Meet the Karen Cheng

Doing the Karen Cheng

I’ve been following Karen Cheng’s blog on and off since blogs were invented way back in 1976. If you’re not already a fan, she’s a hot Perth mother of two lovely kids who blogs about her family, shopping et cetera on a very pretty self-designed website at

On occasion, she takes self-portraits in a manner which has spawned this viral thing called “doing the Karen Cheng“, where someone takes pictures of themselves in front of a mirror, with the camera visible in the picture, and with their heads tilted at a specific, precise angle, facing north by northwest.

The point of this all is that Karen will be visiting Singapore for the first time in six years, and instead of merely dropping in on the shops and hanging out with friends, she has decided to also raise money for the Singapore Red Cross while she’s here.

On Saturday, 5 July at a location to be finalised on the Facebook event page, she will “do the Karen Cheng” in front of a, preferably large, mirror. And everyone is invited to attend and “do the same Karen Cheng”, and donate $10 to the Red Cross.

If that sounds even remotely dodgy to you, maybe you, like me, have impure thoughts, and should really read Karen’s blog post for a clearer explanation.

(Thanks for the alert, Lancerlord)

No one thinks big of you

This anti-speeding campaign ad is targeted at young male drivers in NSW, Australia. It depicts young men driving fast to impress women and friends, who aren’t impressed and who wag their little finger to indicate that the driver has a small… y’know?

As with a lot of things Australian, it’s slightly offensive and controversial, but to the point. Like the first slogan for the state of Victoria’s anti-drink driving campaign: “Drink, Drive, Bloody Idiot”.

It seems there was a twist in NSW’s offensive offensive against speeding.

Last week, a driver blamed the RTA’s ad campaign for a fit of road rage:

A Sydney man has blamed the Roads and Traffic Authority’s “little pinky” advertising campaign for a fit of road rage, saying that a woman’s wiggling little finger implied he had a small penis.

Simon Jardak was fined $400 by a magistrate after an accusatory finger on the Anzac Bridge enraged him so much he threw a plastic bottle out of his car window, hitting the gesturing woman’s car.

Mr Jardak blamed his malicious damage charge on the RTA’s anti-speeding campaign, in which hoons are mocked with wagging little fingers, suggesting they have tiny penises.

He told Richard Glover’s Drive program on ABC 702 that the RTA’s relentless promotion of the “little pinky” gesture had made it more offensive to males than the traditional “middle finger”.

Still, I think we can do better here than “Speeding Kills” or “Drink Driving Is Not Safe Even If You Are A Mediacorp TV Actor”.

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Communicado IV: I promise you!

Perhaps I’ve been a little negative about Ex Wallaby 05, and for awhile, perhaps forgotten about the most uplifting radio comms statement transmitted. It was made by my company commander just after the tank mishap, and when the word ‘exhaustion’ failed to describe what all the commanders and troopers really felt:

Two-Niner to all stations Two-Niner, if your Zulu (Armoured Fighting Vehicle) drivers or commanders are tired, I will stop and let you rest! I promise you! We will finish this mission safely! …Two-Niner, out!

I speak for some of my fellow troopers when I say, Captain N W Ho, you cannot imagine how good we felt on hearing that over the comms.

Cpl Guai pops out of Two-Eight’s animal cage for a breather

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Exporting Singlish

Unlike most of Australia, the people of Rockhampton and its environs understand Singlish a little better, seeing as we have had a permanent armed forces base there and have trained there for almost a third of every year since 1990. The signboards we stick up everywhere help too:

Ex Wallaby 2005: Signs of Singlish

Ex Wallaby 2005
Signs probably seen in Johnny’s workshop

Surf stop: nlim’s photographs from Ex Wallaby 2005 - I have no idea how they got to go to the beach while we were in the woods.

Surf stop II: Mindef video of Ex Wallaby 2005.

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“Doesn’t this feel like an episode of ‘Band of Brothers?’

3SG Gerard Tan asked anyone who’d listen, prompting another thread of conversation.

“Which one?”

“‘Bastogne‘, my favourite one, where they’re being bombarded by artillery endlessly in the forest, and there aren’t any officers around, and there are no resupplies of food and water”.

Gerard was right about the depiction of misery. The 4th and 5th day of our unit’s ATEC evaluation stopped feeling like an exercise, and began to take on some resemblance of a real military operation as we started to ration food and water – fuck the ammunition, not enough, never mind – in case we really got stuck in that neck of the woods that seemed impossible to negotiate with a bicycle, much less a battalion of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

At least a dozen vehicles had already gotten bogged down or disabled by the third day. My motorcycle was put out of commission on the second, having crashed into a creek which flooded the engine. (I was unhurt, but had to abandon the bike for the recovery team to recover – it took them three days, but that’s another story).

Armoured vehicle drivers logged unbelievable hours at the wheel/sticks every day of the exercise.

