Saturday, March 31, 2012

With glass in hand, seeing is believing?

Beer quote

Reality is an illusion that occurs due to lack of alcohol.

This quote above is sort of a preamble to this AFP story below...

Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder

French scientists say they have confirmed the folklore that a glass in your hand will make you feel sexier, smarter and funnier, even when others privately think you are a turkey.

Here's the full story...


And here's the YouTube proof...

QED. Have a drink! But remember, "If you drink, don't drive." And vice versa.

Friday, March 30, 2012


This "message" was part of an ad in the newspaper...

I must have dreamt "beyond big" (too overpowering a subliminal message?) because the next day I went and bought this...

Here it is, next to my spectacles, to give a size perspective...


This bit of indulgent TGIF wackiness reminds me of this children's joke:

Q: Mr and Mrs Bigger have a new baby boy. Who in the family is the biggest?
 A: The baby, of course! He's a little Bigger.

Squirm if you must, but kids' jokes are an important early immersion tool in appreciating jokes from a young age. I still remember this primary school joke... "What is the world's longest rope? (Europe)". My two offspring loved this childhood riddle: "Q: When is a door not a door? A: When it is ajar!"

So, clearly, "good" children's jokes involve wordplay, like these ones here:

Q. What happens when a fish and an elephant swim together?
A. Swimming trunks.

Q. What did the big chimney say to the small chimney?
A. You are too little to smoke.

Q. What do you call a surgeon with eight arms?
A. A doctopus!

Q. Why did the teacher jump into the lake?
A. Because she wanted to test the waters!

Q. Why did the belt go to jail?
A. Because it held up a pair of pants!

Q. What is the centre of gravity?
A. The letter V!

Q. What did the stamp say to the envelope?
A. Stick with me and we will go places!

Q. What sort of star is dangerous?
A. A shooting star!

Q. Which is the longest word in the dictionary?
A. "Smiles", because there is a mile between each "s"!

Q. What did the painter say to the wall?
A. One more crack like that and I'll plaster you!

Q. Why do golfers wear two pairs of pants?
A. In case they get a hole in one!

Q. What did the the tie say to the hat?
A. You go on a head, I'll just hang around!


OK, last wacky item. You gotta understand Hokkien, though...

This wicked man tried to smuggle into Singapore 24 newborn Oriental Wide-eye songbirds (mata putih in Malay). I say wicked because his "undercover" method led to seven of the hatchlings perishing. He was caught at the Singapore Cruise Centre.

So, how was he exposed? A little bird must have whispered into a Custom officer's ear: Coo-coo (koo-koo).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More examples of 'just follow hor/just follow lor!'...

Two days ago, I suggested that the term "bus hub" -- as coined by the Land Transport Authority -- was a misnomer for what is nothing more than an extended bus stop, or bus bay.

I also cited examples of other misnomers, such as "parking lot" when referring to a single parking space (or parking spot). As an afterthought, I dubbed this naming culture just follow hor/just follow lor! which is Singlish and which roughly means "This is what/how it should be" (the just follow hor part) and "Oh, okay, anything you say" (the just follow lor part).

In other words, it takes two hands to clap. Otherwise, how can it be that -- as used here -- a misnomer like "parking lot" (an American term that means a carpark) can be so readily accepted by Singaporeans, many of whom have travelled to America (and have seen how the term is used there) and to Britain (where carparks and parking spaces/spots are correctly used).

Most damningly, journalists here -- supposedly the guardians of good language usage -- have blithely accepted this inapt terminology. Thankfully, The Straits Times has now ensured that its editorial checkers, at least, abide by the "parking space" advisory. I am beginning to see other media and organisation spokesmen do likewise.

But this is just one small victory. Which brings me to my examples today...

Married children and their parents?

I first heard it on 93.8 radio yesterday. The news reader, obviously reading from a script automaton-like, said the Housing Board had unveiled a priority scheme for "married children and their parents" who jointly apply to live near each other.

Then, this is what I found this morning in the TODAY newspaper (29 March, page 3):

Yup, word for word. So the "origin of this species" must have been an HDB press release. The HDB decided on the obviously absurd "married children and their parents" instead of "married couples and their parents" and the radio and newspaper just followed, lor!

The secret wish to talk/write like officials?...

For ordinary folk (including journalists) who are careful language users, officialese and bureaucratese are a bane. When referring to organisations like the HDB, the article "the" -- ie, the HDB -- is needed. Of course, within the HDB and in its media releases, "the" will not be used. But The Straits Times is not part of the HDB...

TODAY, below,  got it right on this score (but not in the earlier "married children" story, above):

I also see many people who write letters to the press kick off with "I refer to..." or "With reference to...". Huh? Just make your point straightaway, as you were taught in school, unless you have a secret desire to speak and write like a bureaucrat.

Case of the 'deactivated' credit cards sent to customers...

Final example... can a bank "deactivate" a credit card and then sent it to a recipient customer? Of course not! In the story above, what the banks did -- to preempt fraudulent use by other people -- was to send "unactivated" (or "inactive") credit cards to their customers who then follow up with some required step/steps to "activate" the cards.

But, for some reason, some bank media release must have used the misnomer, "deactivated". It then became a case of "just follow hor/just follow lor!"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Doggone it, world's smallest puppy! And doggone it, who left the mic 'on'?

Meet Beyonce, a mixed breed that's possibly the world's smallest puppy. She's a Survivor, all right. She was born prematurely and the vet actually performed CPR to save her life. Here's one story, with a YouTube video:

My own mini schnauzer, Killer, was very small as a puppy (he is still small) but not as diminutive as Beyonce...


Meanwhile, what do world leaders say to each other when they think no one else is listening? Well, at a nuclear security summit in South Korea, US President Barack Obama asked soon-to-be-replaced-by-Putin Russian President Dmitri Medvedev for more time, in the face of Obama's hawkish Republican rivals -- ie, to hold off talks on the planned US missile defence system in Europe until Obama is re-elected. Russia opposes the US missile system bacause Moscow alleges that it is aimed at Russia.

