I am a Pocket Master

I love pockets. It’s my one decision maker whenever I’m at a loss as to whether or not I should buy a bag or a pair of pants. Although, usually it’s mum who puts me in these situations.

I always ask two things when my mum asks if she should buy a shirt, pair or pants or bag for me: what colour and how many pockets? The colour part is easy; I just like solid colours and you can never go wrong with black. But the pockets part is the deal clincher for me.

Cargo pants have always been my thing. I don’t really like wearing shorts and I don’t wear shorts out in public often. Usually I always wear some form of long pants; track or cargo. The standard number of pockets a pair of cargo pants ought to have is six: two normal pockets, two butt pockets and two thigh side pockets. Any other pockets are a bonus to me. This is why I have never owned a pair of jeans. I have a lot of things to put in my pockets: wallet, mobile, coin/key pouch, notebook, inhaler and sometimes tissue paper. If I have a lot of pockets, then I don’t have to bring a bag when I go out. My track pants don’t have a lot of pockets, for obvious reasons, but I do have an elastic band with two pockets that I use to carry my inhaler and mobile when I go for a run or parkour session.

Although not a hard requirement for me, I do like when my pants pockets are just big enough to contain my items and nothing else. This means that my pocket will hold the object tightly against my leg and I can run at full speed if I need to without having it flopping about or worrying something will drop out.

I do love me a good bag though. Haversacks and sling-bags are my things, especially if they have lots of pockets. Backpacks are notorious for their pockets, hidden pockets and pockets within pockets. I can store ANYTHING. I remember this one time I was freaking out because I saw such a cool backpack that had about 30 pockets in total. I know; I counted.

May you always have deep pockets.

-Jace

Change is good

I’m going to make a drastic change to this blog. Instead of releasing a post every weekday at 12pm, I’m going to lower it down to at least three times a week; probably Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Let be clear: This is NOT me giving up. I still love writing and my stories such as the Minders Trilogy and the THE Series will still continue. They won’t even appear less frequently; no, they might appear more frequently, depending on my mood. At the very least, the Minders Trilogy will still be released one chapter every fortnight for now.

I’m doing this because I’ve run out of quality posts to write. I could feel this situation slowly creeping up on me week after week as I watched the number of scheduled posts go down. Sometimes the topic I want to write about just doesn’t have enough content or has no point for me to write. I’ve even stopped doing my skeletons because they’re so damn short that I can just remember what I want to say.

It’s been a good run so far and I repeat: I’m not quitting writing. I’m just slowing it down to a more sustainable level. I’ve realized that I’ve been so focused on churning out five posts a week that I’ve been watching the quality of my topics worsen. That really defeats the point of my blog, which is to help me practice writing articulate and quality posts. Not much has been happening lately too. I haven’t started any new personal projects, done anything blog worthy, or thought of any novel ideas.

Things change, so I must change as well. Looking back, I realize I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into writing over the weekends. That’s not a bad thing, but some weeks I want to just be lazy. I’ve recently caught up on my YouTube videos, but I’m still sixteen episodes behind on Running Man. Perhaps this slowing down will give me more topics to write about as ideas start forming in my head again.

I’ve discovered I work well under pressure. Time pressure. It’s the whole reason why I’ve maintained my blog thus far; I just have so little time to write over the weekends that I make it my number one priority to do so. But that only works when I’ve got solid topics I’m passionate enough to talk about. I’ve been coming up with more and more dud topics lately; topics that I’ve started writing, but realize that there’s not much to say, and then I scrap the whole thing altogether.

I may not even stick to three times a week. Perhaps on some weeks when exciting stuff happens, every day will have a post. It might not even be in a Monday-Wednesday-Friday format. I do need to have two consecutive days to release each THE story pair.

With regards to the Minders Trilogy, I might make it a weekly thing, instead of fortnightly, because my influx of ideas have mostly been about the story and the characters. Besides, it fulfills one of my three weekly posts, so if I do a THE story for the week, I’d have hit three posts already.

I think I’m going to start writing more posts in advance. I used to do that earlier this year when I had over 20 topics in draft; write several weeks in advance. I want to do that again, to give me the peace of mind when I miss a week or two.

Oh well, we’ll see how this works out.

-Jace

Who’s the fairest of them all?

My name may be Tan, but I’m quite fair. At least, I do my best to be as fair as possible to everyone I deal with.

The first time I learnt to be fair was from my tennis days. I used to play tennis as my CCA in my primary and secondary school and that was when I learnt about sportsmanship and fair game. If my opponent’s ball bounced within the court but was unclear to him, then I’d call it in and give him the point. After a while it became a habit, so much so that if it was unclear even to me, I would just call it in anyway. I’m proud I can say that I never cheated a point off an opponent, no matter how much I disliked the guy (or girl).

