Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Warning: Park and deride ahead!

The war of the sexes continues... if a study just out is to be believed, women come out the better when it comes to parking a car in a space. The AFP story below, headlined "The driving truth: Women are better at parking, says study," is from Channel NewsAsia's website:


After decades of male taunts over their driving skills, women can take heart from a new British study (released Monday). It found them to be actually the better sex when it comes to parking.

A review of CCTV footage from 700 British car parks and interviews with 2,000 drivers found that when a range of factors are considered, including the method used and the time taken to park their car, women come out on top.

"I was quite surprised by the results, because in my experience men have always been the best learners and usually performed better in lessons," said driving instructor Neil Beeson, who designed the study for NCP carparks.

"However, it's possible that women have retained the information better. The results also appear to dispel the myth that men have better spatial awareness than women."

The research looked at seven areas, including how fast drivers found a parking space, how they drove into it, how long it took to park, how much they repositioned the car, and the final result.

Out of a maximum score of 20, women had an average result of 13.4, while the average male score was just 12.3.

Men fared better than women in some areas, including speed -- they took an average of 16 seconds to park, compared to 21 seconds for women -- and they were happier with the result, spending less time repositioning the car.

But women were quicker at finding a spot, a result attributed to the fact that men often missed available spots by driving through car parks too fast. Also, more women chose to reverse in, the method preferred by instructors.

And after all the manoeuvres were completed, 53 per cent of women were found to have parked in the centre of the space, compared to only 25 per cent of men.


I then did a Google search, and found other previous studies that claimed the opposite!

Since the above study is a British one, I felt the "opposing claim" study should also be a British one. Here's the link (below, after the Germaine Greer quote) to a December 2009 Mail on Sunday story, with this longish headline, most definitely written up by a male (but ungrammatical) sub-editor: "Men ARE better than women ar parking: Feminist scientists proves what sexist motorists have known all along".

The feminist scientist who stabbed her sisters in the back with a steering wheel? You have to read the story! And, for good measure, there is this delightful quote from feminist author Germaine Greer:

"You must remember that women also have bosoms which makes it very difficult to turn around."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1237236/Men-ARE-better-women-parking-Feminist-scientists-proves-sexist-motorists-known-along.html#ixzz1l8zvVM25


I was tempted to include here at least one of the several YouTube video clips I found -- while doing my Google search -- of women attempting to park their cars, with hilarious results. But I desisted (you can Google "women" and "parking" if you wish).

Instead, here's a tongue-in-cheek joke which I hope is taken in the right spirit. The person who sent me the joke included a disclaimer at the end!...

A new sign at the Bank reads:
"This Bank has installed Drive-through ATMs so customers can withdraw cash without leaving their vehicles.

Customers using the new machines are requested to follow the procedures below, which are the result of months of careful research. Please follow the appropriate steps for your gender."

1. Drive up to the ATM.
2. Lower your car window.
3. Insert bank card into machine and enter PIN.
4. Enter amount of cash required and withdraw.
5. Retrieve card, cash and receipt.
6. Raise window.
7. Drive off. Thank you, and have a nice day.  

************************* ******
1. Drive up to ATM machine.
2. Reverse and back up the required amount to align car window with the machine.
3. Put handbrake on, put the window down.
4. Find handbag, remove all contents on to passenger seat to locate card.
5. Tell person you are chatting with on your mobile phone that you will call him or her back, and hang up.
6. Attempt to insert card into machine.
7. Open car door to allow easier access to machine due to its excessive distance from the car.
8. Insert card.
9. Re-insert card the right way.
10. Dig through handbag to find diary with your PIN written on the inside back page.
11. Enter PIN.
12. Press cancel and re-enter correct PIN.
13. Enter amount of cash required.
14. Check makeup in rear-view mirror.
15. Retrieve cash and receipt.
16. Empty handbag again to locate purse and put cash inside.
17. Write debit amount in cheque book and place receipt in back of it.
18. Re-check makeup.
19. Drive forward one metre.
20. Reverse back to ATM machine.
21. Retrieve card.
22. Re-empty hand bag, locate cardholder, and place card into the slot provided.
23. Give dirty look to irate male driver waiting behind you.
24. Restart stalled engine and drive off. Thank you and have a nice day!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Two men who exemplify the meaning of passion in their sport.

Sunday's men's tennis final in Melbourne between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was truly an epic match, as reflected in Dawn.com's headline, "Djokovic, Nadal and an epic final".

The duo battled it out over five sets lasting 5 hours and 53 minutes -- 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 -- and when the duel ended, these two titans, with narry a trace of hubris, heaped fulsome praise on each other.

Here are some quotes (taken from TODAY and dawn.com):  

(in tribute to Nadal)... "We made history tonight and unfortunately there couldn't be two winners."

(on the match itself)... “You’re in pain, you’re suffering, you know that you’re trying to activate your legs, you’re trying to push yourself another point, just one more point, one more game... You’re going through so much suffering, your toes are bleeding. Everything is just outrageous, you know, but you’re still enjoying that pain.”

(in tribute to Djokovic)... "Congratulations to Novak and his team. They deserve it. They are doing something fantastic... [to have played] a fantastic match against Novak, thank you very much."

