Monday, April 30, 2012

Keep your eye on the ball!

It's Now or Never
Someone on ST's sports desk must be an Elvis Presley fan. This headline today (30 April, page B8) is for the Manchester United-Manchester City "derby of derbies" Premier League football match (kickoff at 3am, Tuesday 1 May, Singapore time. UPDATE: City won 1-0.):

And here's the YouTube clip of the song:

Did you wonder what is a "derby" (pronounced "darby"), as used in soccer parlance? Here's one explanation:



Over at TODAY, one of its sports pages (page 30) had this headline, above. So what is "keepy-uppy"? It is "the skill of ball-juggling -- to keep a ball in the air for as long as possible". Here's the fuller explanation:

The website above also says there are keepy-uppy contests and the record "at the time of writing... stands at 19 hours 30 minutes"!

The Children's BBC (CBBC) even has a game of Keepy Uppy, played using a computer mouse or a webcam ("bounce the ball with your body", it says):


A hairy ball with missing hairs?
Last item. I found this poster in an optometrist's shop both puzzling and intriguing...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's the first day of school in a US town, and the new kid settles in...

Trust CC to send this. It may not be all that politically correct, but -- hey -- it's the weekend, so, as Bugs Bunny would say, "unlax":

It is the first day of a school in a small American town and the newly minted immigrant, Chandran, joins the fourth grade.
The teacher says: "Let's review some American History. Who said 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death'?"
She sees a sea of blank faces except for Chandran who raises his hand: "Patrick Henry, 1775."
"Very good!"
Who said, "Government of the People, by the People, for the People, shall not perish 'from the Earth?''
Again, no response except from Chandran: "Abraham Lincoln, 1863."
The teacher snaps at the rest of the class: "You should be ashamed. Chandran, who is new to our country, knows more about our history than you do."
She hears a loud whisper: "F*** the Indians!"
"Who said that?" she demands.
Chandran puts up his hand: "General Custer, 1862."
At that point, a student in the back says: "I'm gonna puke."
The teacher glares around and asks: "Now, who said that?"

Again, Chandran pips up: "George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991."
Now furious, another student yells: "Oh yeah? Suck this!"
Chandran jumps out of his chair and shouts too: "Bill Clinton, to Monica Lewinsky, 1997."
The teacher faints. That's when someone quietly says: "Oh shit, we're screwed!"
Chandran too has quietened as he whispers: "I think it was Lehmann Brothers, November 4th, 2008." 

Here's two more song-inspired headlines:

Reunited, And It Feels So Good

It's the reunion of the American Pie gang, and the headline writer picked the Peaches & Herb hit.

Scarborough Fair

I think, for this one above, the headline writer hit some shoals ie the headline sank. It is obviously about the dispute over contested islands in the South China Sea but I don't quite get what the headline is all about. Still, the Simon and Garfunkle song -- used also in the Dustin Hoffman movie "The Graduate" -- is an evergreen, at least to us baby boomers.


I'll round off with two recent newspaper clippings. The first is what I'll call a "picture of irony" and the second is a nice headline, well-crafted, for a two-paragraph story about two over-exuberant men...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

When 'sannyside' met 'sunny side'...

On the Sunny Side of the Street
I decided to Google "onthesannyside". I found, besides references to my blog, this delightful -- and I believe, the original -- short rendition of "On the Sunny Side of the Street", by Peggy Lee and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Google may have mixed up "sannyside" and "sunny side" but I'm glad for it. Enjoy...

Que Sera, Sera
I have also been collecting headlines and ads that use song titles. Just today (28 April), there were two from ST's sports pages. This first one tells soccer fan readers that the outcome of next week's Manchester United-Manchester City cliff-hanger match is best left to the song made famous by Doris Day, "Que Sera, Sera" -- or, What Will Be, Will Be...

You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
In today's ST too is this other soccer story, about Barcelona's colourful coach Pep Guardiola all set to quit his job with the club at the end of the season. The headline below is clearly inspired by the classic Elvis Presley song...

I'll Never Find Another You
This is a very appealing Seekers song. The two ads below from Great Eastern the insurance company very cleverly insinuated themselves with the song...

Da Doo Ron Ron
Geri spotted this one. ST ran a package of stories on the joy of running, and the cover page headline? "They Do Run, Run, Run", a very very slick word play on the 1960s pop hit by the Crystals...

Hopelessly Devoted to You
Finally, when Olivia Newton John was back here recently to do a concert, the headline writer could not resist this...