Neither man knew that a reporter's mic was turned on. Who needs WikiLeaks to spill the beans! Here's a link, with an ABC News video, and part of the embarrassing transcript:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you.

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I [will] transmit this information to Vladimir.


Meanwhile, Medvedev himself became a target of ridicule as a "lame duck" "seat warmer" by many Russians, as a result of his "I will transmit this information to Vladimir" remark above:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The origin of the species... strange creations like 'bus hubs'.

This is a bus hub?...

(Photo from my paper, 27 March)
C'mon, it looks like an extended bus stop so that more buses, arriving at about the same time, are able to berth there without having to queue up (you know the saying about our buses, "One no come, all no come; one come, all come!").

But, no, instead of calling a spade a spade (remember the infamous word "ponding" to describe "flash flooding"?) and simply calling the above an "extended bus stop" or even an "extended bus bay" (I don't like the latter but I can live with it), the Land Transport Authority has described it as a "bus hub".

What's wrong with that? I'll come to it, but first, here's the key excerpts (the first two paragraphs) from the LTA's media release...

New Bus Hubs Improve Commuters' Bus Journey Experience
Three Bus Hubs Completed Ahead of Schedule

1. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has completed the upgrading works for three of the 35 major bus stops selected for expansion as bus hubs, four months ahead of schedule. Minister for Transport, Mr Lui Tuck Yew visited the completed bus hub at Bedok Reservoir Road this morning. Works on the Bedok Reservoir Road bus hub started in December 2011.

2. With bigger bus bays, the three bus hubs at Bedok Reservoir Road, Woodlands Centre Road and Commonwealth Avenue West can allow up to 3 single/double deck or 2 bendy buses to berth in the bay for simultaneous boarding and alighting activities, reducing the average time each bus needs to dwell at the bus stops. Previously, the bus stops could each only accommodate up to 2 single/double deck or 1 bendy bus.

I have reproduced the excerpt above because it seems to reflect the "internal memo after a meeting" style of writing here in Singapore, even after it had presumably been scrubbed for media release.

This is what I suspect happened. Someone at a meeting wanted a name for this creation... a short, snazzy name. "Bus hub!" someone else said, without caring to check out the ordinary meanings of "hub". The big boss liked it, and so a new, strange term, Singapore-style, was invented.

Okay, what's wrong with it. A hub, as it originated, is at the centre of a wheel. The idea also conveys radiating out, hence "hub and spokes". We can then sensibly apply this idea to, say, airport hubs, or more generally, transport hubs.

A hub also conveys centralisation; hence the building known as HDB Hub makes sense. In the IT field, there is the USB hub, a centralised device for several similar computer devices to  be used at the same time. I am sure other creative uses of "hub" can be invented.

But, sorry, looking at the picture above and the LTA's media release, "bus hub" is a misnomer. It is merely an extended, or "stretched", version of a regular bus stop.


Why do I find this example intriguing? I think I may have found the origin of the "species". For a long time, I have been wondering why misnomers like "parking lot" (instead of "parking space"), "void deck" (check the dictionary meanings of void), "bus captain" (captain of what? The bus has only one staff member, the driver!), and road/project/upgrading "works" (why the plural form when "work" is perfectly fine?) have been entrenched here.

It took two hands to clap. First, some "official person" decreed or blessed these terms; secondly, Singaporeans -- including supposedly jargon-hating journalists -- blithely accepted the use of such misnomers.

Just read the various news reports today on "bus hubs".

Postscript: Hmm, maybe I should have titled the header of this blog entry in Singlish: Just follow, hor/Just follow, lor!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Are you a 'helicopter' parent?

You can tell when someone writes a letter to the press from conviction. Here are two thought-provoking perspectives on topical issues. Both are in today's ST Forum (26 March):

Spending time with family builds character
Letter from Ms See Thor Wai Fung

My father, who has since passed on, worked long hours to support my large and extended family. Yet his core character values were very clear: love, honesty, humility, hard work, integrity and respect.

None of these values was taught formally or preached to us. My siblings and I internalised them as part of routine life: cleaning the house, running errands, going on family outings.

Values were learnt through the hum of our daily activities -- doing housework, at play and during holidays.

For us, weekends were almost exclusively family time.

My father would recount to us the hardships during the Japanese Occupation, even as he treated us to movies and McDonald's meals.

The key to character-building is time: Time to consistently teach and live the values we want our children to have.

Character is not built on demand, within a semester or a term break. It begins after a child is born and continues into adulthood.

Parents sow the seeds of character while schools nourish their growth.

Children need to spend time with their parents. So it alarms me when school activities hog my teenage children's weekends. They are at the beck and call of their sports masters and project leaders, even during school holidays.

To excel, my children must attend track competitions on weekends. Training sessions and committee meetings eat into their school holidays.

While I accept that students face intense pressure at school, it has become virtually impossible to plan any extended family activity without the looming anxiety over missed training sessions or meetings during school holidays.

The Education Ministry should impose these two golden rules:
* No school activities to be held on weekends, apart from Saturday mornings; and
* Impose a blackout on school activities for at least two to three weeks during the long school holidays.

Family bonding hit by weekend schoolwork
Letter from Dr Sandra Tan

The government introduced the five-day work week in 2004 to improve work-life balance and provide a more relaxed environment for parent-child bonding on weekends.

Schools followed suit, with some cancelling supplementary classes and co-curricular activities on Saturdays to allow families to spend time together.

Eight years later, this has not translated into more families with school-going children visiting beaches, parks or other places of leisure on weekends.

Instead, what resulted was a boom in the number of tuition centres and, ironically, an increasing reliance on live-in maids despite the five-day work week.

During weekends, it is not uncommon to find parents busy ferrying their children from one tuition class to another.