(on the match itself)... “Physically it was the toughest match I ever played... But that’s nice (to) be there fighting, trying to go to the limit, bring your body to the limit of its chances. Something I really enjoyed, and I (have) always said it’s good (to) suffer. So when you are fit, when you are with passion for the game, when you are ready to compete, you are able to suffer and enjoy suffering. I don’t know if I express it very well, but it’s something that maybe you understand... I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had during the match.”


Update on Uggie the top dog snubbed by the Oscar committee...
The 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier which stars in the silent movie The Artist, and which was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is "retiring" from films, Reuters reports.

One of its two trainers, Sarah Clifford, said: "He (Uggie) is at the stage where he just says, 'I think I want to go and lay in the sun by the pool.' "


Finally, I don't envy the ST person who had to write today's editorial (leader), headlined "Not a natural state of affairs", with reference to the two human top dogs now helping with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau's probe into their alleged misconduct. Headlines for leader pieces are usually punchy, opinionated even. This neither-here-nor-there one had neither bark nor bite.

And the leader itself seems, to me, to be an apologetic piece.

Most of all, when the Home Affairs Ministry (MHA) released its statement on the case last Friday (27 Jan) -- stating that there was no delay in releasing the news -- the MHA also said it had already planned to make the information public on 25 Jan, but it so happened that Wanbao had broken the story on the evening of 23 Jan. So, it came out with a statement on 24 Jan, a day earlier than planned.

So, okay, fine. But why did that 24 Jan statement not say explicitly that the two men had already been arrested, one on 19 Dec and the other on 4 Jan. I thought the ST leader could have at least raised this question. But I guess I'll have to let it be too.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Time for some teasers...

Let's start with this one meant for young kids, which I found in today's Sunday Times:

All you need to do is to match each bird to its nest site. Easy-peasy, right? After all, it is meant for kids. But I got two wrong answers. The answers (inverted above, and in smaller print) may not be easy to see, so I'll type them out, but after the next teaser!...

This next series was emailed by a friend:

A Short Neurological Test
1. Find the C below... Please do not use any cursor help.

2. If you have already found the C, now find the 6 below.
3. Now find the N below. It's a little more difficult.MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMNMM
If you were able to pass these 3 tests, you can cancel your annual visit to your neurologist. Your brain is great and you're far from having a close relationship with Alzheimer. 
OK, here are the answers to the kiddy quiz:

1. F
2. D
3. G
4. B
5. C
6. A
7. E


Next, I remembered this riddle from a long time ago...

What occurs once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?

(I'll give the answer after I pose the last riddle, below.)


I came across this interesting logic riddle:

You arrive at this portal with nothing but two doors, each with a man standing guard. One door leads to Heaven and the other leads to Hell. One guard always tells the truth; the other always lies. You have to pick one door to go through, and you can only ask ONE question ie, you must decide which guard to approach, and you do not know who is the truth-teller and who is the lier. How do you make sure you get to Heaven?


Don't be too quick to give up and get the answer below. Think about it first. Meanwhile , here's the answer to the previous riddle:

The letter "m".

Ok, here's the last riddle's answer:

Go to either guard and ask this double-barrel question: "Is the truth-telling person standing at the door to Heaven?" Because of the way the question is framed, and because each guard must respond according to his "script", the answer will be the truth, be it a "yes" or a "no"!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Maria's shreik was louder, but victory was Victoria's.

And so it came to pass, that a winner would emerge from the battle royale between the "deci-belles" today, in Melbourne.

As this report in the Guardian puts it, Victoria Azarenka outclassed Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 to take her first tennis grand slam title and also the world No1 ranking.

Sharapova reportedly reached 105 decibels and Azarenka 95 decibels during the match. Here's the link to the Guardian's story:


Incidentally, in the run-up to today's showdown, one ST sport page (28 Jan, "The grunt meter", page C14) featured this comparison:

Maria Sharapova (24, Russia)
Seeded: 4
Grand slam titles: 4
Noise level: 105 decibels, which is as loud as an ambulance siren and only five decibels quieter than a lion's roar.

Her grunt has been described as:
* An angry parakeet
* A pneumatic drill
* A woman about to give birth to triplets

Victoria Azarenka (22, Belarus)
Seeded: 3
Grand slam titles: Her first final
Noise level: 95 decibels, but her grunt is longer, lasting an average 1.5 sec.

Her grunt has been described as:
* The mating call of a peacock
* A ghost haunting a house
* A pig giving birth

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grunting queens, and other music-themed headlines...

Some headlines make me think of the pop songs of my day...

Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova -- dubbed the "deci-belles" for their shreiks and grunts on court at the Australian Open in Melbourne -- meet Saturday (28 Jan) in the Women's final. The headline writer must have been inspired by this 1976 Abba song:

Dancing Queen


This next headline, and very appropriate here, is about noise-cancelling earphones...

There's a Kind of Hush (Herman's Hermits, 1967)


From Britain's Sun tabloid is this classic, about a match between famed Scottish soccer team Celtic and underdog Inverness Caledonia Thistle ("Caley") which scored an upset, with a 3-1 win:

Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious

The song that inspired that headline was Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, from the musical Mary Poppins:


Finally, it's the Sun again! The tabloid just had to be punny when rock superstar Elton John and his gay partner got hitched. The headline it came up with?