Friday, April 27, 2012

A slew of good letters...

The taxman has replied to Mr Ooi, the 75-year-old man who claimed that IRAS "ngair, ngair" (Hokkien, equivalent of "wants its pound of flesh") wanted the one-cent in back tax due to it (my blog entry on Tuesday).

I thought that Mr Ooi's cheekiness in sending a cheque for one-cent was a cool act. Now I am not so sure... IRAS, in its reply (ST Forum, 27 April) said:

"The property tax bill sent to Mr Ooi was to request payment of $36.01, comprising two components of which $36 was a late payment penalty.

"The one-cent component arose from an objection lodged by Mr Ooi last November against the annual value of his property which was revised in March last year.

"This triggered the system  to recompute his property tax, resulting in the additional one cent due to rounding of to the nearest cent.

"A very small number of property tax payers are similarly affected. We will tweak the system to prevent such cases in future.

"Following Mr Ooi's appeal, we agreed to waive the penalty of $36 and informed him it was not necessary to pay the one cent.

"Despite this advice, he proceeded to send us the cheque."


I thought IRAS' reply was refreshngly bereft of bureaucratic spin, and it graciously chose not to score points, even though it had acceded to Mr Ooi's waiver request and also informed him that he need not pay that one cent. So, Mr Ooi, I take back my praise of you: No, you do not rock!


Actually, in most countries, the taxman is not a figure of affection. But, let's admit it, IRAS has made e-filing of tax returns a breeze these days. Let's give praise where it is due. And I wonder if we are the only country where the taxman even holds a lucky draw if you pay your tax by GIRO!...


Another interesting letter in todays' ST Forum is Dr David Tan Hsien Yung's call for an "honour system" of calling in sick when one just needs a day of rest to recover from a mild ailment at home ("Replace MCs with honour system"). followed up on this issue with its own story:


TODAY (27 April) too has interesting letters. This one, under the paper's "I Say" column, is poignant and reminds me of my own late eldest sister, How Lui, who was just a young girl with even younger siblings when the Japanese invaded Singapore:

Family is strength
by Santi Yeo Her Chuen

I was filled with a sense of awe and empowerment from my family tree when I attended the wake of my First Aunt earlier this month.

She was a World War II survivor. My father told me that when the Japanese war planes were dropping bombs in Singapore, she would yell to him at the top of her voice to "kah mei zhao", which means "run quickly" in Hokkien.

Dad remembers vividly the kindness and aid of his elder sister during those dangerous and fearful childhood days.

She led a full life. She was adopted by my paternal grandparents to help look after their children.

Her name, Ah Kan, means that she will bring many good, auspicious things to the family.

She had seven children who started their own families and pooled their resources to start a business enterprise. She was free to live in any of their homes as and when she chose, and so her children shared the responsibility to look after her.

On the eve of Qing Ming, the 13th day of the third month of the lunar calendar, she had a heart attack. There were some 20 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren to send her off when she died.

Meeting my cousins during the wake was an eye-opener. I never met them after they grew up. Some are married and in their early 30s. They were tiny tots in my school days when I visited First Aunt at her own apartment during the Chinese New Year.

How time flies. They had no idea who I was and I did not know their names.

Mum says the earlier generation of Singaporeans do not measure their wealth by the 5Cs (cash, condominium, car, career and country club membership) but by the number of descendants at their wake. How times have changed.

First Aunt belonged to an era when there were too many mouths to feed and not too many jobs to go around. In Singapore today, there are jobs nobody wants to do and a dearth of babies.

First Aunt was illiterate, and she braved it all. Her children and grandchildren's success stories are also stories of a prosperous and abundant Singapore.

The Chinese have ancestral tablets at home and pay worship to their ancestors, who fended for their young during stormy times and taught them to do the same. The forefathers' stories are not to be forgotten.

The effect of my family tree was still with me after the funeral. Family is strength.


Finally, this letter in TODAY, commenting on the article on the South China Sea issue (which I blogged about yesterday), is very well argued:

US, China in search of mutual trust
Letter from Jonathan Tan Ghee Tiong

I refer to the commentary on "China's testing the waters, nothing more" (April 26). The maritime stand-off in the South China Sea suggests that much needs to be done to build mutual trust between China and the rest of Asia.

While China has become the largest trading partner for virtually all major Asia- Pacific economies, the shared economic prosperity has not transformed into a compact of trust on both sides.

At the heart of this trust deficit is the fear of China's rising hard power and what it plans to do with this acquired power.

