Friday, December 30, 2011

Us against them, again?

I woke this morning to read some pretty disturbing development in the Home section of the dailies.
"First time curbs placed on 24-hour restaurants here" read the sub heading.

I am not a patron of the A&A Restaurant nor its neighbors Azya Restaurant and Beancurd City. Neither am I associated with the Euphony Gardens condo. In fact, I don't even know where these places are located in the Sembawang area.

The gist of the news report is NEA's imposition of restriction on the operating hours of these establishments from being opened 24 hours to mandatory closure from 10.30pm to 6 am each day.
This was due to complaints from nearby residents about the noise, littering and parking issues supposedly caused by patrons of these food establishment.

Being 'open air' eating establishments, I am sure the shop owners have little control over these issues and rightly do not have any jurisdiction over it. Yet these very reasons are cited by NEA for its ruling.
Even their MP Lee Bee Wah seems more pre-disposed towards the residents than to the plight of the shop owners. "Eateries can move elsewhere, but you cannot ask the residents to uproot".
Another feeble attempt  to resolve issues by throwing out the baby with the bath water.

My concern here is the rising incidences of "us against them" problems that seem to be more prevalent nowadays. Just last week, a private estate at the west coast area complained about heavy vehicle traffic driving through 'their' estate and demanded that their MP and the authorities impose restrictions.  Guess what happened?

Are we seeing more elitist attitudes being condoned? What happened to helping entrepreneurs and small start ups? Who's standing up for the minority? Or do residents prefer cookie cutter malls where everything is kitschy and ordered inside?

We already have 'over-policies' by so many governmental authorities. People complain about it yet when they don't like something they use this strong arm tactic to impose their will.
Is this right? Are we becoming a more generous society?

Sadly, I guess I gotta live with this. I am one of the 39.9%. Sigh.

Related links:
Straits Times

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hot and under fire (again)

Please note the term fire here is used figuratively, as we are aware the subject is a bit sensitive to  'fire'.  (For the uninitiated, the Free Online Dictionary defines Fire as 1. combustion, etc ...and..  5. A severe test, trial, or torment.)  And please note that this is not to flame anyone here, it's just my own opinion.

MP Mr Seng Harn Tong went on blogTV public and using his 15 mins of fame lambasted Malay and Indian MRT staff as not having the ability to speak proper English, or as he said it himself "because some staff are Malay, they are Indians, they cannot converse in English good, well enough".

Not surprising are the immediate 'feedback' from the public over his insensitive remarks. What was most surprising was that his fellow MIW quickly distanced themselves by coming out and firing him from all sides. Again today, in the papers he got grilled and roasted by other fellow MIWs.

Yes, he made an apology.
But an apology that to me sucks.
If you are going to apologize and say sorry, please don't say sorry, but...
Whether you are Chinese educated or Cambridge trained does not mitigate an apology.
Just say sorry and be sincere about it.
Mistake made, say sorry, no buts, no ifs.

If you do that sincerely, nobody will fire you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Rantings. 18 Dec 2011.

As expected, after the 3 times failure of the rail operator within this same week, I am joined not just by a chorus  but a full choir of rants this weekend.

First time, we would put it to bad luck. We accept things do breakdown. Just bad luck if it happens to you.
Second time, we are irritated and frustration goes up. You should have known better, ete, etc,
Third strike, you're out! No excuses can justify the lack of vigilance. Not when it happens 3 times in 4 days.

The rail disruptions affected me yesterday.
My trip from Bukit Batok to Novena took 2 hours instead of 40 minutes.
This included being 'de-trained' at Toa Payoh where the line for the bridging buses were snaking 200meters long! Frustrated commuters switching over to the normal bus services were not any better due to the sudden surge of commuters overloading the system.

I was one of those who had no choice but to join the line at Toa Payoh.

SMRT CEO Saw Phaik Hwa should shake off her complacency, get off her high horse and truly realise the frustration of commuters. "I can't see anything significant... People can board trains, its whether they choose to..." does not bode well  for your so call empathies with commuters' frustration over the bad service.

Personally, I feel Saw is not the right person for the job. Her specialty is in Retail and she has proven this magnificently by making the retail component of the SMRT revenues a whopping 45% of the profits it generated. But SMRT is not a retailer! Its core business is transportation! You are a people mover system, first and last.

Here's a little trivia I'll confess to you.
Saw Phaik Hwa was my classmate. We were in the same Pre-U batch in school.
As an ex-classmate, I wish her all the best in getting the system to work, but as a commuter, I think maybe someone else who specializes in transit might be more suitable.

Here's another bit of interesting facts I picked up reading the reports and complaints.
When the commuters were complaining of packed trains, SMRT used the figure 1400 per train as the norm. When the trains got stuck the last few days, this figure mysteriously went down to 1000 per train..?
I check  Wikipedia and the stated maximum capacity for the train was 1920.
Interesting? Different figures are used for different justifications?

Dr Lee's amoral piece on why doctors cop out when they defer decisions to 'euthanize' patients.
However, I must thoroughly disagree with Dr Lee's morality.
She may not believe in a God but that does not give anyone including medical professionals the right as well to decide who lives or who dies. By saying you won't consign people to further suffering, you are already playing God.

It's a very slippery slope when one starts to be firm in deciding who is normal and who is not; who is suffering terminally and don't deserve to live; and that those suffering or who are not 'normal' should be put out of their misery?
Using our reasoning, our logic and our innate moral sense does not necessarily mean we should take 'God's will' out of the equation. I am a Catholic and I believe in God's will.

Two letters on the same issue this week.
Never a week goes by without someone highlighting the bicycle/pedestrian, bicycle/motorist issue.
Someone in authority must take up the issue and clarify matters. LTA? SPF?
Nobody seems to want to touch this hot potato despite the endless calls in the weeklies.

* Sunday Rantings are my thoughts on a lazy Sunday morning after reading the Sunday papers. This may or may not be a regular feature depends on whether I have the energy after breakfast. Also Sunday Mass has a calming effect, so the more I pay attention to the sermons, the less I rant. The long rants probably mean I fell asleep during Mass.

