Monday, January 31, 2011

Friendly fire isn't!

They say military intelligence is an oxymoron. If you have read the famous and not so famous battles in history, you will come away with the realisation that many generals had risen to their level of incompetence (as explained in the seminal work, The Peter Principle, link below).

Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" captures tragically such higher-up incompetence.

Often, it is the lowly ranked soldier who has to do the fighting that has the last word, both figuratively and literally. Here is a compilation of their experiences. I had come across probably a similar list back in the early 1990s, when I was an instructor at our command and staff college. I am glad someone put it on the Internet, so here it is:

  1. If the enemy is in range, so are you.
  2. Incoming fire has the right of way.
  3. Don't look conspicuous, it draws fire.
  4. There is always a way.
  5. The easy way is always mined.
  6. Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.
  7. Professionals are predictable, it's the amateurs that are dangerous.
  8. The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions:
    1. When you're ready for them.
    2. When you're not ready for them.
  9. Teamwork is essential, it gives them someone else to shoot at.
  10. If you can't remember, then the Claymore landmine is pointed at you.
  11. The enemy diversion you have been ignoring will be the main attack.
  12. A "sucking chest wound" is nature's way of telling you to slow down.
  13. If your attack is going well, you have walked into an ambush.
  14. Never draw fire, it irritates everyone around you.
  15. Anything you do can get you shot, including nothing.
  16. Make it tough enough for the enemy to get in and you won't be able to get out.
  17. Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than yourself.
  18. If you're short of everything but the enemy, you're in a combat zone.
  19. When you have secured an area, don't forget to tell the enemy.
  20. Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
  21. Friendly fire isn't (this is my favourite!).
  22. If the sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
  23. Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep.
  24. The most dangerous thing in the world is a second lieutenant with a map and a compass.
  25. There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.
  26. A grenade with a seven second fuze will always burn down in four seconds.
  27. Remember, a retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping.
  28. If at first you don't succeed call in an air-strike.
  29. Exceptions prove the rule, and destroy the battle plan.
  30. Everything always works in your HQ, everything always fails in the colonel's HQ.
  31. The enemy never watches until you make a mistake.
  32. One enemy soldier is never enough, but two is entirely too many.
  33. A clean (and dry) set of BDU (battle dress uniform, or fatigues) is a magnet for mud and rain.
  34. Whenever you have plenty of ammo, you never miss. Whenever you are low on ammo, you can't hit the broad side of a barn.
  35. The more a weapon costs, the farther you will have to send it away to be repaired.
  36. Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
  37. Interchangeable parts aren't.
  38. No matter which way you have to march, its always uphill.
  39. If enough data is collected, a board of inquiry can prove ANYTHING.
  40. For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
  41. The one item you need is always in short supply.
  42. The worse the weather, the more you are required to be out in it.
  43. The complexity of a weapon is inversely proportional to the IQ of the weapon's operator.
  44. Airstrikes always overshoot the target, artillery always falls short.
  45. When reviewing the radio frequencies that you just wrote down, the most important ones are always illegible.
  46. Those who hesitate under fire usually do not end up KIA (killed in action) or WIA (wounded in action).
  47. The tough part about being an officer is that the troops don't know what they want, but they know for certain what they DON'T want.
  48. To steal information from a person is called plagarism. To steal information from the enemy is called gathering intelligence.
  49. The weapon that usually jams when you need it the most is the M60 (a general purpose machine gun).
  50. The perfect officer for the job will transfer in the day after that billet is filled by someone else.
  51. When you have sufficient supplies & ammo, the enemy takes 2 weeks to attack. When you are low on supplies & ammo the enemy decides to attack that night.
  52. The newest and least experienced soldier will usually win the Medal Of Honor.
  53. A Purple Heart just goes to prove that were you smart enough to think of a plan, stupid enough to try it, and lucky enough to survive.
  54. Murphy was a grunt (a tribute to Murphy's Law; a grunt is US army slang for an infantryman).
  55. You aren't Superman. (all fighter pilots especially take note.)
  56. Suppressive fires - won't.
  57. If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid.
  58. When in doubt, empty your weapon's magazine.
  59. No plan survives the first contact, intact.
  60. If you are forward of your position, the artillery will fall short.
  61. The important things are always simple.
  62. The simple things are always hard.
  63. No-combat ready group has passed inspection.
  64. Beer Math -> 2 beers time 37 men equals 49 cases.
  65. Body count math -> 3 guerrillas plus 1 probable plus 2 pigs equals 37 enemies killed in action.
  66. Things that must be together to work, usually can't be shipped together.
  67. Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support desperately. (Corollary: Radar tends to fail at night and in bad weather, and especially during both.)
  68. Tracers work both ways.
  69. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
  70. If you take more than your share of objectives, you will have more than your fair share to take.
  71. When both sides are convinced they are about to lose, they're both right.
  72. All or any of the above combined.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Some teachers (exam markers) do have them...

These are apparently culled from test answer scripts, probably of American and British origin:

Q: What happens to a boy during puberty?
A: He says goodbye to his childhood and enters adultery.

Q: What is a vibration?
A: There are good vibrations, and there are bad vibrations. Good vibrations were discovered in the 1960s (according to my dad).

Q: What is Sir Walter Raleigh famous for?
A: He invented cigarettes and started a craze for bicycles.

Q: Find x.

(For this one, you have to imagine a right-hand triangle with values given for the opposite side and adjacent side. The question wants the answer for the length, marked 'x',  of the hypotenuse. Easy-peasy trigonometry question but this is one student's answer...)

A: Here it is [with an arrow pointing to 'x'].

Q: Steve is travelling at 60 feet/sec and the speed limit is 40 mph. Is Steve speeding?
A: He should check his speedometer.

Q: Where was Hadrian's Wall built?
A: Around Hadrian's garden.
[Note: Please Google "Hadrian's Wall" if you don't get this one.]

Q: Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?
A: At the bottom.

Q: What is the meaning of "varicose"?
A: Close by.

Q: Name six animals that live specifically in the Arctic.
A: Two polar bears, four seals.

Q: Explain the phrase "free press".
A: When your mum irons your trousers for you.

Q: Name one measure that can be used to stem river flooding during extensive rainfall.
A: Such flooding can be avoided by placing a number of big dames into the river.
{Hmmm... might just work next time Orchard Road floods. PUB, are you reading this??]

And the best for me is this one...
Q: Briefly explain what is hard water.
A: Ice.

Postscript: Any teachers out there who can supply me with local examples?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Figure this out...

My nephew Tan Beng sent me this:

In a small town on the south coast of France, the holiday season is in
full swing, but it is raining so there is not too much business happening.

Everyone is heavily in debt.

Luckily, a rich Russian tourist arrives in the foyer of the small local hotel.
He asks for a room and puts a Euro100 note on the reception counter, takes a
key and goes to inspect the room located up the stairs on the third floor.

The hotel owner takes the banknote in a hurry and rushes to his meat supplier
to whom he owes E100. The butcher takes the money and races to his supplier to
pay his debt. The wholesaler rushes to the farmer to pay E100 for pigs he
purchased some time ago.

The farmer triumphantly gives the E100 note to a local prostitute who had given him
her services on credit. The prostitute goes quickly to the hotel, as she was
owing the hotel for her hourly room use to entertain clients.

At that moment, the rich Russian tourist comes down to the reception and informs the
hotel owner that the proposed room is unsatisfactory, takes his E100 back
and departs.

There was no profit or income. But everyone no longer has any debt and the small
town's people look optimistically towards their future. Finis.

Friday, January 28, 2011

His mum "bolstered" her case for a divorce?

I like the short, offbeat stories that Today still delivers. For best effect, the writing tone has to be deadpanned. These are the ones that when I was a young sub-editor, we would look out for and strategically position as, say, bottom of page "cut-offs" so readers are drawn to them as they get to the end of longer stories. Good headlines are a must.

Here are two from different pages of Today (28 Jan) but I think their juxtaposition here "doubles" the fun read:

Today's headline: Hubby dumped after taking mum on honeymoon
My headline: Mum comes between honeymooning couple
A newlywed Italian woman has filed for divorce after her husband took his mother on their honeymoon, [Italian news agency] ANSA reported on Wednesday.

When the married couple of two days set off for their honeymoon in France, the 36-year-old woman was shocked to see that her mother-in-law was also at the airport.

When she objected, her husband said he could not leave his mother alone for health reasons.

When the woman returned to Italy, she filed for divorce, claiming her husband and his mother had an "excessive emotional attachment".

Today's headline: Couple's confusion
My headline: Mum calls the shot if it's a close call
[Chinese tennis star] Li Na's husband thought they would have something to celebrate on Thursday (27 Jan), whether or not she won her semi-final at the Australian Open -- their fifth wedding anniversary. That was news to Li, who thought their fifth anniversary was still two days away.

Congratulated by an announcer [for her win over Caroline Wozniacki and her happy day], Li looked stunned and turned to her husband Jiang Shan, who is also her coach, in the player's box. "It's today? I think it's the 29th." Later, she said, "Maybe I should ask my mother."

Moral of both stories? Mum's the word. In the Italian woman's case, the word is "divorce". In Li Na's case, mum has the last word (mum knows best).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A virus called Brain, and a 'Sputnik moment' speech

I have a phrase of the day for this posting.

But, first, a Frankenstein event in the computing world is marked.

I knew a long time ago that the world's first computer "virus" was created by two young Pakistani brothers. But even though the Internet is now an encyclopedia of information, including -- I am sure -- stuff on these two siblings, I never got round to finding out more about them.

Now, someone writing in the New York Times has reminded everyone that it was 25 years ago this month -- January 1986 -- that Basit and Amjad Alvi wrote the first piece of code that has since led to the viruses, worms and other malicious software that imposes on ordinary users like you and me the need to install sometimes ineffective protective software.