As the writer pointed out, China's claims to the disputed islands in the South China Sea can hardly be construed as expansionist and, which I would add, are borne out of strategic interests.

In spite of this, China must seek to reconcile the issue amicably with other claimant countries.

It is dangerous for China and the rest of Asia to become myopic with strategic calculations of the other's intent. Any brinkmanship in the South China Sea could resonate with incalculable consequences globally.

As a fillip for building mutual trust, regular strategic dialogues and cooperation in joint projects must form the backbone of regional relations. Better coordination and cooperation to support joint underwater exploration in the South China Sea could serve to build greater confidence.

If "mutual trust is the highest good in any partnership", to quote former United States National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, then it is also paramount that the US plays its part in reaching out to China to build this trust.

The US fear that China could consolidate countries into exclusionary blocs aligned with Chinese interests is overplayed. Most states in the world are electoral democracies. The Arab Spring has contributed to more Arab nations possibly joining the ranks.

In the Asia-Pacific, pragmatic politicians see the wisdom of US presence in the region. For these countries to form a deep strategic alliance with China seems a bit far-fetched.

Beijing University Professor Wang Jisi warned recently that the level of strategic distrust between the US and China has become "corrosive" and, if not corrected, the countries risk becoming "open antagonists".

The US should appreciate that global governance is a relatively new vocabulary in the Chinese discourse. It was only at the turn of this century that the policy and academic circles in China warmed up to the issue of global governance.

The US must learn to exercise a degree of strategic patience in dealing with an emerging superpower. On the other hand, the Chinese should understand that its aspirations for global recognition can be fulfilled only by being a responsible stakeholder in the international system.

While there may be no enduring friendships in global politics, a greater meeting of minds between the US and China would bode well for regional stability.

The writer works for a German foundation that co-organises high-level, roundtable discussions on developments in China with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.


So, given the sound logic of the above letter, what was the headline writer thinking when penning this TODAY headline (for an unrelated news story)?

Did that person think there is a possibility, under certain circumstances, that China-bashing can be good?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Going to town with silly place names; and a spot-on South China Sea analysis.

See, there's this village in Scotland called Dull (so, its residents are Dull folks?). And there's this American town in Oregon state called Boring (Boring people?). And, with so much in common, they decided to "twin".

Then there's this Austrian village called Fucking (no, I will not suggest what these villagers are called) which decided it had enough of being the butt of many an unkind joke and voted to change its name, only to discover that...

... Don't let me spoil your fun. The Guadian newspaper went to town with its story on these and other  "silly place names"...

ST (20 April, page B10) also had a small item on the Austrian town...


I don't know how many people closely follow the current South China Sea imbroglio. I find most of the commentaries on this highly-nuanced issue lacking in their understanding of the dynamics and interests involved, so it was refreshing to see an excellent assessment by Patrick Cronin, "China's testing the waters, nothing more", in the New York Times. It is reproduced in TODAY (26 April):,-nothing-more

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Headlines... do they mean what you see?

Here are some ambiguous local headlines that I recently spotted:

So, who was holding the knife?

Last time I checked, there was -- strictly speaking -- no such word as "google". What kind of action is being described? There is "googol" -- a number equal to 10 to the 100th power (that's as good as unfathomable). But "Google", yes, that proprietary word is actually inspired by "googol" and it has entered the English language.

The word "live" is unnecessary. Putting it within quote marks makes it only a little more acceptable but it is still redundant. I am reminded of a radio announcement about a CPR course. People signing up were asked to take along a partner as there will be "live" practising sessions. So don't bring a cadaver, hor.

Wow, what an airline! Some of its planes have just four seats. I believe the intended meaning was "four seating options".

I suppose the intended meaning of this one above is obvious, at least in our local context, but it still conjures up a hilarious connotation.


Meanwhile, someone sent me these some time ago. I may even have used several in previous blog entries. But they are still good for a laugh here...

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter  
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says 
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers  
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over  
Miners Refuse to Work after Death 
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant  
War Dims Hope for Peace  
 If Strike Isn ' t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile 
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures  
Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide   
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges  
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge  
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group  
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft  
 ---------------- ---------------------------------  
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks  
   Local  High School Dropouts Cut in Half  
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors  
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recalling the era of radio requests, and the taxman's 'one cent' demand...

For baby boomers like me, listening to the weekend Top Tunes of the Week on radio was a must. Some of us also tried to "transcribe" the lyrics onto exercise books (the kind with the multiplication table, how many taels make one catty, a mnemonic on the number of days in each month, etc, on the back cover).

