Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shuffle or reshuffle? Both can, ah? Can meh?

There was a Cabinet reshuffle, said TODAY. Wait a minute... there was a Cabinet shuffle, said The Straits Times:

So which is correct? Both, many people will say. One argument is that the two terms are interchangeable when used in the context of parliamentary Cabinet changes. A more nuanced argument is that the first change after a new Cabinet -- following a general election -- is constituted is a Cabinet shuffle. After that, any further changes (until the next general election)  are Cabinet reshuffles.

But my own preference is reshuffle, even for the first change. Longman's backs me up:

Reshuffle note: These latest Cabinet changes announced yesterday (April 29) are not the first ones since the May 2011 general election.

I heard on the radio one food blogger proffering a sensible distinction between the phrases "good and cheap" and "cheap and good"...

He said something that is "good and cheap" is that which gives value for money from a range of good stuff while that which is "cheap and good" is something that is good enough from a a range of cheap stuff. Makes sense to me.

This reminds me of a pre-university classmate's astute observation that some things are "good from far" but "far from good"!

My third example comes from last Sunday's church sermon:

So, if someone is still struggling in his faith, he has not rejected his fundamental beliefs. The term unbeliever, then, stands out in contrast as a precise word. But it is not immutable: an unbeliever may yet become a believer. And vice versa, of course.

I'll wrap up with this illustration below of how -- in the hands (voice cum inflection?) of a Singlish speaker, "can" becomes such a versatile word!...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Some of life's takeaways, and reading between the lines...

Stressed? Who needs a stress ball?

Wikipedia: Lewis Ronald, Earth globe stress ball

...when there's a furball on hand!
(It definitely works in relieving stress... but, hey, it's NOT meant to be squeezed)

A healthy dose of humour is a must too...

Remember, anyone can tell a joke, even this one...

A crisis hotline telephone operator was fired after she told a man who had called to say he was standing in the middle of a railway track -- and a train was approaching -- to "keep calm and stay on the line".


Reading today's ST ((April 29), I found the choice for its Page One lead puzzling...

For a page one lead -- supposedly the primest of the day's prime stories -- it made me ask: So what? And it was written like the sort of staff movement profiles you'll see in inhouse newsletters. The real, related, story was to be found eight pages further away:

Why could not have the page one story be trimmed of all that fluff and the key points of the inside story be incorporated into it? That would have made it more deserving of that prime spot. Or did I miss anything in reaching this assessment?

Finally, I like this clever headline, also in ST (Apriil 29):

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sixty plus? Time to let go of worries...

Someone sent this, titled "Sixty Plus and Going Strong"...

Don't worry about what will happen after you are gone, because when you return to dust, you will feel nothing about praises or criticisms.

Don't worry too much about your children for they will have their
own destiny and find their own way. So don't be your children's slave.

Don't expect too much from your children. Caring children, though caring, would be too busy with their jobs and commitments to render any help. Uncaring children may fight over your assets even when you are still alive.

60-plus-years-old like you, don't trade in your health for wealth any more; because your money may not be able to buy you your health.

Even with a thousand hectares of good farm land, you can only consume three quarts (of rice) daily; even with a thousand mansions, you only need eight square metres of space to rest in at night.

As long as you have enough food and enough money to spend, that is good enough.

So you should live happily. Every family has its own problems. Just do not compare with others for fame and social status and see whose children are doing better, etc.

Don't worry about things that you can't change because it doesn't help, and it may even spoil your health.

You have to create your own well-being and find your own happiness; think about happy things, do happy things daily and have fun in doing so, then you will pass your time happily each day.

One day passes, you will lose one day; but one day passes with happiness,
and you gain one day.

So, stay in a good mood, have suitable amount of exercise, welcome the sun, have a variety of food, reasonable amount of vitamins and mineral intake, and hopefully you will live another 20 or 30 years of healthy life.

Above all, learn to cherish the goodness around you, the family and friends who 
make you feel young and 'wanted'! Without them, you are sure to
feel 'lost'. Wishing you all the best.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our past -- and our future...

I read with resigned sadness this Sunday Times story (April 27) about yet another coffee-shop based popular food-stall moving out:

Char siew rice has always been a favourite local single-dish food of mine. And everyone swears by his favourite stall. Mine -- in a parallel to that of the story above -- had moved out of its Kellock Road coffee-shop locale and I have since not been able to find its new premises (if it is since plying the trade). That stall's always succulent char siew and siu yoke were arguably the best in town. I could not have described the experience better than this blogger (below) who also swore by the stall's offerings:

He also makes the point that the "story of Singapore food is the story of immigrant cultures". We are now at risk of losing much of that distinctive flavourful cuisine as the culinary skills are not being transmitted in terms of critical mass. Part of the reason why I dislike what passes as local fare in the many shopping malls today is that the dishes are seldom authentic.