Elton Takes David Up The Aisle

Ok, that one has no embedded music theme but it made me think of this hit song by Sir Elton (this YouTube version is before he got pudgy)...

Rocket Man


Thursday, January 26, 2012

No Oscar? Uggie's 'Up Yours!' pose...

I like this pic below and the Reuters story (ST Life!, 26 Jan, page C9) that
accompanied it:

Los Angeles -- He steals the show on the red carpet, his co-stars regard him as a solid actor, and his director believes he is an essential character in The Artist.

But Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who stars in the silent movie [set at the dawn of talkies], was left out in the cold by Oscar organisers on Tuesday (24 Jan) despite having won the hearts and minds of millions of movie-goers...

In the Artist, the cute canine goes from playing dead to ultimately saving the day.

But despite a long list of previous film credits to his name, including Water for Elephants (2011), little Uggie, 10, never stood a chance...

That is because more than 80 years ago, the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] drafted rules that specifically exclude animals from being nominated for Oscars, all because of the success of another superstar dog of the silent era, Rin Tin Tin.

Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life And The Legend, says [the German Shepherd] was so popular with movie audiences in the silent era that he almost won the very first best actor Oscar in 1929.

"The reporting that I did, indicated that Rin Tin Tin got most votes for best actor. But... the Academy was trying to establish itself as a serious new awards programme and they thought 'We can't give awards to animals'," she said.


Ok, back now to that other "top-dogs saga" story...

It still looks like no one in authority is willing to say why a brief statement could not be issued as soon as practicable, on each of the two occasions once arrests were made.

All the public needed to be told then, in timely fashion, was so-and-so had been arrested on such a date, on the basis of whatever alleged contravention, whether there was a suspension of duty, that bail had been offered (with all that that implied), and that investigations were still in progress. That's all!

Instead, we are now being treated to a display of assurances of a thorough investigation into the cases, of profession of no letdown in highest public service and integrity, of public service morale having to be kept up, and of a reminder not to assume guilt of the men arrested.

Hello! Singaporeans are not losing sleep overnight worrying that suddenly, all the above are now at risk. We have every confidence (and do not need reminders) in the core robustness of the structures, and we -- however we may gossip in the coffeeshops -- are not so bigoted as to forswear the "innocent until proven guilty" principle.

We also know that morale at unit level -- at the boots on the ground level -- seldom has to do with leadership at the stratospheric top level.


Meanwhile, headline writers are still trigger-happily plugging the word "probe":

All that's needed is to recast the headline above into:

men were
probe has
kicked in

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Such an arresting story...


The double whammy revelation (see link to story above) that two top men, one helming the civil defence force and the other the anti-drugs agency, raises at least two questions for me:

1) First and foremost, now that we know -- as of today, 25 Jan 2012 -- that one man was arrested last year, on 19 Dec, and the other on 4 Jan this year, why did it take so long to tell Singaporeans, whose taxes pay for these public servants' salaries, about it?

The authorities' caginess would have been understandable if the two men have yet to be arrested. An official response of "investigations are still proceeding" would have then been acceptable.

2) And when Lianhe Wanbao broke the story on Monday, 23 Jan [the Chinese evening daily, quoting unnamed sources, said the case involved "money and women"], the public was unaware that the men had already been arrested. Likewise, when TODAY and ST ran their stories today (25 Jan), perceptive readers had to do some guesswork.

This was TODAY's page one headline and sub-head deck:

Allegations of 'serious personal misconduct' against SCDF commissioner, CNB director
* CPIB probe ongoing
* Both men suspended
* New SCDF chief and CNB director appointed

So, one is left wondering why new chiefs had been appointed [to take over from Feb 1], ie, instead of having acting chiefs take over until the legal cases had been concluded. 

As for ST, its page one lead headline too was based on an "ongoing probe":

Civil defence, narcotics chiefs in CPIB probe... Both suspended from today; successors to take over from Feb 1

But, interestingly, ST's intro used the more definitive word "removed" rather than "suspended", a word more suitable if arrests had not been made:

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) chief Peter Lim and Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) director Ng Boon Gay have been removed from their posts and are being investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

To her credit, TODAY's reporter did ask what I shall call a "thought bubble" question...

When TODAY asked MHA [Ministry of Home Affairs] why it waited before making the investigations public and suspending the two men, MHA said that "investigations were at different stages" and it was "only fair that we gather evidence and allow for due process". [Not a word from the MHA that the arrests had been made already!]


As we are now seeing, all the agencies involved are in damage control mode. All so unnecessary if only...

And it's not helped by this ST headline on page A8:

Probe shows that 'no one is above the law'

Isn't that stating the obvious? ST should then have made it clear, by way of attribution, that the part in quotes were voiced by MPs and "governance experts" (sic).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yes, a caring teacher does make a world of a difference.

The current Education Ministry's recruitment ad on television is based on a real-life account. It tells the story of "Edwin" and how one teacher, "Mrs Chong", was always there for him, especially when things seemed so bleak. I too was fortunate to have met such a caring teacher, and that's why the ad is so impactful for me.

