Sunday, July 31, 2011

When all that glitters IS gold!

I came across this "Peter at the Pearly Gates" joke recently and it has become one of my favourites:

A wealthy man was dying. All his life he had cared more about his fortune than in anything else, even family relationships. Yet, now, alone and on his deathbed, he faced the reality that he could not take it all with him in the afterlife. He felt miserable and even resorted to praying to God.

An angel heard him and decided to speak to him. As expected, the angel said: "Sorry, you can't take your wealth with you."

The man then begged and begged the angel to speak to God and see if an exception could be made for him (haha, you must be wondering how such a man could be a candidate for the Pearly Gates, but do suspend your unbelief...).

The angel decided to humour him, and lo and behold, the next day reappeared and told the man: "OK, God will allow you to carry one suitcase with you. Remember, just one suitcase and you can put anything in it."

Frail as he was, the ailing man got up and, struggling, filled his suitcase with all the goldbars he could find, figuring that these would be more useful than other valuables or money.

Then he died with a smile on his face.

He next found himself at the Pearly Gates, with Saint Peter looking quizzically at him and his bag. "You can't take that into Heaven," the saint snapped.

The man smugly explained that he had permission. Saint Peter got on the line to God, then a surprised look appeared on his face before he spoke again: "OK, you are allowed to bring your bag in. But may I see what's inside?"

"Sure," was the triumphant reply.

Saint Peter opened the bag, curious to see what worldly items were deemed so precious in, of all places, Heaven. When he saw the goldbars, he burst out laughing. Some angels nearby came over and they too burst into peals of laughter.

You brought pavement!" Saint Peter said to the man.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Charlie meets Viper, part 2, and Coffee Luwak, part 2

The earlier artist's drawing (on Thursday) showed Charlie and Viper meeting up. Now, they are happily flying together!




Meanwhile, in response to my posting yesterday on Coffee Luwak, Nick sent me a YouTube clip that refers to Coffee Luwak. It features a dialogue scene (from the movie "The Bucket List") between Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVJqwCdzZnw

Here's another clip that shows what the Luwak civet cat looks like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJgsNIj1HWw&NR=1&feature=fvwp

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coffee Luwak... $30 a poop, I mean $30 a pop...

Three of the coffee drinkers in the family decided it was a good a time as any to try it... Coffee Luwak, that is. So, off we trooped to Blue Mountain Cafe in 313 Somerset.

Coffee Luwak comes from arabica or robusta beans that are, er, expelled from civet cats that eat them, then treated and cleansed at high temperature before roasting. It is said to be smooth and refreshing and it leaves no bitter aftertaste. Connoiseurs drink it without sugar and milk (Heaven forbids the latter!).

Here's some info about this exotic coffee:

http://coffeetea.about.com/cs/kindsofcoffee/a/aakopiluwak.htm

How did it taste? I wonder if the fact that each cup cost $26.90 a cup (before the plus/plus) affected our judgment but all three agreed that it was very nice and smooth. Angie and I felt there was no aftertaste, as advertised, but Liane detected a slight aftertaste and that it even had a certain similar aromatic resemblance to kopi tiam coffee. All three agreed it would be nice to try it again -- but only if someone else paid for it!

Here's a pic:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Charlie met Viper...

They say a picture says a thousand words. Here it is (see yesterday's posting)...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fly united!

My younger daughter Lynn got married today. It was a small cosy function in the Capella hotel on Sentosa, attended by family members and close friends. Together, Lynn and I walked down the steps to the patio, where the groom Michael, his best man and the Justice of the Peace were waiting.

This was the second time I made a wedding speech. My elder daughter Liane got married to Chee Khoon eight years ago. That speech reminded the couple that a man is incomplete until he is married. Then he is finished!

But I had next told them "finished" should be taken to mean "made complete" -- not the clever play on words in actress Zsa Zsa Gabor's famous quotation.

Part of my speech today (Lynn's wedding) was based on what I had posted yesterday. You can guess what Lynn and Michael do from that posting. I had thought of titling the speech "When Charlie met Viper" but that did not sound right, although those in their vocations will know it is apt -- and a compliment to their professional work and skills.

Everyone present agreed the newly weds are a lovely couple... and, as one airline ad once put it, "Fly United!" Yes! Congrats and all the best, Lynn and Michael, from the happy father of the bride.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rules of flying, and then some!

1) Takeoffs are optional. Landing is mandatory.
2) Try to keep the number of your landings equal to the number of your takeoffs
3) Flying is not dangerous; crashing is.
4) There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots; but there are no old, bold pilots.
5) A pilot is a confused soul who talks about women when he is flying; and talks about flying when he is with a woman.
6) Arguing with a pilot is like wrestling with a pig in the mud; after a while, you begin to think the pig likes it.
7) Any pilot who does not consider himself or herself the best in the business is in the wrong business.
8) Flight leader: Bandit at 10 o'clock, six clicks
    Wingman: Give me another hint. I wear a digital watch.
9) Flight leader: Bandit at 2 o'clock.
    Wingman: Roger, it's now 1.30. What shall I do till then?
10) If you have a friend named Jack, never greet him inside the airplane with these words: "Hi, Jack!"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tales of funny (peculiar, not ha-ha) bus drivers...

It started with a letter by a reader to The Straits Times suggesting that some ability to speak and understand simple English should be made part of the criteria for the issuing of work-permit passes to foreigners employed in the service sector.

He was lamenting the "lost in translation" problems many Singaporeans faced when service staff they encountered could not even use simple, basic English. To make matters worse, there were such service crew who, instead of doing their best to understand the customer's requests, acted rudely.

A series of letters then appeared in The Sunday Times, with the following accounts of the non-English speaking and/or rude bus driver from Hell:

The first of the Sunday Times readers said she was on bus service 190 when outside Tangs (on Scotts Road), a Caucasian tourist couple asked the driver whether it was going to Rendezvous Hotel (on Bras Basah Road).

The driver did not reply but used his hand to wave a “no”. The reader happened to be sitting just behind the driver. She was obviously familiar with service 190's route and was in fact going to that same hotel!

So she tried to help as she thought maybe the driver could not make out their strong foreign accent. She said “yes”. The couple were hesitant, wondering who was right. Not wanting to be misunderstood, they then asked aloud: “What about Bras Basah Road?”

Again the driver spoke not a word but gestured a “no”.

The reader firmly said “yes” again.

The couple looked confused, then finally the man said to the reader, “I believe you.”

At that point, she could not help laughing because she felt anyone else would have believed the bus driver rather than a commuter. When she alighted at the hotel bus stop -- together with the couple -- the driver gave her a hard stare.

The couple came over to thank her with a handshake. The reader ended her letter with this point: "I think a little English goes a long way."

