Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mr Brown's Flood article - the Censored one

What's the best way to attract attention to a taboo article? Censor it.

This article written by Mr Brown was removed from Insing upon request from an authority. Yes, Insing as in, the Insing website ONLINE. Right here, even online articles can be censored.

In response, and as a responsible writer to his readers, good old Mr Brown then re-posted the article on his personal blog. On first read, I found nothing in the article that could possibly offense the higher authorities. There is no violent, sexual, racist or even a single remotely religious comment that I could decipher from the innocent looking article.

But then I realised my mistake. Alas, how could I read the article in the shoes of a commoner! Thus I did a second reading, pretending to be one of the honorable and respected elite sitting in the ivory tower right up there at the higher authorities. And I saw it.

What audacity! How dare he implied that the Bukit Timah flood was a freak flood that was no way to prevent? How dare he implied that nobody has thought of doing anything about it when he should have known better that the authorities obviously have more important things on their agenda then to take care of a little freak flood?

In my opinion, Mr Brown has definitely crossed the line this time round. Flood is definitely not uncommon in Singapore as our grandparents have been telling us about how everywhere will be flooded on rainy days in the past. So this is just a coming back of the flood and we should not be so pampered as to be affected by it! As a good citizen, the least we could do is to pretend not to see it and let it pass quietly, instead of writing a rude article and joke about it! After all, it's just a freak flood that should not occur again in another fifty years!

mrbrown and the flood

I think we need to appoint a Minister of Freak Incidents soon.

After all, who is going to deal with the kind of incidents like the recent flooding of Bukit Timah? According to the authorities, the kind of rainfall that can cause such flooding was a 'freak' event that occurs only once in 50 years.

Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim even said, "We knew the diversion canal was not big enough to take this."

That was very reassuring to know. I can imagine someone saying, "You know, those canals are not going to be able to take very heavy rainfall."

And someone else in charge might have said, "We know. But what to do? We cannot make the biggest canals to accommodate the biggest rainfall possible. We can't cater to freaks. Anyway, once in a half-century only lah."

If your Ferrari happened to be submerged in a basement car park that fateful freak of a day, and your insurance does not cover "use of car as submarine", you can still find solace that the next time this kind of flooding occurs, it will be 50 years later.

So feel free to buy a new car and park it in underground car parks along Bukit Timah after this.

While this is not Katrina, the residents of District 11 do not have it good, either. They work hard, live on prime land, and their homes cost millions of dollars. Plus their area does not even have an MRT station yet. And now, poor things, their district is the new Singapore River.

I think we should see the bright side. Perhaps we can try to make the best of things. If you cannot stop the flooding, why not make Bukit Timah the Venice of Singapore? What could be more romantic and prestigious than living in Singapore's Canal District?

Instead of driving, residents can glide down Bukit Timah in gondolas and luxury boats. Why should only Punggol get the water sports fun?

The fancy schools along that stretch can have annual Boat Races there, a la Oxford and Cambridge. ACS, SCGS, Hwa Chong, NJC, St Joseph's, all competing in the annual Bukit Timah Freak Flood Inter-School Boat Race.

Schools there will no longer need their own swimming pools. Instead, we can groom a new generation of young swimmers who have been trained from young to swim to school for their exams.

It's not a flood-prone area, it's a waterfront lifestyle opportunity.

Our submarine corps need not go elsewhere for their training exercises, too. Just get those ex-Västergötland class Swedish subs into the Bukit Timah Canal District and do their drills there. It may be challenging to create parking lots for the subs but I am sure the government will find a way.

I hear they are installing some water-level sensor which will warn of rising water levels in Bukit Timah Canal. I suppose it is so that if the sensor goes off, the Traffic Police can notify nearby condominiums and residents can carry their cars upstairs to their attics or drive it to HDB multi-storey car parks nearby.

Frankly, I feel a simple sign will do. Something that says "If the water level along Bukit Timah rises above this sign, please alert the authorities".

Another initiative the government can consider is to start neighbourhood Flood Watch. All the homes in Bukit Timah will be issued with buckets and assigned flood duties. In the event of flooding, residents will pour out onto the streets to scoop up buckets of water and dump the water in the Bukit Timah Canal. Clever, right?

That is my suggestion to our leaders. Don't fight the flood, go with the flow! It is only a freak flood, Singapore.

Ah this just brings back fond memories of walking to my school along Bukit Timah Road in torrential rain, and walking right into the giant longkang near Coronation Plaza because flood waters obscured the pavement and the drain! Good times!

Right! Let's move on! Who wants to volunteer to be Singapore's first Minister of Freak Incidents and Drains? Hands up! The position offers good pay and you only need to worry about stuff once every 50 years.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coming up with re-interpreted local dishes fit for APEC


Mr Teo, Ah Tan, Ah Lim and Ali were busy flipping through pieces of papers in their hands. On the white board, the words "Re-interpreted Local Favourites" was written. Mr Teo put down his stack of papers and looked up.

MR TEO: Gentlemen, shall we start? No worries about sounding ridiculous, just say out loud whatever that comes to your mind, and we can brainstorm from there. After all, we're not chefs.

All three men nodded in agreement and Mr Teo walked over to the whiteboard.

MR TEO: Okay, before we start, remember this. We want to offer local delicacies, but we don't want to look cheap. After all, those are world leaders. Plus we need to show these people that Singapore might be small, but we are rich and high class.
AH TAN: Shall we start with the starter? The chefs have suggested Rojak, but I'm rather hesitant with this choice as I know that prawn paste is not something that everybody appreciate, especially those ang mohs.
AH LIM: Hmm... maybe we should remove the prawn paste then? I know what! How about use chilli crab sauce instead? We can also add some Sri Lanka crab meat!
AH TAN: Er... Ah Lim, don't you think chilli crab sauce is kind of heavy for a starter?
AH LIM: Okay, so we forgo the sauce, just add the crab!
ALI: Why crab? I can never imagine crab and Rojak together...
AH LIM: But crab is one of the most expensive food that you can get at Clarke Quay!
MR TEO: But crab doesn't have the class.

The three men turned their head to look at Mr Teo.

MR TEO: Crab sounds too... how do I put it? Too unglam. Too rugged. I think lobster will be a better choice.
AH TAN, AH LIM (together): Oh yes! Lobster!
ALI: Lobster in a Rojak?
AH TAN: Yap, if we can have lobster salad, we can have lobster Rojak! And I suggest replacing those cucumber and tulip slices with watermelon cubes!
AH LIM, ALI (together): Watermelon?!?
AH TAN: Yes, watermelon! Firstly, it's a sweet and juicy fruit that can complement the taste of seafood, secondly it's a tropical fruit, and thirdly, it's in red and with the white lobster meat, it resembles our national colour!
MR TEO (grinning): Good idea, Tan!
AH LIM: Do we want to add some sauce to it? Like wasabi sauce?
MR TEO (shaking his finger): No, no, no... I've got a better idea. Caviar. Just a spoonful of caviar is enough to bring the whole dish up the luxury level.
AH TAN, AH LIM, ALI (together): Wow! Caviar!

Mr Teo paused a while staring at the whiteboard, then wrote "Poached lobster with watermelon and Japanese caviar".

AH LIM: And the other starter is Soto Ayam. I'll suggest changing the chicken to tiger prawns. Seafood more high class.
ALI: Er... Brudder, this is Soto Ayam and ayam means chicken you know? If we were to use tiger prawns, it'll become prawn noodles?
MR TEO: I agree with Ali. We want to change the cooking technique but retain the flavours. When you try the Soto Ayam and close your eyes, it should be exactly the flavour.
AH TAN: Maybe we could swap the chicken meat with turkey breast? Or pigeon meat? Turkeys, pigeons and chicks all belong to the same bird family, so we should be able to retain the ayam in Soto Ayam yeh?

Mr Teo rubbed his chin as he pore over what Ah Tan has just suggested.