My first job.

I had my first full time paying job when I was 18 on completion of my GCE A levels.
While most of my other classmates were being drafted into the army for their National Service (NS) stint, I was starting on a new phase in my life.

I joined Lockheed Aircraft Company as a trainee aircraft mechanic.
In 1973, Singapore embarked on a new economic front and focused on building up its fledgling aviation industry. Lockheed Aircraft had won a contract to refurbish 40 used Douglas Skyhawk aircraft from the US Navy for the RSAF. They offered an apprenticeship scheme which included diploma study at the Singapore Polytechnic. I was one of the selected candidates. Joining this scheme deferred me from my NS liabilities.

At Lockheed, which was based at both Seletar and Changi Air Bases, I had to undergo training for 2 years with an intensive familiarisation course before being qualified to work on the Skyhawk project.  This included getting through all the theoretical and practical tests conducted both by the company and the Dept of Civil Aviation (now called CAAS). It was grueling!

These are some of the old certificates which I have kept.

On completion, I qualified as a mechanic to work on the Douglas A4 Skyhawk powerplants (i.e. engines) and airframes. We were some of the first local aircraft mechanics. Most of the experienced guys came from the Philippines, Taiwan or India.

We converted these to
From the US Navy's A4B to the RSAF A4S.

Unfortunately, in the late 1970s, an event called the Arab Oil Embargo occurred resulting in several casualties in the aviation industry. Lockheed Aircraft was one of those badly hit.... but that's another story, ...another blog in future.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Photography as my hobby - Part 3 Been there done that

As my dads' interest waned, I 'inherited' his cameras. His favorites were the Polaroid Land camera and the twin lens Rolleiflex but what I wanted was only his SLR - the single lens reflex camera. It was an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic II.

The Asahi Pentax was the camera that revolutionized two things.
It was the 1st SLR camera. It used a prism to reflect the image directly to your eyes and you saw exactly what the lens saw. Secondly, it had the 1st built-in TTL (through the lens) exposure metering. This meant you not only saw the picture you are going to shoot but could also adjust the exposure settings on-the-fly.
Today, all these are taken for granted but at that time it was at the leading edge of camera technology.

For years this was the only camera I used. I bought extra lenses like the 35mm wide angle and 135mm telephoto, which was all I could afford at that time.

In secondary school, I started the Photo Club and persuaded the Principal, Mr Rudy Mosbergen, to allow the Photo Club to take the annual class photos for the school. This was previously done by a professional and we explained that we could do the job not only cheaper but the profits from selling the class photos to students would go towards buying equipment for the Photo Club. All the class photos were shot using my Asahi Pentax camera.

After my school and college days, I continued to upgrade my equipment and by this time Japanese manufacturers had all but cornered the camera market. Going into adulthood and working meant more disposal cash for equipment purchases.
By then, I had become a Nikon die-hard.

The Nikkormat FTn was my 1st Nikon

My Nikon FM was a spare camera

Eventually my top end camera was the Nikon F2Sb with motor drive.

In November 1984, an event was to happen that would thereafter change my outlook towards my photography hobby. Something that was so momentous, so consequential,  that I was not to take up photography again for almost 2 decades - I got married!

In Part IV, the final part, the digital re-introduction to my hobby in photography.

Related links:
Part 1 - The beginnings
Part 2 - Developing skills

Photography as my hobby - Part 2 Developing skills

My dad was a photography enthusiast. In his days, he dabbled in cinematography and was an avid outdoor photographer. He picked up his skills working for a professional studio in Chinatown in his youth and it became his life long passion. I guess his enthusiasm rubbed off a little on me but I wasn't all that interested at that time, I remembered.

I became a little more interested only after he set up a little darkroom in our small flat at Princess Elizabeth Estate. He converted the tiny bathroom into his darkroom. That resulted in our toilet having to become the toilet cum bathroom.

As a young boy, I was fascinated with how the mixture of chemicals together brought out the images on paper. Voila, photographs!  The standard 'recipe' at that time was a formula called Kodak D-76.  To make the formula was like a chemistry lesson. You had to weigh chemicals in the correct proportion, mix it with filtered water and ensure correct temperatures using ice. In those days, there were no pre-mixed formulas. You had to mix your own developers, stop-baths and fixers. It was a skill that would become useful as I grew into my teens years.

My own darkroom was similar to this set up.

In my teens, the family moved out of the tiny flat into a house at Fuyong Estate.
Having more space now, I persuaded my dad to build me a new darkroom. It was purposed built with proper ventilation and running water and of course, completely light-tight.

I had a modern colour enlarger called the Durst F60.
You learned to 'read' a colour negative and correct color before printing.

In the meanwhile, as my interest grew, I picked up more skills along the way.
I attended colour photography and processing courses ran by the Lembaga Gerakan Pelajaran Dewasa. How many of you can remember that term Lembaga?
The LGPD was the Adult Education Board and they had a studio and darkroom facilities at the Fort Canning Cultural Centre. I was trained by Mr Wang Su Fah, a local photographer.

I also joined the Photographic Society of Singapore and mingled with young people like David Tay, Foo Tee Jun and Yip Cheong Fun. You may not recognize these names now but they were mini celebrities in the local photography scene those days.  Joining special interest groups allowed you to pick up tips and pointers from the more experienced. However, I left after some time as I found that most tended to focus on the arty-farty stuff which was a genre which I disliked. Their work tended to look like chinese art in photos. My own preference was for more candid social events. My idol at that time was a German named Helmut Newton.

Apologies if this article sounds more like an autobiography.
My next blog will focus on the equipment I collected and then finally gave away.

Related links:
Part 1 - The beginnings
Part 3 - Been There Done That

Photography as my hobby - Part 1 The beginnings

My interest in photography started when I was given my first camera, a Kodak Brownie 127 on my 10th birthday back in 1965. It was a simple little plastic box camera but to me it was the coolest gadget ever.