Even invitations to social gatherings such as birthday parties are sometimes declined because of tight tuition schedules.

My husband and I chose not to enrol our children for tuition classes. Even so, they spend many hours on weekends completing homework assignments, and they no longer look forward to weekends or school holidays.

We do not have a maid as we believe in training our children to do their share of chores. But this is a struggle because of their school workload on weekends.

Time aside from academic pursuits is needed for families to bond and for children to grow in other areas.

Families in the United States and Australia do not have live-in maids or face this tuition frenzy. Though their children may not be as good in their studies as their Singapore peers at an early age, many still go on to qualify for Ivy League universities.

Something must be done to stem this academic overload, starting with schools, so parents have time to teach their children values.

This is important if we want to build stronger families and have the next generation grow up to become caring and compassionate adults, and not self-centred people.


It so happens that a real test of values and integrity was captured in a TODAY story, "A pile of cash on the highway: Would you grab it or leave it?" (26 March, page 26). I found Mrs Stephany Harris' response, below, interesting:

HAGERSTOWN (Maryland) -- Some drivers on a Maryland highway faced a tough choice on Friday when two plastic bags containing about US$5,700 (S$7,190) in notes and coins fell from an unlatched door on an armoured truck and spilled onto the Interstate 270, about 55km north-west of Washington DC.
The police said the motorists grabbed almost all of it. Others kept driving.

Attorney Heather Kelly, who was driving to her office when she passed through the surreal scene, said she saw about 30 cars pulled over on the roadside and people frantically collecting fistfuls of dollars in what looked like a "snow globe of cash".

So, faced with such a moral dilemma, what would you?

People the Associated Press spoke to following the incident gave some interesting answers, offering a glimpse into the minds of Americans trying to juggle doing the right thing and getting by in a tough economy.

Chicago billing clerk Stephany Harris, 53, admitted that she would "put as much money in my pockets (as I could) and run", but not before making sure the armoured car drivers were not hurt if there was an accident.

But, Mrs Harris said she would not take a single dollar if her children were with her.
"I wouldn't want them to get the message that grabbing money that is not yours is the right thing to do," she said.

Former lawyer and prosecutor Jeff Bora, also of Chicago, said he would call the police and stay on the scene to make sure none of the money was stolen. Even if he could get away with it, the 30-year-old said he would not be able to live with the guilt of stealing.

The truck belonged to Garda World Security Services Corp, a Montreal-based security and cash logistics company, spokesman Joe Gavaghan said. He said they are cooperating with state police investigators to find out what happened.

Maryland State Police urged people to return the money to the agency's barracks in Rockville, with no questions asked and no charges filed. As of Friday afternoon, no one had. -- AP


Meanwhile, "kiasu" Singapore parents may take comfort (if that's the appropriate sentiment!) in being not alone in such behaviour, ie, making sure their kids do not lose out. Here's the TODAY story...

Aggressive "helicopter" parents force cancellation of Easter egg hunt
COLORADO SPRINGS - Organisers of an annual Easter egg hunt attended by hundreds of children have cancelled this year's event, citing the behaviour of aggressive parents who swarmed into the tiny park last year, determined that their kids get an egg.

That hunt was over in seconds, to the consternation of egg-less tots and their own parents. Too many parents had jumped a rope set up to allow only children into Bancroft Park in a historic area of Colorado Springs.

Organisers say the event has outgrown its original intent of being a neighbourhood event.

Parenting observers cite the cancellation as a prime example of so-called "helicopter parents" -- those who hover over their children and are involved in every aspect of their children's lives from sports and school to, increasingly, work, to ensure that they don't fail, even at an Easter egg hunt.

"They couldn't resist getting over the rope to help their kids," said Ron Alsop, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of "The Trophy Kids Grow Up", which examines the "millennial children" generation.

"That's the perfect metaphor for millennial children. They (parents) can't stay out of their children's lives. They don't give their children enough chances to learn from hard knocks, mistakes."

Alsop and others say the parenting phenomenon began in earnest when Baby Boomers who decorated their cars with "Baby on Board" signs in the 1980s began having children. It has prompted at least two New York companies to establish "take your parent to work day" for new recruits as parents remain involved even after their children become adults. -- AP

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Only one week before April Fool's Day...

It's only a week to April Fool's Day. I won't be in my office on that day, a Sunday. But there's an interesting sign on both sides of a door in the office, near the pantry, which I think offers scope for a harmless prank. Here's the pic:

If your office does not have such a sign, it is easy to prepare two of them (one for each side of the door). Now, first make sure the door is closed. Then, have two people, one on either side of the door, stopping others from getting through.

These two have to be great actors. They have to appear to be loitering there before springing into action, ie, look incredulously at any "offender" about to open the door, stare at that person as if he or she were the goofiest simpleton in the world, and exclaim authoritatively and exasperatedly, "Which part of this sign do you not understand?"

I can think of two real actors who can pull this off: Chua En Lai and Alaric Tay. The Noose people... if you come across my blog, hor, you are welcome to use this idea!

Caveat: Don't try this in a high traffic or emergency premises such as a hospital's A&E area or a fire station. And don't try it with a door used by your boss... unless your boss so likes the idea that he or she volunteers uniformed security staff to help out. That would make a great April Fool's Day indeed.


To wrap up, there is this website which claims to have a list of the "Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time". I particularly like the one about the Whopper hamburger for left-handed people that Burger King created (note: its prank was pitched at American consumers). There were actually thousands of lefties who asked for it!

Here's the site:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Oops! Borat's spoof national anthem played; and (finally) IRAS replies...

You've seen the spoof movie that this man made about Kazakhstan...

Now watch how. at an international shooting event, the Kuwaiti hosts played the movie's spoof national anthem for the Kazakh gold medallist during the medal ceremony, and how she kept her composure throughout the ridiculous episode (I detected a hint of a grin, though)...


