Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Leave your iPad behind

In News Reports, Politics on November 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I haven’t watched Parliamentary proceedings in ages so I never knew that MPs were allowed to use iPads in the House until today when ST published an interview with Speaker Michael Palmer. It was, he said, so that they could answer emails and check on points made.

Frankly, I’m appalled. Can fiddle with handphone, now can fiddle with iPad. Bigger screen, easier to use.

Already, the obsession with gadgets and the need to be “in touch” all the time has taken over all kinds of social activity. You have people texting away at meetings, updating facebook at work, answering emails during dinners. You can have a whole bunch of people sitting down – in silence – while they “talk” to their iPad or phone. And here is the highest forum in the land where listening should be prized and attention, focused. You put your brain to work, listening, processing and concluding. Parliament doesn’t sit very often, and even so not for that long. For a few hours, you can’t leave your gadgets behind? Michael Palmer says no wi-fi, but there’s always 3G.

It used to be that when you have an important phone call to make, you get out of the meeting. Someone slips you a note when you have an urgent matter to attend to and you excuse yourself.  If something is really so important that requires an instant answer from you, you can bet someone will find a way to reach you even when you are in Parliament.

Maybe I’m being too hard on MPs. Maybe over the past years, they have been very restrained about turning their attention to their iPads. Maybe.

Maybe we’ll also see a full House, or at least a quorum, every time a Bill is debated. Too.


In News Reports on November 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm

SO much ink already spilled over the stop work/strike/dispute row that I don’t really have more to say about it. Chris Tan, though, had a quick piece on bus driver’s salaries in ST today which I thought put the salary issue in context.

I’ll go with some questions I have then and forgive me if they have already been answered.

a)     Where is the bus drivers’ union in all this? Did it have a long wrangle with SMRT over the differentiated pay rises before it came to this?

b)    Are the Chinese nationals represented by the union? Do they have the same access to union membership as others?

c)     SBS seems to have fewer problems with its Chinese drivers and it has so many more of them. It houses them in HDB flats, rather than dorms. What is the difference in salaries between SMRT and SBS for bus drivers, including the PRC drivers? (By the way, are those SBS flats another one of those that EM Services get from HDB to dole out at lower cost, as it did for the RWS foreign staff?)

d)    Differentiated salaries (foreigners versus locals/Malaysians) are allowed under Singapore’s employment laws – to what extent. After all, maids from different countries are paid differently.

e)     Is there a direct line that unhappy foreign workers have with MOM when it comes to wage issues, or is this a matter between management and workers?

f)      Is the case symptomatic of the different working culture of the Chinese? Besides the Panasonic case in August, I recall a few years ago that some construction workers wanted to stage a sit-in in Parliament house.

g)     Do foreign workers know enough of Singapore’s employment laws to distinguish between what is legal and illegal. (I am not even going into the issue of having to give notice of an officially-sanctioned strike)

h)    What is SMRT’s role in all this? What sort of steps were taken to talk to the union and to the bus drivers, especially since the grievances have been circulating online for some time?

i)       Okay, the media reported ONE worker with bed bugs in the dorm, but bed bugs in a LEGAL dorm? What the SMRT/MOM checks on worker dorms like?

j)       I never really got to hear from the Chinese bus drivers on their grievances. Or seen their employment contracts,  I don’t suppose there is a spokesman of sorts among them or is there some kind of gag order imposed on them – Speak and be sacked?

k)    What do the Malaysian bus drivers say about being lumped as “non-foreigners’’? Is no one speaking for the Chinese drivers, besides the Chinese themselves?

l)       Why is SMRT so jinxed?

That’s my list for now.

Getting all worked up

In News Reports on November 23, 2012 at 3:18 am

Odd that we get emotional when we’re ranked No. 1 emotion-less country. I mean, why do we even care that we don’t wear our heart on our sleeves, tear our hair out and breathe fire? We are a cool, calm and collected nation. Underneath, we are a cauldron of burning passion. I mean, just look at the sex scandals we’re been exposed to so far…

In any case, Gallup is asking all the wrong questions about whether we smiled yesterday and all that. It should be asking this:

1. What would you do when a car cuts into your lane on the highway.
a. Punch the other driver
b. Display my middle finger
c. Show my mastery of expletives
d. Keep a straight face