MR TEO (shaking his head): No, Tan. I think I'll prefer the chicken to stay. Turkey sounds too... Christmas, and pigeons remind me of Hong Kong. I don't want these people to eat something here that reminds them of somewhere else.
AH LIM: So we retain the chicken but add tiger prawns?
ALI: Ah doi, you really like tiger prawns yeh?
AH LIM: Because tiger prawn is one of the most expensive food that you can get at Newton Circus!
AH TAN: I think I'll prefer scallop. Scallop is rather bland, so it will not change the taste of the soup. Plus scallop is expensive.
MR TEO: Fantastic! We should add scallop then!

Mr Teo wrote "Soto ayam with scallop mousse" on the whiteboard excitedly.

AH TAN: Sir, according to the menu, the suggested main course is braised beef short ribs. Isn't that Western food?
MR TEO: And your point?
AH TAN: There's nothing in this dish that signifies Singapore.
AH LIM: Yah, why not Bak Kut Teh or Chicken Rice instead?
MR TEO: No, guys. Though we want these visitors to have a taste of our local food, the main dish has to be Western. Only Western food is high class enough. You can't possibly serve these world leaders what the commoners eat at the hawker centers right?
AH TAN: Maybe we could add some five-spice sauce to the meat? At least make it more... exotic?
MR TEO (nodding): That's a good idea though.

On the whiteboard, Mr Teo wrote "Braised beef short ribs in five-spice sauce".

AH TAN: And last but not least, we've got Cheng Teng Jelly for dessert.
AH LIM: What's Cheng Teng jelly? It's either Cheng Teng or Grass Jelly. But Cheng Teng jelly? What are our top chefs thinking?
AH TAN: Ah Lim, this is fusion food! It's supposed to be cooked up with concoction of things that create confusion!
ALI: Just jelly? No coconut cream?
AH LIM: Yah, I agree with Ali! Like agar-agar, some coconut cream will make this whatever jelly more fragrant!
MR TEO: Coconut cream huh... hmm... but with a largely middle-aged crowd, we want the meals to be healthier, with less salt and sugar. Coconut cream is not very healthy right?
AH TAN: Panna cotta.

All heads turned to look at Ah Tan, puzzled by the words that he has just uttered.

AH TAN: We can add a panna cotta base to the jelly.
AH LIM: Er... Ah Tan, what is panna cotta? I only know Pina Colada.
AH TAN: Hahaha... Panna cotta is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar. Then this mixture is again mixed with gelatin, and let to cool till set.
ALI: Still milk what. Just that it has a fancy name.
MR TEO: But this fancy name sounds more high class! Okay, we shall have this then.

Finally, Mr Teo wrote "Cheng Teng jelly with a panna cotta base" on the whiteboard.



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Press Freedom Index is pure rubbish


Ah Tan was nonchalantly eating his fried carrot cake and sipping his coffee at the table when Shan stormed into the pantry. Shanmugam hit the coffee dispenser buttons as though he was playing jackpot and waited impatiently for his coffee. Finally the small paper cup of coffee was ready and he snatched it from the slot, walked over to Ah Tan's table and sat down heavily.

SHAN (snarled): Damn those stupid reporters without any borders!
AH TAN (swallowing his fried carrot cake and staring at Shan): Erm... Good morning.
SHAN: Did you hear? Those insolent foreign press ranked us 133rd on their nonsensical Press Freedom Index!
AH TAN (sipping his coffee): Oh, that. Okay what. 133rd is an improvement right? I thought we were like 144th previously?

Shan took too large a gulp and choked on his coffee. He thought he might have burnt his tongue at the same time.

SHAN (raving): What are you talking about? What improvement? We're at 133rd my friend! Not third! In fact the third place is still an insult! We should be first on the top of the list! Like anything else! This stupid ranking that place Singapore so lowly on press freedom is so absurd and divorced from reality!

Meanwhile, Ah Tan put the last small piece of fried carrot cake into his mouth and closed the foam box.

AH TAN: Well, Shan, maybe we're pushed down because of those big developed countries like U.S. and Japan, you know?
SHAN: No, no, no! We are ranked even lower than some of those countries trying to progress! Bangladesh is 121st! Even Cambodia is 117th! That does not make sense! My point is not that we are in any way inherently superior to them - the question is whether a truly objective assessment will give us such a ranking!
AH TAN (eyes wide opened): Wow, even Cambodia is better than us?
SHAN: You know, Tan, I think I know why we are been ranked so low. Remember we have had tussels and won law suits against with several newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Far Eastern Economic Review? These stupid foreign press are not used to this anywhere else in the world and they definitely don't like it one bit. So every Law suit is met with the same reaction - we are out to silence the press. That feeling has been pervasive and has coloured the general reporting on Singapore. This is not fair, man. This is not fair.

Shan shook his head and sipped his coffee. He then put down his coffee and continued.

SHAN: Actually our approach on press reporting is very simple. The press can criticize us, our policies. We do not seek to condemn that. But we demand the right of response, to be published in the journal that published the original article. We do not accept that they can decide whether to publish our response. That's all! Is that too much to ask for?
AH TAN: Huh? You mean the press can actually criticize our policies? Can disagree with what Boss says?
SHAN: Of course they can! But of course if they publish something stupid, and we rebuke them, then it is only fair that they also publish that right?
AH TAN (rubbing his chin): Hmm... so maybe that's why the press decided to filter their own content. So that there won't be too many articles of us scolding the journalists on the newspapers...
SHAN (ignoring what Ah Tan said): Anyway, the proof of our stability can be seen by the billions of dollars invested in Singapore annually by international organizations. Our main selling point is that there will be good value added when they invest here, their investments will be protected, and that we are a stable democracy. So we definitely deserve more than a dirty 133rd place!
AH TAN: Erm... But Shan, stability and foreign investment have nothing to do with press freedom...



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Must make sure all questions are appropriate!


Mr Teo walked into the room where Ah Tan, Ah Lim and Ali were already seated at the table. Sternly, he gave out stapled sheets of papers to the men. While Mr Teo made himself comfortable at the chairman seat, the three men quickly flipped through and attempted to speed read. However it appeared to be difficult as there were six sheets in each stapled set, printed on both sides.

MR TEO: Gentlemen, what you're holding now are the 180 questions that were submitted for Big Boss's ministerial forum at the university. The forum has been scheduled to be two weeks later and these questions were pre-submitted by the students. The purpose of this meeting is for you to assist me in filtering these questions.
AH TAN: Sir, let me split the work. Lim, why don't you take pages one and two, Ali, you take care of three and four, and I'll finish up five and six.

Ah Lim and Ali nodded and proceeded to read through the questions. Mr Teo stood up and walked towards the whiteboard. He began to write down a list of pointers as he spoke.

MR TEO: Okay gentlemen, as usual, these are the things to take note of. Most importantly, no political questions. Take out all questions that refer to or even remotely implying the opposition parties.
AH LIM: Sir, I've got one here that asked "Is the formation of GRCs really effective in managing the estates, or is it just a critical strategy to ensure the result of election? Will there be any regrouping of the GRCs again before the next election then?".
MR TEO (berated): That is audacious! How can a mere university student ask such question? Take it out immediately! How we group the GRCs is none of these students' or any citizens' business! It is a political strategy that they will never understand!

Ah Lim nodded and struck off the question with his pen. Ah Tan and Ali flipped through the papers and struck off some questions as well.

MR TEO: Take out those questions that present doubts on our policies. For example, all those questions on whether the Job Credits scheme really works? Take those out.
AH TAN: Sir, this one is kind of tricky. "The income gap in Singapore appears to be widening. Is the government going to do anything about narrowing it?"

Mr Teo rubbed his chin and looked up to the ceiling. A few seconds later, he walked back to the table.

MR TEO: Tan, do a research on the income gap of other developed countries. Countries like Japan, US, etc. If you can't find any other country with a income gap widening problem, take this question off. If you can, jot down the numbers for Big Boss.
AH TAN (taking down notes on the paper): Okay, will do.
MR TEO: Hmm... write this down as well. That if we set a minimum wage for the market, jobs will be cut. Employers who are forced to deal with higher staff costs would simply find ways to hire less people. This is one argument that Big Boss can use. In fact, we should even consider lowering the wages of those low income workers so that we can have a cheaper, better, faster workforce!