It literally used a roll of film in a protective light-proof wrapper which you had to carefully unroll to avoid accidental exposure and fit onto the rollers inside the camera. As you took each picture, you had to turn the rollers manually to advance the film. 
It was the earliest WYSIWYG before the computer era termed it "What you see is what you get!" - there were no adjustments possible. You just pressed the shutter and hope for the best. Only 12 pictures could be taken with a roll. 

Photography during my young days was an expensive hobby. That's probably the reason why so few amateur photos of those days are around now. Most people would balk at the cost of developing and printing photos. You were charged for both developing the negatives and printing the photographs.

A black and white 'postcard' size photo would cost about 40 cents and a colored print would be $2! Multiplied by 12 in each roll, it was a fortune in those days. So each and every picture was always considered carefully before being snapped! Most pictures would actually be printed in 'half' postcard size, approximately 2-1/2" X 3-1/2" which would be around 20 cents each.

Pictures taken with those pinhole cameras, which was what it really was, was quite acceptable. I still have some pictures taken with that camera with me today. Some of which I have posted in another blog about my old housing estate (see the b&w shots taken here). This is a picture taken with that camera.

A couple of years into using my Brownie 127, I was given an 'upgrade'. 
My dad bought me a Kodak Instamatic camera! 

The Kodak Instamatic was 'hi-tech' - it used a pre-loaded film cartridge instead of roll films. You could now get 20 exposures from each cartridge, and the neatest thing was that it had the latest photographic technology - Flash Cubes! The disposable flash cubes had 4 flashes and you could take pictures indoors now.

In my next blogs, I will tell you how I progressed to developing and printing my own photos, buying my first SLR camera and finally going digital in part III.

Related links:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The house always wins.

Here's an article in Yahoo today that you might be interested in reading, especially if you have that occasional itch to try your luck at the casinos.

Click here to read the whole article.
Doesn't actually say much more than what we already know. That the casinos always wins.
In the Yahoo writeup, they cite the report from Wynn Las Vegas Casino which stated that their average take from each gaming table was US$7117 per day, while the slot machines were US$273 per day. They win at every game everyday!
Mathematically, the odds are always in their favor.  

The funny thing about this is that some casinos in the US actually brazenly advertise these odds in full glare.  Gullible gamblers, mainly tourists like you and me, never stop to think of the implications.

In Las Vegas, to attract customers, some casinos outrightly announce 98% payouts at their joints. What gullible people don't realize is what they are really saying is that the casinos will always earn $2 out of every $100 you play. The longer you play the more they win! 
Yet, we are still so gullible that that we always think we have an extremely HIGH chance (98% wow!) of getting back our money! The old adage of  "There's one born everyday".

I have not been to the casinos at MBS nor RWS yet but I have been to Las Vegas six times. Gosh, how I miss Las Vegas. Was last there in 1997.
OMG! That's like so 20th century !
The Bellagio and Venetian were not even built then!

In fact when I was last there, they were filming Con-Air and I saw them filming the part where they wrecked the old Dunes Hotel by crashing the plane into the building! Who remembers Nicholas Cage in ConAir? The Dunes Hotel was imploded later to build the new Venetian Hotel.

Back in my dinosaur era, I made an annual trip to Las Vegas. Not to gamble but to attend the COMDEX IT convention. That was the largest gathering of IT people at that time.

I miss Las Vegas. I wanna go back there! sob, sob.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I was a 'Super Rider'.

Sounds like a piece about motorcycles and the thrill of speed?
No, the term was used by the then transit operator, MRT Corporation and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), when they were looking for volunteers to test the new contact-less payment cards in 2000.
I volunteered and was given this.

Volunteers were known as "Super Riders' and we had to make a minimum of five trips on the train each week. To make it worth our while, we were given a 10% rebate for all our trips at the end of the test period from Sept 2000 to Feb 2001, We were also entitled to a special commemorative contact-less card when it the system was launched in 2002. 

After the initial MRT tests, the scheme was extended to include the contact-less system on buses. There were more problems I remembered using it on the buses as some drivers at that time were still not familiar with the new cards.

The contact-less system was introduced in 2002 and was called EZ-Link. This was been replaced in 2009 with the current EZ-Link CEPAS card which can be used for more mercantile transactions.

The old magnetic store value card

The new EZLink CEPAS fare card.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hillview Railway Bridge Revisited

Today, on my way to Woodlands, I stopped by Hillview Road to re-visit the site of the old railway bridge which was dismantled on 26 Nov 2011.
I was just curious to know if any further removal of the remnants took place.

The Hillview Railway Bridge July 2011

The bridge was dismantled on 26 Nov 2011.

Bridge removed with only the collision barrier remaning (26 Nov 2011)

The collision barrier removed (12 Dec 2011)

Photo taken 12 Dec 2011

The height warning gantry still remains.
It's so typical of the way the various government bodies function.
One is responsible for dismantling the bridge, another to remove the collision barrier and finally some other has to remove the height warning gantry.
Wouldn't you expect that a coordinated tender to remove all three at one go?

I would expect the next development would be the widening of Hillview Road once the Hillview MRT station situated there is completed by the middle of 2012.

Related links:
Passing of an era.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another MRT mystery?

I was catching up online on the current hot issues about the impending Comfort Taxi fare hikes when I came across an article I had missed a few days ago.
This article left me a bit confused and bewildered and I actually had to read it a couple of times to make sure I understood it correctly.
To tell you the truth, I still don't quite get it.

Here it  is, I ask you to read it and then explain to me, if anyone can.
It's from the online site published on 2 Dec 2011.

(Please click on article to enlarge)

The good news is that MRT will be adding more trips to alleviate the expected Christmas shopping crowds and New Year's day revelers.
My head is spinning with this good news because I can't rationalize how are they able to do this?

I distinctly remember all the hoopla over the over-crowding issues and the letters from frustrated commuters over the issue. The replies from the operators ranged from "the train ware at full capacity, the signaling equipment is unable to cope, new trains have been ordered but will progressively be installed, to expect delays for 3 to 5 years, etc etc..." 