The following Sunday, another reader, a Malay man, wrote in with what he said was "a similar story to share".

He said after he got onto a service 89 bus, a young Malay boy walked up the aisle to the bus driver, who was a female Chinese. He then asked her if the bus was going to the beach. She did not answer and the reader guessed that she did not speak much English.

The boy, upon also realising that the bus driver did not respond much because she could not understand him, tried his very best to refer to the beach by showing hand gestures of swimming.

But she never did, and eventually, exasperated, he went back to his seat not knowing if the bus would get to the destination that he wanted.

This reader graciously concluded his letter: "I do not blame the bus driver for she came down here to Singapore from her home country to eke out a living, and everyone deserves a chance to. But I do hope that English skills are made a work-permit criterion to avoid such situations in the future. It is ironic too in this case, that a Singaporean himself feels exasperated and lost in translation in his own country."

Another non-Chinese reader then chipped in with her observation. She felt that many bus drivers from China are unable to speak English and she had have experienced similar problems as the earlier examples on many occasions. "The drivers should be sent for English classes, and bus operators should make English-speaking skills one of the criteria for hiring," she said.

Finally, there is this letter by a presumably Caucasian bus rider, a Mr Morton:

"On July 16, just after 7pm, my wife and sister were on service 222 when it was involved in an accident with a car at the crossroads of New Upper Changi Road, Bedok North Avenue 1 and Bedok South Road.

"When the accident happened, the bus driver, instead of checking to see if any of the passengers had been injured, called his company first. After the call, he simply opened the bus doors to let the passengers out, again without checking if anyone had suffered any injury.

"All the passengers were left stranded at the crossroads to fend for themselves.
"Meanwhile, the driver got out of the bus to exchange particulars with the driver of the car that was involved in the accident. After that, he got back into the bus and drove off.

"Eventually, the passengers made their way to the Bedok bus interchange to continue their journey, incurring additional costs, as they had already paid for the previous bus ride.

"The bus driver spoke only in Mandarin, showed no concern for his passengers and then just left them at the side of the road. Are bus passengers expected to pay more for this kind of service?"

--------------------------------------

I'll end with a bus-related Hokkien joke. I had used it in a much earlier posting but it seems so apt, in a perverse way, that I'll rehash it:

Back in the days of Singapore Traction Company (STC), Green Bus Company, Tay Koh Yat Bus Company, etc, one STC service's route included Holland Road. A Caucasian got on board at some point and spoke to the bus conductor (yes, those were the days when there was such a person whose job -- his strange title notwithstanding -- was to punch tickets and shout at people who clogged up the entrance or exit). The Caucasian man asked him to alert him when the bus reached Holland Road, his destination.

But the bus had become crowded way before it got to Holland Road. People were blocking the exit, making it hard for others to get down at one stop. So, the bus conductor did his job, and shouted "Ho lang lok! ho lang lok!" (Hokkien for "Make way, let people through!")

You guessed it... the Caucasian got down.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend chillout

It's the weekend, so chill out and enjoy this video! It's titled "Silent Monks Singing Halleluia". Set it in full screen mode:

<http://voxvocispublicus.homestead.com/Index.html>

But if you prefer something "chillier", as in apparitions on the former KTM railway tracks, read this story, which has an interesting picture:

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/ghostly-couple-spotted-on-defunct-railroad/id-acdd3c00

Friday, July 22, 2011

Snarling tigress (Ms Wendi Deng), crouching dragon (China)

The Wendi Deng saga continues...

Some people have already coined a new verb, "I'll Wendi you!".

Rap mogul Russell Simmons said in a comment on Twitter that Ms Deng "told me last week she had to go to London to take care of her man... now I know what she meant". And former CBS news anchor Katie Couric tweeted that Ms Deng has given a "whole new meaning to the term tiger mother".

But it now turns out that while the media has been mesmerised by Ms Deng's Snarling Tiger, Smack Down manoeuvre, another woman was in fact the first to jump into action. Ms Janet Nova, 46, interim group general counsel of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire, had leapt to her feet as the shaving foam wielding attacker approached Mr Murdoch.

Ms Nova used her iPad (wah, it doubles as an iShield!) to block the man. That action gave Ms Deng time to reach over Ms Nova, swing her arm and deliver that now-famous sharp punch on Mr Marbles, who we are now told is a comedian (apart from being a Labour Party member).

I'll wrap up this posting with a brief note on the Crouching Dragon, aka China, which is clearly unamused and very jittery over the US' continued mismanagement of its economy and financial affairs. As they say, if A owes C a hundred bucks, and A is going broke, A is the nervous party because C might just pull the plug and get an order to have A's assets seized. But if A owes C a million bucks and does not have much by way of assets left anyway, then it is C who is jittery, very jittery. Well, A is America here and C is China, and C is holding some US$1.2 trillion in US Treasury bonds.

For more on this black comedic playbook, read Bloomberg View columnist William Pesek's piece "Joke is on China as AAA rating for US becomes laughable" (TODAY, 21 July, page 18). Here's the link:

http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC110721-0000023/Joke-is-on-China-as-AAA-rating-for-US-becomes-laughable

Finally, for a spoof piece on this topic by the rightwing US newspaper The Washington Times, see

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/20/the-national-debt-papers/

Methinks China right now is wishing it could tell the US, "I'll Wendi you!"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An awful Tiger woman here, and an awesome Tiger woman in London

Many netizens are talking admiringly about one helluva Tiger woman. I'm referring of course to Wendi Deng, the wife of media baron Rupert Murdoch.

But first, there's this STOMP story which insing.com carried, about a different kind of Tiger woman -- someone who, if the story is true, should be ashamed of herself.

A 62-year-old woman,  although burdened with shopping bags, had to stand until she eventually got a seat on the train. When an elderly man got on board, she asked a young woman who was in the priority seat for people who need them, to give up her seat to the old man.

When she refused to do so, the older woman used her phone camera to take pictures of the young woman, who was with a young man. That was when the young woman threatened her.

I should reiterate that the "citizen journalism" account here gives only the older woman's side of the story and is unverified.

But assuming it is true, the couple then reportedly followed the now frightened woman when she exited the train and this time, both the man and the woman harassed her. Still, she managed to get into a taxi.

When she got back home, she called the train operator's control station. Amazingly, the man who answered her call reportedly said: "I am new and I just took over the shift. Please call again tomorrow as I do not want to get involved in this matter." This guy is no alpha male or beta male (see yesterday's posting)... he's simply lost his marbles!

Here's the link to the story:

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/couple-abuse-old-lady-at-mrt-station/id-a2973c00

Okay, now for Wendi Deng aka Tiger Mother, aka Smack Down Sister, aka Wonder Woman, aka China's Charlie's Angel. etc, etc...