Meanwhile, here is the IRAS' reply -- finally -- to one TODAY letter writer's concerns that I had posted on this blog earlier:

Sign up for GIRO to pay your taxes by instalment
Letter from Claire Chua, Director (Corporate Communications), Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore [TODAY, 24 March]  
We refer to Ms Ng Lee Koon's letter "Can banks pay Govt bodies without one's knowledge?" (March 12). We have since written to her to clarify on the issue of appointment of banks.

A taxpayer may sign up for a GIRO instalment plan to have his taxes deducted on a monthly basis via his bank account. If he does not have such a plan, he has to pay his taxes within one month from the date of the income tax notice of assessment (NOA).

A taxpayer who misses the deadline will receive a demand note, informing him of a 5-per-cent late payment penalty and asking him to pay within a given time frame.

If he still does not pay or contact us for a payment arrangement, we will seek to recover the taxes through other means, including appointing his bank or employer as his agent to pay the outstanding tax.

The agent is required, under section 57 of the Income Tax Act, to pay the tax amount owed to us from money held for or on behalf of the taxpayer. This form of recovery of overdue taxes is commonly practised by many other tax authorities.

We send letters to taxpayers who do not pay on time to remind them of the possible tax recovery actions that may be taken. When we appoint banks or employers as agents, we also inform the taxpayer of such appointment.

Whether the agent informs the taxpayer depends on the agent's practices. In Ms Ng's case, we understand that DBS Bank had informed her of the appointment and that it is standard practice for DBS to do so for its customers.

We encourage taxpayers to pay their taxes via GIRO to enjoy 12 months of interest-free instalment payment and avoid missing payment dates. Taxpayers may also sign up at myTax Portal ( to receive SMS alerts when their NOAs are issued.


So, now we know... in Singapore, you can be sure that "nothing is absolutely certain except death and taxes"!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cliches, and other 'nit-pickings'...

Even good journalists can get sloppy in their writing, like not consigning cliches to the dustbin of history. Oops, I just did that!

Here's a bloody common example of a cliche that should have been stanched:

Apart from "pool of blood" being a cliche, it is actually not possible -- under most circumstances -- to be found in a pool of blood. The stuff coagulates fairly quickly, so even if there is a great loss of blood, it does not "pool" in the ordinary sense. Take my word for it, and as they say, don't try this at home!

But I guess blood gushing into a liquid such as water (in a contained area) bloodies it, making it red within a certain timeframe. That's about the only exception I can think of -- and it's still not a pool of blood, just a bloodied pool.


Anyway, I found this blog that gives a list of common cliches. Have you been using any of them recently?...

  • armed to the teeth
  • banker’s hours
  • battle royal
  • beat a hasty retreat
  • beauty and the beast
  • bewildering variety
  • beyond the shadow of a doubt
  • bite the dust
  • blazing inferno
  • blessed event
  • blessing in disguise
  • blissful ignorance
  • bull in a china shop
  • burn one’s bridges
  • burn the midnight oil
  • burning issue
  • bury the hatchet
  • calm before the storm
  • cherished belief
  • clear the decks
  • club-wielding police
  • colourful scene
  • conspicuous by its absence
  • coveted award
  • crack troops
  • curvaceous blonde
  • dramatic new move
  • dread disease
  • dream come true
  • drop in the bucket
  • fame and fortune
  • feast or famine
  • fickle fortune
  • gentle hint
  • glaring omission
  • glutton for punishment
  • gory details
  • grief-stricken
  • Grim Reaper
  • hammer out (an agreement)
  • hand in glove
  • happy couple
  • head over heels in love
  • heart of gold
  • heavily armed troops
  • hook, line and sinker
  • iron out (problems)
  • intensive investigation
  • Lady Luck
  • lash out
  • last but not least
  • last-ditch stand
  • leaps and bounds
  • leave no stone unturned
  • light at the end of the tunnel
  • lightning speed
  • limp into port
  • lock, stock and barrel
  • long arm of the law
  • man in the street
  • marvels of science
  • matrimonial bliss
  • meager pension
  • miraculous escape
  • Mother Nature
  • move into high gear
  • never a dull moment
  • Old Man Winter
  • paint a grim picture
  • pay the supreme  penalty
  • picture of health
  • pillar of society
  • pinpoint the cause
  • police dragnet
  • pool of blood
  • posh resort
  • powder keg
  • pre-dawn darkness
  • prestigious law firm
  • proud heritage
  • proud parents
  • pursuit of excellence
  • radiant bride
  • red faces, red-faced
  • reins of government
  • rushed to the scene
  • scantily clad
  • scintilla of evidence
  • scurried to shelter
  • selling like hotcakes
  • spearheading the campaign
  • spirited debate
  • spotlessly clean
  • sprawling base, facility
  • spreading like wildfire
  • steaming jungle
  • stick out like a sore thumb
  • storm of protest
  • stranger than fiction
  • supreme sacrifice
  • surprise move
  • sweep under the rug
  • sweet harmony
  • sweetness and light
  • tempest in a teapot
  • tender mercies
  • terror-stricken
  • tip of the iceberg
  • tower of strength
  • trail of death and destruction
  • true colours
  • vanish in thin air
  • walking encyclopedia
  • wealth of information
  • whirlwind campaign
  • wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole

Here's another example of a wrong choice of word:

Here, "send" has been incorrectly used in place of "take". The correct phrasing should have been "Family with 7 kids bought a private bus to take (the) kids to school". This is because "take" is an action term in which you are present and involved (think also of "takeaways").

You use "send" when there is movement away from you, and you are not present thereafter, for example, you send Aunty Mia to the airport in a taxi.

But if you had gone to the airport to pick her up, you went there to bring her to your home in your car. Here, there is movement towards you (or what is yours, ie, your house).

Again, I found a blog that nicely explains the correct usage of take, bring and send as well as follow and fetch:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rain, rain, don't go away; come below, for use another day...

