Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Have a plan.

I've just realised: I'm 25. A little more than a quarter of my life has been spent. Not all in ways that I regret, so this isn't going to be a pity post, but rather a quick stock-taking and planning out a road ahead for self-improvement.


This, first and foremost. While I believe economic collapse to be inevitable and the global status as us kicking the can down the road for as long as it can hold out, I'm not going to bank on flame, death and destruction happening on any sort of schedule. This necessitates some sort of gainful employment within the structure of the Great Singaporean Economic Machine, the one that takes in fresh worker drones, churns them up and spits them out.

To this extent, I have the half-year until I graduate to pick out some form of employment. (Thanks to the mandatory two-year conscript stint, it is customary for Singaporean men to start getting their college degree at 20 or 21, depending on their birthday.) Having a degree that is thankfully not worthless, I want to see if I can leverage it to some decent extent. The Conservative Sociologist has happily provided a list of the ten majors with top starting salaries in the US, and I note that chemical engineering is second on the list. Sure, it's not a Singaporean list, but practically speaking, we do mirror the US in this regard quite closely.

So that leaves me with a choice. The most obvious routes are to either go into pharmaceuticals or petrochemicals, both of which have a reasonably strong showing locally. The latter is notably stronger - we're quite noted for crude refining and petrochemicals here, even if we don't produce any of it. Import raw materials, manufacture, export is the watchword of the day. However, my specialisation is in biomolecular engineering (fermentation, enzymes and stuff. Another potential post-collapse occupation: homebrewer, even though I don't drink.) and I might have a stronger showing if I decide to take the former route.

Neither of those really mesh with the Cappy Cap minimalist route I want to take, though, since they both involve working corporate jobs that in all probability are stupid, long-houred and soul-crushing. There are a few small startups I might be interesting in looking into, though, and while turning cooking oil into biodiesel might not be the most glamourous or well-paying of jobs, perhaps the company culture might be worth it. We'll see.

I've talked with my dad about the monthly budget, and it comes to about a little more than half of what my starting salary might be, going off the average for those in my field. That's a good sign - sans the mad scramble to earn more and more and more that most Singaporeans fall prey to, I might be able to negotiate a little more free time in lieu of less salary. Once I'm reasonably financially secure, everything else is extra. I don't need to buy a flat, I don't need to pay for a wedding banquet at some five-star hotel, and I certainly don't intend to pay for an entitled Singaporean princess' demands. Heh heh.

Actually getting a job might be a little trickier, but...well, I'll have to see how it goes. There's been enough of an impact on the job market that the undercurrent of sentiments is starting to get ugly.


Here's where it gets tricky. As I've mentioned I would really like to have the white picket fence dream, and have been improving myself such that should the opportunity come along, I can take advantage of it (although I still have a long, long road to go). However, as I've said before, there is no way in hell I'm getting married in Singapore so long as the Women's Charter stands, and that leaves two options:

a) Expatriate to, say, Malaysia, (ironic in a way, since my mother emigrated here from there), or

b) Wait for the post-collapse world to take effect, which might take some years or a even a decade. But as a guy, I have time to burn, anyways.

In the meantime, while the lights are still on and the water running, I'm taking my time to learn game and improve my marketable skills. Still practicing on the lab ladies - I don't think they've caught on to me yet, but I'm not so adept at deciphering their hamster-speech.

I suppose there is a small chance I'd be willing to take a risk under the current system, but the lady in question had better be able to blow me off my feet in terms of sanity and integrity for me to want to sweep her of hers. The primal male directive in my hindbrain says to go for hot, but the forebrain says to go for sane. After all, civilisation requires of us that we curb a number of our more destructive instincts.

 I'd like to think I've perfected my aloof steely stare/upright with hands behind back posture, complete with slow, deliberate walk. Ah, all those hours spent on the parade grounds in full ceremonial dress and slow marching...the problem comes when I actually have to open my mouth and interact with people, let alone ladies. That's when the gamma starts pouring out, and half the time I don't even realise it until the fact's over.

Small example from just a few hours ago: I'm on my usual nightly workout (sans lat-pull downs, of course). There's a young chubby chick sitting on the leg raise station not doing anything, and I want to use it, so I walk up to her with my slow walk.

Me: Are you using that?

First mistake, facing her directly, again, over shoulder would've worked better. But the stare seems to work - she recoils slightly from my gaze as I hold direct eye contact for just a little longer than what's necessary (thanks, Mr. Ironwood!) until she scoots off the seat.

Her: me just wipe off the cushions...

Me: It's okay. I'll do it.