The 42-year-old Guangzhou-born third wife of 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch is now an Internet sensation, after she lightning-fast got up and tackled a man who had tried to smear some shaving foam on the face of her husband, who was attending an inquiry hearing in the British Parliament. She not only foiled the attacker Jon May-bowles -- who also calls himself Jonnie Marbles -- but she managed to turn the tables and saw to it that Marbles too was smeared with the foam!

Reports say that Deng has been dubbed "Smack Down Sister" in China's cyberspace -- she is now one of the hottest topics on the country's Twitter-like service Weibo. "When you marry, you should marry a Chinese woman. In times of danger, she will act," crowed one Chinese netizen. Even the Taiwanese were impressed. One video mashup had Deng transforming into a Tigress as she hovered over the hapless Marbles.

There are now many links about her on the Net. Here's one:

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/184532/20110721/wendi-deng-murdoch-ninja-slap-jonnie-marbles-rupert-murdoch-video.htm

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being top dog... the pros and cons (if you are a baboon, that is)!

Yesterday was the day of the dog; today is the day of the baboon -- specifically, the top of the heap No 1 alpha baboon versus the less domineering beta baboon, the No 2.

In an earlier posting, I referred to a study comparing bosses who value integrity versus bosses who want to be seen as powerful -- the classic "better to be loved or better to be feared" poser.

Well, another study -- as reported in the New York Times and Daily Telegraph -- now suggests that the stress levels of  alpha male baboons are typically high due to the effort of maintaining their lofty position rather than the weight of responsibility, compared to the beta male baboons in the troop; and that humans may want to make similar studies about human top honchos and less power-hungry leaders.

Princeton University evolutionary biologist Laurence Gesquiere and his colleagues studied five troops of wild baboons in Kenya over nine years. They found that the alpha males showed very high stress levels (to be fair, so did the lowest-ranking males!).

But it is the beta male, or No 2, in the baboon troop who has the best deal. Okay, as the NYT article depicts it, the term beta male has "become an almost derisive label for the nice guy, the good boy all grown up, the husband women look for after their fling with Russell Crowe".
Meanwhile, the top dog -- the top baboon here -- is all stressed out because of the demands of fighting off challengers and guarding access to fertile females. "Beta males, who fought less and had considerably less mate guarding to do, had much lower stress levels. They had fewer mating opportunities than the alphas, but they did get some mating in, more than any lower-ranking males. After all, when the alpha gets into another baboon bar fight, who’s going to take the girl home?" the NYT piece concluded. 
[The Princeton study was restricted to male baboons because, it was claimed, the female baboons had a different system of rank, which is inherited from the mother and rarely subject to challenge, so that is one kind of stress they do not have.]
And how did the researchers measure the baboon males' stress levels? They collected poo samples to measure levels of stress hormones called glucocorticoids. So you see, you are what you poo! 
One academic who was not part of the research team, found the paper exciting. It showed that “the males at the top are under a lot of stress, and there’s a cost”, he said. 
Moreover, being No 1 for a long time without the luxury of relaxing one's guard takes a heavier toll. Chronic long-term high levels of stress hormones can increase the risks of disease or worsen existing diseases.
Finally, while the researchers say the new study does not have a direct application to human health or social structure, they say it raises questions about possible unstudied costs of being at the top. They also suspect that the beta males have the best deal -- hanging around and doing “pretty well for a long time, rather than very well for a short time”.

Professor Jeanne Altmann, who runs the laboratory in Princeton, said: "Our results points to the need for research that will identify and evaluate the specific costs and benefits of various status positions, in various species, types of organisations and groups, and under different ecological conditions."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Every dog has its day, even if it's a 'ruff' day

Last Thursday, I highlighted a wacky idea of Hitler's to programme dogs to talk like humans. It was from an article, "Hitler's Talking Dogs", by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Here are a few more wacky snippets from Dowd's piece, starting with a bit more on the talking dogs saga:

-- The British researcher who discovered the evidence of Nazi attempts to get dogs to talk found a 1943 Nazi magazine piece about the headmistress of a canine school, a Frau Schmitt, who claimed that some of the dogs spoke a few words. “At a Nazi study course, a talking dog was once asked ‘Who is Adolf Hitler?’ and it replied ‘Mein F├╝hrer!”
-- Meanwhile, British author Graeme Donald, while researching a military book, stumbled across a story that Hitler was so worried about German soldiers getting sexual diseases from hookers in occupied France that he cooked up a plan for soldiers to carry small blow-up blond, blue-eyed dolls called “gynoids” in their backpacks to use as sex “comforters.” Some 50 dolls were initially ordered but the soldiers were too embarrassed to carry them. “In the end the idea fizzled out,” Donald said.
-- Back to "barking mad" Hitler. Nazi propaganda dwelled on Hitler as a dog lover. He owned two German shepherds named Bella and Blondi. He tested a cyanide capsule on Blondi and killed her just before he committed suicide [Dog lover? My foot!].
-- Finally, it seems that Hitler and his Nazi sycophants were not the only wartime Germans who held the belief in the potential of super-intelligent animals. An Airedale terrier named Rolf was considered one of the leading German intellectuals of the time. Rolf’s owner said she taught him his own alphabet with a system of taps of his paw on a board and, as quoted by the dog-stories researcher, “he successfully dabbled in mathematics, ethics, religion and philosophy.”
[Paw-note: My daughter Lynn tried to name our mini schauzner Dr Schmitt, when he was a newly acquired puppy seven years ago. But he refused to answer to that name (schmutt dog, I must say). One day, frustrated that he had yet to imbibe Doggy Toilet Training 101, she scolded him "You Killer!" He came running towards her. And that was how he got the name Killer.
Anyway, inspired by the stories above, I'm trying to get Killer to talk. Already, when I ask  him "How's your day?", he answers: "Ruff, ruff!" (so far that only works when I just got home, and he's at the door). I'll teach him Hokkien next, and let him tell the Hokkien jokes.]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mr Zhu Min -- China's man to say the Emperor wears no clothes?

In October 2008, soon after the Lehman collapse that threw the world into a financial and economic crisis which also saw Singaporeans hit by a structured deposits debacle, I wrote an article (link below) about the so-called City boys -- bright young analysts and traders who worked for big investment banks in the City of London.

http://www.asiaone.com/Business/News/Story/A1Story20081006-91922.html

Egged on by a bonus culture and pampered by expenses-paid high living, they -- and their counterparts on Wall Street and other financial hubs -- created and sold high-risk products that they knew would eventually be unsustainable when the gravy train stopped, as it did from 15 Sept, 2008, starting with the Wall Street and London crashes triggered by the sub-prime crisis in the US. The crisis reverberated around the world.

It was a make-believe world in which low interest rates and easy credit worldwide, with plenty of money sloshing around, played no small role.