Ah Tan tried to scribble as fast as possible while Mr Teo continued.

MR TEO: Oh yes! And make sure you strike off all questions about Temasek's investments.

All three men hastily flipped through and struck off some questions. Mr Teo walked back to the white board to continue writing.

MR TEO: Take out those questions about why are we letting so many new immigrants into the country and why are we giving out PRs freely, blah blah blah. Boss has already told them that we'll scale down the number of new immigrants coming in, so I don't think Big Boss has to entertain any more of such questions.
ALI: Sir, I've got this question here. "With the influx of new immigrants, how does HDB plan to ensure the availability and affordability of HDB flats to Singaporeans?".

Mr Teo made a deep sigh at the question and shook his head.

MR TEO: I thought we have been through these trivial HDB issues already? I thought Mah has already chided these people not to be ridiculous about not able to get a new flat? I heard that he has even magically made it possible for HDB to suddenly release more than 7,000 flats on sale as soon as the next three months!
AH TAN: But Sir, I did an analysis on this public housing problem awhile back, and this is what I found. A new four-room flat in 2000 cost about $150,000. Today, a new four-roomer averages $265,000, based on HDB figures. The price increase is roughly 77 per cent. In comparison, the Department of Statistics put the median income for a resident household at $3,640 in 2000. Last year, this was $4,950, roughly a 36 per cent increase. So perhaps our flats are indeed getting less affordable for the people?
MR TEO: Well, that's true... but don't forget that these people are also receiving housing grants and other subsidies! Anyway, why should these students be even asking about HDB flats? It's not like they're planning to get married in the near future! Strike off those HDB questions!

The three men flipped through their papers and struck off some more questions.

MR TEO: So how many questions are we left with now?
AH TAN: I've got eight.
AH LIM: Twelve on my side.
ALI: I've ten questions here.
MR TEO: Great! Tan, compile these questions into a single sheet and hand it to me later!



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's the branding, Chee!

This is an interesting piece of writing on Chee Soon Juan, by Tan Kin Lian, ex-CEO of NTUC Income.
"I met Chee Soon Juan two years ago at a barbeque organised by The Online Citizen in East Coast Park. He brought his wife and three daughters with him. I had a friendly chat with him.

I met him on a few subsequent occasions. I gave some puzzles, quizzes and my books to him to give to his daughters. I have always wondered about how difficult life must be for his daughers in school.

I have spoken to Chee Soon Juan spoke on a few occasions and heard him speak at public meetings. He came across as being a sensible person and has some views about what is good for Singapore. I agree with his views on the need to have to promote democracy and to have a government that reflects the aspirations of the people and is accountable to the people.

The mainstream media has painted a negative picture of Chee Soon Juan. Many Singaporeans perceive him in a negative light, which I believe is a wrong perception. I hope that they will have the chance to meet him and listen to him, or read his views in this blog.

I met a friend at a coffee shop this morning. I told him about my views of Chee Soon Juan and his family. He agreed with me. He had heard a story that Soon Juan's daughter had to speak up in class and tell her classmates, "My father did not commit any crime". He was emotional; tears came down from his eyes when he said, "I wonder how any parent would feel if our own daughter had to face this kind of difficulty in the class".

I like to wish Chee Soon Juan, his wife and three daughters all the best as they face the difficulty of life in Singapore. I hope that more Singaporeans will come forward to express their support to him and his family."

It is interesting that while Chee's views on the need to promote democracy and to have a government that reflects the aspirations of the people and is accountable to the people are admirable, these views are not apparent to most of the public. Why? Because the public is too busy reading up negative news about him from the mainstream media.

So, now we know. Chee needs to work on his personal branding.

Why is branding important for a politician like Chee? Imagine that you have received two boxes of mooncakes from the last Mid-Autumn festival. One from a five-stars hotel and the other from a neighbourhood bakery. Even before biting into the mooncakes, you would have already decided that the one from the hotel is definitely going to taste better. But now, imagine this. A couple of weeks before you receive the mooncakes, friends around you have been talking about how this neighbourhood bakery bakes great mooncakes. The newspapers gave not-to-be-missed comments about those mooncakes and even food blogs blogged about them. Which one are you most likely to bite into now?

Chee could really be a good-old-honest politician who has "views about what is good for Singapore". But like what Andy Lau told Tony Leung on the rooftop in Internal Affairs, "Who knows?". He needs to stop shouting at other politicians and getting himself sued. He needs to stop demonstrating pointlessly in the public and getting himself arrested. He needs to learn to be Obama.

Chee has to get out of that negative image that the mainstream media has brainwashed us with. And quick (before the next election!).

He needs to do what the other party is doing half-heartedly. Listen and interact with the people. Stop asking where are the CPF monies (sorry Chee, that's already old news because we've already given up on our CPF even before CPF Life is launched). Instead, ask where are the affordable HDB flats? Where are the jobs if the new immigrants are not here to take them away?

He needs to embed his voice into the Internet. Forget about pathetic small scale demonstrations in the public. Instead, he should share his vision in a Facebook fan page, tweet out loud his opinions, and record his passionate speeches in Youtube videos! Social media is the way to reach out now, not standing in the middle of nowhere and blocking people going to the nearest MRT station!

He needs to get a new message to market himself. Get rid of the "Where are our money?" tagline. Get a better Marketing Message like "Hope" or "Change we can believe in". But please. Do not come up with some cheesy song like "Upturn the Downturn".

So Chee, please let us see a better branded you in the next election. And in better shirts.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

National Service is exclusive for Singapore men only, new immigrants not invited


Ah Tan was reading newspaper while nonchalantly sipping his coffee at the corner table. Ali and Ah Lim walked into the pantry and each dispensed a cup of coffee before making their way to the table. Just when their butts barely touched their seats, Mr Teo stormed into the pantry with a tight face and even tighter fists. He sat down at the table heavily and abruptly. The other three men held their breath and stared at Mr Teo.

AH TAN (cautiously and slowly): Sir, what's wrong?
MR TEO (irately): Stupid god damn PRC bitch!

The other three men took a deep breath and dared not exhale. Suddenly, as if remembering something, their eyes scanned around the pantry.

AH TAN (even more cautiously and slowly): Er... Sir, you do remember that we're not supposed to talk bad about the new immigrants?

Mr Teo folded his arms, sat back and took a deep breath himself.

MR TEO: Thanks for the reminder, Tan. But I believe Boss could forgive me this time. Do you know that this ungrateful PRC woman actually flashed her blue IC on China national TV while declaring her undivided loyalty to China?
AH TAN, ALI and AH LIM (exclaiming together): What the hell?!
MR TEO: Yap, this unappreciative woman came to Singapore to study, got her blue IC, got a job in a MNC, and now she's back to China. After all that we had provided her.
ALI: Apa ini?
AH LIM: Wah lao! With all the knowledge and working experience she learn here, some more must have also learn English! Must be making big bucks in China lah!

Mr Teo shook his head in dismay.

AH TAN: Hang on... Mr Teo, where did you get this piece of info from? Is the public aware of this?
MR TEO (sighed): I believe so. I got it from my friend's email. It was broadcast on CCTV, but I've already warned our TV stations to ensure that they do not screen it. I've also instructed the press to bring the article down from their online website. The only problem is that, we can't stop it from spreading among the netizens.
ALI: Sir, you don't have to worry about those netizens! They're just a minority anyway!
MR TEO: Well, that's true... but guys, we need to be careful, you know? The people are becoming very edgy these days, with the latest incidents like that birdbrained electronics firm that advertised that they were looking for preferably non-Singaporean engineer, and that harebrained movie company that gave free movie tickets to China citizens only on China National Day in Singapore!
AH TAN: But Sir, seriously, I think the gap between Singaporeans and the new immigrants is getting wider, even wider than that between the greater and lesser mortals.
AH LIM: Yah loh, Sir, more and more people are complaining that there are too many foreigners here to snatch their jobs, their hawker center tables and their MRT seats!
MR TEO: Yes, guys, I know exactly what you mean. That's why it's essential for Boss to convince the people that Singaporeans have still got other privileges.