Ironically, the brothers -- both programmers who lived in Lahore -- had embedded a "stealth" program into their own original heart-monitoring software, to protect it from piracy; that is, their intention was not malicious.

They called this "father of viruses to come" Brain. Here's how it worked, as described in the NYT:

"Computers that ran their program, plus this new bit of code, would stop working after a year, though they cheerfully provided three telephone numbers, against the day. If you were a legitimate user, and could prove it, they’d unlock you.

"But in the way of all emergent technologies, something entirely unintended happened. The Alvis’ wheel-clamp was soon copied by a certain stripe of computer hobbyist, who began to distribute it, concealed within various digital documents that people might be expected to want to open."

Thus did viruses, etc, proliferate. It was glacial at first, since the Internet was in its infancy and storage devices were typically limited-capacity floppy disks (today's kids will have no idea what are floppy disks!).

But, fast forward to today's superhighway Internet and the plethora of compact, huge-capacity mass storage devices. and one can appreciate the humongous numbers of malicious software lurking around. Thanks for nothing, Basit and Amjad !

Now for the phrase of the day: "Sputnik moment".

US President Barack Obama used this expression in his State of the Union address on Tuesday (Wednesday in Singapore). He said:

"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us [ie Americans] into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon.

"But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets -- we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country or somewhere else."

The Today newspaper (27 Jan) headlined its front page lead: "Obama's Sputnik moment... US President sees America slipping behind China if nation does not step up".

Commentators are divided over the appropriateness of Mr Obama's obvious attempt to rally the American people using the Cold War imagery, and tapping into their fears of a rising China. I think he simply liked what his speechwriters showed him.

Time will likely show that it was not a great State of the Union address. But, for now, it has launched a thousand wagging tongues (or keyboard clicks, more likely).

Interestingly, The Straits Times simply ignored that reference to a Sputnik moment. I am not privy to the reason why, but I think this is poor judgment of a news event. Commentaries can later offer explanations, if any, as to why ST thinks the expression Mr Obama used is inapt.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

There was an old buaya who swallowed a Nokia...

Monday's Today had this news item:

Crocodile ill after swallowing phone
Workers at a Ukranian aquarium did not believe it when a visitor said a crocodile had swallowed her mobile phone. Then the reptile started ringing.

Gena, the 14-year-old crocodile that swallowed the phone, could not then move her bowels for four weeks and appeared depressed and in pain.

The chief vet said Gena will be X-rayed. Surgically removing the phone will be done as a last resort.


The story reminded me of an old nonsense rhyme, "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly".

Here's a useful link:

I learnt from the link above that, nonsensical as this well-known nursery rhyme is, it delighted children to no end and, importantly, was a very good memory training aid. So go try and memorise it!

The story also inspired me to come up with my own (okay, imitation) nonsense creation, below. Buaya is the Malay word for crocodile.

There was an old buaya who swallowed a Nokia

There was an old buaya who swallowed a Nokia
I don’t know why it swallowed a Nokia – perhaps it’ll die
There was an old buaya who swallowed a charger
It swallowed the charger to charge the Nokia
I don’t know why it swallowed the Nokia – perhaps it’ll die
There was an old buaya who swallowed a battery
The charger won’t work so it swallowed this one
It swallowed the charger to charge the Nokia
I don’t know why it swallowed the Nokia – perhaps it’ll die
There was an old buaya who swallowed…  a new phone!
It swallowed the new phone to make a call
It had swallowed the battery that didn’t work
It had swallowed the charger that didn’t work
I don’t know why it swallowed the Nokia – perhaps it’ll die
There was an old buaya who swallowed… a buaya!
It swallowed the buaya to make that call
And now this sad story ends… with two dead buayas.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heard this one about Origami Bank?

I was not going to harp again on silly headlines (at least for a while), but when I saw today's front page of ST's Life! section, there was one such, prominently on display at the top right hand corner:

Bollywood bombshell... Two Indian beauties probed for tax evasion.

Moving on, two acronyms have become well known in the global economic parlance. One is BRIC, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China. Led by China as the preeminent powerhouse, these four countries are poised to be major economic powers. BRIC is clearly laudatory.

Not so is the second acronym PIGS, which is pejorative. It originally comprised the economically laggard and/or financially strapped Portugal, Italy, Greenland and Spain. But Italy has not done too badly these days. In its place, however, are Ireland and Iceland. So, PIGS may have just been fattened to become PIIGS.

Anyway, the worst of the 2007/2008 global financial and economic crises seemed to have passed. Around that time, my friend Kim Ann had emailed me the funny item below, which he said was going around the Net then:

Uncertainty In Japan Following the problems in the sub-prime lending market in America and the run
on Northern Rock in the UK, uncertainty has now hit Japan. In the last 7 days
Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank announced
plans to cut some of its branches.

Yesterday, it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and will likely
go for a song while today trading of shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended
after they nose-dived.

While Samurai Bank is soldiering on following sharp cutbacks, Ninja Bank is
reported to have taken a hit, but they remain in the black. Furthermore, 500
staff at Karate Bank got the chop and analysts report that there is something
fishy going on at Sushi Bank where it is feared that staff may get a raw deal.

Update - I just heard that the Bank of Iceland has had its assets frozen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

More double-take headlines

I decided to do an Internet search and uncovered more (mostly American) funny headlines.

But, first, I got my comeuppance for making all those Uranus jokes. I have been probed before in the oral orifice (endoscopy), anal orifice (colonoscopy) and now my urologist advises me to undergo a cystoscopy -- to check if my urethral passage has any blockage.

To mangle a Startrek tag line, "penile space... the last frontier".

My daughter texted me, "what's the purpose of the investigation?"
My reply: "To probe further lor, haha." Haha, indeed. Watch this space on Feb 15 (or a day or two later) for the Ouch, ouch.

Ok, more double-take headlines (this time the comments are mine):

1) Tiger Woods plays with his own balls, says Nike
[this was after that famous scandal, and big name companies were shying away from endorsing him.]

2) A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt
[nickname of Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees baseball star; Wang is from the rival team.]

3) Colleagues finger billionaire
[I'm swearing off Uranus jokes, so no comment here]

4) Federal agents raid gun shop, find weapons
[should have sent the FBI, not the CIA, to look for WMDs in Saddam-ruled pre-invasion Iraq?]

5) Missippi's literacy program shows improvement
[remember my joke about the two Singaporeans in the US Deep South? They got it right.]

6) Teen learns to live with stutttering
[I can vouch for this one... I saw the fascimile.]

7) Porn star sues over rear-end collision
[so, was the fender bent?]

8) Hooker named Lay Person of the Year
[I always say "The best laid plan..."]

9) Bonnie blows Clinton
[hello, there's a town called Clinton in Massachusetts, USA, and a hurricane had hit it.]

10) Freshman Talley makes the best of her 2 soggy holes
[the story is about a Kentucky girls' state golf tournament.]

11) Nudists fight erection of towers near beach
[hmm, down towers! down, boy!]

12) Man executed after long speech
[his arguments were so eloquent, he was dead right?]

13) Threat disrupts plans to meet about threats
[the answer therein to someone who had asked, "What is an irony?"]

14) Meeting on open meetings is closed
[a lesson for advocacy group Aware on holding AGMs?]

15) Man accused of killing lawyer receives a new attorney
[it'll be a loooooong trial.]

16) One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers
[it's a cardinal rule that journalists do not make fun of the disabled, so this example shows up the headline writer's stupidity.]

17) Police find crack in UK
[so, Disunited Kingdom now?]

18) 15 pit bulls rescued; 2 arrested
[these two were the top dogs, you see]

19) City unsure why the sewers smell
[just like the joke about "you're in trouble when your nose runs and your feet smell'.]

20) Condom truck tips, spills load
[I reserved this one for last... it's the best!] 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Double-take headlines

These were claimed to be actual American newspaper headlines (with someone adding in one-liner comments):

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
[No, really?]

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
[Now that's taking things a bit far!]

Is There a Ring of Debris around Uranus?
[Not if you wipe thoroughly!]

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
[What a guy!]

Miners Refuse to Work after Death
[No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so!]

Court to Try Shooting Defendant
[See if that works any better than a fair trial!]

War Dims Hope for Peace
[I can see where it might have that effect!]

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
[You think?]

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
[Who would have thought!]

London Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
[They may be on to something!]

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
[Weren't they fat enough?!]

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
[That's what he gets for eating those beans!]

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
[Taste like chicken?]

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
[Chainsaw Massacre all over again!]

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
[Boy, are they tall! Small doctors don't sue?]

Typhoon Rips Through
Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

And my favourite?...
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
[You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?]
I wish ST would have come up with something like that when Mahathir was Malaysia's PM. Imagine:
Red Tape Holds Up Crooked Bridge

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Do the (Stamford) Raffles!

It's called "doing the Stamford Raffles", and it is mentioned in an ST report today (page B20). It's not a dance step but I'll like to see it become one.

The inspiration for this Singlish idiom is the statue, facing the Singapore River, of the Englishman said to have founded Singapore in 1819. Raffles stands with his arms folded, as he gazes at all before him.

So, when you "do the Stamford Raffles" you are doing nothing, probably just standing around. To qualify, your arms must be folded. Otherwise, you are just "standing on ceremony".

I then thought of possible Raffles jokes. The Internet refreshed my memory, with this small sample here, playing on the so-called founding of Singapore theme:

When Raffles first stepped out of his boat at the river mouth, Hokkiens were already on the island (yeah!). One such man ran past him, announcing the birth of his new son: "Sin tar por, sin tar por (my new son, my new son)." That's how Singapore came to be named by an angmoh. Yeah, right. 

How about this one?
When Raffles sailed up the Singapore River for the first time, a Malay woman was bathing in the river, having left her clothes on the river bank. A mischievous Singh boy came along and stole her clothes. The woman started shouting: "Singh kapoh, Singh kapoh (Singh's the thief, Singh's the thief)".
Imagine how hard it must have been for Raffles to hear those words clearly from the deck of his ship, so Singapore came to be so named. Yeah, right again.