But then, that's the price of progress, some (many?) will argue. The old gives way to the new which is often seductively packaged by the glib marketing mavens. In this light, here's my take on a couple of other news items in today's SunTimes:

Catering to the one per cent

Catering to the 99 per cent (well, at least the heartlanders)


I am not sure if we Singaporeans really know what is meant by the "kampung spirit" in today's context. What I know is that so many markers of identity are disappearing or are being transformed and even transmuted irrevocably. I searched for and found this letter in ST, written one year ago:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

3 B's: Do babies blink?/Bloopers/and 10 things about the Bard.

Do babies blink?

I was cradling 26-day-old Matt, and he was looking at me. And looking at me. And looking at me. And he was not blinking!

Hello, I asked around, did you notice Matt just blinked only when he sneezed? Apparently, no one else had noticed that Matt could easily out-stare you.

Anyway, some quick research back home threw up these two tidbits:
* Newborns blink, on average, less than twice every minute;
* Adults blink, on average, 10 to 15 times every minute.

The New York Times has a very good article on the subject. You can Google for it under the headline "The Claim: Babies Blink Less Than Adults Do".



No 1: It sounds Latin to me

I wasn't looking out for bloopers. This one just popped out of the woodwork... well, printwork:

So, next time, don't say "It sounds Greek to me". Say: "It sounds Latin to me"!

No 2: A rare find: a virgin on board?

This other one popped out into my line of sight while I was surfing on my computer:

She can't be Madonna. The singer only claims to be "Like A Virgin".

No 3: I want this plane to get back to me by tomorrow! 

Wah, the minister, angry as he was, is asking for the impossible: the jet that was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday had to get back to him by tomorrow!

No 4: Can you spot this very easy (but common) grammatical mistake?

No 5: The world is all FUKT'd up? 

Len, from Perth, Australia, sent me this in an email as well as a screen grab:

"The editor-in-chief of the Australian Financial Review has apologised for a headline that ran on the front page of its Western Australian edition today stating: “ARMS BUILDUP | BUYS PLANES | WORLD IS FUKT.”
Michael StutchburyMichael Stutchbury told Mumbrella that the error occurred after an early version of the front page was accidentally sent to print centres nationally and an attempt to recall it was unsuccessful for the Financial Review’s Perth edition which as a result was sent to press with the wrong version. The WA edition also had a number of blank spaces on the cover.
And in a separate production problem, some editions of the AFR in Sydney were published without a barcode making them difficult for retailers to process.
The newspaper is the AFR’s Anzac Day public holiday edition, meaning it is on sale for the next four days."


The Bard's 450th birthday!
The world marked William Shakespeare's birthday on Wednesday:

10 Things You Didn't Know About Shakespeare

Friday, April 25, 2014

Weekend pickings (including The Morality of Dishonesty).

Diplomatically speaking, if you wondered why the Obama-Abe talks were not fruitful despite...

* The superb sushi
* The excellent sake
* The strictly no-ties "Call me Abe as in Ah-Bay, not as in Ape" informality

...That's because there were no fruits on the table! If there were, the spinmeisters would have provided headline writers with the opening to write something like this:

Great sushi, dinner ended on fruitful note


Talking about policy spin, the New York Times writer David Brooks has lamented the ceding, in the present era, of decision-making by leaders to their coterie of advisers...

It has become a sorry state of affairs, with the minders orchestrating practically everything. I thought Brooks' concluding citation of the Irish-born political philosopher Edmund Burke, while meant for an American audience, was applicable to so many other polities elsewhere too:  


I would not have thought that it would be an American newspaper, the New York Times, that came up with such a simple yet lovely intro for a story on European soccer!...

Still on sports, I like what TODAY (April 25) did with this story:

David Moyes may have been booted out of Manchester United but the erstwhile manager goes out with quite a lot of loose change...


A TODAY commentary writer had argued that Singapore needs even more shopping malls. On the contrary, I think the proliferation of characterless identity-killing malls has to be stopped or at least slowed. I am glad this sentiment of mine is shared by the writer below (TODAY, April 25, Donald Koh, "More malls add up to a zero-sum game"):

Give me the old-fashioned shopping centres any time. This ST report (April 25, "Bukit Timah's royal, genteel 'kampung' ") on one shopping centre that I'm very familiar with (as well as the one at Beauty World), resonates...


I'll wrap up with this interesting gem titled:

The Morality of Dishonesty
(or what the MBA professor didn't tell his students)

A few years ago, robbers entered a bank in a small town.

One of them shouted: "Don't move! The money belongs to the bank. Your lives belong to you.”

Immediately all the people in the bank lay on the floor quietly and without panic.
This is an example of how correct wording can make people change their view of the world.

One woman lay on the floor in a provocative manner. One robber approached her saying, " Ma'am, this is a robbery, not a rape. Please behave accordingly."
This is an example of how to behave professionally, and focus on the goal.

While running from the bank, the youngest robber (who had a college degree) said to the oldest robber (who had barely finished elementary school): "Hey, maybe we should count how much we stole?"

The older man replied: "Don’t be stupid. It's a lot of money so let's wait for the news on TV to find out how much money was taken from the bank."
This is an example of how life experience is more important than a degree.

After the robbery, the manager of the bank said to his accountant: "Let's call the cops and tell them how much has been stolen."

