Friday, January 31, 2014

Hokkien: It's as easy as angmohdan, bokkua and C-kueh...

Now that we are greeting each other with "Keong Hee Huat Chye" during this Chinese New Year season, I'd like to stay with things Hokkien -- from a funnybone angle. Even a child can learn Hokkien...

Then there's the IKIA method:

Stuff like days of the week, etc? Bian kia (relax, don't fret), here's help...

Imagine that you've just had the most spicy Hokkien hay mee tar hiam chio chway chway for lunch and is now rushing to get into one of those 10 cents-per-entry toilets run by the Hokkien-speaking only uncles or aunties at the hawker centre, and you find out there's no toilet paper in the cubicle! Again, bian kia, this is a handy guide for such situations...

So, my friends, Hokkien is fun. It can be "poetic" (in a manner of speaking):

It's earthy (remember that haze-related joke, PSI = pi-sai) and humorous. Check out this Thor joke:

And I still think the best tongue twister is this one, in Hokkien, which I had previously posted:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Don't just say Keong Hee Huat Chye. Include the Vulcan greeting too!

This Chinese New Year, greetings of "Xin Nian Kuai Le" ("Happy New Year" in Mandarin) will be exchanged. The Chinese always hope for a more prosperity year so there is also "Gong Xi Fa Cai" (Mandarin), "Gong Hei Fa Choi (Cantonese) and "Keong Hee Huat Chye" (Hokkien). I am Hokkien, so I shall be uttering the Hokkien version to one and all!

Some people say this "May you be prosperous" greeting among the Chinese goes back more than 2,000 years ago and was recorded in the Analects of Confucius.

So what does this Vulcan (an alien) have in common with the Chinese?...

Well, apart from the Vulcan race also having a recorded history that goes back thousands of years, their greeting is similar:

Live long and prosper!

Except that I don't know how to say that in Vulcanese. Still, that should not stop us from saying (together with the hand gesture above):

Keong Hee Huat Chye. Live Long and Prosper!

I'll wrap up with this cute little Chinese New Year of the Horse ditty featuring the Minions of Despicable Me fame. It was sent by Sylvia to Angie on WhatsApp:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger, Mr American Folk Music (1919-2014).

Those of us who grew up familiar with American folk music, even if we are not American, owe a debt to Pete Seeger for the inspirational songs that came to be associated with him (even if he was not always their composer). This is just a short list:

We Shall Overcome
Home on the Range
Where Have All the Flowers Gone
If I Had a Hammer
Swanee River
On Top of Old Smokey
We Shall Not Be Moved
Turn, Turn, Turn
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
Freight Train
Red River Valley
This Land is Your Land

Imagine non-Americans singing "This Land is Your Land" with gusto. But we did!

Slate Magazine online has a stirring tribute to Seeger, who died on Monday, aged 94:

Finally, there is a YouTube compilation of the songs that are associated with him:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kangkung parodies, a Subway mystery cleared, and an abject ad...

In yesterday's blog, I realised I did not suitably background this item:

There might be people who are clueless about what was all that fuss over kangkung, the Malay term for water spinach. This tongue-in-cheek BBC report is probably one of the better sources of explanation:

#BBCtrending: Be careful what you say about spinach

I love how the BBC story was wrapped up:

"This kangkung obsession is fast becoming a laughing stalk," tweeted comedian Kuah Jenhan. "Lettuce get to the root of the problem. We have mushroom for improvement."

Online, there were spoofs aplenty that lampooned Malaysian PM Najib Razak. One Malaysian coffee chain even allowed customers to pay for a cuppa with kangkung!...

The catharsis released allowed everyone to have a good laugh and move on.

As I have said before, I wish Singaporeans have this natural sense of humour (remember the official awkwardness over the case of the "mee siam mai harm" gaffe?).


Here's another follow-up:

I had wondered if it was indeed possible for high-speed F-16 jets performing aerobatic stunts to come within "a couple of feet" of each other. As I pointed out, that's two footlong Subways apart. Well, one reliable source has affirmed that it is possible and that one foot apart is even possible. "But whether that is wise is another matter," the source said. So, that poser's clarified. Or is it?

Finally, ran a story that featured this ad:

I will not even include the link here. I think the ad is obnoxious and in really bad taste.

Monday, January 27, 2014

After the storm...

After a storm, one may expect to see a rainbow or two. Here are three:

TODAY, Jan 27
Why I made Singapore my home
-- by Bernie Utchenik (founder of the Botak Jones chain)

The Singapore I Got to Know
Reflections after 12 Years as an Expatriate in this City


But other dark clouds have appeared. Who would have thought that Singaporeans -- of all people! -- entertained the idea of burning effigies!...