Now I am confused as to how they can increase the trips and cut train arrival interval only for Christmas and the New Year periods.
Commuters don't need to be packed like sardines going home from work each day.

Christmas present for my friends

Christmas is but once a year as they say.
It's about celebrations, it's about feasting, it's about exchanging, giving and receiving presents,
It's about Church and Midnight Mass, it's about caroling and that warm gushy feeling.
But most of all, Christmas is always about family and friends.

Each year around this time, I usually put out my Christmas greeting to all my friends.
The past 2 years via video. I tried to do one last week but the mood and the street lights seems so insipid this year that I decided against it. Maybe I should re-hash last year's video? That the message is perennial and never changing helps.

Some friends told me that my video last year was a touch cynical. I apologize.
I realize that not everyone is Christian and they can celebrate Christmas in any way they prefer.
After all, the true message of Christmas is that God sent his Savior for everyone, not just believers.

Last year was a turning point for me. I joined the ranks of the unemployed for a while. At my age, it was a period of anxiety, but it allowed me to deeply reflect and take stock of my present state.
I can't stop the world and get off, but I decided that I didn't need to keep chasing it either.

So my life is now on a slower pace. I stop to smell the flowers.
I go around photographing places, bridges and elephants; not arty-farty stuff but pictures I like.
My wife noticed a change as well. Our lives and our bond are much stronger for it.
I am a much happier person.

This year, I decided more than just send a Christmas greeting, I am giving all my friends a Christmas present. Not something wrapped in a tinseled box but hopefully just as colorful.
I am giving my time to anyone who want or need it. I am giving myself for you.

Here is your claim check for your present :

I am here for you. Call me. There are no conditions attached.

A Happy and Blessed Christmas to all.

p.s. if you drink this Christmas, don't drive, call for sleigh ride home. ok?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sunday Rantings. 7 Dec 2011

Woke up feeling less than a million dollars, more like 30 cents worth.
Still so tired after spending the whole of yesterday at my in-law catching up with the latest family gossips.
Hiya, what to do. It's wifey's choice and I just had to be there too.
At least, I managed to do a video shoot of the Thomson Novena area in between listening to "why she so like that?.. and why like that one??"

Boy I am grouchy this morning. Apologies.
All I heard of Fr John Paul's sermon was something about going fishing. Mea Culpa.
Here's my grouch on this morning's papers:

Confirmed what I predicted last Sunday about the Redhill SERS resettlement.
Clementi motorists now take 27 mins to do what is a 10 mins ride to town.
Building an expressway will reduce commute time (by 30% again? save 8 mins?)
Watch out Kim Tian residents. You are next in line on the target. Guaranteed!

"According to OUR terms and conditions, we MAY make adjustments..changes..charges.."
Might as well not have a contract if its only binding to us and not you.

CASE asks for justification.
Commuters: Revised fares not the answer.
Commuter: Did Comfort consider reducing cab rentals instead?

Reduce rentals? you got to be kidding.
The 'cooperative company' survives not on the cabby's fare takings but on the rental!
When all the grumblings over the impending cab fare hike and when the pasengers settle down to the new norm, I will put my bets down confidently that cab rentals will be increase not reduced!
After all, the cabbies would be earning more from the increased fares, right?. Savvy?

2nd knock this week following the "Singapore now 5th least corrupt country , down from 1st position."
Expect more retrenchments as 1-2% GDP will be the norm, say PM.
As public bonuses are tied to GDP, they'll get reduced bonuses during this downturn.
Guess you can't have your cake and eat it all the time, no cream this round.

Okay, gotta run. Going off to work.
Nevertheless, Have a nice day.

* Sunday Rantings are my thoughts on a lazy Sunday morning after reading the Sunday papers. This may or may not be a regular feature depends on whether I have the energy after breakfast. Also Sunday Mass has a calming effect, so the more I pay attention to the sermons, the less I rant. The long rants probably mean I fell asleep during Mass.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Rantings. 4 Dec 2011

Here I go again, nothing better to do on Sunday than to spout my nonsense.
I'll start with the best article this week found somewhere inside the back pages!

Okay, honestly it didn't say that but LOL from the same logic propounded in the article, the headlines could read as that.
Saudi Arabian academics in submitting their report to their Legislative Council  justified their ban on women from driving or leaning to drive in that country. Within 10 years of lifting the ban, there would be no more virgins left in the country, they claimed!
Well, Singapore never had a ban on women driving, so in theory, we don't have any virgin women drivers left. Go figure.

Hmm? Didn't I just read only yesterday, his deputies were proclaiming they must be supreme and not let the others even have a chance? Oh well. I am not bothered with the politics up north. The domestic politics have me confused enough.

WHAT?? Spay your kids!
Oops, sorry, eyesight playing tricks on this old man.
It's okay to spy on your kids.
Well Tracy, whatever you wish.
Call it monitoring, call it spying or call it concern.
I  rather use the word Trust.
Maybe check the room once a while for needles?

This was from Saturday but I include this as a passing thought 'cos many of these bargain-hunter newbies get caught in a trap that they later learn much to their regret.
Johor has opened up a new "Premium Outlet" just north of the border, an hours car ride away.
Brand Names at bargain prices will attract brand conscious Singaporean bargain hunters by the droves. Nothing wrong with that at all.

However, remember this little warning from Uncle James!
Bargain Prices does not mean Duty-Free nor GST-free. Think Singapore Customs!
It may be a great bargain only if you buy and consume within your own country.
Forgetting to factor in Customs Duty or GST may make your trip and bargains into an exercise in futility.

ALL new articles brought into Singapore, whether for personal or commercial use, are subjected to Duty and/or GST. All your lovely Coaches, Pradas and Ferragamos are subject to 7% GST on the bargain prices you paid. You are given only $50 GST allowance if you make a day trip and slightly more if you stay overnight. You MUST declare at the RED Channel any purchases over $50 that you made.

You wouldn't want the embarrassing experience of sitting in the Customs office feeling like a criminal I tell you! Happy shopping and a Merry Xmas.