But -- fast forward to today -- has the world learnt its lesson? Nope, says the respected British economist, journalist and broadcaster Liam Halligan. With his eye on the current US government debt crisis and the Eurozone crisis, he lays a great deal of blame on what he dubbed the irresponsible "conventional Western wisdom" and the part played by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in ignoring the wiser counsel of experts from the "emerging markets" such as China against debt securitisation at all costs.

The West -- despite its increasingly dismal record -- knew everything there was to know about global finances and economics, so who are these upstart emerging economies -- despite their trade surpluses and prudent financial and fiscal policies -- to tell us how to run the world, so to speak.

In short, to use my own analogy, it was a classic case of The Emperor Wears No Clothes. Well, the Emperor is still stark naked, but the IMF now has a little boy to point that out... in the person of Mr Zhu Min, the Fund's new deputy managing director. High hopes are being pinned on Mr Zhu, who was the Deputy Governor of the People's Bank of China, to insist on reforms at the IMF. Such reforms are critical to set the stage to jump-start an overhaul of the sick global financial and fiscal infrastructures.

Mr Halligan's commentary, "We should have listened to him years ago," has been published in TODAY (18 July):

http://www.todayonline.com/Commentary/EDC110718-0000024/We-should-have-listened-to-him-years-ago

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ang Mo Kio means 'tomatoes' in Hokkien? Plus a Hokkien joke...

PM Lee, officiating at a heritage event today in his Ang Mo Kio (AMK) constituency, mused about how the AMK name came about. Here's what he said:

"Until the early part of the 20th Century, it used to be called 'Ang Mo Kiah'... not quite sure what it means but Ang Mo Kio in Hokkien means tomatoes, so Seng Han Thong (an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC) has made tomatoes the logo for his corner of Ang Mio Kio, but in fact there were no tomatoes in Ang Mo Kio."

Indeed! Why would our early pioneers name a place after tomatoes?? So, is the name -- in Hokkien -- a reference to "Caucasian's bridge" since "ang mo" is a colloquial shorthand for Caucasians (red-hirsute people) and "kio" is a bridge"?

Makes sense? How about the "ang mo" part being a reference to the abundant local rambutan fruit (red-haired fruit). So, combining the two parts, Ang Mo Kio would be "the location near the bridge where you can find lots of rambutan fruit'?

Wikipedia has a more detailed explanation, but the website adds the disclaimer that the information provided has no references to authenticate it. Still, it includes an interesting legend of how an Ang Mo woman (Lady Jennifer Windsor) in colonial times, pined for her missing little girl who was playing near the said bridge. The woman kept vigil there every day until her own death. Locals said the little girl's eerie voice could be heard during that vigil and it only ended when the woman died.

Here's the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ang_Mo_Kio

But how did the other term, "Ang Mo Kiah" come about? Again, in Hokkien, it seems to mean "Young Caucasian". One online forum thread has this speculation: that the civil engineer John Turnbull Thomson (major roads here have been named after him) designed and built the said bridge when he a young man fresh from Britain. He must have fussed over the bridge, which led to locals coming up with the Ang Mo Kio name!

Wah, so much ado about a place with a mystic name. Just like Mona Lisa.

How about a what I call "Follow Instructions" Hokkien joke to wrap up?

Ah Heng was pot-bellied and way too overweight, so his doctor puts him on a diet.

"On the first two days, eat regularly, then skip a day, and repeat this procedure for two weeks. You should be able to lose at least two kilos."

Two weeks later, Ah Heng returns, and the doctor is shocked to find his patient now a much skinnier man, having lost 27 kilos!

"That's amazing!' the doctor said, "You did all that by following my instructions?"

Ah Heng replies: "Wah ka lu kong, chng jiak lat. Teh sar jit, wah oo ai see liaw. Nng lay pai arh ni kwan, wah chuan kar bway tah han."

[Translation: I tell you, very tough, man. On the third day, I nearly died. I kept at it for these two weeks, but I was really tired, like crazy, man.]

The doctor was mystified by now. "Tired from the hunger?"

Now visibly irritated, Ah Heng burst out: "(Insert Hokkien expletive here)... from the f---king skipping, lah!"

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Road rage? And rail rage as well.

I like the editors of insing.com. They got emotionally involved with this story below, "Singaporeans outraged by public transport standards," triggered by proposed transport fare hikes.

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/singaporeans-outraged-by-public-transport-standards/id-58213c00

Here's the last paragraph of the story: "InSing editors are shocked and aghast at the standards of public transport in Singapore (we take public transport too!). We can't help but wonder if our public transport is indeed "world class" and befitting a first world country. Can Singaporeans afford to waste an hour waiting for a bus or train in our hectic lifestyles (sic)?"

Wow! Read the readers' comments too.

[It's a short posting today... came back late and tired from work.]  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Geylang saga takes a twist, and it's now raining EP wannabes by the Tans

The Geylang Checker saga continues...

Now the founder says she has received death threats. In the mypaper story (link below), she also recounts how one woman volunteer was chased by men in an alley and had her camera smashed when cornered. The police arrived just in time, and the men fled. Also, an army guy has answered her recruitment ad (see my posting yesterday) and Geylang Checker now has expertise in "guerrilla tactics"!

http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20110715-289242.html

-------------------------------------

One piece of news today that caused a buzz is opposition figure Tan Jee Say quitting the SDP so as to run for the Elected Presidency (EP). He is the 4th Tan to seek the $4-million job. But he says, among the four Tans, he alone has absolutely no past association with the ruling PAP.

Wah, is this EP contest about being how independent from the PAP a candidate should be? It's gonna be a strange election -- and electioneering ahead.

But I wish long-time business honcho and distinguished public figure Baey Lian Peck would stand (He is not). He has said the most sensible remark so far by a private individual on public service. The intro in an ST report yesterday, "Chronicles of a public service pioneer" (ST, 14 July, page A10), said:

The man who has spent 60 years as chairman of various boards here lives by one rule: If he is to take on a public service appointment, he will do it gratis. [Mr] Baey Lian Peck, 80, believes that not being bound by fee or salary means he is free to speak his mind, set it to the task at hand, and not be treated like a civil servant or employee.

Spot on, Mr Baey. Sure you won't run?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today is World Wacky Day!

I wanted to declare today Wacky World Day, since there's a rash of wacky items (below) to highlight, but a quick Google search showed up a Wacky World Daycare Center, in Nipomo, California. Only in America!

So, it's World Wacky Day.

Exhibit One: Guys, are you expert enough for these jobs?
I don't know how serious is that website "Geylang Checker" (see my posting on 11 July), but its job descriptions for certain men-only positions it wants to fill are wacky, to say the least [note: grammatical errors left uncorrected]...