One tank overturned, but her crew escaped unhurt. At the other companies, no-duff (real) casualties amounted to not more than cuts and bruises, with the most serious being a dead-fall (tree branch) injury that initially required a helicopter medivac.

I am certain we were very, very lucky to make it out of the exercise alive and mostly unhurt. My mates will attest to that. I don’t know how to describe how bad conditions were. Maybe you’d have to ask Gerard about that. He did ask those around us who’d listen:

“Why does this feel like the retreat of the Russians?”

About a minute passed before he corrected himself:

“I mean, why does this feel like the retreat of the Germans?”


So, if you believe reserve training is doing something for the security of the nation, spare a thought for your colleague who’s had to take a coupla weeks off work. Sometimes, it’s not quite a holiday.

Ex Wallaby 2005: Tree 1, Armour nil
Tree 1, Armour nil

Ex Wallaby 2005
Taking shelter

Ex Wallaby 2005

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All creatures dead and alive: kangaroo eat cow one meh?

On Day 4 of the 5 Day ATEC Exercise, we came across the carcasses of some animals, decomposed enough for us not to figure out what animals they had been. Not that we’d be experts at what kind of animals they’d been, because ‘Australia only got three kinds of animals – kangaroo, koala and cow’.

Not having that much by way of conversation topics, I was asked several times by company mates what animals I thought the carcasses were of.

“Cow, I think”, I said, hoping to close this insanely inane thread.

“Cow?”, one soldier asked again.

“Yes, I think”, said I.

“Kangaroo eat cow one meh?”, he asked, genuinely alarmed.

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Attention! Attention!

Ex Wallaby 2005
“Attention, attention… 15% off all kevlar helmets at tent #27… Hurry, hurry…”

Outside the tent I shared with sixteen other soldiers at Samuel Hill Camp was a loudspeaker that blared out announcements about every twenty minutes, asking this soldier and that to report to where at when. Very annoying when you’re trying to sleep.

The announcements are usually preceded by some crackling and the usual chime, like any P.A. system, then followed by the deadpannest voice you’ll ever hear, saying “Attention, attention, would Warrant Soh Ann Soh please report to Fifty Six Cat Ops Room please, I repeat…”.

One evening, instead of the chime, there was this huge-assed air-raid siren followed by an apologetic voice:

“Oh, oh, sorry sorry….

…eh, press what button ah?


Attention, attention…”

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Age will not weary us

But reservist training just might.

The average NSman (the official name for ‘reservist’ since 1992, but seldom used outside Mindef) gets called up for standby duties and training stints until he’s around 32, now that the ‘training cycle’ has been shortened to 10 years.

I’m 36 and have just completed the worst three weeks’ training in memory, having forgotten how bad full-time national service used to be.

There were a bunch of us at Exercise Wallaby who were slightly past our use-by dates because we had skipped a year or two of duty through work or study commitments in the last 10 years. (For mine, I had deferred a total of 8 years).

The strain showed, we couldn’t sprint as much and as quickly, and we couldn’t see as well in the dark. At one point during the night in the bush, I stumbled for 20 minutes in a 100 metre stretch of forest, trying to find my company’s tanks and vehicles, only to be stopped five times by the other companies’ sentries, asking for the night’s password. Later on that night, me and my motorcycle were felled by a tree stump.

At the other end of the spectrum were young full-time soldiers from the 40th Battalion, SAR, who averaged 20 years. They were attached to our unit because we were short of men. These boys, they were quick, they rolled all over the forest floor taking cover from enemy fire, and they were only put in their place when they went crazy at the canteen trying to down as many beers as they could while the older and wiser among us tended to limit ourselves to one beer a day.

And yes, I did tell one of them: “When uncle first put on this very uniform, you wuz only 2 years old”.

Me and Pte Sng Lui, Thailand, October 1989

Ex Wallaby 2005
Me and Cpl Sng Lui, Australia, October 2005

Surf stop: Gerard’s Flickr set of Ex Wallaby 2005

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Communicado II: Transparent Guy

Ex Wallaby 2005
Small talk over lousy coffee and sweet cakes at Samuel Hill Camp, Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

“Eh, what’s that superhero called ah?”
“Which one?”
“Neh, that one?”
“Which one?”
“That one lah, cannot see him one?”
“Which one?”
“That one lah! Transparent Guy!”
“Transparent Guy?”
“Yah! Transparent Guy!”

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Hero shots

Ex Wallaby 2005
Hero shot: It’s all in the gear

Ex Wallaby 2005: Hero shot
Non-hero shot: Queueing in the canteen

“Eh, take picture of me and mms my girlfriend, can?”

“OK, how come your phone cannot?”

“Dunno lah. Take for me can?”


“Wait, wait. Dowan already. Take in canteen not hero shot, must wear all the gear then can”.

Hero and non-hero shots can be found in my Flickr set of Ex Wallaby 2005

Surf stop: Stupid Genius’ account of Ex Wallaby 2005

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