I don't recall ever writing in to make "requests" for popular songs but it was fascinating to hear, say, Ricardo Elvis Ringo Ong making a dedication to Connie Doris Baby Neo...

The DJs indeed held court, with their sonorous voices. Hence, a letter from ST reader Victor Khoo (unrelated to me but I think he's the same one who did police national service with me at Still Road station -- before I got drafted into army green uniforms) stirred fond memories of my avid radio-listening days. Here's Victor Khoo's letter in ST Forum (24 April):

Trend of multiple radio DJs sacrifices that old personal touch
Why does a person listen to the radio? Apart from getting information, news and music, a radio listener wants someone to keep him company; a proxy for personal, warm and friendly one-to-one companionship.

For the radio listener, that companion is the deejay on air. So the test of a good radio deejay is to be able to communicate with his listeners in a manner that replicates a personal, face-to-face encounter via the restricted confines of audio contact. This is not easy.

A deejay can use only his voice to reach out and connect with the listener in an audio embrace. A deejay who succeeds in doing so has done the job and is the benchmark of a good one.

Unfortunately, the new trend among local radio stations is to have two or more deejays hosting one show for reasons fathomable only to these broadcasting stations. I say unfortunately because this trend robs the station of that personal touch.

More often than not, the listener ends up literally as a passive eavesdropper on a bunch of men and women talking and joking among themselves in a cacophony of chatter.

While they may be entertaining, these deejays and their bosses should remember that they are working on radio, not a television sitcom.

Of course, there are exceptions, where a station bravely soldiers on with just one deejay holding the fort. In this respect, my kudos goes to solo radio deejays like Mr Hamish Brown of Gold 90FM.

Can I have my good old radio deejay back, and radio stations back to what they were meant to be?


That letter above reminds me too of the very apt song "Pilot of the Airwaves", by Charlie Dore :


Meanwhile, the taxman, it seems, will doggedly ask for one cent in taxes due!...

Retiree's property tax bill: 1 cent
(ST, 24 April, page B6)
WHEN retiree Steven Ooi opened a letter last Saturday asking him to pay his property tax, he was stunned to discover that the amount he owed was one cent.

The letter was sent to him by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras). It added: Pay up or there would be a 5 per cent penalty fee.

Mr Ooi, 75, was baffled, but he shrugged and paid up. That same day, he wrote out a cheque for one cent and sent it to the tax authority.

He said he mailed the cheque because he was curious to know what would happen next.

“Apart from making them happy, I wanted to see what the authorities would do with my one-cent cheque,” he said.

Mr Ooi, who lives with his family in a condominium in Braddell, said he usually receives a letter from the Iras to pay property tax once a year.

He added that he received an earlier tax letter in February, so this latest one was unexpected.

His four-room unit was bought nearly seven years ago, and Mr Ooi and his family have lived there since.

When contacted, the Iras said it was unable to comment as tax matters are confidential.

Mr Ooi told The Straits Times that the Iras called him yesterday evening at about 6.30pm.

The authority told him that it was trying to locate and retrieve his cheque before it was deposited.

Mr Ooi said he was not sure if the Iras would return his cheque, and that the matter was probably an oversight on its part.

“It boils down to red tape over standard procedure that big organisations go through,” he said.
“No matter how much or how little you owe, you pay up. So things could get sent without someone going through every single thing,” he added.

Mr Ooi, however, said there is a part of him that regrets sending the one-cent cheque.

“In a way, I wish I had not sent the cheque, because I really did want to see how they would charge me the 5 per cent penalty.”


Mr Ooi, you may be 75 years old, but you rock, man!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Detrainment? What's that? And rocket science, um, 'explained'!

The "Just follow hor/Just follow lor!" affliction among Singaporeans looks incurable. Long ago, someone decreed that "parking lots" meant here what are universally accepted elsewhere as parking spaces or parking spots.

We have been stuck with this absurdity ever since.

But once in a blue moon, we get a bureaucrat wise in the use of officially sanctioned words. He or she understood that "coastal roads" would become laughable in a  rapidly urbanising Singapore that extended concrete to the shoreline and extending it further with reclamation.

So, East Coast Road, West Coast Road and Changi Coast Road were created, and they were good. Even then, I have had to correct reporters who turn in copy with an offending "Changi Coastal Road".