The three men nodded in agreement.

MR TEO: Oh, and on that topic, can you guys help to brainstorm on what are the benefits of being a Singaporean? I need to put together some pointers for Boss's next speech.
AH LIM: Cheaper school fees!
ALI: But foreigners are also eligible for our tuition fee loan of up to 90% of course fees in our universities like Duke-Nus Graduate Medical School.
AH LIM (cleared throat): I mean primary and secondary schools lah!

The three men sat back, tilted their heads backwards, folded their arms and went into deep thought. Suddenly, Ah Lim opened his eyes.

AH LIM: I know there's this thing that only Singaporeans have and foreigners don't have!
ALL: What?
AH LIM (grinning): NS loh! Because Boss scared NS will scare those new immigrants away mah, so even their kids also don't need to serve NS! See! NS is only exclusively for Singapore guys! Not Singaporean, don't have NS for you!



Monday, October 5, 2009

10 reasons why we had no problem integrating with the Malaysians

With Singapore's population grown to almost 5 million but with a quarter of that total been contributed by foreign workers, no wonder the government is spending 10 million on the big 'I' - Integration.

But why is there such a big gap between the locals and new immigrants? Singapore is definitely not new to foreigners coming into the country to join the workforce. With Singapore being the region headquarters for a large number of MNCs, from banks to electronic firms, expats have been coming into Singapore and some even settled down as Singapore citizens. Since the industralisation of Jurong, Malaysians have also been crossing the causeway to fill up job positions here.

If we had no problem integrating with the expats and Malaysians, then why are we having so much issues with the new immigrants now? Perhaps before dumping the 10 million dollars, the government could take a look at what worked with the Malaysians and learn from it?

Let us take a look at 10 reasons why we had no problem integrating with the Malaysians:
  • They think "I'm grateful to be working here". Not "You should be grateful that I'm working here".

  • They think "My country is big, but it's better here". Not "My country is bigger and better".

  • They take the effort to mingle with other Singaporeans. Not just with that little circle of their own countrymen.

  • When they do get Singapore citizenship, they genuinely settle down for good. Not keeping an eye on US or Europe while taking Singapore as a stepping stone.

  • They take buses and MRT trains like the rest of us. Not cycle dangerously on the roads and pavements as if they are still in their country.

  • They speak only as loud as us. Not loud enough to be heard a few blocks away.

  • They have the same hygiene standard as us. They know that toilet bowls are to be sat on, not squatted on.

  • We will not think of them when the word "back-stab" pops up.

  • They do not become newspapers headlines when a group of them receive citizenship.

  • They don't come into Singapore to be hookers.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What if the Foreign Talents problem is not well taken care of

Some contributing factors and possible theories of why Singaoreans dislike the Foreign Talents:
  • While many Singaporeans remain jobless in this economic crisis, more Foreign Talents continue to be flown into the country to take up job vacancies. It does not help how easily these Foreign Talents are publicly praised and commented to be irreplaceable.

  • Foreign Talents will work for less due to their currency conversion advantage. The immediate obvious impact is that this makes them more attractive to employers, and therefore more likely to take up positions that could be filled by Singaporeans instead. But a more serious hidden impact is how they are actually contributing in lowering the overall average wage in the country?

  • Most Foreign Talents do not wish to integrate but will instead socialise in their own circles. The most profound reason could be that of the language barrier, but it could also be due to the common belief that Singapore is just a stepping stone for them before moving on to a more "advanced" country like the States.

(Source: Answers.com)
Some contributing factors and possible theories of why Hitler and his Nazis hated the Jews:

  • Some Jews were successful and held "visible" positions in Austria and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. In the Great Depression. Germany was hit the hardest by the worldwide economic depression, and successful Jews were envied.

  • Jews became a scapegoat for Germany's economic problems. (According to this racist sentiment, "international Jewish financiers had plunged the world into a war and the Depression for their business profit.")

  • Antisemitism has been rife throughout European history, largely because the Jews were a distinct, identifiable group, who did not integrate. (Those who really wanted to integrate converted.) Of course, many now see pluralism as a virtue, and a variety of ethnicities and religions as a positive thing. However, in the inter war period diversity was often regarded as divisive and "disloyal".


Monday, September 14, 2009

Thio Li-Ann is back with a new weapon Singanews

When Thio was struck down previously by a group of university students in some university in US, we could swear we heard her muttered "I'll be back".

In the highly anticipated new installment of the "Thio Fights Back", set in a secular public space, the woman fated to lead the Christians against the not-Christian-friendly-enough Press and the country of non-Christians. Thio must contend for righteousness in an age of lawlessness, and train her troop of die-hard Christians to become faithful watchmen who can quickly respond to political agenda driven by harmful godless philosophy, to save the human race from destruction. And this time, Thio and her army came prepared. They have built a horrifying weapon known as Singanews, a portal capable of annihilating a world of non-Christians in less than a second.

Thio Li-Ann and Singanews. What to make of it?
Source: The Secret Political Blog

One of the attendees at the recent "New Media Breakfast", a meeting attended by mainly Christian leaders, wrote a concise summary of the event (full text after article), and proceeded to email his summary to all political bloggers in Singapore. Thanks to our valiant spy who has infiltrated this particular wing of the Christian community, we know now the two goals of the Christian effort presumably led by Thio Li-Ann:

To have a stronger Christian voice in the "public debate"

[Thio Li-Ann] argued that as a Christian, it is part of one’s religious call to articulate their views in public especially on contentious such as casinos, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and stem-cell research. She warned that if Christians do not speak up, others who may hold conflicting views will speak up and forcefully occupy the secular public space. Thio paralleled Christian activism to salt and light where by salt is the preservative used to preserve the Christian goodness and light exemplifies its visibility to believers as well as non-believers.

To establish a media outlet, Singanews, of their own to achieve the above goal

This goal is however not explicity mentioned in the summary, but a little inference should prove this goal exists:

First, Thio Li-Ann gripes about how the present online media is unable to portray the Christian voice fairly:

Thio also shared on how she has been maliciously targeted online and had to “turn her cheek” many a times as a good Christian. She commented that Internet is filled with ugliness and misinformation and Christians using new media to debate in public space or proselytize must prioritize truth and remain civil, i.e. do not resort to name calling and character assassination. Depicting Christianity as a victimized religion, she warned Christians about the difficulties they face, especially on the Internet, as others would invariably paint them as oppressive, emotional and irrational. She added that while Christians are tolerant of others views, the others do not have the same toleration for Christians, which she thought was unfair.

And of course, we know how Thio Li-Ann was slammed by the mainstream media itself, after her infamous comparison of gay sex to "shoving a straw up your nose to drink" went contrary to the government's wish to have a moderate debate on 377A so as not to overly antagonize the gay community. The result is that the more fundamentalist christian views will have to find an outlet, alternative to the MSM, but not in the present online sphere which is hostile to it.... And that is where the new Singanews come in:

Next on the stage was former ST journalist Mathew Yap, who took the stage to introduce a new online news portal called Singanews... Terming it as a social enterprise, Yap said that Singanews would not be able to compete with the mainstream media but rather Singanews could add clarity to the national debate by offering alternative viewpoints and fill in the gaps left by mainstream media which sometimes fails to cover a story due to one reason or another. It did not state if it would advocate a Christian angle as argued by Thio above. Singanews, Yap added, was possible due to the cheap and readily available technology of Internet and new media such as twitter where citizens are able to “scoop” stories.

Interestingly enough, Mr Yap is coy about pointing out the (most likely) Christian nature of Singanews, in order to avoid the skepticism that will come with an explicitly Christian news outlet.

Holy!@# Singa-Spotting
Source: The Void Deck

Amidst all this sliming of new media, we see a new news portal Singanews setting up stall soon it seems; they made the announcement at the same Kum Yan thingy. The line-up looks vellie powderful , got this Balji fella, (Note: he very famous in Sammyboy last time coz some journo say he kenna ousted for being too rebel (read never support the miw); so when he left the newsroom on his final day, it was macam like Dead Poets Society when all the boys stand on the chair to hail Carpe Diem to Robin Williams like dat). Also some Teo Hwee Nak, a former editor with TODAY, think she was quite pro Opp type … but strangely the main man Matthew Yap is just ex ST sports page journo. Anyway, the line-up looks good, macam like EPL Manchester City rite?