"Wait,” said the accountant, "before we do that, let's add the $800,000 we took for ourselves a few months ago and just say that it was stolen as part of today’s robbery."
This is an example of taking advantage of an opportunity.

The following day it was reported in the news that the bank was robbed of $3 million.

The robbers counted the money but they found only $1 million. "We risked our lives for $1 million, while the bank's management robbed two million dollars without blinking?  Maybe it's better to learn how to work the system, instead of being a simple robber."
This is an example of how knowledge can be more useful than power.

And the moral of this story?: Give a person a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a person a bank, and he can rob everyone.

Disclaimer: This is only a joke, hor!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

So says the commander-in-chief...

The commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful military forces has finally said it (yesterday, April 23 and reported today, April 24):

Two points stand out:
* Japan is a treaty ally and the relevant provisions of this "an attack on an ally is an attack on us" alliance treaty requires US military intervention;
* Very importantly, Japan effectively administers the islands in dispute (Senkakus to the Japanese and Diaoyus to the Chinese).

Expect China to test the waters (it has, perhaps in preemptive anticipation, already set up its contentious Air Defence Identification Zone over the East China Sea), and to exploit any unintended consequences. And how will other US treaty allies in East Asia react?

For one, will South Korea now be emboldened in its dispute with Japan over islands it calls Dokto (Takeshima to the Japanese)? Both Japan and South Korea are US treaty allies. But Seoul has effective administration over those islands. Will it now demand that the US specifically say Washington will come to its aid militarily if both of the East Asian neighbours were to exchange fire over the Doktos/Takeshimas?

For another, the Philippines seems now to have been left in a quandary. It is (a) a US treaty ally but (b) it is not in effective administration of any of the South China Sea islands it claims vis-a-vis China. True, it has a small detachment of marines on one island -- Second Thomas Shoal --  but Chinese ships regularly harass attempts to resupply those poor beleaguered souls. The US has all along been vague about any support for Manila in the event of an outbreak of conflict over the disputed South China Sea islands but now the picture seems clearer: no action.

Manila's despair to date (prior to Mr Obama's announcement) is reflected in this newspaper article:

Is Beijing slowly swallowing the South China Sea?


One other significant story reported today is Australia's decision to buy more F-35 jets:

Expect the US to increasingly demand (if it is not already doing so) that certain treaty allies and strategic partners (read: countries like Israel and Singapore) sign on to purchases or additional purchases (as the case may be) of this expensive jet fighter. This will be seen as membership of an exclusive club, the benefits of which are presumably touted as two-way: buy the F-35 and the US is then beholden to ensure that this secrets-packed jet does not fall into unfriendly hands.


What did they say?
(continued from yesterday)

What steely eyes!
What grim jaws!
What a firm wagging finger!
Um, what words??

But they were enough for Ukraine to screw its courage to the sticking place:

Meanwhile, local political commentator Siew Kum Hong seems to have given reporters a tongue-in-cheek quote:


Finally, just what is this TODAY reader thinking of when he penned this letter?...

I would not have published it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What did they say??

What did the professor say?...


What did the teacher say?...

PT Teacher: You three of you, stand together separately.

Geography Teacher: Will you hang that map or else I'll hang myself.

Principal: Tomorrow call your parents, especially Mother and Father.

English Teacher: Why are you looking at the monkeys outside when I'm in the class!

What did these kiddies say?...

"Close the curtains," requested our 2-year-old granddaughter, sitting in a pool of bright light. "The sun's looking at me too hard."

My friend asked our grandson when he would turn 6. He replied, "When I'm tired of being 5."

Seeing her first hailstorm, Mary Sue, age 3, exclaimed, "Mommy, it's raining dumplings!"

As I frantically waved away a pesky fly with a white dishtowel, my granddaughter observed, "Maybe he thinks you're surrendering."

A friend's grandson, 4, was reading with his granddad about Adam and Eve. He asked, "Is this where God took out the man's brain and made a woman?"

Announcing to daughter Lori that her aunt just had a baby and he looked like her uncle, she said, "You mean he has a mustache?"

When I asked our grandson if he could name the capital of Florida, he fired right back, "Capital F!"

While shampooing our son, 4, I noted his hair was growing so fast he'd soon need to have it cut. He replied, "Maybe we shouldn't water it so much."

Impressed by her 5-year-old's vocabulary, my friend complimented the young scholar, who nonchalantly responded, "I have words in my head I haven't even used yet."

When our son asked about two look-alike classmates at school, we told him they were probably twins. The next day, he came home from school all bubbly and said, "Guess what! They are not only twins....they're brothers!!"

What did this Redneck kid say (to Obama)?...

Barack Obama, at a recent rural elementary school assembly in South Carolina , asked the audience for total quiet.

Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands once every few seconds, holding the audience in total silence.

Then he said into the microphone, "Children, every time I clap my hands together, a child in America dies from gun violence."

Then, little Darrell, with a proud South Carolina drawl, pierced the quiet and said: "Well, mister, you just gotta stop clapping!"

Finally, what did THIS kid say?...