2. What would you do if your kid doesn’t get into a top school?
a. Harangue the school principal
b. Proclaim on that the school isn’t so good after all.
c. Have a good cry
d. Stay stoic

3. What would you do if you got a parking summons?
a. Tear it up and throw it on the ground
b. Complain to my MP and threaten not to vote for him next time.
c. Refuse to pay road tax and wait to go to jail
d. Ask if can pay in instalments or not

4. What would you do if your favourite hawker stall raises the price of its bak chor mee?
a. Give a $100 note and ask for change. In other words, pay. Eat
b. Say “Wah, you buying another Mercedes ah?’’. Pay. Eat.
c. Threaten loudly to go the competitor. Pay. Eat.
d. Walk away and feel good that you saved money

5. How would you feel if you were told your year-end bonus is less than 1 month?
a. Worried. Enough to pay entrance fee for casino or not?
b. Ecstatic. Got bonus ah!
c. Angry. That foreign worker got how much?
d. Calm.

6. You come home after a hard day’s work and all you get is noise from the construction site, gong banging at a Chinese wake and loud music from a Malay wedding. What would be your first reaction?
a. Complain to the town council, HDB, NEA, police, MP and PM.
b. Strike a threatening pose in front of those noisy people.
c. Go on a rant on Facebook
d. Tell yourself it’s part of living in an urban space

I mean, who says we are not emotional people? Unless you picked D.

You can’t be Singaporean then.

Language lessons

In News Reports on November 23, 2012 at 2:39 am

Sometimes I get asked: What’s a leading question? Now, I have got plenty of examples: The Ng Boon Gay trial. The prosecution and defence counsel are asking leading questions. Allowed in a court of law. So wonderful! In my past life, I’ve had to refrain from leading questions because a smart answer would be: What are you trying to get me to say? Do you have an agenda?

Of course in court, both sides have an agenda. Anyway, here are some techniques if you ever find yourself in a position of being able to ask leading questions.

a. Use an aggressive tone. In other words, intimidate
b. Use double negatives. In other words, confuse
c. Use a dictionary. In other words, look erudite.

I don’t know what you think but I thought the Ng Boon Gay trial was very educational for language students.

What’s the difference between actual and perceived conflict of interest, for example? What’s the difference between routine (sex) and on-and off (sex)? Is gratification the same thing as satisfaction? What is lust and what is love? To be fair, I haven’t seen the word lust used in newspaper reports, just part-time lover and main sex partner…And of course, the ultimate killer: Define DIY.

I’m getting tired of the trial. We’re trying to define matters like corrupt intent and physical intimacy. It’s all about “feelings’’ this trial is. I just want to say: Leave it to the judge to look at the facts, and not the feelings and let’s see the end of this sorry, sordid spectacle playing out every day.

Preparing for PSLE results Part 3

In News Reports, Society on November 23, 2012 at 2:11 am

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (from a top school) Nov 23

Dear diary, I want to make an announcement. The top PSLE student is Wee Im Pee. Me! Me! Do you hear that? I can’t believe those newspaper people didn’t get their facts right. The top score isn’t 285. It’s 285.5. And that’s ME!

We were all very upset that my principal didn’t want to make any announcement yesterday. He locked me in the toilet and kept Mom and Dad in his office when the newspaper people came to the school. Grandma ran to talk to one reporter but she tripped. So now she’s in A&E. The newspaper people took a lot of pictures of her. She tried to tell them why she was there but none of them understood Hokkien.

So I had to sit on the toilet bowl for hours, reading and re-reading my PSLE results. I’m just glad that I beat Tee Yi and Chong Ming. These Chinese students study so hard that Dad was actually going to stop me from using my iPad. He thought I was playing online games! I was actually taking a Stanford University online course. You know, those free ones. He saw, then said, Ok, good boy.

So here is another announcement: The top PSLE student is… SINGAPOREAN! Yay!

Anyway, I looked at all the newspapers today and there’s no picture of me….Looks like most principals are scared of MOE. Except that Yishun principal in The New Paper. But the school’s top scorer only had 275 points! Okay, he’s also the head prefect and has some Eagle award. I suppose that’s part of this holistic and wholesome achievement that the G wants publicised.

But it’s not fair! I wanted to join the prefectorial board but my five private tutors said not to waste time. Also, a prefect has to “catch’’ bad boys and Mom and Dad didn’t think I should be involved with “bad elements’’. So I only became a class monitor.