But why oh why do I smell some holy fishiness here?

Erm first, as quite rightly pointed out by one commenter, why did Yap soft launch what he stress is a SECULAR news portal in a church of all places; when is Yap gonna go Kuan Im temple at SiBayLor and MUIS mosque to soft launch? This is quite downright an oxymoron.

Second, why is he not malu to share the stage with a thioliban? This Thioliban just whacked the new media, whack TOC and our sweet Matthew still very proud to be with her wor. She is chiobu issit? Btw we found out Matthew is also some church elder so mebbe its some crush thing within the community. I am sure Singanews will be damn popular if they hire Auntie Thioliban as an aunt agony. Sure alot of gays will go back straight, sure she will intercede with God so Singapore got no tsunami as well, she may even have the first ever column written in tongues.

Third, why must Matthew keep stressing secular and highlight WE GOT HINDUS, WE LOOKING FOR MUSLIMS TOO! Frankly, the more he stress their religion the more it seems like fellas like Balji is there as tokenism lor. Which if I am Balji, I will feel abit insulted to be paraded like some token Hindu in a church forum to a chorus of halleluais and amens when he name is read. WTF. Its like the GRC system like dat, actually the real agenda is so MIW can sneak their inepts into government but the official reason is to have racial/religious parity blah x10.

Fourth, the organisers of this 999 event ATRIA is also some parachurch thing. Their mission is macam like the church version of the infamous PAP cyber ninjas. Too bored to read their website mission out, just google atria sg or something.

Anti-gays' new online platform launched
Source: Yawning Bread

Temasek Review pointed out that in an interview with The New Paper, Matthew Yap said Singanews would come with the perspective of "mainstream family values", and by this, he meant a "generational, natural family which focuses on procreation."

This is exactly the same language as used by Focus on the Family, Church of Our Saviour and plenty of anti-gay fundamentalist Christian groups in both the United States and Singapore. This is code for saying: We are anti-gay.

Procreation is used as a test of moral fitness. "Mainstream family" is spin language to suggest that those who share their anti-gay views are "normal" and the majority, and those who don't are "abnormal" and marginal aliens.



Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From "Internet steals minister's thunder" to "Pre-empted by the Internet"

Our press really needs to review its work flow for online publishing. Once again, straitstimes.com has published a piece of article, then decided it was not exactly politically correct and then decided to remove and replace with another "correct" article. All this while thinking that their readers could not tell the difference. Or could they?

The original article is as shown below (thanks to Google Cache) and if you so desire, you could compare it with the new article "Pre-empted by the Internet" to play the Spot-the-Difference game. Yes they changed the title as well, guess it is not very polite to say openly that something has been stolen from our minister.

However one will have to agree that the original article is much more interesting, especially the part where somebody screamed "You cannot run the story, you cannot break the embargo, you cannot do anything!".

Internet steals minister's thunder
September 01, 2009 Tuesday, 04:16 PM

Christopher Tan discusses the red faces and frayed nerves of a recent news leak

NEWS of the enhanced off-peak car (OPC) scheme is probably talk of the motoring town now.

But an unfortunate incident leading up to the announcement of the new and improved scheme – designed to persuade car owners to convert their rides to red-plates – proved to be far more exciting to the newsroom last Friday night.

It all began at a closed-door briefing for journalists held by the Land Transport Authority on Friday afternoon. It was to allow beat reporters to understand the upcoming changes to the scheme and to ask questions.

The announcement itself was to have been made public by none other than Transport Minister Raymond Lim at a ministerial visit on Sunday.

But that was not to be. Thanks to a mysterious and virulent news leak, which happened despite all precautions.

Before the LTA briefing started, reporters were instructed clearly that the news was strictly embargoed until after Minister Lim had spoken.

And that no one was supposed to call motor industry players for comments, in case they inadvertently informed them of the changes.

We were also told that we could not bring any recording devices into the briefing room. And no cameras either.

The briefing went reasonably well, and reporters returned to give a rundown to their supervisors.

But by around 8.30pm or so that same day, the entire news release detailing all the changes was online.

The Straits Times was alerted to the leak by someone who spotted it on an online car forum, which had a direct link to an LTA site.

Within an hour, the entire motor trade – as well as a large part of the car forum community – had learnt of the changes.

One senior motor trader even called up reporters to ask if they had heard of the new scheme.

The Straits Times newsroom was shocked, and everyone scrambled to find out what had happened and whether the news should then be run the next day (Saturday), as the leak had already spread far and wide.

The LTA was equally shocked. It could not explain how the news appeared on their website. Up until Tuesday, the authority says it was still investigating.

The authority's panic was palpable. After all, the leak had stolen the thunder from a Minister's Sunday speech. A mortal sin in the civil service.

A new and fairly senior LTA executive was rather curt when The Straits Times asked if the newspaper could run the story on Saturday.

"You cannot run the story, you cannot break the embargo, you cannot do anything!" she ordered a reporter over the phone.

But eventually, the LTA, together with the Ministry of Transport, decided to lift the embargo on Saturday. Which meant that the media could go out with the news on Sunday.

It also meant that Minister Lim did not have a biggish annoucement to make during his Sunday ministerial visit to Bukit Panjang.

Mr Lim was gracious enough to agree to the embargo lift. Fortunately, he had another announcement up his sleeve: an update about the Circle Line.

Many of us (at least those of us in the newsroom) can laugh about the fiasco now, but it caused real tension on Friday with just hours to go before deadline.

The episode also underscores the impact of online information – once again.

In the past, news leaks were relatively mild – one could only rely on phones and the coffeeshop. But with the Internet, a leak takes on a life of its own. Within minutes, it is literally all over town.

Unless the LTA finds out how this one happened, it runs the risk of an encore down the road.



Monday, August 31, 2009

Tweet Good English Movement, anyone?

The Speak Good English Movement 2009 was officially launched today, marking its tenth year in encouraging Singaporeans to speak Standard English.

Mr Goh Eck Kheng, Chairman for the Movement, said, “Young people know from their engagements on the web that people all over the world communicate in one common language – English. We hope that youth will use and practice their English language to impress, inspire and intoxicate on the Internet and in the real world. By doing so they are will give themselves an advantage in our globalised world.”

Good English on the Internet? On websites and blogs, probably a good idea. On Facebook? Uncommon but still can be done if you insist. But on Twitter, where Wiki defined Microblogging as a form of multimedia blogging that allows users to send brief text updates or micromedia such as photos or audio clips and publish them? There is a good reason for Twitter to set the maximum number of characters for each tweet as 140.

Just imagine what could happen when we start to tweet in Good English...

  • In Good English: As usual, I am dozing off in the train, all this while knocking my head against the window. It was painful.

    Actual Tweet: the usual dozing off in the train & knocking my head agst the window... argh!

  • In Good English: You are attending lessons on Monday and Wednesday, and I understand that you would prefer to spend time with your friends on weekends. How a...
    (“bout Thursday?” will not be delivered because of the 140chars limit)

    Actual Tweet: mon n wed u got lesson. I noe weekends u wana spend time wif frds. Thursday how?

  • In Good English: I am so annoyed. Where are the buses? Eight buses have past, with some on the same number route, yet there is no sight of number 171 and 174...
    (“for the past fifteen minutes!” will not be delivered because of the 140chars limit)

    Actual Tweet: Is so annoyed. Hello! Buses! There've been like 8 of the same few buses rolling past and not 1 171 or 174 in 15 mins!

  • In Good English: I should be receiving my Snow tomorrow. I had better backup all the files now as I could mess up tomorrow’s installation. To all who have in...
    (“stalled Snow, how long did it take you?” will not be delivered because of the 140chars limit)

    Actual Tweet: Sld be receiving my Snow tmr... better backup all the files now before I mess up tmr's installation. Those who installed, how long it took?