Male Consultants Role Classifications
Hi, due to overwhelming Male Consultants enrolment. We have decided to classify the roles as follow with the JD (Job Description):

Geylang Domain Expert (GDE)
-- A person whom have vast experiences with the sex trade in Geylang
-- Know the streets layout of Geylang in and out
-- Know where are the different nationalities of girls found in Geylang

Guerrilla Warfare Expert (GWE)
-- A person whom have vast experiences with guerrilla operation
-- Strong in decoy deployment
-- Strong in escape route planning
-- Strong in defensive warfare

Guys Heart Expert (GHE)
-- Knows the cheating mentality of Singaporean guys well
-- Can be a cheater himself but willing to repent
-- Share all the tricks for cheating
-- Share counter actions for cheating
-- Share signs of cheating of men
-- Reveal the secrets thinking of men
-- Strong psychology understanding of men

Please do email [the website] for enrolment. Please specify the single role or multiple roles that you can take up.

Exhibit Two: A rash of wacky stories from insing.com
This first one, from Russia, is about a karate black belt woman who foiled a would-be burglar at her hair salon, then tied him up and -- get this! -- fed him Viagra so she can make him her sex toy for the next few days. When eventually freed, he went straight (maybe staggered?) to the incredulous cops. Both perpetrator and "perpetratored" were arrested.

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/robber-becomes-sex-slave/id-29f23b00

The next one is a Bobbitt, version two. I don't think I need to elaborate, except to point out that she was very thorough, putting "it" into the sink's electric disposal unit, then switching the machine on.

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/woman-cuts-off-husband-s-penis/id-43f23b00

Coming up here next is a possible movie about Mr Lee Kuan Yew, to be titled "1965". Why is it wacky? Because the write-up speculates that the three possible stars being sussed out are Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Julianne Moore. Hmm, actors can do anything, I guess... even develop an Adam's Apple?

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/tony-leung-may-be-lee-kuan-yew-in-new-movie/id-b0f23b00

Last one from insing.com. This woman claimed she didn't swallow...

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/taxi-driver-hurls-abuse-at-woman/id-19f23b00

Exhibit three: Hitler's talking dogs
The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has written a very funny piece about the wacky side of Adolf Hitler. I'll just highlight one paragraph here...

"A new book, Amazing Dogs, by Dr. Jan Bondeson, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University School of Medicine in Wales, reveals that Hitler supported a German school that tried to teach large, muscular mastiffs to "talk" to humans. This story set off a panting spate of "Heel Hitler," "Furred Reich," "Wooffan SS" and "Arf Wiedersehen" headlines in British tabloids and plenty of claims that Hitler was "barking mad".

That's all, folks!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Soccer breakthrough... it's FAM-FAS-tic! And what's a boss spelt backwards?

Here's wishing all the best to the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in sealing their deal (initially for four years) to bring Singapore back into the Malaysia Cup circuit from next year. It has been 17 years in the wilderness, during which soccer here languished.

As TODAY (13 July, page 1) noted: "The MOU between the FAS and the FAM comes amid a breakthrough in bilateral relations which was first set in motion in May last year after a meeting between [PMs] Lee Hsien Loong and... Najib Razak.

As FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said: "With this move, we hope to relive the glory days."

Singapore withdrew from the Malaysia Cup in 1995. It won the inaugural tournament (then known as the Malaya Cup) in 1921, by beating Selangor 2-1.

----------------------------------------

Q: What is "boss" spelt backwards?
A: Double SOB!

That is an old joke. What's new is a recent study that provides evidence that fair (and presumably nice) bosses don't get as far as ruthlessly power-hungry (and presumably nasty) bosses. Read the article "Why fair bosses fall behind" in:

http://hbr.org/2011/07/why-fair-bosses-fall-behind/ar/1

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'Babies are my specialty, ma'am'

The Tans were unable to conceive children and, in desperation, decided on the services of a surrogate father to start their family.

On the day the proxy father was to arrive, Mr Tan decided he had best not be home, kissed his wife goodbye and said, "I'm off now. The man should be here soon."

Half an hour later, purely by chance, a door-to-door baby photographer happened to ring the doorbell, hoping to make a sale. "Good morning, Ma'am," he said, "I've come to..."

"Oh, no need to explain," Mrs Tan cut in, embarrassed, "I've been expecting you."

"You have?" said the puzzled photographer. "That's good. Did you know babies are my specialty?"

"Well that's what my husband and I had hoped. Please come in and have a seat."

After a moment she asked, blushing, "Well, where do we start?"

"Leave everything to me, Ma'am. I usually try two in the bathtub, one on the couch, and perhaps a couple on the bed. And sometimes the living room floor is fun. You can really spread out there."

"Bathtub, living room floor? No wonder it didn't work out for Leng and me!"

"Well, Ma'am, none of us can guarantee a good one every time. But if we try several different positions and I shoot from six or seven angles, I'm sure you'll be pleased with the results."

"My, that's a lot!" gasped Mrs Tan.

"Ma'am, in my line of work, a man has to take his time. If I'm in and out within five minutes, I'm sure you'd be disappointed with me."

"Don't I know it," said Mrs Tan to herself quietly.

The photographer opened his briefcase and pulled out a portfolio of his baby pictures. "This was done on the top of a bus," he grinned smugly.

"Oh, my God!' Mrs Tan exclaimed, grasping at her throat.

"And these twins turned out exceptionally well, when you consider that their mother was so difficult to work with."

"She was difficult?" asked Mrs Tan, now bursting with curiosity.

"Yes, I'm afraid so. I finally had to take her to the park to get the job done right. People were crowding around four and five deep to get a good look."

"Four and five deep?" said Mrs Tan, her eyes wide with amazement.

"Yes," the photographer replied. "And for more than three hours, too. The mother was constantly squealing and yelling... I could hardly concentrate, and when darkness approached, I had to rush my shots. Finally, when the birds began pecking on my equipment, I just had to pack it all in."

Mrs Tan leaned forward, and whispered, "Do you mean they actually pecked on your, uh...equipment?"

"It's true, Ma'am, yes.. Well, if you're ready, I'll set up my tripod and we can get to work right away."

"Tripod?"

"Oh yes, Ma'am. I need to use a tripod to rest my Canon on. It's much too big to be held in the hand for too long."

Mrs Tan fainted.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Caught red(light-district)-handed!

SingTel Digital Media's website insing.com really comes up with, um. interesting stories. Since sex sells, I don't think I need to comment much about the story below, on a blog website called "Geylang Checker".
 
http://news.insing.com/tabloid/women-set-up-website-to-catch-men-in-geylang/id-18ad3b00

The actual website is here:

http://geylangchecker.blogspot.com/

The founders of the site are recruiting! The women must, among other qualities, be daring, calm, have "willingness and passion", and work day and night shifts. Oh, male consultants are needed too.