The MOE has put it on YouTube. Here it is:


Across the seas, in America, Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times has written about an equally moving real-life story set in the 1950s... it revolves around a black student named Olly Neal and his teacher Mrs Mildred Grady.

His piece is titled "How Mrs Grady transformed Olly Neal". I will not say more, except to urge people to read it from the link below (it is also found in ST, 23 Jan, page A26): 


Monday, January 23, 2012

It's also a 'drag on' year? And how to hurl an insult, and how to ignore it, or not ignore it...

Usher in the Chinese Year of the Dragon, throw in what's currently happening in American politics, and you'll get...

Meanwhile, throw in an insult aimed by a mainland Chinese at Hongkongers but laced with a barb at Singaporeans, and you get the ingredients for a gripping (griping?) story:

ST's version (23 Jan, lead story on page A10):

Headline: HK furore over China prof's remarks... Academic's name-calling rant infuriates HK people in the wake of subway train quarrel

A row in a Hong Kong subway train between mainland Chinese and local passengers has snowballed into an exchange involving a Peking University Professor [Kong Qingdong] after he labelled Hong Kongers as "dogs".

It all began on Jan 15, when a Hong Kong man riding the subway chided a mainland family for letting their child snack in the carriage -- which is not allowed...

Speaking on a talk show on [an] Internet television site last week, [Prof Kong] repeatedly used the terms "dogs trained by colonialists", "worshippers of the West" and "bastards" as he criticised Hong Kongers...

[Then, somewhere in the middle of this 19-paragraph story, he lashed out further...]

In his comments, Prof Kong had tried to argue that Hong Kongers were not law-abiding by nature, but had been drilled to be [so] by their colonial masters.

"So why should they feel superior to mainlanders since they have been trained to be the 'running dogs' of the British government?" he asked.

He insisted that mainland Chinese were "truer" to their own nature. "If a society had to maintain its order through strict laws such as hefty fines for littering, as happened in Singapore, it's 'law-abiding' look does not reflect the true nature of its people," he said. "Instead, it shows they are a servile bunch who can be whipped into line."


Reference to "Singapore" was made only once in the ST report. Here's how insing.com angled its story (a link to a video clip of the talk show session was included too):


PRC lecturer insults S'poreans on talk show

A Chinese lecturer has made headlines in China and Hong Kong for fiercely criticising Hong Kongers and even Singaporeans in a recent internet talk show.

Lecturer Kong Qing Dong from the renown Peking University in China, launched his tirade while discussing a recent incident that took place in a Hong Kong MTR train. In the incident, a male passenger had stepped forward to stop a Chinese national boy from eating instant noodles in the train.

The boy's mother tried to explain that they did not know they were not supposed to eat in the train, but the confrontation quickly escalated into a shouting match.

Kong had gone on to compare Singapore to Hong Kong, as a country that relied on laws to maintain order. He said, "In Singapore, you can get fined $5,000 for smoking. Places that rely on these laws show that the people lack civic consciousness. They cannot get anything done unless you impose punishments. This shows that the people have no quality and are asking to be whipped."

Throughout the show, Kong repeatedly criticised Hong Kongers and called them dogs. He said, "The Hong Kongers were treated like dogs by the British in the past and they are used to it, so they are still dogs now." He went on to criticise Hong Kongers for looking down on Mainlanders, and for speaking Cantonese instead of Chinese.

Kong and his comments have been roundly slammed by Chinese and Hong Kong netizens alike after the show's broadcast [on 19 Jan].

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Seeing red...

Today's (short) blog is being written just before midnight... just before we ethnic Chinese usher in the Year of the Dragon. There will be "last-minuters" (like me!) who will be busy packing "angpow" packets.

One helpful website has shed some light on this traditional practice...

The "angpow” (as rendered in Hokkien, see below) is a red packet that is given out from married couples or senior folk to unmarried juniors. Usually, it is distributed during Chinese New Year and the money inside symbolises blessing.

Angpow in Mandarin/dialects and their implicit meanings:
Mandarin: ‘hóng bāo’ 红包
Hokkien: ang pow
Cantonese: Lai Shi or Lay See (利是, literally means “good luck”, 利市 or 利事)
Hakka: fung bao

The development of design of “angpow” packets
The tradition of giving “angpow” packets existed since long ago in China. People then used to write idioms offering blessing on red paper to friends and relatives. Red symbolises “propitious” or “auspicious” fortune in Chinese culture.

About 300 years ago, people started using packets with coins inside rather than paper. The first modern-day angpow became well established with printing technology from around 1900. The design carried "blessing" idioms and/or characters and Chinese New Year themed graphics such as the pertinent Chinese Zodiac animal, ie, the Dragon in the case of this year.

(Source: Nanyang Arts Ensemble, Nanyang Technological University.)


Here's one angpow packet I particularly like:

("Huat" in Hokkien means "prosperity".)

I thought the Singapore Zoo had gone off the rails with this ad, which I posted yesterday...