Prof Lui Pao Chuen was Singapore's Chief Defence Scientist. A brilliant man, he is probably the country's "Leonardo Da Vinci", someone who can think out of the box.

So, when he suggests that the Little Red Dot explore the idea of storing our precious rain/storm water in underground caverns, albeit hugely expensive, it should not be dismissed out of hand and I am glad the authorities are interested in it.

Here is the Channel NewsAsia story, from the xinmsn site:

Underground reservoir could solve flood problems: expert

An underground reservoir 100 metres beneath the surface could be one way to solve Singapore’s flood problems. This was a suggestion by a prominent engineering expert, Professor Lui Pao Chuen, an adviser to the Underground Master Plan Task Force.

Prof Lui, who shared his thoughts at a talk organised as part of World Water Day, pointed out that Singapore’s annual rainfall has been increasing over the past 30 years -- from 2000 to 2600 millimetres a year.

Using data from one of the 28 weather stations in Singapore, Prof Lui said the maximum rainfall within an hour has also went up from 90 to 120 millimetres.

[He] noted that Singapore’s drainage system is designed to cope with about 80 millimetres of rain in an hour, and said that decisions have to be made now to protect Singapore against increasing rainfall intensity.

With a limit to how much drainage capacity can be increased, taking into account cost and land constraints, other solutions will need to be considered. One of them is to harvest storm water with shafts and underground tunnels.

Prof Lui said: "Whether the rainfall intensity will actually increase, we don’t know. But if it increases, then we’ve got no choice but to go below with tunnels. And the tunnels must drain into somewhere -- [the water] cannot drain into the sea because it's below sea level. So it’s got to drain into a low-level... which obviously will be some sort of reservoir. And you can use the water."

Shafts and tunnels dug into the ground can divert storm water into rock caverns 100 metres beneath the surface. In the event of a drought or when reservoir levels drop, the stored fresh water can be pumped up.

Prof Lui acknowledged that the high cost of excavating deep underground may [seem] too prohibitive. He estimates that it will cost S$1 billion for 20 rock caverns, each with the capacity of half-a-million cubic metres. But he said the benefits outweigh the cost.

He said: "You can sell the rocks, so it will reduce the cost of excavation. The more capacity you have, the less you need to desalinate. So basically you’re comparing the cost of desalination with the cost of this project."

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, national water agency PUB said it will explore the feasibility of underground rock caverns as a possible long-term solution to storing storm water.


Googling, I found an earlier CNA story, in May 2008, on Singapore's plans for underground facilities:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thanks for flying with us... had a nice fright? Also, a piano-playing dog and a singing one!

Trust to suss out interesting stuff -- in this case, kaypoh (busybody) value 10; content value 0. A Tiger Airways flight started getting interesting when a woman passenger began to berate two fellow passengers and eventually opened her top to show her bra to airport police (after the plane landed, of course).

A passenger filmed the rowdy episode (except for the bra-haha moment, of course). So click on the embedded link in the last line of the story below to see the action:


Runty the piano-playing beagle

My beagle, Brady, actually makes a mellifluous sound when he howls. It is sort of like yodelling. But he has not learnt to play the piano too, unlike Runty the versatile beagle, as seen in this YouTube video:

And a singing mini schnauzer (sort of)

My mini schnauzer, Killer, can answer "Ruff, ruff" if you ask him how was his day. But he can't sing for nuts, unlike the one in this video, if it can be called singing:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Been there, dung that... move over, Kopi Luwak, here's the poo-fect tea

I posted this picture in a recent blog entry. I don't know where it is but it would be a congenial place for tea-drinkers who want nothing but the best.

Yes, a Chinese man now claims to have perfected tea leaves that have been fertilised with Panda poo (remember the Kopi Luwak coffee, from the civet cat's poo?). This poo-fect tea will also be the world's most expensive, at about US$200 a cup. Here's NBC10 Philadelphia's story:

And here's BBC's story, with a video clip included (a short ad comes on first, so wait for it):

People are treating this story as rather bizarre. One blogger came up with...

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's worse... a bureaucratic reply or no reply?

Last Thursday (15 March), TODAY published a letter from reader Mary Maloney, with a picture:

A tent across a boardwalk -- Letter from Mary Maloney

At about 11am on Feb 19, I came across a tent that had been pitched right across the boardwalk at Punggol Point. The pink and purple tent (picture) had white motorcycle helmets and belongings strewn outside it.

I called out to see if the campers could move the tent so that members of the public would be able to enjoy the boardwalk (old folks with walking sticks, baby in prams, etc.) but to no avail.

I did not look inside the tent and decided to walk towards Coney Island. I then made a U-turn towards the tent and called out again to those inside.

This time, a man with tattoos who smelt of alcohol crawled out and looked menacingly at me. There was a young woman in the tent, too.

I believe the couple had camped overnight.

Aren't there park rangers on patrol to ensure that such places are properly managed and enjoyed by everyone?


Ms Maloney's question was about what she encountered and although she couched it obliquely, for all in tents (oops, intents) and purposes, it asked why were there no park rangers to clear this brazen couple and their tent out of the way. Now here is the official reply today (19 March):

Permit required to camp here, says National Parks Board -- Letter from Kartini Omar, General Manager, National Parks Board

We thank Ms Mary Maloney for her feedback on the tent that was pitched in the middle of the boardwalk near Punggol Point Park ("A tent across boardwalk", March 15).

We share Ms Maloney's concerns on the inconsiderate behaviour of some park users.

Our rangers are patrolling the North Eastern Riverine Park Connector Loop. And they have been advising campers to take down their tents as we do not allow camping here.

Enforcement action will be taken if the campers persist.

We would like to remind the public that there are designated camping sites at specific areas of Changi Beach Park, East Coast Park, Pasir Ris Park and West Coast Park. A permit application is required to camp at these sites.

Application can be done through AXS machines. Those who camp without a permit or at non-designated sites can be fined up to S$2,000 under the Parks and Trees Act.
Our parks are meant for the enjoyment of all users. We urge users to be considerate when using our parks.