Do read too the really funny response by one guy who wrote in. It is titled "Challenge issued by a guy".

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tang's for the memory

In my posting titled "Historical Hokkien" last year (19 Nov), there was a claim by some anonymous source that Hokkien is the surviving language of the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), China's Golden Age of Culture.

The email I received further claimed that Hokkiens are the surviving descendants of the Tang Dynasty, and that when the dynasty collapsed, the people of the Tang Dynasty fled South and sought refuge in the Hokkien (Fujian) province. Hence, Hokkien called themselves Tng-lang (Tang Ren or People of the Tang Dynasty) instead of Hua Lang (Hua Ren).

Now, Sunday Times reader Perry Lee has put his spotlight on the Tang Dynasty legacy.

In his letter "Why the Cantonese call themselves Tang people" today (10 Nov), he gave his take on why the Cantonese -- and other southern Chinese -- call themselves “Tang people”. He says:

"The northern Chinese call themselves “Han” as it was the Han Dynasty which brought stability and prosperity in a long period of about 400 years. Inheriting a united northern China by the barbaric Chin Dynasty, all northern Chinese were united and hence the cohesive name of Han stuck.

"In the south, it was a different story. While the Han Dynasty did conquer parts of the south, it was basically not sinicised – people there were still of various “aboriginal” roots. Chinese culture was enforced but could not take root due to the tumultuous aftermath of the Han Dynasty. A period of unrest and war – the Three Kingdoms’ rivalry, East and West Chin Dynasties and Six Kingdoms eras – was not conducive to sinicisation.

"It was only during the Tang Dynasty that Chinese culture took root in the south and people there considered themselves “true” Chinese. Hence, not only the Cantonese but also the Hokkiens, Teochews and Hainanese call themselves Tang people to this day, as opposed to Han in the north."

---------------------------------

Hmm, if some Americans today still persist in referring to a "Yankee North" and a "Dixie South", I wonder if there is a similar sublime Mason/Dixon Line-like undercurrent in China?

Maybe the divide is reflected in something more basic: wheat (suitable for northern climes) and rice (grown abundantly in the south). So, do the northerners, among themselves, refer to the southerns as rice-eaters while the southerners riposte by calling the northerners wheat-eaters? Hokkiens, incidentally, do have this expression, "png tang" (rice bin) when referring to someone who must have rice to accompany his or her meal.

That's my food for thought for today.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Close encounter of the turd kind? And what it means to be really pissed off.

I'll start today's posting with a gross pic, from the news section of SingTel Digital Media's insing.com  website:



Just as it happened to me yesterday, I don't seem to be able to pull in the weblink to this story. Anyway, the loo-natic woman in this pic is "planking".

First, there was "flash mobbing" using cellphones. Now, there's planking, in which people with nothing better to do (what we Hokkiens call "jiak pah siew eng") think up all sorts of stunts that require them to be in a sort of prone position. The stunts are then posted on the Net, Facebook, etc. Some may, say, lie down on a moving escalator. But some other bizarre stunts have led to deaths. Sad.

I suppose the woman in the pic did not find the usual mudpack beauty treatment working for her, so she thought a royal flush might work. Just don't go near her. Her breath will take your breath away!

Moving away from this shitty item is another strange story -- about an unusual kind of "mile high" behaviour:

An AFP wire story tells of what the 21-year-old son of New Zealand’s national netball coach did when he got drunk while on a budget airline flight from Auckland to Singapore.

He started to pee in the airplane's aisle, splashing other passengers in the process. What's just as strange was the cabin crew's behaviour as well.

The mother of the culprit apologised on his behalf but added that her son had no memory of the incident. Let off by police with just a warning, he has meanwhile been dubbed “The Urinator” by the New Zealand media.

The airline initially defended the cabin crew’s actions (or lack thereof) but has since admitted that they should have taken stronger action. One passenger said he was watching a movie when he realised there was urine spraying on his jacket and laptop, as well as the scarf of a female passenger.

When he appealed for help, the cabin crew told him to wait until they had finished serving people, then refused to relocate him to another seat. “For the rest of the flight, no one came to ask if I needed anything,” he told one Kiwi newspaper. Boy, I'm sure he was really, really, pissed off.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Home loans -- it's the banks that laugh all the way to the bank

At last, someone is saying it: the real gremlin to beware of in the current private property boom are the low interest rates that banks dish out.

Property consultant Colin Tan, writing in TODAY's Property 2011 supplement (8 July, page 10), says in his commentary:

"... what drives our market today is not simply demand and supply but interest rates -- or the cost of money -- as well. Increasingly, the market may continue to rise or correct just on interest rates alone -- neither supply, nor demand.

"But you may ask: what is the big deal about interest rates?"

Here's his Cassandra-like warning:

"In property-obsessed Singapore, many buyers take a short-sighted view: Future problems are tomorrow's problems. Let us focus on today; who know what will happen tomorrow? Prices may shoot up and I can just re-sell my property for a tidy profit."

He goes on to say that interest rates can, and will, rise -- even sharply -- citing recent historical evidence. That's when servicing the loans can become a nightmare, such as happened in end-2007/start of 2008.

"Many multiple-property investors and speculators then were having sleepless nights. For those living at the edge or those highly geared, one by one, the properties went until they were left with just the roof over their heads.

"Out went the luxuries, the fancy cars, the club memberships and so on. The super rich or those with lots of cash reserves were not affected as the spike did not last too long but it was a painful lesson for those whom I can only describe as people who are not there yet, but who aspire to be among the ranks of the rich. It is this group that I am most worried about."

[Note: I was unable to insert the link to the article here. Each time I tried, my laptop hanged. The article by Colin Tan, "Will history repeat itself?" can be Googled.]

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Excuses, excuses, excuses...

Excuse No 1
The Japanese reconstruction minister who had to quit his job because of offensive remarks he made to victims of the March earthquake and tsunami blamed his outbursts on his blood type.

"My blood's type B, which means I can be irritable and impetuous," Mr Ryu Matsumoto said.

It seems he was voicing a widespread Japanese belief that blood types correspond to various character traits. Many Japanese believe their blood type can foretell success in romance (oh no, that Bad Romance thingy again) and job match. A directory of Members of Parliament lists blood types, along with home towns and hobbies.

People with type B (Mr Matsumoto's) are believed to be stubborn, impulsive and cold. Embattled prime minister Naoto Kan is a blood type O -- believed to be sociable but flighty, able to easily start projects but then give them up just as fast.

I wonder what's a type A?

Could it be that, in that inscrutable land, type B is the so-called type A highly-strung personality and type A (blood type) is the laidback type B personality?

Excuse No 2
So, COE prices are up again, despite the already crazy levels. Each time that the media carry such reports, someone will provide some excuse. This time the causes are said to be "strong buying sentiments" and the launch of new cars. Yeah, right.