Deja Vu.
Maybe they should consider linking it to the Battlestar Galactica ride so that there's always a backup?
Just hope the seats don't transform into flying platforms. Touch wood.

Wow, 21 blocks would probably hold the record for the largest mass re-settlement.
It was only 12 blocks at Hillview when they said it was the largest SERS move.
And you know what? These 21 blocks just completed their Main Upgrading Programme (MUP) recently.
Only goes to confirm one truth: YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR HDB FLAT!
Home 'ownership' is just a facade for the 'lease' that you hold from the real owners: HDB.
Wonder if they'll build a bypass through it? Clementi residents can save 5 mins getting to town.

* Sunday Rantings are my thoughts on a lazy Sunday morning after reading the Sunday papers. This may or may not be a regular feature depends on whether I have the energy after breakfast. Also Sunday Mass has a calming effect, so the more I pay attention to the sermons, the less I rant. The long rants probably mean I fell asleep during Mass.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My life as an aeroplane.

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
                                                                   - William Shakespeare. 

Shakespeare was just being eloquent.
He was a romantic but he is wrong about the name part!

Names do matter. There is a lot to be had in your name.
It carries with it your identity and your entire psyche is shaped as a result of what others call you,
or worse, what they perceive of you without even knowing more of you.

Take a simple name like Juliet, for example.
You start to have a romantic notion of beauty. With a name like Juliet she must be so sweet. She may turn out to be the hunchback of Notredame.
Say Rambo and they picture you as a macho muscle rippling dude who may however turn out to be a paunchy baldy loser. Names are everything !

Lately, I connected up with some people on an online chat site.
(Yes Ma, I know the dangers of chatting with strangers on line, so stop bugging me!) 
We did not know each other at all and the only common thread was that we all used to live in a small village estate in Bukit Timah call Princess Elizabeth.

As our online chatter progressed, we started realizing that we had more and more in common.
We knew that person, yes it's that family, he was my teacher!, I used to lived next to his house, she was my classmate! Remember this? Remember that?
Little revelations began to connect the dots and the web grew stronger and larger as the days went on.

One particular person called D. remembered that as a little boy I used to throw mud at her! Then it dawned on me that this D. person used to taunt me by calling me 'aeroplane'. The teasing was endless and it built a traumatic state in this little kids' mind.
D. was very pretty I remembered and had lots of admirers amongst the schoolboys swooning after her, but I was turned off because of her ceaseless teasing. I suppose D. is still as pretty now but I've not seen her in almost 35 years. She was a former model and I still have a picture of her taken during her modeling days somewhere. The last I thought of her was about 2 years ago when I watched the film St Jack in which she had a part.

Wrong names can be humorous or a lifelong disaster.
Some young parents today are so enamored by Korean wave, J-pops and or even gadgets that they call their children after these transient fads. Would you call your child iPad or iPod??  "Hey Nintendo Lim, how's the going?"
May sound cool now but he will be the one who has to carry this bane through his life.

I know this firsthand because I am precisely in this situation.
(No, not about D's teasing, I've long erased that from my consciousness. It's something else)

My dad was so into photography and cinematography in his young days.
In those days, the big names were KODAK, AGFA and ILFORD, much like today we say Apple, Sony or Xbox.

When I was born, besides my name James, I was given another Christian name as was the usual practice among Catholics. Guess what I was christened?
No, it was not Kodak, Agfa nor Ilford, but close.
It was Howell as in Bell & Howell, which was the biggest name in movie cameras and projectors at that time. OMG, you were was named after a projector???

Actually, the name is perfectly okay with me but the big problem is that locals can't pronounce it correctly. I've been called everything from 'Hoe-well, How Wee, to How Well" !
The correct sound is akin to the word 'howl', or if you say it slower, something like 'Har-wurl'.

Good thing my dad wasn't into cars or I could've ended up as Vauxhall James or Silverstone James!

By the way, if you strain hard enough, you might just notice some remnant of a birthmark that does look like a little bird in flight. But please don't say it's an aeroplane. Say "Hey, I like your Eagle tattoo, cool man!"'ll make this paunchy balding man feel more macho.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A revelation from beyond the grave.

The century old Bukit Brown cemetery will soon give way to the growing needs of an ever developing Singapore. Gazetted by the government, about five percent of the graves will have to be exhumed to make way for a motor highway bypass.

My paternal grandparents are buried at Bukit Brown.
With the impending exhumation, I realized that my deceased relatives may be affected.
But there is one big problem.
I never knew my paternal grandparents.
My grandfather was Tann Cheng Hoe who came to Singapore from Amoy, China and my grandmother was Khoo Kim Lian, a local betel nut chewing Peranakan bibik.

My father did take me to their graves when I was perhaps 4 or 5 years old. Even at that young age, I can recall visiting the cemetery on at least two occasions. I remembered my dad paying obeisance in the traditional manner with wine, fruits and burnt paper offering. I remember how exciting it was to place colored paper all over the graves that had its covering turf newly mowed.

Over the years, my dad didn't seem to follow up on this practice during Qingming for whatever reasons I had never asked. Perhaps it was the fact that he converted to Catholicism, or was it the squabble over the inheritance, or whatever. I will never know now because my dad passed about 10 years ago.

The only other relative that I knew my dad had was a sister who was given away for adoption. She is believed to be living in Malaysia but then we only met her once and there were no further contacts after that. The fact that she was given away for adoption would also mean that her relationship to my grandparents would probably be very superficial.

So with this in mind, I sought out my last possibility - my mother, who hopefully would recall her 'in-laws'.
Alas, my mother had very scant knowledge even of her own in-laws, but related a story that even up till now I was unaware.

She had met her parents-in-law only twice in her life; the first time on her engagement and the second, on the day of her marriage. Life was such at that time, she said.

She revealed that my grandfather had been a very rich merchant dealing in shipping and warehousing. They lived at Choon Guan Street in Chinatown and he had businesses at Boat Quay.
My grandfather had four wives!