Now, what I should have done was either a) said nothing and let her wipe down the station, since she was willing to do it, or b) been a little more dismissive - instead of a "oh, let me do it so you don't have to" vibe, I should've gone for a "nah, I just want you to leave pronto, and am willing to go to some extra trouble for it to happen" or "you? Wipe off the station? You didn't even leave any sweat on it" - oh damn, that would have been a great neg. Why do I always think up these things after the fact? Even a little dismissive hand wave would have been better than nothing.

Psh. I suppose it was a partial success - getting a rise out of a near-complete stranger was a huge confidence boost, yes, so it wasn't all pointless.

But I'd like to think I've taken the first crucial step: distinguishing what's in and out of the box. The rest is all about applying oneself to learning and practice, and not giving up.

Physical Health

This should not be too much of a problem. No matter what form of employment I take, it will have to be one that gives me enough free time to pursue my five-a-week exercise regimen. With the body type I have, one can either be fat or thick; I've been both over the course of my life, and I have absolutely no desire to go back to being a wobbling mass. I looked disgusting, felt disgusting, and was disgusting in every sense of the word, thank you very much. So that means an eight-thirty to five job, no overtime, and if I have to take a cut in pay to get that - well, fine. It's not as if I plan to spend very much, anyway.

Paleo seems to be going well. I haven't noticed any discernable effects on my body yet, but it's only been a month and I'm well-appraised of the fact that anything involving your body will take a while to take effect. When I began exercising, I didn't get anything out of it until the three-month mark. Rice is still a little hard to avoid in this culture, but I'm eating at least one rice-free meal a day, and try to aim for two. I'd like to think I'm now pretty decent at boiling, steaming and stir-frying, and am moving onto a couple of broth-based soups before trying more complex recipes. Avoid soy (again, hard but doable with a little forethought and if you cook your own meals), eat a little more broccoli, and avoid plastic water bottles and such.

On a side note, come to think of it, cooking is just applied chemical engineering. I was reading through a few masters' theses, and there was one on designing a popcorn-popping machine to pop as much corn as possible in the least amount of time with minimal cost. It's a heat transfer problem, after all. It's a thought to keep in mind next time I'm trying to cook an omelet and ending up with one side more browned than I'd have liked.

Makin' bacon! Now if more engineers resembled this fellow instead of Dilbert...

It's important that I keep my physical health - my sister, who's now edging on thirty, told me that she's starting to feel her age. Psht. Apparently, the local armed forces think I should be feeling my age, too - twenty-five is the first category downgrade for their fitness tests for operationally ready folks. If the world lands smack into the end of the world as we know it, then I'll be needing every single one of my muscles in top condition. If it doesn't, then I like having my muscles anyways. A paraphrased form of Pascal's Wager, with benefits coming out both sides, eh?

Mental Improvement

This is where I need a lot more work. Looking alpha so much easier than actually making sure the things that come out of your mouth are, and one can't play the aloofness game all the time. I need to improve my mental alaricity and quick thinking on all fronts - my hearing is bad, I'm slow on the uptake, and processing takes a little while. When I was a kid (in addition to being the fat bastard), this usually meant that the processing part took a back seat and the chain of events stopped at uptake and ended up with supplication to whomever was addressing me. This needs to go, and badly.

I will fully admit it's one of the reasons I'm a writer and not an orator, and why I'm more inclined to say things on the internet even when I don't have the cover of anonymity. When writing, I have the luxury of sitting back and cranking up my mental engine at my leisure, perhaps find a couple of sources to back up my assertions when I'm engaged in a verbal scuffle.

Again, Mr. Ironwood comes to the rescue with his little guide to dominant language, but that's not going to cover all the bases, nor is it going to improve my quick thinking skills or kill the desire to supplicate. I don't think there is any solution to this except get into more real-world verbal scuffles, and seeking out trouble goes against my natural impulses, ach. It's sort of like knowing you need to go on a roller coaster ride, but being fearful that the rails will break (I.E, escalate into a physical encounter. I really don't want to get into trouble with the law. Maybe it's a stereotypical asian thing like Harold and Kumar tries to portray it as, or maybe it's a personal thing, I don't know).

This is also where I'd love to take a couple of pointers, if you folks out there have any advice on how to get people to butt heads with you in a - well, it doesn't have to be exactly friendly, since that's asking a bit too much. Maybe in a setting where there's conflict, but enough that it doesn't spin out of control and into the realm of the physical. Topics, perhaps? I'm feeling confident enough in talking to people about non-confrontational things, so this is the next natural step, I guess.

Aand I believe that's about it at the moment. Those are my plans for now - not perfect, but with a little flexbility and leeway in case something happens out of the blue, like they tend to do. Best laid plans and all that.

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