The real reasons are the irrational fears of car-buyers as well as their lack of understanding of how the COE bidding system works, which then leads to their total dependence on dealers to bid for the COEs. Plus, in the case of Category A cars (up to 1600cc), taxis are inexplicably included in this cateogory. In this latest round, COE prices shot up in this cateogory because a taxi company (bidders can see the bid figures in real time) threw in high bids in the closing minutes of the tender.

Which brings me to... You decide if the joke below qualifies as...

Excuse No 3
Two down-and-out non-believers pass a church with a sign that says: "$1,000 to anyone who converts!"

One of them goes inside. Hours pass. He finally emerges.

"I converted," he exclaims.

Did you get the thousand bucks, his friend eagerly asks.

"Is that all you think about?" he replies.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Move over, Bad Romance, it's Bad Gas that rocks!

I'll just squeeze a little bit more out of the water issue.

Singapore is on its way to becoming water-sufficient... by 2060. That year is significant; the following year (2061) is when the second water pact with KL ends.

Some 50 per cent of our needs will by then come from Newater (reclaimed water, mostly from sewage), 30 per cent from desalination and 20 per cent from local catchment areas.

In terms of our bilateral relations with Malaysia, PM Lee has reiterated that Singapore continues to expect both sides to honour this second water pact till expiry, regardless of whether it has become technically feasible for us to ramp up our own production ("Drink less, pee more" campaign?).

But, short of a volatile government running KL in future, the strategic concern about the "external tap" being turned off in an act of hostility will become less and less intense here. That both sides have embraced Johor's mammoth Iskandar Region project is proof that cool head see the benefits of the synergy in economic interdependence.

There is another significance to that 2060 target of water self-sufficiency. The slogan "Every drop counts" will become even more telling. The entire national sewage system may have to be reconfigured, as would household pipings and plumbing. Just as we have to discipline ourselves to throw paper, glass and metal cans into the appropriate recycling bins, so have we to ensure all run-offs go into the right channels.

If you pee in the swimming pool, who knows, will some chemical dye mixed into the water finger you out? You emerge from the pool dyed purple or blue, looking like a Smurf. Someone will be on hand with a Corrective Work Order jacket waiting for you (plus the fine ticket, of course).

And, as a water expert said this week, even urine has become a precious resource -- not just for recycling as reclaimed water, but as fertiliser too! That papaya in your garden sures looks luscious and juicy. But, hey, it smells a little funny.

Imagine the water experts saying next... don't wipe off all that sweat. Wring it carefully into this bin here.
  
Recall, meanwhile, an earlier posting of mine which referred to a future possibility of recycling poo into processed food (my dog says "No big deal", he does that already... it's called coprophagia).

But look on the bright side. Singapore is becoming (if it is not already) a world leader in waste recyling technology, an exportable money-making knowhow. Hyflux's Olivia Lum is already laughing all the way to the bank.

So, is an expert in urine technology someone who has a Pee-hD?

Oh, there's one last untapped waste: fart. Is there a Singaporean entrepreneur out there who's already sniffing out the chance to make big bucks from our bad gas? (Lady Gaga's next song hit: Bad Gas?). Who knows, the expression "to raise a stink" may then take on a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The amazing WWII RAF pilot and hero Tan Kay Hai

Supermodel Heidi Klum can crack a joke! I was then mindlessly watching TV (on Channel 5, a kid's programme she hosts) waiting for The Noose to come on... Here's her joke:

Q: What did one frog say to the other?
A: How time's fun when we're having flies!

Regarding my posting yesterday, Nicholas wondered about what other surprising vignettes lurk within Singapore's military history. We already know the likes of World War II heroes like Lim Bo Seng (Force 136), Lieutenant Adnan Saidi (Battle of Opium Hill) and wartime volunteer nurse Elizabeth Choy.

Well, there's this amazing WWII RAF fighter pilot from Singapore, Wing Commander Tan Kay Hai. Not only was he a participant in the Battle of Britain, he was in the thick of the Normandy invasion. His aircraft was shot down and he was taken to a German POW camp.

And he escaped! Imagine a Chinese Peranakan face eluding all those Krauts before making his way back to Britain, where he was awarded a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross). Later, after the war, he commanded the then pre-independence Malayan Auxiliary Air Force (Singapore Wing). He died in 1991.

I understand that he was a car salesman when WWII broke out. He took up a challenge (a taunt, more likely) from an Ang Moh boss and signed up for pilot training in Canada. The rest is history.

So, hey, film maker Eric Khoo (or any other local film director), go make a damn good movie out of this amazing man's life story. For those keen to know more, here are some links:   

http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?5860-Flight-Lieutenant-K-H-Tan-DFC

http://www.ehangar.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=45&view=next

http://webspace.webring.com/people/rj/jica-aas/airforce/members.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MAAF_(Singapore_Wing)

Monday, July 4, 2011

We've come a long way, water-wise

The rookie engineer burst into the office of the senior engineer.

"Sir, we have a problem. The Colorado River will burst its banks and kill hundreds of people. We desperately need to find a solution now."

The old fella had a bad morning, having quarrelled with his wife at breakfast.

Obviously irritated by the intrusion, he shouted: "Dammit, you idiot!" But instead of being put off, the young man brightened up.

And that was how the Hoover Dam came to be built.

That's an old joke, But it's not a joke to learn in the newspapers this morning that Singapore now has two new reservoirs -- created by the damming of Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon. We now have 17 reservoirs.

It also means that this Little Red Dot has increased its water catchment areas from half to two-thirds of its land area. Wow! This relentless effort, plus technological breakthroughs in filtration and desalination have enabled us to lose no sleep when the first of two water agreements with Malaysia lapses next month.

When I was in school, geography lessons were simple when it came to our water resources.

Singapore has three reservoirs, the teacher would start. If you forget how to mark them from top to bottom on the map during tests or the exam, remember this: Singapore Prime Minister.

That's how we learned that the Seletar was topmost, Peirce [note the spelling!] was in the middle, and MacRitchie was southernmost. Apart from these three smallish reservoirs, all of our drinkable water came via the pipes from across the Causeway. No other catchment areas, period. The Singapore River? It was more the Slimeypour River in the Sixties.

Did you know that during Indonesia's Konfrontasi in the early Sixties, Sukarno sent his commandos to infiltrate the Kota Tinggi area in Johor -- one of the major sources of our water supply then? And that a section of our  soldiers -- from 2 SIR -- was wiped out by the enemy?