For feedback and enquiries, members of the public can call NParks Helpline at 1800-471-7300.


Sheesh! This couple's tent was pitched right smack across the boardwalk, and the official reply failed to address this? Maybe NParks should deploy LTA officers or the carpark uncles and aunties to this place! As drivers well know, these guys (and the fierce-looking aunties) don't pang chan (give you a break) once a ticket is issued.


But at least there was a reply in this case.

I have yet to note any reply from IRAS or DBS Bank with regard to this letter which I blogged about on 12 March:

Can banks pay Govt bodies without one's knowledge?
Letter from Ng Lee Koon (TODAY, 12 March)
When I returned to Singapore after being away for nine months, I found a note of demand from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).
I called the IRAS and was told not to worry. The money had been transferred from my bank account to the IRAS to pay for my income tax.

I did not have any standing order for income tax payment to be made through GIRO, but a POSB service manager told me that DBS Bank is an acting agent for the IRAS and has the right to deduct from a customer's account when instructed by the authority.

I wish to clarify if it is not more appropriate for the bank to freeze the account so that the account holder is at least alerted. Can banks pay Government bodies directly on behalf of the account holder, without his/her knowledge or authorisation?

Is this standard practice for all banks here and worldwide, or is this an arrangement between certain banks and the IRAS? If it is the latter, which are the banks? Are their customers aware of such an arrangement?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do you have the balls? And an 'interpretive' dance...

These two YouTube videos are hilarious...

Guys, this babe will clean your balls

The Bangles' "Eternal Flame" -- an interpretive dance

Thanks, Nick, for sending this one to me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sexy food?

Remember my much earlier blog entry on that sign at Junction 10 mall about a "sexy" Thai restaurant that had yet to open?...

Well, it has, but I have not eaten there yet...

Coincidentally, CC sent me these pics of eateries, from a regional country...


Piddling note:
The Frenchman lost his case to Google! (See yesterday's blog entry)...

Friday, March 16, 2012

A question of numbers...

If you're the only one, ie the only person in Buford, the US' smallest town, you'll want to think about selling it and moving on

TODAY (16 March) carried this AP wire story, headlined "Smallest town in US, population one, up for sale":,-population-one,-up-for-sale


If you are one in 3,000... you won't want to be caught on camera peeing outdoors

Talk about a pissed-off Frenchman! He's so livid, having been caught with his fly down, that he's suing Google Street View.

This hasta la piss-ta urinator lives in the little commune of Anjou -- which has just 3,000 folks -- so it seems that everyone practically knows each other. For reasons best known to himself, this man took a leak in his own garden.

Er, it so happened that a Google Street View vehicle, mounted roving camera and all, was passing by. A snap was taken, if unwittingly.

The man, through his lawyer, is suing Google Street View for making him the laughing stock of his little village. He is demanding the immediate withdrawal of the photo, and not just for his face to be blurred as Google has already done. He is also demanding €10,000 in damages.

His lawyer apparently presented his case thus: "This presents a problem because everyone has the democratic right to a certain level of privacy. In this case, it is not serious, it is rather funny. But if he had been caught kissing another woman, the problem would be the same."

Google's lawyer has called for the case to be dismissed.

Here's an English-language French newspaper's account:


And while you may be a happy-go-lucky "seven in 10" Singaporean today, you might just become a "four in five" cataract sufferer tomorrow:  

I don't know how reliable the figures above are for the general population here, but it's a big jump when you hit the age of 60 and beyond. In my case, I discovered I had cataracts when I was 50 years old. (These figures above are from an eye surgery's ad in this week's Mind Your Body magazine supplement.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World Zzzzz Day, and sleepy in Singapore!

It seems that, every day, there is a "World ------ (fill in the blank) Day". One cartoon strip even took a dig at it:

Well, 16 March is World Sleep Day, a day set aside in celebration of sleep.

Singaporeans are already adept at this "activity" (or should it be "inactivity"?)... they fall asleep sitting or standing on the buses and on the trains. In fact, some (not many, thankfully) young people here have perfected a particular skill: they rush to get to the train's corner seats reserved for those who need them -- such as the elderly and pregnant women -- and promptly zzzzzzzzzz away, oblivious to the elderly woman standing right in front of them.

That's not all. They may seem to be asleep but they have a built-in alarm that "wakes" them up at their train stop.

I never knew that there is a Singapore Sleep Society. Such a name may conjure up wacky thoughts, but its mission statement (from its website) is a serious one:

"Our Society is a non-profit organization and our primary objectives are as follows:
  • to develop understanding and acceptance of sleep disorders and to disseminate knowledge concerning sleep disorders to the medical community and the public;
  • to provide moral support and such assistance necessary to sleep disorders patients and/or their families; and
  • to promote and support medical research on sleep disorders."
So, no puns from me on this one. In fact, the society is organising Singapore Sleep Awareness Week 2012. Again, from its website:

This year's theme, "Sleep for All Ages", will discuss how sleep deprivation affects performance for people across all age groups, from children and teenagers, to adults and the elderly.

Note: The society's inaugural event was in 2010. So, if the next one is in 2014, this makes it a biennial event, hor! (see yesterday's blog entry.)


Here's an interesting Yahoo News article last year (2011) on sleep, titled "Get more sleep, Singapore":

It included this extract:

The Singapore Sleep Society surveyed nearly 400 junior college students and found that 97 per cent feel drowsy during class and three in 10 drink caffeinated beverages to stay awake during the day.


So, if that finding applies to young office workers here too, that explains why there are sleep junkies on the trains!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From a bombed headline to a 'welcome, fellow blogger'.

How not to write a headline...

Despite the scary headline, this story is not as sensational as it seems. The 16 bombs are old, World War 2 bombs. True, safety issues are involved since even old bombs can go off. But the unintended impression given here is that terrorists have planted 16 bombs! This is no joke, as baby boomers will recall the Konfrontasi years when indeed terrorists had planted a series of bombs in several places here.