How can a zoo use the tag line "Walk Among Real Dragons"? There aren't any. The Komodo and Bearded dragons depicted are lizards! Then, The Sunday Times' Lifestyle section (22 Jan, page 2) carried this picture/caption:

It's enough to make Puff the Magic Dragon cry.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This Is A Test: My Bro-in-law Ng and My Sis Eng Ate Hen Eggs.

I was wondering: Why do the hits go up whenever I blog about Singapore politics?

So I have devised this test in the header above. Yes, I do have a brother-in-law with that surname, and his wife is my sister, Eng. The nonsensical (and ungrammatical) bit is the "ate hen eggs" part. But, within that line is a well-known name. I'll leave it at that.


If this looks fishy, it's magical!

My recently retired pastor sent this YouTube video link. The presentation is in Mandarin but you don't need to understand the dialogue... just watch it all the way till the end:



Finally, if fish can do such amazing feats, do you believe in dragons? Of course not, but this Singapore Zoo ad wants you to believe otherwise:

Friday, January 20, 2012

A little bit of cheeky, a little bit of juicy, a little bit of lusty...

Those dang double entendres keep coming up...

One ST writer decided that people here should call the coming holiday season the Chinese New Year, and not the Lunar New Year (he was clueless about the legacy within ST as to why, many moons ago, we used the term "Lunar New Year").

Anyway, he argued in his somewhat rambling piece, that the fixing of the first day of this holiday is based primarily on the sun, with the moon's contribution playing -- hey diddle, diddle -- er, only second fiddle.

The sub-editor wrote a fair enough headline -- "Get over the moon" -- for this writer's story (ST, 20 Jan, page A27):

But, then, someone -- in writing the blurb on page A2 -- penned this!...

"Stop mooning about"?? Was the blurb writer being deliberately cheeky? I think not, and I suspect this double entendre example was cluelessly committed. Here's one slang dictionary's description of what "mooning" (or "to moon") can mean nowadays:


Verb. To reveal one's naked buttocks, usually as an insult or bawdy jest. Presumably from the similarly rounded and usually pale appearance of the bottom.

Speaking of which, there is this gem of an apropos quote which one English soccer team manager (Wolves' Mick McCarthy) once made:

"Opinions are like backsides. We've all got them but it is not always wise to air them in public."


Here's another double entendre, a juicy one (it shows a comely model and her juice-maker)...

Coincidentally, someone gave us a small bottle of Hungarian alcoholic "kickapoo joy juice" (it's a herb liqueur, 40% proof) that has this label:

No, we have not tried it yet! Maybe when the moon is blue.

Meanwhile, this pair of (China-made) batteries, which came with a TV set I bought recently, are raring to do their stuff...

I shall insert them into the TV's remote, close the cover, switch off the room lights, and discreetly walk away. Who knows, I may not need to buy replacement batteries in future.


I am not sure if I should categorise what's here as a double entendre:

But it's a reminder to my wife and me that, when we were living overseas, we once invited an Australian couple -- who had never eaten Asian food -- to a home-cooked dinner. They were very, very suspicious of the fishballs we served with the noodles! And the wife actually asked: "How big were the fish?"


Finally, what's here is not a double entendre; it's just my perverse sense of humour working in overdrive mode:

"My organisation" becomes "My organ is at Ion"!

(There is a mall here called the Ion.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Whatever happened to proof checks?

English, as I indicated yesterday -- using some newspaper examples -- can trip up even those who consider themselves competent in the language, this writer included.

But sometimes all it needs to avert sloppy or ambiguous phrasing, or downright gaffes, is to have a fresh pair of eyes (someone competent in English of course) take a look at the copy. The ironic clanger in this banner poster below (promoting a toastmasters' course!) should have been spotted before the banner was put up by that particular PA community club:

To return to headlines that seem not quite right, I was initially puzzled by this one here:

My reaction was, "Why was he keeping his mum (mother) on some kind of HIV status? It made no sense!" I then realised the headline writer was using the idiomatic expression "to keep mum" ie, "to keep one's mouth shut". But was the writer aware that the idiom can be modified, using "stay" instead of "keep"? The headline would then be made unambiguous:

Man jailed for
staying mum
on HIV status

Here's another headline (the one at the page bottom) which conjures up an absurb image:

The headline says, "Police chief can authorise anyone to carry weapons". Huh?? Anyone?

Indeed, it says so in the text: "The Police Commissioner will have new powers to authorise anyone to carry handcuffs and weapons such as batons in public." But the text then goes to put matters in context: "Previously, only police and law enforcement officers could do so, while private security guards needed permission from the police."

Aha! Clearly, the intent here is a red-tape cutting exercise to enable the Police Commissioner -- or his representative! -- to expedite such approval for private security agencies. It's like the income tax letter you receive... it has the big boss' signature on it, but do you really think he/she had personally run through your letter?

The headline above was ST's. TODAY's headline on the same story was:

Batons, handcuffs for
private security officers


This last headline-example below (page bottom) may seem absurd, but it is actually acceptable:

One might ask, "How does one dig oneself out of a hole?" After all, the more familiar idiom is "to dig oneself into a hole", ie, to get into trouble.

But the website below explains that there is another idiom, "to dig oneself out of a hole", meaning "to escape/extricate oneself from an adverse situation", as women's tennis Number One, Caroline Wozniacki (in the story) had done!