Most accounts say "Singapore" came from the Sanskrit term, "Singapura", which means "Lion city". Trouble is no lions were known to inhabit the island. But there were tigers, wild pigs, and reportedly, ghosts.

So, let's thank our lucky stars some myopic guy named Sang Nila Utama thought the animal he spotted, when he first landed (way before Raffles), was a lion.

Otherwise, Singapore might have been:

Harimaupura (Tiger city)
Babipura (Pig city)
Hantupura (Ghost town).

Friday, January 21, 2011

GNP a.k.a. grossest national product

I started to wonder why my last couple of postings had this fixation with certain anatomical parts or functions. Then it hit me... My urology checkup (for my enlarged prostate) is due soon, and I'm edgy. I now go to NUH and the urologist on duty will see me. Last time it was a woman. Admittedly, her "digital" skill was good, and I'm not referring to the stuff you read in ST's Digital Life.

Anyway, I still have three scatological (toilet humour) items a.k.a GNP (see heading above) that I want to, um, unload. The first is very fresh... a news item about "Toylet video games" from the Land of the Rising Sun:

If you do click on the link above, learn a new word too: micturition.

Okay, "GNP" item number two (very old, very gross):

Q: What do the spaceship Enterprise and toilet paper have in common?
A: They both circle Uranus and wipe out Klingons.

Google "Uranus jokes" (there are more than 2,000 entries) to sample the dividing line over such jokes.One wag wondered if this genre should be called "ass-tronomy".

Last one (for now). I kind of liked it when I first read it in an email, but others may beg to differ:

The Plan
In the beginning was the Plan.
And then came the Assumptions.
And the assumptions were without form.
And the plan was without substance.
And darkness was upon the faces of the workers.
And they spoke among themselves saying, "It is a crock of shit and it stinks."
And the workers went unto their Supervisors and said, "It is a pail of dung and we cannot live with the smell."
And the supervisors went unto their Managers saying, "It is a container of organic waste and it is very strong such that none may abide by it."
And the managers went unto their Directors, saying, "It is a vessel of fertilizer and none may abide by it."
And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying to one another, "It contains that which aids plant growth and it is very powerful."
And the Vice Presidents went to the President, saying unto him, "This new plan will actively promote growth and vigour of the company with very powerful effects."
And the president looked upon the plan and saw that it was good.
And the plan became Policy.
And this is how shit happens.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just grin and bear it?

In yesterday's posting, I told one of my favourite "bull" jokes. It is only fair that I tell a "bear" joke next: This one has the bonus of having a rabbit -- given the coming auspicious year (for the Chinese) -- as one of the characters, although the bunny in the story did not come up well:

A bear and a rabbit found themselves squatting to poo, next to each other, in a clearing.

The big furry fella asked the small furry fella: "Hey, tell me, my fellow furry friend, do you mind if poo gets stuck to your fur?"

"Not at all," the bunny replied cheerily, adding in jest, "Shit happens."
Whereupon the bear, having just finished his business, picked up the rabbit and cleaned up his own furry backside.

In yesterday's posting, I also had a joke using the "Two Singaporeans..." refrain. Many jokes have been modified from the original to suit the local context, and I suppose the one below is no exception:

Two Singaporeans were travelling in Bible Belt country in the American South. It happened to be a Sunday.

Although the bus they got on had many church-goers, the two tourists found seats and started talking Singapore-style, which means their conversation is loud enough for all and sundry to hear.

Still, no one really paid much attention until one of the Singaporeans was heard saying: “Emma come first, ah. Then I come, lor. Then two asses come together. I come again. Two asses, they come together again. I come again and then pee twice. Then I come one last time.”

"Wah, so long one, ah?" the other Singaporean replied.

Silence had by now descended on the bus. You could hear a pin drop because the driver, who had heard everything, had stopped his vehicle.

"Get out! In this here part of our country, we don’t talk about our sex lives in public!”
Perplexed, the duo got off, in the middle of nowhere.

"Siow (crazy in Hokkien) driver! Who was talking about sex? I was only telling you how the river Mississippi is spelled," said one of the by now angry Singaporeans.

Moral of these two stories: It's not just about the bare/bear facts. Sometimes it's just ass luck.

Postscript: Mindef's spokesman replied today (ST, page A39) to Mr Chew Guan Sun's letter (Monday's posting), giving the usual spiel on why the 24km route march was sort of a rite of passage for the recruits. But the interesting point is that Mindef now uses "graduating parade", not "passing out parade". It had long dispensed with "Run Out Date" (ROD), using instead the albeit more unwieldy "Operationally Ready Date" (ORD). Try saying "run out date" aloud (with emphasis on the first two words) to an "RODying" national serviceman handing back all his gear to the stores -- while the camp gate ahead beckons.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What do bulls leave in their wake? Hint: what do horses leave behind?

They say "investor sentiments" are still bullish in Singapore, and that the bulls still rule the stock and property markets which remain "hot", although the latter is seeing policy actions to cool things down.

The bears are hibernating. Hence, these two symbolic animals of the economy and finance represent market trends, bullish when it is trending up; bearish when it is trending down. Wikipedia has an interesting account of how these two terms came about.

I am sure most people reading the newspapers cannot fail to see the rash of advertisements that promise them... well, I'll recite them by and by below -- after I recount my favourite bull anecdote.

I've been dying to blog about the said anecdote, and today's "all that bull" theme is my excuse. Here it is:

Two Singaporean tourists visited Madrid, Spain, during the bull-fighting season. They checked into a hotel which had in its restaurant a "seasonal special" dish, available only when there were bull-fights.

Not ones to be culinarily challenged, the adventurous duo tried out the dish at dinner time, and found it so satisfying they ordered it every night.

On the last night of their stay, when the waiter opened the dish cover for them, what they saw was a shrivelled looking object. It did look like the item they had been having, but was much, much smaller.

Seeing their puzzlement, the waiter explained straight-faced: "Sometimes, the matador loses".

Okay, what about the ads I mentioned? All the examples came from today's newspapers (ST and Today).

"How you can win in the stock market using Warren Buffett's strategies! No daily monitoring, No chart, No software, Stress-free, New passive income!"

It goes on: "How to make your FIRST MILLION by investing just $10 every day."

What must you do? Register, of course (a "free seminar" is thrown in).
Let's see what another ad promises. This one has a poser: "Is it still a great time to be in the stock market?" Its answer: "Come and learn why it is still a great time to be in the stock market and why there are huge profits yet to be made in the coming year! [huh? not this year but 2012??]

And of course, "Register now". First 30 folks get a free CD.

Okay, we've warmed up and talking $$$$$. This ad shouts out: "Unbeatable forex strategies! Forex secrets exposed... Create 'Massive Wealth' in the shortest time possible." A testimonial follows. "I turned $1,000 into $78,000 in 2 months," said Mona Mhd, mother of 8 kids.

Yes, "Register now". Free forex seminar.

This next one knows you are very busy. "Uncover the millionaire trader's secret to extract money consistently and safely from the stock market... 30 mins a day."

Oh it adds, "No need to analyse news and reports". Register online, call, SMS...

This next one helps you calibrate your profit down to the dimes. "Discover the easiest way to make $611.20 per day from the Internet... IT skills NOT needed... Works even if you're a complete beginner!"

Register NOW!

Finally, the best of all: "How to be a millionaire, the S'pore Way... Learn how to earn $10,000 MONTHLY with a very low investment; No experience needed; You can earn a high income even if you have ZERO knowledge [wow! it did not say zero knowledge of the market, but zero knowledge. Period.].

So, there folks, what are you waiting for? There's all that bull run out there!

Me? I'm just gonna relax and listen to my Beatles soundtrack "Fool on the Hill" and while humming it, substitute "Fool" with "Bull".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Want COE? Make babies

Disclaimer: The piece below is pure tongue-in-cheek. Abuthen.

Dear Mr Wong Kan Seng,
Minister in charge of National Population and Talent Division.
As a loyal citizen, I share your concern about the country’s declining Total Fertility Rate, or TFR, whatever that is. I understand the simple maths part. When the TFR is 2 (okay, give or take 0.1 point either way), it means people replace themselves, right?
But what amazes me are all those strange decimal-place numbers being trotted out. I am told Taiwan has the world’s lowest TFR, at 0.97.  Our own has now hit an abysmal all-time low of 1.16.   But aren’t people “whole numbers”, that is , one person, two people, etc? Number-crunching is so confusing to a layman like me, but that’s the least of our worries if we just remember that we must aim for at least TFR=2, right?
Let’s get back to the baby making agenda. I think we must start with the right slogans. I’ll come to the incentives later. You people, since 1959, have been experts in these two areas, so how come you come up short when it comes to baby making?
The situation is so desperate, for starters, we need an SOS – Save Our Sperms.  Did you know that at ejaculation, anywhere from 90 million to 150 million sperms are produced? By the way, it’s that infernal number crunching that’s bugging again! How did those people add up the numbers? Did someone use a “bean counter” in an experiment and, as the sperms swim by, start counting?
Okay, seriously, the message has to get across that every sperm – like every drop of our drinking water – counts.
So, here’s Slogan No 2: If you are a married man, don’t be a jerk.  
 Men must be told not to waste any of it, since all it takes is just one lucky sperm to find the egg, and bingo, “the Explorer has landed, Houston”.
It is so important for national policy that we have a stockpile of sperms that I understand the technology for Newater is being tested to see if it can be applied for the production of Newsperm. No woman who wants a baby should be denied her right to sperm.
On the technology aspect, we may need to consult the Indonesians. They have lots of semen factories.
Next, we have to watch our language and use the correct mood-setting. There was this Straits Times reporter today (18 Jan, page A2) who, in opening her commentary, used the idiom “We must bite the bullet”. Nooooooooooo! Has she not heard of the attack of the Bobbitt-ers? She should Google “Bobbitt” and find out what I mean.
Instead, we should quote Shakespeare. “Screw your courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail”.
Now, for the Chinese zodiac. It seems that Tigers are unwanted (ouch, I’m a Tiger) but Rabbits and Dragons are highly desired.
So, what’s the “issue”? Reinvent the bloody thing and call it the Singapore Chinese zodiac, with only two animal signs – the Rabbit and the Dragon – alternating every year. Smart huh?
Next, everywhere, we should have reminders to have babies. As you pass the ERP gantry, a sign should flash “The best things in life are babies”; “Babies are a (married) girl’s best friend”, etc, etc.
Now for the incentives. Staying with the ERP gantries, as you pass one, if you have a baby onboard, that’s 20 cents off. Two babies, 40 cents, and so on. Hey, just imagine, five kids in tow and you get a whole dollar off! You get a top-up instead if the fee is less.
Given that our engineers are so smart, I’m sure all this recomputing of fees will be easy-peasy for their computerized systems.
Mr Wong, don’t forget you first read about this idea in my blog, hor. Just get it mentioned in PM’s N-Day Rally speech and we’re quits. You get your KPI skyrocketing and no one will ever mention MSK again.
I have another idea, again, based on Singaporeans’ love affair with everything else except making babies.
We love cars, right? Want a car, have a baby. Want two cars, have two babies. You’re single still? Promise to get married, lor. Tried to make babies but could not after many times? What do you think Newsperm is for?
I have not figured out how a HDB flat in a choice location can be linked to baby making. But, hey, that’s your job. I just seed the ideas, and it’s up to your fertile mind to conceptualise the outcome.
Up, up, and away… our national TFR figure, that is.
Just one loyal citizen,

