), I just hope that the final itself will be played with style and that it provides the proper climax to the tournament.
- To win in any sport, you need to be competent in every department. The Welsh rugby team, for the most part, played an outstanding game against the English. However, they've failed on one area - goal kicking. If only the try conversions and penalty kicks were successful, Wales would have been in a very different position at half time. The talk by commentators and news reporters was that Wales put up a good fight but was simply overwhelm by the English. I cannot agree with that! They had the opportunities and the initiative, but they let them slipped from their grasp. At the end of day, the lack of a consistently reliable kicker in the team hurt them when it really counted. It is possible to conclude that Wales' performance in the World Cup were encouraging for the future of the game in the country, but for me, it was an opportunity that was unfortunately lost.
- Since November 5th, Bonfire Night in the UK, fireworks has been going off non-stop in places around our apartment. While I'm not suggesting that I'm against people having a good time, the frequency and loudness of these fireworks are getting rather irritating! In any given evening, fireworks has been going off nearly non-stop from 6:00pm onwards until past 10:00pm, with occasional ones being set off well into night, like after midnight!! I joked with the Ruler_of_spike saying that "the Battle of Kursk is taking place outside". There has been talks of banning sales of fireworks, I, for one, will support such legislation - on the grounds that it is one of my human rights to have a restful night after a long day at work!
- With all the excitement of starting a new job, I've completely forgotten to mention my pride in watching the Wales rugby team putting up an encouraging performance against the New Zealand All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup in Australia. However, it is also a reflection of how poor the Welsh teams of late have been. Congratulations to the team in progressing through to the knockout stage of the competition. While the quarter final match is against our oldest rival, England (who's the favorite to win the competition), I'm confident that the Welsh will put the new found confidence to good use and take the game to the English. An upset is not unimaginable... stranger things have happened!
- It has been a week since I started my new job. This has to be the most positive week I've had for over 6 months - my existence has a purpose! It is not a case of simply getting up in the morning, suiting up for work and going through the paces of the daily commute, but the fact that I'm now earning money/making a living again and not 'relying' on state benefits. (I'm not trying to suggest that state benefits actually support anything but the most basic lifestyle... Not by a long way!) It is refreshing to go back to a more regulated pattern again - getting up early and going to bed at a sensible time. It may not suit my body's natural biorhythm, but it makes things predicable, which also means that (for a lazy person like me) decisions are made for me instead of by me.
- How unfair can this world be? In a professional life, an individual has to rely on the professionalism, dependability, integrity and trustworthiness of others to do the job. It is a 'two-way street' - you fulfill your part of the bargain and you expect and depend on others to deliver or perform on their sides... There is something going horribly wrong with the Ruler_of_spike's work place. I can't disclose what it is just yet, for it will be inconsiderate on my part to do so and it is unprofessional for her to do likewise. However, it goes without saying that she is under a great deal of stresses and strains from her work and it is a daily battle that she cannot run away from. It is so unfair!
October 2003:
-'When it rains, it pours.' and so the saying goes... While I was still waiting for a confirmation (in black 'n white or even an e-mail) from the bank, I was been offered another job for a comparable position in another bank. The 'problem' lied with obtaining all my referees' feedbacks for the position in the first bank and the fact that all the communications I've with the bank has been verbal and direct (without a head hunter acting as intermediary). It is entirely possible that I show up and there isn't a job for me and I don't want to turn down the alternative which was a definite. I should be feeling happy and relieved, instead I find myself in a situation. In any event, I've mentally committed to the opportunity at the first bank and I communicated that decision to my head hunter.
- In the past couple of days, I've been talking a lot to the HR of the bank. There's a credit check prior to joining; they also need to obtain my references (and one of them is ill, so I needed to quickly provide another one) and finally details of my start date. I've now confirmed with the bank that I'll be starting on Friday, October 31st. So just over a day or so to get my act together... Right now, I'm very excited but, at the same time, a little nervous. I commented to my HR contact that Friday seems to be an odd day to commence employment, but she revealed that another member of the team is moving on and that is his final day with the team. The idea is that he can then hand over the work.