A better headline is "16 WW2 bombs found at East Coast site".


I don't know why headline writers still insist on "fresh grads/graduates" (when do they turn stale?) when "new grads/graduates" (in reference to newly-graduated) is the better choice. Both ST and TODAY earn my ire on this one:


Many people, including journalists (unforgiveably), use "biennial" and "biannual" interchangeably. It can't be done. The former means "once in two years" and the latter means "twice a year". Likewise, strictly speaking, "bi-weekly" means "twice a week", not "once every two weeks". A good word for the latter is "fortnightly".

So, if your doctor says "These pills should only be taken bi-weekly or you will lose all your hair", you better ask him what does he mean by "bi-weekly"!

Here's an interesting debate on these tricky words:

And here's the wrong use of "biannual"... the first Cybertron Con (convention) was held in Shanghai in 2010. I believe the idea to hold this event as a biennial one:

And while the example below is from a print ad rather than a headline, it is yet another example of the misuse of "talents", as I have previously blogged about (also, the word "live" here is meaningless):


From "ride on" to "write on"?

Anyway, a welcome to a fellow blogger!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If Romney goes 'China-bashing' in Canton, Ohio, how would these 'Cantonese' take it?

I have this fascination with demonyms -- formal and informal names given to residents of geographical areas. Demonyms can range from towns to countries, eg., someone from the city of Liverpool, England, is a Liverpudlian; someone from Sydney, Australia, is a Sydneysider; someone from Burkina Faso is a Burkinian.

I have posted previous blog entries on this topic and had told myself to do at least one on the wide "repertoire" in the United States, such as figuring out how to call someone from Hell (apparently there's one in California and one in Michigan).

But what piqued me today was this picture and its caption in TODAY (13 March):

It seems that Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, desperate to burnish his "tough on China" image in economically-hit Ohio state, decided to make those remarks, as quoted above.

He was in Canton, Ohio. I do not know how that place-name came about. But the residents there would be Cantonese, no?

I'll do some research before I attempt, on another occasion,  a fuller exploration of unusual American demonyms. Anyone care to provide me with some of the more unusual places?

For starters, Wikipedia has compiled a listing for US states:

If this list is reliable, Alaskans are unofficially "Ice Chippers" and Delawareans are "Blue Hen's Chickens".

Finally, if you want to read the TODAY commentary by Edward Luce that came with the picture above, here it is ("Welcome to the new China-bashing"):

Monday, March 12, 2012

3 issues to ponder over...

There are just too many uninformed opinion pieces about the international politics of the Iran nuclear issue. That is why I highlight any that I find insightful. TODAY (12 March) has a well-nuanced piece on the issue, "Don't play politics with the bomb,"  written by Philip Stephens, chief political commentator at the Financial Times. Here's the link and an extract:

A military strike now would be positively perverse. Coercive diplomacy and sanctions have only recently begun to bite. A tightening financial noose is seriously limiting Iran's ability to trade.

The European ban on Iranian oil imports tightens the screw. The West, in other words, has finally raised significantly the cost to the regime of refusal to meet its international obligations. The process must be given time to work.

Mr Netanyahu protests otherwise. Iran, he says, will soon enter a "zone of immunity". Nuclear facilities buried deep underground will be rendered invulnerable to air strikes. Yet once again the Israeli Prime Minister has declined to present solid evidence for the now-or-never analysis. Europeans conclude it owes more to politics than to physics.

Such doubts are shared within Israel. Mr Meir Dagan, the retired Mossad chief, talks about an Israeli strike on Iran as "the stupidest thing I have ever heard". Serving officials in the Israeli security establishment voice similar doubts -- in less colourful language -- when they meet European and US counterparts.


Another commentary in the same TODAY edition is worth a definite read. It is about the "next web tool poised for explosive growth". It's called Read about how ordinary people can make a difference...

Here's the website itself...


Finally, like the letter writer below, I found what he or she has to say troubling. I expect replies soon from both IRAS and DBS Bank...

Can banks pay Govt bodies without one's knowledge?
Letter from Ng Lee Koon (TODAY, 12 March)

When I returned to Singapore after being away for nine months, I found a note of demand from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).
I called the IRAS and was told not to worry. The money had been transferred from my bank account to the IRAS to pay for my income tax.

I did not have any standing order for income tax payment to be made through GIRO, but a POSB service manager told me that DBS Bank is an acting agent for the IRAS and has the right to deduct from a customer's account when instructed by the authority.

I wish to clarify if it is not more appropriate for the bank to freeze the account so that the account holder is at least alerted. Can banks pay Government bodies directly on behalf of the account holder, without his/her knowledge or authorisation?

Is this standard practice for all banks here and worldwide, or is this an arrangement between certain banks and the IRAS? If it is the latter, which are the banks? Are their customers aware of such an arrangement?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One year ago... video of Japan tsunami from in-vehicle cam.

I was alerted to this website below that has a wonderful collection of video clips.

One poignant item is the scene of the unfolding tsunami on a street in Japan a year ago, seen from a high-definition camera mounted inside a vehicle. We are told the driver just barely escaped and what we are shown is the recovered footage, damaged but later repaired:

Another must-watch clip is this dog show:

Finally, watch this 13-year-old musician wow her audience...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ads... ad-verse and ad-mirable.

Just as there will be controversial headlines and stylish headlines, there will be ads that get brickbats thrown at them and others that earn bouquets.

A newly launched Singapore Tourism Board TV ad, to be aired in Australian cities, and which uses the tagline "Get Lost and Find the Real Singapore" is getting some bad vibes from local netizens, says this story:

I thought the 30-sec ad (you can view it from within the link above) was pretty creative and Aussies -- with their robust sense of humour -- will not find it offensive. So tell your Aussie friends to come over, "get lost" here and find out more about our Little Red Dot.