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh no, that 'passing out' syndrome again!

My attention today is on three readers who wrote to ST's Forum page (17 Jan).

The first is Mr Chew Guan Sun, who may not have reflected a bit on his ironic use of the phrase "passing out parade" in his letter (see my earlier posting on "literalitis"). Here are key excerpts, starting with the opening paragraph:

"On Jan 8, my wife and I attended the passing-out parade of our son after his Basic Military Training (BMT) stint.

"The parade was held at Marina Bay floating platform on a cool and crisp morning. Unfortunately, a small incident marred what would have been a perfect passing-out parade for the recruits and parents alike.

"During the address by the guest of honour, two recruits fainted...

[The writer goes on to note that the recruits had undergone a 24km route march the night before the parade.]

"I am sure this gruelling march affected the two who fainted and all the others who were fortunate enough not to have fainted... Why can't the march be done one or two days before the passing-out parade?

"Forty-two years ago, on the day of my passing out [sic!] at what was then known as Pulau Blakang Mati (present-day Sentosa), we recruits had a very leisurely day preparing for our parade."

Excerpt ends here. Hmmm, which part of the term "passing out" is not understood here? If you asked me, the two chaps who fainted "passed" while the others "failed", as far as the "purpose" of the parade is presumably concerned. And didn't the writer himself "pass out" too?

Oh, and I love the reminder of what Sentosa used to be known as. Imagine welcoming gamblers to the casino: "Die, die, must come to the Blakang Mati Casino! But do so (if you've lost everything) on your way out please... exit at the back, of course."

The other two writers gave strong views on the naming of new MRT stations. I had previously commented on this matter, and I agree fully with their opinions.

Mr Lee Kip Lee wrote (excerpted):

"In colonial times and since Singapore's independence, streets and places have been named after prominent people. [He goes on to enlighten us on how Boon Tat Street, Yishun (Nee Soon), King Albert Park and Queen Astrid Park came about.]

"...the Land Transport Authority should not be empowered to take the liberty in giving new MRT stations names that have nothing to do with the places where they are situated...

"Giving a station a name that is not directly related to the location will only create confusion among commuters [he cited Tan Kah Kee station]...

"Tan Kah Kee, a visionary pioneer, can be remembered in a new street name."

Excerpts end. Hear, hear!

Similarly, Ms Lee Wei Yin writes:

"I am an alumnus of Hwa Chong Institution but I don't agree with the naming of the station near it after the institution's founder Tan Kah Kee. The MRT station would be serving more than just Hwa Chong students. The station name should be useful and meaningful to a majority of commuters."    

Sunday, January 16, 2011

19 worst puns, and then one more...

1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, 'I'll serve you, but don't start anything.'
3. Two peanuts walked into a bar, and one was a salted.
4. A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says: 'A beer please, and one for the road.'
6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: 'Does this taste funny to you?'
7. 'Doc, I can't stop singing 'The Green, Green Grass of Home.' 'That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome.' 'Is it common?' Well, 'It's Not Unusual.'
8. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, 'I was artificially inseminated this morning.' 'I don't believe you,' says Dolly. 'It's true; no bull!' exclaims Daisy.
9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.
10. Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.
11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn't find any.
12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, 'Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!' The doctor replied, 'I know you can't -- I've cut off your arms!'
13. I went to a seafood disco last week... and pulled a mussel.
14. What do you call an eyeless fish? A fsh. What do you call a deer with one eye? Idea.
15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, 'Dam!'
16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office, and asked them to disperse. 'But why,' they asked, as they moved off. 'Because,' he said, 'I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.'
18. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in England, and is named 'M. Mald.' The other goes to a family in Spain ; they name him 'Juan.' Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of M. Mald. Her husband responds, 'They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen M. Mald.'
19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him. (Oh, man, this is so bad, it's good) ..... A super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
20. And finally, there was this person who put up twenty different puns, with the hope that at least ten of the puns would make readers laugh.  No pun in ten did.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

FBI alert! Weapons of math instruction seized

My wife sent this to me in 2006, when George W Bush was the US President. With this one, I'll take a break from my current obsession with "the sum of all fears is the fear of all sums"...

Teacher arrested

New York -- A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International
Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a
protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said he
believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not
identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of
math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzalez said. "They desire solutions by means and
extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute
value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves
as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of
the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country.

"As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle'."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had
wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more
fingers and toes."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Heard this one about the big-footed auntie?...

I'm still on abbreviations, and in today's shortish musing (hey, it's Friday, after work), some stuff here from my schoolday collection, plus newer ones.

First off, I realised there are more single-syllable acronyms than MAD and our own expressway PIE. There is this gem, IOU (I owe you, hence also an initialism!), DINK (double income, no kids), and I love this one...

SKIN -- spend kids' inheritance now!

From the sports world comes WAGs (wives and girlfriends of sports personalities).

These days, there is BFF (best friend forever). But from my pen-pal schoolday time, there was FRANCE (Friendship remains and never can end) and ITALY (I trust and love you). In an earlier posting, I had already mentioned the initialism RTS (roaming the streets).

The medical degree MBBS was Mouth Big, Brain (or Body) Small.

And while today's Internet users use MYOB as part of their slang language, it had long been used as such, that is, Mind your own business.

Then there's this politically incorrect acronym NAIR. It is so incorrect, you have to ask me about it.

During geography class lessons in my time, how did we remember the top-to-bottom order of the three reserviours at the time? Easy... SPM, or Singapore Prime Minister. So it was Seletar, Peirce and last of all, MacRitchie.

The Great Lakes of North America? No problemo. HOMES -- Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

And finally (drum roll), what's this teaser heading above about a big-footed auntie? Hated trigonometry, like I did? Some help came in the form of the mnemonic TOA CAH SOH, which in Hokkien becomes "big-footed aunt"! To recall it all, the Tangent of an angle is the Opposite side over the Adjacent side, the Cosine of an angle is the Adjacent side over the Hypotenuse, and the Sine of an angle is the Opposite side over the Hypotenuse.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

More about the fascinating whirl of abbreviations...

The link above gives a succinct account of what constitutes an abbreviation (the general term for any contractions of words, phrases or concepts), an acronym and an initialism. Many people use the term "acronym" when they refer to "initialism".

In yesterday's posting, the abbreviated Shangri-La Dialogue would be SLD. You would not try to pronounce it as a new word but say Es-El-Dee. Hence, it is an initialism, and the convention is to capitalise every letter.

But Nato (for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) is spoken out as a word, Nay-Toe, so it is an acronym. It is a matter of preference or house style whether to capitalise just the first letter or all the letters, as in NATO.

Some acronyms and initialisms can backfire, as is the case with Nato. Wags call it "No Action, Talk Only", not an inaccurate moniker in the early 1990s when the alliance was dithering over whether to intervene in civil war-wracked Yugoslavia.

I also mentioned in yesterday's posting that, during the Cold War, the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (Start) might well have gone Fart if a suggestion to rename it Faster Arms Reduction Talks had been taken up.

The classic Cold War-era acronym is MAD, for Mutual Assured Destruction. This is the anticipated nuclear armaggedon that will happen should the US and the USSR (both initialisms here) lob nuclear-armed missiles at each other in an all-out nuclear war.

In the Singapore context, the government's (superseded) "dating agency" SDU (Social Development Unit) was lampooned as "Single, Desperate and Ugly". I have already pointed out what some people label (and libel?) some political parties here. I am sure there are funny takes on ERP, COE, CPF, HDB, etc.

But how many people knew that Nanyang Technological University (NTU) might well have become NUT (Nanyang University of Technology) if not for someone at a very high level who stopped the absurdity! And did you notice that Ngee Ann Polytechnic is abbreviated to NP? It certainly was not caught NAP-ping.

I think this uniquely Singaporean contraction qualifies as an acronym: O$P$ (owe money, pay money).

Coming back to MAD, this was an unusual acronym in its time. It has only three letters, and is monosyllabic. Most acronyms have at least four letters and have more than one syllable, as in Nato.

Thus, we have SIA (initialism) but Qantas (acronym). But among our expressways, one -- PIE -- seems to be chameleon-like. If you say "Pie", then PIE is being used as an acronym. But if you say "Pee-Eye-Ee", it is then an initialism.