- Today, October 24 (incidentally, it is six months to the day that I was laid off by ING, my last employer), I have been made an offer to join the credit risk management function of a prestigious US investment bank. While the offer is currently verbal and it is only for a temporary contract (with a view to become permanent at the end of the contract), I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It has been a long and hard six months of job search, raised hope and frequent disappointment. At this point, I must send my warmest regards to all those who've given me support and encouragements in the past half year, especially to the Ruler_of_spike - who has to endure my out of work experience with me, every single day; who has to try and lift me up when I was down; who has to endure my mood swings, my self-doubts and all my nasty bad habits. Thank you! And thank you all...
- The saying that 'time flies when you're having fun' also applies to when you're not having a good time... It is now six months since I was laid off from my last job. Six months!! That's a long time by any stretch of imagination. The past few months has not been easy on the Ruler_of_spike and I. Along with the uncertainty of being unemployed, the lack of suitable opportunities in the market compounds my anxiety towards my career. I have to be truthful to myself and constantly trying to lift my motivation. I'm still confident that in the end, I will land squarely on my feet, but anxiety does not build confidence, but erodes it. Everyday, I live on the hope that I'd find something soon; and as long as I have that hope, I think I'll be ok... 
- The past couple of weeks have been very stressful time for the Ruler_of_spike and I, and it is not due to any friction between us. I'll have to provide some background first before moving on. The family of the Ruler_of_spike has a long history of breast cancer and therefore she's very sensitive to anything she considers not normal regarding her breasts. Last year, she went to our GP to inform him of a slight anomaly. Having examined her, the GP confidently told her that there was nothing to worry about. Around three weeks ago, the Ruler_of_spike read something on a daily newspaper regarding self-checks to determine if there're any suggestive signs of breast cancer. Immediately she found two symptoms on the list. She immediately went back to the GP and having examine her again, he reassured her that, in his opinion, there's nothing wrong. However, he confessed that he's not a specialist in this area, so he referred her to a specialist hospital for oncology. There was a wait of nine days between making the appointment and the actual event; in which time, both she and I were full of anxiety and I try to read up as much as possible from resources around the internet. While I tried to support her emotionally, I'm in no position to offer her the support that she really needed - I simply did not (and do not) have a full comprehension of her concern. I really wish I can do better than this. The specialist specializes in breast cancer and he sent her off for an in-house CAT scan (mammography). We waited around in the hospital for the image to be developed and the specialist invited the Ruler_of_spike back for 'debriefing'. As it turns out, there's nothing wrong with her, just a simple case of hormonal imbalance. It is a huge relieve for both of us. In the opinion of the breast cancer specialist, she should've been referred to the hospital last year when the first symptom arisen. Moreover, the specialist commented that the UK lags far behind other EU countries in breast cancer screening. For example, in her native country, France, women over the age of 30 will automatically receive an annual scan. In the UK, the NHS Breast Screening is offered once every three years to all women aged between 50 and 64!! And we're suppose to be living in an advanced industrialized country.
- At long last, a bit of news on the job front... While I'm not going to disclose what has happened yet, I can say that it is a positive development. Hopefully the wait will not be long before I return to be full-time employed. There're still some hurdles to negotiate, but there's seems to be momentum in the events now. Let's hope that it will not be too long before the situation crystallizes to something concrete and positive.
- This is probably the most unusual birthday I've experienced for a long time, partly due to the fact that I'm out of work and hence I've a lot of time to reflect on what's been happening in the past year and in particular in the past few months. The march of time has prompted me to get my act together... I spent most of the day so far chasing after head hunters on updates of potential job opportunities and other possibilities... I feel that celebration has to wait until when I've found a job.