  • In Good English: I have one good reason to log into Facebook regularly, which is to remove unglamorous photographs that are tagged to me, before too many peo...
    (“ple have seen them.” will not be delivered because of the 140chars limit)

    Actual Tweet: 1 gd enuf reason 2 log in 2 FB regularly, is 2 remove unglam photo tags b4 2 many ppl see them

And I'm not even mentioning "Roll On Floor Laughing".


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It serves no strategic purpose to tell the public why Chip left


Ah Tan was sipping his coffee at the corner table, glancing at his watch every now and then nonchalantly. Ali and Shan walked into the pantry. While Ali dispensed a cup of tea from the coffee machine, Shan sat down at the table and made his own 3-in-1 coffee.

AH TAN: Wow, Shan, your 3-in-1 coffee sure looks new to me.
SHAN: Oh... this is the latest 3-in-1 coffee with collagen added. Friend, collagen is important to us, you know? We're using our overworked brains like 25 hours a day and if you're not careful, you'll find all the white hair and wrinkles popping up! Just look at Boss! Or even look at George! See how they've aged over the years?
AH TAN: Oh... so collagen will keep you staying young?
SHAN: Yap! It's the same thing my wife is having, so we can't be wrong! Hahaha...

Ali walked over to sit down as Shan chuckled at his own joke.

ALI: Hey brudder, did you read the news today? President Ma and his senior officials apologized for not doing more and not fast enough in the typhoon emergency! They even bow to the people sia!
AH TAN: Serious? Bow to the people?
ALI (nodding): Yap, and from the photo, it looks like they bowed damn low man!
AH TAN: Wow, I think they kana influenced by the Japanese liao!
SHAN (shaking his head and frowning): Unacceptable!
AH TAN: Yah, I guess they were really too slow in deploying their troops to save the people.
ALI: Machiam Hurricane Katrina that time lah!
SHAN: Nonono, I think you've mistaken me. I'm not saying that it's unacceptable for them to react slow. I'm saying it's unacceptable for them to bow to the people.

Both Ah Tan and Ali paused from drinking and stared at Shan.

SHAN (jerking his head sideways and aloft right palm simultaneously): How can the government even apologize to its people? And to even bow? That is so wrong!
AH TAN (raising left eyebrow): Erm... and so what should they have done?
SHAN: Very simple! All they've to do is to simply say "We admit it's a mistake. Now let's move on"! That's how we would have handled it right?
AH TAN (nodding): That's true... like how we had handled the Mas Selamat case.
ALI: But even after they've apologized, I'm sure this incident will affect the peoples' impression of the government's ability to handle crisis.
SHAN: Nonono... it's not fair for the people to think this way.
ALI: Not fair?

Shan took a quick sip from his 3-in-1 coffee with collagen.

SHAN: It's like a dent on a car.
ALI (baffled): Apa?
SHAN: This flood incident. It's as if you met with a minor accident and now there's a little dent on the car body. We can't deny it is a dent in the President Ma and his government's reputation. And I agree it's a very visible dent in the fender. But there is no damage to body parts, no damage to axle, no damage to engine. You can still drive the car around and years later, you might not even notice the dent anymore!
AH TAN: So President Ma shouldn't be bothered with how he had screwed up this flood emergency rescue, just like how Temasek shouldn't be bothered with its CEO saga?
SHAN (patting Ah Tan on his shoulder): Exactly!

Ali put down his tea and nudged Shan.

ALI: Hey brudder, talk about Temasek, why exactly did that Chip left? Money no good?

Shan stared at Ali and held his breath, apparently blindsided by the unexpected question.

SHAN: Ali, you know we shouldn't be talking about this right?
ALI (giving Shan an apologetic look): Just curious lah, brudder! But didn't the people ask you? Or the press?
SHAN: Well, people do want to know, there is curiosity; it is a matter of public interest. But that is not sufficient reason to disclose information. I totally understand the interest, but it serves no strategic purpose.

Ah Tan rubbed his chin and tried to digest Shan's answer.

AH TAN: So you're saying, the people are only kaypo on why Chip left, and tell them also no use because it's not as if they can help or make the difference?
SHAN: Erm... kind of...
AH TAN: And even if you tell them, they might not understand as well, so don't waste you time?
SHAN (patting Ah Tan on his shoulder): Exactly!

All three men chuckled and drank their tea and coffee.

AH TAN: Hey Shan, so your side is not going to interfere with Temasek's CEO recruitment right?
SHAN (shaking his head): No Tan, not at all. Once we interfere in what goes on in Temasek, then we are, over time, changing the character of that relationship between us and Temasek, where it's a relationship that clearly designates Temasek as independent of us in its operations including its internal governance procedures. Internal governance should be managed by Temasek's board.
ALI (interrupting): So that when anything ever cocks up again, Temasek's board will bow and apologize but never us, right?



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why is Chew Soowei leaving 987FM?

Chew Soowei is leaving 987FM and this is the message she sent to fans of her radio programme "Pillowfight with Soo" on Facebook.

Dear friends,

I wish I had told it to you in person but I wasn’t given the chance to.

My final show “Pillowfight with Soo” concluded Sat July 12 at 3.00am on 987fm.

Why? I’ve had a few people message me on Facebook asking me why I am not part of the new schedule out on 987FM. Let me give you the short version of the story.

The Monday after the July 12th episode of “Pillowfight With Soo”, first day of my annual leave, I received a phone call stating that I’d been taken off air and when I do come back from my leave I was coming back to a work situation where I was basically just “Helping Out/Subbing Others” around the office. The main reason as it was given to me for being taken off was that my English Language isn’t proficient enough and my hosting is and I quote “Just like I learnt it from the Outdoor emcees in Orchard Road”.

In the last year I was in and out of the office, been constantly told that there were really bad grammatical errors with my language and yet so many times when I asked for an example and help it couldn’t be produced. One of the few times it was produced, he had to call a fellow colleague to confirm the error because he didn’t know what was really truly wrong with me saying: “If only Shan sings as well as his cousin.” Out of these times, my favorite one would be an email stating that my diction was really bad and I should listen to American Radios Jocks and learn an American accent.

If my Spoken English is bad, people wouldn’t understand me. If people cannot understand me inevitably they wouldn’t tune in.

If so, how do I explain a steady increase in my listenership (bearing in mind I started on a shift that did not exist before I went on)? Why has my public profile increased in the last year? Why do I have more clients coming to me for public shows more than ever? And lastly, if my English is so bad, why did clients sponsor “Pillowfight With Soo” over and over again in a back-to-back fashion?

I have a long way to go with my spoken language and I am far from perfect. But Radio to me has always been about connecting with people. I chat with you… you chat with me. The rest of the world listens in on our conversation in a voyeuristic fashion. I’ve always done my shows with the idea that I am speaking to only one person and if that one person gets me… we’ve connected. I am who I am. If you bumped into me in the streets I will sound like how you hear me on Radio. No pretense, No announcer-ish bravado and certainly no fake American accent. As far as Radio is concerned, if you understood me on a human level, I’ve done my job. You might hear some poetic justifications on why I was removed or maybe how loved I was in the station or how much has been done to help me out…so I’m writing this note so you will get a glimpse of the truth rather speculate the situation. I hope you don’t think that I’m just venting my bitterness. There is none looking back at the great times I had with my 987 family. So with all that said… I am taking myself out of the “Equation” and my last day will be on 4th August 2009.

In light of the situation, I’m writing you this letter to thank you for the wonderful magical times I’ve had on the show.

Staying up late was never an issue; I’m a creature of the night. Somehow, the world awakes to a different light after the stroke of midnight. It’s the conversations we had that I will miss most of all.

“Scandal anonymous”, this segment is the most fun a girl can have at night. In case, you wonder what the fuss is all about…the listeners call in with a nickname and share a deep dark secret or something embarrassing. I’m going to share some of my personal faves. By the way, the names I’m using below are merely nicknames, so as to protect the real identity of the listeners.

Sarah is a young and restless teenager working at a convenience store for some extra bucks, one day she was so bored...she started using needles to poke at condom boxes.