I'll wrap it up with these quoteworthy gems from legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who turned 70 on Tuesday (17 Jan):

"Sonny Liston is nothing. The man can't talk. The man can't fight. The man needs talking lessons. The man needs boxing lessons. And since he's gonna fight me, he needs falling lessons." -- Before fighting world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in Feb 1964.

"I've seen George Foreman shadow boxing and the shadow won." -- Before knocking out Foreman in their "Rumble in the Jungle" clash in 1974.

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can't hit what his eyes can't see." -- Before that Foreman fight.

"It will be a killer and a chiller and a thriller when I get the gorilla in Manila ." -- Before beating [Smokin'] Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manila" in 1975.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

People can have many talents but many such people are not many talents... got that?

Political salaries... moving on

The PAP, thanks to masterful presentations by PM Lee and DPM Teo in Parliament, has steered the political salaries issue to a conclusion that most thinking Singaporeans can accept for the next five years. There were anomalies in the structure being superseded, the most glaring being the excessive remuneration of the President. That has been fixed, satisfactorily to some, but not enough to others.

And the issue of what exactly is talent, ie, that which can be made fungible into political service of distinction, remains an elusive one.

But we have to move on.

Above all, the debate has opened the public's eyes to ramifications below the surface tensions. I think PM Lee's remarks, below -- especially on whether we can get the best possible future PM for Singapore -- are not to be taken lightly:

"Can a future PM continue to get the best and most committed people to serve as his ministers? In fact, can we get the best possible future PM for Singapore? How can our pay system support this important goal? And if we have a pay system which supports this, how can we get Singaporeans to accept that?"


The Noose is one of my favourite Channel 5 programmes. The website xinmsn has kindly provided this link, which kicks off with the must-view "Visit to Singapore by the North Korean leader", from an earlier episode:



When it is not talents but talent, when you don't just anyhow "probe" someone, when you don't do drugs in a headline, etc...

This headline above (apart from its grammatical errors of using "attracts/retains" and not "attract/retain") makes the common error of using the countable noun "talents" for the collective noun "talent". A person may have many talents (he can sing, cook, assemble a nuclear bomb, etc) but many people with such multiple abilities are just simply "talent", as in this correct headline below:

Likewise, you'll want to use the word "probe" (in place of "investigate") carefully, whether in text or headlines. This text copy is bad...

The offending part says the woman lawyer in question "had been slapped with four charges by the Law Society and probed by a disciplinary tribunal".

This headline below (previously posted) is also self-evidently bad:

It is true that headline writers are always on the lookout for short words, given that space is a constraint. But there is an art to it, and it requires sensitivity to nuances or unintended meanings. This use, below, of "drugs" to substitute for "pharmaceutical products" definitely did not work!...

And, last but not least, for the longest time I have been telling reporters we do not need to use the pompous phrase "members of the public" in their text copy (let alone headlines!). Then along comes this headline:

All that is needed is for this headline to read thus:

Snatch thief nabbed
by 3 passers-by

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rewards, and the question of intrinsic & extrinsic motivations...

Two more quirky signboards spotted...

... at the newly opened Junction 10 mall (the old Ten Mile Junction mall) today:

Cafe with a kick! Will that happen if you don't leave a tip??

And as if "wanton" mee noodles weren't tittilating enough for otherwise jaded foodies, along comes "Porn's SEXY.THAI.FOOD"...

This eatery has not yet opened for business, though. I am sure there will be people waiting with bated (panting, even) breath for its shutters to roll up.


Yesterday in Parliament, DPM Teo Chee Hean laid out the PAP government's case for accepting the Gerard Ee panel's recommendations for political salary revisions, and he also emphasised that the fundamentals have not changed, ie, this country still needs all the highly motivated public-spirited AND talented people it can find to run the political ship of Singapore.

Today, PM Lee amplified on these points, adding that the question of political salaries has been on his mind ever since he joined the Cabinet. He said that he has been fortunate to have assembled a core senior team he can rely on. He did say too that ministers who do not perform as expected can expect to be eased out.

For the PAP, the modalities may be tweaked but the benchmark is still top earners' remunerations in the private sector. For the Workers' Party, the benchmark is the common allowance paid to elected MPs. The arguments of both sides have merit but it is the PAP that has the mandate to rule. So if the WP wants to put in place its model, then it has to win power. That's the way it is.

All things considered, given that there is a promised review of the salary revisions, then we have these five years to assess and see how the Gerard Ee panel's reforms pan out.

The intriguing question still, for me, is how to keep at a high level the intrinsic motivations of a person in a job such as a political ministerial position's, throughout the incumbent's tenure. Studies -- albeit not from political cases -- offer only a glimpse. I thought this article, "The Power of Intrinsic Rewards: The strongest motivators come from inside a person," by Babak Armajani, offers useful insights. Here's the link:


Monday, January 16, 2012

Kee chew (hands up), if you like $10 or $1.50 chai tow kway...

Several years back, PM Lee famously spoke about "mee siam mai hum" (Malay-style rice vermicelli in a spicy gravy and minus the cockles, a non-existent dish since mee siam does not come garnished with cockles!). To put it kindly, many people were amused.