Here are some acronyms that result from situations, concepts or inventions:

Snafu -- Situation normal, all fouled-up (as when everything's now a mess)
Nimby -- Not in my backyard (sure, Singapore needs yet another NeWater plant, but please site it in another neighbourhood)
Scuba -- Self contained underwater breathing apparatus
Radar -- Radio detection and ranging
Laser -- Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (whew! thank goodness for acronyms.)
Captcha -- Completely Automated Public Turing Tests To Tell Computers and Humans Apart (wheeeew! These are the distorted words a website may generate when a computer user, say, wants to post a comment. The website visitor is asked to type in those words before he is allowed to post his comments. Humans should be able to make them out but machines typically cannot; so it is meant to thwart automated spamming computers. Pronounce this acronym as "capture".)

Finally, have you created your own wacky acronym? How about this pseudo-medical one... SODOMY, for School of Orthodontics, Dentistry, Oral Medicine and Yawn-suppression.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The lighter side of weighty security issues

American Defence Secretary Robert Gates was in China this week to meet top Chinese leaders. The Sino-US strategic relationship is pivotal in the Asia-Pacific but the Chinese do not seem to be keen to institutionalise high-level strategic dialogues with the Yankees.

So, defence talk fests like the annual mid-year Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore will continue to provide the venue for Sino-US bilateral discussions on the sidelines.

For sure, the end of the Cold War has not really ushered in the wished for "peace dividend". The US and Russia have recently been making progress on their strategic relationship, symbolised in their New Start accord. But the Sino-US nexus has of late become more tense.

But there is always a lighter side to weighty security issues. I wrote an article along this theme for The Straits Times last year, reproduced below:

Now that the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue annual meeting [May 29-31, 2010], a
serious affair tackling major regional security challenges, is over, it is
time to take a light-hearted break.

You cannot say these chaps in the security community -- be they officials,
military brass or academics -- do not have a wicked sense of humour.
Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that the London-based International
Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), organiser of the Shangri-La
Dialogue series, abbreviated to SLD (and named after the venue, the
Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore), impishly gave, as the high-level talks'
formal name, the Asian Security Summit.

My survey of the media's coverage  found that most of them stuck with SLD
when they chose to abbreviate the sessions, or used variations like the
Dialogue, the forum. the summit, the event, and so forth. Some did point
out that the other name of the event -- first inaugurated in 2002 -- was
the Asian Security Summit. None, as far as I know, tried to abbreviate

Moving on, the heyday of the Cold War is sorely missed, not for the
nuclear-tipped "balance of terror" tensions, but for its lighter moments.
Arms reduction talks were in vogue then. The United States and the Soviet
Union, the two superpowers with "overkill" arsenals, decided to hunker down
to reducing their vast strategic arms, stuff like strategic bombers,
nuclear bombs and long-range nuclear-armed missiles.

Hence, the two Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (Salt I and Salt II) were born. They were
succeeded by the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (or Start). So far so good.

But I was told the following account, perhaps fictional, perhaps not, that
one official (from which superpower side, I was not told) was frustrated
with the slow pace of the bargaining over how many of the thousands of
nuclear weapons each side was prepared to turn into ploughshares. He wanted
faster movement, and proposed a new name, Faster Arms Reduction Talks.
Fortunately, while everyone else agreed that things should get going a lot
faster, no one else took up his suggested name change.

Still on Cold War-era nuclear issues, there was an idea to have "peaceful
nuclear explosions". These are when controlled nuclear explosions are
carried out, such as in creating a civil engineering work like a large dam.
I believe none ever materialised. But those wicked boffins, or maybe it was
the fun-starved bureaucrats, did create an abbreviation for the term --

Moreover, they insisted PNE had to be pronounced as "pee-nee", and the
plural form (PNEs) would be...

Abbreviations are (and were) not the only coinage of the arcane realm of
the security community. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) was
at one time worried that Turkey, a Nato member, was vulnerable to a
preemptive Soviet attack. Greece, another Nato member but one with a
history of conflict with next-door Turkey, was critical to the Western
alliance's military response if an attack were to occur behind Nato's

The anecdote I once heard was this supposed poser on the matter, made by an
American general during closed-door Nato discussions: "If the Soviets were
to attack Turkey from the rear, would Greece help".

There are lots more strange Dr Strangelovian humour from the folks who
ensure global security -- like this long-range missile called the
"Peacemaker" -- but perhaps another time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Warning... corny Hokkien jokes here

Found these, er, corny, Hokkien-themed jokes, sent by a friend a while ago:

How do you know frogs are Hokkien?
Because when it's cold, they go "kwah, kwah, kwah" (Hokkien for cold).

Why is cuttlefish considered kosher to the Hokkiens?
Because it's Jew Hur.

How do Hokkien prawns laugh?
Hae hae hae (Hokkien for prawns)

How do Hokkien fish laugh?
Hee hee hee (Hokkien for fish)

What's the difference between ang moh and Hokkien fairy tales?
Ang moh fairy tales begin with: "Once upon a time..."
Hokkien fairy tales begin with: "Lin Peh ka lu kong..."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Intratrochanteric and vestibular... two words that gave a scare

What a week the past week has been.

First, I learnt that my brother -- 12 years my senior and hence, if you are familiar with the Chinese zodaic system, a fellow Tiger -- fell and suffered a hip fracture. He is a stroke victim, paralysed on his left side. He had felt dizzy and fell on his left side. That was on Wednesday.

Was that better than if he had fallen on his right side?

Yes. Especially since the fracture, an intratrochanteric hip fracture, can be treated surgically by fitting in a metal plate and screws to hold the fractured part/s in place for healing to take place.

Since he did not fall on his right side, his already limited mobility is still preserved with, of course, physiotherapy, albeit this will be a long process. If he had fallen on his right side, he might have become permanently wheelchair bound.

The operation was done on Saturday. "Hip, hip", hurrah for modern medical science. And he's now a "metal" Tiger.

 Then yesterday (Sunday) morning, my 13-year-old beagle Brady started to be nerng kar (Hokkien for weak in the knees). He was wobbly and moved like a drunken dog (okay, that's not fair... like a drunken man). But he still had an appetite and could do his business. Given that it was Sunday, and also that our vet's opinion was that it was not an emergency, the earliest we could schedule a trip to the vet's was today.

And so, I came to learn yet another bit of medical terminology within the space of one week. Brady has "vestibular disease", for which the vet gave him an injection.

The vestibule system, working through the inner ears, on signals from the brain, gives a sense of spatial stability. That is, we humans -- and animals with such a system -- walk straight and steadily and can negotiate around objects, and are not disoriented or become dizzy when there is movement around us, thanks to these sensors linking our ears to our brain.

Brady's system went wonky. The exact cause is unclear but it seems likely to be age-related, as dogs aged 12 and above are prone to this usually non-life threatening disease. Brady -- at 13 -- is. after all, senior dog (Killer, my mini schnauzer, at seven, is just dog. Maybe a position of dog mentor could be created another time).

I think the injection will help to bring the system back into sync. It may take a while, the vet says. Meantime, Brady is both in low spirit (he looks sad as a result of his condition) and at the same time he seems to be in "high spirit" (he looks drunk). I can't wait for him to be his old self, and chasing Killer around our furniture-strewn house.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brevity... is like a bikini, or stale fish?

I don't tweet. But there is now a phenomenon dubbed "Twitter journalism". Many such tweets are by first-on-the-scene "citizen journalists" who give the first spiel on, say, a major disaster, violent shooting or other typically tragic event that has just occurred. Sadly, bad news make good copy -- in this case, tweets. Hoaxes can happen. So much so that the link below gives tips on spotting credible "breaking tweets".

A tweet -- limited to 140 characters inclusive of spaces -- makes a virtue of brevity. That's my own theme today.

A standard tip to people giving speeches or making presentations is to use the "bikini" template, that is, a talk or presentation should be like a bikini -- skimpy (short enough) to highlight all the interesting bits but without revealing all. Any fuller expose (elaboration) can be done later, during Q&A. Of course, there are bikinis and there are bikinis, and the "body of work" (subject matter) must have "sex appeal" in the first place.

Which brings me to my next brevity tale. I have used the tongue-in-cheek anecdote below in classroom situations:

A professor set his students a challenge: Come up with the shortest essay that has the key ingredients of a good yarn: Religion, royalty or well-known personality, sex (preferably scandalous) and the whodunnit element. Only one student received the highest grade, with this composition:

"My God, said the Queen. I am pregnant! But I don't know who is he."

Not bad, huh? Just 68 characters. (Do your own count; I may be wrong.)

Then there is this (fish) tale...

A simpleton fishmonger decided to set up his stall in a town full of smart alecs. He puts up the sign he has always been using -- "Fresh fish sold here". It is early morning, and his catch is indeed fresh.

Along comes Smart Alec No 1 (let's call him SA1). He tells the fishmonger, "Old chap, 'here' is not needed. We can all see you are here." So, okay, the man strikes out that word. SA1 does not buy any fish.

SA2 comes by next. "Why do you need 'sold'. It's obvious that's what you do." So the poor chap strikes that out too. SA2 does not buy any fish.

SA3 ambles by. "Hmmm, "Fresh fish"? Surely you don't sell stale fish? Strike "fresh" out. And it was done. SA3 too does not buy any fish.

It is noon by now. The guy has not sold a single fish and there is now a stale smell around the stall. Along comes SA4. "Haha, your sign says you are selling fish? Who will buy your stinky fish?"

The next day, the local newspaper has a report with this headline: "Fishmonger goes berserk; arrested for stuffing smelly fish down man's throat."

Moral No 1: If you sell fish, make sure you have lots of ice. It's better to stuff this down a smart alec's throat.
Moral No 2: Never overstay your welcome. After three days as a house guest, your presence stinks like stale fish (this has nothing to do with the story above, but what the heck, it's got "stale fish" in it!)

