Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy 2014!

I like this ST artist's playful way of depicting the Year of the Horse (2014) "booting" out 2013!...

My friend KA texted me this New Year greeting... very clever idea too!...

This Chinese calendar, however, didn't seem to get its horse cartoon quite right. I had to figure out if it was a horse!...

This being the Year of the Wood Horse and not the Year of the Dog, these canines slept through the Auld Lang Syne moment...

Auld Lang Syne (by the BBC's Symphony Orchestra, Chorus and Singers)...


But what does "Auld Lang Syne" mean? Here's one explanation...


Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The true meaning of 'express' in Singapore; and heroes tell their stories...

ST's pic taken weeks before: The calm before the storm...

The headline today (Dec 30) in insing.com:

Massive jam on second day of MCE opening


Netizens have been assigning new monikers to the MCE:

Many Cars Everywhere
Mayhem Causing Expressway
Most Congested Expressway
Most Cocked-up Expressway
etc etc

Nick, who had been caught in the jam, texted me with this calmer reaction:

"It'll get better with time. Problem is that underground, [there is] no landmarks to guide drivers. So when they see the sign that says ECP on one side and KPE on the other side, kiasu-ness kicks in and everyone starts filtering left or right. Actually, the turnoff is about one km away."

insing.com also reported that one taxi commuter ended up paying $74.20 for a ride from Bishan to the Marina Bay CBD through the MCE because the cabby got lost three times:

So, now you know. In Singapore, "express" has a peculiar meaning. In our education system, the "express" stream is the normal stream, the "normal" stream is the slower-paced stream. To be in the really express stream, you gotta be in the "gifted" stream. So what do you expect from Singapore's expressways?  

Still want to know what is the next (11th) expressway? It is the North-South Expressway (NSE), and major construction work starts in 2015:


By the time the massive NSE project is completed, everyone would have forgotten about today's MCE snafu. So, round and round we go again?


Singapore had so many combat veterans, mostly unsung, and we are only slowly writing about them. I am so glad my former colleague "Vijay" wrote this article about a new book on our pioneering naval volunteers, in today's ST (Dec 30):

I am definitely buying a copy!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Expressway trivia...

Singapore's 10th expressway, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) opened today (Dec 29). A TODAY reader, who thought that the established convention was to set the abbreviation after the first two syllables followed by E (for expressway) was obviously thinking of preceding examples (like the AYE):

But is he or she right to suggest that MRE should have been the correct choice? Going by the MCE example, the AYE, or Ayer Rajah Expressway, should have been rendered as ARE. I doubt if the LTA would want to have ARE as an expressway initial.

Actually, I don't think the LTA has been consistent in its expressway nomenclature. Breaking the final E "rule", there is the East Coast Parkway (ECP), not the East Coast Expressway which would have been ECE.

For me, I would quibble on why the MCE is called the Marina Coastal Expressway and not the Marina Coast Expressway. After all, the ECP is the East Coast Parkway. And -- apart from the equally puzzling Marina Coastal Drive (ie, this one should have been named Marina Coast Drive) -- we do not have major roads that are called coastal roads. Examples: Changi Coast Road, East Coast Road and West Coast Road (and West Coast Highway).

Anyway, just for the sake of trivia pursuit, here are Singapore's nine expressways before today's opening of the MCE:
So, do you know what will be the country's 11th expressway? Answer tomorrow.

Meantime, here's something tongue-in-cheek that I found in this link:


The real meaning behind all the Abbreviations:
  • In Singapore, living in Highly Dangerous Buildings (HDB), most people have already got used to Paying and Paying(PAP). Not only do you pay, you Pay Until Bankrupt (PUB). If that's not enough, somebody still Purposely Wants to Dig (PWD) more from you.
  • So what more can you do when you are in the Money Only Environment (MOE)? With the current Mad Accounting System (MAS), you are forced to Pay the Sum Ahead (PSA), which left some people Permanently Owe Some Banks (POSB) and live on Loan Techniques Always (LTA) system.
  • When you are sick, you might be able to use your Cash Prior to Funeral (CPF) fund, if you happen to be admitted to the Money Operating Hospital (MOH) one time. If you are out of luck you may meet doctors who Never Use Heart (NUH) to treat you and you will be Sure to Give up Hope (SGH). 
  • To help ease the traffic, motorist have to pay Cash On Expressway (COE). If that doesn't help, they can always Eternally Raise Prices (ERP) on the roads. If you don't own a car, you can always make a Mad Rush to Train (MRT) OR get squashed in a bus, Side By Side (SBS).
  • Lastly, under all these pressure, there are not many places we can relax,not even the good old place we used to go because it has become So Expensive and Nothing To See Actually (SENTOSA)!!!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Grandma's year-end memory test kit...