But that was just the start. I learnt to play Magic, and discovered that I had a fascination with the rules. I took the online test and after eleven attempts, finally achieved my Rules Advisor status. It’s not a full judge and I can’t judge any tournaments at all, but I’m respected in the Magic community as a “Rules Guy”. Anyone who has questions about a game ruling, I can answer it for them as well as explain why. From Level One onward, the rules get more focused on tournament infractions and their appropriate penalties, and less on the game itself. Of course, a Level Three judge still has to know his game stuff, but usually Level Ones and Twos are enough to provide game rulings. It’s partly why I didn’t pursue Level One; I was an expert on the game itself, and tournament rulings didn’t appeal to me as much.

There are currently five psychographics, or personalities in Magic; Johnny, Timmy, Spike, Melvin and Vorthos. The first three are the originals. Timmy loves the game and just plays for fun. Johnny loves weird and whacky combos and it doesn’t matter to him if he wins or not, as long as he can pull off a combo. Spike is the most competitive and will do everything he can to win each match. Melvin and Vorthos didn’t come along until much later. Melvin is the guy who’s obsessed with rules and will enforce each rule strictly. Vorthos love flavour and themes, like when a Dragon deck faces a Soldier or Knight deck.

I’m a Melvin/Vorthos hybrid. I love rules and order, and it makes me feel clever when I discover loopholes and broken combos. When I did find one, I’d abuse it, because I was able to be “unfair” fairly. See, in order to find out how I can break the rules without breaking them, I had to know all the rules. This translated into my daily life, but I called it extracting the most value out of everything I could. I was also able to be fair and impartial when making decisions, especially when I was dealing with two people I valued equally.

I have a need for order and balance, so fairness, or even distribution of work or rewards is important to me, especially when I’m the one making the decisions. I don’t want anyone to come up to me and say I was unfair in some respect. Mum always told me not to draw lines and Dad always taught me not to fight over petty things, such as picking up a piece of rubbish and disposing of it properly, even though it’s not mine. That is my fail safe when I cannot be fair to everyone. If a job is small enough that it can’t be evenly distributed, I do it.

Right now in NS, I’m the leader of our little band of OOCs, or Out Of Course personnel, simply because I was there the longest. When the commanders assign jobs to us, I decide who does what, and I do my best to take into account preference and cliques.

I’m only fair when I have to be, though. When I’m not obligated to be fair (this is a cruel world, after all), I look after my own first. I give little bits of advantages or perks to people I like and value, like putting certain people on the same job because they work well together, or avoiding pairing someone up with someone they despise.

I treat everyone fairly. I just treat some people more fairly than others.

-Jace

I wanna be a Sub (editor)

I have a new career direction: Sub-editing!

Early this year, I pictured what my job life would look like after I was released from my prison service to the army. I saw myself doing freelance programming projects and doing some writing jobs on the side to supplement my income as well as to give me a change of pace once in a while.

Since I started this blog and explored fiction, writing has become more a part of my life then programming is now. I still love programming because of the sheer logic that’s simple enough to follow, but I think I’m more passionate about writing right now.

This lead me to do research on how freelance writers survive in the world. I definitely wanted a freelance job first, partly because I want to do a bit of travelling and have some fun after army. I had so many questions about the freelance world. How does it work? What’s the average pay per job? Where can I go to sell my services and work? A few weeks ago, I met Ruby Tan, a freelance writer, and we agreed to meet up for lunch.

We’d exchanged several emails before meeting up and she had told me about doing an internship at an editing or publishing company for experience and contact. She said it was definitely easier getting jobs after the internship. When we met, I had prepared a whole list of questions to grill her with. I literally had the Notes application on my phone open almost the whole time.

I was very interested in editing, but I didn’t fully understand what the job scope was. I thought it was just correcting mistakes that the writer may have made, or making certain sentences sound better or politically correct. I thought editors were the underlings to the writers. See, in my mind, writers did the hard work of creating the article or post or book and the editor simply filters it. Another reason I thought editors were below writers was because I’d often see the phrase “contact the editor at…”. This made me think of secretaries to busy people, assistants to the big guys to help them plan their schedule and filter prank calls.

Of course, now I’ve been enlightened, and shown that not only is an editor much higher than a writer, the job that I had in my mind was that of a sub-editor. This job requires a person to be very meticulous about everything, even down to the alignment of the passage, or words around pictures, or even summarizing and paraphrasing certain paragraphs to make sure everything fits within the given space.

Over lunch, we had talked about writers, publishers and editors, but the moment Ruby told me about sub-editors, I was like, “Hot damn that is right up my alley!” My programming experience has taught me to be very anal and patient, because how else are you going to catch that stupid missing semicolon, or misspelled syntax, or broken logic? My command of the English language is definitely above the average Singaporean’s, if I do say so myself. I also love puzzles, so paraphrasing a passage to fit into a limited space is a fun puzzle to me.