Postscript: I first heard these two anecdotes in the pre-Internet era. They are that old. But, thanks to the Internet, I found out more about their possible origin/s, and the various permutations. My embellishments are from my own wacky head. Abuthen.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Imagine a car invented by Bill Gates

Las Vegas in the United States was the venue this past week for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world's largest consumer technology trade show. It is where many of the latest gadgets are first unveiled.

A friend sent the spoof below some time ago:

At a recent computer expo, Bill Gates reportedly compared the
computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up
with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving
$25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon".

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release
stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be
driving cars with the following characteristics:

For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a
new car.

Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You  would
have to pull over to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut
off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue.
For some reason you would simply accept this.

Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car
to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to
reinstall the engine.

Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five
times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five
percent of the roads.

The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be
replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning

The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.

Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and
refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door  handle,
turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to
drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same
manner as the old car.

You'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off.

Friday, January 7, 2011


What is gobbledegook? We come across it daily, and if you are a civil servant, you are prone to it. But I find many other people in other walks of life using it. This onomatopoeic word, from the unintelligible sounds a turkey makes (haha, show me an intelligent turkey...) refers to convoluted language, often laced with or brimming with jargon. The Wikipedia explanation is pretty good.

Any journalist writing in gobbledegook should be fired. The test here should be the Hokkien "li kong si mi, ah?" ("what are you talking about?"). Or, if you prefer, it is gobbledegook if you "catch no ball" as a result.

But there is a subtler variant that can trap journalists. This is allowing into print the gobbledegook spouting of a newsmaker, usually a senior (and typically government) official. A recent such example appeared in the Today newspaper (4 Jan, page 4). In a piece headlined "Taking on youth gangs...", the new Criminal Investigation Department head, Assistant Commissioner Hoong Wee Teck, is quoted as saying he will take the fight against two areas of concern -- youth gangs and illegal moneylending syndicates -- to "a higher level".

You are already being prepped.

He added: "We'll be working with our strategic partners and other stakeholders to see whether we can tackle the issue (sic) upstream."

Gosh, all the jargon in just 19 words is bad enough. But the newspaper made no attempt to get him to explain himself, so that it can paraphrase all that into something you and I can understand.

There is something -- applicable in many contexts -- called "KISS" which everyone should embrace. It stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Smashing story, but does it stand the test of scrutiny?

I wish The Straits Times would consult experts familiar with military developments before it ran the sensational page one lead today (6 Jan) headlined "China's new arms could tilt balance of power".

It gives the impression that three of China's military developments are "game changers" with regard to American military power in the Pacific. The first, the J-20 fighter jet, although depicted as a prototype (that is, something still being tested, with its final parameters still undecided), is China's "first [fifth-generation] stealth fighter, the latest in a series of rapid military advancements recently which could affect the regional balance of power".

It adds, correctly, that the only production fifth-generation stealth fighter is the American F-22 Raptor.

What the article did not say is that the only real future challenger to the F-22 is the Russian-Indian joint project to develop a fifth-generation fighter. This one has not even reached the prototype stage! But given its pedigree, it is likely to be a credible aircraft. The layman may not fully grasp what is "fifth-generation" here but to oversimplify, it means an aircraft designed to evade radar detection, has sensors networked to other devices including those in its home and friendly bases, carries a large enough weapons punch within its belly (nothing sticking outside) and is able to fly on "super-cruise" (that is, at supersonic speed without having to switch on its fuel-guzzling afterburner boosters).

The Chinese J-20, experts agree, may not really be a match for the F-22. But that is beside the point. If it does its job as a strike fighter, well and good. But we don't know yet. Its Achilles Heel would be its engines. Chinese-made engines are just not good enough, so the J-20 may have to use Russian engines. That's holding a key defence project hostage to a foreign power's future goodwill. All these issues should be in the report for it to be accurate.

Next, the report refers to "rampart talk that China has put in place the world's first anti-ship ballistic missile system, designed to sink American aircraft carriers". This missile is the DF-21D. Again, the report is not sufficiently sceptical about the technical challenges faced in using a fairly large ballistic missile as an anti-ship guided weapon. Rest assured, it is not easy -- the Americans toyed with the idea and never tried it; the Cold War-era Soviet Union tried it but gave up. Above all, if the DF-21D is as good as advertised, why not prove it in a test to hit, say, a disused super-tanker which is a rough approximation of an American super-carrier?

Finally, the report refers to the "imminent deployment of the Chinese navy's first carrier" and goes on to say that "[f]ive of the American navy's 11 carriers are based in the Pacific and operate in international waters near China. They are within the DF-21D's range of about 1,500 km".

Military analysts will have a good laugh at all these claims.

My own Dec 5 article, hyperlinked below, indirectly addresses these issues.

First, yes, when China unveils its first carrier, it will be a big event -- but not a game-changer. It is likely to be a medium-sized vessel, perhaps with a dozen or so aircraft on board, not the 90-odd aircraft that an American super-carrier can carry. Many navies already have medium-sized carriers. Also, numbers matter. The Chinese must build several carriers for them to be effective, because at any one time at least one of these complex vessels will be undergoing repairs, refit or maintenance. Yes, Chinese carriers will affect the regional dynamic but so long as American super-carriers are around, it will not be an apple vs apple situation.

Last point. It is misleading to say that five US carriers are based in the Pacific and operate in waters near China. The Pacific is a BIG body of water and only one US carrier is forward deployed in Japan, that is, close enough to China. One or two more may be homeported in the US' west coast but that's a long, long way from China. Perhaps one more may be exercising in the region, and perhaps close to China. And, apart from those assigned to the Atlantic and Mediterranean, a few will be in dry dock.

All these points will make the article less sensational but it will be more accurate. One day China may be a so-called "peer military competitor" of the US, but not yet.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Can't spell? Don't despair

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't  mttaer
in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is
taht the frist and lsat ltteers are at the rghit pclaes. The rset can be a toatl
mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do
not raed ervey lteter by it slef but we raed the wrod as a wlohe.

Postscript: Regarding fancy names for taxi drivers, a little bird tells me some of them should be called "oncall-logists" -- always "on call" when you desperately need a cab!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Psst, want CEO title? Or fancy being a tuinalogist?

Only in Singapore, I suspect, you can have this "CEO" label. You can have it almost at once if you made the application yourself. If someone else, very likely a family member, made the application for you, it used to take about six weeks for the approval.

But now, local media reports say, it will take just two weeks. CEO in this case stands for "Casino Exclusion Order". It bars the person so named from entering either of the two integrated resorts' casino. Guess you have just lost interest in applying for this CEO vacancy, huh?

Don't despair, if you still want a fancy title. Aspire to be a tuinalogist!

Some bit of preamble first. Once upon a time, there were sinseh in Singapore (as there were pak hong chia, kok kok mee, etc, but I digress). Sinseh were the traditional Chinese healers (I don't recall the word "medicine" being used as a descriptor). East was east and West was west and no one ever confused these folk with western-trained doctors, just as dentists then were those "bare-foot" chaps you took a risk with if you wanted your teeth pulled out cheaply, typically in Chinatown.

(My father, bless his dearly departed soul, once did a do-it-yourself tooth extraction job on me -- the kind you see in Lil' Abner type cartoon strips, but again, I'm digressing.)

Anyway, back then, you went to a western-trained "dental surgeon", either at a government or a private clinic, to have your dental treatment done in a less scary way.

These days, those unlicensed cavity decapitators are long gone. So, in today's context, "dentists" are the western-trained guys. And you can see a new genre too: dental specialists, as you would see medical specialists if your ailment warrants it.

The term sinseh has long gone too. But the folk who used to be called as such have undergone some sort of training or understudy in "traditional Chinese medicine" and are now called either "traditional Chinese medicine practitioners" or "traditional Chinese medicine physicians". There is a statutory board that registers and regulates them (some 2,400 in all).

They are in the news now because a number of them have upped their status ante and refer to themselves as "TCM specialists" in certain fields. Some, for instance, claim to be TCM oncologists. Wow. The yin and yang of cancer! The government has decreed that TCM practitioners/physicians cannot claim to be specialists since, even in China, there is no such accreditation.

So, what about tuinalogist?

I thought this extract from The Straits Times report (4 Jan, page A3) was classic black humour:

A check of the Eu Yan Sang website [Eu Yan Sang is a well-known listed TCM chain that has modernised and has TCM clinics] turned up a description of a Mr Ge Ming as "a tui na specialist" who can treat conditions like sports injuries and cervical, thoracic and lumbar problems.

Ms Wong [Eu Yan Sang's general manager for brand management -- like I said, this company is very, very modern] said [Mr Ge] was not a TCM physician but a "tuinalogist".

Quote ends. I love her upside down logic. And I hope she pronounced this strange word such that it did not sound like a vulgar swear word in a certain Chinese dialect (not Hokkien).

So, if you want to be a bit stylo-milo about your occupation, just call upon the "science of ology" to burnish it. Taxilogist? Makes good PR mileage for the taxi companies. Cabilogists? Also can. After all, we also call taxi drivers cabbies.

Back when I was a university student, the only "ology" we pursued was "paktorlogy" -- courting (pak tor being the patois Hokkien for "going on a date").

Then there was this politically incorrect joke. What do you call the study of Singhs? Bhai-logy. [Bhai means "brother" in Bengali. I don't hear it used in a jocular way these days but it used to be shorthand for turbaned Sikhs.]

So, what then, is the study of baby Singhs? Micro-bhai-logy.

There's one about Singh-lets too but I must have used up my quota of non-PC jokes so I'll cease and desist. Bye, bye.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's a dog's life

Today's posting is dedicated to the two dogs in the household, Brady and Killer.

Brady is a beagle, 13 years old. He's pretty old, in human years. Killer is a mini schnauzer, seven years old. Because he's so small, he still thinks and acts like a puppy. His name made the vet almost die laughing -- when he first saw the little fella. And, yes, the vets' clinic insists that for its records, the dogs are listed as "Brady Khoo" and "Killer Khoo".