My dad was born to the 3rd wife and so his position in the family was only secondary if he had any at all. His sister was given away for adoption as they didn't need daughters.
She could not recall much more than this as her relationship with her in-laws was very distant.

But she could recall the approximate locality of their graves.
"Just a short distance in from the entrance.
 Look for the huge grave of Aw Boon Haw (of Tiger Balm fame) on the right side of the road.
Their graves are just directly further up the hill from Aw Boon Haw and next to a pavilion."

However, my quandary now with my dad being the '3rd family', there would be the other 3 families who might make claim to the graves as well. Should any of the other sons, i.e my dad's half brothers, be around then it would be their responsibility to attend to the exhumation.

How do I proceed?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bukit Brown MRT Station

Following a private email response to my Sunday Rantings (previous blog), I just want to show some evidence of Bukit Brown MRT Station, which is not usually indicated on most official transit maps.
It is situated between Caldecott and Botanic Garden on the Circle Line.

The Bukit Brown MRT station is located at an empty plot (at the moment) at Jalan Mashhor, near Andrew Road where I work.
It is only a 'shell' station, i.e. the station concrete form has been built but not fitted out to function as an operational platform.
When it will be operational is subject to the development of the area around the station.

Mediacorp is moving out in 2016 and that will also free up a huge plot of land nearby.
The Bukit Brown station is adjacent to and sandwiched between the 2 huge cemeteries there;
the Bukit Brown Cemetery and the Chinese Cemetery at Mt Pleasant.

This is the Bukit Brown MRT Station as it stands today 2011.

Like Marina Bay MRT Station, where the station was built years before the surrounding Financial Centre or MBS was conceptualized, the Bukit Brown area will eventually be developed, cemeteries not withstanding.

Here is another official LTA map showing future MRT stations.
You might want to consider buying some real estate nearby?

Click on map for detailed view.

Update on Bukit Brown blog. 16 Dec 2011.
I was on the Circle Line yesterday from Serangoon to Holland Village and had the chance to 'pass through Bt Brown underground. 
About 1 min after leaving Caldecott station, you start to hear a change in the sound of the rushing train due to the air space at Bukit Brown.
If you sit facing the starboard (right) side windows, you can see part of the space that will be Bukit Brown Station. It's just an empty space and you can see right across to other other tracks going in the opposite direction.

Sunday Rantings. 27 Nov 2011

At my age, my circadian clock automatically gets me up at 7 in the mornings.
The daily routine would be morning ablutions followed by light brekkie and morning papers.
On Sundays, the routine changes slightly as I have to factor in morning Mass at St Mary of the Angels.

The thing I like about Sundays is to grab the Sunday Times and read the commentaries at a slow pace and read what the commentators write.
My favorite writers being Sumiko Tan, Sandra Leong and Ignatius Low.
I also look out for "Letters from Kyoto" by Janice Tay and Colin Goh's ramblings about his life in New York.
What I like about Sunday papers is the easy reading feature columns rather than the newsy articles.

Today, some articles I just want to add my 2 cents to.

Sh*t! that was why I had to incur extra costs for my taxi ride to the University Town yesterday!
The PAP was having their convention at the University Cultural Center but how was I know that?
My cab had to make a detour when we came head to head with a CLOSED road entrance to the University. Had to do a U-turn and double back to Dover Road to enter the Uni Town. Cost me an additional $2.50 in fares.

Hey, I thot PAP was a party organisation and not government body? So how come seems like half the police force and lots of military ambulances on standby at the convention? Using public funds for party functions? Ok ok, I guess party head honchos are also top public figures so they're entitled to some public protection and security services.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia standardizes the rules and conditions for the 17 Catholic columbaria. All niches are on lease for 30 years, subject to renewal!   

Is nothing is sacred anymore? Whatever happened to 'Rest in Peace' ?

Phew, thank God (Amen!) that I have already booked my niche years back and the rules won't apply in my case. My niche #6022 at the Franciscan Columbarium is set for life, or should I say, afterlife. Forever and ever, Amen.
At least till the govt thinks fit to acquire the 'land' ?
#6022 is reserved for ever and ever. Amen

Yaawwnnn. Next please.

Lina Chiam, NC Member of Parliament
"Even if one ant dropped into my water, I would not want to drink it"
Please, Lina, your tap water doesn't come straight from the Bedok Reservoir. It's purified first. (I hope)
You should re-assure your voters about water safety rather than harp on floating dead bodies.

Another salvo in the on-going Bukit Brown War.
This time from the Executive Committee of the Singapore Heritage Society in response to the URA's " one raised a ruckus when plans highlighting the area's intended future use were displayed for feedback in 1991 and 2001, when the Concept Plans were released "

Humma Kavula !! Reminds me exactly of what happened in Douglas Adams' book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (My all time favorite novel, by the way).
When asked why the officious Vogons destroyed Earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass, the reply was "the plans have been published for the past 2 million years. You should have read it by now"

Has anyone ever wondered why Bukit Brown MRT station was built right in the MIDDLE of the Bukit Brown Cemetery?  Doesn't that give you a clue as to what is going to happen in that area?
The MRT station is completed (or at least the shell), just that it's not open for business as ghosts don't need to ride the trains, so the trains just bypass the station.
Think back Potong Pasir MRT Station that was built and mothballed till developments around it reached a sufficient level to justify it's operations. Duh?

In line with this, I just want to add to the LTA's justification to tear down 500+ housing units at Rochor Centre just to built a bypass so that motorists from Ang Mo Kio can save 5 mins driving to the city.
NICE. Thank you.
Appreciated that more unaffordable CO2 emitting cars can be put on the roads. Just go easy with the ERP gantries ok? Nevermind the residents, they'll get new houses at 'subsidized' prices.

Sunday Times Bonus for me! Elephant Parade pictures.
I am so into this at the moment.
Personally I've been around to snap 130 of the 162 elephants on display all over the city.
The only places I have not been (or rather will not go, since i have to pay to enter to see the elephants) are:
Mandai Zoo, Asian Civilisation Museum & Philatelic Museum.