I’m not giving up the dream of programming my own house, I just want to walk this path. I already know that the programming world is open for me, but I don’t know about writing. Might as well explore it now that I’m young and still able to take chances and make mistakes without worrying about supporting a family.

This new angle would give me more ways to apply to Google, because right now, that is where I want to be.

-Jace

THE003 Her

“Do you trust me?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied immediately and automatically closed my eyes. I knew what was coming.

He put his hands on my shoulders and I felt him lean closer to me. He kissed me, the same way he did three years ago, and I melted into him, the same way I did three years ago. It was the same kiss that marked the start of our beautiful relationship.

We were in the same course in school, but different classes. I recognized him by face, but we never had a chance to interact. It was the occasional glance here and there, but I never really did think much of him, until I met him during our internship together.

We made small talk at first, but then over the course of our internship, I noticed that he’d often get jobs that two people could work on together. Well, one person could do it, but two people worked faster together. And for some reason, we always ended up as partners, either by him asking me, or by our boss assigning the task to us both. The first few times, I didn’t think much of it because I thought it was because we were in close proximity to each other, so it was easy to just ask me for help. But over the nights of shared dinners and comfortable conversations, I realized that there was something more than work to our relationship.

I guess it should have been more obvious to me. He’d ask me to have dinner together with him nearly every weeknight before we went home. The first dinner was a little awkward at first, but we discovered that we had a lot in common to talk about. We liked the same music, books and movies. We’d argue about stuff like if Edgar Allan Poe was better than Stephen King, or if Alien was better than Predator.

Yeah, I’m a fan of the horror and thriller genres, and it turned out he was too, which was a nice surprise. I like surprises.

We became very close as a result of all this bonding time and I grew very comfortable around him. I felt I could be my adventurous self. He was very sweet and such a gentleman too. Not only did he tolerate my impulses, he walked me home every night, even though he stayed much further away.

I don’t know exactly when I realized I had fallen for him. I guess it was a slow, gradual and inevitable thing that just happened. I mean, how could I not?

He was quite reserved, very much the opposite of my fiery attitude. Most of the time, he’d just let me have my fun, but once in a while I managed to coax him to do something crazy with me, like get him to eat spicy food. The one moment that stood out for me was the Chilli Chocolate incident.

See, I love spicy food, and when we happened to stumble across chilli in chocolate, I just had to taste it. Naturally, he wanted nothing to do with it, stating that was was almost blasphemy to chocolate. I locked eye contact with him and asked him, “Do you trust me?”

We’d been through this same routine several times. I would ask him to taste it, then pretend to get mad, insult him, and then finally guilt trip him. The trust thing gets him every time.

He took a bite. I watched as his face changed from oh-god-why-am-I-doing-this to hey-this-ain’t-that-bad. I took a bite myself, and discovered it was only mildly spicy. I’d had a theory that since the chilli was in milk chocolate, the milk would counter the capsaicin in the chilli, the chemical which causes spiciness.

On the last week of our internship together, he turned my own line against me. We were walking down the river, happily licking our ice creams to cool our tongues after the spicy chicken wing dinner we had. I was just about to finish when he suddenly stopped and turned to me. I stopped as well.

“Close your eyes,” he said.

“Why?” I asked suspiciously.

“Do you trust me?” he asked.

“Yes, of course,” I replied, finishing off my ice cream and closing my eyes.

I felt a weight on each shoulder – his hands – and sensed him leaning in. His lips met mine, and I started a little in surprise, but managed to keep my eyes closed. I recovered quickly and wrapped my arms around him, pulling him closer as I kissed him back passionately.

Like I said before, I like surprises, and I especially loved this one.

-Jace

THE003 Him

“Do you trust me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied without hesitation. She smiled and closed her eyes.

We were celebrating our third anniversary together. Our third year since we officially became a couple, which was about a month after we met.

I met her when I was doing an internship as part of my study module. We were both attached to the same department along with several other interns, helping out mostly with data entry and small errands. Basically not much more than coffee boys and girls. She and I only met and talked to each other during that internship. I mean, she was in the same course as I, but from a different class. I knew her face, but we never had an opportunity to mingle before.

Over the course of the internship, she and I became quite close. I’d always ask her out to have dinner together. Nobody else seemed to ask her out and she never asked anyone either, so it was always just the two of us.

Not that I minded. I’d tell my colleagues I’d be having dinner with a friend and they’d leave me alone.