Test Your Memory!

It's that time of year for us to take our annual brain test.   Exercise of the brain is as important as exercise of the muscles. 
As we grow older, it's important to keep mentally alert. If you don't use it, you'll lose it!
Below is a technique invented by grannies to gauge how your memory compares to the last test. Some may think it is too easy but the ones with memory problems may have difficulty. Take the test presented here to determine if you're losing it or not. The spaces below are so you don't see the answers until you've made your answer.  
OK, relax, clear your mind and begin...

1. What do you put in a toaster? 

Answer: 'bread.'
If you said 'toast' give up now and do something else. Try not to hurt yourself. 
If you said, bread, go to Question 2. 

2. Say 'silk' five times.  Now spell 'silk.'  What do cows drink?

Answer: Cows drink water 
If you said 'milk,' don't attempt the next question. Your brain is over-stressed and may even overheat. Content yourself with reading more appropriate literature such as Auto World. 

However, if you said 'water', proceed to question 3. 

3. If a red house is made from red bricks and 
blue house is made from blue bricks and 
pink house is made from pink bricks and 
black house is made from black bricks, 
what is a green house made from? 

Answer: Green houses are made from glass
If you said 'green bricks,' why are you still reading this? 
If you said 'glass,' go on to Question 4. 

4. Without using a calculator - 
You are driving a bus from London to Milford Haven in Wales
In London, 17 people get on the bus. 
In Reading, 6 people get off the bus and 9 people get on. 
In Swindon, 2 people get off and 4 get on. 
In Cardiff, 11 people get off and 16 people get on. 
In Swansea, 3 people get off and 5 people get on. 
In Carmathen, 6 people get off and 3 get on. 
You then arrive at Milford Haven... 

Without scrolling back to review, how old is the bus driver? 

Answer: Oh, for crying out loud! Don't you remember your own age??
It was YOU driving the bus! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Abe goes to Yasukuni. Fasten your seatbelts!

The die is cast... Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has decided to cast all caution to the divine wind. ST carried a story on page 1 and on an inside page too:

TODAY, however, put its story several pages back:

Its story also has a Japanese academic making a poignant assessment of Abe's political outlook -- with a comparison to Margaret Thatcher:

Interesting. Margaret Thatcher took her country to war over some contested islands in the South Atlantic. In her case, she won, with backing from the US (albeit a tad reluctantly at first; she also had the advantage of a cosy relationship with Ronald Reagan). So, is Prof Nakano alluding to Abe taking a more strident line over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands?

China, for sure, will not let up. By now, its citizens won't allow that. There will be an increasing focus on Japan's wartime atrocities and humiliation of China.

And who's caught between a rock and a hard place? The hapless USA.

Meanwhile, pundits are in overdrive churning out commentary pieces on the imbroglio. Here's one which suggests that China does not really want the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and that it has a deal in mind!...


Here's an extract from the article titled "Why China Doesn't Really Want the Senkaku Islands":

Whatever the origins of the revived Senkaku claim forty three years ago, Mr. Xi knows he can get much more fossil fuel to feed his carbon-thirsty economy from the South China Sea deposits than he could from the comparatively meager East China Sea. His strategy is to create the biggest fuss possible with brinksmanship tactics over the Senkaku Islands in order to bring a frayed and twitchy Japan to the bargaining table, with the US nervously in the background pushing hard for peace. And then, he will pitch his grand bargain. In exchange for relinquishing China's claim to the Senkakus, Mr. Xi would want Japan to support China's claim to the South China Sea. Politically, the Japanese government comes home with a huge victory that costs it virtually nothing. But of course, what Japan gives China in this grand bargain is far more valuable to China than a handful of rocks near Okinawa.