Now along comes a young, first-time, acting minister who, in making a point, used another favourite hawker food analogy -- chai tow kway (carrot cake. Note: this is not the western carrot cake. This is a fried savoury dish that uses radish as the main ingredient).

I'll let insing.com tell the story:


'A food analogy used by Singapore's Acting Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Chan Chun Sing hasn't gone down well for some online commentators.

During a dialogue session at Jurong Spring Community Club on Sunday, Mr Chan said money was not the primary factor why the ruling party members had joined politics and added that a right balance was needed when it comes to political salaries.

According to Channel NewsAsia, he said: "Money should not be the one (factor) to attract them in. On the other hand, money should also not be the bugbear to deter them. (For example,) you go to Peach Garden [restaurant], you eat the S$10 XO sauce chai tow kway (fried carrot cake), you can be quite happy, right?

"Because you are satisfied with the service and so on. On the other hand, you can go to a hawker centre, even if they charge you S$1.50, you might not want to eat it if the quality is not good."

The analogy has left a bit of a bad aftertaste for some netizens who decided to start a Facebook page titled, "We Love $1.50 Chye Tow Kuay." Some have started posting addresses of their favourite hawker stalls selling the local dish while others wondered where it was still possible to get the dish at $1.50.

On The Online Citizen's Facebook page, Aaron Koh wrote, "$1.50 fried carrot cake? Maybe in the army camps where rental is low. This shows how out of touch our ministers are."

Another netizen, James Huang, said, "While food analogies like mee siam mai hum to char kway teow hot and nice to $10 XO sauce chai tow kway are meant to connect with the people, they almost always end up as jokes. They don't learn their lesson, do they?"

Others have posted supportive comments, adding that the Minister's comments have been taken out of context. OC Yeo wrote on the Minister's Facebook page, "If what he said was reported in full, I am sure his message would have been quite clear."

Lu-Ann Ong wrote, "Mr Chan, I can appreciate the contents of what you say but the way you say it really needs to be improved." '

Since today's subject has to do with food, here's some more pic-worthy foodie moments...

The noodles (mee) in Singapore can get quite "wantonly" amorous, slithering about your mouth and maybe deep-throating before going down. Here's one stall, said to be among the best:

Next, the headline writer here can't seem to decide if the copy is about bak kut teh (pork ribs soup) that's no good or a search for good bak kut teh came to nought! 

Sometimes words get lost in translation. Here's the label, in English, of one instant soup:

And this here below is the Malay label:

Liar? Haha, not so. The Malay word for "wild" is "liar", and it is pronounced "lee-are".


Ok, it's back to my series on eye-catching food signboards. Here's two more...

This pic isn't very good, because of all that glass. But the name of this ice-cream parlour is "The Daily Scoop". Very creative name, and one that tickles the journalist in me. It's at Sunset Way, beside Cold Storage.

Of course Singaporean foodies who'll pay the earth for their durian fix will want to savour this "king of fruits" long after it has gone down our throat. So, "Durian lingers" seems so apt. But, hmmm, was there also a "cunning" double entendre play on words? After all, people sniggered when an Irish airline appeared -- with the name "Air Lingus"!

This shop is along Bukit Timah Road, near Sixth Avenue.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

How positive are you? Here's a test...

About the DBS Bank saga (cont'd)

I had, in an earlier posting, praised DBS Bank's handling of the recent illegal ATM transactions in Malaysia, especially the straight-talking manner in which its CEO, Piyush Gupta, tackled the matter.

But in a Sunday Times story today (15 Jan, "No 'jitter' safeguard at DBS' Bugis St ATMs", page 2), an unidentified DBS spokesman resorted to strange language when explaining why the so-called "jitter" feature had not been activated in the two ATMs that were skimmed by the fraudsters. I found the technical explanation that this feature may not always be that useful in the face of skilled skimmers fair enough, and perhaps experts can weigh in and enlighten laymen like me.

What was below par in the spokeman's choice of words, compared to his/her CEO, was this part: "Jitters are useful, but... they too, can be compromised by current-day skimmers. At the same time, they result in a meaningful increase in customer queue times."


The only way my being in a queue is meaningful is getting what I want, with little hassle and in good time. What the spokesman seemed to be saying is that having the jitter feature in operation would result in longer queues, as transactions would be slowed.

So, even if you replace "meaningful" with "meaningless", it still does not make sense. I am not nit-picking. Words are a PR person's stock in trade, and that word was a poor choice. I would choose "significant", "unnecessary", or "unhelpful", depending on the intended meaning. [Update: DBS now says that some 700 of its customers had their accounts skimmed and that the total amount fradulently taken was about $1 million.]


Try this test!

Ok, on a more positive note, how positive are you? From a tip my wife gave me, I came across this article, "What is your positivity ratio?" by someone named Paul. Here's the link:


Essentially, the writer is saying that research has shown that a certain ratio of positive (P) to negative (N) thoughts and emotions is what "humans need to flourish". So, I guess more positive people are presumably more able to deal with what life throws at them, and vice versa. And there's a positivity self-test, to find out your P/N ratio. It's in the article above but I'll put the link here:



So, don't worry, be happy! 