Elsewhere in the region, in the two countries that will impact Singapore the most, storms are a-brewing too...

Malaysian PM Najib Razak, himself a casualty of self-inflicted social media faux pas, gave the most sensible instruction to his ministers:

Hmm, methinks governments in all the ASEAN countries should take heed. Senior civil servants should also go for such courses so as not to say things like wanting to hide under the bed covers when under stress.

Finally, Sim Choo put this on Facebook. I suppose it is yet another take on how to prepare for a "storm" (see especially point #11)...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Keep the grumpy old folk satisfied, or else!

Expect to hear more about this new label (Singapore-style, anyway) -- "Pioneer Generation":

How this pioneer generation is defined will give everyone an idea of its size. Political observers will be watching how vocal this generation will be, once it has been identified, in articulating its interests.

Meanwhile, someone sent me this supposed eight-point memo titled "Patriotic Retirement Plan", to the Australian prime minister, and penned by a group of "grumpy old folk of Australia":

Dear Mr. Abbott,  as the official replacement for  Mr Rudd...

    Please find below our suggestion for fixing Australia 's economy.

Instead of giving billions of dollars to car companies & other business that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan...

You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:

There are about 10 million people over 50 in the Aussie work force.

Pay them $1 million each severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire.
    Ten million job openings --  Unemployment fixed.

2) They MUST buy a new Australian car.
    Ten million cars ordered -- Car industry fixed.

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage -- Housing crisis fixed.

4) They MUST send their kids to school/college/university -- Crime rate fixed.

5) They MUST buy A$100 WORTH of alcohol/tobacco a week -- and there's your money back in duty/tax etc.

6) Instead of stuffing around with the carbon emissions trading scheme that makes us pay for the major polluters, tell the greedy bastards to reduce their pollution emissions by 75% within 5 years or we shut them down.

7)  Cut down on pollies perks -- they earn enough money to pay for their own petrol, food, drinks, airfares for their wives & families like all other hard working Aussies do. We pay big money but we still get MONKEYS.

8)  No government credit cards for pollies -- let them get their own. Then they will be more careful about how they use it and pay up on time so as not to incur interest charges.

It can't get any easier than that!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all Members of Parliament pay back their falsely claimed expenses and second home allowances.

It is time for us grumpy old folk of Australia to speak up!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

If your salary makes you cry, try to have a good laugh here instead!

Just some funnies for the weekend...

What kind of salary do you have?

I thought this teaser was funny, especially now that this retiree (moi) isn't drawing a salary:

Onion salary: You grab it, you open it, and you cry.
Storm salary: You don't know where it's coming from or where it's going to.
Menstrual salary: It comes once a month and lasts only three days.
Magic salary: You touch it and it disappears!

'Password' no longer the Internet's worst password

Dawg Humour #1

Dawg Humour #2

Dawg Humour #3

Friday, January 24, 2014

Flying fast and furious, and just two Subway sandwiches apart?

Giving "Take Cover!" a new spin?

Soldiers on patrol are trained to instinctively duck, dive or otherwise deploy defensively when someone shouts "Take Cover!" Here in Singapore -- and probably elsewhere too -- the expression has also acquired a pejorative meaning: someone who is "taking cover" is avoiding his or her duty/duties, ie, as NSmen will say, that person is "skiving".

So, why on earth did this man (below) -- a top civil servant who was the ISD Director when Mas Selamat escaped -- use words resembling this trigger phrase in his interview, which clearly was meant to be picked up by the media?...

The ST report above (Jan 24) paraphrased that portion, mitigating its silliness a little. But Yahoo News had no such restraint:

I felt like going back to bed, under the covers: Ex-ISD director on Mas Selamat escape

“I’ll be honest,” he was quoted as saying. “When I read the newspapers or my email, (I felt) like slumping and going back to bed, under the covers.” 

So what are we to think about this man when he was under pressure? Who vetted the publication, and was that person looking out for any unintended meanings? This looks like another PR effort gone wrong.

The "runaround" in Singapore that gave the authorities the runaround: The saga continues!

Reading this ST report (Jan 24) below, I realised there were other questions that needed to be addressed...

Did the woman also give Malaysian authorities the slip at the Johor end of the checkpoint, perhaps by similarly tailgating a vehicle heading to Singapore? Did the Malaysian authorities then alert their Singaporean counterparts, hence enabling the latter to swing into action? And even if there had been no heads-up from the Johor side, did the Singapore side check with them -- in case there was pertinent information on the woman?