I must say it's a great storyline for a novel.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Communication malfunction!

How would you have reacted if you received this text message from your bank?...

Well, someone in the family did get such a message around lunchtime. She had recently received a new ATM card from the bank but the card was still left inside the envelope all the while, safe and sound at home.

Panic stations! Did someone else forge a duplicate card and was now overseas, ready to or even already fraudulently using the fake card. Or was it the bank-issued credit card that she frequently uses? Had that card's details been cloned?

Attempts to reach the bank's customer hotline were futile; she was kept on hold forever. It was only in the evening that she got through. She found out that other similarly upset customers had been calling in. So what had happened?

A bad case of communication malfunction in the first sentence, that's what. The text message was sent to those who had as well as those who had not activated the said feature. Aiyoh!

Do I know of any other text message bloopers? The classic one I remember best is this one of another family member who once received this message: "Hi, this is your bother-in-law..."

Finally, the Internet is full of iPhone auto-correct funnies, whether genuine or made up. Here's BuzzFeed's collection compiled earlier this year:


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

4 takes on Christmas...

Christmas... Take 1!


Animals sing "12 Days of Christmas"


Christmas... Take 2!


Christmas... Take 3!


Merry Christmas, Bhangra Style.


Christmas... Take 4!


Charcoal: the trick to recovering from a big (X'mas) meal

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas 2013 wish... that the Asia Pacific stays pacific.

Cover of my church's order of service last Sunday...

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards man." -- Luke 2:14.

Let not the lessons of World War I pass by the Asia Pacific...


...or the lessons of the Vietnam War

Simon & Garfunkel: Seven O'Clock News/Silent Night



On a lighter note...

So it's true, Singapore does have a winter season!

But please don't double up with all that festive feasting!

Language note: "Double up" means "double over, bend over or curl up, usually with laughter or pain". So, that slogan above should say "Double your joy".

Monday, December 23, 2013

Acceptable and unacceptable!

The Sunday Times headline that I highlighted yesterday -- "How death changed her life" -- was an especially bad howler because of its absurd unintended meaning. The headline literally killed off the newsmaker!  So I was glad to see an ST headline today (Dec 23) that was a clever and effective play on words:

Sadly, going beyond just headline writing and delving more into the craft of journalism, there seems to be more misses than hits these days. Many such "transgressions" go against established journalistic common sense or the particular newspaper's house style.

Like the English teacher in the cartoon above, I "snap" when I see meaningless cliched phrases like broad daylight being used. Journalism 101 drilled into the old-timers that there is neither broad nor narrow daylight...


Another commonsensical newspaper tradition is to keep sentences, especially the article's introduction, reasonably short because long sentences are, well, unwieldy and tiresome to read. Some purists insist on no more than 25 words in an introduction but this may be too pedantic. Still, this example below has 100 words in the "intro"!...

There is also no excuse when a question is begging to be answered...

Okay, Ms Pontarelli is the world's oldest competitive pole dancer. Surely, readers will want to know how old she is!

There is also a hallowed tradition among journalists to refer to women as women, not as ladies. The exceptions would include someone with a recognised title such as Lady Pamela Hicks (first cousin to Prince Philip), or someone with a stage name like Lady Gaga. It may also be used in such turns of phrase as "the lady doth protest too much". But there is certainly no reason to use "ladies" in the example below:    

There is no such thing as "alright" (the grammatically correct expression is "all right") just as there is no such thing as "free gifts" (simply say "gifts")...


Finally, I have a collection of the careless use of "probe into/probed" which has rendered some headlines as ridiculous as "How death changed her life":

It must be said that "probe" is a useful short word to use in headlines in place of "investigate". The point is to avoid any unintended meaning, as is clear in these examples:

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I have three items today which I shall label "Unbelievable!"...