You know, diary, there was this boy who said in The Straits Times that he wants to go to RI but was worried because it’s a school for “rich kids’’. Really? I never thought so. I mean, I would fit right in and my Dad only owns a Merc and a Ferrari.

My advice: Come on! Don’t be a wimp! Just go to RI! So many kids there with Very Important Parents. Very good to know them! Good for your future, so Dad says. Never mind if you take public transport to school, try to make friends with someone who gets driven to school. Oh, I forgot. Maybe you live in HDB. Not near anyone who has a car and driver…Anyway, I’m sure you will make plenty of friends. They will want to know what living in a HDB flat is like and whether public transport is really so bad. They will see it as broadening their “educational horizons’’.

Anyway, I’m just jealous that you got into the newspapers and I didn’t. Even Grandma didn’t get her picture in.

So ugly

In News Reports on November 21, 2012 at 3:36 am

WARNING: This post is not for children, virgins and saints
I’ve followed the Ng Boon Gay case pretty closely as well as many other court cases involving sex but I can’t recall a time I’ve felt as uncomfortable as today.

The court is already trying to grapple with this question of corrupt intent – and now it has to deal with what is love? Sheesh. If the prosecution is a representative of the State, then I dread to think that the state views trysts in a car as NOT love, not going to a hotel to make out is NOT love, declining overseas trips or dirty weekends is NOT love. Actually, it’s no business of the state…and I certainly hope this view isn’t being perpetuated in schools and civics lessons.

And what’s love got to do with it anyway? It’s an extra-marital affair that’s been going on for some time (according to the defence) or which had stopped (according to the prosecution). They are both adults and it seems like we are watching them in some kind of B-grade teen flick with questions like Do you love me? On a scale of one to 10?

I remember the prosecution making clear that it wasn’t about to police morals, so I guess the prosecution’s defence of its line of questioning is that it was forced to choose this tack to unpick the defence’s case that they were having an affair. I mean, the prosecution even got Ng to define DIY. (If you don’t know already, you shouldn’t be reading this).

It’s all so ugly.

So ugly that I’m beginning to lose sight of what the case is about. I gather the question turns on whether a public servant should receive anything, anything at all, from someone he or his organisation might, or already have, business dealings with. Never mind if nothing actually pans out.

Actually, it sounds like something that should be in some instruction manual for public servants. In any case, whichever way the court rules, I wonder how extensively that manual or code of conduct (so many these days…) would have to be re-written.

Preparing for PSLE results Part 2

In News Reports, Society on November 21, 2012 at 12:34 am

Diary of a wimpy kid (from a top school) Nov 21

Hey, looks like I don’t have to worry about the newspaper people anymore! The ministry isn’t giving out the name-list of top scorers! Phew!

Mom and Dad aren’t too pleased about it though. They think the best students deserve some sort of recognition. I mean, they were top scorers too in their days. Dad was even a President’s scholar! They said it was nice to be in the spotlight. Also they could thank the people who helped them study. Dad even gave out a whole list of study tips to the newspapers! Mom said the newspaper published a photograph of her and her form teacher and Mrs Tan was so happy she had the article and picture framed and put up in the teachers’ lounge.

I wonder if my principal will announce the names of top scorers at least at some school assembly. Last year, we all went wooooah when the names of scorers were announced. So proud of our school! Almost as good when they announced that we won rugby, table-tennis and ballet! You know, if the newspaper people find me (I think Grandma is going to call them…news tip you know..) I will ask to be photographed with Mom, Dad, Grandma, my form teacher, my five private tutors, Maria, Lucia, Ah Tiong and Ali…But I don’t think it’s going to happen because I am reading about principals and teachers saying it’s a good thing. I suppose they don’t want to go against ministry policy and some code of conduct for teachers they have. Maybe they are not even allowed to pin up the names on the school notice board…


You know, even if I don’t get my name in the newspaper, maybe I will get an LKY award – then they HAVE to publish my name. Can’t offend the former Prime Minister right? I mean, is the ministry going to say: We have two winners for the LKY award but because we don’t want to emphasise academic results, we are not naming them.

You know, studying is what I am good at, but I think I had better take up some sport and be sportsman and win at some national schools championship. That’s clearly brawn. Like PSLE is clearly brain. Nobody minds schools and students that top the sports table. I better work on my golf handicap..