Last year, there was that Abercrombie & Fitch oversized wall ad of a bare-chested male model in a low-slung pair of jeans that stirred controversy here. At about the same time, there was an ad by beauty and waxing firm Strip: Ministry of Wax that people found distasteful. See the two pics for yourself in this story below:

In 2009, Burger King came out with this ad for the Singapore market:

Even advertising people were discomfited by it. Here's one such commentary:

Ads that tease, using sexual reference, can actually be creative without being offensive. I found this ST Classified Ads promo a good example:

Other recent local ads which are creative, in my view, include these two on preventing mosquitoes from breeding:

This government agency ad below is eye-catching and timely, advising men not to buy black-market sex pills (which have killed a number of men). But I have a quibble: until we go the American way, spelling-wise, one word there should have been rendered as "fuelling":

Medical seminar ads will of course try to attract eyeballs. But since when has pregnancy been easy, or made easy? But easier? Yes. Bad English here!...

Finally, I like the cheeky second item in this ad for a medical public forum -- "Get poked for sex?":

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Melbourne trip...

My trip to Melbourne last month was to be present at my niece's wedding there. Given Melbourne's many fine surfing beaches, unsurprising, she and her (now) husband are surfing enthusiasts.

She spends so much time on the water that I swear she must have grown fins. Here's proof:

Okay, I cheated on that one... the pic above is taken from a newspaper wedding ad.

But the wedding was indeed held on a sandy beach -- my niece's favourite. And while the rest of us, including the groom, were decked out, with leather shoes that became sand-clogged, the bride, radiant in her wedding dress, was the smartest in the one comfy area that mattered most. Here's a pic of the bride:

  The beach was below a cliff, and a series of steps led the way down. The steps were wet, as it had rained earlier. I wonder if some folks were intimidated by this sign:

Anyway, just before the bride arrived, the sky started to darken again, and a strong wind came up. The three musicians huddled under the tent-top fretted about their precious instruments.

Fortunately, the weather held as the celebrant (akin to our Justice of the Peace) conducted a very meaningful Aussie-style civil marriage peppered with humour.

Then, as she said to the groom, "You may kiss the bride!", the skies decided to join in, and showered everyone with blessings -- drenching all and sundry as we scrambled back up the slippery steps to the cliff-top, where the parked cars were. I hope the musicians were all right; they had played gamely on as the pitter-patter turned into a heavy rain.

It was a wedding not to forget.

Before the Singapore contingent winged homeward, we decided to sightsee and drive along the Great Ocean Road to get to the Twelve Apostles (rock formations off the water's edge). We were thrilled to spot a koala and her cub enroute:

We also took pics of this common species of Aussie birds:

We clearly saw two at first and decided they were "cocka-twos". Then we spotted the third one:

Cocka-threes? (Hey, it was a long drive getting there, and we had to amuse ourselves!)


An abalone story with a twist at the end

This story is about a Japanese couple who wandered into a restaurant here and were shocked by the four-figure bill they had to pay -- for just two abalones (one each) plus some ordinary food and wine. The twist? The abalones came from Japan!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tribute to a songwriter.

I have absolutely no musical gifts but if I were to have a secret desire to be a "great" somebody, I would want to be a songwriter whose lyrics leave a deep impression. Robert B. Sherman, who died on Tuesday in London, aged 86, was one such talented music-maker -- together with his brother Richard, now 83.

Together, the Sheman brothers wrote prolifically; their songs included those for the Walt Disney movies Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Robert Sherman has been called "one of the world's greatest songwriters".

Robert Sherman's son Jeffrey paid this tribute: "His rule in writing songs was to keep it singable, simple and sincere. In the simplest things you find something universal."

Perhaps that's why I see a connection with what I do. A journalist should strive to make his writing "sing" too, in both the artistic sense of a cadence in its structure that helps the reader absorb the story effortlessly and in the sense of a purposeful message. Simplicity, sincerity and universality are of course the desired traits.

For me, among the memorable songs from Mary Poppins are the nonsense song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (which I have previously put on my blog) and the highly evocative Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag) -- a powerful reminder of humanity at its most caring:


An optical illusion?

I thought this page one blurb for a story on the proposed use of blowpipes for catching stray dogs in today's ST (8 Mar) looked strange. The unintended camera trick gives the optical illusion of a dog running on just two legs!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Big bang theory; 86 still a 'prime' number for one man; and a brain teaser junior easily solves!

(E)reptile dysfunction?

Local site's Weird News section, having already told us about Putin's tears, now amuses us with this crocodile tear-jerker story from AFP. It is headlined "Japan zoo tries to drum up alligator's interest in sex"...

Hmm, if all that 'banging" doesn't work, maybe the zoo should pipe in Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" (I assume it'll get alligators a-rockin' too):

But maybe all that's needed is some cooling off first, a la this tribute to Bill Haley, "See You Later, Alligator":


Octo-mus Prime?

For this man,  a great-grandfather, 86 is clearly still a 'prime' number!


If 8809 = 6, then 2581 = ?

And still on numbers, this brain teaser was easily solved by nursery school kids. Dare you try your hand?...


Persimmons... all gone today!

I was at the Junction 10 (J10) shopping mall, where the Giant supermarket is the anchor tenant. I then sent this text message to some people who read my blog:

Me: Scary! No more Israeli persimmons at J10 Giant s'mart. Yest, was stacked high w the stuff.

A: Intercepted by Iran?
Me: Or pple read my blog and stocked up!
A: So you might have caused a run on Israeli persimmons? Naughty!

B: Oh dear!!! Crisis.
Me: Diverted to pilots to eat on way to bombing Iran!

C: Ooh, strike imminent.
Me: Haha, yah.

D: Your blog lah!
Me: (Smiley emoticon)

But not to worry, yet, TODAY (7 Feb) carried this Reuters story, "No Israeli decision on Iran attack: Netanyahu":