We had dinner together almost every weekday night. I discovered she loved spicy food, even and especially the ones that would make her start sniffing tearing up. Her cheeks would also turn a pretty shade of red, which was kind of adorable. Each meal I ask her why she tortures herself so and she always replied that it wasn’t torturous. I personally hate spicy food like chilli, curry and peppers. I mean, I can eat it if I’m forced to, but I’d always pick something else.

I remember there was one night we had Japanese food and she’d ordered curry rice. This was our third week of our internship together and we had grown quite close. She was playfully doing her best to make me taste Japanese curry and I was quite adamant in refusing. She called me weak and unadventurous and I still wasn’t having any of it.

Then she looked into my eyes and asked me, “Do you trust me?”

“Yes…” I answered hesitantly.

“Then take a bit of curry. It’s not spicy at all!”

“No!” I exclaimed.

She pouted. “You don’t trust me,” she said.

“…Alright, alright fine,” I gave in reluctantly.

She beamed and instructed me to close my eyes and open my mouth. I did so and she slipped a spoonful of Japanese curry into my mouth. I was pleasantly surprised; it actually wasn’t very spicy. Quite delicious, in fact. Of course, I didn’t love all spicy food immediately after that, but that one incident made me realize how much I did trust her.

On our last week of our internship together, I took her out to a fancy restaurant for dinner, as a sort of celebration for completing our internship and, as a result, finishing our final module for graduation. We ordered spicy chicken wings and she made me eat them too. We were both in tears by the end of it, but on a high, laughing and joking and just generally being silly. We went for ice cream afterwards to cool our tongues and took a walk beside the river to enjoy the cool night air.

We shared a comfortable silence as we ate our ice cream and strolled along, taking in the sights of the night activities. I realized that after this week, if I didn’t do something, I probably wouldn’t see her again. I finished the last bit of my ice-cream, stopped and turned to her. She stopped too. I looked into her eyes and I said, “Close your eyes.”

“Why?” she asked curiously, tilting her head cutely.

“Do you trust me?” I asked.

“Yes, of course,” she replied with a smile and finished off her ice cream too.

“Then close your eyes,” I told her and she did so. I took a breath and mentally psyched myself up for what I was about to do.

I put my hands on her shoulders, leaned in and kissed her lips. She twitched in surprise, but didn’t open her eyes. I closed my eyes as well as she kissed me back and I felt her wrap her arms around me.

That was our first kiss and the day we officially became a couple. Since then we’ve shared many more kisses together, and I’m sure we’ll enjoy many more.

-Jace

Writing is cathartic

I think I’m losing my touch a little. I’ve noticed that I have lesser and lesser topics to write about as the weeks go by. I’ve managed to hit 150 posts, which is a solid 30 week streak of 5 posts a week, but now I just feel a little uninspired, and worried I’ll break the streak.

Somehow, random bloggable thoughts just aren’t hitting me. I guess lot of it has got to do with the fact that I’ve written almost everything I want to write about myself. Now there’s not much left to write, mostly because I’m trapped in NS. Nothing is happening to me at all and I’ve got another year of this crap. I’m seriously getting the hell out of here once my army days are over.

But this is not a post about how bad the system is. This post is about me doing whatever I can to keep the fire going. Okay, well, my passion is strong, but I guess I’ll have to start looking into writing other stuff. Like fiction. Recently, I’ve started focusing on writing more fiction, especially the Minders trilogy I’m writing. It’s fun because I can write whatever I want, but it’s also quite draining to have to keep imagining the scenes and how each part builds up the story or character(s). Reflective posts like these are easier because I have some fixed content in my mind and draft; I just have to flesh it out and order my thoughts. Not as draining as fiction.

It’s quite depressing to see the number of drafts I have available gradually decrease from week to week. I used to be able to keep the number of topics I have in double digit range, but now I’m barely maintaining ten topics ahead. Mind you, these are just topics with my notes in them, not even full scheduled posts waiting to be released.

And it’s not as if I don’t have enough time to write. Time is tight, but right now, writing is my number one non-essential priority, followed by my friends. I’ve even stopped reading Daily MTG articles, watching YouTube videos and I’m behind on Running Man by 16 episodes. I have no idea how I’m going to catch up. But I’ve been doing my best to devote every waking hour to write. I now keep Sundays free just so that I have a day to write all the posts for the week.

I started this blog partly because I wanted a place where I can say whatever I wanted, in the most articulate manner I could. This is a place for me to boast about my achievements without having to talk someone’s ear off. It’s also for me to mark milestones in my life. This post is none of these things. It lacks my usual quality and flair. See, I don’t even have a witty title. In all honesty, this post started off as more of a filler than anything else, but now that I’m writing it, I realise this was what I needed. To consolidate my challenges and acknowledge that I can see a problem coming and I’m doing something about it.

Writing really is cathartic.

-Jace