Finally, those who conduct journalism courses would do well to use this as a case study, especially on asking all the right questions of the authorities instead of just accepting empty phrases like "Investigations are ongoing". All the right questions have to be asked and if an answer is declined, that has to be published. If a "No comment" is proffered, that too has to be published. As I used to tell reporters, a "No comment" is a comment.
Ah, those magnificent men in their flying machines!

I love this TODAY (Jan 24) headline but I wonder how many non-Baby Boomers got it? (think The Platters' hit song),,,

I think the aircraft livery is awesome too.

ST also carried pics and reports:

Speeds of up to 1,000 kmh and keeping "within a whisker of each other"! Wow. Indeed, LTC Leong is quoted in the story itself as saying these supersonic jets come as close as "a couple of feet" of each other:

Now a couple of feet is 24 inches, or two foot-long Subway sandwiches. So I asked in a text message to an F-16 pilot I happen to know very well if such close proximity is possible at such high speeds. The reply was an enigmatic smiley...

I suppose I will have to leave it at that.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cutting to the chase, and staying fighting fit with combat durians!

If you (ie, fellow Singaporeans) have not heard of the name Anton Casey by now, then you will be clueless about this pic below:

Nick sent me the link to the story that had this pic. Here it is:


I also got to thinking about the case of how the Malaysian woman in her little red Perodua car gave Singaporean authorities the slip for three whole days after she drove past the Woodlands checkpoint without stopping. As reported in the media, an alert -- akin to the American "all points bulletin (APB)" -- was immediately raised. But to no avail, it seems, despite the Little Red Dot having CCTV cameras nearly everywhere, including on street and expressway lamp posts.

I will not go over stuff that other netizens have raised about how it took three days before the saga (pity, the car was not a Proton Saga) ended.

I just want to put the spotlight on Exhibit A, the Perodua car. There are several models but all are "underpowered" (1000cc) and not very stylishly shaped -- going by Singapore standards. As a result, Perodua cars are not very commonly seen here. They will stick out on our roads and expressways.

Let's assume the woman was driving a Perodua Kelisa, the model you will more likely find here in Singapore. This is what it looks like:

As you can see, it does not look anything like James Bond's DB5. So, police from Day One were looking for a woman driving:
a red
little car
with a 1000cc engine of an antiquated design (can't speed, can't accelerate).

Wah, so hard to spot, ah?

My other issue is this: Are our people who drive to work in secured places, like the MFA, trained to react appropriately if they sense they are being tailgated? Even if no training has ever been provided, surely one can sense something is not quite right when another car has come so close while at the security entrance? Some light should be shed on this.

As I expected, TODAY came out with this correction today (Jan 23):

ST had its blooper too. It had "killed off" somebody!...

Mr Pollini, now aged 72, is still very much alive!

I'll wrap up with this recent ad placed in ST:

I hope the people at MINDEF have seen this ad too. With "COMBAT DURIANs", our soldiers can face any situation, confident of success. It won't matter if we have 3, 6, 9 divisions (see an earlier posting of mine). One division of COMBAT DURIAN-equipped soldiers is all we need. Wasn't it Napoleon who said, "An army marches on its stomach"?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

So you want to be a journalist? Take this sampler test...

Let's start with the easy stuff. Spot the spelling error in this ad:

Got it? Excellent start. No? Now look at this other ad:

There are two "m's" in accommodation (the second ad got it right). I wouldn't employ you as a journalist if you can't spot such common spelling errors.

Next, what's wrong with the second paragraph in this recent TODAY story (it gets trickier)?:

A condominium is the entire building project. This is another common Singaporean misuse of the term. So, someone might say: "I just bought a three-bedroom condominium in the upscale Holland Road area for two million dollars. It's freehold, so it's good value."

Nope, you have to say "condominium unit"!

So, in the TODAY example, above, the second paragraph should begin thus: "Developers sold 259 condominium units..."

ST's story got it right, and it did not even have to use the term "condominium":


Okay, let's now scrutinise two stories that appeared in TODAY and ST (both Jan 22). Which version is the better story and why?...



I felt the ST story had the better intro but it then slipped into its trademark "template writing", bombarding the reader with long official quotes when what we want to know (after being told that there were serious security breaches) are the who, what, when, why and how. On this score, TODAY went on to provide a more exciting story with good attention to interesting details while interspersing its account with the mandatory official voices.

One last test...

TODAY's story above was better written. But did you spot its huge mistake? Take a look at its last paragraph (Hint: it is as bad as the 369 divisions blooper I had previously pointed out):

If you are still scratching your head, this is ST's version:

I may have dyscalculia but even I can tell that it is absurd to state that "Last year, about 68 million vehicles passed through the checkpoints every day." Singapore will become a massively horrendous traffic jam from Woodlands to Marina Bay. Meanwhile, vehicles will be falling off into the sea as more of them keep piling into the country!!

