Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why today is a watershed day. And does TT and TCB = 70pc?

Today (31 Aug) marks a significant event, the expiry of the 1961 Water Agreement.

As arranged, Singapore also handed over to Malaysia (the Johor water authorities, actually), the Skudai and Gunong Pulai water treatment plants, together with two pump houses in Pontian and Tebrau, all of which are in Johor state.

The other major Water Agreement, signed in 1962, as well as a secondary one signed in 1990, both expire in 2061 -- ie 50 years time.

Until then, Singapore's water agency PUB will still operate the Linggiu dam and Johor River water treatment plant in the Malaysian state. The PUB has stated that, come 2061, Singapore would have become self-sufficient in water supply.

I wonder how many Singaporeans appreciate the significance of all these current and future milestones. The water issue was a millstone in Singapore-Malaysia relations for the longest time. Singapore, anticipating political problems in renewing the 1962 Agreement, took steps to expand its own catchment supply (doable up to a point, given our limited land area) and in desalination (very, very, expensive).

Desalination is in fact old technology. Think of nuclear submarines, which became operational in the 1960s. They can stay submerged for months! Where would the crew get their drinking water all that time? The answer: compact desalination equipment onboard. But I'm sure the water tasted yucky!

The breakthrough for Singapore came with the advent of modern filtration methods, ultra-heat treatment, and reverse osmosis. The result: NeWater -- a key additional source of supply -- and with it, a newfound confidence that the Little Red Dot will henceforth not be held hostage to the politics of water.

The process of "desecuritising" the water issue began with the advent of NeWater.

But a key proviso is that the 1962 Agreement continues to be scrupulously upheld by both sides as an internationally binding treaty. In 2003, then Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar made an important address in Parliament which, among other remarks on the bilateral relationship, made plain why the two Water Agreements were crucial to Singapore's survival as a sovereign country.

The link is here. It is a long speech but one worth carefully digesting:


Okay, back to local matters.

The latest issue of the Online Citizen (TOC) carries a cartoon titled "Dr Tan Cheng Bock, latest PAP darling?" by Joshua Chiang. It is a spot-on commentary on recent PAP claims that the Presidential Election results could be seen as a 70 per cent vote for the PAP. Here's the cartoon:

Lastly, one candidate -- the one who lost his deposit -- has gotten into the blame game. See this piece:


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Tan-minator ('I'll be back') and a field day with headlines

Dr Tan Cheng Bock may have narrowly lost his bid in the recent presidential election, but he sure knows how to stay in the news by declaring that...

Of course, the original "I'll be back" man is this one:

Dr Tan is also serenading Singaporeans, with the touching evergreen song "I understand":

Meanwhile, there's been a crop of recent headlines, some of which are very good; others may have tried too hard and -- in my judgment -- didn't quite make the cut:

In the two examples above, I think the TODAY version, "Irene was no monster, she was just big and wet" was so much cleverer, with that lovely double entendre! ST's version was okay, but not great.

For these two headlines, it is ST's "He Bolted too soon" that has the cleverer touch, while the TODAY headline strained too hard but was a bleak effort. The story in question is about how 100m sprint favourite Usain Bolt was disqualified because he had made a false start. But he was eager to make amends in the 200m event, as seen in the next day's headlines:

 Again, I think the ST headline (top one) wins hands down. One more head-to-head, below:

I think both the ST (top) and TODAY versions don't quite make the cut. Both tried too hard.

Finally, the headline for this ST editorial has stirred some debate about its suitability:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thank goodness for the asterisk... it's handy for words like "f**k"

I said I wouldn't be posting anything on politics today. So...

Today, I'm amazed at the sanctimonious hoo-hah over an 11pm (late night!) show on Channel 5 that inadvertently let slip a singular uttering (ie just once) of the F-word. A blogger commented about it. An MP then got into the act, sounding more preachy than a preacher.

While I agree that the F-word is inappropriate in public discourse, we should cut some slack for what I believe was an honest mistake on the TV station's part (likewise, why all that puerile hoo-hah over the earlier incident in which an NTU valedictorian -- in her exuberence -- had uttered the F-word once).

In this latest episode, the Media Development Authority is now investigating! Thanks to the asterisk, I can give my two cents' worth on of this absurdity: "What the f**k!"  

Here's the Shin Min story, as carried by

All this storm in a teacup reminds me of a "set-up" trick you can play as a parlour game (no kids around, of course):

First, tell the players the game is about opposite two-word combinations. So, the opposite of, say, "good-sad" is "bad-happy". Try a few more.

Then ask for the opposite of "near-queen". Gets 'em everytime!

To wrap up, I came across this tongue-in-cheek "English language lesson" on the F-word:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cheeky, cocksure and... a Yam Ah Mee video mash-up reprised!

We have a new elected president (hmmm, I wonder how speakers who mix up their l's and their r's -- as in "flied lice" -- are gonna pronounce this term?).

Okay, it's time to move on, in my next posting. But, for now, here's a refreshing local website to check out:

Its lead article when I looked it up today is "Singapore has elected a new president in the form of Tony Tan..."

It is worth a read because of its cheeky style, without the "baggage" of TRE-type writing, and when you think about it, the points that the writer, Belmont Lay, make, are sensible ones.

In the same cheeky vein, the site takes a serious story and spins a cocky write-up complete with this headline, "Man dies after cock penetrated his leg, severing vein". Here it is:

Finally, the site even points to a YouTube mash-up reprise of Mr Yam Ah Mee's now famous role as the Returning Officer. A bit long but if you are a YAM fan, watch it till you get bored!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

One of the 4 Tans to savour a sweet victory

It's been a long day (and night) at work, and it's unlikely that the result of the presidential election will be out before I go to bed. A mandated automatic recount is possible as it appears to be a very close fight between Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Whatever the final result, politics has changed in Singapore. For better or for worse, the lyrics of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" ring in my ears. The GE of 7 May may have been a watershed, but the 27 August EP poll is the game-changer. We may yet get what we ask for, and that's not necessarily a cause for cheer -- but only because Singapore is entering uncharted waters.

But, heck, how can I close on such a sombre note? So:

Some asked, Why did the chicken (ayam) cross the road?
To secure the future?
Some others said, must vote kin, kin leh (quickly vote).
A voice for the future?
Yet others said I say, you say, we all say Say,
The man of the future?
Still others said "My choice is clear (cheng) today!"
The one for the future?

P.S. I had cheng tng for my dessert at dinner, at the hawker stalls near my office. It tasted good.

Friday, August 26, 2011

From a Beethoven moment to a Bush-speak moment

Time to chill out before we, music, please -- Tan, Tan, Tan, Tan -- cut!... go out to vote on Saturday. To set things in the right mood, here's a YouTube moment:

Incidentally, TCB scores brownie points (with me) for his use of Hokkien. First, at his rally yesterday:

whah tng bo whah leow (changing the soup without changing the ingredients) -- a dig at TT, obviously.

And today, at his concluding pre-recorded address, he finished off with "thank you" in five languages, including a kam siah.

See beh ho, man!


Last two items today... first, this is what George W. Bush aka "Dubya" once said: "A leadership is someone who brings people together." Hey, four Tans, are you listening?

There's even a website dedicated to Dubyaspeak:

Secondly, with the London Olympics being staged next year, I should put here this one about Dubya (my favourite US comedian, I mean, politician) and the Beijing Olympics, before we all forget who he is:

GWB is about to give a speech at the "Bird Nest" stadium, on the lectern in front of VIPs, including the Chinese president, etc. He starts:

"O, O, O, O, O...."

Up rushes an aide (scroll and see below)

"Sir, that's the Olympics symbol you're reading off the teleprompter."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rambling thoughts

I'm in rambling thoughts mode today, so there's no single theme...

Pollster: Ah Pek, what are your thoughts on the presidential election?
Ah Pek: See Beh ho!
(In Hokkien, this slang expression means "very good!". But then, depending on how you say it, "see beh" can mean "four horses", or "dead horses" -- figuratively, of course, as in lacklustre.)

Remember the Tiong Bahru eatery called "Kampong Chicken Eating House"? An online search came up with another interestingly named eatery. It's simply called "See Beh Ho" and it is in Block 704, Bedok Reservoir Road. Here's the link if you want to find out more:

Liane tells me she just found out that an opthalmologist colleague has named his newborn daughter Iris. She'll grow up being the apple of her father's eye!

Still on doctors, yesterday was the second time a doctor had me in stitches.

The first time was in June last year, when I had cataract and glaucoma surgery for both eyes. Then, the eye surgeon had to perform tiny stitches to sew up, after creating channels to drain off fluid that were the cause of pressure buildup in my eyes.

Yesterday's stitch job, by a dermatologist, was done after he had removed a mole that had earlier bled. It included a biopsy too. I had christened the mole Adrian (after the "Secret Diary of Adrian Mole"). Bye, bye, Adrian.

Then, in the evening, my wife and I went to a charity screening of "The Smurfs Movie". One trailer was  "The Muppets", the new Muppets movie that will be out in November. So, I now have an excuse to tell these two old movie jokes:

What's green and smells of ham? (I don't think I need to give the answer).

Warning! This other one is a bit gross...

One day, Superman was flying over a high-rise building. He saw Wonder Woman suntanning, lying on her back. And she was naked, with her legs spread out! So, he took aim and flew down, straight as an arrow. But he found something inexplicably in-between! Befuddled, he got away so fast Wonder Woman did not even know he had come and gone. But it left Invisible Man feeling sore!

Finally, this is what the New York Times' reviewer said of one movie:

“Friends with Benefits” (starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) is rated R (Under 17, requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). There’s enough simulated sex and nearly full nudity that if you see this with your parents, you will be embarrassed." -- Manohla Dargis, NYT, 22/7/11.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When Casanova Consonant met Vowelly Girl

Tom forwarded this to me, to add to my "walks into a bar" collection. Whoever thought it up was very creative! Here it is, with small tweaks by me: 

When Casanova Consonant met Vowelly Girl

Casanova Consonant walks into a bar and sits down next to Vowelly Girl. "Hi!" he says. "I'll alphabet that you've never been here before."
"Of cursive I have," she replies. "I come here, like, all the time. For me, it's parse for the course."
CC remains stationery, enveloped by VG's letter-perfect charm.
"Here's a cute joke" he states declaratively. "Up at the North Pole, St. Nicholas is the main Claus. His wife is a relative Claus. His children are dependent Clauses. Their Dutch uncle is a restrictive Claus. And Santa's elves are subordinate Clauses. As a group, they're all renoun Clauses."
Then he lays on some more dashes of humour: "Have you heard about the fellow who had half his digestive tract removed? He walked around with a semi-colon."
There is a pregnant pause. Then, VG asks: "Are you like prepositioning me?"
"I won't be indirect. You are the object of my preposition. Your beauty phrase my nerves. Won't you come up to my place for a coordinating conjunction?"
"I don't want to be diacritical of you, but you're, like, such a boldfaced character!" replies VG. "Like, do I have to spell it out to you, or are you just plain comma-tose? You're not my type, so get off my case!"
Despite his past perfect, he finds himself for the first time, at present, tense.
"Puhleeze, gag me with a spoonerism!" she objects. "As my Grammar and other correlatives used to say, your mind is in the guttural. I resent your umlautish behaviour. You should know what the wages of syntax are. I nominative absolutely decline to conjugate with you, for sure!"
"You get high quotation marks for that one," he smiles, regaining his composition, "Even if I think you're being rather subjunctive and moody about all this. I so admire your figure of speech that I would like to predicate my life on yours."
So he gets himself into an indicative mood and says, "It would be appreciated by me if you would be married to me."
"Are you now being passive aggressive?" she asks interrogatively.
"No, I'm speaking in the active voice. Please don't have a vowel movement about this. I simile want to say to you, 'Metaphors be with you!' I would never want to change you and become a misplaced modifier. It's imperative that you understand that I'm very, very font of you and want us to spend infinitive together."
"That's quite a compliment," she finally blushes -- and gives him appositive response.
At the ceremonies they exchange wedding vowels about the compound subject of marriage.
Finally, they say, "I do," which is actually the longest and most complex of sentences -- a run-on sentence, actually -- one that hopefully won't turn out to be a sentence fragment.
Then the minister diagrams that sentence and says, "I now pronouns you consonant and vowel."
They kiss each other on the ellipsis and whisper to each other, "I love you, noun forever."
Throughout their marriage, their structure is perfectly parallel and their verbs never disagree with their subjects.
After many a linking verve, comma splice and interjection, they conceive the perfect parent thesis. Then come some missing periods and powerful contractions, and into the world is born their beautiful little child -- a boy, dangling participle and all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When words are one's work, and work is (word)play

I've still some crazy English (actually, quirky English) examples to share:

Yesterday, I had asked if a child psychologist is a child. I should have also asked what is a plastic surgeon?

Meanwhile, both flammable and inflammable have the same (literal) meaning, as do valuable and invaluable. And something may be pricey but it may not be priceless.

Someone or something may seem good from far but is far from good (I believe I've posted this before).
If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, then are electricians delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed and dry-cleaners depressed? (ditto, this may have been put up before).

Laundry workers could be decreased, eventually becoming -- like the dry-cleaners -- depressed.
Bed-makers could be debunked, baseball players debased, and landscapers deflowered.
Quality control engineers detested? Underwear sales staff debriefed? And will music composers eventually decompose?

Finally... the best yet (with politics currently in the air), is it true that some politicians will be devoted?


Some relatives once asked me, "What exactly do you do at work?" I thought one aspect of my job -- making newspaper stories more "sexy" -- might be illustrated with two recent examples below:

Example 1 (excerpted raw copy, before my changes)

When Mr Igor Podvalov, 34, came to Singapore two years ago to treat an infection in his thigh, he did not expect to lose half his leg.

It was an outcome that could have been worse: His entire left leg could have been amputated.

But orthopaedic surgeon Mathew Cheng proposed a segmental reattachment surgery. Such a procedure involved an amputation from the left hip to the knee, and reattaching the remaining calf and foot to the hip.
Instead of facing the calf and foot forward - in the same direction as his right leg - it was rotated 180 degrees, with the foot facing backwards.

In this way the ankle, with its ability to bend, functions as the knee. This means that Mr Podvalov’s calf is now his thigh and his ankle is his knee. With a prosthesis, the father of one who works in a shipping company, walks with just a slight limp.

Example 1 (rewritten, after I had decided to highlight the fact that one foot was now facing backwards, post-surgery, in the "intro"):

Mr Igor Podvalov now has one foot facing backwards, and walks with a slight limp.

But the 34-year-old Russian is glad a Singapore surgeon did the unsual operation, since the alternative was to amputate his entire left leg.

Mr Podvalov, a bone cancer patient, came to Singapore two years ago to have an infection in his left thigh treated. Despite multiple operations, the infection did not clear.

He was then referred to orthopaedic surgeon Mathew Cheng, who told him the bad news: that the cancerous limb had to go. Dr Cheng then proposed a segmental reattachment surgery, also known as rotationplasty.

This required only an amputation from the left hip to the knee, not the entire leg.
The calf and foot were then reattached to the hip. But it was necessary to rotate them 180 degrees, with the foot now facing backwards. The ankle, with its ability to bend, now functioned as the knee.

Example 2 (raw copy)

Imagine turning off your washing machine from your mobile phone once the laundry is washed, or receiving instant mobile alerts about which parking spaces in a multistorey carpark have been vacated.

This future is not too far away. A tiny device called the SIM card can be credited for such a huge new-found convenience.

Built-in sensors in your everyday washing machine or the parking meter can detect, say, when the laundry is washed or available carpark spaces and use the embedded SIM card to send the information over the cellular network to users’ smartphones.

Example 2 (rewritten, with a bit of wordplay in the intro)

SIM-ply magical. That’s the not too distant future when you turn off the washing machine from your office.

Or, while driving, get an instant alert that a parking space in a multistorey carpark has just become available. Such a future will literally be in your hand, in your mobile phone actually.

That tiny SIM card inside your smartphone can be harnessed to do much more, like the examples above. All it takes, for instance, to make your washing machine as “smart” as your phone, is to embed a SIM card and sensors into the appliance.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kampong chicken eating house? And how the 4-Tan race might just pan out...

First, thinking back on the crazy English stuff (yesterday's posting), here are a few more off the top of my head:

Overwhelmed... is the opposite underwhelmed? What about just simple being whelmed?
Mouse is to mice... so house is to hice? Spouse is to spice? (computer mouse... computer mouses or computer mice?)
Real estate agents... as opposed to fake estate agents? Is it the estate that is real or fake, or is it the agent that is real or fake?
Meanwhile, a contractor's job is to "contract", right? After all, a renovator's job is to renovate.
Singapore Anti-Tubercolosis Association... that's clear. But Singapore Cancer Society? Action for Aids?
And is a child psychologist a child who practises as a psychologist?
Air-flown beef... is it cheaper to have the supply "sea-flown" here?
Hand noodles, ladies finger, finger food... yucks!
And last but not least (for now), "Kampong Chicken Eating House" (you can Google for the pic; it's in Tiong Bahru). It's either a Godzilla chicken or a teeny-weeny house! And anyway, is the house now gone? And has the chicken crossed the road?


Okay, onto the serious stuff.  An article on the Elected Presidency issue in the Temasek Review Emeritus attracted an anonymous comment -- on the voting dynamics now that it is a four-Tan race -- which I thought was worth mulling about. Here is its key extract:

"Remember that based on the last GE and a study by the Institute of Policy Studies, about 35% of the voters will blindly support any donkey if it [is] a PAP donkey, and 20% will support any ass so long as it [is] an anti-PAP ass. The remaining 45% [are] the “thinking” swingers.

"Before [Tan] Jee Say got his COE [Certificate of Eligibility], Tony Tan was widely perceived as the candidate that the PAP would like to win, Dr Tan Cheng Bock was the centrist, and Tan Kin Lian was the perceived anti-PAP candidate. It was thought that in a three-Tan race, Tony Tan might lose while in a one-to-one with Cheng Bock, Tony Tan would lose.
"Now, there are two perceived anti-PAP candidates fighting for the 20% core vote. And four candidates fighting for the 45% swingers. And Tony Tan still has his core 35% vote."
Wow, 27 August is gonna be interesting after all!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is the plural form of mongoose "mongooses" or "mongeese"?

A friend sent this, with the header title "You think English is easy?" (the teaser about "mongoose" is mine, though):

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture..
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France.
Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indexes or 2 indices?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.


There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'

It's easy to understand 
UPmeaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?
Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP 
a report?
We call 
UP our friends.
And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times the little word has real special meaning.
People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP 
at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed 
UP about UP!
To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UPlook the word UP in the dictionary.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about 30 definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UPyou may wind UP with a hundred or more.
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.
When the sun comes out we say it is clearingUP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things 
When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry 
One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it 
UP, for now my time is UP.
So, it is time to shut UP!
Now, it's UP to you what you do with this stuff you've just read!

P.S. So, is the plural form of a mongoose "mongooses" or "mongeese"?
Here's a link:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

'Cook a pot of curry' Day

By the time you read this, it will be Sunday, and a strange event is expected to take place across Singapore, in kitchens and where people gather to share a meal. Singaporeans are being urged to take part in the "Cook a pot of curry" event. There is no set time for this... so you can have your curry in the morning, curry in the evening, curry at suppertime.

By now, most locals would have been familiar with what sparked this call to national action, so I will not go into too much detail A Google search will reveal what had happened anyway.

But note some key facts that had been distorted, the skewing of which had led to the national outrage. There was an issue between an immigrant (ethnic Chinese) family from China and a local ethnic Indian family, both neighbours in a public housing apartment block.

The issue? The Chinese family, newly moved in, found the aroma of the curry meals cooked by the Indian family too overwhelming. At some stage, a mediator was called in.

The bottom line is that both sides, with help from the mediator, settled the issue amicably.

But because of the widely reported distortions (and propagated on social media) -- especially the belief that the mediator had imposed an order on the Indian family to only cook curry when the Chinese family was not at home -- national outrage was sparked, carrying with it a show of unity among Singaporeans of different races. It also led to the "Cook a pot of curry" Day event.

That's not all. The incident had happened several years ago, not recently, and the two sides had moved on, possibly having become amicable neighbours. But because the story came out only earlier this month -- and because it then went viral -- it acquired a spicy potency.

Thankfully, the xenophobia it unleashed has dissipated and those of us having curry this Sunday can simply enjoy it with no agenda to push. So, please note that the Mr Brown "Curry, curry night" item below is pure 100% spoof, with no tongues lashed by servings of 100% proof curry. Enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hello, orang, u a Tan or what? Never mind, run for your life!

Wow, there's a lot of stuff going on about the coming presidential election, including what the candidates are saying. Take your pick of sources: the mainstream media or social media.

But you gotta do it yourself! (If you look hard enough, you might even find comic relief in a fake poster going round with a fifth "Tan" on the slate.)

For today's posting, I'm returning to a health-issue topic. There is this Bloomberg News story that says exercising for just 15 minutes a day can add three years to a person’s life expectancy. Even low levels of physical activity, such as brisk walking -- which I do, yeah! -- can be beneficial.

A Taiwanese study, published in the Lancet medical journal this month, and involving more than 400,000 people, found that those who exercised for 90 minutes a week were also 14 per cent less likely to have died after eight years than those who were inactive. Every extra 15 minutes of exercise reduced the risk by a further 4 per cent.

The study shows that even a small amount of exercise can lower an individual’s risk of death and disease.

So, now that my nasty cold and coughing bouts are behind me, I'll be back to walking the talk. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pardon my French...

Had a really bad cough these past two days, especially at night. Could not sleep and resorted in desperation to counting sheep. But I must have bought into the low-budget option where a finite number of the sheep went past me in a loop pattern.

 Eventually, the poor fellas fell asleep one by one -- in front of me -- and I was still wide awake at 3am!


So, just one short posting, triggered by what I had observed in yesterday's "Million Dollar Drop" quiz show.

I was appalled by the lack of knowledge of things Singaporeana shown by the contestants so far. This question below, for instance, seemed a no-brainer to me...

One of these men was not a foreign minister of Singapore:

Tony Tan
Wong Kan Seng
S. Dhanabalan
S. Jayakumar

The two contestants in question seemed well-spoken and very possibly university educated. But they blew it! The correct answer is so obvious I shall not insult you. But by their putting all their eggs in one basket, the wrong one, it made me recall a joke I saw in the philosophy book I was reading. Here it is.

Goldfinger is taking an ocean cruise. The first night he is seated for dinner with a Frenchman who raises his glass to Goldfinger and says "Bon appetit!"

Goldfinger raises his glass and replies, "Goldfinger!"

This goes on, meal after meal, for almost the entire cruise, until finally the table waiter could not stand it any longer and explains to Goldfinger that "Bon appetit" is French for "Enjoy your meal".

Goldfinger is embarrassed and can't wait to redeem himself. At the next meal, before the Frenchman can say anything, Goldfinger raises his glass and says "Bon appetit!"

At which the Frenchman responds, "Goldfinger!"


So, what gives? Many years back, someone had given this joke a Singaporean spin, with the "sua ku" (Hokkien for mountain tortoise, to mean a village bumpkin) American being replaced with the name of the Singapore foreign minister at the time. Which one from the list from that quiz show question above? Put it this way, the man's manner of speaking gave the impression -- true or not -- that he was not an urbane chap. Maybe that was the reasoning too behind the two contestants' unfortunate choice.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

All that sound and fury...

Just some points on what some of the EP candidates said today after submitting their papers.

One said the EP must be "above politics" -- how can? The EP is a political appointment! What we have to distinguish, as campaigning goes into full swing, is the empty rhetoric from the substance.

What the candidate in question probably meant was that the EP has to be "above partisan politics" ie neither publicly seen to be pro-PAP nor pro-opposition. But, then, all the candidates have declared that they will work with the Government of the Day (GoD).

Such empty rhetoric may sound appealing, but it's only that. That's why I said yesterday that the trumpeting of a "Singaporean-first" policy is both meaningless and misleading. And indeed, one EP candidate today declared that his presidency will see to it that the GoD keeps to a "Singaporean-first" policy. If, for the sake of argument, there is such a policy, what will happen in everyday life? Take queues. At the airport, the queue booths will have to open only for Singaporeans first, and only later will they be open for foreigners!

Having a ratio of more queue booths open for locals vis-a-vis those for foreigners is simply sound policy, based on numbers. Or, negatively, remember the "males with long hair will be served last" policy? That's an example of the "served first/served last" matrix that a "Singaporean-first" sloganeering evokes.

And increasing the numbers of locals in the student cohorts at our universities is simply a policy adjustment, a response to strong articulation of interests by groups that mattered, ie the voters. Now, that's in the realm of politics. My joke yesterday about the definition of politics aside (poli = many, tics = parasites), politics is a reality of organised life -- in terms of the allocation of resources -- and at its best, is materially good, at its worse, morally evil.

We are fortunate that, by and large, politics in independent Singapore has benefited the people. But there is a school of thought which argues that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". But one cannot say that Singapore has fallen into such a situation.

Which brings me to one EP candidate's pledge that he will serve as "check and balance". Again, how can? That's the job of the opposition elected to Parliament!

Finally, the fourth candidate said he will be "the voice of the people". What does he mean, given the Constitution's detailed listing of what he can and cannot do! As I pointed out in an earlier posting, we don't even know if the EP will be allowed to blog, tweet or do some friendly "poking" on Facebook. (That was not an issue with the retiring EP; he proudly claims he is "BC" -- before computers.)

So, in the end, as countless people have already noted, the name of the new president is already known: he is President Tan. About the only possible "excitement" (a sad commentary, I should add) is the buzz about whether any candidate will lose his deposit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What is Politics? The lighter side...

The next politician -- whether from the ruling party, the opposition or anyone of the presidential wannabes -- to tell you "I support a Singaporeans-first policy" ought to be given a ticking off. C'mon, show me a politician who will say "No, I don't support a Singaporeans-first policy"! Don't take us for idiots, just explain the policies and skip the politicking.

Which brings me to these two delightful gems:

Origin of the word 'Politics'

The word 'politics' comes from the Greek 'poly', meaning 'many', and ticks of course are bloodsucking parasites. -- 1990s American politician Andre Marrou.

The little boy's innocent question

A little boy asks his dad, "What is politics?"

The man thinks about it, and replies: "Well, son, I bring home the bacon, so I represent capitalism; your mom looks after the house, so she's the government. The maid is the working class. As for you, think of yourself as the people while your baby brother is the future."

The boy's eyes lights up; politics is so easy to understand!

The next day is a Sunday. Mom has gone out for some retail therapy and does not want to be disturbed. Later, the baby boy starts to soil his diaper and bawls out inconsolably. The little boy goes up to the maid's room and finds it locked. He knocks on the door but there is no answer. He then peeps into the keyhole, and his eyes widen.

Just then, the doorbell rings. Eagerly, he runs to open it, thinking it is his mom. But it is a visitor, who can clearly smell the baby's poo inside.

"Where's everyone else?" she asks in a concerned voice.

"Well, the government is nowhere to be found, capitalism is screwing the working class, the people are being ignored and the future is in deep shit," he replies.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What is Politics, Part 2: Pragmatic vs populist, the new buzz words

Ah, PM Lee has put context to former minister Goh Chok Tong's directionless remarks (yesterday's posting). They have to do with investors watching Singapore closely since the PAP lost a record six seats in Parliament to the opposition (actually, just one party, the Workers' Party) at the 7 May general elections.

As reported in today's ST (page A8), the PM -- in his National Day Rally speech -- said investors had "asked us (the PAP?) directly whether Singapore is changing course fundamentally, because our society is changing, our economy is changing, our politics is changing".

He added: "But what new Singapore will it be? Will we respond to the pressures of the day and become like so many other countries, short-term and reactive, or will we maintain our strengths? As [GCT] put it, will our politics remain pragmatic or will we become populist?

"... If I were them (the investors), I would also wait to see what Singapore does. So make sure we do the right thing so they continue to invest, we continue to have good jobs and Singapore continues to prosper."

ST also quoted, in the same story, remarks by Singapore International Chamber of Commerce chief Phillip Overmyer that Mr Lee's comments were "helpful to reassure people (ie the investors?)" as companies are more concerned today about govenment policies than they were three to four years ago.

"Nobody is coming to me saying, 'Oh no, it is over, we should leave'. They are waiting to see where the argument goes."

To return to Mr Lee's speech, he said Singaporeans have a choice at what he called a turning point.

"What sort of Singapore do we want to be 20 years from now? Do we want to be still an exceptional country, one which is unique and which people look up to around the world? Or are we content for Singapore to be an ordinary country, getting by, but no different from many cities all over Asia?"

To be exceptional requires a special effort to anticipate problems and opportunities, to build for the long term and to keep "politics pragmatic and constructive", he said, adding: "I believe to keep Singapore exceptional is a goal well worth striving for."

So, there's the nub, as outlined by PM Lee. Singapore has no choice but to be exceptional, and this requires its politics to be pragmatic and constructive. The investors are watching. The policies that flow from this template cannot pander to populism. Yet, "new" Singapore's society, economics, and politics, are changing!

Meanwhile, there is a coming testing of Singapore's resilience -- and resistance to populism -- in the unfolding and looming global fiscal and economic drama.

PM Lee stopped short of saying that only the PAP can deliver, and that the new politics will also require an Elected President who can serve both as a unifying figure and as a bukwark against populism. Look out for all these "new" buzz words in the days ahead, as the presidential election approaches.

The way I see it, all these buzz words remain woolly. The PAP government has to articulate precisely what it means by its use of these terms, and everyone else -- from the other political parties to the presidential wannabes to the ordinary folk -- will have to engage it. But how many ordinary folk in Singapore -- apart from boisterous netizens -- see politics as "cheng hoo eh tai chi" (it's only the government's business)?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What is politics? Part 1

First, has two items, below, which give a somewhat disturbing glimpse into one aspect of the political dynamic in Singapore: the presence of "others" (new arrivals, PRs, foreigners, etc) in an already "multi" (racial, dialect, Channel 5 English speakers, Channel 8 Chinese speakers, Districts 9, 10, 11 vs heartlanders, etc) society.

There is a risk of polarisation (us vs them) and also vigilante behaviour by netizens. The first example, at first blush, seems ridiculous. Singaporeans are being urged to support a  "Cook a Pot of Curry" event set for 21 August and the organisers say this: "We are Singaporeans and we LOVE our curry." Here's the link:

The second example is just as bizarre, with the spark lit by an apparent posting by a foreigner criticising Singaporeans' reactions to MP Penny Low's cellphone gaffe during the National Day Parade. It has since taken on added twists. Here's the link:

Meanwhile, former minister Goh Chok Tong has made what I felt were some interesting remarks concerning "which way will Singapore politics go?"

As reported in The Sunday Times (14 Aug), he asked if Singaporeans would choose "constructive politics" or "confrontational and divisive politics based on stoking envy and resentment". Singaporeans must also choose between pragmatic politics and populist politics. "In pragmatic politics, Singaporeans will accept measures with short-term pain but long-term gain. In populist politics, they want immediate gratification and ignore the long-term costs. Which way will Singapore politics go?"

Hmmm, he did not identify the pragmatic side or the populist side. Of course we should know what he means, you'll say. Still, I'll say it is strange talking from a man who had campaigned so vigorously during the last GE. So what is the nature of politics in Singapore? Is populism the opposite of pragmatism? Are all the answers found in pragmatism? Does politics have a soul? Sorry, I have no answers.    

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Brylcreem moment, a hairy-scary and a case of 'mee-staken' identity

So, it is Brylcreem after all!

In my blog posting on 26 June, I had said: "At a press conference that Dr Tony Tan held... someone said this about his trademark sleek combed-back hair: 'Wah, he must use a lot of Brylcreem!'

"Hmm, I always thought he used Tancho. Since no one has put that question to TT, we won't know which."

But, now, in today's ST (page A43), reporter Robin Chan wrote: "To set the record straight, it is Brylcreem. Dr Tony Tan, 71, has used that hair product for decades for that trademark swept-back look."

Dr Tan's niece, Ms Chew Gek Khim, is also quoted as saying of her uncle: "He has always joked about the thick black spectacle frames that he can no longer buy, or the fact that very few shops now sell Brylcreem."

Ya, man, I too wore thick black spectacles (see my NS-era pic in my 9 Aug posting). And I did use Brylcreem. But I guess that's where any comparison ends.

Still on hirsute matters, here's an Ah Heng "follow instructions" hair joke:

Ah Heng was getting really, really bald. So he went to see a trichologist who recommended a special -- and of course very expensive -- hair lotion. "Remember, each morning, you must squeeze a generous amount  onto both your palms and then rub it on your botak (bald) head for 10 minutes. Do this for one week, and come back again to see me."

One week later, Ah Heng is back. But his head is still shiny bald and he has gloves covering his hands.

"Did you follow my instructions?" the man in the white coat asked Ah Heng, who in a dramatic move then took off his gloves, as he angrily replied:

"[Hokkien expletive cum F-word optional here...] I follow every day, but see what happen. I still botak but now I have to shave all this hair from my palms with a razor blade every day!"


Last one... a joke involving a trio of pau (steamed buns) and two noodles. Call it a case of "mee-staken" identity.

Cast of characters

Char Siew Pau (Chinese steamed bun with sweetmeat filling)
Leng Yong Pau (ditto, with lotus seed paste filling)
Tau Sar Pau (ditto, with black bean paste filling)
Mee Kia (thin-string noodle, literally in Hokkien, "child noodle")
Maggi Mee (one of the better known brands of packet instant noodle, all of which have a wavy, permed-like appearance before cooking).

Char Siew Pau and Mee Kia got involved in an argument. Char Siew Pau got
very angry and shouted at Mee Kia, "I'm going to find my gang to hantam (pummel)

Char Siew Pau went to round up Leng Yong Pau and Tau Sar Pau and off they went in search of Mee Kia.

Just then, Maggi Mee walked round the corner. Immediately, the three Pau started
to beat up the hapless Maggi Mee, thinking they had cornered Mee Kia.

"Don't think just because you perm your hair, we can't recognise you, okay!" Char Siew Pau said.

Friday, August 12, 2011

When headlines sing, the trills follow, follow, follow...

Geri sent me this link:

Titled "Headlines that sing", it shows how a clever allusion to a song can make a great headline, one that is catchy, gives the gist of the story, and works in the song's title or part of its lyrics.

The author, Bob Greenman, uses several examples from the New York Times. One NYT article is about how the the original investors in the 1960 musical The Fantasticks are still receiving dividends, because the production is still being staged. The headline?

'Fantasticks' pays back for 50 years -- from a small investment in 1960, the cheques Follow, Follow, Follow

If you don't know there's a song alllusion in it, you still get the gist of the story. But if you have spotted the familiar refrain from one of the musical's better known songs, Try to Remember, it's a bonus!

Other such NYT headlines cited include:

City sidewalks, packed in holiday style, hint at end to lingering slump in tourism
(The story is about how a disastrous slump in Christmas sales in New York city in 2001 had been largely reversed by 2003. The alluded song is the well known Christmas song Silver Bells.)

Strangers in the Net, exchanging glances
(The story is about the popularity of social networking sites. The song? Strangers in the Night.)

I'm singing in Beijing
(This one is fabulous, because of the parallel events from the story and the song, Singing in the Rain, which is alluded to! The NYT story is about how one little Chinese girl with an angelic voice  -- but plain-looking and not telegenic -- was actually the "voice" in the opening song at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But what people got to see was another, prettier and cute-looking, girl pretending to sing the song.)

Summertime and the markets are fluctuating
(American stocks were see-sawing through the summer of 2009. Song: Summertime)

More itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny than ever before
(American teenage girls are wearing skimpier bikinis now. Song: She wore an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini.)

Birds do it. Bees do it. Dragons don't need to
(Story: It has been found that female komodo dragons can produce fertile eggs on their own. Song: Let's Do It.)


I started to recall if I had conjured up song allusions in my headline writing days. I'm sure I have, but it's been so long, if not yet farewell, auf weidersehen goodbye....

So, what I have done is to "chope" (reserve) these for-future-use headlines:

Amazing graze (for a story on genetically modified cows grazing on genetically modified grass)
You'll never blog alone (that social networking theme again!)
The long and winding rote (for a story defending the merits of rote-learning)
Diamonds are a bra's best friend (for yet another wacky designer's coming up with women's upper underwear studded with bling-bling)
It was constipation, I know (for the appropriate Mind Your Body article).


Come to think of it, now I recall, there was a Mind Your Body article that used, as its headline, an introduction I had crafted for the story, on the dangers of over-exposure to the sun's UV rays. The headline was Here Comes the Sun.

And an essay I once wrote for a Masters political-economy module had this title... Oil Prices: Got to take a fundamental journey.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The EP Song

The EP Song, "One, two , three, four Tans all ready" (to be sung on 27 Aug, 2011; with apologies to the original hit song)

'Tis time, it's come
I've come now to vote
The choices are all in my mind
And now that I've come
To the end of this long month
There's something
I must say out loud

One, two, three
Four Tans all ready
Who will I vote?
Yes, one, two, three
Four Tans all ready
Who will I vote?
I vote "you"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Statistical jokes, and a tribute to two role-model Singaporeans

Did you know that statisticians can tell jokes? Here's a small sampling (hehe!)...

* Why did the statistician take Viagra?
Since his sample was large, he did not want to be rejected with a small p-value and be declared practically non-significant!

* In China, even if you are a one-in-a-million kind of person, there are thousands more just like you!

* What is a triple-blinded, completely randomised case-control clinical drug trial?
One in which the patients do not know which drug treatment they are receiving, the nurses do not know which drug treatment they are administering, and the clinicians conducting the study do not know what they are doing!

* Statistics show that the number of offspring is an inherited trait. If your parents did not have any kids, the odds are that you won't either!

* A statistician is a professional who diligently collects facts and data and then carefully draws confusions about them.

A Singaporean role model: Our second president 

One writer to ST's Forum, a medical doctor, cites Dr Benjamin Sheares as a role-model president. In his letter "Good Presidents past" (ST, 10 August, page A24), Dr Chew Shing Chai says (excerpted here):

I have good memories of our second president, Dr Benjamin Sheares, who was nominated in 1971. He was the first local professor at Kandang Kerbau Hospital and went into private practice. When he was approached to be president, he was at the peak of his career and the doyen of the obstetrics and gynaecology fraternity. He gave up a flourishing practice to accept his post.

Uncertain of presidential tenure, he entrusted his case files to a trusted colleague instead of destroying them.

A few years later, he wanted to continue teaching and resume his practice, so a clinic was set aside for his use at KK Hospital.

I was his first assistant for one of the three rotational units of his clinic, as well as coordinator for the lectures as warden of the hostel...

...When asked about his salary, he told us he was paid $17,000 a month (a medical officer was paid $2,000), which he donated entirely to charity.

Dr Sheares displayed the qualities of a fine doctor: empathy, dedication, commitment and sacrifice. But he was also a philanthropic person and had an unswerving love for Singapore.


Another Singaporean role model: The wartime hero

Today's ST also has this story, "WWII hero dies at age 97" (page B10):

Mr Tay Ah Soey, a war hero who saved 62 people during World War II, died last Saturday of old age. He was 97.

He was among a group of five who pulled 62 people out of the water when Japanese forces dropped bombs in the sea on Feb 13, 1942, sinking boats which were ferrying people away from Singapore.

The fisherman and his two brothers had gone out on his own fishing boat, braving bullets and bombs, to save civilians and military personnel who had fallen into the sea...

... For his bravery, Mr Tay was awarded the King George V medal in 1952.        

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy 46th birthday, Singapore! And why no mother-in-law jokes here...

What was I doing on 9 August, 1965? Frankly, I can't remember. But I was 14 years old and in secondary school, with a great bunch of friends (we still keep in contact and call ourselves the G4). The hawker centres and airconditioned foodcourts of today were non-existent. I remember instead the Orchard Road carpark opposite present-day Centrepoint that, come the evenings, transformed into a cluster of open-air foodstalls. Other streets and alleys had their rows of foodstalls too, like this one:

No, that's not me in the picture, which is actually a "grab" from a newspaper.

Next, I found an undated photo of the Khoo family clan (including the spouses of the married siblings but less one unmarried brother, How Tiong, who reportedly had come back from shift work that morning and was in no mood to have his picture taken):

A guesstimate would be that the picture was taken in 1967, two years after the first National Day (Tan Huat, the baby in the picture, looks to be about two years old). So, I would have been 16 years old then.

Finally, I also found this 1971 pic of me, doing my National Service stint:

Gee, apart from all that shock of hair (relative to what I have today), look at those thick glasses! The irony is that the picture was taken when I was training to be an infantry section leader -- you know, the chaps who are supposed to point loaded rifles at the enemy and shoot at them. The military must have been very, very short-sighted not to be aware that I was very, very short-sighted.

Fortunately, the possibility of Singapore's military history's first case of "friendly fire" (that is, the unintended shooting of one's own "friendly" forces) was averted when I later sought a transfer -- successful, but with some persuasion needed -- to a pen-pushing job.


Yesterday, I referred to a linguistic device, the leading question. Thinking about it, the example of "Have you stopped beating your wife?" should more properly be labelled a "loaded question" (nothing to do with loaded rifles, of course).

Here's Wikipedia's take on this term:

It is worth clicking on the link because the examples cited are interesting.


Postscript: I've learnt that my mother-in-law has started reading my blog, so I won't be telling mother-in-law jokes like this one:

Did you know that if you rearrange "mother in law", you get "woman Hitler"?

Or this one:

The Law of Relativity states that an hour with your girlfriend (before marriage) is like a minute while a minute with your mother-in-law (after marriage) is like an hour.

Or this one:

Did you hear about the cannibal who got married, and at the wedding reception, toasted his mother-in-law?

Nope. I won't be telling mother-in-law jokes, no sireee.

P.S. Mum, if you're reading this, just kidding... You are a wonderful mother-in-law!

Monday, August 8, 2011

And now, the Donald Rumsfeld award for...

I had earlier "conferred" upon Law Minister K. Shanmugam the Wordmeister award for his well-thought out choice of the word "timbre", to refer to distinctive character traits he felt an Elected President should have. A bouquet for him.

Now, the Donald Rumsfeld award (saying something without saying anything) may be bestowed on Dr Tony Tan, a candidate for the Elected Presidency.

To give this award's context, Mr Rumsfeld -- a former US defence secretary in the Bush the Younger administration -- famously said these words:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

Now, along comes Dr Tan who, when asked to comment on remarks by Mr Shanmugam and other participants at last Friday's forum on the role of the EP, said yesterday (Sunday): "I would prefer to think  about the points they made because I think that these are serious considerations which anybody who aspires to the position of president will have to give very serious thought to. It's so serious that I don't think it's good to give a quick off-the-cuff answer to these issues because they go to the very heart of what the presidency is about."


Meanwhile, I have been seeing some novel (read: strange) ways in which certain words and idioms have been used in ST (and Sunday Times) and TODAY.

For example, a Sunday Times columnist on 7 August said: "Still, the pros of marriage have outweighed the cons."

No, you can't split this idiom up. Careful writers always keep the unity of the phrase "pros and cons". In the example above, simply replace "pros" with "advantages" and "cons" with "disadvantages". Otherwise, imagine the following hilarious example: "The cons outweigh the pros in the coming presidential election."

Then, there's this headline in today's ST: "S'poreans should save for rainy days: Khaw".

Huh? That makes it literal, that Singaporeans need to save up (money?) so as to (what? buy a bunch of umbrellas??) when there are actual rainy days?

The headline is all the more unforgiveable since the minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, had used the idiom correctly: "Sometimes you get fine weather, sometimes rainy. But if you have always saved for the rainy day, you'll be pretty steady and safe."

TODAY too had its blooper. Last Friday (5 August) it carried a story about China's military build-up with this headline and introduction:

"Japan exaggerating military threat: China"

Beijing -- China accused Japan yesterday of deliberately exaggerating Beijing's military threat...

Huh again! Which country would admit that it is a military threat to another?

ST's version of the same story was correctly contexted:

"China slams Japan for 'irresponsible' report... Paper 'deliberately exaggerates' China's military build-up"

Beijing: China has hit out at Japan after a defence paper approved by Tokyo criticised the country's military build-up...

Note: The TODAY blooper may be likened to the linguistic device known as the "leading question". The classic example  here is the lawyer asking the defendant: "Have you stopped beating your wife?" A "no" makes him guilty while a "yes" is an admission he has been beating his wife!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

So, can the Elected President blog, Twitter or get poked on Facebook?

I was obviously not the only one to have been struck by Law Minister's K. Shanmugam's candour in his response to two rather cheeky questions on the Elected Presidency (EP), by two well-known academics, at a recent forum (see yesterday's posting).

Debate about the EP continues, willy-nilly, to centre on what the job-holder can or cannot do. It's as if he  (or she, to be hypothetically fair) loses his identity as an ordinary citizen upon taking up the office! The Singapore Constitution now defines him or her, so it seems.

To reiterate a statement by Mr Shanmugam, "The President can speak on issues only as authorised by the Cabinet; and he must follow the advice of the Cabinet in the discharge of his duties." For good measure, the minister added that if the EP chose to go against the Government of the Day (GoD), he can be booted out of office -- through the courts, of course.   

When the idea of an EP was mooted, an important rationale was his acting as a check on a future rogue government. But now, it seems, the government's worry is the emergence of a future rogue EP!
And one EP wannabe, Tan Kin Lian -- saying he has looked at the Constitution and has not found the requirement that "the president must be dumb" and cannot speak out publicly -- could not resist the following dig: "It seems the President has less freedom of speech than ordinary citizens." (The Sunday Times, 7 August, page 6).

Given that all (or nearly all?) the EP wannabes have become active on the social media, I have one more "village idiot" question: Will the one who becomes the EP, after the 27 Aug election, be allowed to continue to post his views on his blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter, etc? Is he allowed to be "poked", to be "liked", to have "followers"?


Enough said. So, here's a "suitable for Sunday" joke which Nick sent me:

A Little Christian Humour
Jesus and Satan were having an endless argument about who was better on the computer. God was tired of hearing all the bickering.
Finally, God said, 'THAT'S IT! I have had enough. I'll set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, judge who does the better job.'
So Satan and Jesus sat down at their keyboards and typed away.
They moused.
 They faxed.
They e-mailed.
 They e-mailed with attachments. 
They downloaded.
They did spreadsheets!
They wrote reports...
They created labels and cards.
 They created charts and graphs.
They did some genealogy reports.
 They did every job known to man.
Jesus worked with Heavenly efficiency and Satan worked with Hellish fervour.
 Then, 10 minutes before the time was up, lightning flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured, and -- the power went off.
Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the Underworld.
Jesus just sighed. Smile with tongue out emoticon
Finally  the electricity came back on, and both of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically, screaming:
 'It's  gone! It's all GONE! 'I lost everything when the power went out!'
Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work.
Satan was irate. Baring teeth smile emoticon
'Wait!'  he screamed. 'That's not fair! Jesus  cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have any?'
 God just shrugged and said...

                               JESUS  SAVES! Winking smile emoticon