Tim broke up with his perfect girlfriend of 10 years because he couldn’t bear the burden of the secret anymore. He couldn’t bear to lie to his parents and friends that his girlfriend used to be a man…and that they were from the same all-boys school together.

Peiling has been chatting online with this guy for the past 10 months now and the guy initiated a meeting with her. After all, they have fallen in love over the Net. The only problem is, Peiling has been lying about her physical appearance. She has been on a strict diet for the past 10 weeks and still kilos away from her virtual description.

I could go on forever about the dirty secret video tapes to foamy lovemaking sessions at Zoukout to a pregnant girl carrying her boyfriend’s best friend's child to a mischievous boy peeing into a cup and trying to make his least fave uncle think it’s chrysanthemum tea etc etc. The drama is relentless every night and I loved every moment of it.

With all that fuss, it’s just good old telephone conversations and a connection between 2 complete strangers…I may not know you now but I’m getting closer to your life with every conversation. I love chatting with you. Thanks for opening up your heart to me late into the night and talking about your pet hamsters. Your stories, I will carry them in my heart. But I also have to be honest; sometimes I do get really frustrated, when you have little words but strange noises in between. Sometimes I get really scared as well, when you put on a demonic accent and say lewd things I cannot air.

It’s been a good fight.

If you‘ve been chronicling my life from an ambitious wide eyed driver wannabe to a licensed P plate maniac on the road, I hope you’ll look back and laugh at the stories of my great inability to parallel park or try to beat my 20 min struggle to reverse in a tight spot. For those who ever turn on the stove and tried to make a meal before, there are some videos of my experimental dishes tried by the Muttons. They are currently still alive. If you’ve been part of my life somehow, going through a tough time or a celebratory moment, thank you for sharing my life. If I’ve been part of your life, going through a break up or mad study night, thank you for having my voice in your ears.

I’ll be moving to a different, perhaps, more adventurous chapter of my life and I hope you'll think of me fondly from time to time and always remember that if I ever have the chance again, I’ll pick up your call and have a good old friend’s heart to heart chat.

Till then,
Soldier on

If I'd wished to listen to someone talking in an American accent, I would turn to the podcasts in my iPod, not the local radio station.

Who is the Great One that decided that DJs in our English radio stations shall speak in a British or American accent and DJs in Chinese radio stations with a Beijing accent? That will be as faux as the American voice in my GPS pronouncing "Ang Mo Kio".

There is a reason why people smiled inadvertently at Mr Brown's "Lekuasimi" and even more baffled by "What Do You See".


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That CEO appointment was too much for him to handle


Nothisyear was flipping through files of documents, hot and flustered, then followed by typing furiously on his computer. Every few minutes, some profanities were sputtered. Meanwhile, someone knocked on his door and walked in. Nothisyear looked up and found Ah Tan.

AH TAN: Wow, pal, you look like shit!
NOTHISYEAR (signed): Damn, you're telling me! Tan, I don't think I can do this anymore! I'm walking away!
AH TAN (stumped): What? Why? I thought you were doing pretty well these few months?
NOTHISYEAR (shaking his head): Tan, you've got no idea how haphazard this place is!
AH TAN: But I thought you were already making headway saving the company? I remembered you were so ecstatic when you shared your ideas with me!
NOTHISYEAR (agitated): Tan, I don't wanna hang around staring at the demise of this institution!
AH TAN: Hey pal, you needa bolster up your morale man! Where have all your exhilaration gone?
NOTHISYEAR (sternly): Tan, you've got no idea how murkey this institution is! I thought this appointment would look pretty fancy on my resume, but boy was I wrong!

Nothisyear leaned back heavily on his chair and signed again, shaking his head again.

NOTHISYEAR: Tan, I know I had started quite a number of initiatives with the objective to strengthen the foundation of this institution. But looking at how the previous guy, I meant lady, had botched up, I would be deluding myself that this institution could see its previous long lost glory!
AH TAN (eyes wide opened): Wow, it's that bad huh?
NOTHISYEAR (leaning towards Ah Tan): You know, after I had taken over the appointment, I had to recreate all the policies, work processes and systems! Basically I'm reinventing this institution!

Ah Tan laughed gleefully at Nothisyear's last remark. Nothisyear bursted into laughter too and punched Ah Tan lightly on his shoulder.

NOTHISYEAR: Hey! Stop taunting me!
AH TAN: But things should turn out fine after your initiatives started to be implemented right?
NOTHISYEAR (hestitating): Well, should be... but there'll still be red tapes to be bucked, and I'm not sure how seriously these red tapes will encumber my ideas.
AH TAN (rubbing his chin): Oh yeah, the red tapes...
NOTHISYEAR: And besides, this institution has made so many unfathomable investments in the past that, I'm not sure how many punches I have to receive before my initiatives even started to take effect! And the worst thing is, the public might even think that I'm responsible for these investment losses! They'll say 'hey, this new guy ain't making any difference! Look! The institution is still making losses!'
AH TAN: Yah, it sucks when you've to clear the shit left behind by your predecessor!

Nothisyear slammed his palms on the table and stood up.

NOTHISYEAR: Anyway, enough is enough! I'm getting out of here, man!
AH TAN (stood up from his seat): Seriously?
NOTHISYEAR (nodding): Yap, serously! Let's go for some beer! I'll hand my letter to the board tomorrow!

Nothisyear took his coat and walked over to Tan, putting his hand around Tan's shoulder.

AH TAN: No regrets?
NOTHISYEAR (laughing): No way!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New NMPs in the House

A brand new slate of NMPs in the House
Source: Channelnewsasia.com

SINGAPORE: It will be a slate of completely new faces in the House, all nine of them – the maximum number of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) allowed by the Constitution. But you might recognise a few familiar names.

One surprise is former national swimmer and Olympian Joscelin Yeo, who makes the move from pool to politics; while ex-current affairs television presenter Viswa Sadasivan will simply be taking his long-time involvement on government panels to the next level.

On Monday evening, an email sent out by the Select Committee, tasked with whittling down the list of 46 applications, revealed the results of their deliberations.

Subject to President S R Nathan's formal approval, the nine picked to give voice to non-partisan, alternative views in Parliament comprise an entrepreneur, a decorated unionist, a top honcho at a Big Four accountancy firm, a vocal sociologist, a shipping industry leader, a communications consultant, a sportswoman, a community service veteran and an artistic director.

Former NMPs Mr Siew Kum Hong and Mr Gautam Banerjee, both of whom had sought second terms, were conspicuously absent from the list.

The newbies, who will be sworn in before Parliament sits on July 20, were selected after interviews held over three days last week.

The sportswoman, former national swimmer and Olympian Joscelin Yeo, said,"some of the things close to my heart are sports and youth."

The communications consultant, ex-current affairs television presenter Viswa Sadasivan, said,"I would like to form a loose resource panel of individuals with domain knowledge in specific areas like economics, social work, education, defence policies and so on ... so I'll be able to tap on their expertise which I might articulate (through) my views in Parliament."

The artistic director, The Substation co-artistic director Audrey Wong, said,"to develop a stronger education programme where we give young people insights into arts and culture, and how the arts and society are intertwined."

The decorated unionist, Terry Lee, said he would focus on workers' welfare and employability - especially with Singapore in recession.

The entrepreneur, Calvin Cheng, said,"At no time is having a strong, unique and proud cultural identity more important than right now, when we throw open our doors to the world."

The vocal sociologist, National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan, said,"As more Singaporeans marry foreigners and grow their families here, we must find an innovative way to help these children maintain their bi-cultural identity."

TODAY was unable to contact the top honcho at a Big Four accountancy firm, Ernst & Young Associates managing director Mildred Tan; the shipping industry leader, Teo Siong Seng; and the community service veteran, executive director of Presbyterian Community Services Laurence Wee.

Let's hope that these NMPs could really contribute, especially by putting on table topics that the government kept aloof from. And hope that they will not be as crass as some MPs hiding behind GRCs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New immigrants are very happy to be here while Singaporeans do nothing but complain!


Ah Tan and Ah Lim were having coffee break at the table. Ah Chong then entered the pantry. He walked towards the coffee machine to dispense his coffee, but only to take just a sip and throw the rest into the sink. He then walked over and sat down with Ah Tan and Ah Lim with an empty mug.

AH LIM: Wah, what's wrong with the kopi?
AH CHONG: What's wrong? Don't you guys find these coffee horrendous? I simply can't bring myself to drink it! Give me a latte or cappuccino anytime!
AH LIM: Horrible meh? I think okay what... I think those latte and cappuccino are the horrible ones man! So expensive but you drink milk only! At least those kopi gao from kopitiam are real kopi!
AH CHONG (sternly): What are you talking about? How can you even compare Italian coffee to kopitiam coffee? Those coffee are tor the lesser mortals!

Staring at Ah Chong angrily, Ah Lim put his mug down on the table with a "bang". Ah Tan tapped Ah Lim's shoulder and tried to calm him down.

AH CHONG (grinning and ignoring Ah Lim's stare): Hey guys, guess what? The Cricket Interest Group that I formed is getting great response from the new citizens!
AH TAN: Cricket Interest Group?
AH CHONG (grinning even wider with excitment): Yah! Don't you find this such a great idea? This great idea actually occurred to me when I noticed some migrant groups playing the sport in the empty fields across the estate! And do you know what is the main purpose of this group?
AH TAN: Er... what?
AH CHONG: For integration! Integration with the locals! You know, I was thinking, if left on their own, these new immigrants would form their own enclaves. By offering them a common group, we can try to assimilate them together, and integrate them into our society as well! Isn't that a great idea I've got here!
AH LIM (scoffs): You sure got integrate? Got so many locals play cricket meh? How many percent of the members from your that Cricket Interest Group are locals? Then now you let these Indians expatriates play crickets at the fields, then where can the locals play soccer?

Ah Chong's face winced as he stared hardly at Ah Lim.

AH TAN (coughs lightly): erm... Chong, so you've got quite a number of new immigrants at your estate huh?
AH CHONG: I'll estimate about 10 percent of the residents. I'm lucky, you know? My town is a new town, housing is cheaper compared to mature estates, and it is also close to the new industrial areas that have sprouted up in the north-east. I'm sure more new immigrants will shift to my town!
AH LIM (scoffs): Wah, you really like those new immigrants hor? You hate the locals so much ah? Is it because they didn't vote for you in the last election?

Ah Chong stopped talking and started staring at Ah Lim. Promptly, Ah Tan tapped both men's shoulder.

AH TAN (turned to look at both men respectively): Gentlemen! Chill, okay?

The men sat in silence for a moment. Ah Tan then took a sip from his coffee and cleared his throat before continuing.

AH TAN: You seems to welcome new immigrants warmly to your estate huh?
AH CHONG (staring at Ah Tan unbelievingly): Naturally! Tan, face it! Singaporeans are damn hard to please. It's like, when you ask Singaporeans for feedback, they will complain that they have to wait more than 15 minutes for the bus. But hey, when you ask new immigrants, they are happy that the bus comes in under 30 minutes!
AH LIM (scoffs): So now you can ask those buses at your estate to relax and don't need to be so punctual, ask the cleaners to relax and don't need to clean so often, then ask the locals to shift to another estate if they're not happy loh!

Ah Chong slammed his palms on the table, stood up abruptly and stared even harder at Ah Lim.


Friday, June 12, 2009

The residents could assess the town councils but they must keep in mind of resource and finance constraint


Susan held the door wide open as Mr Teo together with Ah Tan and Ah Lim walked in. In the room, representative from each town council rose to each feet. Susan handed the wireless microphone over to Mr Teo as he walked to the front.

MR TEO (clearing his throat): Gentlemen, please be seated.

Discreetly and taking care not to make too much noise, the representatives sat down slowly. Ah Tan and Ah Lim took their seats at the front row.

MR TEO: I've called all of you here today to brief you on the idea of the Town Council Management Report.

The representatives stared at Mr Teo dauntingly, almost holding their breath.

MR TEO: This is a suggestion from the National Development Ministry and the aim of the report is to provide the residents a chance to compare their estates in areas like cleanliness of the estate, maintenance, and how funds are managed.

Soft disconcerting mumblings started among the representatives. One of the representatives held his hand up.

MR TEO: Yes?
REPRESENTIVE A (with his face winced): But Sir, those disgrateful residents are constantly disparaging us, always complaining about the slightest issue and unbelievably suspicious of how we are managing the funds! This report will turn them even more arrogant, and if you allow them to compare among the different estates, they will covet for more!
MR TEO: Yes, your worries are already anticipated. That's why the main aim of the report is for the residents to better understand the challenges and trade-offs involved in managing their town. To make them understand that there is a certain constraint as to how much resource or finance can be put in to manage the town, and that there must be a balance in expectations, the maintenance standards and the performance of town councils.

Representative A nodded and smiled with relief.

MR TEO: For every service we provide to residents, it's based on how much service charge we collect. So if the town council has only got peanuts, the residents cannot simply expect it to provide them elephants right? Hahaha...

The representatives tried to laugh politely at Mr Teo's peculiar metaphor.

MR TEO: Just like how you are using investments to manage the funds, town councils have to be managed like a corporation with profit and loss in mind. This is the most pragmatic and efficient way to run town councils.

All representatives nodded in agreement simultaneously.

MR TEO: This report would help identify areas where town councils are not doing well and where residents can give more constructive feedback.

Representative B held his hand up.

REPRESENTATIVE B (flustered): Sir, I understand that we are trying to give the residents more say in local estate matters and to foster a stronger community spirit. But consider that if you so much as to open a channel to these insolent people, our offices will be deluged with nonsensical complaints!
MR TEO: That's why I said "constructive feedback"! For every single complaint, they must provide a constructive feedback! This will ensure that, A, if for every complaint they make, they have to think of the solution first, they will think twice before they write in. B, every complaint will come with its own solution and all you have to do is to review and say "Yes" or "No"!
REPRESENTATIVE B (perplexed): "Yes" or "No"?
MR TEO: If the solution works, say "Yes, thank you, it is a good suggestion and we will put it in our POR". If the solution sucks, say "No, we're afraid it might not work, and thank you for feedback"! And if some time later the residents were to ask you why are their suggestions not implemented yet, tell them you have resource or finance constraints! Didn't I say this at the beginning of the meeting?

Representative B nodded satisfactorily. At the other side of the room, representative C held his hand up.

REPRESENTATIVE C: Sir, previously you said that for every service we provide to residents, it's based on how much service charge we collect. Does that mean if the residents require more services, we could provide these services and charge them?
MR TEO (grinning): Good! This is a very good question! And this shows that you've been listening to me! Like I said, you have to run your town councils like corporations. So if the customers are asking for more services outside of what you're providing, what do you do? Make them pay! If they think that the estate is not clean enough and getting a better cleaning vendor means paying more, tell them they need to pay more on top of that little Service & Conservancy Charges! But be careful though. If the residents are asking for the sky, like upgrading their mere twenty years old lifts, tell them it could not be done. You should know that you can only kick-start these kind of large projects with your mayor's blessing, when these upgrades are used as carrots during elections.

The representives scribbled down all the tips as Mr Teo continued to suggest more services which the residents must pay to get them.

AH LIM (whispering to Ah Tan): This report thingy seems like a wayang to please the residents and make them believe that the town councils are not aloof from them.
AH TAN (whispering back): Yah, after all those funds lost in the Lehmen Brothers investments and the seven months bonuses rumor, this report is a good suggestion.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World from Egypt

President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World from Cairo, Egypt

"We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world - tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end."

"I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Quran tells us, Be conscious of God and speak always the truth. That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart."

"So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: Out of many, one."

"The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaida and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaida killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case."

"Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future - and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year."

"For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities."

"Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

"Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together."

"That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

"Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."

"Now let me be clear, issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.

Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons."

"Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith in every country. You more than anyone have the ability to reimagine the world, the remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."

"We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The Holy Quran tells us, Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.

The Talmud tells us, The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.

The Holy Bible tells us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

Read full text of President Obama's speech in Cairo