I will shoot the balance when all 162 are gathered together at the Botanic Garden at the end of the exhibition.
They are really nice to look at. Go see my Youtube video and blog about the Elephant Parade!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seeing Pink Elephants!

It's the time of the year when we tend to over-indulge and imbibe just a little too much for our own good.
It's all in the spirit of Christmas I suppose, religious or commercial, whichever you prefer.
If you are out at your favorite watering holes in Orchard Road or Marina Bay, you may be forgiven if you start seeing pink elephants after your night out.

The Elephant Parade is in town!
The Elephant Parade is a phenomenally successful charity event in support of the endangered Asian elephant.
The open air art exhibition is in Singapore now. The very first Asian country to host the event.
Previous hosts were mostly European cities like Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, Milan, etc.

The elephants are all designed and painted by famous artists and celebrities and will be auctioned off by Sotheby's to raise funds.

If you have not seen the elephants yet, I suggest that you make a beeline to catch them before they are all auctioned off after the exhibition. You may not get the chance again in Singapore as there is a long line of cities waiting to showcase this event.

The painted elephants are really nice. Go get your picture took with them.

I really enjoyed myself wandering around the city looking for each of the 162 elephants on display.
(some of them are further out at the zoo and at NUS, which I don't think I will be there tho').
If you don't have the energy, then your last chance will be when all 162 pachyderms will be gathered at the Botanic Gardens on 9 January 2012 for a mass display.


Related links:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Shame the sin, forgive the sinner.

Shame, shame, shame on you.

Which do you feel is the greater shame?
Gawking at girls in skimpy bikinis.
Exhibiting your body in public.
Calling people names, or
passing derogatory remarks about others?

Not since the June general elections has a single topic garnered so much response from netizens.
There must be well over a thousand entries in blogs like Stomp, InSing and Hardwarezone over this issue of foreign workers having a day out at Sentosa!

Stomper Cheryl had posted a complaint about the hordes of foreign workers descending on Sentosa Island each weekend. Her main grievance was that these foreigners were photographing and recording videos of women in skimpy bikinis suntanning on the public beaches.

The deluge of responses came from both sides of the fence but most were xenophobic anti-foreigners sentiments.
These range from name callings like perverts, aliens, black heads to downright crude remarks like ban them from Sentosa, fence off the place and or charge them $100 for entry. Derogatory terms included polluting the air, racist piece of shit, retards and mental rapists. A good number laid the blame with the government over its immigrant policies.

I have not been to Sentosa Island for quite some time and I don't know the real situation, but judging from the pictures on the blogs, I presume that Sentosa has become another of those places where the foreign workers congregate during their day off.

There are now more than 2 million foreign workers of all nationalities working in Singapore. All these people need some outlet away from their work routine. Unfortunately, their tendency to flock with their own kind has led to some very uncomfortable situations for others as in the Sentosa situation.

However, it still doesn't bode well for locals to resort to name calling and making derogatory remarks.
It easy to blame others for the predicament we find ourselves in; the overcrowded trains and buses, the long queues at the supermarkets, being served by foreign sounding staff in the shops and food courts, etc.
Unfortunately, there is a social trade off if we don't want to do the menial or 'low grade' work ourselves.

Of course, others would argue that the point is not the people or race but rather the behavior of these people when they congregate.

I feel sad that all that simmering pent up feelings might one day just boil over.
I can understand the local sentiments. I too am guilty at times especially with my pet peeve about PRC cyclists on the pavements disregarding pedestrians.
Let's just all hope we don't sink to a lower level of shameful behavior on all our part.
I pray our society is not beginning to unravel itself with this foreigners issue.

Related links:
InSing news
Stomp post
Hardwarezone forum

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wait, the meaning will be clear...

In 2009, we had Phua Chu Kang with his crass rap on the trains.
Last year we had the Dim Sum Dollies annoying us with "train is coming ..train is coming..."
But this year's jingle takes the cake!

From the brickbats of the past 2 years, I guess SMRT did learn a little about public irritation with their song and dance jingles.
So this year it was a more 'reality' message of courtesy but the most idiotic thing they did was to get a schoolboy shouting in Singlish.

Wei !  Wei !  Wei !

That was about the only English vocal in the revised commercial and they fluffed it with poor English diction!
What does it mean?
Here listen to it yourself. Be warned: it's grossly irritating.

The clip loops every minute and if you are waiting at the station you'll go nuts listening to this irritating jingle.

Find out what happened when Hitler learned that SMRT made a new courtesy video.

Related links:
Phua Chu Kang jingle
Dim Sum Dollies
Train is coming...train is coming

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Keeping Singapore litter free.

What better way to wake up on a lazy Sunday morning then with a good laugh.
The Sunday Times had a serious article with unintentional hilarious snippets.

More enforcement officers deployed, littering increased by 101%.
Put up banners on the penalties of littering, littering increased by 105%
Put up environmental messages: littering increased by 61.5%.
They observed how often the bins spilled over - 22 times ;
they added more bins - the spillage stopped.  Duh?
After a year of study, the results? "Inconclusive"

Click on the picture for detailed view.

Singapore has been oft praised as the cleanest greenest place anywhere, but the recent study found that 4 in 10 respondents admitted to littering, with 1% being hard core litterbugs!

The truth is that Singapore is kept tidy and clean not because most citizens do not litter but that the streets are swept and tidied by a huge battalion of foreign workers.
They are the unsung heroes of keeping Singapore clean and spotless.

Photo by Euyah from
I shall not venture to add any further observation of my  own.
You can read the 179 page study here.
Click the pix for the study results.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Humans Fail monkey bins

A while back I wondered when the monkeys at MacRitchie Nature Reserve would overcome the new monkey-proof trash bins introduced by NEA*. (see this blog)

I have yet to see this happen but something else funnier has occurred.

*National Environment Agency

The trash bins seem to be human proof as well.
I have tried these trash bins and it is so easy to understand why it fails.