Read this fascinating account of the Kota Tinggi Incident from a fellow baby boomer:

http://goodmorningyesterday.blogspot.com/2008/05/ulu-pandan-heritage-trail-7-famous-kota.html

This week, the country -- now arguably a world leader in water technology -- marks the Singapore International Water Week. Yes, all things considered, we have come a long way in terms of our water security.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The 'Wait, wait, don't tell me' quiz

Try this quiz. The answers at least have a humorous slant...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/opinion/sunday/03wait.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212

I was curious about two words I came across today:

"Bespoke" -- custom-made/tailored-made to one's specifications. Hence, a bespoke tailor (the chap you go to for a tailor-made suit, as for example, when buying a men's suit off the rack is not an option) or a bespoke test paper, say, a test paper that can be varied to adjust for difficulty levels.

"One-trick pony" -- someone good at or skilled at only one thing. I know I have been making reference to equine analogies in recent postings but I don't suppose this phrase applies to any of them. But my attempts to find the etymology of the phrase was unsatisfying, save this one which I guess should be taken with a pinch of salt (or maybe a lump of sugar)...

Apparently, there was this circus whose only animal act was a pony (abuthen). And the animal's only trick was to play dead, which it wasn't very good at doing. The circus, I was led to believe, folded (I don't suppose it happened in a dramatic way, as in the Big Top crashing down).

-------------------------------------

Ok, serious stuff now. I posted earlier the concerns of two ST readers who discovered that unauthorised online transactions had been made using their credit cards. This was despite the implementation these days of the much touted in-built safety feature of the one-time password (OTP) system. The key point the two readers made was that there must have had been a lapse or a breach in the system, since no one else should have access to the personal-to-cardholder OTPs.

I thought ST should have run a news story so that the public would be better aware. But because there wasn't, the two banks involved needed only to reply that they had contacted their respective customers and that they had identified/fixed the problem (although OCBC did elaborate a little more). The replies were essentially an exercise in PR.

DBS' reply (excerpted)
We have been in touch with Ms Gan and are helping to resolve the unauthorised transactions on her card. We would like to assure our customers that we have several measures in place to protect transactions. This includes the one-time password for secured e-commerce transactions, which applies to e-commerce websites that support 3-D secure authentication protocols such as Verified By Visa and MasterCard’s SecureCode (MasterCard).

DBS has also introduced the SMS Alerts service notifying customers of first-usage for new or replacement cards, as well as transaction alerts for amounts above the pre-specified threshold limit. These alerts are sent via SMS to cardholders’ mobile numbers in the bank's records. Hence, customers are encouraged to update their contact details if there are any changes.

OCBC's reply (excerpted)
We have contacted Madam Khong and the matter has been resolved. Visa and MasterCard have had “3-D Secure” authenticaton protocols in place worldwide sinc 2005 to protect both merchants and consumers against online credit-card fraud. Last July, credit-card issuers here implemented a one-time password (OTP) system – made possible by the “3-D Secure” protocols – as part of the industry’s efforts to enhance security for online credit-card transactions.

The system involves what is known as 2-Factor authentication (2FA): After the cardholder keys in his own user ID and password when making an online payment with his card, "3-D Secure" websites will still require the keying in of the OTP to validate the authenticity of the transaction. The OTP is sent to the cardholder’s chosen 2FA token – for instance, via SMS to his mobile phone.

He will, therefore, be alerted to a potential security breach if he is sent OTPs for online transactions that he did not initiate. He should then notify the bank immediately.
In Madam Khong’s case, the OTPs that she received were from transactions done via "3-D Secure” websites, and this prevented the transactions from going through.

Some merchants, however, do not yet secure their websites using the “3-D Secure” authentication protocols. Online transactions involving such merchants will not generate OTPs and may, therefore, result in unauthorised transactions being approved. However, consumers are still protected. If verified that transactions involving such merchants were unauthorised, the conditions set by Visa and MasterCard allow the value of the transactions to be refunded to consumers.

This was the case with Madam Khong, where other card transactions were done on non-“3-D Secure " websites. We refunded the value of the unauthorised online transactions to her on Monday.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

About a mindless traffic jam, a thinking public servant, and some horse sense

Came home from work very very late tonight (actually past midnight, after an 11-hour stint) because of a bumper to bumper hour and a half long traffic jam, avoidable if clear and repeated public announcements had been made to tell motorists to avoid Bukit Timah Road after Sixth Avenue.

The cause was massive work spreading out from the centre line (but not affecting the Dunearn Road side) that took up eventually three lanes.

This kind of massive work must have had been scheduled and motorists could have been alerted early in the day to keep clear of that stretch on a Saturday night at around the witching hour when, apart from late night workers like me, motorists who had been on the night out were spilling onto Bukit Timah Road.

I'll like to sack all those people paid high salaries but who did have the so-called "helicopter vision" to foresee possible problems like this one. And the traffic cops who might have helped those stuck in the wrong (outermost) lane/lanes ease in ... were they anywhere around? Nope.

But I'd rather end this posting on an upbeat note. Kudos to Ms Lui Keet Quan from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. The letter below, from a Mrs Koh Soek Ying, published in ST's Forum yesterday (1 July) tells it all:

"On June 15, after a last-minute scramble to book a short family holiday, I realised that my son’s passport had less than six months validity on it and we were leaving on June19. I made my way to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) the next morning and was attended to by officer Lui Keet Quan, who informed me there was still time to get a new passport and proceeded to process my documents.

"Ms Lui also told me that my son, who has special needs, did not have to be present for the collection of the passport on June 18. I was absolutely impressed by the service rendered and even more so by the professionalism and initiative shown by Ms Lui. On June 18, again the service was spectacular. Total time taken from getting queue number to collection of son’s passport – under five minutes.”

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Postscript: The dark horse has finally spoken. He will not tikam-tikam his luck a third time. So it will be a three-horse race, assuming all three do get to the starting line come August.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Singapore-Malaysia ties: Cutting through the Gordian Knot

Finally, it looks like a breakthrough in Singapore-Malaysia relations has been achieved, marked by the return at the stroke of midnight (30 June/1 July) of Tanjong Pagar railway station to Singapore. Among the "win-win" agreements signed earlier were joint development of prime property areas in Singapore and investment plans in Johor's new Iskandar region. Congrats to PMs Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak for overcoming some of the baggage of history. There may be more hiccups ahead but the momentum has begun.

In 2004, I had written a commentary piece in Today hoping -- prematurely -- to see the Gordian Knot cut. This was what I wrote then:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/analysis/2004/0115_bilateralrelations.htm
Meanwhile, I will miss the sound of the trains trundling past my condo. I live near the tracks and in fact, there is a footpath not too far away that crosses the tracks. So, when I stepped over the tracks at that point, I had briefly entered Malaysian "territory"! I shall miss that too now that the tracks belong to Singapore.

And I have a teeshirt, bought from a cruise ship shop far away, in the South Pacific, which is either amusing or provocative. Here's a pic of it: