Monday, October 31, 2011

Pulau Bukom... my (boyhood) island in the sun

Anniversary note: It was exactly one year ago (31 Oct 2010) when I first started to blog!

Growing up in Bukom

I was born in Pulau Bukom (delivered by a midwife at home) and I spent my childhood years there. There was no such thing as kindergarten (and of course no enrichment classes to kill my curiosity, so I had unfettered fun). There were just a few cars on the island of 5,000 people (Shell employees and their families); my mum never did have to worry about me, in my toddler years, running out of our ungated house onto traffic (because there wasn't any in our neck of the woods).

Oil storage tanks were everywhere, and there were even more of them after the refinery was built.

I learnt to ride a bicycle as soon as I could, in primary school -- Pulau Bukom English School (the island's only school) -- and life was carefree. There were free movies at the open-air amphitheatre every Wednesday night and Saturday night. A light drizzle brought out the brollies and raincoats. Heavy rain meant a no-show.

Because my dad was an executive, we had seats in a special area. Movie nights were also special because we -- ie my sister (who is three years older) and me -- got to eat jelly (the Jello type), bought from the clubhouse.

After I could ride a bicycle, on movie nights, I and my sister would cycle from our home in Tengah (that's in the central part of the island), then push our bikes up a hill slope road before we could ride again, towards the theatre, where we parked our bikes among countless others.

There was no need to lock our bicycles, and the amazing thing was that after the movie, everyone seemed to be able to find his or her bike.

That was the fun part, ie after a show. We would cycle till we got to the slope. Remember, we had to push our bikes from below to go up. Well, going downslope on our bikes was nothing short of exhilarating! My sis and I would race each other downhill. She fell once and needed a plaster cast on her leg.

On most nights, because the night sky was clear, we could see the stars clearly, and not infrequently there were shooting stars too.

There was no secondary school on the island, so my sis went "overseas" first -- to RGS, after her PSLE results. She had done very well in the exams.

My turn came three years later, and I went to Gan Eng Seng. There was too much cycling from one end of Bukom to the other (Timor to Barat) to do, and spider catching and kite flying too, after school, up till my PSLE.

Going to school "overseas" meant catching the ferry to the "mainland", then catching a bus to the secondary school (afternoon session). After school, it was a rush to catch the bus back to the jetty -- before the last ferry service ended.

At some point, my sister decided it was too much of a hassle and she moved in with my eldest sibling and her family, in the Guillemard Road area. I did the same when I got to Secondary 3.

How did I start to reminisce like this? An ST report today was the memory trigger.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, speaking at the 120th anniversary celebration of Shell Singapore, recounted that Shell was the first oil major to set up a crude oil refinery on Bukom in 1961 (when I was 10 years old), two years after Singapore attained self-government.

Shell, Mr Lee said, has been in Singapore since 1891, when it acquired eight hectares on Pulau Bukom and set up an oil storage installation. Bukom is today a huge petrochemical complex, and there is no longer a community there. Only essential staff are now housed on the island which, from the pictures I've seen, I hardly recognise anymore.

I found the following diagram and aerial view of Bukom from the Internet (I believe the words "Incident location" refers to the big fire that took place on the island just last month, ie September):




Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some days, you just wanna blow your own trumpet...

Reader alert: I'm blowing my own trumpet today. The idiom "to blow your own trumpet" (US version: "to toot your own horn") means boasting about your own accomplishment or effort at doing something.

That's the feeling (sense of achievement) I had in the course of work on The Sunday Times last night. I believe I came up with a good crop of "intros" (opening paragraph/paragraphs) while I was editing reporters' copy. I especially liked these three examples:

Bin there, done that.


The National Environment Agency (NEA) had carried out a year-long study into whether more trash bins, and other means such as "Do not litter" messages, worked as intended in nudging people to not litter in public places. Interestingly, for example, more bins worked but when these additional bins were then removed, more litter than before was strewn!

A story like this needed a good, teasing, intro... hence my "Bin there, done that."

On one level, it was a play on the slang expression "Been there, done that". It is not easy to educate people who don't care to not litter, so this intro prepares the reader for both encouraging as well as discouraging results, ie there will be initiatives that had been tried previously, without success.

On another level, I used "bin" as a verb, and making the intro an exhortation. So, "(please) Bin there (where the bin is). (Having) done that (ie making the effort to walk to the bin, you would have taken a step towards creating a non-littering culture). Memo to NEA: Feel free to use it as one of your anti-littering slogans!

The mosquitoes seemed to be winning the skirmishes... but...


This next story was at first written up as an ordinary report about how the minister, speaking at an event, rattled off facts and figures to show how this year's dengue outbreak nearly became worse than last year's. I decided -- in tweaking it -- to use a "war zone" imagery in the intro:

The mosquitoes seemed to be winning the skirmishes, claiming three lives, but Singapore's anti-dengue fight this year is headed towards a better-than-expected close.

The upbeat "general" -- Minister  for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan -- gave this field report yesterday.

[Actually, I had used "mozzies" in the intro, to keep to the story's slightly offbeat tone. After all, the NEA itself uses this word too. But some humourless sub changed it to "mosquitoes".]

[Man] promises not to bite, even as he bares his 'fanged' teeth...



This is a Halloween story. To "sex" it up, I took the straightforward description by the reporter of a hotel staffer dressing up partly as Dracula and played up the imagery with reference to, yes, those trademark teeth! As tweaked:

Hotel customer relations assistant manager Karlson Kim promises not to bite, even as he bares his "fanged" teeth tomorrow [ie on Monday, 31 Oct, Halloween Day].

The Royal Plaza on Scotts staff member will just be indulging in the Halloween mood -- decked out in a Phantom of the Opera and Dracula-themed costume.

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So, there! I've blown my own trumpet in this posting.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Now if her name was Olive Oil, she might just be "Extra Virgin"...

Yesterday's posting's last item, about the girl who was tempted by a million-dollar carrot to sleep with a stranger, was just a fictional joke. I wonder, though, if it was the inspiration for the movie "Indecent Proposal".

But truth is sometimes weirder than fiction, as seen in this news item found in The New Paper (29 Oct):

A 23-year-old Italian socialite, Raffaella Fico, who has been reported to have attended Prime Minister Silvio Bellusconi's infamous wild parties and who has dated famous soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Balotelli, claims she is a virgin.

Not only that, the once-upon-a-time contestant in the Italian version of TV reality show Big Brother, now wants to auction off her virginity for a million euros (about S$1.75 million).

Here's her reason: "I am putting up for auction my virginity... to see if someone will pay that amount to have me. I can't wait to see who's going to pull out the money to have me. If I don't like him, I'll just have a glass of wine and forget about it."

Her offer sparked a mini-controversy. The Vatican was among the strongest opponents of her money-making scheme [Hey, girl, be careful of upsetting the Vatican... remember Galileo who was forced to recant his support for Copernicus' theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun, not the other way around?].

Critics branded Ms Fico's idea "extremely high-priced prostitution" [Hey, critics, read that last joke in my blog... what's the difference?].

Her brother even had to step in to vouch for his sister's purity. He said: "She's never had a boyfriend. I swear on my mother's grave. She's a devout Catholic and prays every night."

The media buzz surrounding Ms Fico apparently fizzled when she turned down an offer of 972,000 euros [that cheapo!!], which led to critics to slam the auction as a cheap publicity stunt [Duh].

What's next? Ms Fico isn't done with attention-seeking. She has not ruled out a TV programme charting her "first" experience of sex.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is it a no-brainer to ask: Can money buy happiness?

It remains, in this three-parter on happiness, to ask: Can money buy anything, including happiness?

Hey, it's Friday, so don't expect a serious inquiry. Here goes...

Let's start with the principal framer of the United States' Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson:

"It is neither wealth nor splendour; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness."

Wah, this man too serious, man. Let's try someone else. Benjamin Franklin:

"Money has never made man happy, nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants."

True, true. But still too cheem (serious). Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmopolitan magazine's most famous chief editor:

"Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you to be miserable in comfort."

Warmer (comfortably warmer?). Woody Allen seldom disappoints:

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."

And, for the clincher, comedian Jackie Mason:

"Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, I love money."

Which brings me to wrap up today's posting with this wickedly clever joke...

Guy: “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?”
Girl: “A million dollars is a lot of money. I guess I would consider it.”
Guy: “I don’t have a million dollars. Would you sleep with me for $100?”
Girl (outraged): “What kind of girl do you think I am?”
Guy: “We’ve just established the answer to that question. Now we’re negotiating the price."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to be happy? Let me count the ways... 271,000,000 and counting!

By one account, in the beginning, there were two happy people. Everything was provided for them. On this innocence-based, non-envious definition, they should have been contented. But happy -- ie seemingly contented -- people, can be tempted away from their garden of happiness. You know the rest of this story.

In the above account, the couple was duped by an envious entity, and lost their innocence.

Hence, is there a form of perverse "happiness" -- the pleasure some get from seeing others being unhappy. Indeed, the ancient Greeks had thought about it.

Aesop told a story about a man to whom Zeus would grant any wish, provided his neighbour got twice as much. He asked for a mansion and his neighbour received  one twice as big. But the man was envious of his neighbour. So Aesop's story ends with the man asking Zeus to blind him in one eye.

Fast forward to today. There is positive psychology now, and there are happiness studies, the science of happiness, happiness indices, happiness tests (and such silly stuff as the survey I mentioned yesterday).

Ultimately, happiness has to be how one defines and seeks it, even if it's about dying for a smoke,as this story goes:

A laboratory rabbit somehow managed to escape from the lab where he had been born and brought up -- for a specific purpose.

As he happily fled the compound, he felt grass under his little paws for the first time, as he came upon a lush field. And he saw a wondrous dawn breaking for the first time in his life.

"Wow, this is great," he thought. He came to a hedge and, after squeezing under it, he saw yet another wonderful sight: lots of other male bunny rabbits, all free, having fun and nibbling at the lush grass.

"Hey," he called. "I'm a rabbit from the laboratory and I've just escaped. Are you wild rabbits?"

"Yes. Come and join us," they cried. He hopped over to them and started eating the grass. It tasted so good, unlike the tasteless food he grew up with.


"What else do you wild rabbits do?" he asked. "Well," one of them said. "You see that field there? It's got the most delicious carrots growing in it." This he couldn't resist and he spent the next hour eating the most succulent carrots. He felt full, happy and contented.

Later, he asked them again, "What else do you do?"

One of the other rabbits came a bit closer to him and spoke softly. "There's one other thing you must try. You see those female rabbits there," he said, pointing to the far corner of the field. "They're girls. We make out with them."


And so, our little bunny -- true to his instincts -- went to do what bunnies do.

He spent the rest of the morning making out until, completely knackered, he staggered back over to the guys. "That was fantastic," he panted.

"So are you going to live with us and enjoy your newfound freedom?" one of them asked.

"I'm sorry, I had a great time but I can't." The wild rabbits all stared at him, a bit surprised. "Why? We thought you liked it here."

"I do. But I must get back to the lab. I'm dying for a cigarette," he said.


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Postscript: Why the number 271,000,000 in the heading above? Google "happiness" and you'll find out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happiness is a warm puppy? Nah, say Singaporeans...

A lot of ink has been spilt and bandwidth used up on the notion of happiness these past weeks. Even Singapore's Parliament got into the act, debating the idea of a "Happiness Index".

Given that happiness is such an elusive concept, there's plenty of stuff out there about it -- from the philosophical to the downright silly. One can, for instance, make what one will about a recent survey on the issue by Grey Singapore, a marketing communications agency.

Lianhe Wanbao's take (24 Oct), as summarised in xinmsn's news website, is that Singaporean men are happier than the womenfolk:

The survey involved 102 females and 98 males (mostly citizens and some PRs) between the ages of 18 and 60, found that Singapore's men [in the age range polled, I should add... so I'm outside it, by one year!], tend to be happier than the women, especially in aspects like work satisfaction, and work-life balance.

It also found that, surprise, surprise, it is not the 5C's that make Singaporeans happy! The top five things that warm the cockles of the typical Singaporean heart are:

1. The country we live in, ie Singapore
2. Family ties
3. Religion
4. Network of social support
5. Personal time

The obvious next question is: What are the top five things that make Singaporeans unhappy? Here goes:

1. Savings (more precisely, the lack of it)
2. Expenditures
3. Lack of confidence about the economic future
4. Lack of work satisfaction
5. Lack of work-life balance.

One social worker, Ms Zhuo Jia Min, was interviewed by Lianhe Wanbao about the survey findings. She felt that the women take on more responsibilities than the men in a largely Chinese society like Singapore's.

"The men... [after they return home from work]... can read the papers or watch TV without needing to take care of the household chores. The women have to take care of others after work. They have to do the chores and [help] their kids do their homework," Ms Zhou said.

ST reported on the survey on 25 Oct. Since Lianhe Wanbao had already milked the "men are happier" angle, ST zeroed in on the baby boomers in the said age range as being the happiest in Singapore ("Baby boomers happiest of all: Poll", page B5).

The ST report added that young people aged 18 to 29 are the unhappiest.

ST's report on the scope of the survey, done in June, said: "[The respondents] were surveyed on their level of contentment across a range of issues such as confidence in the economy and job satisfaction." On the whole, some 52 per cent said they were happy; about 27 per cent were "neutral about their state of satisfaction" [whatever that means!]; and 22 per cent reported that they were unhappy.

The Grey survey, reportedly the first of its kind, will be an annual affair. So stay tuned next year for who will be Singapore's happiest and unhappiest folks!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Staying ahead, in headline writing and in political writing.

Headline of the day:



This headline, from a Channel News Asia item today, was spotted on the xinmsn news website. Taken literally, it says that there is a body (ie one particular body) that has kept popping up at Bedok Reservoir! But, sorry folks, there's nothing paranormal here. The actual CNA item explains what the inept headline writer was trying to say:

http://news.xin.msn.com/en/singapore/article.aspx?cp-documentid=5444454

Good headline writers of course seize the opportunity to pun on bodies, dead or alive. This New York Post headline, depicting a gruesome murder, is said to be among the best:

   
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I found today's write-up in ST -- this time by senior writer Clarissa Oon -- on the Singapore Writers Festival as engaging as yesterday's. So, here's more (ST Life!, "Political writing market opens up", page C9):

There has never been a better time to be writing about politics in Singapore, novelist and political commentator Catherine Lim declared at a forum at the [festival] over the weekend. The sudden opening up of political space following the May general election, plus a newly engaged citizenry, has turned her new maiden volume of political commentaries into a bestseller, she added.

"Just six months ago, it would not have been taken on by any publisher. It's a good time to be a writer in Singapore," said Lim [at a panel discussion on Politics And Society: Is The Pen Always Mightier?]

While Singapore writers [like Lim] cheer the relaxing of political controls, [Ukranian novelist Andrey Kurkov] made an ironic observation: A society that is "free and happy" reads less and has no time for political literature [I hope he spoke right after Ms Lim; that would be deliciously ironic!].

"It's nicer to have unhappy readers,"quipped the writer of absurdist political fiction in Russian... He noted that after 1991, the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union has brought about the "collapse of a whole tradition of literature in Russia".

Why? Because "there's no censorship and when there's no censorship, people are not interested", he said to laughter from the 120-strong audience...

In increasing affluent but crime-ridden Russia and Ukraine, it has become "more dangerous to be a journalist critical of the government than to be a writer of literature," he added.

[The rest here is background stuff on Catherine Lim...]

Lim caused a stir back in 1994 with two political columns [in ST], the first of which pondered the [PAP] Government's inability to inspire affection despite delivering results, a phenomenon she famously termed the "Great Affective Divide".

She was rapped by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for her second column, which speculated on a contest of styles between him and predecessor Lee Kuan Yew. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Picking the brains of a brilliant man...

I had made fun of economists in a previous posting -- for being more the problem than the solution -- but the authors of the bestselling books Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics deserve praise for their refreshingly radical thinking.

One of the two co-authors, Steven David Levitt, was in town for the Singapore Writers Festival last week. ST writer Akshita Nanda ably captures Levitt's incisive worldview -- and his frank assessment of Singaporean students who attended his classes at the University of Chicago -- in her interview with him.

Here are excerpts of the interview (ST Life!, "Better to think than get all As", 24 Oct, page C8):

To become a world famous academic, start by being really bad at your subject... Levitt offers his own career as proof.

"If you want to succeed in a professional field where you have no talent, the only solution is to take on a set of topics that are so degrading and embarrassing that nobody will touch them," the 44-year-old said, repeating advice given to him by his father, a renowned medical researcher in the field of intestinal gas [aka fart!].

Dr Levitt took an equally unusual career path, applying economic theory to real world problems. The result has been two books about, among other things, why suicide bombers should buy life insurance...

[When asked] about the 20-odd Singaporean students he has mentored in Chicago, [he said]: "I've never seen a smarter, better-prepared set of students. I've also never seen any group of people less willing to break rules. Great ideas are in part about breaking rules."

[During the Q&A, he said that] "it's not that (economists) are brilliant; you just have to have a framework for thinking about the world that makes you seem very smart".

To [an audience member] who said students had to work to get good grades and could not afford to take time out just to think [haha, one has to "take time out" just to think? Sheesh!] and come up with new ideas, he said, "I'd rather have my kids think than get As in school."

One of his parting statements to the crowd in the hall was, "As parents, we have an obligation to create a new generation that can think and have ideas."

[Hmmm... such smarties may well turn out to be non-conformist rule-breakers. Are our present political leaders prepared for that?]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Can she play pocket billiards?... to S'poreans disproving the 'bystander effect'... to an Angry Birds spoof

There's been a number of what I'll call "not-your-run-of-the-mill" stuff this past week, both online and in print.

As usual, insing.com has a good crop but I'll just highlight two. The first is this report about a Taiwanese woman, said to be femininely attractive, who discovered she has testicles! Aha, I defy anyone to resist clicking on the link here:

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/testicles-found-in-taiwanese-woman/id-87e93e00

The shocking news in China of a little girl run over by two vehicles and ignored by nearly 20 passers-by as she lay seriously injured (she later died in hospital) prompted some people to point to what is known as the "bystander effect".

Well, it is heartening to see a story (originally from Lianhe Wanbao) about how a Chinese national in Singapore who was robbed by three women in Geylang received help from a series of strangers, including some passers-by who helped her nab one of the snatch thieves. Here's the link:

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/tourist-robbed-by-3-women-in-geylang/id-dfee3e00

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From the TODAY newspaper (22 Oct) is this one about parents being upset over a new Barbie doll that has tattoos! On its part, the toy maker seems to be relishing the brouhaha.

Tattooed Barbie doll is 'overly sexualised', say parents

A rock chick Barbie doll with dyed pink hair and a chest and neck covered in tattoos has been criticised by parents' groups.

Mattel, the manufacturer, has described the doll -- which is already sold out in the United States until next month -- as a "funky fashionista" who is "ready for fun in "fashion-forward form". Mattel also suggested that many of the buyers may have been "adult" doll collectors. The doll sells for US$50 apiece.

[Aiyoh, what will the new "fashionista" Ken sport? I know! He'll be shirtless and wear that now-famous A&F low-slung jeans!]

One other item here is also from TODAY (21 Oct):

Lost in translation: Man gets Size 1,450 slipper

A British man who ordered a special Size 14.5 slipper to fit his oversized left foot was sent a Size 1,450 after the Chinese manufacturers failed to spot a decimal point in his order.

Mr Tom Boddingham, 27, has a Size 13 right foot and a 14.5 left foot.

He said he now plans to sell the giant slipper -- which measures 210 x 130 x 65 cm, the length of a family car -- on eBay. "I reckon I must be the owner of the biggest slipper in the world. I'm going to sell it online and if I can make a few quid out of it, then all the better."

[Now for the best part of this story. Note the name of the Chinese manufacturer...]

A spokesman for Monster Slippers apologised... and said the mistake occurred because of a translation error. The firm also thought the slipper was for a shop window display. [What, for lefties?]

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Well, at least Mr Boddingham has a sense of humour and was no angry bird. But there were Angry Birds once (in a spoof spotted online) at a certain British tourist attraction:


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Listen to her, and be moved...

It's been a long working day, so it's just an awesome YouTube clip here, of a Chinese pianist who plays beautiful music. One of her hands has no fingers!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbhW_K3NvmQ&feature=player_embedded

Friday, October 21, 2011

The child is father of the man...

In yesterday's posting, I mused about the preschool childhood years and how today's parents might want -- for their child's sake -- to spend more time with their preschooler instead of packing him or her off to one enrichment class after another.

A letter from a TODAY reader, Ng Woon Yang ("Childen under pressure...", 21 Oct, page 24), shares a similar concern about overwhelming the young child:

"Almost every child I know up to the age of 10 is attending some form of enrichment lessons or training, in addition to the usual school commitments. Instead of attending kindergarten from the age of five, as in the past, children as young as six months are being exposed to enrichment programmes.

"This is an additional financial burden for parents. But what becomes of those who are unable to afford such additional education? What becomes of those who choose not to send their children for such activities?

"It makes me wonder if our mainstream education system is no longer capable of nurturing our children. Do those parents realise they are creating a vicious circle of even more parents trying to ensure that their children beat the system?

"Children today are growing up at a breakneck pace. I see this with my nieces and my friends' children. They have no chance to explore, to play in an uninhibited way or to develop their own inclinations for arts, sports and so on.

"They are not allowed to experience failure. How then do they learn to recover from one, when it is no longer just a paper chase? Did past generations of Singaporeans grow up in such a way? This phenomenon is deterring me from having a child of my own."

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

I guess it would be easy to tell this letter writer to go ahead, have your child, and just don't follow the crowd. But that would be insensitive on my part.

But the letter led me to recall the idiom, "The child is father to the man". Essentially, this is the belief that the adult person's personality and attitude to others and to life generally are to a great extent shaped by his or her childhood experiences. This idiom is from a short poem by William Wordsworth. Here's a link:

http://proverbhunter.com/the-child-is-father-of-the-man/

"My heart leaps up when I behold", by William Wordsworth
My heart leaps up when I behold
              A rainbow in the sky:
          So was it when my life began;
          So is it now I am a man;
          So be it when I shall grow old,
              Or let me die!
          The Child is father of the Man;
              I could wish my days to be
          Bound each to each by natural piety.

           

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Teach your children well

ST carried an interview with a visiting American childhood education expert, Professor Sharon Kagan, on Wednesday (19 Oct, page A14). Her research and findings are worth at least some reflection by Singaporean "kiasu" parents.

She says there is no evidence that preschool would help very young children more than the care of loving, dedicated parents.

"When children are younger, they need intimacy, they need the nurturing of caring adults, the need to be held. Society does not necessarily benefit from having children required to go to an institution when they are very, very young," says the professor, who teaches at Columbia University and works with the World Bank and the UN Children's Fund too.

She is not saying that preschools should not be part of the formal educational structure and, indeed, advocates greater state investment in early children education. I guess what she is saying is that parents must not pass on the role of nurturing the very young child holistically to the preschool system -- such as, say, by enrolling the child in a slew of enrichment classes.

The attention the children get in such classes is not necessarily better than what parents have to offer. Again, she did not specifically say so, but a comment like this implies that there should be one stay-at-home parent during early childhood.

Young children need "as much conversation as (they) can engage in" and "as much intellectual stimulation" as possible. "If a mother and a father can do that, they may not need enrichment classes," she says.

Here's her response to this question that the reporter posed to her:

Q: What basic advice would you give to parents of very young children?

A: Read to your child every day. Ask your child open-ended questions, questions that don't have a "yes" or "no" answer. It should be "tell me about it" or "why do you think this happened?" -- because we are trying to get the child to use conjecture, to use interpretation, to embellish his or her language.

To the degree you can, spend time with your child. Teach your child about your heritage and your own culture. Model caring practices in the way you interact with others. Make sure your child has time for physical activities, ideally outdoors. And have fun. Being a parent is a privilege.

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Professor Kagan's remarks above remind me of the Crosby, Still and Nash and Young song, "Teach Your Children":

http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/c/crosbystillsnashyoung6061/teachyourchildren237794.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQtRsSmU-6k

On the other hand, there is the equally poignant but ultimately sad song, "Cats in the Cradle & the Silver Spoon". I have hyperlinked here the lyrics attributed to Guns N' Roses but I prefer Harry Chapin's rendition of the song, below:

http://www.lyrics007.com/Guns%20N'%20Roses%20Lyrics/Cats%20In%20The%20Cradle%20%26%20The%20Silver%20Spoon%20Lyrics.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUwjNBjqR-c

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is choice of Tang Dynasty 'mirror man' Wei Zheng meant to be allegorical?

As reported in today's ST (19 Oct), the maiden Parliamentary speech of Workers' Party MP Chen Show Mao was heard by one and all in the House with rapt attention. It marked him as an orator.

Intriguingly, when speaking in Mandarin, he compared the WP to Wei Zheng, the Tang Dynasty high official (AD 580-643) who had the ear of Emperor Taizong.

My search on the Internet led to this biopic, from the Cultural China website, of Wei, described as "a mirror to show the mistakes of the Court":

http://history.cultural-china.com/en/47History6069.html

Wei was initially not one of the Emperor's "men". But he was co-opted into the inner circle and eventually rose to become chancellor on account of his reputed integrity and record of giving wise advice that was often blunt too.

Throughout his loyal service to the Emperor, he never flinched from giving such advice, even incurring the top dog's displeasure on many occasions. Hence, the moniker of a mirror that Wei acquired. Oh, and he survived several character assassinations by rivals in the Emperor's inner circle.

Now back to Chen Show Mao's speech, in which he spoke of the role he envisaged himself, as a WP MP, should play in Parliament...

"As an opposition MP, I am not the enemy of the Government. I am a Singaporean and a patriot," he said.

In his speech in Mandarin, he said: "In this 12th Parliament, I hope a wise ruling party can be [Emperor] Taizong while we the WP can be Wei Zheng. Together we can create a prosperous era, one that is not dictated by a single ruler surrounded by 'yes' men."

"The right to love one's country does not lie solely with any one political party," he also said. On the presence of the Opposition in the House, he quoted from another Chinese statesman, Yan Ying: "Who can listen if the orchestra only plays one note?"

He went on to argue that political differences in the Singapore context need not lead to time-wasting politicking and gridlock. He also said: "We should not guard against the people like we would guard against thieves."

As summed up by ST's political correspondent Li Xueying, "It was Mr Chen's maiden speech in Parliament, but it was a masterful one. He was expert, elegant and -- even his political rivals might admit -- charismatic."

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

I think, over the next few days, pundits will be analysing Mr Chen's speech, to look for the layered meanings. For example, given the context of Wei Zheng's era, is Mr Chen suggesting that -- for the sake of Singapore's continued future -- the WP's role as "a mirror to show the mistakes of the Court" will become even more critical?

Hmmm. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The philosophy of snail jokes.

My BBC posting yesterday led to well-wishes from my father-in-law (he had forgotten about it, but reads this blog regularly... oh, oh, no father-in-law jokes then).

And from Nick, some banter on now that I have been a sexagenarian for a year, I must be getting "sexier"... at least until I hit 70.

For today, I'm staying with my newfound fascination with snails... there are a number of snail jokes out there. I like this one:

Man turns up at a fancy dress party with a woman clinging to his back.

"What are you?" the host asks.

A snail, he says.

"And what is your friend?"

Oh, that's MICHELLE.

But, really, there is a philosophical side to snail jokes. They may be used to illustrate perceptions of the relativity of time. Hence, the term "snail mail" has been coined to contrast with "email" (electronic mail). So, while the jokes below may seem corny, there's a cheem (serious) side to them...

* A snail turns up at a police station to report that he has just been mugged and robbed.
"It was two turtles! They beat me up and took my money!" the snail says.
The officer on duty asks, "Did you get a good look at them?"
The snail replies, "No! It all happened so fast!"

* A snail goes into a bar and orders a beer. The barman says "We don't serve snails here" and throws him out.

A couple of weeks later, the snail turns up again. "Why did you do that for?" he asks in a bewildered voice.

* A variation of the above is this one:
A man is watching his favourite TV show when he hears a knock at the door. But when he answers, there is no one there. Just as he's about to close the door, he hears a small voice say, "Excuse me sir, could I interest you in a set of encyclopaedias?" He looks down and sees a snail on his doorstep.

Angered at being dragged away from his TV programme by a snail selling encyclopaedias, he kicks the poor snail off his front steps and into the garden, before returning inside.

Several weeks later, there's a knock at the door. He answers the door to find the snail, who asks, "Why did you do that for?"

* Why did the snail cross the road?
I don't know but I'll let you know when it gets here (version 1).
To get to the Shell station (version 2).

* Escargot (pronounced ess-kar-go) is the French word for snail. Hence this joke (which I like since it differs from the typical "snail's pace" jokes):
Monsieur snail goes to a Peugeot showroom to purchase his first car. The snail tells the saleman that he wants an S painted on the sides of his car. The saleman asks why? The snail replies, "When I drive down the road, people will say look at that S Car go."

Monday, October 17, 2011

My BBC (birthday boy celebration); and a Channel News Asia 'treat' too!

One year ago, after I turned 60, I told myself to start blogging (the reasons are given in "First Post", 31 October 2010).

I'm 61 today! We -- my wife Angie, my daughter Lynn and her husband Mike, and my mother-in-law Rosie and her husband Danny -- went to this restaurant I had discovered by chance while checking out the newly opened Circle Line mass rapid transit. The dinner buffet spread there, ie, Penang Place (in the Connexis, at B1 level of the One-North station), was pretty good and we had a great time. There were many diners -- on a Monday evening.

It was quite noisy there when my other daughter Liane and her husband Chee Khoon, both Sydneysiders, called me on my cellphone to wish me Happy Birthday. I had to strain to hear them on the line.

We left the restaurant sated.

I seemed to have been on an eating binge since yesterday (Sunday). After church service, my mother-in-law took me and my wife to lunch at Tim's Restaurant, in Lorong 4, Toa Payoh. I had an excellent Angus tenderloin steak.

Then, in the evening, my nephew Tan Beng and his wife Boon Sin took my wife and me to a German restaurant/wine bistro, Magma, in Bukit Pasoh Road. We had a great time there too.

The pianist was next to our table, and we later complimented him for his good selection of tunes. Boon Sin requested the Happy Birthday song for me (aiyoh, pai say, man). Glasses were raised! We tucked into our apple strudle dessert.

We then asked for the bill and... surprise! The manager, Mr Zhang Yong Quiang, came bearing a chocolate cake with a single lit candle on it (hmmm, what's 61 minus 60?). The cake (picture below) was yummy.



 And all we had asked for was the Happy Birthday song. This was excellent service, indeed. Thank you, Mr Zhang, for making that evening extra special.

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

Rounding off tonight, after the dinner at Penang Place, we all watched a Channel News Asia programme, "The Pulse on Singapore Aviation" (this episode, "Guardian of Our Skies", was the third in the CNA series). For us, it was a must-watch -- my daugher Lynn was featured in it! (She is the "Viper" in my "When Charlie Met Viper" posting of 28 July).

So, all in all, I had a great BBC!    

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sex and the single snail? Not quite, it still needs a horny mate...

What's so interesting about snails? How about this snippet:

Huge, slimy snails from Africa recently overran a Miami (Florida, USA) suburb. Thousands of the giant African snail (Achatina Fulica) variety -- which can grow up to 20cm, or nearly eight inches -- have been scaring residents, leaving slimy trails and a foul odour when they die, and chomping up local plants. They also carry a health risk: they carry a parasite known as the rat lungworm that can enter the central nervous system and cause nausea, headache and nerve damage.

Snails are dual-sex, and hence can proliferate. The last time giant African snails surfaced in south Florida was in 1966, when a boy smuggled just three of them from Hawaii and set them free in his garden. They quickly started breeding, and it took almost a decade and a million dollars to get rid of them all. Now it's deja vu!

Googling for "snail facts" led to 7,030,000 entries! Here's a pretty cool link, which lists 66 facts about snails:

http://www.madaboutsnailbooks.com/facts.asp

I won't itemise all 66 here, but just a few:

* Snails are shellfish, belonging to a group called MOLLUSCS, just like oysters and clams.

* The shell protects it from danger. It grows with the snail and the shell a land snail is born with will stay in the middle of its shell for all of its life.

* A snail has a soft body that is long and slimy. The shell that protects it sits upon its back.

* Land snails have many different kinds of coloured shells. An Apple Snail for example has a yellow shell and an African Land Snail has different bands of brown, pink and cream.  Some snails have very pretty shells.

* Snails are both male and female and are called HERMAPHRODITES so they produce both eggs and sperm, but they need another snail to be able to make baby snails.

* When land snails are ready to lay eggs they make a nest of up to 4 centimetres deep in the soil. They do this by digging a hole in the soil with the tail end of their foot (pond snails on the other hand do not lay their eggs, but carry them around until they hatch).

* When the eggs have been laid they will HATCH after 2-4 weeks.

* The baby snails are born with tiny SHELLS on their backs and bodies that look almost see-through.

* Any eggs that have not hatched will be eaten by the other babies.  This will give them an early feed of CALCIUM to help their own shells grow strong.

* Garden snails are a DELICACY in some countries.  In France people like to eat them cooked with garlic and oil. African Land Snails are also popular in West Africa. Other countries where people like to eat snails include Portugal, Greece, Italy and Malta.

* The Ghana Tiger Snail is the largest land snail and can grow up to 30 centimetres – that’s about 12 inches.

* The largest Giant African Land Snail ever recorded was 15 inches long from head to tail.

* The biggest of all the snails belongs in the sea -- it’s an Australian marine type called a SYRINX ARUANUS. It can grow up to 30 inches long and weighs 40 lbs!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

To Siri, with love? And what makes an obedient wife...

It seems that iPhone users -- people who have bought the new 4S model anyway -- are having fun posing questions to Siri, the female-voiced personal assistant app that comes bundled with the 4S. Website insing.com has a compilation of some of the quirkier Q&A:

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/iphone-users-have-fun-with-personal-assistant-siri/id-5be03e00

This website also has a story update on Malaysia's controversial Obedient Wives Club (OWC). The club has now published a for-members-only 115-page sex guide booklet with the bizarre title, “Islamic Sex, Fighting against Jews to return Islamic Sex to the World”.

The pocket-sized booklet "states that research by OWC found that wives can satisfy only 10 per cent of their husbands’ desires. The guide then sets out to teach members how to fulfill the remaining 90 per cent of desires".

insing.com adds that the guide, "targeted at newly-weds, is said to be littered with explicit details of sex although it does not contain sexual pictures". Here's the link:
  
http://news.insing.com/tabloid/obedient-wives-club-publishes-sex-guidebook/id-0add3e00

The story reminds me of this one from my joke collection:

The newly married man decided that he had to lay down the rules to his bride. "I believe in an obedient wife and you will not question me whenever I come home late, even at the weekends," he intoned.

"Yes, dear," she sweetly replied, "but I should let you know that I'm having sex in our bedroom every Saturday night at 10pm, whether you are at home or not."

Friday, October 14, 2011

What I spied with my little eye, homeward on the train

Text, text, text... eyes glued to phone
With furrowed brows, riding home
Thumb goes sideways, up and down
Smileless, the hint of a frown
But typing away
OMG-ing away
LOL-ing away

Slide, tap, slide... on other side
Of rocking train, sitting tight
Heading home too, eyes down
Thumb circles, hint of a frown
But thumbing away
OMG-ing away
LOL-ing away

Too many subway zombies!
I thank the crying babies
Conversationalists too
Any human sound will do
Or else, dance the boogaloo!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

ESR Onthesannyside? (for Emeritus Semi-Retiree Onthesannyside)

An ST reader, Mr Tan Soon Meng, wrote in his letter on Tuesday (11 Oct) that he was concerned that the use of the novel title of Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) for Mr Goh Chok Tong would diminish Mr Goh's stature. This is Mr Tan's take:

"May I appeal to the Government and Mr Goh Chok Tong not to use the title Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) and refer to Mr Goh as Singapore's former prime minister instead.

"In recent press reports, Mr Lee Kuan Yew has been referred to as 'founding prime minister' or 'former prime minister' and both terms work because they capture Mr Lee's importance.

"If he were called Emeritus Minister Mentor, it would be a term of far less significance.

"The term 'Emeritus Senior Minister' tells us only that Mr Goh was a former senior minister and ignores the fact that he held the office of prime minister for more than 13 years.

"This is because the position of seniot minister is not exclusive to former prime ministers of Singapore [note: we have only two ex-prime ministers: LKY and GCT], as Mr S. Rajaratnam and Professor S. Jayakumar have both been senior minister despite not having been prime minister.

"There are two other reasons not to use the Emeritus Senior Minister. First, the title has no precedent anywhere in the world [hmmm... that qualifies it as a Singapore entry in the Guinness World Records?] and is likely to confuse foreigners [well, I'm sure they are already confused by our strange misuse of words like 'parking lot' and 'please revert'], some of whom may have to be told that Mr Goh was a former prime minister.

"Second[ly], the title wrongly suggests that Mr Goh currently holds an official, possibly, Cabinet position.

"Previously, the titles of Minister Mentor [note: this title was also unique] and Senior Minister were used because Mr Lee and Mr Goh were in the Cabinet, and needed official titles to reflect their ministerial positions.

"Now that Mr Goh is no longer in th Cabinet, the term 'former prime minister' more accurately captures his importance in our history.

"I hope the Government will consider this a suggestion from the people of Singapore -- as I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way -- who would like Mr Goh's full and proper significance to be recognised."

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

Mr Tan's is indeed an interesting letter, and I await with bated breath for some sort of official response.

But how has the adjective "emeritus" been used? A simple yet adequate definition comes from the online English Collins Dictionary: "Emeritus is used with a professional title to indicate that the person bearing it has retired but keeps the title as an honour."

Hence, in academia, certain retired eminent scholars are conferred the title, say, "emeritus professor of physics". People accept that.

In the religious realm, there is the title "archbishop emeritus". One such person is South Africa's Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. This title, albeit rarely given, seems to have been accepted by church followers. The rest of us are free to follow suit or not.

Maybe therein lies the solution. The Singapore Government and Mr Goh will certainly use the title. The local media has already followed suit [abuthen?]. Many ordinary people will do likewise, the way they say "parking lot" when they mean "parking space".

I don't see why the rest of us, or the rest of the world, should be so fixated about it. It won't change the price of fish. So, anyone wants to put "emeritus" in his title? I spotted this one in a recent Canon ad in TODAY:



Hmmm, since I consider myself semi-retired, I will ponder over whether to call myself Emeritus Semi-Retiree (ESR) Onthesannyside. You don't care? That's precisely my point.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Great Disruption vs The Big Shift

There's so much stuff out there today.

If I had all the time in the world, I would be writing a long posting. So, to keep it fairly short, I'll just point out two thought-provoking commentaries from the New York Times.

In the first piece, Maureen Dowd uncovers the interesting family background of Steve Jobs... that he was an adopted child, that his biological father (still alive) is a naturalised Muslim Syrian, that he has a sister whom he finally met in adulthood, and more. Here's the link to Dowd's article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/opinion/prosperos-tempestuous-family.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212

The second piece is by Thomas Friedman. He tries to figure out why there is so much social unrest today. It has spread beyond the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street (New York), Occupy Washington DC, etc, movements in America.

He then taps into two current hypotheses. The first -- The Great Disruption -- is what Friedman calls "threat-based" ie people everywhere have become despairing of the capitalist system, seeing it as serving only the top one per cent (hence the charge of corporate greed), abetted by colluding, or even conniving, or hapless governments. The world order is being threatened with self-destruct.

The second view -- The Big Shift -- is "opportunity-based". To quote Friedman:

"In the early stages, we experience this Big Shift as mounting pressure, deteriorating performance and growing stress because we continue to operate with institutions and practices that are increasingly dysfunctional -- so the eruption of protest movements is no surprise.

"Yet, the Big Shift also unleashes a huge global flow of ideas, innovations, new collaborative possibilities and new market opportunities. This flow is constantly getting richer and faster. Today...  tapping the global flow becomes the key to productivity, growth and prosperity. But to tap this flow effectively, every country, company and individual needs to be constantly growing their talent."

Friedman is optimistic that, either way, global social meltdown can be averted. He concludes:

"...while the Great Disruption is inevitable, humanity is best in a crisis, and, once it all hits, we will rise to the occasion and produce transformational economic and social change (using tools of the Big Shift).... the Great Disruption may be barrelling down on us, but... the Big Shift has also created a world where more people than ever have the tools, talent and potential to head it off."

Here's the link to Friedman's article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/opinion/theres-something-happening-here.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212

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

Will mass social unrest hit Singapore as well? I think all the issues that have made Singaporeans unhappy -- from the widening income gap (yes, we have our own "one per cent" too!) to the presence of foreigners -- are a potential powder-keg.

I think too that the PAP government buys into the optimism of the Big Shift hypothesis while also not discounting the social dislocations that the Great Disruption can wreak. But there are realities it cannot wish away -- that there will be winners and losers, that meritocracy and policy offsets can only do so much, that vested interests especially among the elite cannot be wished away albeit attempts can be made to mitigate them (openly and discreetly), etc, etc.

That's why the ruling elite keeps talking about the "new normal" in politics here since the May 2011 general election. The latest buzz phrase is "a more inclusive society". What has emerged is a slicker government PR machinery: from the political leaders to the bureaucrats who deal with the public, there must be no discordant message. Opinion makers, like a certain law academic, are the preferred non-government voices.

I could go on, but I promised to keep my posting today fairly short.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Some headliners, and that darn dangling participle again!

Confucius say...
I forgot to include these yesterday.
-- War not determine who is right; war determine who is left.
--  Passionate kiss like spider web; soon the fly is undone.
-- He who make Confucious joke English not so good.

Great headlines...

I admit, as a Beatles fan, that I'm biased but I simply love this headline in ST Life! (11 Oct, page C10):


The story also said another (unnamed) newspaper, in reporting Sir Paul's new marriage, had this lovely headline: "Yes-today".

ST has, apart from the one above, been having a good crop of headlines:

"Spas open 24 hours to meet customers' kneads" (10 Oct, page B1)
"Ad ab-solutely by the book... Billboard put up only after BCA okay: A&F" (8 Oct, page A14).

A cheeky headline...
New Paper (last Sunday's edition) can get away with this one; I doubt if ST can:



And a strange ST headline:



This headline above appeared in last Saturday's ST (8 Oct), as part of its special report on Singapore's prison service. It is kind of surreal to call our prisons the "world's best"! I can almost hear the prisoners exclaiming, "It's a great life here, so give me life!". Oh, boy.

And still dangling...

I wish the sub-editors can really spot dangling participles. This glaring one is from the page one lead today (ST, 11 Oct, "Govt pledges better life for all"):

"Having done well in strengthening racial and religious harmony, Dr Tan said Singapore must now try hard to prevent a new fault line from forming..."

We can achieve zero tolerance with regard to dangling participles because they are so easily correctable, as in this rendition:

"Dr Tan said that Singapore, having done well in strengthening racial and religious harmony, must now try hard to prevent a new fault line from forming...".

Monday, October 10, 2011

Confucius say...

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) reportedly said, "Let China sleep; when she wakes, she will shake the world."

Fast forward to today. Both China and Taiwan mark 10 Oct as the day in 1911 when the Chinese people overthrew the Qing Dynasty as well as the yoke of feudalism. Unfortunately for the Nationalists (KMT), the Communists (CCP) swept them out to Taiwan in 1949.

Today -- 10 Oct 2011 -- marks the centennial of China's Republican Revolution led by Dr Sun Yat Sen.

Listening to the words of today's CCP leaders, one senses their quiet confidence in the veracity of Bonaparte's prediction.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said, "To achieve the great revival (emphasis mine) of the Chinese nation, we must certainly firmly uphold the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party."

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

So, if China's leaders can help it, liberalisation into a "two-party" system merely means one on Friday night and one on Saturday night! Work hard the rest of the work-week, comrades! (Actually, this joke has been attributed to the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping but I doubt if he had such a humorous bent).

Having dug up some Russian-themed jokes yesterday, I thought it would be fun to do likewise with some Chinese ones. Most "Confucius say" jokes are over-the-top corny but I think these here just about make the pass grade:

Confucius say...
If you want pretty nurse, you got to be patient.
Man with athletic finger make broad jump.
When called an idiot sometimes better to be quiet than open mouth and remove all doubt.
Man who runs in front of car gets tired. [note: this works only with American spelling]
Man who runs behind car gets exhausted.
Man who drives like Hell soon gets there.
Man who gets hit by car will have that run-down feeling.

This next joke is attributed to Ronald Reagan:
How do you tell someone is a communist? He reads Marx and Lenin.
How do you tell someone is an anti-communist? He understands Marx and Lenin.

What about Mao Zedong jokes? I thought this one is pretty good...
Where is Mao buried? In a MAOsoleum!

Then there is that classic Bush-era joke in which Condi Rice tells Bush "Hu is President of China" which made Dubya angry because he didn't like her to answer his question with a question (I had posted this one in a much earlier posting).

Last one...
Three men are standing on a street corner. A news reporter comes up to them.
"What is your opinion of the meat shortage?"
The American: What is shortage?
The Russian: What is meat?
The Chinese: What is opinion?
[This is not true, of course. Many netizens in China are bravely voicing their opinions on social media.]

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Russian/Putin jokes

There is a genre of jokes loosely called "Russian jokes". Given the country's tumultuous history, the Tsarist era, Soviet-era and post-Soviet era jokes can be poignant.

I still recall this one from the musical Fiddler on the Roof (the context is Tsarist persecution of Jews):

*A villager asks the visiting Rabbi: Is there a prayer we can say for the Tsar?
Rabbi: Yes, of course, that may he be kept far, far, away from this place. 

Then there is this Soviet-era joke:

*A professor is invited to a mental asylum to give a lecture about how great communism is. At the end of the presentation, he gets a resounding applause from the packed audience. But one man stands silently, with his arms folded.
The academic asks him, "Why aren't you clapping too?"
The man replies: "I'm still sane. I work here."

In post-Soviet Russia, strongman Vladimir Putin served two terms as president and because the Constitution disallows him from an unbroken third term, he arranged for his prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, seen by most Russians as a political wimp, to become the "seat-warmer" president while Mr Putin became prime minister for a term.

Well, the Russian presidential election is due again in March next year. The prospect of Putin becoming -- once again, for the third time -- Russia's next president has generated a slew of Putin-themed jokes.

I found, online, these three jokes (and have updated the third one):

* Stalin's ghost appears to Putin in a dream, and Putin asks for his help in running the country.
Stalin says, "Round up and shoot all your opponents, and then paint the inside of the Kremlin blue."
Putin: "Why blue?"
"Ha!" says Stalin. "I knew you wouldn't ask me about the first part."

*Putin goes to a restaurant with Medvedev and orders a steak.
The waiter asks, "And what about the vegetable?"
Putin answers, "The vegetable will have steak too."

*Putin and Obama are fishing on the Volga River. After half an hour Obama complains, "Vladimir, I'm getting bitten like crazy by mosquitoes, but I haven't seen a single one bothering you."
Putin: "They know better than that."

More recently, AFP filed a story that said new Putin jokes are making the rounds ahead of next year's  vote, and with many Russians fearing that he will remain in power for two more six-year terms until
2024. By that time he would be 72 and the longest-serving Moscow leader since dictator Joseph Stalin.


Here are a selection of the fresh Putin jokes:


*Q: Who are you going to vote for: Putin or Putin?
  A: I’m so sick of them all, I’ll vote for Putin.


*February 2012, a sign on the wall of a polling station says: “Sunday, March 4 is the date for the election of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

*Hello, you’ve reached Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. If you wish to speak to Dmitry Anatolyevich (Medvedev), press “two.”

*A referendum in 2012 asks: Do you agree to give another term to: 1) Vladimir Putin; 2) (Jailed oligarch) Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Vladimir Putin: “I am fine with both.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Going bananas in Oz...

I'm posting here some pics from my Oz trip. First one is of this bunch of bananas...



What's so special about it? Have I gone bananas? Yes, I forgot I was not in Singapore... after the supermart checkout girl had keyed in the transaction, I found I had to fork out A$5.50 for this very ordinary bunch of five bananas (A$1.10 each!).

Next, Oz is a big country, and Aussies are big on many things. So this sign is believable:


They don't just have big bedlinen; they have massive ones. How about this next snapshot, to rival that titilating A&F poster ad on Orchard Road -- if it were to take up as huge a space:



That pic was taken at a factory outlet mall. I bought a shirt there, which has this label on the inside with typically Aussie sense of humour:


 
On the way out of the mall was this sign. Hmmm, with what...



Last one... is this where screwed-up people finally have a ball of a time? I wouldn't know... I merely stood outside to snap the pic:


Friday, October 7, 2011

Keeping things in perspective, be it about Singapore or stuff happening.

I'm back from my Oz trip, and was catching up on the newspapers before going off to work.

ST carried a commentary article by Canadian journalist Neil Reynolds, headlined "In Singapore, it's save and be saved" (7 Oct, page A34). Some of his statements are inaccurate or debatable but the figures he cites are spot-on and sobering. Among them:

"...in 1959, Singapore was an impoverished Third World island nation with all the filth and fever that stagnant sewage ensures in a densely populated city (population: one million) of slums. Per-capita GDP then was US$400.

"In the 50 years since, Singapore’s nominal per-capita GDP growth has signalled its astonishing advance: in 1990, US$12,000; in 2000, US$22,000; in 2010, US$50,000 – or, expressed in terms of purchasing power, US$62,000. This ranks Singapore as the fifth highest in the world, well ahead of the United States (in 11th place with per-capita GDP of US$47,200) and Canada (in 22nd place with per-capita GDP of US$39,400).

"Boston Consulting Group says Singapore has more millionaires, relative to population, than any other country in the world: 15.2 per cent of all households have more than US$1-million of personal assets “under active management,” which means that house values aren’t counted."

Here is the original Globe and Mail article (ST's version seemed to have some missing bits):

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/neil-reynolds/in-singapore-its-save-and-be-saved/article2182024/?service=mobile

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There are also some quotable quotes in today's ST:

"Cinderella's not going to the ball, so Republican voters are going to have to settle for one of her ugly sisters." -- political pundit Mark McKinnon on US rightwing darling Sarah Palin's decision to not make a bid for the 2012 US presidential election.

"It was very painful, and I felt like I was being chainsawed in the stomach, with hot sauce on the chainsaw." -- contestant Curie Kim on how she felt while taking part in a curry eating contest in Edinburgh, Scotland. She came in second.

"Every family has a black sheep. You wouldn't kill the entire family because of that." -- Hort Park and Southern Ridges assistant director Wendy Seah on having to keep a sense of perspective, following a recent attack by a rogue alpha male macaque monkey on three people at the park.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

'In case of fire, exit building before tweeting about it'

Gary Hayden has responded, with regard to my summary yesterday of his article in Thursday's Mind Your Body supplement. Here is his much appreciated comment:

"Actually, I didn't mean to imply that the third option is the preferred one. I think that all three responses may have their place -- depending on the circumstances and the individuals involved. The title, 'Insults are Best Ignored', wasn't mine."

Thanks for the clarification, Gary.

It's been a long day (and night) at the office for me, so I'll wrap up with three quirky signs. The first is this "in case of fire" sign that Tom sent me:



This next one was spotted on the cabin ceiling of the cruise ship I was in earlier this year. I guess there must have been passengers who tried to hook clothes hangers onto the sprinkler:



This last one is typical Singlish, from the collection of my son-in-law Mike's sister:


PS: I'm off for a short overseas trip. Will resume blogging next Saturday or Sunday night.