But, alas, the earlier good work was undone, and we now have in the works "Marina Coastal Expressway". You will not find anything rustic about this road system or its surroundings.

More recently, some official tried to foist the word "ponding" on Singaporeans when all could see that there were flash floods, pure and simple. Amid public ridicule, and the minister in charge's intervention (call a spade a spade, he said), "ponding" was quietly drowned.

Were lessons learnt? No, we recently woke up to find there are now "bus hubs" -- a hubristic concoction for what are merely extended roadside bus stops to accommodate up to three or four buses.

And now, get ready for the latest absurdity... Detrainment.

In this TODAY story below (23 April), clearly "just follow hor/just follow lor!" was at work. Some SMRT person issued a statement; the reporter just followed, accepting the nonsensical word invention. Worse, the paper's supervisory checking process must have gone awry, resulting in what's below:

The Light Rail Transit (LRT) service at Bukit Panjang was hit by a disruption yesterday afternoon. The train fault affected services between Bukit Panjang and Senja stations.

The disruption, which took about two and a half hours to remedy, occurred at 4.45pm. All three service lines were affected at different points, with disruptions along Service A and Service C occurring first, while Service B was stopped for nine minutes to facilitate the detrainment of passengers aboard the Service A train.

"One train was in operation when the BPLRT Service A was disrupted and stalled before it entered BP13 Senja (LRT station)," said SMRT, whose staff was on site within five minutes to attend to the 11 passengers on board the affected train... The 11 passengers who were detrained had to walk on a 1.5m wide emergency walkway for about 150m to Senja station.

Passengers on board the other affected train were detrained at Bukit Panjang station so that their train could be used to push out the stalled train.


So, we can now reinvent some words that start with "de"...

derailed -- in situations when passengers who were detrained had no access to a walkway, they might have to walk along the railway tracks. At the end of that journey, they are "derailed".

debunked -- that happens when too many backpackers fight for a budget hotel's bed bunks. Some have to be pushed off, ie, "debunked".

delighted -- a light bulb that has blown.

detailed -- you wouldn't want to ever consume ox tail's soup again if this word describes the process!

debriefing -- the reporter, back from a job, walks into the newsroom. "Quick, debrief me," commanded the supervisor. Next scene... "@#$%^&, what the hell are you doing! Get away from me," the supervisor could be heard yelling.


Oh, I had a commentary article published in today's ST (23 April). Here it is:

Rocket science... it's about rocket signs too

Rocket science is actually quite uncomplicated. Seal a long cylinder at the tapered end, fill its insides with some evenly-burning high-thrust chemical and, voila, you have a rocket.

Of course, if a rocket still fails soon after lift-off, you’ll get lots of debris.

That happened to North Korea’s recent bid at a rocket launch. It failed after lift-off and debris fell into the sea. Reports said American and South Korean ships later used undersea probes to try and locate some of the debris to study them, for clues. Let’s say they were looking for rocket signs.

We have been talking rockets so far.

When we turn to the subject of last week’s (April 19) Indian successful test-firing of its long-range missile... hey, did we just say “missile” instead?

Yes. Strictly, they are both self-propelled projectiles. But the boffins like to call such projectiles missiles if these have some kind of “homing” guidance system.

Jumping in, the military guys then purloined the term “missile” and, ever since, missiles are weapons of war.

Ever so greedy, the military will still use the term “rocket” – for those volleys of dumb unguided rockets unleashed at the enemy while hoping for some lucky hits.

A first point of difference then is that to send a satellite – the payload – into orbit, you just need a rocket.

It will have onboard computers and a guidance set-up of course, and the rocket’s trajectory may be adjusted inflight. But the basic flight path is preset.

A missile – again, as used by the military, not in its general usage as when schoolboys throw paper missiles at their teacher – is expected to have a guidance system that “homes in” on a target.

The bigger or the longer range, the missile, the more sophisticated this guidance system is likely to be. The much smaller air-to-air missiles that Top Gun combat aircraft carry typically have infra-red guidance or semi- active radar guidance.

Infra-red guidance is “fire and forget”, that is, once you have the enemy aircraft in your cross-hairs and the beep, beep sounds, you just hit that red button, a la what you see in the movies. The missile is heat-seeking and it goes doggedly for the engines. Wham!

But don’t forget, you are in a dogfight. You may be on someone’s tail but some enemy “bandit” may be on your tail too.

And the enemy, like you, has “counter-measures” – decoy flares that are released away from the dodging aircraft.