1. The lock is tight and needs strong finger pressure to unlock it.

2. The lock appears dirty and you'll feel uncomfortable touching it.

3. The lid is made of thick steel and is heavy to lift it open. 
(The lid doesn't pop open - you gotta lift it manually - I supposed they presume monkeys don't have the strength to lift it)

Already reasons 2 & 3 makes you queasy touching the filthy surfaces, but lastly,

4. you need all three of your hands to use the trash bin.  
    One to press and hold the lock, 
    another to lift the heavy cover, and, 
    your third hand to hold the trash you intend to dispose.

So now you know why the garbage is outside the trash bins. It's a no brainer!
Well done, NEA. Kudos to you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mister, can you spare a dime?

Poor sad rich man!

Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands and one of the richest man in the world, is disappointed, apologetic and suffering from the loss of dignity.

And why is that so?
Well apparently, he made a substantial error in his profits forecast for his Marina Bay Sands Casino in Singapore.

His casino made MORE money than he imagine it would!
In the last 3 months, his casino made only US$413.9 million in PROFIT!
He didn't get his math right, he expected his casino to make less!
My heart bleeds for him.

Click on pix for detailed view of the ST report.
"But trust me, I will suffer through the indignity of being wrong by such a substantial amount."
Such arrogance! He is laughing all the way to his private banker at the expense of all the losers.

In Singapore, the number of those getting caught up in this vice trap can be seen through the increasing court cases of frauds and bankruptcies, the increasing numbers turning to gambling counsellors and the increase in self-exclusion orders.

This not withstanding the case of Madam Choo who supposedly won S$416,742 at the slots in his casino but was denied her winnings due to 'machine malfunction' ?

Her winnings of $416,742 is just 0.08% of the profits he made in the last 3 months.
That's less than a dime to the dollar!

Related links:

For God sake

I have taken this post down temporarily on the advise of the authorities.
Unfortunately, there are some who "can't handle the truth" (Jack Nicholson A Few Good Men

Due to threat and libel made, this piece has now become part of an ongoing investigation.
As such, I am unable to comment on this further until I am given the green light by my legal advisors.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Venice of Punggol? Oh Please lah!

The waterfront park at Punggol was officially opened to the public yesterday.
But I just couldn't help laughing at the newspaper report this morning describing the new waterway as the "Venice of Punggol" !

Venice !

Please lah!  It's just one big longkang and they put it on the same level as Venice?

I have been to Venice and just last week I visited the My Waterway@ Punggol .
It will tire out all my brain cells just trying to think of any similarities.

Maybe they can start a gondolier service to see the old dump, now converted to a wetland, at Lorong Halus?

I must say that the wording in the news report is so clever that you can't really tell who came up with the moniker!  So nobody can be faulted if there's any backlash! (see report here).
Maybe it's a pre-emptive way to avoid future embarrassment in case of floods like previously in Bukit Timah and Orchard Road? Or perhaps it's a new directive to rename flood prone areas to "Venice of..."

Venice of Bukit Timah?

I am not disparaging the residents (Venetians?) of Punggol and congratulate them on their new facilities.
There is a long long way to go before Punggol 21+ achieves its aim of being a truly waterfront eco town, but please, be a bit more original with the names.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Non-stop elevator ride

I was just told of a neat trick which is supposedly used by the emergency services staff.
How to make an elevator proceed non stop to the floor that you want.

I cannot confirm this as I have not tried it out myself.  (and I live on the 2nd floor!)
Can someone try this out and confirm or debunk this story?
It may just be an urban legend for all I know.

1. Enter the elevator and  HOLD the Close Door >|< button.
2. Press the floor you wish to go to while still holding the Close Door >|< button.
3. Hold BOTH buttons till the door closes and the elevator starts moving.
4. The elevator should ride non-stop to your floor.

I was just thinking,  it doesn't make sense if you are going home and alone in the elevator.
Your neighbors would be unlikely to be going up from other floors!

Maybe, it's only useful in a commercial building?
Or does it work as well going DOWN to the ground floor?

Will someone try it out and respond to this?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Bridge at Gillman Barracks

If you drive along Alexandra Road, you might be able to spot an old disused bridge near the Alexandra Arch, just opposite the Hort Park.

This bridge crosses over a very deep gully and was formerly within the compounds of the old British Army Gillman Barracks. In 1969, Gillman Barracks was handed over to the then newly established Singapore Armed Forces and was used by the SAF Combat Engineers as their headquarters.

Back then, Alexandra Road did not exist as it is today.
Gillman Barracks was just a part of the entire British military area that encompassed places like Portsdown, Normanton, Alexandra Hospital, and the entire area we call Ayer Rajah and Buona Vista today.

My very first encounter with this bridge was around 1970, when as part of a group of school army cadets, we were brought to Gillman Barracks as there was a proper parade ground for us to practice for the National Day Parade.

We were transported to the camp entrance and had to cross this bridge to get to the parade square.
At that time, there was hardly any vegetation in the gully and that made the bridge appear very high above the valley floor.

One thing I also remembered was that the bridge was different from the one existing now, although it is in the same location. The one I remembered was a black wooden trestle bridge like the one in the picture below. The existing bridge is a modern design steel truss bridge, which must have been a replacement.

I remembered we were all really afraid to cross that bridge because of the height.
And what made it worse was a sign that said "BREAK STEP WHEN CROSSING BRIDGE"

We didn't understand what "Break Step" was.  We were told not to march as a group across but to walk individually and out of step with each other. They said otherwise the bridge might collapse! That made us even more afraid.

At that time, as schoolboys, we were not aware of the effects of resonance.
Resonance happens when regular vibration, such as soldiers marching, matches the vibrating resonance of the bridge causing it to sway in unison and can lead to collapse.

Gillman Barracks was converted to a Food & Beverage hub in early 2000 and was renamed Gillman Village. However, the response was lukewarm leading to its final demise last year.
There are new plans by the government to convert the area into a new Arts and creative production hub utilizing the old army complexes. Just like the ones at Dempsey Road today.

Any old SAF combat engineers reading this?
Perhaps you can post a picture of the orignal bridge?