I think secondary school will be quite “relaxed’’ now. Everybody’s talking about a more relaxed school system. Maybe Mom and Dad will relax too…At least I don’t have to study for O levels, just A levels. In any case, no more secondary school O level ranking – not that my new school was a part of it. That O level ranking was actually meaningless for some years because so many top schools not even on it after the IP schools started! I can imagine how the IP schools sniffed at the old school ranking…Hah. What’s the big deal? It doesn’t really measure excellence…

Anyway, I’m glad I don’t even have to worry about taking part in this Singapore Youth Festival. No point. No award. Yay! I play the piano, the violin and the er hu quite well, you know. Now, I can just play for fun. Unless the principal forces me to join the SYF because the school wants to get picked for the Singapore Arts Festival. Must ask piano, violin and er hu tutors what to do then….

Dear diary, I am secretly hoping that I will be this year’s top student. But if I am, I might have to keep it a secret. Everybody else will ask me though. What should I tell them? I think I’ll just say I’m stupid.

Gratifying the senses but not the sense

In News Reports, Society on November 20, 2012 at 1:31 am

The newspapers went to town with the Ng Boon Gay sex scandal. Predictably. But from a reading of all the English newspapers, I think BT had the best report. Because it “joined the issues’’. So ST and TNP went with all the salacious details, with not very much on what the prosecution and defence locked horns over. Today was too general.

I guess titillating reading always sells but I got quite jaded with all the details of carparks and intimate encounters in enclosed spaces. My feelings go out entirely to Ng’s wife and Sue’s absent husband. I really hope the prosecution has a good case or it would merely have afforded the public a good sexy scandal that would irreparably damage all the parties concerned – with nought to show for it…

Anyway, looks like the court thinks Ng has a case to answer, going by the judge’s brief remarks that there is “some evidence, not inherently incredible, that satisfies each of the elements in all four charges’’. I wish people won’t use double negatives…what’s “inherently’’ incredible anyway?

The reason I liked BT’s reporting is because it told me things the others don’t have. Like how the prosecution took issue with the defence submission that the oral sex was not “completed’’ and hence, no “gratification’’ occurred. It was more like “frustration’’. You know, I always thought defence counsel was being facetious when he made the point before the trial broke…Seems it’s deadly serious.
I had to read both ST and BT for the works though.

Defence: She didn’t complete it. So there was no gratification. Instead there was frustration.
Prosecution (who quotes from Oxford dictionary): Gratification isn’t linked with satisfaction. (this is based on ST reporting)
Defence: If she didn’t complete it, it shows she never expected something in return. (this is based on BT reporting)

BT also reported a “celebratory’’ lunch by Sue for Ng to toast some contracts she won with CNB and NCS. After which Ng propositioned her. The prosecution said this showed a link between sex and contracts. Defence said this was a “distinct shift’’ from prosecution position that there was no need for there to be link to say that Ng is guilty of corruption.
BT also reported prosecution talking about Sue rejecting clandestine rendezvous, including a trip to Macau. Ng said that he was the one who turned the trip down.

The prosecution also referred to other official witnesses who said that Ng should have declared conflict of interest and recused himself from decision making. Defence thinks that’s making quite a leap from non-disclosure to corrupt intent.

Anyway, what am I doing??? Go buy BT.

Preparing for PSLE results

In News Reports on November 20, 2012 at 12:34 am

Diary of a wimpy kid (from a top school)
I think I’m going to be the top PSLE student this year. Actually, I’m sure of it. I mean, I am from GEP and already directly admitted into an IP school.

I wonder if the newspapers will publish my aggregate score. I read in The Straits Times today that some parents think it will stress them out, or stress out their kids in neighbourhood schools. Gosh! I should never say neighbourhood school.

Oh no, what will I do when the newspaper people come interview me? What if they ask me for my score? Can I tell them? I mean, I hope my score gets published. I worked so hard and all that.. and Mom and Dad will be so pleased to see a photo of me. Grandma too. My principal already got people to photograph me. He wants me on the school banner to publicise the school for next year’s school admission. I wonder if he’s still going to do it…I hope it’s a nice picture.