ST got its figure right: "The ICA said 50 million vehicles crossed Woodlands checkpoint in 2012...". Okay, there is also the Tuas checkpoint which is less heavily utilised. But however you crunch the annual figures for the two checkpoints, you will never hit 60 million vehicles on a daily basis.

Sure you still want to be a journalist?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When there's more to be be gleaned than just the byline...

I'll dwell some more on journalistic matters. How curious are today's journalists?

I daresay many of the lapses in today's journalistic standards are due to this "curiosity deficiency". A journalist is not expected to be an expert outside his or her domain area but he or she must be able to sense that something said by the news maker or provided in the copy being processed is, say, incomplete or inadequate and requires "fleshing out".

This commentary article appeared in today's ST (Jan 21):

Going by the byline, someone called Harry Harris contributed the piece. ST's commentary articles are typically written by domain experts so he is unlikely to be just any Tom, Dick or Harry. Reading the first paragraph tells us more:

Okay, he is the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet. That makes him a high-ranking naval officer. The tagline below -- the stuff at the end of a commentary piece that answers the "Tell me (the reader) more about the writer" -- is unsatisfactory:

Why? His rank is missing. His functional job status is that of a commander, just as someone else might be a police chief (who will have a certain rank, say, Commissioner of Police). Is this vital bit of information hard to get? A call to the US Embassy will, I am very sure, secure the answer (incidentally, embassies do have military attaches on hand). I did not even need to do that. A check with reliable sources on the Internet revealed that the writer is Admiral (Four-Star) Harry Harris, that he is a naval aviator by training, and that his mother is Japanese.

While I was curious about the Asian ancestry of this highest-ranking Asian-American in the US Navy, I can accept that he can't be referred to as Japanese-American since that would suggest both his parents are Asian. But the point is: I was curious, and I did find out more just by making some checks online.

Incidentally, Admiral Harris' article is referred to as a "curtain raiser" since it was written to tie in with his introductory visit to Singapore as US Pacific Fleet Commander.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Oops! factor, and how I found my own 'office space'...

The number 369: a correction that still needs correction!

TODAY (Jan 20) wrote a correction for its mistake in a story it published last Saturday:

Such a correction is needed for the record. But the correction above is still incorrect, and I am surprised that the Singaporean (ex-NS) males among its editorial staff are still unfamiliar with SAF parlance. As written up above, TODAY is suggesting that Minister Ng is saying that the SAF has 18 divisions, ie, 3 divisions of one kind of formation (say, airborne?), 6 divisions of, say, armoured forces, and 9 divisions of, say, infantry forces. That's absurd.

All that's needed to get the correction correct is a simple capitalised "D". That is, the defence minister said: "... We have 3, 6, 9 Divisions...". In SAF parlance, it is common to just say 3 Div, 6 Div, and 9 Div rather than 3rd Div, 6th Div, and 9th Div.  I suppose Dr Ng kind of mixed things up and hence helped trigger both sets of errors. He could have stayed with the SAF's usage and said "... 3, 6, 9 Divs." That might have helped avert the bloopers.

But TODAY is still a fairly new newspaper with very little institutional memory. So all it needs to do is to instil among its editorial staff -- especially those tasked with running quality checks -- a paranoid culture of getting not just the facts right, but their contexts as well.

What I find refreshing about TODAY is its creativity -- more often than not -- when it comes to headline writing. This recent example is very good!...


No, you can't use 'reverting' in this manner!

Meanwhile, The Straits Times slipped up today (Jan 20) in its editorial (leader) by its wrong use of that tricky term "revert/reverting". The editorial represents the voice of the newspaper and its content has to be flawless as far as language usage is concerned...

"Revert" means "to return to a previous state, situation or practice" and it is unfortunate that Singaporeans just love to say "Let me revert to you" when they mean "Let me get back to you". Well, no, the editorial above did not make such a silly mistake. Its error is more subtle.

The editorial said... "before reverting to six months of data". But there was no previous instance when six months of data was tried; "revert" is a precise word! There has to be at least one instance when six months of data had been tried out in order for "reverting", as used above, to be apt.

Go on, make my day!

As usual, I'll like to end on a lighter note. I may have recently retired but it seems one new mall in the Jurong area has given me an office, with my name on the door...

"My door" is next to this one:

I don't know who "BMS" is but could "ELV" be Elvis?? He may still be alive, and hiding out here in Singapore!