Semi-active homing guided missiles use both active and passive radars to target the enemy. Without going into the jargon, these missiles are heavier and tend to be less imprecise, everything being equal.

Different models are used to attack other aircraft or surface targets. Further advances have led to “beyond visual range” (BVR) guided missiles where the pilot does not need to be in a dogfight to engage a fast-moving target.

More sophisticated guidance systems for larger land-launched missiles like the Indian one use gyroscope-based guidance and global positioning, among others.

But to come back to the failed North Korean rocket launch and the successful Indian missile launch, a second difference is the propulsion system, which also determines the projectile’s size. Yes, size matters in rocket science.

“Peaceful-purpose” long-range rocket launches, such as those for lobbing satellites into orbit, typically use a liquid fuel mix. That’s because they provide the most bang for the buck.

A civilian rocket launch – to lift a big space-probe payload – cannot afford the more costly “solid fuel” propulsion.

Hence, if you look carefully at pictures of the North Korean launch, you will see a launch gantry, gasses hissing out, and an array of supporting equipment.

But if you look at pictures of the Indian missile launch, you see just an “erector” on a mobile platform. That’s because the Indian Agni-V missile uses solid fuel.

The advantage? A solid-fuelled long-range missile can be set up quite quickly, and it can be “launched on warning”, that is, if under attack, you may still have time to hit back. Importantly, the system can be made road-mobile, so it’s harder to be “taken out” by an enemy.

A liquid-fuelled rocket or missile takes time to fuel up, which explains why it took the North Koreans so long just to prepare the launch.

Finally, while most large civilian rockets (small ones, such as those for weather balloons, can use solid fuel) are liquid- fuelled, not all missiles are solid-fuelled.

During the Cold War, both the Americans and the Soviets deployed large liquid-fuelled missiles – kept in deep silos to protect them and to prevent detection while they were being discreetly fuelled.

I am not sure if such missiles have all since been phased out of these two powers’ arsenals. The Chinese may still have some liquid-fuelled large missiles.

But you are really only in the world’s top-tier missile club when you have mastered solid-fuel technology for long- range delivery, which the Indians, like the Chinese earlier, have now done.

Oh, there’s also warhead miniaturisation technology, multiple warhead re- entry technology, and other arcane stuff. I lied. Rocket science is complicated.


PS: Today marks my 500th blog entry!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

News bites...

Yesterday, I blogged about how "dog bites man" isn't news and how even "man bites dog" is now ho-hum. But "man eats dog" -- one particular man -- made the headlines.

Well, there's now a story about "woman bites woman"! It seems that a woman motorist in a San Francisco neighbourhood was waiting to take the place of a car that was moving out of a parking spot. But, in a flash, another woman driver swooped into that just-vacated space ("potong jalan", we say in Singlish; these ugly incidents often happen here too).

That's when the woman bit woman incident happened. Here's the San Francisco CBS Local's story, with a video clip too:

Today's Sunday Times also carried the story, with these additional "news bites"...

The attacker was arrested on suspicion of assault with a "deadly weapon", in this case, her teeth, local police said.

"I don't know why she would bite me," said the victim. "I don't understand why anyone would bite anybody unless you were hungry, and I don't really taste that good. I hope not." [I just love her quote!!]


Ok, now that we have a case of woman bites woman, has there been any "man bites man" incidents? But of course! There may be others but many people will recall this famous one, as recounted by

On June 28, 1997, Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield’s ear in the third round of their heavyweight rematch. The attack led to his disqualification from the match and suspension from boxing, and was the strangest chapter yet in the champion’s roller-coaster career.


Still on bites, you may or may not find this link called "Daily Singapore News... Stay Updated With Bite-size News Summary" useful. You be your own judge...  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gone to the dogs...

The leader of the world's most powerful nation (admittedly, last time I checked, which was not too recently) has a dog named Bo. Stop that humming; I'll put that song's YouTube clip below. Let me continue first...

His Republican rival in November's presidential election has a dog named Seamus.

As journalists were once wont to say, it's not news when dog bites man. These days, even when man bites dog, what's the big deal? But when man eats dog, ah, I got your attention! Well, Kathleen Parker, a columnist at the Washington Post, got my attention with her tail-wagging piece "Presidential race jumps the dog" (21 April). As she wryly notes...

"It's the most pivotal presidential race in human history (staying true to our apocalyptic tendencies), and we're debating which candidate cares most about dogs. I did my best in a previous column to illustrate the silliness of the Obama campaign's focus on a 30-year-old Romney-dog travel episode, but, alas, I misjudged our capacity for the absurd."