Singaporeans On Board (SOB)

In yesterday's blog entry, I mentioned that there were 2,500 Singaporeans out of the 3,500 passengers on the cruise ship. Hey, if you are a sociologist in search of Singaporean traits, go on such a cruise. You will uncover (below) these gems and/or affirmation of known traits:

* The woman who, finding her photos in the ship's photo-shop gallery racks, whipped out her cellphone to snap pics. Why pay upwards of US$15 per photo, she must have reasoned!

* The family that turned up at the fine dining restaurant at dinner time only to order fish and chips!

* The legendary "chopers" during showtime or for seats at the crowded lunchtime bistro. Also, young couples who have no qualms about occupying bistro tables meant for four to six people even while other diners were searching for seats. They made it very clear they were not about to share the space by scattering their belongings on their table and chairs.

* One group of youths (identified by their typical Singaporean accent) in one of the lounges who made a racket giggling loudly away while the ensemble of two violinists and a pianist were performing modern classical pieces. Buay pai say, man!

* Try walking behind a gaggle of Singaporeans on a cruise ship. You can't get pass them if you are in a hurry. Try avoiding a collision with Singaporeans when they are coming towards you. At the last moment, they will walk into you as if you are not there!!

Come of think of it, these traits I have described are believable -- because they actually happen. And to be fair, we met many nice and courteous Singaporeans on board.

A resurrection? An unbelievable headline!

This Sunday Times article (Dec 22) by Wong Kim Hoh is very well written and heart-warming. But it was marred by the ridiculous headline (not written by Kim Hoh; many people think that writers write their own headlines. No, sub-editors and editors do that).

Finally, a road named Cemetery Central? 

Apparently, it's in the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery area.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Today's blog entry features some highlights of the short cruise Angie and I took to Langkawi island (part of Malaysia's Kedah state) on board the Mariner of the Seas.

First of all, the ship, thankfully, did not "roll over" (that's why I'm still writing this!). It was a large ship and the entire journey was, well, smooth sailing. There were nearly 3,500 passengers onboard of which about 2,500 were Singaporeans. Since it was school holiday time, screaming kids were to be expected. There were loud parents too.

Here's a glimpse of the rather disorderly crowd at the mandatory emergency muster drill just prior to leaving port:

As can be observed, everyone was facing the wrong way! Actually, everyone was facing every which way. The directing crew had given up trying to make us all line up in rows and facing outward. I shudder to think how we could all be quickly organised in a real emergency situation. People were still sauntering to the assembly stations long after the klaxon had sounded. Time was wasted getting people to the right station even though assigned stations were clearly printed on the "sea passes" that we carry as shipboard IDs, and instructions had been made several times over the public address system.

The prolonged drill got me bored, so I took this pic of an interesting pair of feet:

Hmm, the big toe looked like (with some imagination) there were anchor motifs!...

Drill finally over, Angie and I settled down inside the topmost deck lounge to watch the sail away from the Marina Bay Cruise Centre:

On this cruise, we were upgraded to a suite. Here's an idea of how spacious it is:

Oh, that thing hanging from the ceiling? It's the creation of the stateroom attendant:

We would be seeing real monkeys (not this bath towel variety) when we took an excursion tour in Langkawi.

The ship has 14 decks. This view down the lift shaft of the central atrium gives an idea of the vertical expanse:

There was also a hanging display of World War I fighter plane models in aerial combat:

As you can see, the Red Baron in his Fokker Triplane (Snoopy's "Curse you, Red Baron!") was the winner (both British planes had one side of their tail elevator wings shot off). There were also many facilities topside, including this rock wall:

We did not get down at the first of the two ports of call, Klang, the gateway to Kuala Lumpur, since we have been there so many times. So we spent the day on board, lazing around, taking leisurely meals, and catching up on some reading.

We arrived at the second stop, Langkawi (an archipelago of about 100 islands), at sunrise:

We then went on a river cruise that took in the mangrove swamp shoreline (which was once a feature in many parts of Singapore but which can now only be found at the Sungei Buloh Nature Park), a fish breeding kelong (named "Hole in the Wall"), and a bat cave. Along the way, we spotted eagles, monkeys (Long-tailed Macaques) on the shoreline and even a crocodile and a water monitor...


That was it! The ship then set sail for Singapore at sunset with the entire next day at sea and arriving home after sunrise. It was a nice short four-day break.