Maybe I shouldn’t give my score. I mean what will other students think of me? That I’m very proud and snobbish? Maybe I shouldn’t even say that I am from the GEP. Better to lie low and act stupid. I better tell them I live in a HDB flat. Maybe three-room? Not credible. Maybe executive condominium flat. But Dad is a doctor and mom is a lawyer and still living in HDB? Maybe I’ll just say we’re renting our Bukit Timah bungalow while our executive condo is being renovated. Dear diary, what do you think?

What if they ask me about my friends? Now they all want to know if we have friends from other schools, other races and all that. I only know Ah Tiong’s son. And that’s only when Ah Tiong picks me up from school and swings over to pick him up as well. That silly boy really likes Dad’s Merc. I keep telling him my Dad’s other car is a Ferrari. But he doesn’t understand what I’m saying…
So how? Ah Tiong’s son and who else? Can I count Ali’s daughter? I’ve seen her once or twice when she comes with Ali to do the garden. I better go find out her name…

Sheesh, this is silly. I should just say all of my friends are from my school and, just to be safe, blame the school system for not giving me “an opportunity to interact with students of other schools and other races’’. That’s a good quote I think. The school system, education system is a real good scapegoat these days. Can blame it for everything.

Must be careful not to appear elitist. Dad says must be humble. So I’ll just do an Oscar awards ceremony and thank everybody for making me what I am today. Ah! Another good quote. Must remember to use… Must also remember to thank Maria and Lucia. Will be a good touch to remember the maids. Or you don’t think so?

What if they ask if I’ve got tuition and all that? Should I say I have tuition every day and my five tutors are already preparing me for secondary school O levels? Maybe it will be good to show how concerned my parents are about my education. Or maybe not. People will say Dad and Mom are stressing out the other parents. Should also not say I can speak five languages, including Japanese which I picked up from that immersion programme in Tokyo. Cost a bomb but Dad say better go since everyone in class is… Hmm…better to throw in a few Hokkien phrases when they speak to me. Better find Grandma and ask her how to say in Hokkien that “I’m not smart. I am just hardworking’’.

This is very stressful. Maybe I won’t be top student. Then I won’t have to answer all these questions. I wish I was born poor and stupid.

Teaching teachers

In News Reports, Sports on November 16, 2012 at 12:29 am

I feel sorry for teachers. Now they are going to have a conversation about what sort of values they have to uphold. As teachers, the code has to be stricter than for most I suppose. Just as its stricter for scholars, public servants and I don’t know who else. Lest they bring their profession, institution or agency into disrepute.

There were some noises about this before, way before the case of the female teacher and the 15-year old. I remember teachers having to recite something at an assembly of educators. Now it seems parts of two current documents on ethics will be grouped together and “codified” in some form. Reports don’t say if breaches of the code will bring on penalties. Are these guidelines? Or rules?

What’s good is that the teachers will be discussing the code first. Seems it will get right down to the nitty-gritty like whether they should visit casinos. Oh dear. Is a teacher a teacher all the time, 24/7?  Can there be a separation of personal and professional capacity? ST said that some nitty-gritties are already in place, on sending out suggestive texts and dining/lunching with students alone. I think that’s fine but how much further will the new Code go? Can you imagine a Code that goes like this:

Thou shalt not smoke, swear, gamble or consume alcohol in public places in case students/parents catch you in the act.

In fact, don’t even do it at home – unless you know who your neighbours are.

Thou shalt refrain from touching a student on (itemise parts of the anatomy) to avoid innocent acts being misconstrued.

Better still, never touch a student.

Thou shalt use only good English on social media to set a good example for the Speak Good English movement.

Better still, refrain from using social media lest your views bring the profession into disrepute – never mind that you are speaking in your personal capacity.

Thou shalt observe civility at all times and practise all G campaigns to be kind, speak Mandarin, do not litter, return your tray, go forth and multiply, be as productive as you can be…..

Okay, I am exaggerating. But it’s kind of ridiculous to expect all our teachers to be saints. Because, as one un-named principal said, you risk scaring away people who can teach. I also happen to think that we pile too much on teachers, practically asking them to do the jobs that parents should take on.

Another thing we have to bear in mind: while the reports on teachers indulging in sex with students etc were embarrassing and high-profile, they were just some bad apples. And you have bad apples everywhere.

Let’s hope that the Code is broad enough for teachers to be themselves and not a strait jacket that will stifle their personalities and turn them into safe but boring automatons.