What happened was that the Mitt Romney campaign team had taken a fresh look at Barack Obama's memoir and found that he had once eaten dog meat during his childhood years in Indonesia.

Ms Parker continues: "Republicans were so gleeful to have found a worse dog story about Obama that they have lashed out with Cujo-esque rabidity. Sure, Romney may have carted his dog Seamus in a crate strapped to the roof of his car, but Obama ATE DOG!...

"On television, Obama surrogates are defending the president's dog-eating days. He was a child living in Indonesia, where dogs sometimes get eaten. It's not as though he looked Rufus in the eye and said, "Yum, Ma, I'm in the mood for a little roast pooch...

"As these things go, the dog theme has taken on barking-mad dimensions. A pro-Romney poster features a puppy with the caption: 'Romney 2012: I'd rather go for a ride with Mitt than be eaten by Obama'. Campaign buttons show a dog like Bo and the caption: 'Donate or Barack Will Eat Me.'...

"If we look ridiculous to the rest of the world, and surely we do, why don't we look ridiculous to ourselves? Now there is a question worth pondering...

"As to how we've gone to the dogs, the answer is familiar. Humans like spectacle, and Americans in particular prefer humour to malaise. For the latter, we can be grateful."

Here's the link to Ms Parker's commentary:

For AFP's story headlined "US presidential campaign: Who let the dogs out?" (it includes Sarah Palin jumping into the issue), see:


There's more. Cable TV is now available in the US for "stay-at-home" pooches to watch. As one British newspaper, The Telegraph, notes in its story, "Television bosses are calling DOGTV a new breed of programming -- an on-demand cable TV channel designed to keep your dog relaxed, stimulated and entertained while you are at work". Here's the story (with a video clip of excerpts from DOGTV):

Ok, now for the YouTube clips in celebration of humans "gone to the dogs":

Me and You and a Dog named Boo (Lobo)

Who Let the Dogs Out? (Baha Men)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Strange, strange, and strange...

The answer: the chicken came first, but the mother had to die

A claim was made by a vet in Sri Lanka that a hen gave birth to a live chick. Here's the AFP story:


Another sad if strange story... Death by cola?

Wellington, New Zealand (Associated Press) – A New Zealand woman’s two-gallon-a-day Coca-Cola habit probably contributed to her death, an expert said. That conclusion led the soft-drink giant to note that even water can be deadly in excessive amounts.

Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old, stay-at-home mother of eight from Invercargill, died of a heart attack in February 2010. Fairfax Media reported that a
pathologist, Dr Dan Mornin, testified at an inquest Thursday (19 April) that she probably suffered from hypokalemia, or low potassium, which he thinks was
caused by her excessive consumption of Coke and overall poor nutrition.

Symptoms of hypokalemia can include abnormal heart rhythms, the U.S. National Institutes of Health had said.

Dr Mornin said that toxic levels of caffeine, a stimulant found in Coke, also may have contributed to her death, Fairfax said. Harris’ partner, Chris Hodgkinson, testified that Harris drank between 8 and 10 liters (2.1 and 2.6 gallons) of regular Coke every day.
“The first thing she would do in the morning was to have a drink of Coke beside her bed and the last thing she would do at night was have a drink of Coke,” Hodgkinson said in a deposition. “She was addicted to Coke.”

Hodgkinson also said Harris ate little and smoked about 30 cigarettes a day. In the months before her death, he said, Harris experienced blood pressure problems and lacked energy.

Karen Thompson, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Oceania, said in a statement that its products are safe. “We concur with the information shared by the coroner’s office that the grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water, over a short
period of time with the inadequate consumption of essential nutrients, and the failure to seek appropriate medical intervention when needed, can be dramatically symptomatic.”


One more strange song lyrics... Men At Work's Land Down Under 

The recent death of the Aussie band's flautist, Greg Ham, reminded me of the song. Here is a YouTube clip which has the lyrics (Greg Ham comes in solo during the vocal pauses):

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mind your language!

I've always wondered why MediaCorp's 93.8 presenters blame themselves for traffic snafus, eg, "We have slow-moving traffic along...", "We have an accident...". And I had a good laugh when a presenter, well-known for being a voracious reader of books, in reviewing a book on a venerable British spy agency, called it "M Fifteen"!

Just this afternoon, I heard a news reader, in  describing the successful test-firing of India's latest missile, called it the "Agni Vee" (it should be the Agni-5, or Agni-V).