Saturday, January 14, 2012

If you stuff a female horse with wax, what would you get?

Yesterday, I lampooned silly Chinese New Year ads that heralded the coming of springtime here in all-year-round sunny, humid Singapore. And, for good measure, I mockingly suggested that the "season" about to make way for spring must be winter. As if to test my assuredness, along came this even sillier ad in today's ST:

Okay, okay, it must be winter still... And Hell freezes over, of course.


It's the real thing, huh?

Still on ads, I came across a website which gave this interesting nugget about Coke:

When Coca Cola was first introduced into China, the company named it Ke-Kou-Ke-La. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect.

Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent: Ko-Kou-Ko-Le, which is roughly translated as "happiness in the mouth".

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spring? Here in S'pore? And a hare-raising moment...

The weather's been playing tricks in tropical Singapore -- "gone troppo", as Australian slang would have it, for "crazy behaviour".

First, we were told by national water agency PUB that all that heavy rainfall in the past few months had led not to flash floods but "ponding".

And now, while it is true we have been getting very pleasantly breezy -- that is, balmy -- weather these past few weeks, ads are springing up in the newspapers proclaiming that spring is about to be sprung upon us, to coincide with Chinese New Year!

Since when have we had the four seasons? Are we having winter now? Truth is, we probably have the most unexciting weather in the world. Here's a 10-day forecast:


From the link above, I learnt a new term from the weathermen... "sprinkles"! I guess this word describes "precipitation" that is not quite a shower, ie, it's a situation when you can't decide whether to open your brolly or not.


I recently came across this "hair-raising" ad which I found amusing:

Okay, it makes a lot of the usual claims... look 10 years younger (but what if a 10 year old starts on this treatment? A five year old?), etc.

But what about the claim that it "will shock your partner"? Hmmm, if you read the ad carefully, it does not say where exactly this lush crop of hair will sprout. So, partner, get ready for the hairy-scary shock of your life!


Anyway, I'll use the occasion to retell this joke that Nick sent me:

A man is driving down a country lane and spots a hare hopping across the road. Unfortunately he brakes too late and hits it. The man loves animals and is distraught as he watches the hare slowly dying.

A priest comes along on his bicycle. The man stops him and pleads, “I ran over this poor animal and he’s dying. Please, would you give it the last rites?”

The priest looks at the hare and says, “I think I can do better than that.”

He takes out a small bottle from his bag and pours the liquid down the animal’s throat. Suddenly the hare jumps up waves at the priest and the man and hops off. He then stops, waves again, and carries on hopping. The hare continues to stop after a few metres to wave before carrying on and eventually disappears into the distance.

The man was amazed. “Wow, what was that stuff? Holy water?”

“No,” said the priest, “it’s Hare Restorer with a Permanent Wave!”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reading between the lines, and an expletive moment shared...



That's right. What you see above is "reading between the lines". Then there's this sign at the entrance of a school in the Toh Tuck area:

What does it say? "Stop. Security check"? You sure? There's no punctuation mark anywhere on the signboard, so what I see is... what I see, ie "Stop security check"! There's no need for such checks, I guess... just drive through.

Punctuation marks are of course important; they dispel ambiguity. There's this anecdote about a manager named Dick. He had the usual IN and OUT trays. But the label on one tray read "Dicks Out Tray" and the other was "Dicks In Tray".

I also had to read between the lines of this sign at an MRT worksite:

What in the world does "I safe! You safe! We safe!" mean? It is not helped by the graphic of three hands grasping at each other, or maybe pulling each other down ("I'm gone, You're gone, We're gone"?).

Since it's a workplace safety sign, and the worksite being that of a Japanese contractor, I guess it's Japlish for "Safety at work... We all have a part to play" (I still can't figure out the hands, though).

More whimsically, I vaguely recall hearing the following refrain -- from the adults! -- when I was a child: "I say, you say, kah chng boh sway!" If you don't understand Hokkien, you'll have to get someone who does to help you there. It's scatological nonsense.

I also remember, from way back, that there was a putdown for someone who keeps uttering "Oar" (or "Oar, I see...") in a conversation. The putdowner would snap at him or her: "Oar? Han zher, lah!". Again, it's simply nonsensical wordplay. In Hokkien, the tuber yam has the "oar" sound while the sweet potato sounds like "han zher".


An expletive moment shared

There I was, waiting at the slip road's red man/green man crossing near that aforesaid MRT worksite. Together with me was a group of South Asian workmen from the site. The green man came on, and we started to cross. But a car came screeching through, ignoring the red light for the driver. We were all forced to step back.

In a flash, one worker -- I am very sure he's not Chinese, they all weren't -- spontaneously yelled after the stupid driver: "Kan nee nah...!"

What could I say? But of course, "Kan nee nah...!" as I too yelled after the idiotic driver. Then my fellow traveller and I exchanged smiles. It was an expletive moment shared.


Again, I will not try to explain the Hokkien swear words above. But someone has "kindly" compiled a list of local, er, sexual slang. If you are curious yellow and insist on trying out any of the profane utterances in the link below, and you then get whacked by someone bigger than you, that's your parsar (own fault):