But our furry companions teach us a lot about life. Here's something from the Internet which I found amusing but not off the mark:

All I Need to Know about Life I Learned from My Dog
If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you'll get what you want.
If at first you don't succeed, beg.
Don't go out without I.D.
Be direct with people; let them know exactly how you feel by peeing on their shoes.
Be aware of when to hold your tongue, and when to use it.
Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
Always give people a friendly greeting.
When you do something wrong, always take responsibility for it (as soon as you're dragged out from under the sofa).
If it's not wet and sloppy, it's not a real kiss.

Once upon a time, the rule in the Khoo household was "no dogs on the furniture". Then, one day, it dawned on the four-legged ones to pose this question to the two-legged ones: "Which part of FURniture don't you understand?"

Since then, the dogs ruled the FURniture. So far, most of the other "rules" below have not been breached:

Dog rules
The dog is not allowed in the house.
The dog is allowed in the house but only in certain rooms.
The dog is allowed in all rooms but must stay off the furniture.
Fine, the dog is allowed on all the furniture but is not allowed to
sleep with the humans on the bed.
OK, the dog is allowed on the bed but only by invitation.
The dog can sleep on the bed whenever he wants but not under the covers.
The dog can sleep under the covers by invitation only.
The dog can sleep under the covers every night.
The humans must ask permission to sleep under the covers with the dog.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Start the new year with a toast to good health (with red wine, no less)

This was sent by a friend. Read why oysters are good for men, and why we should eat the skin of the kiwi fruit! As always, caveat emptor (reader beware)...

The 40 Best Age-Erasing Superfoods
(by the editors of Men's Health)

1. Almonds
These energy-rich snacks lower bad
cholesterol, thanks to plant sterols, and
benefit diabetics by lowering blood sugar.
They’re also rich in amino acids, which
bolster testosterone levels and muscle
growth. Almonds are also stuffed with
vitamin E, which helps defend against sun
damage. In a study, volunteers who
consumed 14 milligrams of the vitamin
(about 20 almonds) per day and then were
exposed to UV light burned less than those
who took none. And because vitamin E is
an antioxidant, it also works to keep your
arteries free of dangerous free radicals.
Low levels of vitamin E are also associated
with poor memory performance and cognitive
decline, says dietitian Sari Greaves of New York
Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.

2. Flaxseeds
Rich in protein and fiber, these little
seeds offer a payload of omega-3 fatty
acids, which erase spots and iron out
fine lines in the skin. The British Journal
of Nutrition reported that participants in
one study who downed about half a
teaspoon of omega-3s daily in 6 weeks
experienced significantly less irritation
and redness, along with better-hydrated skin.
A recent study of people with high cholesterol
(greater than 240 mg/dL) compared statin treatment with
eating 20 grams of flaxseed a day. After
60 days, those eating flaxseed did just as well as those on statins.
Try sprinkling ground flaxseed on oatmeal, yogurt, and salads.

There are two things you need to know
about tomatoes: red are the best,
because they’re packed with more of
the antioxidant lycopene; and
processed tomatoes are just as potent
as fresh ones, because it’s easier for
the body to absorb the lycopene.
Studies show that a diet rich in
lycopene can decrease your risk of
bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach
cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery
disease, and help eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused
by ultraviolet rays. “Cooked tomatoes
and tomato paste work best,” says celebrity trainer Gunnar Petersen.

4. Sweet Potatoes
Often confused with yams, these
tubers are one of the healthiest foods
on the planet. In addition to
countering the effects of secondhand
smoke and preventing diabetes,
sweet potatoes contain glutathione,
an antioxidant that can enhance
nutrient metabolism and immune-
system health, as well as protect
against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver
disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, heart attack,
and stroke. What’s more, they’re also loaded
with vitamin C, which smoothes out wrinkles by stimulating
the production of collagen. A recent
study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that volunteers
who consumed 4 milligrams of C (about half a small sweet potato)
daily for 3 years decreased the appearance of
wrinkles by 11 percent.

5. Spinach
It may be green and leafy, but spinach—a
renowned muscle builder—is also the ultimate
man food. The heart-health equivalent of a first-
ballot Hall of Famer, spinach is replete with the
essential minerals potassium and magnesium,
and it’s one of the top sources of lutein, an
antioxidant that may help prevent clogged
arteries. Plus its vitamins and nutrients can
bolster bone-mineral density, attack prostate
cancer cells, reduce the risk of skin tumors, fight
colon cancer, and, last but not least, increase
blood flow to the penis. “Popeye was on to
something,” says Susan Bowerman, assistant director
of the Center for Human Nutrition at the
University of California at Los Angeles.

6. Rosemary
The carnosic acid found in this spice has
been shown to reduce stroke risk in mice
by 40 percent, according to a study
published in the Journal of
Neurochemistry. Carnosic acid appears to
set off a process that shields brain cells
from free-radical damage, which can
worsen the effects of a stroke. It can also
protect against degenerative diseases like
Alzheimer’s and the general effects of

7. Wild Salmon
A 4-ounce serving of salmon has
approximately 2,000 milligrams of
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),
omega-3 fatty acids that serve as
oil for the brain’s hardware by
helping nerve cells communicate
with one another. Thirty-five percent
of your brain consists of fatty acids
like these, but they can decline as
the years stack up. A 2008 University of Cincinnati
study, for instance, found that the brain tissue
of 65- to 80-year-olds contained 22 percent less DHA
than the brain tissue of 29- to 35-year-olds.
“If you want to keep your wits about you as you age, start
consuming omega-3s now,” says
William Harris, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at the
University of South Dakota. Why is wild so
important? Because farmed fish, which are fattened
with soy, can be as high in inflammatory
omega-6 fats as a cheeseburger. If in doubt, opt for sockeye salmon,
which can’t be farmed and is always wild. Aim for at least two servings
a week, says dietitian Joan Salge Blake, author of
Nutrition and You.

8. Blueberries
“This potent little fruit can help prevent
a range of diseases from cancer to
heart disease,” says Ryan Andrews,
the director of research at Precision
Nutrition, in Toronto, Canada. Think of
blueberries as anti-rust for your gray
matter, too. Besides being rich in fiber
and vitamins A and C, they’re also
packed with antioxidants—only açai,
an Amazonian berry, contains more—
that neutralize the free radicals that cause neuronal misfires.
Eat a cup a day, and opt for wild
blueberries whenever possible, as they contain 26 percent more
antioxidants than cultivated varieties.

9. Green tea
Green tea releases catechin, an antioxidant with proven
anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Research found
that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day not only helps prevent skin cancer but
might also reverse the effects of sun damage by neutralizing the
changes that appear in sun-exposed skin. Other studies show that
green tea—infused with another antioxidant called
epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—can boost
your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk
of most types of cancer.

10. Dark Chocolate
Flavonoids, a natural nutrient in cocoa, improve
blood flow in the brain, which helps boost
cognitive function. Plus dark chocolate contains
a tannin called procyanidin, which is also found
in red wine, that can keep your arteries flexible
and your blood pressure low. It helps on the outside, too.
In a study from the Journal of Nutrition,
women who drank cocoa fortified with a chocolate bar’s worth of
flavonols had better skin texture and stronger resistance to UV rays
than those who drank significantly fewer flavonols. Indulge in
1 ounce a day to get all the benefits, says dietitian Sari Greaves
of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.

11. Tuna
Your favorite deli sandwich has a little secret:
Selenium. This nutrient helps preserve elastin, a
protein that keeps your skin smooth and tight. The
antioxidant is also believed to buffer against the sun
(it stops free radicals created by UV exposure from
damaging cells). Tuna is also a great source of
protein, contains no trans fat, and a 3-ounce serving
of chunk light contains 11 mg of heart-healthy niacin, which
has been shown to help lower cholesterol and help your body
process fat. University of Rochester researchers determined that
niacin raises HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lowers triglycerides
more than most statins alone.

12. Carrots
Think of carrots as orange wonder wands—
good for the eyeballs, and good for clearing up
breakouts. No magic here, though, just plenty of
vitamin A, which prevents overproduction of
cells in the skin’s outer layer. That means fewer
dead cells to combine with sebum and clog
pores. They’re also spiked with carotenoids—
fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction
in a wide range of cancers, as well as a reduced risk and severity
of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

13. Whole Grains
Whole grains—oatmeal, wheat flour, barley,
brown rice—are high in fiber, which calms
inflamed tissues while keeping the heart
strong, the colon healthy, and the brain fueled.
Whole grains can be loaded with carbs, but
the release of those sugars is slowed by the
fiber, and because they can pack as much as
10 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving, they
also deliver steady muscle-building energy. But not all
breads and crackers advertised as “whole grain” are the
real deal. “Read the label,” says Lynn Grieger, an online health,
food, and fitness coach. “Those that aren’t whole grain can
be high in fat, which increases inflammation.”

14. Dried Plums
Also known as prunes, these dark shrivelers
are rich in copper and boron, both of which
can help prevent osteoporosis. “They also
contain a fiber called inulin, which, when
broken down by intestinal bacteria, makes
for a more acidic environment in the
digestive tract,” says Bowerman. “That, in
turn, facilitates calcium absorption.”

15. Red Wine
Swimming in resveratrol—a natural compound that
lowers LDL, raises HDL, and prevents blood clots—red
wine can truly be a lifesaver. A recent review in
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, for
instance, suggests that resveratrol may prevent or delay
the onset of chronic disease. But limit your intake to two
drinks a day. According to a study of 6,000 patients in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, you’re 97
percent more likely to reach your 85th birthday if you
keep your daily alcohol consumption to fewer than three
drinks. Vin rouge is also a rich source of flavonoids,
antioxidants that help protect the lining of
blood vessels in your heart, and may make you less likely
to die of cardiovascular disease, according to Japanese researchers.