But the one that was really, really, bad was the station's radio ad for its education seminar: "No four alphabets of the English alphabet cause parents more stress than P, S, L and E..." [the PSLE is the Primary School Leaving Examination, which decides which secondary school a Primary 6 pupil gets to go to].

Thankfully, as of this morning, the ad has since been corrected to: "No four letters of the English alphabet...". It took several days before the correction was made.


Here's another ungrammatical specimen... a print ad:

This is a common spoken and written error, especially when referring to numbers such as the one above, "aged between 9 to 14 years". The correct form should be "aged between 9 and 14 years". But why not just drop that booby-trap word "between"? Just say "aged 9 to 14 years".


This is another common error... the wrong use of "double up" or "doubling up". The chair described above apparently serves two functions, a sort of two-in-one. So, it "doubles" as a whatever and a whatever. The Deputy Minister doubles as the Home Affairs Minister. He does not "double up"... (unless he is having a stomach ache).

This is because to "double up" is to bent over in pain, as when someone has a severe tummy ache!


This one is strictly not a grammatical error. But unless and until we start spelling words the American way, the British spelling of that word above is "favour". I just wonder why no one spotted it.


Finally, there are ungrammatical or at least funnily-worded song lyrics; someone started a thread on this theme ((below) a while back...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For paper-chasing Singaporeans, here's the latest 'certificate'...

Here's the insing,com story on how you can acquire this piece of paper. Got signature, even...

This SMRT innovation resulted from yet another rush-hour train delay this morning; in this case, along the Circle Line. But I find this picture of the lingering crowd troubling:

One lesson -- from a security perspective -- that should have been learnt from last December's massive train delays is to quickly clear people from underground stations and out into the open. Commuters themselves too should act on their own initiative. Don't be blur like sotong!


Housing and public transport are arguably the unremitting hot-button issues for Singaporeans. I felt that TODAY reader Chua Soo Kiat has penned a very cogent letter (TODAY, 18 April, page 18):

Transport, housing are worlds apart

With the Committee of Inquiry into the recent train breakdowns now under way, it is important to take stock of two burning issues from last year: Housing and public transport.

Since the General Election, the Government has responded swiftly to deal with these issues, and the new ministers appointed to these portfolios have reacted responsibly. However, the fate of the two issues could not be more different.

In housing, due to the aggressive supply of public flats, the outcry over a housing shortage, especially for young Singaporeans, has subsided.

After the public voiced concern over prices of Design, Build and Sell Scheme flats, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan suspended new land sales under the scheme.

In transport, unfortunately, there have been more problems, chiefly the series of Mass Rapid Transit breakdowns hardly seen in the past. As for taxis, there was a fare increase led by the dominant player, which led to concerns over seeming anti-competitive behaviour.

Recently, the public had to accept that the Government will be pumping more money into the purchase of buses, while SMRT and SBS Transit continue to pay dividends to shareholders despite their service problems.

It is no comfort that Certificate of Entitlement prices are nearing all-time highs, limiting most Singaporeans to public transport, no matter the reliability.

The situation will improve when more projects such as the North-South Expressway, new rail lines and more buses come on stream.

I sense, though, that the current public transport woes are partly due to conflicting interests and unclear accountabilities of the various stakeholders. For example, there are several bodies, namely the Transport Ministry, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the Public Transport Council and the respective managements at ComfortDelGro, SBS Transit and SMRT, making transport decisions.

Thus, while Mr Khaw can order the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to build more flats, the Transport Minister is unable to order the transport companies to do as much because of pushback from the companies, who must consider shareholder interest.

So, while the public follows the inquiry, for instance, into whose duty it is to maintain rail "claws", let us not lose sight of a bigger issue: Whether a private supplier of public transport is the most efficient and cost-effective way ahead.

If the HDB can deliver world-class service to Singaporeans, there is no reason why the LTA cannot. If cost recovery is an issue, we could implement tier-pricing for citizens and non-citizens, with the Government subsidising some operations as it is already doing now.

Let us avoid the situation where gains are seen to be privatised, that is, through dividends, while costs are socialised through government infusion of capital, falling service levels and decreased productivity due to train/bus faults.

Meanwhile, Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) for cars have shot up again. As I have blogged previously, we kiasu Singaporeans are such suckers and only the resource-rich car dealers (which can bid high) and the banks happily dishing out car loans, are benefiting. We, the consumers, will also be the poorer for choice, as some brands will exit the market here due to poor sales.