16. Yogurt
Various cultures claim yogurt as their own
creation, but the 2,000-year-old food’s health
benefits are not disputed: Fermentation spawns
hundreds of millions of probiotic organisms that
serve as reinforcements to the battalions of
beneficial bacteria in your body, which keep your
digestive tract healthy and your immune system
in top form, and provide protection against cancer. Not all
yogurts are probiotic, though, so make
sure the label says “live and active cultures.”

17. Avocado
Chock full of monounsaturated fat, avocados
deliver a double-barreled blast to LDL
cholesterol (the bad kind). They are also rich in
folate, a water-soluble B vitamin that helps
lower the levels of homocysteine, an amino
acid that can hinder the flow of blood through
blood vessels. Eat a 1/4 cup twice a week,
says Greaves.

18. Walnuts
Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon,
loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols
than red wine, and packing half as much muscle-
building protein as chicken, the walnut sounds like
a Frankenfood, but it grows on trees. Other nuts
combine only one or two of these features, not all
three. A serving of walnuts—about 1 ounce, or
seven nuts—is good anytime, but especially as a
postworkout recovery snack.

19. Turmeric
Curcumin, the polyphenol that gives turmeric
its tang and yellow hue, has anticancer
properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and
tumor-fighting activities known in nutrition-
speak as anti-angiogenesis. Researchers at
UCLA have also found that it helps deter the
accumulation of amyloid plaques in the
brain, tiny blockages that may cause
Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric’s prevalence
in India, the researchers suggest, may help explain
why so few of the country’s senior citizens
have the disease, whereas the statistic is close to 13 percent
in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
One tip: Pair it with pepper in curries. “Adding black pepper to
turmeric or turmeric-spiced food enhances curcumin’s bioavailability
by 1,000 times, due to black pepper’s hot property called piperine,” says
nutritionist Stacy Kennedy of the Dana Farber
Cancer Institute.

20. Black Beans
People who eat one 3-ounce serving of black beans a day decrease
their risk of heart attack by 38 percent, according to a study in the
Journal of Nutrition. And while other beans are also good
for your heart, none can boost your brainpower like black beans.
That’s because they’re full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds
that have been shown to improve brain function. They’re
also packed with superstar nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, folate,
magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber. People who eat
one 3-ounce serving of black beans a day decrease their risk of heart attack
by 38 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition.
And while other beans are also good for your heart, none can boost
your brainpower like black beans. That’s because they’re full of
anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve
brain function. They’re also packed with superstar nutrients, including
protein, healthy fats, folate, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber.

21. Apples
An apple a day reduces swelling of all kinds, thanks to quercetin,
a flavonoid also found in the skin of red onions. Quercetin reduces
the risk of allergies, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s,
and prostate and lung cancers. If given the choice, opt
for Red Delicious. They contain the most inflammation-
fighting antioxidants.

22. Alaskan King Crab
High in protein and low in fat,
the sweet flesh of the king crab is spiked with zinc—a
whopping 7 milligrams per 3.5-ounce serving. “Zinc is
an antioxidant, but more important, it helps support
healthy bone mass and immune function,” says

23. Pomegranates
The juice from the biblical fruit of many seeds
can reduce your risk of most cancers, thanks to
polyphenols called ellagitannins, which give the
fruit its color. In fact, a recent study at UCLA
found that pomegranate juice slows the growth
of prostate cancer cells by a factor of six.

24. Pak Choy
This crunchy cruciferous vegetable is more than the
filler that goes with shrimp in brown sauce. “Bok
choy is rich in bone-building calcium, as well as
vitamins A and C, folic acid, iron, beta-carotene,
and potassium,” says celebrity trainer Teddy Bass.
Potassium keeps your muscles and nerves in check
while lowering your blood pressure, and research
suggests that beta-carotene can reduce the risk of
both lung and bladder cancers, as well as
macular degeneration.

25. Shellfish
Shellfish, in general, is an excellent source of zinc, calcium,
copper, iodine, iron, potassium, and selenium. “But the creamy
flesh of oysters stands apart for its ability to elevate testosterone
levels and protect against prostate cancer,” says Bass.

26. Broccoli
One cup of broccoli contains a hearty dose of calcium, as
well as manganese, potassium, phosphorus,
magnesium, and iron. And that’s in addition to
its high concentration of vitamins—including A,
C, and K—and the phytonutrient sulforaphane,
which studies at Johns Hopkins University
suggest has powerful anticancer properties.

27. Kiwis
Like bananas, this fuzzy fruit is high in bone-protecting
potassium. “They’re also rich in vitamin C and lutein, a
carotenoid that can help reduce the risk of heart disease,” says
Bowerman. “I try to eat at least one or two a week after
exercising.” Freeze them for a refreshing energy kick, but don’t
peel the skin: It’s edible and packed with nutrients.

28. Olive Oil
The extra-virgin variety is rich in beneficial monounsaturated
fats. “Its fatty acids and polyphenols reduce inflammation in
cells and joints,” says Grieger. A study in the journal Nature
found that it’s as effective as Advil at reducing inflammation.
“Have 2 tablespoons a day,” says Bowerman.

29. Leeks
“Leeks can support sexual functioning and reduce
the risk of prostate cancer,” says Michael
Dansinger, M.D., an assistant professor of
medicine and an obesity researcher at Tufts–New
England Medical Center, in Boston. “Chop the
green part of a medium leek into thin ribbons and
add it to soups, sautés, and salads as often as
possible.” These scallionlike cousins of garlic
and onions are also packed with bone-bolstering
thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and potassium, and
they’re also rich in folic acid, a B vitamin that
studies have shown to lower levels of the artery-damaging
amino acid homocystein in the blood.

30. Artichokes
Lauded for centuries as an aphrodisiac, this fiber-rich
plant contains more bone-building magnesium and
potassium than any other vegetable. Its leaves are
also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols—antioxidants
that can cut the risk of stroke—and vitamin C, which
helps maintain the immune system. “Eat them as often
as you can,” says Bowerman. Ripe ones feel heavy
for their size and squeak when squeezed.

31. Chili Peppers (Chillies)
“Chillies stimulate the metabolism, act as a natural
blood thinner, and help release endorphins,” says
Petersen. Plus, they’re a great way to add flavor
to food without increasing fat or calorie content.
Chillies are also rich in beta-carotene, which turns
into vitamin A in the blood and fights infections,
as well as capsaicin, which inhibits neuropeptides (chemicals
that cause inflammation). A recent study in the journal Cancer Research
found that hot peppers even have anti-prostate-cancer
properties. All this from half a chili pepper (or 1 tablespoon of chili flakes)
every day.

32. Ginger
Contrary to popular belief, ginger—a piquant addition to so
many Asian dishes—isn’t a root, it’s a stem, which means it
contains living compounds that improve your health. Chief
among them is gingerol, a cancer suppressor that studies
have shown to be particularly effective against that of the
colon. Chop ginger or grind it fresh and add it to soy-
marinated fish or chicken as often as you can. The more
you can handle, the better.

33. Cinnamon
Known for making desserts sweet and Indian food complex,
cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that inhibit blood clotting and
bacterial growth (including the bad-breath variety). “Studies
also suggest that it may help stabilize blood sugar, reducing
the risk of type 2 diabetes,” says dietitian Nancy Clark, author
of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “What’s more, it
may help reduce bad cholesterol. Try half a teaspoon a day in
yogurt or oatmeal.”

34. Eggs
Those who have eggs for breakfast lose 65 percent more
weight than those who down a bagel breakfast with the same
number of calories, according to a study in the International
Journal of Obesity. Eat the yolk, too. Recent studies have proved
that the fat in the yellow part is important to keep you
satiated, and the benefits of its minerals and nutrients outweigh its cholesterol effect.

35. Figs
Packed with potassium, manganese, and antioxidants, this
fruit also helps support proper pH levels in the body, making
it more difficult for pathogens to invade, says Petersen.
Plus, the fiber in figs can lower insulin and blood-sugar
levels, reducing the risk of diabetes and metabolic
syndrome. Select figs with dark skins (they contain more
nutrients) and eat them alone or add them to trail mix.

36. Grass-Fed Beef
Nothing beats pure protein when it comes to building
muscle. The problem with most store-bought beef, however,
is that the majority of cattle are grain fed, which gives their meat a relatively high
ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. That, in
turn, contributes to inflammation. The fatty acids
in grass-fed beef, on the other hand, are skewed
toward the omega-3 variety. Such beef also
contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which
studies have shown help reduce belly fat and
build lean muscle.

37. Mushrooms
Delicious when added to brown rice, reiki, shiitake, and
maitake mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant ergothioneine,
which protects cells from abnormal growth and replication. “In
short, they reduce the risk of cancer,” says Bowerman, who
recommends half a cup once or twice a week. “Cooking them
in red wine, which contains resveratrol, magnifies their
immunity-boosting power.”

38. Pineapples
With its potent mix of vitamins, antioxidants,
and enzymes—in particular, bromelain—
pineapple is an all-body anti-inflammation
cocktail. It also protects against colon cancer,
arthritis, and macular degeneration, says
Grieger. (If only the “colada” part of the
equation were as healthy.) Have half a cup,
two or three times a week.

39. Fruit or Vegetable Juice
Raise a glass of the good stuff. In a 2006
University of South Florida study, people who
drank three or more 4-ounce glasses of fruit or
vegetable juice each week were 76 percent less likely
to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank
less. The high levels of polyphenols—antioxidants
found in fruits and vegetables—may protect brain
cells from the damage that may be caused by the
disease, says study author Amy Borenstein, Ph.D.

40. Bing Cherries
Research by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture shows that eating about 35 bing
cherries a day can lower the risk of tendinitis,
bursitis, arthritis, and gout, says Bowerman.
Studies also suggest that they reduce the risk
of chronic diseases and metabolic syndrome.